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July 1, 2020 - 1:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, genesee county, town of batavia, covid-19.

City of Batavia, Genesee County and Town of Batavia leaders reported that they have received four-fifths of the video lottery terminal funds owed to their municipalities by New York State.

“Our VLT money came in today (Tuesday) – 80 percent of the $440,000,” said Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The City’s actual number was $440,789, so that means that $352,631 is being added to its coffers at this time.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that although the money doesn’t change the recently passed 2020-21 budget that calls for a 7.48 percent property tax increase, it certainly will help ease the pain.

“That’s really good news, actually,” Jankowski said. “The budget is fixed – we’re set with that – but the additional money will help to offset some of the damage done by the COVID-19 situation.  It offsets some of the loss of sales tax revenue and other income because of the virus.”

Jankowski said City officials are expecting a 30 percent loss of income due to the pandemic, but he’s hoping it’s not quite that bad.

“I’m looking forward to see the June numbers to see if we’re continuing in a positive direction,” he noted.

Tabelski said the VLT funds generated at Batavia Downs Gaming aren’t enough to alter the City’s ultra-conservative approach as it deals with COVID-19.

“It still doesn’t change our austerity budget planning,” she said. “We can’t open up the flood gates in spending.”

Tabelski said that management created a COVID austerity plan several weeks ago, halting purchases, travel and training and instituting a hiring freeze to decrease expenses. The City did not furlough employees, but did lay off part-time employees, including those who ran the summer youth program.

“A victim of that (hiring freeze) was our summer youth program,” she said. “We have 150 kids throughout the city that come in – and from the town -- to utilize the parks. That was a hard decision, but in light of COVID and not knowing the social distancing, it also made it an easy decision.”

In March, City Council passed its 2020-21 budget with the tax increase based on the assumption that the state would be withholding the VLT money. The board appealed to Albany and solicited the support of Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

Reached today by telephone, Hawley said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo released “what he believes he can do to remain solvent (80 percent) … as it is directly tied to the horrific situation that we’re in.”

Still, he says that if the economy recovers or federal stimulus money is forwarded to the state, the other 20 percent of the VLT money should be given to the municipalities.

Hawley said that he hopes newly-elected Congressman Chris Jacobs would fight for federal funds for municipalities. He also blamed Cuomo for the state’s financial dilemma.

“The State of New York hasn’t been managed smoothly in terms of balancing the budget,” he said. “He (Cuomo) entered with $6.2 billion deficit going into his 2020-21 budget and now that COVID is upon us, the (deficit) numbers from the governor doubles and quadruples. Some states have been run in a prudent fashion and others have not – with New York State being one of them.”

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post said that the Town will be getting $128,310 in VLT funds – 80 percent of the full amount of $160,388.

“We are constantly fighting an uphill battle for them (state leaders) to perform the way they expect us to perform,” Post said.

Genesee County Treasurer Scott German said that $160,313 has been received. That also is 80 percent of the county’s full allocation of $200,392.

June 25, 2020 - 3:18pm

In a rare piece of positive financial news during the COVID-19 pandemic, Genesee County is in line for a $23,525 weekly savings in Medicaid costs through next March.

“We are finally getting what we have been waiting for (since the first Federal Stimulus bill),” said County Manager Jay Gsell in response to the state Division of Budget’s announcement of the disbursement of $323 million in enhanced Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage funds to counties.

The funds were part of the Families First Coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by the President in March and are earmarked for states and counties to help them in the midst of the novel coronavirus.

Gsell said all counties were notified today via a letter and a note to county treasurers that “80 percent of the money will be coming to us via our adjustment in our weekly shares.”

That reduces the county’s weekly shares of Medicaid from $177,332 to $153,807 – a difference of $23,525 – starting with the first week of July 2020 and running through March 31, 2021.

Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, thanked Sen. Charles Schumer for his continued advocacy to provide enhanced federal funding for New York State’s Medicaid Program.

“Senator Schumer has a long history of fighting for enhanced federal Medicaid assistance at times we needed it most, including after the tragedy of 9/11, during The Great Recession, as part of the Affordable Care Act, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Acquario said in a press release. “These valiant efforts have provided the state and county taxpayers with billions of dollars in relief over this period of time.”

In a related development, NYSAC today put out another press release, renewing its call for federal coronavirus funding for states and counties in light of a new report from Moody’s Analytics that projects an additional 4 million layoffs from states and local governments across the nation.

According to the release:

“The report, detailed in recent news accounts, underscores the need for Congress and the President to act on an additional federal stimulus package that provides direct funding for states and local governments facing unprecedented funding shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.”

June 11, 2020 - 2:43pm

From the USPS -- Buffalo:

The number of U.S. Postal Service employees attacked by dogs nationwide fell to 5,803 in 2019 — more than 200 fewer than in 2018 and more than 400 fewer since 2017. For Postal Service officials and mail carriers, one bite is one too many.

The Postal Service has new technology tools to help reduce dog attacks and is championing a local program as well.   

In the Western NY District (ZIP Codes 140 through 149), there were 55 dog attacks in 2019; one more than the year before. (See full chart below of where dog attacks occurred.)

The theme for the 2020 U.S. Postal Service National Dog Bite Awareness Week, June 14-20, is “Be Alert: Prevent the Bite.” The campaign addresses aggressive dog behaviors that pose serious threats to the more than 80,000 Postal Service employees delivering mail and how communities they serve can play an integral part in their safety.

“During this difficult time, our letter carriers are delivering mail and they need to do it safely,” said Western NY District Manager Gary Vaccarella. “We are using technology and a dog awareness program to assist our customers and carriers in reducing bites.”

According to Vaccarella, technology supports carrier safety in two ways: Mobile Delivery Devices, handheld scanners used by carriers to confirm customer delivery, now include a feature to indicate the presence of a dog at an individual address; and Informed Delivery, which alerts customers to mail and packages coming to their homes, allows customers to plan for the carrier’s arrival by securing dogs safely.

In addition, Post Offices around Western NY have started using a Dog Paw program where stickers are placed on mailboxes to alert carriers that a dog is nearby. Some Post Offices piloted the program last year; a district-wide rollout is occurring for many others.

Karen Mazurkiewicz, spokeswoman for USPS in Western New York, told The Batavian this afternoon that since she's been in her job, going back to 2016, records show no postal employees in Genesee County were bitten by a dog. That's why no community in this county is on the list below.

"They've must have done a good job getting the word out," Mazurkiewicz said. "And we train our workers to use best practices to help keep them safe."

For example, if a mail carrier approaches a residence with a barking dog, and the resident opens the main door to receive mail, the carrier is encourage to place a foot against the bottom corner where the screen door opens, in case it's unlatched and the dog comes bounding out. Once the dog is safely under control, they can hand off the mail.

Mail carriers alert others who may be substituting for them on their route about aggressive dogs by filling out bright orange "dog warning" cards that are kept on file in the delivery truck.

The Postal Service offers the following safety tips for dog owners:

  • When a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate glass windows to attack visitors.
  • Parents should remind children and other family members not to take mail directly from carriers in the presence of the family pet. The dog may view the carrier handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.
  • If a carrier feels threatened by a dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a Post Office location or other facility until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area’s Post Office location.

Here are the Post Offices in Western NY that had a dog bite in 2019 (Post Offices listed alphabetically):









































No Western NY District Post Offices were in the national top 20 offices for dog bite attacks, as noted today in a national press release.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

May 28, 2020 - 5:00pm
posted by Billie Owens in Bethany, news, genesee county, Shared Sales Tax Revenue, notify.

From Carl Hyde Jr., Bethany town supervisor:

At an emergency financial Town Board Meeting in Bethany last night, May 27, after discussion on the FACT of Genesee County breaking its agreement with the towns and villages for Shared Sales Tax Revenue it agreed to, the Town of Bethany made some hard choices.

The Sales Tax Revenue Sharing has made up 50 percent of the town's budget for decades to keep town taxes low.

The Genesee County Legislature ended that on the evening of May 13, 2020.

The Town of Bethany's budget was passed in November of 2019 for the 2020 year; taxes came in and plan were made for 2020, the county dropped a BOMB on all towns and villages.

The Town of Bethany voted unanimously to furlough the Highway Department from June 1, 2020 through Aug. 31, 2020. The employees will be brought back on occasion in emergency situations.

With the revenue to the town cut off, we need to have money to get through the winter plowing.

The Bethany Town Board is planning budget adjustments and cuts in spending to plan for the 2021 budget, which will likely have a tax increase if the county keeps the sales tax revenue going forward.

May 6, 2020 - 2:58pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Jay Gsell, covid-19.

For nearly eight weeks, the nation’s economy has been ravaged by the coronavirus, making the phrase “business as usual” a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

Governmental leaders are facing momentous decisions pertaining to expenditures -- weighing what is absolutely necessary against what can wait until the smoke clears.

And business sectors such as furniture, gasoline, clothing, sporting goods, department stores and food service are experiencing sales decreases of 25 percent and more.

As New York State inches closer to the first of four phases to reopen the economy, The Batavian reached out to Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell today with five important questions – a “Q&A with Jay,” if you will – to provide readers with the current state of affairs at the local level.

What is Genesee County doing to prepare for town and village reopening?

The towns and villages and city and county are under the same general 50/50 essential workforce everybody else is pretty much either working from home or at home and so we've been working on that basis. Certain parts of our workforce and some of the other communities like the City and the Village of Le Roy, we have law enforcement and those kind of things, our health department and our EMS department. None of them have been, quote, unquote, not working.

Overall, the goal was to have the 50/50 proposition almost right out of the gate as far as the state was concerned. We've all been following that. Now, as we're starting to prepare for May 15th, every Saturday morning we have a conference call with all of the local elected officials, the City, towns and villages, county legislators and (Assistant Manager) Matt (Landers) and myself, (Health Director) Paul Pettit and (Emergency Management Services Coordinator) Tim Yaeger to just get a status report on what's going on. That's starting to focus on what kind of return to work guidance is there. It really doesn't seem to differ except for those of us who have highway departments because we can bring them back now anyway because they're considered both essential and also construction activity kind of projects.

Our county highway department came back full force this week, our facilities management people also -- half of them were staying home, week on week off -- the towns and villages and City are starting to look at changing that also and again following all the protocol. So that's why all of our conference calls on Saturday start with the public health director and with the emergency management people -- Do they need resources? Do they need masks and face coverings? Do they need PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and gloves and things like that? We try to do what we can to get that stuff in their hands -- distributing massive quantities of that kind of stuff to the extent that it's available.

And we also have to follow all the state guidelines with regard to social distancing, protective equipment, washing hands, not touching face. Even as we start to bring and plan for our office people and DSS (Department of Social Services) and Mental Health people, starting to bring them back in much greater numbers, we all have to have a plan to protect them and to deal with our clients and the customers.

At this point (furloughed employees) will not return for the first 30 days -- and that's presuming that May 15th is the date. Even the recovery restart, even in a region like Finger Lakes, could take upwards of a month just to get through the phases that they've outlined as to which businesses can or can't come back. We are putting together our internal plan ... for both our workforce and the public will deal with each other going forward.

How is Genesee County supporting the work of the City, neighboring counties?

I have daily conversations with (City Manager) Marty Moore and our department people communicate with each other – Human Resources, assistant county and assistant city manager, people like that -- and also with the counties and the whole statewide association, NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties), which has been very engaged. There's at least one or two or sometimes three phone calls a week with regard to what the rest of us are doing.

Sharing plans, sharing information -- we do that ad nauseum. It's not academia so plagiarism is not really a concern. If somebody's got a good plan, we just do it -- take from each other and those kind of things. So, we've been doing that consistently right from the get-go. Our friends from NYSAC from a statewide standpoint and us have interacted and interfaced with the governor's office and his executive staff that are out at this end of the state ... and in Albany, there's a daily COVID-19 conference call and it's been that way for the last five or six weeks.

That gives us information but also allows us to ask questions -- could you check this out and could you dispel this myth? -- things of that nature. When we get clarity, we pass that on to others of us who are of that (mindset) "inquiring minds want to know."

As specifically as possible, what is the fiscal impact of the pandemic upon Genesee County?

That's a really big unknown ... Right now, it has been suggested by our NYSAC colleagues that we can see anywhere from a 5 to a 25 percent reduction in sales tax, starting probably in the reporting period that covers the month of April going forward, but we don't know that yet. So, that could be anywhere from $3.6 million to $11 million in potential lost revenue just in 2020 in the county for sales tax.

Then we've lost DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) revenue -- already probably about $80,000 of what we get to keep from the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we normally process on a monthly basis just in the first three months since this started. Mental Health has lost about $96,000 in billable hours of service. Now, they're still doing tele-health and in some emergency cases, they're still dealing directly with clients, but there has been a significant loss as far as contact, in terms of therapies and other things that, again, has been quantified to the tune of about $96,000 year to date from March 1st.

Same thing, I know the county treasurer in regard to what he has invested. There have obviously been lost earning opportunities with our investment portfolio through the three+one program that (County Treasurer) Scott (German) has been using for the past couple years. And there are other fees and charges such as health department fees for events like the Rotary pancake breakfast where charges for permits are incurred. Events that have been cancelled will mean a loss of revenue there; we haven't quantified that yet because really the start hasn't happened.

Even park reservations -- that's a really big thing. We'd like to think that after May 15th we'll see some pick up there, but again with all the conditions and the protocols, it will not likely be what it's been in years past as far as the number of reservations and the finances that go with that.

How is Genesee County bracing for cuts in revenue and state reimbursement?

We have put on hold or rolled over to another year probably about a million dollars’ worth in the county highway department, basically capital projects and activities that (County Highway Director) Tim (Hens) and company were going to be engaged in during this 2020 calendar year.

The uncertainty there -- in addition to that and including some airport construction -- is how much of the CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) funding and the extreme weather funding that was in the New York State budget that was adopted on April 1st, how much if any of that gets reduced when the governor and the budget director come out -- probably this week -- with their first hit. Loss of state revenue means loss of state aid to everybody else. That's a really big unknown.

Plus, we’ve got 48 people approximately on furlough and we have another 44 positions on the strategic hiring freeze; together those things represent about $200,000 a month in expenses we're not incurring. And we're also looking at what else we can do to rein in other expenses.

It's on multiple fronts and this is just to get through the next 30, 60, 90 days. Then when we start putting together a 2021 budget, things may carry on from here right into that process and throughout that year.

How important is the need for federal funding for Genesee and other counties in New York State?

That's for all local governments because there is a palpable loss of revenue. The way that the (federal stimulus) 4.0 is apparently being structured, there will be the opportunity for New York State county governments, city governments, and town and village governments who are not part of the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) entitlement program in this next round of stimulus funding to actually receive direct aid -- not going through the State of New York, but direct aid because of the fed stim 4.

So, what that could mean, obviously is, to a certain extent based on the figures we just talked about, some part of those would be potentially backdropped (to local governments) by virtue of this federal stimulus money. The problem is ... we have a range of options. You can go from just getting a crew cut in terms of revenue loss to a literal beheading -- and right now the beheading looks a lot more probable than the crew cut with regard to state aid, state reimbursement, loss of sales tax and what may or may not be coming out of the federal stimulus program. That's something that hopefully we will know by the end of the month of May.

But even today as you look at the back and forth between the federal government and the House versus the Senate, and in some cases, the governors, it's very partisan and quite ugly with regard as to where do we fit in to what is supposed to be a revenue replacement program coming out of fed stim 4.

To summarize, there are significant cautions and concerns out there, and there are a few opportunities and hopeful horizons. We are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.

April 28, 2020 - 9:16am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, 2020 U.S. Census, city of batavia, genesee county.


Stand up and be counted.

Actually, you can sit at your desktop computer or at your dining room table with a pen in hand but, either way, Genesee County and City of Batavia officials are urging citizens to fill out and submit a 2020 U.S. Census form, an action that County Manager Jay Gsell says is central to the legislative and economic future of the community for years to come.

Gsell and County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari addressed the local census situation at Monday night’s City Council videoconference meeting, with both men sounding the alarm that self-response rates need to increase significantly.

“It is vitally important that we get that number up because of where we are unofficially and what we saw over this past decade as far as population in general,” Gsell said. “We need a response rate easily in the 85 to 90 percent range, if that’s possible. There are parts of this country that have achieved that in the past.”

Gsell said that the response rate thus far in Genesee County is 52 percent, in terms of people filling out the forms and sending them back, with another 45 percent on the internet side of things. He said that is a far cry from the 73 percent number in 2010.

If the rate doesn’t climb, it would negatively affect the county in several different ways, he said.

“Our 2010 census number was 60,079 people. Unofficially right now, as of 2019, we’re at 57,280 – so we’ve lost people representation-wise and potentially funding-wise in the future if our response rate is not as good as or better than what we did in the 2010 census,” Gsell said.

He added that about 19 percent of the county population consists of people 65 and over – “a vital statistic in terms of how this community is profiled, but also as far as the official count and what is normally a fairly high rate of participation for we senior citizens.”

Gsell said the census determines representation as well, and that New York is expected to lose one, maybe two, Congressional seats after the 2020 census based on the 18 million who live in the state.

“Two other things become critical – what happens as far as federal funding is concerned and how we are ranked as a community as a micropolitan area (between regions that include Buffalo and Rochester) and also what happens to our 27th Congressional District … when redistricting occurs after the 2020 Census,” he said.

In the City of Batavia, the self-response rate is currently at 47.7 percent, with three wards “somewhat underperforming,” Gsell said. Those are the Second, Fifth and Sixth wards, which range from 40.2 to around 46 percent.

According to census figures, the population of the City of Batavia was 15,465 in 2010.

He urged Council members to “encourage more people to fill out the form … it only takes less than five minutes to fill it out on the internet.”

Oltramari said paper forms have been mailed to anyone who has yet to respond, “so there’s really no excuse at this point to not return the census.”

“It’s like nine questions … it’s fairly simple to fill out and it’s a confidential thing,” he said, adding that by law, information on the census form cannot be shared with any federal agency for 72 years.

Census figures determine the amount of funding that comes into Genesee County, he said.

“This really helps us bring in revenue to our county and it’s not just government grants and those kinds of things, it’s actually Medicaid, Medicare, housing vouchers for people, energy assistance, adoption assistance, crime victims’ assistance … federal programs that fund every person basically in our county,” he said.

Oltramari also reported that for every person who is not counted, the county loses about $30,000 over 10 years.

“If we as a community have lost 2,500 people, that’s $75 million … that doesn’t come into our community."

He said the planning department is including fliers on the census to “grab-and-go” meals at Jackson and John Kennedy schools in Batavia, and that he knows that towns and villages are taking steps to maximize participation, singling out Pavilion and Pembroke as communities that are overperforming.

For those who haven’t responded by the end of May, enumerators will come to each household and leave notices. Completing a U.S. census form is mandated by the federal government.

To access the 2020 Census, go to www.my2020census.gov or to the City of Batavia and Genesee County websites. Also, a map showing the current self-response rates can be found on the Genesee County Planning Board website.

April 20, 2020 - 12:27pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, NYSAC, covid-19.

“There are no good signs in our local economy right now, if you think about.”

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, who is paid not only to “think about” the local economy but also to “act upon” it, summed up the current situation today in light of a recent report by the New York State Association of Counties that predicts the county could lose between $1.8 million to $5.6 million in sales tax because of COVID-19.

Gsell echoed a phrase used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in describing what looms ahead.

“I keep using the same term that I hear the governor say, ‘the new normal,’ and it’s not a good ‘new normal.’ It’s quite the mixed bag,” he said.

Full year projections in the NYSAC report estimate that sales tax revenues in Genesee County would decrease by $1.8 million – or 4.5 percent – in a “mild” scenario and by $5.6 million – or 13.7 percent – in a “severe” scenario.

In both cases, industries related to tourism, recreation and restaurants are the hardest hit.

“We’re in a shutdown through May 15 and for every two-week period, NYSAC says the numbers are going to get moved further into the higher percentage of loss,” Gsell said. “They’ve been showing us numbers in terms of the overall impact on general parts of the whole sales tax portfolio … auto buying, electronics, gas stations, and all those percentages, with the exception of grocery stores, are in the 20 to 50 percent loss as far as sales as compared to the year prior.”

Gsell acknowledged that all levels of government are facing the same adverse effects.

“Albany, obviously, is seeing this type of thing as well because they get 4 percent of the 8 percent (sales tax). The state is seeing a precipitous drop in their revenue streams, not only in terms of sales tax but also state income tax, millionaires’ tax and mortgage tax,” he said.

Most recent financial data, for December through February, was favorable for the county, Gsell said, but statistics starting in March should tell quite a different story, Gsell said.

“We know that starting this month, which is a new quarter, that the kind of numbers that NYSAC is showing us as far as the various sectors of our economy are going to be negatively impacted. Then we will foresee the same kind of implication for our local sales tax proceeds.”

Statewide, the NYSAC report estimates the total loss to county sales tax revenue in the “mild” scenario at about $350 million (excluding New York City) and in the “severe” scenario at $1 billion. Sales tax is the largest source of locally generated revenue in the average county, accounting for 43 percent of local revenue.

Gsell said he and his staff are “focusing on how to maintain some semblance of our county budget and how to deal with the issues with regard to our own workforce and the services that we provide.”

Auto sales, for example, have fallen dramatically, putting a huge dent in the sales tax budget.

“We’re basically doing just some of the mail-ins and some of the limited car sales that are occurring over the internet,” he said. “The dealers used to bring to us 60 and 70 allotments a week have trickled down to almost nothing. Something as revenue-driven as the county auto bureau under the county clerk’s office could be seeing a significant change even in the future of the kind of business that we have over there.”

He said the county is waiting for its share of the federal stimulus money to help with its weekly Medicaid costs.

“The state has gotten two of their federal Medicaid advances already since that stimulus package was voted on, passed and signed and we haven’t seen a dime yet,” he said.

Looking ahead, Gsell said he believes the recession (to whatever degree) is going to be with us through the end of the year – and he also is wary of a second bout of the coronavirus.

“If that starts to come back and they talk about another wave potentially in September, how do you go out and say, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to pay attention to that. We don’t care what the governor says and therefore, let’s have our economy start coming back,’ ” he said. “That to me is the height of folly.”

Estimated March 2020 Sales Compared to March 2019, U.S. Census Bureau
-- Motor vehicles & parts dealers -- Down 23.7 percent
-- Furniture & home furniture stores -- Down 24.6 percent
-- Gasoline stations -- Down 18 percent
-- Clothing & clothing accessories -- Down 50.7 percent
-- Sporting goods, hobby, music, etc. -- Down 22.7  percent
-- Department stores -- Down 23.9 percent
-- Miscellaneous store retailers -- Down 4.9 percent
-- Food service & drinking places -- Down 23.0 percent

April 15, 2020 - 8:46pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, covid-19, Ways & Means Committee.

 Update: April 16, 10:30 a.m.

County Manager Jay Gsell said that of the nine cases that are being evaluated, none of them are due to a county employee being infected with the coronavirus.

"We have to have these policies in place because the federal and state legislation require us to be able to notify employees that deal with a circumstance that either somebody can't come to work or is caring for an individual or is in the protocol due to isolation or quarantine because they came in contact with a person who might be positive or they themselves might be positive," he said. "But the people that we're presently dealing with -- none of them at this point had a positive test as far as being a county employee and therefore being in the much more heightened County Health Department C-19 protocol."


Genesee County management, taking its cue from recent state and federal laws that protect workers stricken by the coronavirus, has developed a COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Policy to cover its employees.

The policy is effective retroactively to March 18, the date that both New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Trump signed into law measures that provide emergency paid leave benefits.

“I think we have nine cases right now that we’re evaluating …,” Human Resources Director Anita Cleveland reported on Wednesday to the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee.

Committee members approved a resolution establishing the policy and sent it to the full legislature for a final vote at its April 22 meeting.

The NYS COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law guarantees job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of COVID-19, while the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act creates two new emergency paid leave requirements -- the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

The new federal statutes allow certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of expanded family medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 (effective April 1).

Cleveland said the local policy combines provisions of both the state and federal statutes, with her department charged with evaluation on a “case-by-case basis.”

“When we know of somebody being out, we’re sending them a letter and asking them to return the application along with documentation and then we’re reviewing that across each law to see what they qualify for,” she said. “We’re having them use their sick time at this point and if they qualify, we will go in and adjust them to the appropriate law that they fall under.”

When asked whether any of the affected employees are new and have no sick time, Cleveland said that was not the case.

“Most have had leave credits so they can use some kind of a leave credit, whatever the contract allows, and then we will be reimbursing them if they qualify,” she said.

County Manager Jay Gsell said he sees the policy as additional support to an already substantial benefit package.

“What this is, really for a lot of employers unlike county governments and local governments that don’t have a lot of leave benefit credits and things of that nature, this is a floor underneath a lot of people who because of the illness and the protocols that are established for determining a direct relationship, guarantees the employees something that they normally wouldn’t get,” he said.

“We have a fairly adroit and rich benefit package that includes paid sick leave already, but we have to adapt into this just in case – such as somebody who just started with us and came down with it.”

Cleveland noted that in most cases, employees would get up to a maximum of 80 hours depending upon the number of hours they work in a week.

“And depending on what the issue is – if it’s a child care issue – they actually would get two-thirds pay and they can supplement that with leave credits,” she said.

The county policy was crafted by its labor and relations attorneys, using guidance from the state Department of Labor, Cleveland said.

“Once the Department of Labor releases their forms, we will use their forms. But in the meantime, we’ve created our own by using their guidance – which changes daily,” she said, adding that the law will be in effect through the end of this year.

On another front, Gsell said he is waiting to hear from New York State leaders concerning the distribution of $1.6 billion in federal money “that is literally in Albany, part of which has our name on it, and I mean all 57 counties.”

“We have heard little or nothing as far as the State of New York is concerned as to what they’re going to do with what I believe is a required benefit to the counties to the tune of $1.6 billion, including the City of New York,” he said. “It’s not some kind of (money to be used at the) governor’s discretion.”

Gsell said the state is receiving $5.26 billion in Medicaid aid from the first and second federal stimulus bills and $1.6 billion of that is earmarked for county governments who are paying Medicaid weekly shares (such as Genesee).

“We need to see what the plan looks like as we make all these contingency plans for our county government to survive going into the next two quarters and what we will see likely as changes in our sales tax proceeds,” Gsell continued. “It is disappointing that the counties are not getting that kind of clarity and understanding what the plan is for that benefit to be derived into our budget.”

On another resolution, Ways & Means voted in favor of a measure establishing a pair of capital projects -- a highway department fire alarm system for $97,161 and a 5130 Main St. alarm control panel for $15,000 – to be funded by the 1 percent sales tax.

April 6, 2020 - 3:43pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, batavia, Andrew Cuomo, notify, covid-19, VLT money.

Word that Albany has restored Video Lottery Terminal money generated by Batavia Downs Gaming is good news to Genesee County municipalities, but a couple of other stipulations in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2020-21 budget likely will result in increased financial stress beyond the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assemblyman Stephen M. Hawley confirmed today that the state budget includes the restoration of VLT funds to Genesee County ($200,392), Town of Batavia ($160,388) and City of Batavia ($440,789).

Lawmakers of the three entities previously were advised – late in their budget processes -- that VLT money would no longer be available, and that left sizeable gaps in their budgets. In the case of the City of Batavia, there was a $700,000 shortfall, causing City Council to pass a budget that includes a $7.48 percent property tax increase.

Hawley said getting the VLT money back into local hands is one of the few bright spots of the state budget.

“I worked very hard on that to get it restored from the governor’s proposed cutting,” said Hawley, who is in his 15th year as a state legislator. “Last year, he proposed cutting a percentage of it to the city, the town and the county, and this year he took the total ax to it in his executive budget. But we were able to get that restored in its entirety and that will be of great help.”

While the state could hold the VLT money depending upon revenues and expenditures during this fiscal year, Hawley and County Manager Jay Gsell believe that the local municipalities are safe for the time being.

“Technically, the governor does have the ability to withhold funds from any entity, but hopefully that won't be the case here," Hawley said. "You never know what the governor or legislature will do with the state budget, but this restores it for this year. Each January when the governor comes up with his budget, it seems to be a favorite chopping block for him. That’s why they can’t necessarily count on it from year to year.”

Gsell said it was his understanding that the VLT funding was voted on as a separate appropriation, a line item not subject to the governor’s power to incrementally reduce aid reimbursements to local governments and others, including school districts, based on revenue streams.

“We got a summary from NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) of all the good, bad and indifferent, and VLT funding was one of the things that in the last two weeks of the budget deliberation -- before the three people in the room made the decision – that would be voted on as part of the full package,” Gsell said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”

'Unilateral power' designation raises eyebrows

The county manager said he’s a bit wary over the legislature’s granting of “somewhat unilateral power” to the governor, calling it “unchartered territory as far as local governments are concerned.”

Hawley said he voted “no” to every budget bill for the first time ever, pointing to a flawed process and the decision to give Cuomo more authority.

“For many, many, many reasons I voted for the first time ever “no” on every single budget bill, even though there were things in there like restoration of CHIPs funding (Consolidated Highway Improvement Program), extreme winter recovery, sales tax renewals for the counties I represent,” Hawley said. “Every bill always has good stuff and bad stuff in it, you just have to decide what the general impact is, but because of the way this was done and the way it was held off until the very last minute without appropriate legislative review, I had a huge problem with it.”

He said he was in favor of a “continuing resolution” that would have allowed the state to continue operating and then have the legislature return to Albany when the pandemic was under control.

“Additionally, we would have some sort of -- because this will affect us for years and years to come -- idea what the revenues actually will be and what the expenses may be and then we will be able to approach it with some knowledge,” he said.

Hawley said the “made-up figures were really catastrophic and not an appropriate way to run the state or any business.”

“How do you make up numbers when you have no idea? I thought we could have averted all of this – bringing all 213 legislators back into the buildings -- who knows who brought what with them in terms of this disease. And then we ceded power to the governor to make any changes that he wants to as the budget goes on as opposed to having legislative input on that … that’s not what the election process is all about in a democracy.”

City to use VLT funds to offset costs

City Council President Eugene Jankowski weighed in on the new VLT development, stating that he expects the restored funds to be used to offset some of the spending cuts in this year’s budget and the loss of sales tax revenue caused by the coronavirus shutdown.

“It’s too late to change anything in our 2020-21 budget,” he said. “Since it’s already been passed, we can’t do anything about the tax rate. But it’s great that we will have it to use next year.”

Gsell said having the $200,000 certainly helps the county, which has put its capital projects – including the construction of a new jail – on hold as it calculates the impact of COVID-19.

He is troubled, however, by Cuomo’s creation of a fund to skim county sales tax revenue to support “distressed hospitals and nursing homes” and continuation of a program to use county sales tax money to assist other municipalities.

“I guess you could say it’s a double-edged sword,” Gsell said. “The governor and the comptroller are establishing a $250 million fund over the next two years to help finance distressed hospitals and nursing homes, and we could be hit for about $250,000 in the first year,” Gsell said. “Previously, this had strictly been a state commitment in that regard.”

Gsell: 'Taxation without representation'

Noting that he has no idea whether United Memorial Medical Center or the local half-dozen long-term care facilities would be targeted for assistance, Gsell said this “assessment” is putting Genesee County back into a deficit funding situation – something it removed itself from when it sold the County Nursing Home three years ago.

He also bemoaned the fact that the state, for the second year, will be taking county sales tax to distribute as part of the AIM (Aid and Incentives for Municipalities) program.

“Again, in the past the state fully funded this out of their own coffers,” Gsell said. “They use a formula -- I believe it’s about a 2 percent equation in there – and last year, we saw $320,000 of county sales tax intercepted by the state so they could make those payments to the villages and towns and, in some cases, the city. This year, it could be another $250,000 hit to county sales tax before we even get the standard distribution that they’ll provide. This is taxation without representation. We had no input into how this fund was set up or what the calculation of the formula is.”

Gsell said the county “dodged a bullet” in regard to increased Medicaid funding as the governor’s proposal to remove the cap of local shares was not included in the budget.

“He had a three-pronged proposal that could have significantly changed how much we are paying on a weekly share on our present $9.6 million a year that we’re already committed to sending to the state,” he said.

March 24, 2020 - 2:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in rob thompson, news, video, death penalty cases, genesee county.
Video Sponsor

Author Rob Thompson has made his book "Swinging in the Rain," about death penalty cases in Genesee County available to readers of The Batavian as a free PDF download. The video is from November when we interviewed Rob about the book.

March 20, 2020 - 4:10pm

Press release:

This is a challenging time for everyone. In light of the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation and to ensure the health and safety of our volunteers, staff and participants, all Genesee County Master Gardener programs and speaking engagements have been cancelled through April.

If you have registered and paid for any of our programs you will get a refund. We will resume our regular programming as soon as we can.

Given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and to do our part to help limit the spread, the Master Gardener Helpline will not be available to walk-ins through May 1

Master Gardener volunteers will not be in the office during this time. We hope to reopen to the public on Monday, May 4.

With gardening season at our doorstep, we want to be available to help you. If you have gardening questions you may continue to contact us through our email at [email protected]. Photos may be sent for plant and insect identification.

If you are on Facebook you can also leave a question on the CCE Genesee Facebook page.

Stay up to date with our Master Gardener program by visiting our website.

Please take all precautions to stay safe and healthy.

Thank you for your continued support and we hope to see you in the near future.

March 18, 2020 - 4:33pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced today that the Senate has passed another bipartisan emergency legislative package to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19), sending the bill that will deliver billions of dollars to New York, and millions to the counties, to President Trump for his signature.

Schumer successfully pushed to include a cost-sharing provision in the legislation so New York’s counties, which pay part of Medicaid’s costs, benefit from the increase federal Medicaid support. Schumer has successfully championed this provision in prior disaster response legislation, including after 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and the 2008 financial meltdown.

The Schumer-backed emergency measure delivers billions to New York and its counties immediately, while the state, city and local governments works to contain the virus’s spread and cover mounting costs in new "hot spots."

“Enhanced FMAP funds are so important because they are immediate and flexible. The state – which gets billions and the most of any state in the nation – and counties use the money they save on whatever they want, alleviating pressure from the crisis,” Senator Schumer said.

“New York is the national epicenter in the coronavirus fight and this bill will ensure New York and its counties have the tools, the dollars, and the federal resources to go at the virus with full force. I am proud to deliver this support that will unlock billions for New York state and send money directly to counties on the front lines of this battle as we all work together to contain the virus’s spread and cover mounting costs.”

Schumer explained that statewide dollars related to healthcare funds known as “FMAP," unemployment benefits, and meals for seniors who might become homebound were included in the final bill, and said all of this will mean billions for New York. Schumer called on Leader McConnell to work with him last week to send the measure to President Trump’s desk ASAP.

“This passed in the Senate with bipartisan effort because we recognize the challenges that states, especially New York, are facing in the coronavirus battle,” added Schumer. “These are dollars for New York healthcare, free testing, paid emergency leave, unemployment insurance, meals for homebound seniors, and other critical efforts that are needed to sustain the mission.”

Schumer said he scored the haul by temporarily adjusting the state’s Medicaid reimbursement rate. Right now, the federal government pays 50 percent of expenses for Medicaid in New York. Under the deal, the feds would temporarily pay approximately 56 percent.

New York Essentials

+$6B in healthcare funds for New York -- Schumer explained, once signed by President Trump, on an annual basis, the bipartisan deal will deliver more than $6 billion in critical healthcare dollars to New York in the form of what is called “FMAP,” which encompasses the state’s Medicaid program. That program is jointly funded by the federal government and the states. FMAP is a matching rate enacted in 1965 that determines the federal funding share for state Medicaid programs.

The federal government matches state funds spent on Medicaid, based on the state’s FMAP, which varies by state. For example, New York’s FMAP is 50 percent. This means that for every dollar spent on Medicaid in New York, New York’s share of the cost is fifty cents (this 50 cents, in turn, is split between the State and Counties and localities), while the federal government chips in the other 50 cents.

Only some states have FMAPs of 50 percent and New York is one — Schumer’s efforts increased the federal share of New York’s Medicaid program to 56.2 percent, thereby dropping the state’s share to 43.8 percent. This delivers more federal dollars immediately to the state and localities, to the tune of more than $6B annually.  

The Breakdown

State share: $5.26 billion

NYC share: $1.038 billion

Counties share: $436 million

  • Genesee County: $1.9 million

​The Medicaid program plays a critical role in helping states respond to disasters and public health emergencies like the coronavirus. For example, Medicaid was able to provide enhanced funding and coverage in response to the Zika virus outbreak in Puerto Rico. There are also millions of Americans who depend on Medicaid for access to essential health care, including vaccines and diagnostic tests.

Recognizing that New York State and localities are in dire need of direct fiscal aid and are forced to share the cost of Medicaid, Schumer in 2009, fought to make sure that New York State counties and localities received direct aid from FMAP through the financial crisis, a roughly $12B package. Even farther back, in 2003, Schumer was successful in getting a share of FMAP for states during an economic downturn, of $10 billion in fiscal relief through a temporary FMAP increase that lasted five fiscal quarters. 

$1B for people who might find themselves out of work—Schumer explained, once signed by President Trump, the Act will also deliver more than $1B in additional unemployment benefits to states, unlocking tens of millions of new dollars to help New York as the virus’s economic impacts risk taking effect. This emergency package would also waive certain measures, such as work search requirements or waiting weeks to those who have lost their jobs over the spread of coronavirus, or those who have been diagnosed. Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own, and meet certain other eligibility requirements.  

$15M dedicated specially to New York seniors who might need meals—Schumer explained, once signed by President Trump, the emergency bill will also include a special pot of $15 million for meals homebound seniors might require. The funds would be in addition to a larger federal tranche of hundreds of millions that would deliver more resources to local food banks and pantries. Schumer said the meals for seniors is especially important because these folks are most vulnerable to the virus and might need to remain socially isolated for a certain duration.

In addition to this bill, Schumer also negotiated and passed an emergency $8.3 billion coronavirus supplemental signed by President Trump last week that will deliver hundreds-of-millions to New York State, New York City and New York institutions as they wage the fight and ramp up virus testing measures. Moreover, yesterday, at Schumer’s urging, President Trump heeded the call to enact a national emergency. The disaster declaration will allow FEMA to provide emergency protective measures to the state at a 75 percent federal to 25 percent state cost share for a wide range of eligible expenses and activities.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also delivers billions in free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave for workers, strengthens food assistance by $1B.

As of 8 a.m. today, March 18th, the New York Department of Health reported more than 1,300 cases in New York state, with 17 deaths.

While the immediate health risk to the majority of the American public is thought to remain low, Schumer has emphasized that the challenges of community spread have already begun to strain New York state and local government responses, particularly health departments, which is why this latest measure is so critical.

Confirmed Cases of Coronavirus In New York (8 a.m., March 18)

New York City

1,399 (10 deaths)




























14 (1 death)


183 (1 death)
















30 (2 deaths)






116 (3 deaths)













March 17, 2020 - 11:02am

Press release today, March 17, from the New York State Unified Court System, Hon. Paula L. Feroleto Administrative Judge:

Be advised that pursuant to Administrative Judicial Order of the New York State Unified Court System, the Courts of New York State have postponed all nonessential functions until further notice.

For all Court Outside of New York City, Court matters in each county will be condensed into one location where only ESSENTIAL cases will be heard. In Genesee County, the courthouse facilities where ESSENTIAL cases will be heard locally, as part of the Eighth Judicial District, are:

  • Genesee County Court, Genesee County Court Facility, Batavia
  • Batavia City Court, Genesee County Court Facility, Batavia

In the Eighth Judicial District, in the absence of approval by the Administrative Judge, Hon. Paula L. Feroleto, other than after hours arraignments, no court matters or court business will be conducted in any court facility other than the facilities listed above. Only ESSENTIAL court matters will be heard in these facilities.

After-hour criminal court arraignments and applications for emergency orders of protection will be conducted in the appropriate jurisdictional city, town or village justice court facility.

Effective immediately, in the absence of further Court Order, in all counties of the Eighth Judicial District:

1. All pending criminal court proceedings for defendants who have been arraigned and released on their own recognizance are administratively adjourned until a date on or April 30, 2020. For Defendants who have been arraigned and are in custody, all pending criminal court matters are adjourned until on or after April 15, 202. Defendants will receive new notices of their future scheduled court dates.

2. All criminal court matters scheduled to be heard for arraignments on criminal court appearance tickets in any city, town and village justice court are administratively adjourned until a date on or after April 30, 2020. Defendants will be notified of future court dates.

3. All post arraignment criminal court proceedings are administratively adjourned until a date on or after April 30, 2020. Defendants will be notified of future court dates through their attorneys. For pro se defendants, they will be advised of their future court date directly by the court.

4. Regular business day criminal court arraignments will be conducted in the courthouses listed above. After hour, weekend or holiday criminal court arraignments will be conducted in the appropriate jurisdictional city, town or village justice court facility.

5. All Orders of Protections and Temporary Order of Protection, issued by any Criminal, Family or Civil Court (including Supreme, County, Family, City, Town and Village Courts) are extended 90 days.

6. All nonessential pending civil actions and proceedings, in any Supreme, County, Surrogate’s City and Town and Village Court are administratively adjourned until a date on or after April 30, 2020. Parties in these actions and proceedings will be advised through their attorneys or pro parties will be advised directly by the Court.

7. All nonessential pending Family Court matters are administratively adjourned until a date on or after April 30, 2020. Parties in these actions and proceedings will be advised through their attorneys or pro parties will be advised directly by the Court.

8. For Criminal Court proceedings, essential court matters include, but are not limited to arraignments, new and extended orders of protection.

9. For Family Court proceedings, essential court matters include, but are not limited to, urgent juvenile delinquency proceedings, child protective proceedings where there is an imminent risk of harm to a child, urgent Family Offense matters, emergency support matters.

10. For Supreme Court Civil actions and proceedings, essential court matters include, but are not limited to, urgent Article 81 guardianship matters, Mental Hygiene Law applications (Retention Cases/Medication/Treatment Over Objection Proceedings), Orders to Show Cause, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, Applications for Orders of Protection, Isolation and Quarantine Proceedings.

11. For Surrogate’s Court proceedings, essential court matters include, but are not limited to, urgent guardianship, adoption and other essential cases as determined by the Court in consultation with the Administrative Judge.

  1. No evictions orders will be granted by any city, town or village justice court.

  2. No default judgments will be granted.

  3. No foreclosure auctions shall be held.

February 28, 2020 - 6:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news, notify, Jay Gsell, matt landers.

Press release:

At the Feb. 26th Legislature meeting, County Manager Jay Gsell announced his plan to retire as of Aug. 14. He will have 27 years as county manager and a total of 45 years working in government.

In addition to announcing his retirement date, Gsell shared details of the succession plan, which includes Assistant County Manager Matthew Landers' appointment to the position of County Manager.

Upon earning his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary, Gsell immediately went on to American University earning his Master of Public Administration degree.

In the late 1970s and through the 1980s, he served as assistant or city manager in the cities of Trenton, Norton Shores, Eau Claire, Winchester, Cumberland, and Marshalltown. In 1993, after rising to the top of 70 applicants from a national search, Gsell was appointed county manager by the Genesee County Legislature.

According to Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, he has completely immersed himself in Genesee County, a place he and his wife, Ann Marie, call home.

“Jay wears many hats; county manager and budget officer, family man, member (and past president) of Rotary, United Way board member and chair of the county’s comprehensive plan committee to name a few,” Stein said.

The Legislature has met with Landers and look forward to a seamless transition.

Landers brings nearly 10 years of municipal experience beginning with a three-year stint as director of real property tax services before a promotion to deputy treasurer and in 2014 assistant county manager.

Matt and wife, Melissa, are lifelong Genesee County residents.

He attended The College at Brockport where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Master of Public Administration. He’s an active member of Kiwanis Club, Leadership Genesee graduate and is a certified public accountant.

Landers can been seen coaching daughter Katie’s softball team or working on the fields at Lyons Park or pitching to son, Ben, at batting practice.

“We are well-positioned to maintain quality administration of our county and look forward to promoting homegrown Matt Landers to county manager,” Stein said.

CORRECTIONS: A source provided the following corrections to the press release: Landers has 16 years of municipal government experience.  He was deputy county treasurer from 2004 to 2014. During that time, he was also director of real property for three years.

February 11, 2020 - 1:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in genesee county, jail construction project, news.

Press release:

Genesee County will hold a Public Information Session regarding the Jail Construction Project at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Old County Courthouse Chambers, 7 Main St., Batavia.

The purpose of the informational session is to update the public on the process taken by the County in the design of the proposed new County Jail and where we are in the project time line.

The County invites citizen questions and inquiries on the jail design process, and looks to provide County justification and rationale for the steps taken to date and planned into the future. We welcome any and all citizen views regarding any aspect of the project’s scope, purpose and implementation.

The County will provide project information including, but not limited to, project timeline, bed need analysis, jail site and projected costs. County staff along with SMRT, the County’s architect and engineer consultants will be on hand to answer questions and receive feedback.

The session will last until approximately 8 p.m. and the public is encouraged to drop by at any time to speak with County and SMRT representatives.

The County has also created a page on its website dedicated to the jail project that we encourage citizens to check on over time for updates on the progress of the jail construction project, the site is here.

January 23, 2020 - 4:37pm

Press release:

If you are someone who is civic-minded, independent, ambitious, enjoy exploring creative solutions to problems, and want to make an impact in your community, we want to talk to you about running for local office.

If you are interested in getting involved politically in any capacity, please reach out to us at [email protected] or www.geneseedemocrats.net

The following local elected offices will be voted on this November.

  • Genesee County -- Sheriff, Treasurer, Family Court Judge, Coroner -- two positions

  • City of Batavia -- one City Council at Large -- unexpired term

  • Town of Alabama -- one Town Council -- unexpired term

  • Town of Alexander -- one Town Clerk -- unexpired term

  • Town of Batavia -- one Town Justice

  • Town of Bergen -- one Town Justice

  • Town of Byron -- one Town Justice

  • Town of Elba -- one Town Justice, one Town Council -- unexpired term

  • Town of Le Roy -- one Town Council -- unexpired term

  • Town of Oakfield -- Town Justice, one Town Supervisor -- unexpired term, 1 Town Council- unexpired term

  • Town of Pavilion -- Highway Superintendent -- unexpired term

December 24, 2019 - 1:21pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, genesee county, USDA.

A press release from the USDA Office of Communication:

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a movement permit on Monday to Mr. S. Nicholas Claus of the North Pole, a broker with Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited. The permit will allow reindeer to enter and exit the United States between the hours of 7 p.m. Dec. 24, 2019 and 7 a.m. Dec. 25, 2019, through or over any U.S. border port.

“With a growing world population, Mr. Claus will have his busiest Christmas yet. At USDA, we want to ensure we are not hindering Mr. Claus’ important work of spreading Christmas Cheer for all to hear,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“Ease of access into the United States for Mr. Claus and his nine reindeer will ensure that children all over the country – including my own 14 grandchildren – will wake up on Christmas morning with joy and filled with the spirit of the season. USDA issued this permit in advance and waived all applicable fees to help ensure a smooth trip on Christmas Eve night.”

In addition to the normal disease testing requirements, flying reindeer must undergo additional tests to ensure they will be able to safely handle significant changes in altitude and temperature throughout their journey, and are fit for landing on rooftops.

On this year’s health certificate, the accredited veterinarian noted that one of the reindeer named Rudolph was positive for “red nose syndrome”; however, it was also explained that this is normal for him and not an animal health concern. The veterinarian also verified the reindeer have been vaccinated against any diseases they could encounter on their trip around the world.

At the request of the Clauses, APHIS also completed a courtesy welfare and humane treatment check of the reindeer facility. Nicholas Claus, his wife and his staff passed with flying colors.

The Claus team will arrive pulling a wooden sleigh with jingling bells attached, filled with brightly wrapped gifts. Port personnel will clean and disinfect the runners and underside of the sleigh at the time of entry, and will also conduct a short visual inspection of the reindeer.

Claus will also have his boots disinfected and will thoroughly wash his hands. These measures are intended to prevent the entry of any livestock diseases the team may encounter during deliveries to farms around the world prior to entering the United States.

“It would be a disaster for Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited, if my reindeer were to unintentionally bring in foot and mouth disease along with all the gifts,” explained Claus. “Why, something like that could put me out of business. That’s why we work all year to keep the reindeer healthy and take all possible precautions before and during our trip.”

Claus has also provided an advance list of what port personnel should expect upon their arrival. This includes a variety of food items, all of which come from approved locations and none of which pose a threat to U.S. animal or plant health.

November 29, 2019 - 4:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in weather, genesee county, news.

A winter weather advisory is in effect for Genesee County from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

Mixed precipitation is expected, including total snow accumulations of one to two inches, and up to four inches across the northern Finger Lakes, with total ice accumulations of around 1/10th of an inch.

Plan on slippery road conditions. Periods of snow, sleet or freezing rain will result in slippery roads and limited visibilities. Slow down and use caution while driving.

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