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October 21, 2021 - 11:24am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county.

Emphasizing that the Genesee County Legislature has no intention of overriding the New York State property tax cap, County Manager Matt Landers this morning said he expects the tax rate for 2022 to decrease by 53 cents from last year’s figure.

“The rate as of right now, and the only reason the rate would go up if there is any kind of change to the assessments between now and when we finalize the budget in late November, is at $9.37 (per $1,000 of assessed value),” Landers said.

That’s down from the rate of $9.80 in 2021, a drop of about 4 ½ percent.

The tax levy, or the amount to be raised by taxes, is going from $31,451,727 to $32,130,246 – an increase of slightly more than 2 percent.

Landers pointed out that municipalities such as Genesee County can’t raise their tax levies by more than the 2 percent tax cap.

He said his office is finalizing the All Funds and General Fund spending plans, but indicated both will go up compared to 2021.

“I will have those numbers when I file the budget on Friday,” he said, indicating that his office will be issuing a press release tomorrow.

Genesee County is using $1.4 million of its unexpended fund balance in 2022, down from $2.3 million utilized in 2021.

Landers said the new Genesee County Jail – with groundbreaking set for next spring – is a key part of the 2022 budget.

“We don’t have any debt service in the 2022 budget because we’ll be borrowing for the jail in '22,” he said. “Debt service will come out in 2023.”

There are line items in next year’s budget, however, for four new corrections officers – positions that are part of a jail transition team required by the state Commission of Corrections to be in place prior to groundbreaking.  

“We’ll pick four us our more experienced COs to work on that, and that’s all they work on,” Landers said. “Then, we’ll backfill and hire four positions that we create. These positions will be kept on with the new jail because there’s an expected staffing increase with the new county jail.”

The county is planning to spend about $70 million on a 184-bed jail on West Main Street Road, just east of County Building 2. The facility will include a backup E-911 Center.

Two full-time nurses will be on duty at the new jail, an upgrade from the current one full-time nurse and one part-time nurse, Landers said, and four new positions will be added at the highway department – two seasonal and two full-time positions – to focus on tree cutting.

“We’re going to dedicate a tree crew that will work year round, working on the backlog of trees that have been devastated by the ash borer,” Landers said. “Trees are in the right-of-way and need to be cleared for safety purposes.”

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October 19, 2021 - 3:24pm

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As a Genesee County legislator representing the rural towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen, Christian Yunker said people are constantly coming up to him to ask when they will be getting broadband internet service in their area.

“What do I tell them?” Yunker asked on Monday, pointing his question to Paul Gavin, the just-hired executive director of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council.

Gavin was at the legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse to introduce himself and inform the committee of some of the agency’s priorities heading into 2022.

He was joined by Jay Gsell, the former longtime county manager who was employed as G/FLRPC’s interim executive director over the past year, and Richard Sutherland, a planner with the organization that serves the nine Finger Lakes Region counties, including Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming.

Gavin’s reply focused on initiating a broadband internet gaps analysis, which could take up to six months to complete, and then lining up financing, addressing any issues that invariably will pop up, and contracting with an Internet Service Provider.

“I would tell them that we’re at least a year away,” Gavin said, adding that the process would be shortened with the use of local and/or state funds. “(By having to obtain) federal funding, it takes longer.”

Gsell, who was charged with streamlining the agency’s operations in the temporary role, said that Genesee and Wyoming counties have yet to reach a level where they can take a broadband internet plan to a third party (such as Spectrum or Empire Access).

County Manager Matt Landers said Genesee has “already informally set aside a portion of our ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act money) to go toward this.”

“I know that some of our towns are better positioned – and have some funds set aside – to implement it,” he said.

Sutherland said that New York has authorized a broadband gap study for every county, looking for citizen participation to determine internet speed, availability in certain areas and what people would be willing to pay for the service.

He said the state’s Public Service Commission is hoping to complete the study by May 2022.

Landers said Genesee can’t enact a plan without countywide data of where the gaps are with all of its providers – noting that most information is proprietary.

It’s important to know the financial means of the towns and “critical to have that data first,” he said.

Gavin suggested that counties pressure the PSC by emphasizing the urgency in getting something done and to work with the G/FLPLC to implement a strategy that works best.

A Dunkirk native, Gavin is joining the regional planning council after holding a similar position with the Gulf Regional Planning Commission in Biloxi, Miss. Previous to that, he worked for the Port of Pascagoula (Miss.) and Department of Transportation in New York and Nebraska.

He is a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and St. Bonaventure University. He and his wife and daughter will be residing in the Rochester area, he said.

Gavin credited Gsell for his role in the G/FLRPC’s designation as an Economic Development District.

“That’s important … as it allows you to spend economic development administration funds and, as you know, they’re really flowing from the federal government right now,” he advised.

He said the G/FLRPC is available to assist counties with grant writing, strategic planning, land planning.

“We want you to turn to us and look for us to help you. Yes, you can go to consulting firms and yes, they will do a fabulous job, and yes, you will pay much, much more for that service that we can provide for you,” he said.

Gavin and Gsell said the agency is seeking a 10 percent increase in annual county contributions, from $9,600 to $10,600. The last increase came in 2002.

“The preliminary 2022 budget draft includes many operating expense reductions and continues our long-term history of strategic yet frugal budgeting and cost containment,” Gsell reported.

Photo: Jay Gsell, left; Paul Gavin and Richard Sutherland. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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October 14, 2021 - 5:33pm

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Genesee County legislators, substance use disorder and mental health professionals have a million reasons to celebrate today after meeting New York State Attorney General Letitia James at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.

James is conducting a statewide tour to recognize communities for their efforts in fighting the opioid epidemic and to distribute funds awarded to New York through a settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. This afternoon, she presented oversized ceremonial checks in Waterloo, Rochester and Batavia.

For Genesee County, that amount is $1,060,280.71.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate and transcends all political boundaries and affiliations and artificial constructs,” James said. “This really is a demonstration of what government should do, and that is provide for the needs of New Yorkers and the constituents that we all serve. And to hold those individuals responsible for what they did; we hit them in the pocketbook.”

James said her office “closed down pharma … and five manufacturers and three distributors of this poison.”

Unfortunately, she said, overdosing continues to be a huge problem.

“We’re seeing more overdoses because we know that individuals who use opioids sort of walked into the use of heroin, which is now laced with poisonous fentanyl,” she advised. “So, whatever we can do in our capacity to provide you with additional services, with some medically assistance treatment to assist those who are dealing with not only with opioid use disorder but mental illness.”

Assemblyman Steven Hawley thanked James for her role in the settlement and her “attention to all folks who are having problems with addiction.”

“It doesn’t really identify geographic areas for folks who are having trouble with addiction – whether we live in an urban area or a rural area or a suburban area. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done for a living. It can get everybody …” he added.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, speaking for families “that have been torn apart,” touched upon the significance of James’ tour.

Stein pointed out that Genesee is one of the few counties that operates a mental health department with its own clinics.

“We are struggling, quite frankly, in getting the clinicians. That is a real need,” she said. “If we could get some help there in getting folks into our state or even support for those positions, so that we could have more people available to us to help provide those services.”

James brought up that she has been hearing that the state agencies of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the Office of Mental Health do not work together and operate under regulations that often conflict with one another.

Lynda Battaglia, the county’s director of Mental Health & Community Services, said the agencies on a local level have excellent working relationships.

“We collaborate … for the greater good. As we move forward, everybody has the same mission,” she said, later adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has rippled through the industry, causing waiting lists into the hundreds for services due to the adverse effects on delivery and the strain on mental health and substance use counselors.

John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (which operates The Recovery Station), explained that in Genesee County, several agencies meet on a regular basis, sharing information to increase efficiency across the various sectors.

“Criminal justice, judges, services, community-based organizations, medical care workers – we’re at the table and we talk to each other,” he said. “We try not to let anybody drop through the cracks. We don’t have a ton of services but what we have, they get utilized.”

James said it’s important to not engage in “victim blaming and to be compassionate.”

She said her office is looking at this as a health crisis, reiterating Genesee County’s belief that the funds can be used only for treatment, prevention, education, outreach, etc.

“Unlike the tobacco settlement of old (where) the funds were used for roads and bridges and lights,” she said. “I don’t have anything wrong with roads and bridges and lights – they serve their purpose and hopefully that infrastructure money (federal bill) will build more of them. But these funds have to be related to the litigation and also to assist you in expanding services, and maybe, giving people some raises because they do the work of the angels.”

Bennett mentioned that GCASA is hoping to open its new detoxification center by the first of the year and is advertising for 25 positions, mostly nurses.

“It’s challenging. Right now, we’re biting our nails, going through resumes,” he said.

In closing, James said her goal was to “shine a light on what all of you do here.”

“I come from New York City and half the time the attention is on the city, but we need to focus on rural communities, rural counties because there’s a demand here -- and they cannot be ignored; they cannot be invisible.”

County Manager Matt Landers said the county’s intent is to use the money as directed by the settlement.

“We’ll have interested stakeholders come together to build a consensus on how best to tackle this problem,” he advised.

James said the Finger Lakes Region (Monroe and surrounding counties) will be receiving $53,124,938 from the settlement.

Her plan is to travel to Buffalo, part of the Western New York Region, on Friday.

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Photo at top: State Attorney General Letitia James speaks with County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, left; GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, and Assemblyman Steven Hawley. Photo at bottom: Presentation of a check to the county to combat the opioid epidemic.

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October 11, 2021 - 1:30pm

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With attendance of more than 625,000 and wagers approaching $700 million this year alone, Batavia Downs Gaming has established itself as a regional pastime and -- as the driving force behind Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. -- a significant source of revenue for Genesee County and the 16 other municipalities that it serves.

Gaming in Batavia is at a fever pitch, said Jacquelyne Leach, chief financial officer for WROTB, the public benefit company that owns the Park Road gaming and harness horse racing track as well as The Hotel at Batavia Downs.

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Genesee’s WROTB Director Addresses Recent Issues

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casino_logo.jpg“We’re anticipating record third-quarter earnings distributions of about $3 million, and we’re not done closing out September numbers,” Leach said. “When you add in the $1.2 million in earnings distributions from the first two quarters, this year is going to approach the $4.4 million generated in 1995 – and that was during the heyday of pari-mutuel wagering at OTB parlors.”

Although harness racing’s popularity has decreased over time – it once was the only “game” in town -- the sport serves a vital purpose in the overall scheme of things, Leach pointed out.

“As of right now, we have to have a valid racing license to secure our video gaming license,” she said. “If you don’t have a racing license (through the New York Gaming Commission), you can’t have a video gaming license.”

WROTB operates 27 off-track betting branches, 26 E-Z Bet locations and a telephone wagering service in 15 Western New York counties. As dictated by legislation, it contributes a portion of earnings plus surcharges to those counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Leach said municipalities also earn monthly revenue from what is known as surcharge. Thus far in 2021, more than $450,000 have gone out in surcharges with another $130,000 or so expected for the third quarter, she advised.

$109,000 TO GENESEE COUNTY IN 2021

Genesee County will receive approximately $93,000 in earnings and $16,000 in surcharge for 2021, Leach predicted, adding to the nearly $13 million it has received from WROTB revenue since 1974. The other GLOW counties of Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming are among the member municipalities.

In her 33rd year at the Downs, Leach explained that 5 percent of winning wagers made at WROTB/E-Z Bet locations is distributed to the member municipalities based on the member’s “proportionate handle and population to WROTB as a whole.”

“For wagers placed at racetracks within New York State, 50 percent of the surcharge is distributed to the municipalities in which the racetrack is located (in this case, Genesee County) and 50 percent is distributed to the other participating member municipalities,” she said.

All of these distributions are separate from what Batavia Downs Gaming generates in sales taxes that go into Genesee County’s coffers.

“Things are really ramping up,” Leach said, reasoning that people are staying closer to home to whet their gambling appetites. “Since COVID, people aren’t traveling as much to Las Vegas. It’s more of a localized, 2-2 ½ hour drive. So, we’ve become a regional destination.”

The Bennington resident said the corporation keeps about 8 percent of the total played at the Video Lottery Terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming and through Inter Track Wagering, which, from 2001-2020, totaled a staggering $8.45 billion.

“Generally speaking, patrons have about a 92 percent chance of winning, with pari-mutuel (OTB branches, etc.) bettors having about a 75 percent chance of winning,” she said.

LEACH: ‘FOCUSED ON TASK AT HAND’

Calling it “an incredible turnaround from 2020,” Leach credited the Batavia Downs Gaming staff for creating a welcoming atmosphere.

“I can’t say enough good about the WROTB staff. Our employees work hard and are dedicated. They definitely are our best assets,” she said.

The corporation lists 385 full- and part-time employees, Leach said, with an annual payroll of about $12.5 million.

Leach (salary of $157,000) is one of four officers, the others being Scott Kiedrowski, vice president of operations ($119,000); William White, vice president of administration ($119,000), and Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer ($212,000).

“As part of the upper management team, our responsibilities have grown over the years and, despite a lot of negative stuff, we have stayed focused on the task at hand – to provide a good experience for all who enter Batavia Downs Gaming,” Leach said. “We want them to come back and have a great time here. And I think that we’re very customer service oriented, and I think, that based on the numbers, we’re certainly doing something right.”

The “negative stuff” that she was referring to includes recent audits by the state Comptroller’s Office that pointed to a lack of oversight by WROTB’s board of directors regarding distribution of sporting event tickets and use of a company vehicles from 2016-2019.

Audit findings have prompted Democratic Party leaders in Niagara County to call for criminal investigation into the way the public benefit company is operated.

LAWSUIT BY EX-EMPLOYEE CONTINUES

Additionally, Wojtaszek and Board Chair Richard Bianchi are defendants in a lawsuit by a former WROTB officer Michael Nolan, who claims he was terminated from his job without proper cause, and the board of directors has been maligned in the press for accepting health insurance policies that cost the corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual premiums.

Wojtaszek said the lawsuit is “personally and politically driven” but it won’t deter him and his staff from focusing on “great customer service.”

“That’s why we’ve been successful,” he said.

Concerning the audits, he said WROTB directors asked the Comptroller to conduct it and to provide recommendations.

“We’re following those recommendations; we know that we can always improve,” he said.

On the health insurance issue, he said that the board received “differing opinions on whether or not it is allowed,” but decided to remove it going forward as a “show of good faith to address a situation that kept occurring.”

In June, directors voted unanimously to discontinue giving health insurance to board members appointed after July 1, 2021.

He praised the work of the board, stating that the “fruits of directors’ labor” are the record numbers being achieved.

Leach defended the board as well, noting that they receive just $4,000 per year in salary.

“Really, for such a multifaceted and dynamic corporation? That is dictated by the racing and pari-mutuel statute that was put in place many, many moons ago,” she offered. “Board members haven’t gotten a raise for as long as I have been here, and I’m in my 33rd year.”

CONSOLIDATING OTB BRANCHES

Directors have made forward-thinking decisions, Leach mentioned, notably the purchase of the hotel earlier this year from a private investment group, appropriating necessary funding to the Summer Concert Series and expanding programming and dining options to ensure a multifaceted entertainment venue.

She said directors approved the closing of several OTB branches in an effort to cut losses and streamline the operation.

When asked if the track and OTB parlors have been losing propositions, she acknowledged that in “years past, yes, although I will say that in 2021, our branches are doing much better.”

“We closed six OTB locations in 2020 and a lot of that handle from those six locations has transferred either to Batavia Bets, our online wagering, or to other brick-and-mortar OTB branches or EZ Bet facilities,” she said. “Actually, our branches and E-Z Bets are doing quite well right now.”

She wouldn’t speculate about the future of harness racing, other to say that a shortage of race horses is hurting the industry.

“As far as live racing goes, it’s a very expensive venture,” she said.

Leach said that the corporation is working within “a somewhat antiquated” OTB model developed back in the late 1960s.

“So, we’ve tried to cut costs there by consolidating our branch operations, closing and consolidating our handle, opening the E-Z Bets and opening Batavia Bets (online platform),” she said. “Batavia Bets has been successful ever since we opened it in 2012, but especially when COVID hit. That really took off because it was a way for patrons to wager as nothing was open.”

CONTRIBUTING TO LOCAL CAUSES

Beyond entertainment, wagering and earnings distributions, WROTB is an active contributor to charitable causes.

Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer said the corporation gives back around $50,000 annually through donations, sponsorships and fundraisers.

“Since the hotel was constructed we have provided hundreds -- and I do mean hundreds -- of certificates for stay and plays for local fundraisers, charity auctions and similar type events,” Hasenauer said. “Those offers include a hotel night, free play and free food and are valued at over $250 each.  These are offered as prizes at an organization’s event which they use to raise money for their work.  So far this year we’ve given out over 200 of these.”

Hasenauer said organizations that have benefited from WROTB events include Make-A-Wish Gala, the Batavia Police Department K-9 Unit, the Genesee County K-9 Unit, GLOW YMCA, Food Bank of Western New York and the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.

“We have also been a partner with many organizations, firstly as a place for them to hold large fundraising and outreach events,” he said, mentioning Red Cross, Connect Life, Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. “And we have partnered with organizations for them to benefit from being a part of our major events.”

He said the summer concerts generated funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, Make A Wish, Genesee County Animal Shelter and others.

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File photos: Batavia Downs Gaming entrance on Park Road, The Hotel at Batavia Downs, harness horse racing action, Three Dog Night in concert, contribution to Make A Wish. 

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October 7, 2021 - 1:09pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, AFSCME, genesee county.

Genesee County and the 31 members of American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees union have reached a five-year contract agreement that calls for a 5 percent salary increase in 2022 and annual raises of at least 2 ½ percent after that.

County Manager Matt Landers today said a tentative agreement was reached about six weeks ago, leading to a favorable vote by union employees.

The pact was approved by the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday and is scheduled to be ratified by the full legislature next week.

Landers said the county agreed to the 5 percent raise plus 53-cent hourly wage increase for the first year after research showed that Genesee was paying less than comparable municipalities.

“We recognized that and attempted to correct that, understanding that we’re dealing with a shrinking labor pool,” Landers explained.

Pay increases in 2023 and 2024 are set at 2 ½ percent and in 2025 and 2026 are set at 3 percent. Union members’ share of health insurance premiums will go up from 9 percent to 15 percent over the life of the contract.

The 31 AFSCME (Council 66, Local 392) workers are highway department and facilities maintenance employees, Landers said.

In other action, the committee approved the appointment of Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Brabon to the Genesee County Youth Board.

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October 4, 2021 - 3:42pm

Genesee County could receive around $1 million to battle the opioid epidemic in funding from New York State’s legal settlement with various manufacturers and distributors which have been deemed responsible for perpetuating the opioid crisis.

Attorney General Letitia James announced today that she will be embarking upon a “HealNY’ tour to dole out up to $1.5 billion to all regions of the state. All 62 counties in New York will receive funds from the settlements.

CLICK HERE for today’s press release from James’ office.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers reacted to the news that the county is in line to get anywhere from $597,359.78 to $1,043,594.62.

“We will be meeting internally and with related agencies to better understand where we should put those monies and what limitations there are to those monies, so hopefully we will have a plan relatively soon,” he said. “It’s quite a large range so, until we know better what the exact amount is, that is going to drive what we want to fund.”

Landers said he will set up meetings with stakeholders such as Genesee County Mental Health and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Genesee & Orleans Public Health and law enforcement “to set up a game plan where we can get the most bang for the buck.”

He also noted that the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force already is receiving some grant money but suggested that this new influx of funding could be used to keep that initiative going for a longer period of time.

Per James’ press release, the Finger Lakes Region is expected to receive between $28,886,077.70 and $52,744,110.35 with other GLOW Region counties set to receive as follows:

  • Livingston County: $570,600.77-$996,846.31;
  • Orleans County: $347,049.64–$606,299.83;
  • Wyoming County: $346,041.37–$604,538.38.
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September 17, 2021 - 12:05pm

sutton_1.jpg“Why can’t the Town of Batavia go to 8.25 percent sales tax and use the .25 percent to prevent citizens in the Town of Batavia and companies (from) absorbing this cost for everybody from outside communities that come here to do their shopping?”

With that question toward the end of Wednesday night’s Batavia Town Board meeting, Lewiston Road resident Bill Sutton triggered a 15-minute discussion with Town Supervisor Gregory Post about sales and property taxes, and New York’s tax cap.

Sutton, (photo at right), a truck driver for Kistner Concrete, said he noticed that the meeting agenda included a resolution calling for an override of the New York State tax cap – the limit on the amount of real property taxes that may be levied by the town as it prepares its 2022 budget.

He said he was concerned that property taxes will increase and thought that bumping up the sales tax from 8 to 8.25 percent could be a way to prevent that from happening.

Pointing out that Erie County’s sales tax is at 8.75 percent, Sutton said he wondered if the extra ¼ percent in sales tax could be put in the town’s budget “so that citizens in the town don’t have to pay higher property tax.”

“Why can’t we benefit from that? Why can’t the Town of Batavia implement a little more sales tax to compensate for this, instead of property owners and businesses picking up the slack?” he asked.

TWO SALES TAX JURISDICTIONS

In his response, Town Supervisor Gregory Post said he appreciated Sutton’s questions and went on to explain that towns or villages do not have the authority to impose sales tax.

“There are two entities that are eligible to collect sales tax. One is Genesee County and one is the City of Batavia,” Post responded. “Traditionally, over the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a collaboration between those two entities to allow the county to collect all of the sales tax and then distribute 50 percent of those revenues collected or some portion of that 50 percent to the communities on an ad valorem basis.

“Which means that communities will get a percentage of the sales taxes collected by Genesee County – whether it’s 8 percent or 8 ¼ or 8 ½ or 8 ¾. Those are distributed based on the communities’ assessed valuation – taxable assessed valuation.”

Post mentioned the agreement between Genesee County and the City of Batavia that provides the city with a minimum of 14 percent share of all the sales tax revenue generated in the county. That agreement also benefits the county’s towns and villages which, by virtue of a revision last month, will share $10 million in sales tax revenue annually for the next 38 years.

Per that agreement, the Town of Batavia’s assessed value qualifies it for about 16 percent of that amount – the actual figure is $1,687,937 – and that is substantially more than the other municipalities. The Town of Darien, site of Six Flags Darien Lake, is next at $970,992, followed by the Town of Le Roy at $822,260.

The supervisor explained that the town is supported by sales taxes “and the sales tax revenues have traditionally been twice what the property tax collection levy was.”

“So, for every dollar collected in property taxes, we have been benefited by a dollar and a half to two dollars in sales tax revenues already,” he said. “And that sales tax is paid by (in part) by citizens not living in the Town of Batavia …”

'LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD'

Sutton said that satisfied that part of his question, but added that he is “looking down the road (because) here we are today – we have a shortfall.”

He continued on his point that many people from outside the town come to the town to shop, and that the town should benefit more from having to deal with extra traffic and for having many “employment opportunities.”

“There has to be something we can do as a town to increase sales tax,” he said. “There has to be something that we can go forward doing this to make it even more beneficial to live in the town – to bring a business in from outside.”

Post replied by asking him to consider, “How much benefit does Genesee County get by having a lower sales tax rate to attract shoppers from counties that have a higher sales tax rate?”

“We have spent a lot of time looking at the consequence; right now, we’re an attractive site for equipment sales, heavy equipment. We just had a groundbreaking this week (LandPro),” Post offered.

“I’m looking at the larger scale sales of automobiles and heavy equipment, and if you’re selling a million dollar bulldozer and you’re selling it because your sales tax are 8 percent instead of 8 ¾ percent, and they’re buying it and taking delivery here, we’re getting the benefit of some of those revenues that we wouldn’t get if our sales tax rate was the same as it was in another county.”

Sutton said if Genesee County went to 8.25 percent it still would be lower than Erie County (but more than Monroe County, which also is at 8 percent).

Post offered to continue the debate with Sutton, inviting him to attend a weekly (Wednesday at 5 p.m.) board workshop.

“I am happy to hear your perspective and your comments … and I’m happy to see the participation,” the supervisor said.

Sutton acknowledged that he doesn’t have access to all the dollar amounts, but pressed on with his view that the Town of Batavia has a quality of living that other communities don’t have, especially an abundance of shopping locations.

“Why can’t be benefit from this so that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will also have that benefit going forward?” he asked. “We will prevent the shortfall by adding the .25 percent sales tax across the board to make it fair for not only the residences and the businesses – for everybody – to keep the property tax down that will draw business in from the outside and everybody will contribute.”

'NO OBLIGATION TO SHARE'

Post then brought up the fact that Genesee County has “absolutely no obligation to share one dime of sales tax revenue with any community.”

“They are entitled to keep 100 percent of it and it is only through the strict negotiations over the last 20 years by this board and our predecessors to come to some rational agreement where the county gets what they need to sustain their operation and not defer maintenance, and the communities in the county are benefited by the apportionment of sales taxes that they are,” he explained.

He then said he believes that Genesee County probably distributes more in sales tax to its towns and villages than another other county in New York State.

“There might be one or two other counties that do a better job with sales tax distribution than Genesee County, but locally they take 10 million dollars in revenue they collect in sales tax and they give it back to the towns to subsidize town and village operations to maintain a lower (property) tax rate.”

Post then went back to the resolution to override the state property tax cap, calling it “a statement that our community has been strategic and has been looking down the road five, 10 and 15 years financially, and retained by these resolutions annually the ability to manage our assets and modify our cash flow to meet the needs of our community so that we’re not bound and restricted by New York State and prevented from maintaining infrastructure that is key to being an attractive community to developers both international site selectors and local developers.”

The board set a public hearing on the tax cap override for 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Batavia Town Hall, 3833 West Main St. Rd.

Post thanked Sutton for sharing his thoughts, adding that he is “part of this community and your job as a citizen is to participate.”

Following the meeting, Post said that although it is early in the 2022 budget process, he does not expect the town’s property tax rate to increase.

The 2021 tax rate was set at $2.85 per thousand of assessed value, meaning that a home assessed at $100,000, for example, would pay $285 in town taxes for the year. The town also imposes a fire district tax, which was $2.34 per thousand this year.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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September 16, 2021 - 4:30pm

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The Genesee County Legislature's Public Service Committee learned a lot about the history – and future – of the South Lyon Street bridge on Wednesday afternoon during a departmental review by Highway Superintendent Tim Hens.

Because of a recent inspection by the New York State Department of Transportation that revealed two “red flags,” the one-lane truss bridge (photo at top) was closed to traffic at the end of August. And it will stay that way for about a year, said Hens at the PSC meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

“That was not a surprise to us; we’ve seen that one coming,” Hens said. “It has been like a slow motion train wreck. We had our fingers crossed that we could make it through one more season.”

Hens said a new two-lane truss bridge is on the schedule to be replaced next spring and will take several months to rebuild. It’s unfortunate as motorists hoping to get from West Main Street to South Main Street (or vice versa) will have to use either the Oak Street roundabout or the River Street bridge.

“The (recent) inspection -- it couldn’t pass the (minimum) load limit of three tons, which is about the size of an average car,” Hens said.

The bridge, which Hens said accommodated about 2,500 cars per day on average, was in bad shape with secondary girders so “rusted out that you could poke a string through them.”

Built in 1982, it did, however, last much longer than the five to 10 years that were anticipated.

Hens said the bridge was selected for federal aid in 2011 but, two years later, that funding was withdrawn. In 2014, the DOT did not accept the application to replace it. Three years later, it was resubmitted – again unsuccessfully.

In 2020, the county learned that it would be scheduled for replacement in 2023, but now, in light of the red flags, it was been moved up to 2022.

Hens said the new bridge will be a truss style, as well, wider for two lanes and including a sidewalk on the west side. It also will be turned slightly to the west for easier access from South Main Street.

Other topics in Hens’ report included funding, roads, equipment, tree removal, airport, parks, facilities, water and grants.

He reported the highway department applied for 24 bridges and culverts under the 2021 BRIDGE-NY program, using a similar strategy as in 2018 by having the county’s towns apply for structures under Genesee’s ownership and maintenance jurisdiction. This number was less than the 34 applied for 2018 because the state DOT advised the county “not to flood the application pool.”

County crews replaced bridges on Sandpit Road in Alexander, South Main Street Road in Batavia, Wortendyke Road in Batavia, Macomber Road in Batavia and Alabama, and Browns Mill Road in Bethany repaired a bridge on Francis Road in Bethany.

Currently, the bridge on Colby Road in Darien is closed for repairs.

“Colby Road was a little different,” he said, calling it the biggest surprise he has seen in his career as far as bridge inspections are concerned.

After it was red flagged in 2020 for problems at the north end of the span – closest to Route 33 -- major repairs were made. Eight months later, another inspection revealed similar issues on the south end.

“We literally went from no flags, no load restrictions to, like holy cow, we’ve got to close the bridge tomorrow because it is bad,” Hens said. “It literally rated at negative two tons; supposedly it couldn’t support anything and we had cars drive over it for two months (before closing it per DOT).”

Repairs are being made now on the north end of the bridge, said Hens, adding that it should reopen to traffic in a few weeks.

Several other bridges were or are on the federal aid replacement schedule, including Upton Road in Batavia which reopened yesterday.

Other highlights of Hens’ report are as follows:

More Highway Funding Than Expected

“Between the governor and the assembly, we got an even bigger boost in our annual CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) and PAVE-NY funds,” Hens said. “At the end of the budget season, we were already probably at 160 percent of our normal funding. We got a ton of money going into the season.”

With that added funding – and despite a rainy July – the county is on pace to have all heavy roadwork done by Columbus Day, “which even in a normal year we’d be happy to be done that early,” he said.

Hens reported that more than 100 miles of the county’s 260 miles of roadway have been widened to 30 feet over the past several years and that will continue even if asphalt prices continue to climb (costs are up by about 15 percent over 2020).

Emerald Ash Borer is Creating Havoc

The emerald ash borer is a green buprestid or jewel beetle native to north-eastern Asia that feeds on ash species. Also known as EAB, it is causing severe problems in Genesee County, Hens said.

Thousands of dead ash trees throughout the county need to be removed as they are infringing upon roads and exposing the county to liability.

Hens said highway crews typically remove 160 or more trees from the right-of-way each year from November through April, but for 2022, he is asking for a year-round tree removal crew with two more motor equipment operators and two more seasonal flag persons.

County to Save on Snow and Ice Removal

Hens said recent mild winters will result in about a $175,000 savings to the county as the 2021 rate paid to the towns for snow plowing will be $5,825 per mile – down from $6,515 per mile in 2020. Salt prices remain stable at $51.29 per ton.

As far as fuel prices are concerned, diesel is up 13 percent from last year and unleaded is up 21 percent from 2020.

Airport Fuel Sales Rebound

Hens said that fuel sales at the Genesee County Airport are back on pace with 2019 figures, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic did not impact fuel sales as much as expected. Furthermore, small plane traffic has increased, keeping the waiting list for hangar space at more than 20.

A new eight-bay hangar is available for rent, he said, and reconstruction of the apron (funded by a Federal Aviation Agency grant) is anticipated for next year.

The county is seeking a grant from Upstate Aviation Economic Development and Revitalization to fund a $13 million project to build a large corporate hangar, equipment storage facility, apron and parking at the west end of Saile Drive.

“If we get that grant, just submitted today, there would be an equipment storage bay attached to that building that would be 100 percent funded,” he advised.

Genesee Justice Building Needs Much Work

The stonework at the Genesee Justice building at 14 West Main St. (in front of the county jail) needs significant restoration and safety work, Hens said, estimating the cost could reach $1 million.

The county has been unsuccessful in obtain an historic grant, but will reapply this fall, he said.

Hens also said the county is studying the best way to renovate Holland Land Office.

Water Project Entering Phase 3

With Phase 2 just about finished, the county is in the planning stage of Phase 3, which could cost up to $85 million.

He said the City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant is in need of significant infrastructure, possibly costing around $2.6 million, to keep it operational in the short term. Phase 3 eventually calls for the city to shut down the plant when it becomes a retail customer of the Monroe County Water Authority.

The county also is looking into getting water from Niagara County to help support the Western New York Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing site in the Town of Alabama.

County Considers Huge Grants

Hens said the county could be in line for a $10 million federal grant for the water project if the reconciliation bill makes it through Congress.

Additionally, he called the Economic Development Administration Build Back Better Regional Challenge “a giant opportunity, potentially up to $100 million in funding for a regional project.”

“We’ve had several phone calls with the EDA regional director … and will try to schedule another Zoom call Friday to further discuss whether it is worth putting our eggs into this basket,” he said. “It’s a lot of steps (to complete the grant), but a great opportunity for us, if it’s the right fit.”

Comments
September 14, 2021 - 11:19am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Batavia Muckdogs, genesee county.

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Robbie Nichols and Marc Witt say they have about 50,000 reasons to support their claim that the first year of the Batavia Muckdogs’ participation in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League was a resounding success.

The team owner and general manager, respectively, took a few minutes at Monday night’s Batavia City Council meeting to report encouraging attendance figures for not only the team’s home games but also for the various other events that took place at Dwyer Stadium.

Nichols said the team averaged 1,778 fans per game over their 27 home games and attracted 501 season ticket holders, compared to 2019, when the team averaged 951 per game and had 79 season ticket holders.

An online check of Minor League Reference, however, lists the Muckdogs’ 2019 attendance at 1,135 per game for 37 home games.

Regardless of the exact numbers, Nichols was justified when he said, “We’re quite pleased at the way our first season turned out.”

When you combine the Muckdogs’ games with the numerous events held at Dwyer Stadium this summer, more than 50,000 people strolled through the gates. Other events included KMS Dance Academy competitions and clinics, PRIDE Festival, Challenger baseball, GLOW Academy Youth Baseball and Battle of Badges.

Collegiate baseball tournaments, an Alzheimer’s Walk and Muckdogs Monster Mash for kids (Oct. 23) are yet to come, Nichols said.

Witt acknowledged the “energy” provided by the Community Dance Team that entertained the crowd on a nightly basis, and pointed out how the players regularly interacted with the fans and community.

Nichols thanked the many sponsors and Council “for entrusting us with this great tradition.”

Council member John Canale, who said he attended several games, commented that the atmosphere “was tremendous.”

“You promised us that and you came through for us,” he said, prompting applause from his colleagues.

In other developments, Council passed the following resolutions:

  • A modified and restated sales tax allocation agreement with Genesee County through Dec. 31, 2059. The new contract does not change the terms and conditions between the city and county, but does include wording that allows the county to distribute $10 million annually in sales tax revenue to its towns and villages, beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

In 2018, the city and county reached a deal giving Batavia 16 percent of the county’s share of the sales tax – with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year. In future years, the city’s share will depend upon sales tax revenue growth, eventually being no less than 14 percent.

  • An amendment of the city’s zoning map to rezone parcels at 211 and 211 ½ East Main Street, just east of the existing Genesee Area Family YMCA, from P-2 (Planned Development) to C-3 (Commercial) to accommodate the construction of the Healthy Living Campus.
  • The installation of a street light on Highland Park due to insufficient lighting on a portion of that street. The resolution authorizes National Grid to install the fixture on an existing pole, which would cost the city about $90 a year for the electricity.
  • A contract with Bailey Electric Motor and Pump Supply of Corfu to replace a high service pump Variable Frequency Drive control at the Water Treatment Plant in the low bid amount of $23,878. Tabelski reported that the current part, which is 20 years old, has failed and the repair would be most costly than replacement. A VFD is a type of motor controller that drives an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage of its power supply, and normally is a key component at the mechanical treatment stage, biological treatment stage, and chlorination and filtration stage.

Council also forwarded to next month’s Business Meeting a recommendation by City Manager Rachael Tabelski to transfer $711,000 in general fund balance to reserve funds and another $50,000 in the workers’ compensation fund to that fund’s reserves.

The funds earmarked for allocation are Police Reserve, DPW Equipment Reserve, Facilities Reserve, Compensated Absences, Parking Lot Reserve, Health Care Fund Reserve and Workers’ Compensation Fund Reserve.

Looking forward, Tabelski said she will be outlining recommendations for the use of the $1.4 million the city received in American Rescue Plan Act funding at the Conference Meeting on Sept. 27, and reported that bonding financial figures and design phase information for the new city police headquarters will be presented in November or December.

Photo: Marc Witt, left, and Robbie Nichols of the Batavia Muckdogs at Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Comments
August 30, 2021 - 7:44pm

Genesee County stands to receive more than $400,000 via a settlement between New York State and the pharmaceutical companies comprising the Johnson & Johnson brand for their role in contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The county’s Human Services Committee today, on the advice of County Attorney Kevin Earl, recommended adoption of a resolution that would enable Genesee to participate in the New York Opioid Sharing Agreement.

The settlement, negotiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, would provide Genesee County with a sum between $177,000 and $413,000, Earl said, with approximately half of the money to be "front-loaded" as an initial payment representing the first three years – possibly as soon as February 2022.

"It is my understanding that the balance will be paid over the next nine years on the state's remaining 10-year payments," he added.

Earl said the actual amount is on a sliding scale, depending upon the number of municipalities opting in.

He said there is a good chance that the county would get its full share of the settlement funds, which could be as high as $229 million to New York State.

The resolution passed by the HSC (which is subject to approval by the full legislature next week) alleges several causes of action against defendants Johnson & Johnson, and affiliates based on claims that J & J contributed to the opioid epidemic by falsely promoting prescription opioids it manufactured and sold and by falsely promoting the increased use of opioids directly and generally through various “front groups” and failing to implement measures to prevent diversion of prescription opioids in connection with distribution of its products, all of which contributed to a public health crisis in the County of Genesee.

As reported previously on The Batavian (see link below), Genesee County has retained the services of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC of New York City to litigate on its behalf. Earl said this firm and another based in New York City represent the vast majority of municipalities in New York State.

Earl said two other law suits are in the works – one against Pharma, maker of oxycontin, which has filed bankruptcy (reorganization) and the other against the distributors of these powerful drugs.

“That’s three potential bites of the apple (for the county),” he said.

Any funds received in the Johnson & Johnson case would have to be used in areas related to expenses incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic, Earl said, although “there is quite of bit of flexibility” in the guidelines.

Those uses would include treatment/support groups, prevention, training, first responders and research. Allocation of the funds is being coordinated by the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

Previously: GCASA director: Multimillion dollar deal with opioid distributors would 'stabilize' treatment system

Comments
August 30, 2021 - 11:36am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, 2020 U.S. Census, Sixth Ward.

Genesee County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, in an email this morning, commended the county’s Complete Count Committee for its efforts in “finding” more than 300 people in the City of Batavia's Sixth Ward.

“We are happy to report that just in that tract/ward alone, we were able to find an additional 327 people in 2020 that were not counted in 2010,” Oltramari wrote.

He went on to surmise that it was “very unlikely” that 327 net additional people moved into that “southside” ward in the previous 10 years, since the rest of the county lost population and no substantial new housing was built in that ward during that time.

“It is more likely that these people were not counted in 2010 and we were able to reach them through this committee’s outreach efforts,” he said.

He wrote that the committee was tasked by the U.S. Census bureau to target the Sixth Ward due to a probable undercount in the 2010 Census.

Oltramari also reiterated what was reported on The Batavian on Aug. 13 that Genesee County’s population decreased from 60,079 in 2010 to 58,388 in 2020 – but that is more than the Census Bureau’s 2019 estimate of 57,808.

“This no doubt was partly due to this committee’s outreach efforts last year, and we found further evidence of this as we dug deeper into the numbers,” he concluded.

More data on changes for NY State can be found at: https://pad.human.cornell.edu/census2020/index.cfm#pl

Previously: 2020 Census shows Genesee County population fell by 2.8 percent from 2010; City of Batavia gained 135 people

Comments
August 30, 2021 - 8:26am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Freed Maxick.

Genesee County came out much better than expected in terms of its financial health in 2020, according to the certified public accountant who conducted the municipality's yearly audit.

“You fared fairly well. You had budgeted a deficit, and you actually came out better than you had anticipated,” said Kathryn Barrett, director at Freed Maxick CPAs, P.C., as she and colleague Nicole Ryan summarized their report earlier this month for the Genesee County Legislature.

Barrett said the county took in about $5.3 million less than budgeted in 2020 (its fiscal year is January through December), but spent about $8.5 million less than budgeted.

“So, budget to budget, you did much better, and that helped build that positive fund balance,” she noted, adding that the audit uncovered no deficiencies or material items.

The county’s net position of primary governmental activities increased by $4.2 million from 2019 -- to $149.5 million, and its net position on business type activities increased by $2.9 million, she reported.

She said the audit looked at two sets of financial statements -- government-wide or “a picture of what you look like as an entity rather than a fund by fund basis” and fund basis or “how you look at yourself and manage your operations on a day by day basis.”

Genesee, at year's end, had a deficit of $19.8 million in the Tobacco Asset Securitization Corporation (which handles tobacco settlement funds), which is consistent with prior years, Barrett reported. The county, however, had positive balances in the self-insurance ($3.1 million, up $810,000); Workers’ Compensation ($1.8 million, up $1.2 million); and water ($3.9 million, up $1.4 million) funds.

Barrett said the county’s participation in the New York State Retirement System this year has had a significant impact on government-wide operations. She said the plan is underfunded, but some of that has to do with the fact that the plan was measured on March 31, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That increased the net liability on the government-wide financial statements by about $5.4 million – it almost doubled from what it was last year,” she said. “So, that can go up and down in any particular year because of the assets that are invested in the open market and how they are performing at any particular point in time.”

Noting that the retirement system is funded at high levels – 96.3 percent in 2019 and 86.4 percent last year, she said it was a “temporary blip” and the county could see “a complete turnaround next year …”

Looking at the fund basis figures, the overall fund balance increased by $1.3 million in the general fund to a total fund balance of $44.4 million. She said the county used about $10 million of its capital reserve, but also set money aside for 2021 to offset any revenue loss, and also appropriated money for sales tax, Medicaid and jail debt service.

On the revenue side, revenues decreased by $1.6 million or 1.5 percent, again better than anticipated, while expenditures decreased by just less than $500,000 or .5 percent.

She said the county is considered a low-risk auditee, based in part on spending $2.2 million less in federal funding from 2020 to 2019.

For 2020, the county’s primary government invested $7.3 million in governmental activities capital assets, including $2.1 million in construction work in process, $280,000 in buildings and improvements, $3.7 million in infrastructure and $1.2 million in equipment, machinery and other capital assets.

The county tax rate was $10.11 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2020, up 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value from the 2019 county tax rate.

Ryan commented on the management report section of the audit, stating, “We didn’t have any findings from the single audit and usually those are the most lengthy findings that we would have.”

She also said she found no significant issues.

One operational matter involving cybersecurity was identified, Ryan said.

“Our risk advisory services provide a little more of an in-depth look from the cybersecurity perspective, from that IT (Information Technology) perspective,” she said.

Barrett said Freed Maxick’s advisory group would be available to assist the county in addressing this issue.

“They’ve helped other clients in this area identify weaknesses and help them remediate and put together a plan of remediation,” she offered.

Comments
August 26, 2021 - 8:50am

brett_frank.jpgUpdate at 11:30 p.m. from BDC:

"Brett brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in business and property development that will help advance the BDC’s mission to improve the quality of life in the City of Batavia through a number or economic development collaborations, programs and initiatives," said BDC President Lori Aratari. “We are excited to welcome him and look forward to his leadership.”

Brett has core competencies in government relations, public relations, communications, business and policy research, statistical analysis, and business intelligence.  His roles with Genesee County were numerous, including Real Property tax apportionment of County/Town, County/City, School and Village taxes, public relations and working directly with the GCEDC in the maintenance and generation of PILOT invoices.

He was responsible for disseminating information to engage property owners in complex residential and commercial valuation projects and acted as liaison to municipal, regional, and state government officials.

“On behalf of the City we are excited to work with Brett in this new position and have confidence that as a City resident he understands the needs of both the business community and residents alike,” said Rachael J. Tabelski, City of Batavia City Manager.  “Brett will be coming to the organization with a list of projects to finalize from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) and a 2020 Main Street Grant awarded to the City.  He will also be responsible for promoting development at the City’s Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) sites and assisting businesses with loans and grants.”

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Directors of the Batavia Development Corp. this morning approved the hiring of Brett Frank as the agency’s executive director.

Frank (photo at right) fills the position that became vacant when Andrew Maguire accepted the operations manager post with the Town of Batavia in June. He will start on Aug. 30.

A client service specialist at Fieldstone Private Wealth in Batavia since September 2020, Frank was employed at Genesee County’s deputy director of Real Property Tax Services for five years prior to that.

“I think he will do a great job in that position. He’ll be a good fit for that,” said Kevin Andrews, the county’s director of Real Property Tax Services, Frank's immediate supervisor. “His background in real property, I think, will help him in that role.”

Andrews said Frank is outgoing – a people person – and won’t have any problem promoting the projects on behalf of the City of Batavia.

Previously, Frank, a city resident, was a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual and a Batavia City School District maintenance worker.

Frank, an Elba Central School graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in Financial Economics from Buffalo State College after receiving his associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Genesee Community College.

City Manager Rachel Tabelski said Frank's "great background in real estate" will go a long way in accomplishing the BDC's mission.

The position's salary is $70,000 plus benefits.

Comments
August 25, 2021 - 1:50pm

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Genesee and Orleans counties this afternoon thanked all the volunteers who spent "countless hours" to assist local officials in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

"The reason for this is (to recognize) all of the countless hours the volunteers in our communities in Genesee and Orleans gave to our community during the testing phase and also during the vaccine clinic phase," said Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein at the appreciation luncheon at Genesee Community College.

"We had an unbelievable response when we said we needed help. These are the folks who came and helped without even a care for themselves."

Stein said certficates were made for the 250 or so people who contributed to the two counties' efforts.

She also thanked Bill Schutt of the county Emergency Management Services department for his role as "COVID czar," along with Public Health Director Paul Pettit and EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger, adding that it wouldn't have been possible "without all hands on deck."

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Photos by Alecia Kaus. 

Comments
August 9, 2021 - 8:51am

Village of Corfu? In.

Town of Darien? Out.

Town of Pembroke? To be determined.

That’s the status of three municipalities on the western side of Genesee in the county’s quest to achieve updated water supply agreements from all towns and villages leading up to a proposed $10 million annual sales tax distribution plan.

Corfu, Darien and Pembroke had been holding out on signing the amended water agreements since early July when the Genesee County Legislature introduced its potential solution to revenue distribution by linking it to a reworking of current water supply pacts.

On July 28th, Corfu trustees voted to accept the agreement.

Last week, Darien Town council members voted, 5-0, to not accept the county’s offer.

And this coming Thursday (Aug. 12), the Pembroke Town Board is scheduled to vote on the issue.

A $10 MILLION OFFER

As previously reported, the county needs universal buy-in to the updated water agreements to set a plan in motion to distribute $10 million in sales tax revenue to municipalities over the next 38 years.

Without all towns and villages opting in, the county is proposing to distribute $7 million in annual sales tax revenue and another $3 million in other revenue on a periodic basis over the next 38 years. Municipalities not opting in would receive less in revenue distribution than expected to allow for the equalization of water surcharge revenue.

Contacted Sunday, County Manager Matt Landers explained that money would have to be withheld from communities that don’t sign the agreement to ensure that the water fund is made whole.

“In those cases, it will be the entire community paying for it and not just the water users,” he said. “For the Town of Darien, we’ll make sure water consumption is covered at $1.20 (per 1,000 gallons) if it can’t be covered by a surcharge because there’s a valid contract in place only charging them 60 cents. So, we’ll just have to equalize that through lower revenue distribution payments.”

Landers said he respects Darien’s decision, but welcomes further discussion with Darien Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. and the board.

“We would love to have a $10 million sales tax sharing agreement in place for the next 38 years to provide that guaranteed revenue source to all towns and villages, but Darien is going to do what it feels is best,” he said. “I understand he’s (Ferry) doing what he believes is in the best interests of his constituents, which a town supervisor would do. I happen to disagree.”

DARIEN BOARD NOT CONVINCED

Ferry said his board rejected the county’s idea for several reasons.

“We have a water agreement in place,” he said. “This is the same resolution that they offered in 2018 and the board, then, rejected it. It was a totally different board but the outcome was the same, a vote of five to nothing.”

He said Darien officials are looking for a master plan to see “what was going to happen in the future” and also for movement toward an equitable, unified water rate in the county.

“We felt that our positioning was that if we signed it, they would still ignore us. So, we did not sign it because it is the only bargaining position that we have,” he advised.

Ferry said the county “ditched the sales tax agreement in 2018 with the towns and village in favor of a contract with the City of Batavia, and now they want us to try and fix it.”

“The two (water and sales tax) shouldn’t even be connected,” he said. “Why is it that we’re tying them together now?”

FERRY: ‘GIVE US A BONE’

When it was mentioned that the Town of Darien would receive less in revenue than entitled to based on assessed valuation, Ferry said, “Possibly, but then again, possibly, I call the AG’s (New York State Attorney General) office.”

“I’m saying, ‘Work with us here. Give us a bone.’ And they did nothing. They would not even produce a letter stating that they would try to equalize the rate within X amount of years – because I think they don’t think they can.”

Ferry said the Town of Darien pays $1.12 more per 1,000 gallons of water than other communities.

“If they make the claim that water pays for water, we on the western side of the county have been paying more for our water to get water out here,” he said. “If the east and the central part need water, why not make them pay more?

“We represent our constituents and if we were to sign this contract … in addition to the old one, and they get charged 60 cents more per thousand (gallons) right off the bat, what else do they get out of that contract? We can’t enter into an agreement that is worse than the one we have without something as an offset.”

Landers said by opting in to updated water agreements, municipalities are ensuring that their water users are paying their fair share of the cost for water.

“One way or the other, Darien will still pay the additional costs – it’s a matter if they want to pay through the entire town or through the water users,” he said. “I still hope and there’s still time since I’ll be back in the office tomorrow and will reach out to Steven and see if there’s anything else that I can communicate.”

LANDERS OPEN TO MORE TALK

He said that he and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein presented the plan at meetings of the Village of Corfu and Town of Pembroke boards, and indicated that Ferry attended the Corfu meeting as well while another Darien council member was at the Pembroke meeting.

Landers also said he would like to address the entire Town of Darien board – something that hasn’t happened yet – as the deadline for towns and villages to make their intentions known is this Friday.

“I’d be more than willing to have further talks with Steve,” he said. “I’m 100 percent available to Steve and the Darien Town Board to talk some more, and until the 13th comes and goes, there is still an opportunity.”

Calling it a “complex issue,” Landers said the original water agreement has limitations to it as it has a fixed 60-cent surcharge (per 1,000 gallons).

“Genesee County is responsible for bringing an adequate supply of water into the county, and we have incurred significant monies beyond Phase 1 into Phase 2, and now going into Phase 3. If we truly want water paying for water, we can’t live by water supply agreements that are fixed at 60 cents for time in eternity,” he said.

“When we raise the surcharge, we have to raise it across the board for all users because it’s our responsibility to bring supply into the entire county. I realize that Darien and Pembroke don’t see the benefit of paying that extra 60 cents because they received their benefit from Phase 1. But with Phase 3, there will be future enhancements that will benefit them.”

Landers said he was not involved in the first round of water supply agreements with municipalities … and looking back, “the 60 cents didn’t work and that is one of the major factors that we’re trying to change with all of these updated water supply agreements; the ability to have water paying for water.”

PEMBROKE: IT’S A MATTER OF TRUST

When asked about the Town of Pembroke, he said he did not want to speculate, stating only that he has had “a good conversation” with the Pembroke Town Board.

Pembroke Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said he believes there is support for the amended agreement, but also noted “some concerns from the past over the way things have been handled, as far as agreements with the county.”

Citing lingering hard feelings, he said the county has “made agreements that they don’t seem to be concerned about breaking.”

“So, now if we sign on to this new one, what’s to say that it can’t be changed five years down the road. I think that’s the biggest concern that most people on our board have.”

Landers said it’s his job to try and build trust in all the towns and villages and hopes that “over time they will believe what we say.”

An email to Corfu Deputy Mayor Michael Doktor and a phone call to Mayor Thomas Sargent seeking comment were not returned. In fact, there has been no reply to requests from The Batavian from either village official throughout this process.

Previously: Ways & Means passes measures rescinding revenue distribution payments, accepting HCA with Plug Power.

Previously: Genesee's west side municipalities considering county legislature's sales tax/revenue distribution proposal.

Comments
July 21, 2021 - 6:48pm

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers has yet to hear from government officials in the towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu on whether they will be opting in to an updated countywide water supply agreement. But he is sticking to his timeline to enact a new sales tax distribution plan to all municipalities.

Landers, at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, presented a resolution that immediately (when passed by the full legislature) rescinds the county’s annual voluntary distribution payments. It also directs the county treasurer to discontinue all future such payments until further notice.

The measure passed and will be forwarded to the legislature’s next meeting, which is set for July 28.

Landers said the county made the first six monthly distribution payments this year but is changing course going forward – offering municipalities (with a deadline of Aug. 13), the following options:

  • With universal buy-in to revised water supply agreements, accept $10 million annually over the next 38 years, with the amounts per town or village determined by the total assessed property valuation;
  • Without universal buy-in, accept $7 million in annual sales tax distributions and another $3 million in periodic revenue distribution over the next 38 years, minus equalization of water surcharge revenue to those municipalities not opting in.

Currently, Darien, Pembroke and Corfu have not signed the water agreements, although their town and village boards have scheduled meetings over the next couple weeks.

“The towns and villages are aware of this resolution (to rescind the agreement that was passed in 2020),” Landers told the committee.

On Monday, a draft of the new sales tax agreement – without any specific dollar amounts filled in -- was sent to the New York State Comptroller’s Office for review.

Landers has set Sept. 14 as the date to send the amended and signed agreement to the Comptroller for formal approval.

SHOOTING FOR A $1 MILLION GRANT

In other action, the Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of a resolution to hold a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Old County Courthouse to provide information regarding the application of funding from the Community Development Block Grant COVID-19 Response program in the amount of $1 million.

Landers explained that the money is targeted for assistance to small businesses in the county, those with 25 or fewer employees.

He said the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. will help facilitate the money, if received, to go toward programs such as job creation, equipment/furnishings for parklet-type outdoor dining locations, personal protective equipment, and air handling measures, telecommuting employment and related initiatives.

“We have 12 months to spend the money from the date of applying,” he said, adding that the GGLDC, Downtown Batavia Improvement District, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and other outlets will be promoting this heavily. “This is money beyond the $11 million that we received from the American Rescue Plan Act, and we still have that.”

Landers said the majority of the funds will be in the form of grants, with some to be allocated as loans.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” he added.

HCA WITH PLUG POWER IN THE WORKS

The committee also approved a resolution authorizing the county to enter into a Host Community Agreement with Gateway Hydrogen LLC, also known as Plug Power Inc., of Latham, which is planning to build a green hydrogen production facility at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama.

Landers reported that the county – as long as the proposed project goes through – would receive $366,000 annually for 20 years plus another $147,000 annually from a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement.

“This brings revenue to the county to be used for general operations without having negative tax cap implications as well as giving us the option of how to use it,” he said, adding that it is projected to start on Jan. 1, 2023.

Host Community Agreements or Host Benefit Agreements are legal contracts that benefit both the community and the developer of a project -- stipulating the benefits a developer agrees to fund or furnish, in exchange for community support of a project.

Benefits can include commitments to hire directly from a community, contributions to economic trust funds, local workforce training guarantees and more.

In this case, Landers said some of the funds could go toward a Niagara County connection that would increase the water supply to the northern region of the county, including around the STAMP site.

“This may be able to support the possible connection to Niagara County,” he said. “It’s basically gap water between Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Countywide Water Program.”

He also said he believes the Town of Alabama will be entering into a HCA with Plug Power.

The PILOT agreement will serve to lower the tax cap, which helps reduce the property tax rate, he said.

Previously: Genesee County leaders present plans to distribute $10 million in sales tax/other revenue to towns and villages

Comments
July 20, 2021 - 5:07pm

Update: July 24, 9:30 a.m.

Comment from Anne Constantino, president and CEO of Horizon Health Services, which has an office in Batavia:

“We are grateful to the Attorney General for her success in this settlement that will absolutely deliver much needed resources in our efforts to prevent, combat and treat the serious public health crisis of addiction.”

-----------------

The executive director of a local substance use prevention and treatment agency is hailing today’s announcement that four major pharmaceutical distributors are close to an agreement to pay out $26 billion to states and municipalities for their roles in perpetuating the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“Yes, this is welcome news and I’m just hoping the money ends up going to assist individuals and families struggling with opioid addiction,” said John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “It definitely is needed to stabilize the treatment system that has been impacted negatively by the recent pandemic.”

According to multiple media outlets, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen are near a deal that would resolve multiple legal challenges as well as pay for prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the United States.

Genesee County Attorney Kevin Earl said it will be awhile before it is known how much money will be allocated locally.

The New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC is representing Genesee County as well as several other counties, Earl said.

“Most of the particulars are up in the air right now,” Earl said. “The county has retained this law firm to represent us in the litigation and they have advised us of the settlement with three of the distributors and Johnson & Johnson, but it’s too early to tell what Genesee County or any other participant in the litigation will get.”

A published report in today’s online edition of The New York Times indicates that the pact has yet to be finalized and “could still fall apart or have significant changes.”

The Times’ story also included the following:

-- According to lawyers familiar with negotiations, Johnson & Johnson, which made an opioid painkiller and a fentanyl patch and supplied opium-based ingredients to other drug manufacturers, would pay $3.7 billion in the first three years and $1.3 billion over the next six years. It had already shut down its supply business and discontinued its opioids, and agreed to refrain from selling opioids.

-- The distributors as well as several manufacturers are in the midst of a trial in a case brought by the State of New York and two of its counties. This morning, Letitia James, the attorney general for New York, announced a $1.1 billion deal with the distributors to settle that case. That money would be a part of the overall $26 billion settlement, but so far, it is the only deal that has been formally agreed to. Payments to New York State could begin in two months, Ms. James said.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he was “fairly certain” that the money awarded to the county is for specific purposes, unlike the tobacco settlement, which gave counties more leeway to use the money for general operations.

“This money would have to go towards specifically combatting opioids,” he said. “So, it would lead to us partnering with agencies in the community to help deliver these services – agencies such as GCASA and others.”

Marcus Molinaro, president of the New York State County Executives Association, said in a press release that the settlement “comes at a crucial moment as counties across the state and nation grapple with a startling resurgence in overdose deaths.”

“No amount of money can bring back the lives lost to the opioid epidemic, but it can honor those lost by investing in prevention, education and treatment services to save lives,” he said.

“New York’s county executives were proud to work in collaboration with Attorney General Letitia James to pass legislation creating an Opioid Settlement Fund to ensure those most responsible for plunging us into this crisis, and not local taxpayers, pay for treatment, recovery, and abatement efforts critical to defeating this deadly scourge.”

Comments
July 16, 2021 - 12:07pm

south_main_and_wortendyke_1.jpg

Photo: Genesee County and Town of Batavia crews are working to replace culverts along South Main Street Road and Wortendyke Road – a project that is expected to take about six weeks.

During that time, the South Main Street Road will be closed to motorists heading west about three-quarters of a mile from the Wortendyke Road intersection and at the intersection for those traveling on Wortendyke Road.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Comments
July 12, 2021 - 6:30pm

Comments
July 12, 2021 - 5:55pm

paari_group_1.jpg

Having supported a loved one’s multiyear battle with addiction, Allie Hunter said she is uniquely qualified and motivated to help deliver others throughout the United States from the clutches of substance use disorders in her role as national executive director of the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative.

Hunter drove from her Cape Cod, Mass., home today to meet with leaders of the PAARI chapter in Genesee County at the Batavia Fire Department station on Evans Street in preparation of her keynote address at Tuesday’s event showcasing the local program.

The Genesee County chapter is called Public Safety Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, a slightly altered version of the nonprofit organization’s official name due to the fact that the Batavia FD is the first fire company in New York State to join the effort to lead people to treatment and recovery without the threat of being arrested.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Batavia Police Department and Le Roy Police Department – all supported by the Genesee County Health Department – are current participants in the local PAARI.

Tuesday’s event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and was open to the public on a preregistration basis. Christen Ferraro, program coordinator, said that about 50 people are expected to attend.

Hunter said her sister’s struggles with substance use have given her a deeper understanding of addiction – as well as treatment and recovery – and have motivated her to reach as many individuals and families as possible.

“My younger sister, Nicole, for several years struggled with addiction,” Hunter said. “She experienced several overdoses and it was really tough for my family during that period of time.”

She said she was close to her sister and “oftentimes, I was the person that she would call when she overdosed or when she got into some type of challenge and I always tried to answer my phone anytime she called to help her out.

“It’s tough as a family member. You don’t know who to talk to about it or what resources are there. I didn’t know what I know now, and that motivates me, too, to try to support family members who have been impacted by it.”

About eight years ago, Nicole decided to start the recovery process, Hunter said.

“She has been doing really well. Now 32, she works as a recovery coach at a community health center nearby; so, we kind of work in the same field now, which is pretty cool,” she said.

Hunter said that her sister now takes part in some of the PAARI trainings and has responded with a police department on calls for help on Cape Cod.

“It’s great to have her doing so well and have that inspiration of how recovery is possible even though at the time – when somebody is struggling – there feels like there’s no hope,” she said. “But there’s always hope. So, that kind of motivates me as well.”

Unfortunately, there was no PAARI program at the time of her sister’s addiction, but things have changed considerably as the program’s numbers have increased from 100 departments when Hunter took over as executive director to about 650 today.

“How amazing would it have been if eight years ago there was a police department she could have walked in to because there were so many missed opportunities where she didn’t have the right insurance or couldn’t get a bed or couldn’t get a ride?” she asked. “Even on those overdoses, thank goodness there were officers carrying Narcan that were able to revive those. But it also highlights that there is more to be done.”

The goal, Hunter said, is to have PAARI become a standard “police in practice” offering.

“That’s the vision that we’re working towards but I think in the last five years we’ve grown a lot and have gotten about 30,000 people into treatment through our law enforcement partners,” she reported. “Still, overdoses are on the rise and we know that there is so much work to do.”

Hunter, who travels extensively around the country to trainings, chapter launches and conferences, said she is excited about the program’s development in Genesee County.

“For me, it’s really rewarding to get to be a part of local program launching and thinking about the ripple effect that will have on families and individuals that have been affected by addiction,” she offered. “For me to be able to be here in person and to meet the people behind it and see how PAARI has been part of that is really rewarding and exciting.”

PAARI’s funding comes mostly through grants and a “couple of federal organizations,” Hunter said, mentioning the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that manages the AmeriCorps program.

The Genesee County PAARI program is sponsored by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, GOW Opioid Task Force, and a grant from the health department.

For more information, contact Ferraro at [email protected].

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is a publicist for GCASA.

Photo: Allie Hunter, executive director of PAARI, meets with public safety officials at Batavia Fire Department headquarters. From left are John Bennett, GCASA executive director; Interim Fire Chief Dan Herberger; Hunter; Fire Captain Greg Ireland; Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Frieday; Batavia PD Assistant Chief Chris Camp; Sgt. Emily McNamara of the Le Roy Police Department was also part of the discussion. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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