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January 27, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, weather, Winter Storm Elliott, genesee county.

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From plowing roads and driveways, digging out stranded motorists, transporting people to safer locations, getting food and medical care to those in need and extending a warm and friendly hand of hope to people who had quite literally felt their lives were in danger, Genesee County officials and emergency responders took some moments this week to celebrate bravery, extraordinary efforts and well-deserved kudos for their ongoing work during Blizzard Elliott in late December.

County legislators read proclamations honoring each district within the county, as emergency responders gathered in camaraderie to share highlights of that three-day ordeal. The breadth and scope of the rescues, though attempted through stories, news reports and online posts, have still probably missed some of the myriad elements involved during those blindingly snow-blanketed days.

Once Elliott blew through the northwest corner of the county, “raging its fury on the Town of Alabama and surrounding areas, causing life-threatening circumstances to many travelers and farm animals,” the proclamation begins, “and Blizzard Elliott debilitated this district in a very short time, causing roadways to be unpassable. With the quick action of so many, it is easy to say we have heroes amongst us.”

Genesee County assisted more than 700 travelers, with dispatch taking 1,021 service calls and first responders rescuing 125 people. Approximately 240 cars and 60 tractor-trailers were stuck in drifts as high as 10-feet, county officials said, and 12 warming shelters were opened in surrounding areas. Hundreds of vehicles were pulled out of ditches by tow trucks, farmers, firefighters and good Samaritans.

“The Genesee County Legislature recognizes and admires our dedicated law enforcement, firefighters, emergency management, highway, elected leaders, food banks, schools, churches, tow truck operators, snowmobile clubs, local businesses and citizens who all rose to the occasion when others needed help,” the proclamation states. “Now, therefore, be it resolved the Genesee County Legislature would like to thank you ALL for the available forces of manpower, equipment and community helping hands that came together. The goal of preserving life was focused on and achieved. Volunteers who left their families to search for and save visitors are our most valued community members.

“Thank you to the warming shelters for providing safety, food and care to stranded visitors, thus demonstrating the high level of dedication we have for humankind in Genesee County. We extend our gratitude and respect for your community response to Elliott,” it states.

Likewise, Sheriff William Sheron, Emergency Management Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger and County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens shared about the high level of cooperation and collaboration amongst the county’s emergency service and highway providers, and how that made such a difference in the results during that winter storm. There were no fatalities.

“Thank you for the service we have here in Genesee County,” Sheron said. “Undoubtedly, you have saved lives. We wouldn’t be able to survive without you guys. What a team effort. I can’t thank you enough, from the bottom of our hearts.”

Hens also thanked everyone and said he was proud to represent the town and village highway superintendents and city public works. Everyone “put aside barriers” and got the job done to ensure that roads were cleared when possible.

“I want to recognize their efforts. They all came to the call,” he said. “It’s truly remarkable how our community comes together.”

A nod of thanks and appreciation was also given to County Manager Matt Landers, who worked throughout that Christmas weekend helping to rally friends for food donations and, with his daughter as sidekick helper, drove around to pick up items and get them to the staging area of the city fire station.

Photos by Howard Owens  Top Photo of Emergency Management Services Coordinator Tim Yaeger at the podium as Sheriff William Sheron looks on during the proclamation ceremony.

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County Legislators John Deleo and Marianne Clattenburg watch a video about Winter Storm Elliott that was produced by the Town of Alabama Highway Department.

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Legislator Marianne Clattenburg with (not in order) Gary Patnode, Alabama Fire Chief, David Boyle, Village of Oakfield, Nate Fix and Anthony Johnston of SnoPackers, Sean Downing, Oakfield Fire Chief, and Oakfield Assistant Fire Chief Chad Williams; 

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Legislator Christian Yunker with (not in order) Vito Muoio, South Byron Fire, Jeremy Rassel, South Byron Fire, Garett Dean, Bergen Fire, Robert Mruczek, Byron Fire Chief, Nick Esten, Elba Fire Chief, and Gretchen Rosales, superintendent of Elba School District. 

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Legislator Gordon Dibble with LuAnne Mileham, Ed Mileham, Indian Falls/Pembroke Assistant Fire Chief, Greg Lang, Corfu Fire Chief, and Jeff Luker, Darien Fire Chief.

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Legislator Brooks Hawley with (not in order) Christopher Scopano, LeRoy Ambulance, Tim Eckdahl, Stafford Fire Chief, Craig Johnson, LeRoy Fire Chief, and Paul Dibble, Town of Batavia Fire Chief.

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Legislator Gregg Torrey with Jeff Fluker, Bethany Fire Chief, left, Carl Hyde Jr., Bethany Town Supervisor, right.

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Legislator John Deleo, Euguene Jankowski Jr., City Council President,  Jeffrey Bartz, Grace Baptist Church,  Bob Fix, City of Batavia Fire, and Christopher Camp, Batavia City Assistant Police Chief.

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Legislator Gary Maha, with (not in order) Pam McCarthy, Mercy EMS, Sheriff William Sheron, Undersheriff Bradley Mazur,  Sgt. Kyle Krzemien, Deputy Jonathan Dimming, Deputy Jacob Kipler, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens,  Superintendent, Tim Yaeger, Emergency Management Services Coordinator, Frank Riccobono, Communications Director,  Scott Hultz, NYSDOT Resident Engineer for Genesee & Orleans Counties, and  Jeff Braley, NYSDOT Resident Engineer for Genesee & Orleans Counties.

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Sheriff William Sheron.

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County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens

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Marianne Clattenburg thanks County Manager Matt Landers for his efforts and leadership during the storm

January 19, 2023 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, genesee county, Engine House, batavia.

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For anyone with strong Batavia roots, the Engine House conjures up dining memories of corned beef sandwiches for $2.10 and a champagne Sunday brunch for less than six bucks. Now the longstanding historical icon earmarked as a capital project has some much higher dollar figures attached.

The county Legislature is expected to vote soon on the $1.86 million project, to be offset by a $892,610 grant and sales tax proceeds of $975,990. Since the funding was from 2022, it’s considered a 2022 capital project.

County Manager Matt Landers laid out the explanation during Wednesday’s Ways & Means meeting.

“And the reasoning behind this is that we're running out of space. We have run out of space with public defenders. So that's why there's already four over there in the engine house. And we're putting two more over there,” Landers said. “This is utilizing outside funding, outside of the county, to be able to put an elevator into the building. That is in our long-term plans now, based out of necessity, because the courts facility was not built large enough. It's an access issue to be able to access that building properly.”

The courts facility — a complex built for city, county, and family court, children’s services, the district attorney and various other legal professionals — is now unable to accommodate all county personnel.

Landers credited Public Defender Jerry Ader for securing the grant of nearly $893,000. Part of the expense includes an amount not to exceed $150,600 for the renovation design for SWBR of Rochester.

Plans include an elevator, since it has been difficult to reach the upper floors of the building, Landers said. As it is, the public and county employees cannot access the space, he said. Legislator Marianne Clattenburg believed it was there for a reason.

“It’s a historic space, and it’s not going anywhere,” she said. “So, we might as well use it, right?”

The design may not be completed until 2024, Landers, said, and there will be flexibility in the plan.

“As soon as we have the design done and a full cost estimate out there, if it is on target like we thought it would be, then we would increase the budget, increase the project for the vendor space and then award the contracts for doing the construction work,” he said. “If it comes in too high, then we simply would pull back our funding and reallocate that sales tax into our reserve and for future purposes. This really is a building that's underutilized now … And the best part of this is it's right next door to the courthouse, right where their work is, and we have the ownership of that, and we should make good use of it.”

This isn't the first time the county has mulled the use of the Engine House. In 2017, there were discussions of giving it up or opting to renovate the site to accommodate a growing number of public defenders and make the second-floor handicap accessible. Those discussions got as far as setting a public hearing, which was canceled in lieu of tabling any definite action.

According to former county Historian Susan Conklin, the site at 3 West Main St., Batavia, had been built in the late 1800s — first as a sawmill, and later as a two-room brick shelter that housed water pumps. City leaders decided in 1948 to convert the building into a fire station, giving it the name that has stuck for the next several decades — even when purchased in the 1980s to operate as a restaurant.

The Engine House bar and restaurant closed in 1991, and it took eight years before Buildings and Grounds began to convert it into a county department. In July of 1998, the History Department was relocated into the front section of the property.

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Top Photo of a more recent version of the brick Engine House, and above, former buildings, including one that was partially collapsed from an explosion. Photos from the county's History Department archives.

January 19, 2023 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, genesee county, Ways & Means Committee.

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Workers’ Compensation is hardly a sexy topic, but it’s becoming a vital component of Genesee County’s offerings, Assistant County Manager Tammy Ferringer says.

After a four-month search, Ferringer found and hired the county’s first health and safety coordinator who will serve as executive secretary for a cooperative Workers' Comp program of most every taxing entity in the county, including schools, towns and villages.

Up to recently, the participating entities haven’t shown much interest in training offered related to on-the-job safety issues, Ferringer said.

“Participants weren’t interested in training until this past year,” she said. “It was exciting to see a lot of attendance.”

Participants of the Workers’ Comp program pay a premium to be a member of the plan, and trainings are one of the perks that also help them to keep employees safe at work and reduce insurance claims, injuries and related absenteeism.

Workers' compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job.

The new position was born out of the budget process this past year, Ferringer said after Kathy Jasinski had announced that she was going to be retiring at the end of the year.

“And so that prompted us to try and reenvision the gaps of the plan as it exists,” she said. “And we just wanted to enhance the services that are available to the plan participants ... the worker's comp plan that's administered by Genesee County, and towns, villages, school districts, any taxing entity in Genesee County can opt into the plan. And currently, there's a large list of them.”

Enter Dustin Watterson, a lifelong Oakfield resident who is now the full-time health and safety coordinator. He will be taking on administrative tasks, serving as safety officer for the county and going out on the road to meet plan participants.

“Dustin is going to be charged with the administrative piece of acting as executive secretary to the workers' comp plan. And he'll work with me on the administrative tasks necessary to make sure that it’s efficiently run," she said. "And then we are going to take this safety approach in-house, and he is going to go out on the road, and he is going to garner relationships with our participants and make sure that they know what's available to them.

“It keeps our workers safe, that’s the most important thing for everyone,” she said.

She added that if claims are contained, then costs will be reduced as well, which is also beneficial to any business operation.

Watterson has a decade of experience working in the security business via sales and consulting and is familiar with OSHA compliance, and items such as ADA railings, ramps, and rooftop fall protection, he said. Not only is the financial piece important, but also the morale of an employee who can otherwise be spared those days spent home recovering from an accident at work, he said.

Although Workers' Comp is one large umbrella, it covers multitudes of jobs and careers, Ferringer said.

“Our plan has so many different industries or types of workers, from law enforcement to nurses to just regular office staffs and highway workers and construction. There's such a diverse group of workers, we’re trying to make sure that we capture all of their needs,” Ferringer said. “But also, by working together with them … we’re just allowing them enhancement to help keep this community safe.”

During Wednesday’s Ways & Means meeting, County Manager Matt Landers introduced Watterson with confidence in his new role working with plan participants.

“I think he can help them with their safety plans,” Landers said.

Dustin Watterson, Genesee County's new health and safety coordinator, and Assistant County Manager Tammy Ferringer talk about the expanded and safety aspects of Workers' Comp Wednesday. Photo by Joanne Beck.

January 17, 2023 - 10:15pm

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Changes to the original $70 million new county jail plans have included about $90,000 in structural, product and utility revisions, senior project manager Carl York says.

York gave the latest review of the project on West Main Street Road during Genesee County’s Human Services Committee meeting Tuesday.

“Some of these were items that just weren’t on the drawings. And so there’s a supplemental instruction that came out in the contract … so again, changes that are happening on the project. So far, we’ve had 46 instructions,” York said. “That’s about where I would expect it to be. None of these were huge changes. Some of them are just things that weren’t picked up on their original set of documents. And they have to be done. There’s been no issues so far from the Commission of Corrections.”

Having to add some precast, revising the type of flooring, making structural revisions to a pod and also to plumbing and gas provisions made for processing nearly $90,000 of change orders in December, York said.

All of the extras are not a concern, he said, as there is plenty of contingency funding for such needs. The first jail cell was delivered to the jail site this past week, and installed on Friday, Jan. 13. During the next two months or so, a total of about 100 cells will be installed at the property adjacent to County Building #2 and the Animal Shelter.

County Legislative Chairwoman Shelley Stein asked if those changes were above and beyond the $70 million project cost, and York said no.  In fact, the cost is at “.4 percent, not even .5 percent of your entire project cost,” he said.

“You’re doing fabulous,” he said.

Stein wanted that fact to be emphasized, given the possibility that some legislators had thought recent change orders were piling up to mean a larger price tag for the jail, a big ticket item not readily accepted by everyone in the county as it is.

“Good, that should just be made really clear to all of our legislators here, because we certainly did hear some conversation after the last approval that … now it's 70 million plus,” Stein said.

York assured her that “It is not $70 million-plus.”

During the transport phase of the jail cell last week, County Manager Matt Landers said that he's pleased the project is so far coming in under budget.

The Department of Corrections has contacted The Pike Company, lead for the project, and a meeting is being set up for later this week to review jail plans, York said.

File Photo of Carl York, senior project manager, of The Pike Company, by Joanne Beck.

January 14, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, genesee county, jail, batavia.

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With a choice of building from scratch from the ground up or using prefabricated units, county management is confident that the right choice was made for the new jail facility on West Main Street Road in Batavia.

The first jail cell was delivered to the site Wednesday and installed on Friday. It will be one of about 100 such cells to be slowly and carefully transported by flatbed truck, an effort that Assistant County Engineer Laura Wadhams believes is well worth it.

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“These units come to us completely finished on the inside, and once set into place, will be bolted together, and all of the electrical, HVAC and plumbing already installed will be connected to the rest of the building,” Wadhams said to The Batavian Thursday. “This is a cost-effective way of constructing these cells, as the other option would be to construct the cells out of (concrete masonry unit) block, which, as you could imagine, would be a very labor-intensive process.”

General contractor LeChase Construction Services has subcontracted with PennStress, a precast cell manufacturer that installs the remade cell units all over the eastern side of the country, she said.

“We do get a good product this way as well since these are manufactured in a factory with a rigorous quality control process,” she said.

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The cell was installed at the facility with a crane on Friday, overseen by the construction company, workers, County Manager Matt Landers and Sheriff William Sheron. There’s a long way to go, Landers said, but this is “just one more step in the process.”

“It’s a milestone to mark the setting, it’s a good step in the process,” he said. “But it’s just one step along the way.”

Likening the building process akin to how Legos snap into place with one another, the prefabricated units are very secure, Sheron said. He has enjoyed observing the vision coming to life.

“It’s exciting, to go from the plans on paper to actually see things coming out of the ground,” he said. “It’s all coming together now that we can actually picture it.”

That picture includes a 184-bed facility to house men and women inmates. With a price tag of $70 million, it’s not something that Landers wants to do again in a long time, he said.

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“Certainly, it is a milestone, we don’t plan on building out our jail for hopefully 100 years, which is why we’re trying to get it right this time, and building a jail as appropriate for our community for the next 100 years,” Landers said. “So I think we’ve done a good job of that … and it’s been a great process working with the sheriff and seeing where we are today.”

The plan is to get a substantial amount completed by the first quarter of next year, and to begin moving inmates in around June or July, Sheron said. It will then join the majority of other jails in New York State that house female inmates, and by keeping those inmates more locally to their homes, their families will be able to visit them more frequently and remain connected, he said.

“It’s a matter of the county manager, the county Legislature, all of us coming together and recognizing that we are well overdue. I would say that we’re working at a facility that was built in 1902. That was built at that time to take care of the population that they had then. And things have changed tremendously since then,” Sheron said. “I know it’s a substantial cost, but it’s one of those necessary evils. Unfortunately, in society, we have individuals that can get the following rules and regulations and laws. And I think it’s extremely important that we have a location to put those individuals that is not only safe for them but also safe for the officers that are involved with it.”

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Top Photo of a prefabricated jail cell being lifted over to its designated place during the install phase on Friday; photos of the cell's interior, a crane lifting the container, Sheriff William Sheron, left, on scene, workers getting the cell into proper place, and relaxing after a job well done. Photos by Howard Owens.

Video Sponsor
December 28, 2022 - 5:55pm
posted by Press Release in news, weather, Winter Storm Elliott, genesee county.

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Press release from Genesee County:

Over the Christmas weekend, our community was ravaged by a historic blizzard that challenged locals with lake effect snow, strong wind and wind chills from -10 to -25 degrees.

Holiday travelers from near and far found their vehicles in ditches, snow banks or in the driveway of a stranger. Essential services provided by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, the Genesee County Emergency Dispatcher Center, Genesee County Emergency Management Services, and the Genesee County Highway Department were at the ready to ensure all travelers were protected and safe.

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr. was incredibly grateful and proud.

“Thank God for the dedicated first responders of Genesee County," Sheron said. "Undoubtedly, dozens of lives were saved due to the heroic actions of all of our first responders who put their lives on the line during this historic blizzard of 2022. They worked around the clock, days on end, answering and responding to 9-1-1 calls to ensure that our community was safe and no one’s loved one became a statistic.”

Sheriff Sheron went on to say, “I am extremely proud of the men and women of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office along with all Genesee County’s agencies and volunteer fire services. These are dedicated, passionate residents that give everything to their community. There’s truth to the saying, ‘When bad things happen, first responders are there, 24/7, through all types of weather and circumstances; no questions asked.’

"Should you see a first responder, please take the opportunity to thank them for their unwavering dedication," Sheron added. I would also like to thank all the community members that stepped up and provided safe warming shelters for hundreds of individuals that were stranded by the storm. To those businesses and individuals that dropped off food and bottled water, you provided much-needed supplies for our employees that hadn’t eaten in several hours. Thank you all!”

Tim Yaeger, Genesee County Emergency Management Services Coordinator, called attention to the importance of first responders in our community. 

“It was an extremely stressful and dangerous event for the dispatchers, law enforcement, fire and Emergency Medical Services," Yaeger said. "The dispatchers had far more calls for help than available resources. Law enforcement and fire service would not give up or stop until every person was accounted for. They are all heroes in my book! They risked their lives for over 24 hours to rescue every person. Community leaders, individuals and business owners demonstrated generosity, blind trust and compassion by opening their homes, businesses, and warming shelters to ensure 700 travelers were out of harm’s way. Volunteer fire and EMS, church, and local businesses spent three days away from their families to care for complete strangers. The stories of compassion and dedication to never stop helping others in need of rescue is what makes the first responders of Genesee County our most cherished resource.”

Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens was astonished by the heroism he experienced.

“I'm struck by the commitment, dedication, loyalty, and humanity of all of the rescuers," Hens said. "Whether paid professionals or volunteers, people literally putting their lives at risk over and over to save mostly people they've never met and will most likely never see again.

"It was frustrating to not make progress at times," he added, "getting turned back over and over by impassible roads, insurmountable drifts, but everyone was trying to make a difference. No one gave up, they just tried another route. People opened their houses. People opened their businesses. Everyone worked together even though it was confusing and stressful. ”

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers wanted to recognize the people of this community and county officials who helped navigate this storm.

“There are so many people to thank from the community that stepped under difficult circumstances to save lives," Landers said. "First, I want to recognize and thank Sheriff Sheron, Tim Yaeger and Tim Hens for their leadership during the storm. Each of their respective operations played critical roles throughout the storm, and the way in which all three operations worked together was impressive. Next, I want to thank all of the law enforcement professionals, first responders, dispatchers, volunteer firefighters and snow plow operators that all worked tirelessly to save lives.”

He went on to say, “Thank you to all of the local and surrounding municipalities that helped with resources, equipment and manpower, including the City of Batavia, Orleans County and Livingston County. While there are so many people that stepped up to help, it’s impossible to list them all by name. However, I want to give a special shout-out to Nate Fix, Tony Johnston and members of the Genesee SnoPackers organization that came out with their ‘Tucker’ vehicle, which proved to be instrumental in saving lives by reaching people that other vehicles couldn’t get to.

"Thank you to the volunteers at the various warming shelters," he added, "the people who opened up their homes to strangers and the people that opened up their kitchens and cupboards with donated food for those stranded. While this storm will be remembered for the impressive winds and snowfall, I will always remember this storm by the bravery exhibited and the community coming together to care for one another. I am so proud to say I am from Genesee County!”

Shelley Stein, Chair of the Genesee County Legislature, could not be more thankful for her community.

“Bravery, courage, dedication, and compassion - all characteristics demonstrated by our community members, volunteers, and leaders during this past weekend," Stein said. "Genesee County is well known for our cooperative spirit and creativity in getting the work accomplished together. Our community, once again, jumped into action and shared their skills and talents to save lives and provide comfort to many. Our volunteer fire service members are our backbone of public safety in events like Storm Elliott. Untold hours, risks, and determination prevented deaths in our county. THANK YOU, simple and sincere from a grateful Genesee County Community.” 

Submitted photos.

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December 28, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Winter Storm Elliott, batavia, genesee county, weather.

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As city and county officials tallied the weekend’s figures — numbers of staff on overtime duty, and total costs for manpower, equipment and related expenses — their gratitude for community support will extend to federal aid as well now that FEMA has announced financial assistance for New York State, and in particular, Genesee County.

Declaration should mean federal help
“There's a process that FEMA takes based on filing the emergency declaration that allows us to expend funds to deal with life safety, whether it's infrastructure, or housing and rescuing people, and then they'll evaluate damages, and overall cost affiliated with the storm,” County Emergency Management Services Director Tim Yeager said Tuesday. “And then they'll look at a declaration that will allow for reimbursement of expenses. So it takes about two weeks. Because then the data and the costs are accumulated and then sent to the state, they gather that and then send it to FEMA, and then they make a decision based on matrixes that they have on thresholds of cost. They're going to pay, typically, the federal reimbursement rate of 75 percent of the cost.”

That remaining 25 percent is sometimes paid by the state, he said, or it would go to the local municipality.

Both city and county management are still in the accounting phase of determining final numbers and associated costs of Winter Storm Elliott.

“At this time, there is not a complete accounting of the OT that was expended due to the storm, but we will be finalizing the reporting and submitting it to the County as part of their storm disaster relief accounting and potential FEMA reimbursement," City Manager Rachael Tabelski said Tuesday.

What goes into the accounting? 
City of Batavia personnel, including the Public Works, Water Plant, Wastewater Plant, Police and Fire departments, “stepped up during the storm to ensure that the city remained passable,” Tabelski said. All departments continued to operate and assist the county staff with storm response throughout the Christmas weekend, she said.

Some staff members spent the night at the Water and Wastewater Plant to ensure continuity of operations. The Police Emergency Response Team was called in Friday and Saturday to help with search and rescue with the city’s MRAP, she said. An acronym bandied about lately -- an MRAP is a military light tactical (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle that’s as heavy-duty and dependable as it sounds.    

The city’s Fire Station became a makeshift central distribution point for food, water, and supplies for those stranded or displaced by the storm, and firefighters and city staff worked to get supplies out to the 11 warming shelters throughout the county, including one at Grace Baptist Church in Batavia. 

"The City of Batavia workforce is a dedicated group of people who show up and get the job done, day in and day out,” Tabelski said. “And I am very proud to get to work with such a great group of individuals.”

Substantial overtime
County Manager Matt Landers, likewise, did not have specific numbers, adding that “it is hard to quantify how many staff actually participated” and thought he could pull together something more definite in the next day or two. “We are still calculating the OT,” he said Monday night, but he knows that it was “certainly substantial.”

He planned to submit a claim once the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared the storm a federal emergency, which it did on Tuesday.

“I would essentially say that everyone in the Sheriff's road patrol, every dispatcher, everyone in the Sheriff's Administration, all of Emergency Management, Highway Administration, all county plow operators” were involved, he said. “The community response to this storm was nothing short of amazing. So many people stepped up to help in so many different ways.  The heroic efforts by our law enforcement, volunteer and professional firefighters, first responders, dispatchers and snow plow operators undoubtedly saved lives.

“In addition to these brave individuals saving lives, it was wonderful to see the rest of the community step up by sheltering stranded individuals, whether it was at a warming center or people that opened their personal homes up to stranded motorists,” he said. “The outpouring of food and supplies from the community to those in need was wonderful to witness!”

The weekend — which began early on Friday and built into a full-blown, three-day disaster management exercise — had affected not only hundreds of motorists diverted off the Thruway, but also those in command of alleviating the storm’s effects.

A scary Disney ride
“The experience for me was like a roller coaster, with fears of having stranded motorists in our county succumb to the elements to the amazing news that our first responders had cleared all of the vehicles with no fatalities.  I was in constant communication with our Sheriff, Highway Superintendent and Emergency Management Coordinator, keeping up to date on how the storm was tracking and how the road conditions were deteriorating,” Landers said. “Their advice, plus the input of county departments that care for our vulnerable populations, along with discussions with the city manager and chair of our Legislature, made my decision to close county offices for Friday the clear choice.”

Close communication with those people also helped him to make another decision, to implement a countywide State of Emergency and travel ban, he said. Along with the hard work came amazing stories, he said, of everyday people stepping up with heroic actions to help save lives. 

“I hope many of these stories get out in the press in the following days so the rest of the county can learn about the heroes walking among them,” he said.

Tabelski had a “very good idea” of how to organize the food and get it delivered to the shelters and emergency responders, while Landers and his wife Melissa reached out to friends and colleagues in Batavia to appeal for donations. Landers and his daughter Katie then drove around picking up the many homemade dishes and snack and beverage items.

“I still have to get these dishes back to the families that donated, which will hopefully happen in the next couple of days, but I am sure some won't make it back.  It was nice to see over 20 people that we had messaged step up and donate food items,” he said. “I want to give a huge shout-out to John Spryopoulos from Settlers Restaurant, who donated seven full pans of food and eight half pans of food.  He opened up his kitchen with a couple of helpers Saturday morning and had the food ready by early afternoon.”

Recovery here, ongoing rescues a county over
Yaeger took a few minutes to look back and appreciate all of the efforts that went into weekend rescues, though his work was not quite done. The last of the stranded motorists emptied out of warming shelters by 9 p.m. Monday, he said, and they were back on their way home — whether directly by a vehicle on side roads due to a still closed Thruway, or after checking into a local hotel to get more rest before their trip.

He, on the other hand, was still in full rescue mode, helping to coordinate vehicles — MRAPs borrowed from Orleans and Livingston counties and utility task vehicles (UTVs) — for arrival in Erie County. Many of those vehicles were needed to transport patients ready for check-out at hospitals so that additional patients could be treated, Yaeger said.

As one of the many folks in this area to know about the infamous blizzard of 45 years ago, this latest one tops everything so far, he said.

"I think the onset was far faster than I think anyone expected it to be. And I think it was just typically the lake effect snow does not set up over Genesee County for that extended period of time. Basically, the heaviest lake effect was in that northwest quadrant, west side of the county. Pretty much the whole west side of the county that was the kind of that heavy, heavy, heavy snow and wind, and that's what caused all those problems,” he said. “I've never experienced that type of snow event and wind event. I mean, obviously I was a child when Blizzard of ’77 occurred. And that was a different dynamic because of the snow buildup on Lake Erie. We didn't have that to deal with. We just have heavy, heavy lake effect and the strong winds causing the low visibility, and then the people just can't clean the roads fast enough.”

He was a central point of operations and also walked the walk, joining a team on the roads Saturday night. Danger aside, “there wasn’t a lot of convincing needed,” he said about the responders eager to help out. They all agreed with similar sentiment that “we should not be out there," he said, and yet they all went.

“The internal fortitude of the first responders, both law enforcement, fire and EMS, not to give up and, they just keep pushing and pushing, and we obviously brought in more resources, but that took time to get those resources here,” Yaeger said. “But when you're in the storm, you're risking, obviously, their lives … risking the lives of the first responders out there. So, there'll be conversations, what do we do better? I know, from the state level, down to the local level, how can we do a better job of keeping cars off the road? They had plenty of warning, I can assure you that everyone knew it was coming.”

Lessons and thankfulness in hindsight
Landers also said that there will be a countywide discussion about learning from hindsight and preparing as much as possible for any future Elliotts that may blow into town. Tucked into the questions and concerns has been an element of gratitude for what Yaeger described as a “heroic effort that I witnessed” during at least a continuous 48 hours of responding to a nature-inspired emergency.

“All the way from the dispatchers to tow truck operators, and snow removal, highway workers and the volunteer fire and law enforcement of both Sheriff's Office, State Police, city PD, just never stopping until everyone they knew everyone was safe,” Yaeger said. “And it was absolutely, when you talk about heroes, those guys are heroes, and girls. Absolutely heroic effort, and then the sheltering of the public and the municipal leaders and businesses locally, from the churches, to schools to private restaurants, private residences.

“They just opened their doors and let complete strangers in,” he said. “It’s just absolutely amazing.”

Tabelski provided an updated donor list that was part of the “hundreds of volunteers in the city and across the county (that) stepped up to assist during this storm.” To view, see HERE

weatherphotodec272022.jpg

Top Photo: If you cannot see this scene very clearly, that's exactly what it was like for motorists on Friday and Saturday in the western part of Genesee County. Photo by Steve Grice. Above, a safer view of the cleared road, properties and an oncoming car Tuesday after massive cleanup efforts took place during the weekend. Photo by Howard Owens.

December 23, 2022 - 10:46pm

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With a high degree of concern for people trapped in their cars in the area of Route 77 and Judge Road, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, along with three county highway personnel driving three heavy loaders/plow trucks, are leaving Batavia in an attempt to rescue them.

No other emergency personnel in fire trucks, rescue trucks, or patrol cars have been able to reach them.

"I've got three highway guys putting their lives at risk, my life at risk, to try and save them, but I would feel bad if we didn't try," Hens said.

Hens was just leaving the City of Batavia, driving behind the highway trucks and said visibility was already down to nearly zero. He passed a semi-truck stuck in the snow in front of Tops.  There was about a foot of snow in that location.

Deputies have reported drifts of snow as high as five feet surrounding the cars that are stuck in Alabama.

"We have a pretty high level of concern," Hens said. "Some people have been out there nine, 10 hours. I know there are people who are hypothermic at this point.  I'm not sure we will be able to reach them.  It's just such bad visibility. I'm not even sure we will be able to get there, to be honest."

There has been a heavy, large lake-effect snow band stretching from Lake Erie into Alabama and Oakfield all day.  The National Weather Service reports it is likely to be in place until at least midnight.

"It might be there until midnight tomorrow," Hens said. "This storm is going to revival '77 in its intensity.  It's maybe not as wide or as broad but for people under the snow band, it will be."

Photo: File photo of Tim Hens from 2018 at Genesee County Legislature meeting.

UPDATE: here's a four-second video from Tim Hens showing conditions on the road to Alabama.

December 22, 2022 - 1:47pm
posted by Press Release in news, batavia, genesee county, Winter Storm Elliott.

Press Release

City of Batavia and Genesee County offices and buildings will be closed on Friday due to the severe weather forecast.

The City and County are committed to ensuring the safety of their workforce and citizens and therefore are taking this precautionary measure. With the predicted drop in temperature, rain turning to ice, snow and high winds, travel should be avoided.

Both City of Batavia and County offices are scheduled to re-open Tuesday, Dec. 27.
 

December 16, 2022 - 1:33pm
posted by Press Release in genesee county, news.

Press release:

Genesee County officials have recently been notified of the naming of this community as a Clean Energy Community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and an awarded eligibility of a $5000 Designation Grant.

The Genesee County Planning Department in collaboration with the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council recently completed four high-impact actions under NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Community program which allowed for the designation. This program is for local governments across NYS who are striving to create a healthy and sustainable environment by investing in future-focused clean energy solutions for their community, while at the same time facing unprecedented societal and financial challenges. 

December 6, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, genesee county, health department.

img_2281paulpettit.jpgFrom the study of diseases and visiting people where they're at, to finding families that have been exposed to toxic levels of lead, it would seem that the Health Department of Genesee Orleans is taking health on the road. 

The Health Department would like to set up a mobile clinic to provide various services, such as health checks and vaccines, and had issued a request for proposals. Only one bid came in — for a 25-foot and a 30-foot recreational vehicle from Don Brown Bus Sales, Inc. of Johnstown, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said during Monday’s Human Services meeting. 

Pettit asked that the county reject the bid in lieu of finding something for a smaller price tag.

“We've been working on trying to get a mobile RV in place with some of the COVID money. We could have utilized one of these to do things through all of the last couple years with our testing clinic and also the vaccines,” Pettit said. “Unfortunately, when we put it out, all things came in over our price point. So I'm working with Jeff to modify that and put it back out again, and hopefully get something that's within the budget. So we have to reject this one.”

The bid would have been about $40,000, which is several thousand more than what’s available, he said. When asked for other uses of the mobile van, Pettit pointed to migrant outreach.

“So we do go to the farms and different things, we take it out to different clinical activities in the evening. And it’s available for other departments, essentially a mobile vaccination clinic,” he said. “But if we use it for other purposes, we're also looking to get a sprinter van, and they are in Orleans County. So we'll have different types of approaches and so forth … and to have it available, again for, hopefully, we don't have to use the word pandemic again, but for a similar situation.”

Pettit proposed an inter-municipal agreement for a shared position of director of health promotions and epidemiology coordinator to the current agreement between Genesee and Orleans counties. The annual stipend for shared administrative staff listed in this agreement will increase to $8,500 annually, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

A year from then, effective Jan. 1, 2024, the contract would include a 2 percent cost of living increase. Related expenses to this move are eligible for state aid, the resolution states.

Epidemiology is the study of the presence or absence of diseases, including the frequency and origins of diseases that occur in different groups of people.

Human Services Committee members were also asked for preliminary approval of a grant from the Housing and Urban Development agency to support a lead removal effort in Genesee, Orleans, Livingston and Wyoming counties.

The total grant of $2,455,000 would help minimize hazards, especially from older homes that may contain higher levels of lead in paint.

“So you're dealing with homes with younger kids, typically. We obviously are going to get their blood level tested when they want to do it, and if it's elevated, that's where we get involved. But there's probably a lot of scenarios where these homes just don't have the kids anymore, and you're not getting blood tests,” he said. So the XRF machines (considered the gold standard in lead paint testing) are pretty amazing. And they literally — you could shoot this wall and it can tell you all the layers of paint. They literally can read it right through a textbook. Yeah, I mean, it's pretty amazing.”

The committee agreed to pass the resolution on to the Ways & Means Committee, and then on for a final vote by the Legislature. The $2.455 million grant would be for related lead detection and treatment through December 2026.

November 21, 2022 - 11:10pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, budget, genesee county.

matt_landers.jpg

Genesee County Legislature acted on a final 2023 budget proposal on Monday that won’t be exactly as county Manager Matt Landers initially promised.

There was a slight amendment made last week that will affect the tax rate, albeit slightly.

“I just received word a half hour ago that the assessments changed the tax rate by a penny,” Landers had said to the Ways & Means Committee.

Although legislators would have liked the penny difference to at least go the other way, it will increase the tax rate to $8.45. The total levy — money to be raised through property taxes —  is unchanged at $32,080,762, which reflects a 2 percent levy increase. That levy increase is within the state-mandated levy limit, or tax cap, Landers said.

How will that affect county taxpayers? The rate will be $8.45 per $1,000 assessed value versus $8.44 as initially declared. That will be a decrease of 73 cents per $1,000 assessed property value compared to the current rate of $9.18. To determine your total tax rate, multiply the property value in 1,000 increments (for example, 90 for a $90,000 home) by the tax rate.

Because property assessments have increased for many folks, it’s not a fair comparison to use a typical assessment by each the former and current tax rate for the difference in tax payments from this year. So if your property value was increased, you may not see a decreased total due to that larger number multiplied by the lower tax rate.

For example, a home assessed at $90,000 at the current rate of $9.18 is $826.20. If that home's value has been raised to $100,000 at the lower rate of $8.45, the total will be $845.

To read prior coverage: Genesee County proposes budget with 2 percent levy increase

File photo of Genesee County Manager Matt Landers, by Joanne Beck.

November 19, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, genesee county, civil service, notify.

There are vacancies in the three major city departments of police, fire, and public works, plus several unfilled openings throughout the Genesee County municipality.

While county officials have waived Civil Service exam fees, expanded residential limits, and worked with certain occupations to establish more flexible workplace options, there are yet other issues at play in having employee gaps, city officials say.

rachael_in_chambers.jpgIt’s not just a lack of qualified candidates that keeps these jobs unfilled, but also about how Civil Service works, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

“When you hire, there’s a rule of three: you can only look at the top three in the bracket,” she said during an interview this week. “The New York Conference of Mayors supports expanding it.”

If that limit of three could be expanded to five, that would obviously widen the pool of eligible candidates, she said. Police Chief Shawn Heubusch agreed. He would also like to see additional revisions to how Civil Service testing works.

The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police is working with the state Sheriff’s Association to bring about a change in the Civil Service rules “that make hiring minority and underrepresented persons difficult,” Heubusch said.

“Our organizations, jointly, will be requesting that Civil Service be reformed to allow for a Pass/Fail test, for the State to deliver testing more frequently and to see faster turn-around times in terms of scoring for them,” Heubusch said. “Change to the police officer physical agility testing requirements to be job-based as opposed to the antiquated standards that exist. We would also like to see more uniformity across the state in terms of how the rules are applied.”

For example, in one part of the state, Civil Service commissions will deliver the test on an annual basis, while in other parts, it is given every two or even four years, he said.

chief_heubusch_3.jpeg“We feel that these changes will allow departments to hire a more diverse workforce that is reflective of our communities and speed up the time from which a person takes a test to the time they are hired — sometimes more than two years currently,” he said.

Another delay in filling positions in the police and fire departments, she said, is the training time required in academies after a good candidate is hired. 

“It can take six to 12 months,” she said.

And that’s after an extended period due to Civil Service protocols.

“The law really does hinder our ability to hire qualified candidates,” she said.

A Civil Service reform bill (below) has been approved by the Senate and Assembly, and has been forwarded on to the governor’s office for final approval, she said.

Reform the Civil Service Law

Municipalities are always looking for innovative ways to effectively manage their workforce. Unfortunately, in many instances, they are restricted by arcane Civil Service rules. The Civil Service Law should be amended to grant local officials an appropriate level of flexibility in hiring and workforce management decisions. Specifically, NYCOM supports the following reforms:

  • Expand the number of eligible employees for appointment to a Rule of 5;
  • Authorize procedures whereby a provisionally hired employee can transition to a permanent appointment if an exam is not offered within a certain period of time;
  • Classify all part-time positions as non-competitive by operation of law instead of by local rule;
  • Require continuous recruitment whenever possible; and
  • Allow out-of-title work in a declared state of emergency.

Reforms to the civil service appointment process would be especially helpful in the hiring of police and fire chiefs, water and wastewater operators and other highly technical positions of employment where there is a limited supply of qualified candidates.

 

November 17, 2022 - 5:25pm
posted by Press Release in news, genesee county, State of Emergency, notify.

Press Release

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a State of Emergency was issued Thursday morning for 11 counties as a winter storm is forecast to impact portions of upstate New York with intense lake effect snow through Sunday. The most significant snowfall is expected Thursday and Friday with accumulations of up to four feet of snow possible in the Buffalo area and up to two feet or more of snow possible in the Watertown area, with snowfall rates of three or more inches per hour. Hazardous travel conditions and local power outages as a result of the storm are likely due to the combination of snow and wind in the forecast. Lightning and thunder may also occur in the heavier, more intense bands. Governor Hochul urged New Yorkers to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel Thursday evening through Friday, particularly in the Buffalo and Watertown areas.

The State of Emergency applies to the following counties, as well as contiguous counties: Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming.

"We all have to do our part to make sure that everyone stays safe during this winter storm — that's why I have declared a State of Emergency for impacted counties, which will free up resources and boost our readiness," Governor Hochul said. "My administration has been preparing around the clock for this potentially life-threatening weather event, bringing in additional safety personnel and equipment, closing down the New York State Thruway, and activating Emergency Operation Centers. I urge all New Yorkers to stay prepared and vigilant over the next few days, making sure to look after vulnerable loved ones and neighbors."

Lake Effect Snow Warning and Winter Storm Watches are in effect through Sunday evening for several counties in the Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York and North Country regions. As of Thursday, the National Weather Service forecast anticipates several feet of snow for multiple locations over the duration of this storm.

For a complete listing of weather watches and warnings in your area, visit your area's National Weather Service website.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "I can't stress enough the need for anyone in the path of this dangerous snowstorm to take action to prepare for several days of heavy snow, wind, dangerous travel conditions and the potential for power outages. New Yorkers are familiar with this kind of weather, but it's our first major snowstorm of the season, so let's please be careful, do your shopping and other errands now before the heavy snow starts falling, if you can, and touch base with friends and neighbors to make sure they are ready for the storm, too."

Agency Preparations:

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is closely monitoring weather and travel conditions, coordinating State agency response operations, and will be communicating with local governments throughout the event.

The State Office of Emergency Management's Emergency Operations Center is activating Thursday and the State's stockpiles are prepared to deploy assets to localities to support any storm-related needs.

The State Office of Fire Prevention and Control has assets such as emergency response vehicles, UTVs ready to deploy for mutual aid requests, as needed.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

The State Department of Transportation is responding with 3,287 supervisors and operators. Staff can be configured into any type of response crew that is required, including snow and ice operations, drainage, chipper, load and haul, and cut and toss. Additionally, 75 Incident Command System (ICS) personnel are available to support the upcoming event.

To support lake effect snow response in critical areas, a total of 112 staff from other regions, including 92 plow truck operators/supervisors, 11 equipment operator instructors, six mechanics, one operations manager, 1 ICS support staff, one safety representative, and one ICS support staff member were deployed to impacted regions. Additionally, 15 plow trucks, 6 medium duty trucks with plow, and 1 bulldozer were also deployed. They are distributed as follows:

Western NY/Buffalo - Personnel Deployments (87):

·         70 operators

·         7 supervisors

·         4 equipment operator instructors

·         4 mechanics

·         1 operations manager

·         1 ICS support staff

Equipment Deployments (22):

·         15 large plow trucks

·         6 medium duty plow trucks

·         1 bulldozer

All out of region resources will be in place by Wednesday afternoon or evening. The need for additional resources and equipment will continue to be re-evaluated as conditions warrant throughout the event.

All residency locations will remain staffed for 24/7 operations throughout the duration of the event and priority cleanup operations. All available snow and ice equipment is ready to deploy. Fleet mechanics in affected areas will be staffing all main residency locations 24/7 to perform repairs and keep trucks on the road. Statewide equipment numbers are as follows:

·         1522 large plow trucks

·         140 medium duty plows

·         50 tow plows

·         329 large loaders

·         38 snowblowers

DOT is implementing a full commercial vehicle ban at the following locations beginning Thursday at 4 P.M.:

·         Interstate 190 - Route 62 to I-90

·         Interstate 290 - full length

·         Interstate 990 - full length

·         Route 33 - full length

·         Route 219 - Route 39 to I-90

·         Route 400 - full length

·         Buffalo Skyway Route 5 - full length

·         I-81 - Exit 33 to Canadian border - trucks use right lane only

To find the latest traffic and travel conditions, call 511, visit www.511ny.org or download the free 511NY mobile app. The online system and mobile app include a state road map, indicating which roads are experiencing snow conditions and where conditions are normal.

Thruway Authority

Thruway Authority personnel are staffed around the clock and ready to respond to the lake effect storm with 657 operators and supervisors statewide. Thruway has shifted and deployed additional staff and equipment from its New York, Syracuse, and Albany Divisions to support snow and ice operations in the potentially hardest hit areas in Western New York. Deployed resources include operators and supervisors, mechanics, large plow trucks, and large snowblowers.

Additionally, Thruway Emergency Operations Centers will be staffed in Buffalo and headquarters for the duration of the storm to assist with managing snow and ice operations, traffic incident response, emergency management, and real-time traveler information.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, all commercial traffic will be banned on the New York State Thruway (I-90) from exit 46 (Rochester I-390) to the Pennsylvania border, and the Niagara Thruway from I-90 to exit 22 (Route 62). ALL commercial traffic heading eastbound on the Thruway must exit at exit 61 (Ripley - Shortman Rd).

Commercial traffic heading westbound on the Thruway towards Pennsylvania from points east, should use exit 46 (Rochester - I-390) for I-390 to I-86 West.

Thruway statewide equipment numbers and resources are listed below:

·         346 large and medium duty plow trucks

·         9 tow plows

·         66 loaders

·         More than 132,000 tons of salt on hand

Variable Message Signs and social media are utilized to alert motorists of winter weather conditions on the Thruway.

The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app which is available for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic information, live traffic cameras, and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. You can follow the Thruway Authority on Twitter: @ThruwayTraffic and @NYSThruway and on Facebook at NYS Thruway Authority.

Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA)

DMNA will have 60 personnel on duty as of 6 p.m. tonight to assist with the state's response: soliders from the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry, which is based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and the 105th Military Police Company at the Masten Avenue Armory, and Airmen from the 107th Attack Wing.

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

DEC police officers, forest rangers, emergency management staff and regional staff are on alert and monitoring the developing situation and actively patrolling areas and infrastructure impacted by severe weather. DEC is coordinating resource deployment with agency partners and all available assets are positioned to assist with any emergency response.

DEC is advising backcountry users to be aware of and prepared for winter conditions. Winter hiking safety and preparedness are extremely important regardless of a hiker's physical ability or destination. Properly preparing for winter conditions is essential for a more enjoyable and safer experience. Additional information on winter hiking is available here.

DEC reminds those responsible for the large-scale removal and disposal of snow to follow best management practices to help reduce the potential for pollutants like salt, sand, oils, trash and other debris in snow from affecting water quality. More information is available here.

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York State Park Police and park personnel are on alert and closely monitoring weather conditions and impacts. Park visitors should check parks.ny.gov or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings, and closings.

Department of Public Service

New York's utilities have approximately 5,730 workers available statewide to engage in damage assessment, response, repair, and restoration efforts. This includes an additional 230 external FTEs secured by National Grid. NYSEG has increased its contractor support in the Western New York area in preparation for the lake effect snow. DPS staff will track utilities' work throughout the event and ensure utilities shift appropriate staffing to regions that experience the greatest impact.

State Police

The State Police is adding extra patrols to the areas that will be most impacted by the lake effect snow, and will also be staging additional specialty vehicles, including utility task vehicles and snowmobiles, in those regions. All four-wheel drive vehicles will be deployed, and troop emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.

Winter Safety Tips

Winter Travel

Some of the most important tips for safe driving include:

·         When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.

·         Use caution on bridges as ice can form quicker than on roads.

·         If you must travel, make sure your car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods, and brightly colored cloth to use as a distress flag.

·         If you have a cell phone or other communications device, such as a two-way radio, available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location.

·         The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure that your vehicle is clear of ice and snow; good vision is key to good driving. Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars. Be extra alert and remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.

·         It is important for motorists on all roads to note that snowplows travel at speeds up to 35 mph, which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit, to ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. Oftentimes on interstate highways, snowplows will operate side by side, as this is the most efficient and safe way to clear several lanes at one time.

·         Motorists and pedestrians should also keep in mind that snowplow drivers have limited lines of sight, and the size and weight of snowplows can make it very difficult to maneuver and stop quickly. Snow blowing from behind the plow can severely reduce visibility or cause whiteout conditions. Motorists should not attempt to pass snowplows or follow too closely. The safest place for motorists to drive is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted. Never attempt to pass a snowplow while its operating.

Heavy Exertion

Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack.

 

To avoid problems:

·         Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.

·         Take frequent rests to avoid over-exertion

·         If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw radiating down your arm, STOP and seek help immediately.

Power Outages

·         Call your utility to determine area repair schedules

·         Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored; leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored

·         If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need

Heating Safety

·         Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters

·         Always follow manufacturer's instructions

·         When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation

·         Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces

·         Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors and make sure they work

·         If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:

-Follow the manufacturers' instructions

-Use only the correct fuel for your unit

-Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool

-Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects

-When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly

For more safety tips, visit https://dhses.ny.gov/safety.

 
November 17, 2022 - 5:04pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, State of Emergency, batavia, genesee county, notify.

snowdaymlk2022-5.jpeg

Genesee County has gotten some attention from the Department of Homeland Security due to a severe weather watch for the next few days.

Department Commissioner Jackie Bray was heading this way to work alongside the county’s Emergency Management Services team, Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein said Wednesday evening.

The commissioner — whose most recent Twitter posts include news that Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency -- planned to be embedded with county workers throughout the weather event, Stein said. Hochul's declaration Thursday morning was for 11 counties in New York predicted to be impacted by heavy lake effect snow.

The counties include Genesee, as well as  Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, all commercial traffic had been banned on multiple state roads and state Thruway I-90 from Exits 46 to 61.

Citizens are to brace for the most heavy accumulations of up to four feet of snow in the Buffalo area. Hazardous travel conditions and local power outages may occur as a result of the combination punch of snow and wind that's been prevalent in weather forecasts. Hochul has urged New Yorkers to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel Thursday evening (tonight) and Friday.

Several people have been dispatched to combat the elements, including 70 operators, seven supervisors, four equipment operator instructors, four mechanics, one operations manager and one support staff in the Western New York region, the press release stated.

The City of Batavia is prepared, Manager Rachael Tabelski said, and she has been talking with police, fire and public works departments, and county, utility and state leaders all day to ensure storm protocols are in place. Tabelski was glad to see that state roads and the Thruway are being partially shut down early as a proactive measure.

"I think shutting down truck traffic early is very helpful ... and rerouting trucks -- We just want to keep as many arterial roads open as we can," she said Thursday afternoon. "We will be determining early in the morning if we will close City Hall. We're hoping to remain open to serve all of our residents."

During talks with municipal leaders, Tabelski was reminded that commercial trucks that use the Thruway and other major highways have gotten stuck idling during intense storms, and that makes it nearly impossible for snowplow operators to do their jobs and clear snow. Rerouting that traffic well before a storm hits was a good move to help alleviate that issue, she said. 

All major department personnel from the police, fire, public works, snow removal and water and sewer plants will remain open Friday, but the mall market slated for Saturday has been canceled, and the Yard Waste Station will be closed this weekend as a precautionary step, she said. 

"I'm not saying we're rusty, but it's our first snowstorm (this season); we've got a great team in the city and county," Tabelski said. "Stay safe, stay home, use your generator outside and not inside, don't use stoves to keep warm, make sure you've got batteries ... don't light candles inside. We feel as prepared as we can be for one of these events."

As for feeling confident that a storm of the predicted intensity -- with quantity and speed of potential snowfalls -- Tabelski couldn't commit to that. "We just don't know," she said. But, per the popular adage, it's better to be safe than sorry.

She also wanted to extend a "thank-you" to those city, county and state employees that are out there in the middle of the night plowing and clearing roadways "so that we can live our lives" and remain safe.

Batavia City School District and all after-school activities will be closed Friday, Superintendent Jason Smith said. The Batavian will be publishing an ongoing list of closures and cancellations as they are received.

So hunker down, snuggle up, and get ready for some wintry weather to safely endure from inside.

File photo of January's snow clean-up, by Howard Owens.

November 9, 2022 - 7:11pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Veterans Day, genesee county, notify.

veteransday2020-6.jpeg

Events slated for, or in honor of, Veterans Day have this year expanded into a three-day schedule, beginning with a Batavia City Schools district ceremony Thursday morning at the high school, and -- new this year -- continuing with an awareness walk on the Ellicott Trail.

The ceremony at BHS, 260 State St., Batavia, is set for 8:15 a.m. and is to include music and remarks in honor of local military veterans. Local veterans have been invited by students and staff to attend the ceremony that will feature keynote speaker Assemblyman Steve Hawley. There will also be performances by the BHS orchestra, chorus and concert band.

Other presentations include a “What Does Veterans Day Mean to Me” by high school students; the retiring of colors by a Boy Scout troop, and remarks by district leadership.

Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is hosting a “Mission 22 Walk” at 2:30 p.m. that begins at DeWitt Recreation Area, follows the Ellicott Trail on the outskirts of the town, and ends at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.

The Recovery Station is a program of GCASA, and this event is “an opportunity to shine a light on statistics that show that 22 veterans take their lives by suicide every day,” Recovery Station Director Harry Roscoe said in a news release.

After the walk, folks will be treated to a cookout at the Recovery Station, formerly Bohn’s restaurant near the corner of Seven Springs and Clinton Street roads in the Town of Batavia.

Friday will feature the traditional Veterans Day line-up of activities:

  • 9 a.m. Genesee County Park (VVA), 11095 Bethany Center Road, East Bethany
  • 10 a.m. Batavia Veterans Administration Medical Center, 222 Richmond Ave., Batavia
  • This will be conducted in the side patio area near Building 4. Free parking is on the side of the building. The program includes an invocation by Chaplain Alpha Sanon; the “National Anthem;” local musician Frank Panepento on trumpet; remarks from Danielle Bergman, assistant director; the Genesee County Joint Veterans Honor Guard; and a benediction by Chaplain Alpha Sanon.
  • 10:15 a.m. NYS Veterans Home
  • 11 a.m. Upton Monument, at the intersection of Main and Ellicott streets, Batavia
  • 11 a.m. Le Roy Post 576 will be hosting a ceremony at 2 Trigon Park, Le Roy
  • 11:30 a.m. Jerome Center Monument, Bank Street, Batavia
  • 1 p.m. Genesee Community College will be hosting a Veterans Day service in the William Stuart Forum, 1 College Road, Batavia

In observance of the day, Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia will be closed Thursday and Friday.

Third-day event next week

On Nov. 16, The Recovery Station will host a “Veteran Connection” gathering from 5 to 7 p.m.

Veterans from Genesee and surrounding counties will be able to network with various veteran and local service organizations and take a tour of the facility.  This is being conducted in partnership with the GOW Pathway to Hope coalitions.

For more information, call Rascoe at 585-813-6050.

File Photo of a Veterans Day ceremony in 2020, by Howard Owens.

November 9, 2022 - 6:03pm
posted by Press Release in news, genesee county, 911 Center.

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Press Release


Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr. announces the promotion of Francis A. Riccobono to Director of Emergency Communications of the Genesee County Emergency Services Dispatch Center. Director Riccobono assumed his new duties on October 29, 2022.

Director Riccobono has over 31 years of experience in Genesee County emergency dispatching services, having begun his dispatching career with the City of Batavia Police Department in 1991, and transitioning to the Genesee County consolidated dispatch center in 2008. In 2019, he was appointed Assistant Director of Emergency Communications/Operations. During his tenure, he has been awarded two Commendations.

“Director Riccobono’s vast amount of emergency services experience is a very valuable asset to Genesee County,” stated Sheriff Sheron.

November 3, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, genesee county, air show, Ways & Means Committee, notify.

tim_hens_linkedin.jpegMaking sure to clarify that he has no intentions of going to Las Vegas for a  fun three-day fling, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens asked for the Ways & Means Committee’s blessing to attend an air show conference in December.

A trip to Nevada would include costs of the county employee’s time for the three-day event, and a registration fee of $508. Hens said he will take care of the travel and lodging expense, and he feels it’s worth the investment during the preliminary planning stage of an air show at Genesee County Airport.

“We’re not sponsoring the Air Show. We're not the ones running the air show, but our airport is hosting an air show, and I feel it's important from an operational standpoint, as well as the safety to the visitors — the people that are going to come to the air show — that the county puts on a professional face and make sure we have a safe show and limit the liability for the county as much as we can,” Hens said to the committee Wednesday. “So the two things I'm most interested in with the conference are their air show 101 and air show 102 certifications, they are classes that they put on.”

Those two certification classes are more about airplane movements and operational needs at the airport, he said, versus things like concessions and gate entry fees.

“It's more about hosting the air show than it is operating an air show,” Hens said.

The schedule also includes a first-timers orientation, crisis communications, the human side of an air show and accidents: anticipating the unimaginable, and several other topics.

The International Council of Air Shows is scheduled for Dec. 12 through 15 in Las Vegas, and it’s a combination of a convention setting where flying acts can promote themselves to air shows across the country, and a series of training for air show operators and airport personnel to learn how to host this type of event to be “safe and proper,” he said.

Legislator Shelley Stein noted the mention of a military jet team and asked what types of aircraft will be landing at the county airport. Hens said that the committee has so far discussed items including a cold war era jet, which doesn’t require as much runway and support on the ground as a modern fighter jet F 22 or 23 would require. Due to the popularity and necessary advance booking or the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, they won’t be in the show next year, he said.

It may be possible to borrow planes from Cleveland and Toronto and share them with other air shows during the same weekend.

“So they could get an F-35 or F-20 to fly by and do a short demonstration over the field, but they wouldn't land in our airport,” he said. “And they wouldn't require any ground activity support once on the field. It would just be a flyover from Toronto, do a 15-minute deal, and fly to Cleveland and do a 15-minute deal. And that way three air shows could share military assets.”

Those scheduling details will happen at the conference, he said, and isn’t anything the county needs to be involved with. He agreed with Legislator Marianne Clattenburg, who summarized his trip’s goal as doing what he can to protect a county asset of the airport.

“Exactly. We have invested a lot of money there. And so this has to come off without any damage or any liabilities,” he said.

Legislator Gary Maha emphasized the county’s need to not financially support the air show, and others agreed. Hens mentioned logistics, and being cognizant about providing handicap-accessible parking for those in wheelchairs or who may have difficulties with walking.

“Things that we need to think about from a facility standpoint, and protect ourselves from a trip and fall type of activity. So all that stuff gets talked about in the sessions,” he said. “The travel requests I put in simply asked for the registration fee. I'm willing on my part to get myself out there. I have a place to stay out there; that's already paid for. And airline miles, so it's not really coming out of pocket, it’s simply the time away from the office and the registration fee for the conference.”

Clattenburg wanted to confirm that Hens — since he’d be on the clock while out west — would be available for Zoom meetings or other needs, especially “regarding our water issues.” Yes, he would, Hens said.

County Manager Matt Landers believes it’s a worthwhile trip to take, he said.

“I think it's important for him to have this knowledge with us having a large-scale airshow like this coming to our community,” Landers said. “I agree with legislators. I don't think by having Tim getting this background knowledge it shows that we are sponsoring anything, just that we want to be prepared.”

The committee voted to approve the request and pass it onto the full Legislature for vote.

Hens said he’d be discussing the show with committee members later on Wednesday.

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Dennis Dunbar, director of Air Show Operations for EAA AirVenture, president of Dunbar Airshows, and event organizer for the ICAS Safety and Operations Subcommittee, has been named committee chairman for this local event, Hens said.

 

 

 

Top photo from Hens' online media account; above, Dennis Dunbar photo from Air Show Magazine.

November 1, 2022 - 8:14pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, genesee county, budget, notify.

matt_headshot.jpgA new $70 million county jail-in-progress has certainly added to Genesee County’s list of expenses for 2023 and beyond, however, there are other reasons for a proposed 2 percent tax levy increase, County Manager Matt Landers says.

An “all funds” budget of $162,567,180 is an increase of nearly $3.6 million from the current budget, with an operating budget of $124,247,459 — at a hike of $4.88 million more than the current 2022 budget, Landers said.

New jail debt service — a nearly $4 million yearly tab for the next 30 years — includes the construction, labor and materials of the new facility on Route 5 in the Town of Batavia, and eight new hires needed at the future site.

The Batavian asked Landers about prior statements made by county management about how the new jail would not impact taxpayers.
The proposed 2 percent tax levy increase includes other rising costs, Landers said.

“The debt service for the new jail was not expected to cause an increase in county property taxes, which it isn’t,” he said. “The percent levy increase in the budget is due to a number of factors, including NYS retirement cost increases, wage increases, inflationary increases on a variety of commodities utilized by the County Highway Department and some operational increases at the jail due to hiring new positions.”

Those positions include six correctional officers and a new deputy jail superintendent, two new positions at the Sheriff’s Office aimed at “improvements in public safety,” and a new public health education coordinator position (funded with increased state funding).

What is your calculation for those new positions for the jail, including salary and benefits?
Landers provided numbers for the 2023 budget year, which totals $286,047. However, that covers three correction officers effective July 1, and the other three officers and a deputy jail superintendent to begin on Oct. 1, which means salary and benefits for three to six months of 2023.

A public hearing has been set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the legislative chambers at the Old Courthouse between Main and Ellicott streets, Batavia. Typical of such hearings, this will include a presentation of the budget, Landers said, “but we will welcome feedback from the public.”

“Feedback provided by the public will absolutely be taken into consideration before the Legislature adopts the final budget later this month,” he said.

A tax levy increase of 2 percent and the assessment increases for most properties will mean a decrease in the actual property tax — from $9.18 to $8.44 per $1,000 assessed value. If your property has increased, that may not translate to an overall property tax decrease. For example, a $100,000 home at $9.18 = $918, whereas a home now assessed at $120,000 at $8.44 = $1,012.80.

The county was not directly responsible for raised assessments, as each municipality conducted its own assessment process, and Landers points to the fact that county taxes will go down. But it’s worth noting the increased assessments for many folks, and how that will affect your future county tax bill.

The Batavian asked if this is likely the trend moving forward — increased tax levies to pay off the long-term debt for the jail. While he can’t say for sure about future budgets, Landers is aware of the county’s ties to “a lot of state mandates of which we have little control.”

“And when there are changes made by the state, we must react accordingly,” he said.  “The 2021 budget kept the levy flat and the 2022 budget is increasing the levy 2 percent. The County faces inflationary cost pressures like every other organization, and when inflation is running above 8 percent, it is a challenge to keep our expenses flat.

“The County hopes to generate revenue starting in the 2024 budget from boarding in inmates, which will help offset operational costs at the County Jail.”

During a recent county Legislature meeting, supervisors from Pembroke and Bergen appealed to legislators that their municipalities could use more revenue — something they felt has decreased due to a 40-year sales tax-sharing agreement between the county and city.

Why should they accept the fact that they are seeing less revenue now as the county receives more? Genesee County is sharing $10 million with towns and villages every year for the remaining term of that agreement, Landers said.

“The County has a number of countywide challenges that will need this increase as we move forward on developing solutions,” he said. “In addition to funding a $70 million dollar jail, the county is working towards a countywide broadband solution to ensure every home is connected; the county is working towards Phase 3 of the countywide water system, which carries a $150 million price tag; and we are actively working to help implement some of the solutions identified in the (Municipal Resources Inc.) study.

“With that said, the county absolutely hears the voices of our town and village leaders, and I am hopeful that we can find creative ways to have meaningful positive impacts on their municipal budgets.”

A positive step, he said, was being able to eliminate election chargebacks and reduce workers comp costs by 60 percent in the 2023 budget.

Other budget challenges include increases of more than $700,000 for state retirement costs; state mandates to fund Medicaid, Probation, the new jail, the Public Defender’s Office, assigned counsel, Social Services programs, Mental Health, Early Intervention and preschool services, he said.

With everything proposed, is it all in dire need? Is there anything the county can delay for now?
Landers emphasized that “we DO NOT incur an expense before we need to.”

In fact, county infrastructure has been neglected over the years, he said, and “we have deferred maintenance to the point we end up paying more in the long run.”

“The perfect example is the front of the old Sheriff Administration building.  We had an estimate to repair the front of the building, where large stones were literally falling off the façade, five years ago for approximately $500,000,” Landers said. “We deferred this maintenance and are now making these needed repairs for over $1 million.” 

This 2023 budget includes an ongoing commitment for increased funding by $1 million for roads and bridges, Landers said in his budget message. Deferred maintenance of these structures has gotten to a critical point, “and the cracks are showing,” evident by recent bridge closures, he said.

The proposed budget includes $2 million of unappropriated — not designated — fund balance, and in addition to the new jail, an ongoing water project is clearly on the county’s priority list.

“The county is embarking on two of the largest capital infrastructure projects in its history,” he said of the $70 million jail and $150 million water system project. “These two projects are going to weigh heavily on decisions made by the Manager’s Office and County Legislature for the foreseeable future, and is evident in the 2023 recommended county budget.”

After Wednesday’s hearing, the budget will go to the Legislature for consideration and eventual vote this month. Landers is pleased that the financial plan is under the allowable tax cap, he is also aware of its ramifications.

“I am not blind to the significant impact the proposed tax levy has on the citizens and businesses of Genesee County,” he said. “My time as county manager has only just begun, and I pledge to work with local governments, community not-for-profits, the business county and local citizens on ways to spend these precious resources as efficiently as possible.”

Click to read the entire Budget Message

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