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May 13, 2021 - 9:33am

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Lynda Battaglia, director of Mental Health & Community Services for Genesee County, packed a powerful punch into a two-minute speech Wednesday as she accepted a proclamation from the Genesee County Legislature designating May as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

Her words about mental health and its far-reaching effects on so many people are as follows:

“(I’ve been) thinking about what we’ve gone through the last 15 or 16 months, the global pandemic that has impacted every single one of us and political and social eruptions that have occurred in our communities from what we’ve seen on TV.

“I think it’s fair to say that these events have taken a toll on our people and have left an imprint on many. Now, as a result, I think it’s fair to say that maybe people will have a better understanding of mental health and what mental health awareness is -- because it is at the forefront of our world today.

“Mental health, overall, impacts every single part of you as a person. It impacts you physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually; everything is connected. It affects the way you make decisions, your quality of life and the way you live. Mental health awareness is being cognizant of one’s overall health because it is all connected. It’s taking care of every part of you as a person.

“It’s also knowing that it is OK to not be OK, and that it’s OK to ask for help and to reach out for help. It’s knowing you’re not alone because at some point in time, all of us have felt what you have felt.

“We have an obligation and a duty as a county to stop the stigma associated with reaching out for help. And instead of one feeling shame for reaching out for help, they should be receiving praise for taking that first step.

“The more awareness and education that we can provide, the healthier our communities become, the healthier our residents become and the healthier our children become. I’d like to thank the workforce of all the community providers in the county who continue to provide this essential service during this last year and a half.”

Battaglia’s words prompted heartfelt applause from legislators and those in the audience at the Old County Courthouse. Afterward, she and Thomas Christensen, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties, posed for a photo (at top) with legislators Gordon Dibble, left, and Gregg Torrey, right.

Dibble, a member of the mental health community services board, said, “We’re proud of the work they do and the people who work there (at Genesee County Mental Health Services).”

The proclamation reads, in part, “the GCMHS is committed to ensuring that people living with mental health conditions are treated with compassion, respect and understanding, and is working to ensure citizens have access to affordable, quality, evidence-based mental health care.”

For more information about GCMHS, go to Welcome to County of Genesee.

May 12, 2021 - 8:23pm

Better late than really, really late.

Tonight’s ratification of a four-year contract with Genesee County is a welcome relief for Sgt. John Baiocco, president of the Genesee County Deputy Sheriffs' Association.

“It was long overdue -- because of COVID and changing from County Manager Jay (Gsell) to Matt (Landers). But I think it is fair and equal to both parties, and the extension to four years makes sense because we’re already a year and five months out of it,” Baiocco said during the Genesee County Legislature’s meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

The pact, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, gives the 45-member-strong union pay raises of 2 percent for both 2020 and 2021, 2.25 percent for 2022 and 2.5 percent for 2023. It also stipulates that deputies will pay a bit more toward health insurance premiums but will receive a bit more in their uniform allowance.

Landers said that it will cost the county about $138,000 to cover the salary increases for last year and this year. About $116,000 of that amount will come from a contingency account and the remainder will be taken from the sheriff’s medical expense line.

Costs for 2022 and 2023 will be included in the budgets for those years, he added.

All in all, Baiocco said the association is “very pleased” and is looking forward to getting on with “our regular police business.”

In other action, the legislature:

  • Passed a resolution to accept $170,000 for a second round of funding from the state Septic System Replacement Program to repair and replace substandard septic systems located along Tonawanda Creek, Bowen Brook, Bigelow Creek and Oatka Creek.

Previously, the county received $150,000 in the program’s first round of funding. The latest agreement with the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation of Albany runs through Dec. 31, 2026.

Nola Goodrich-Kresse, public health educator/information officer, said homeowners can check whether they qualify for the program by sending an email to [email protected]/us and write Septic System Replacement Funding in the subject line.

Upon approval, an award approval letter would be sent to the individual and once the system is installed, the individual would need to complete and submit a reimbursement request form.

Eligibility is based on owners living within 250 feet of a specific stream or tributary that has been identified to be covered under this program, she said, adding that funding covers only septic systems that are failing.

Goodrich-Kresse said $86,533 has been paid out of the first round money thus far.

  • Learned from Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein that the final session of the Finger Lakes Control Room, a key communication arm during the coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled for this Friday – one year after the group’s first meeting.

“Hopefully, there is a light at the end of this tunnel,” she said.

May 3, 2021 - 7:36pm

Mercy Flight Inc.’s air and ground emergency transport operation has taken a significant financial hit due to COVID-19 and continues to deal with challenges in other areas, including the safety and protection of its first responders and the ongoing effort to fairly compensate these skilled emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

That was the gist of a report by Michael Gugliuzza, the agency’s director of medical operations, at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse and via Zoom videoconferencing.

Gugliuzza said program expenses increased by more than $115,000 for personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 while net revenue for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, decreased by $400,000 due to a decline in ambulance calls and the loss of emergency management services standby revenue from Six Flags Darien Lake.

On a positive note, he did say that funds from the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program and federal stimulus have offset much of the loss.

In Genesee County, Mercy Flight received 143 requests for helicopter ambulance service during that fiscal year, resulting in 76 transports, Gugliuzza said. Fifty-six of the requests were deemed not necessary and 11 were canceled due to poor weather conditions.

He said that a change from Visual Flight Rules to Instrument Flight Rules will enable Mercy Flight to increase its weather-related capabilities.

“We’ve gone from what they call VFR, Visual Flight Rules, to be able to fly IFR or Instrument Flight Rules like the commercial jets and things like that,” he said. “So, this has broadened our capability with inclement weather – to be able to fly through much greater weather events.”

Ground ambulance transport decreased by about 6 percent, he said, with 9,649 calls for service resulting in 7,191 instances of patient contact (transports, lift assists and treatments without transport).

Gugliuzza said the company continues to battle the coronavirus virus from the front lines.

“We’ve worked hard to keep our crews protected,” he said, adding that those who wanted the vaccine were able to be fully vaccinated by mid-January.

He emphasized the importance of keeping staff and patients safe and protected, and thanked Genesee County Emergency Management Services for being “great partners” in meeting the PPE needs.

Gugliuzza said Mercy Flight’s “big challenge coming up now is essentially staffing, manpower and pay rates.”

“It’s a very tough market now between a lot of job openings, people not applying for a lot of jobs, and we’re competing with other industries outside of EMS,” he offered. “Part of that is we’re seeing big shifts in pay rates and those kind of things.”

He said Mercy Flight officials are working with payers (Medicare, Medicaid and others) to try to increase the pay scale. He also urged lawmakers to support first responders “and thus the safety and welfare of their constituents with legislative action when necessary.”

“Many of the fee schedules haven’t been adjusted in years and it really becomes detrimental to not just our agency but to EMS as a whole and other agencies as well,” Gugliuzza said. “We’re going to champion that cause and try to move this ahead in an effort to really make this a better industry for everybody.”

In legislative action, the committee approved an allocation of $12,825 for this year to support Mercy Flight.

Vaccination Process ‘In A Transition’

In a related development, Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, said the vaccination process is in a transition – shutting down the mass vaccination site at Genesee Community College and in Ridgeway, Orleans County as “every county in all of the state sites are really facing a reduction in demand of folks seeking the vaccine.”

“The amount of folks who are getting signed up now doesn’t really need to be in such a large location, so we’re kind of reverting back to a different model,” he said. “We’re taking more of a shift to the health department for a permanent site, so we will be there at least one day a week with walk-ins and/or appointments.”

Pettit said that health department staff is contacting business owners and managers to see if they are interested in on-site vaccinations for their employees and families, and also plan to travel to the various villages for one-day vaccines, either by appointment or walk-in.

“We’ve kind of hit our bulk number, I think, with the people that want it at the moment,” Pettit said. “So, it’s a little harder slogging at the moment and trying to talk to people about the importance of getting vaccinated and what that means to them – but also what opportunities it could afford them, like avoiding quarantine if you’re exposed, being able to go to different events and you wouldn’t have to pay for testing to attend. There’s a lot of different advantages that are out there by getting vaccinated.”

He said Johnson & Johnson (one shot) clinics are scheduled for Wednesday at GCC and at the Office for the Aging, with no appointments required.

“Johnson & Johnson -- one shot and you’re done. Two weeks from now you’ll be fully vaccinated,” he said.

April 29, 2021 - 9:22am

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The Genesee County Legislature on Wednesday issued a proclamation designating May 2-8 as National Correctional Officers' Week.

Taking part in the presentation at the Old County Courthouse were, from left, County Jail Superintendent William Zipfel; Legislator Marianne Clattenburg; Jail Corrections' officers Marissa Jacques, Michael Cox and John Garlock; Undersheriff Bradley Mazur, and Sheriff William Sheron.

The proclamation read, in part, that the legislature "wishes to acknowledge the difficult job we ask these correction officers to perform, locked within a facility for a large part of their day where they must securely, safely and humanely keep those committed to the jail, respecting the rights and dignity of all inmates ..."

Sheron commended the work of the jail staff, stating, "they went through hell this past year (in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic) and came through with flying colors."

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

April 28, 2021 - 7:41pm

Le Roy residents Glen Adams and Mike Ciociola, both members of the Genesee County Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, today threw their support behind a proposed local county law that would allow deer hunting by 12- and 13-year-old licensed hunters with a firearm or crossbow under the supervision of a licensed adult.

Speaking at a meeting of the Genesee County Legislature this afternoon, Adams said, “We’re both here to encourage this body to vote positive on opting into the new state law, for a two-year trial period, for youth 12- and 13-years-old to be able to hunt – with supervision.”

Moments later, lawmakers voted in favor of setting a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. on May 12 on what has been designated as Local Law Introductory No. 1 Year 2021 of the County of Genesee. The public hearing will take place at the Old County Courthouse and via Zoom videoconferencing.

If approved, the law would enable Genesee County to take part in the state’s pilot program permitting 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt deer during season with a crossbow, rifle, shotgun or muzzle loaded firearm through Dec. 31, 2023.

When asked about possible opposition to the law, Adams said the strict supervision component is important to the community of sportsmen and sportswomen.

“That (opposition) is always a possibility but we’ve been pushing for it for a long time through the New York Conservation Council, through our federations – trying to move it to a younger age, but it’s under supervision,” he said. “You’ve got to be within physical restraint of the kid, you’ve got to be on the ground. We see it as a positive thing. I’ve got five boys and I would have loved to been able to take them out earlier than I was.”

Ciociola, who also represents Genesee County on the NYS Fish & Wildlife Management Board, said he didn’t expect the state to approve such a measure in 2021.

“I was very surprised that New York State would actually put it in the bill this year,” he said. “I normally wouldn’t have thought that public opinion would have steered it in that direction. But also, just from the fact that I believe that the education – hunting -- rather than waiting until they’re 14, 16, I think they’ll make for safer hunters … more ethical, better hunters if they start at the age of 12.”

Both men said they believe many parents will capitalize on the opportunity for their sons and daughters to take up the sport.

“Although I’m a father of five boys, I would love seeing the young ladies out there,” Adams said. “I do coach the Le Roy trap team and we have female youth. We’d love to see them out there, also.”

Legislator Christian Yunker said the law is needed at this time.

“This was put into the governor’s budget and we know that we need to get the next generation of hunters involved, and we know that we have a deer management issue,” he said. “And this is going to help us.”

Along those lines, City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski this week said the Batavia Police Department will be selecting a deer program coordinator this year to work with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to "implement and executive the (city's) deer management plan. She said the hope is that the program to cull the deer population could be started this fall as long as the City School District continues full in-person learning.

Previous: Proposed county local law permits 12- and 13-year-olds to hunt deer with strict supervision

In other developments, the legislature:

  • Approved four capital projects, totaling $225,000, that were accounted for in the 2021 budget: Holland Land Office Museum exterior paint ($15,000); Genesee County Park Interpretive Center moisture protection and siding ($80,000); DeWitt Recreation Area Pavilion No. 2 parking lot ($65,000); and Genesee County Park and Forest water system upgrade ($65,000).

The project will be paid from the county’s 1 percent sales tax revenue.

  • Heard from County Manager Matt Landers that today was the final day of “first doses” of the COVID-19 vaccine at Genesee Community College. “Second doses” will be administered at GCC for a few more weeks, and then everything will be moved to County Building II on West Main Street Road.

Calling it a “milestone,” Landers said the operation at the college went “smoothly, effectively and efficiently.” Still, he said he had hoped more people would have been vaccinated at GCC.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein thanked the community and volunteers for working “on behalf of the goal” and urged residents to get the vaccine because “it does matter.”

April 20, 2021 - 3:21pm

Facing a big ticket item known as Phase 3 of the Genesee County Water Project, the county legislature’s Public Service Committee on Monday engaged in a discussion with Highway Superintendent/Engineer Tim Hens on the chance of finding a lobbying firm to unearth some cash to support it.

“It’s a $70 million project, so every dollar we can bring in makes it more affordable for every member of our community,” said Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, just before backing an informal (at this point) proposal for Hens and County Manager Matt Landers to find a lobbyist to advocate for the county and capture some federal grant funding.

Hens said the county has yet to use a consultant for the water project, which is nearing the completion of Phase 2, but said he knows that “opportunities are out there.”

“Ideally, we need to bring experts to the table,” he said.

Legislator Gary Maha advised that the Genesee County Water Resources Agency is in favor of contracting with a lobbyist, adding that the county would pay for the firm with money from the water fund.

Hens suggested that there could be a “substantial increase” in available funding as the American Jobs Plan moves ahead, prompting legislators Marianne Clattenburg and John Deleo to voice their support for a lobbyist.

Landers said he knows that Orleans County has utilized the services of a lobbying firm to a certain degree of success.

“They’ve worked directly with and contracted with a lobbying firm for years and it has provided them, I believe, with assistance with their infrastructure projects up north,” Landers said. “My understanding is that it was a good investment and it helped navigate through a complex system of trying to get projects seen and heard and understood – and to make sure you are reaching out to the right people.”

He also said finding a person “who can identify different pots of money could help us down the road for other projects.”

At this point, the committee is unclear of the exact cost of a lobbying firm’s service. Most likely, the proposal will emerge as a formal resolution in the near future.

In other developments from yesterday’s meeting, the PSC:

  • Approved a request by District Attorney Lawrence Friedman to apply for and accept a $228,720 grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to reimburse the county for expenses connected to discovery and bail reforms for the period of April 1, 2020 through March 31. Friedman reported that the bulk of the expenses were to pay an additional assistant district attorney and two paralegals, along with a new electronic data system. He also said that related expenses incurred by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, Le Roy Police Department and Batavia Police Department are included in the funding amount.
  • Approved contracts with Seneca Pavement Markings of Horseheads and Accent Stripe of Orchard Park for pavement markings on all county roads and at the county airport, effective June 1 through May 31, 2022 for an amount not to exceed the budgeted amounts of $175,048 for highway pavement markings and $8,000 for pavement maintenance at the airport.
  • Accepted a bid from Thomann Asphalt Paving Corp., of Lancaster, of $1.3 million for complete reconstruction of the county airport apron area where the aging T-hangars were removed last fall and a bid from C&S Companies, of Syracuse, of $163,000 for the project’s consulting services. The total amount is expected to be fully funded by a federal grant.
  • Accepted a $46,493 grant from The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Fund for Design and Access to partially pay for the DeWitt Recreation Area Waterfront Enhancement Project’s phase one design and engineering. The total cost of the project is $73,000, with the remainder coming from the county’s building and equipment reserve fund. Hens said this is the first time The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Legacy Fund has supported a project in Genesee County.
March 24, 2021 - 7:03pm

The Genesee County Legislature this afternoon revisited the possibility of adopting rules to cover videoconferencing of its meetings and -- while not coming to any binding decision – is on board with in-person attendance for the purposes of a committee quorum and voting, and allowing remote access for non-committee members to participate.

During a 38-minute Committee of the Whole discussion at the Old County Courthouse and via Zoom, legislators agreed to a “hybrid” approach to videoconferencing as proposed by Chair Rochelle Stein.

The debate followed up on a proposed resolution drafted last August that sought to place guidelines on videoconferencing, a practice necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent executive orders by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which suspended the Open Meetings Law to provide for remote participation in legislative and committee meetings.

That executive order continues in place, although it was reported during today’s meeting that it is set to expire in two days. Stein said Committee of the Whole discussion was called now “to be somewhat ahead of the game.”

County Attorney Kevin Earl emphasized that the “major issue” to achieve a quorum and to facilitate legal voting when videoconferencing is that “you can’t do it by telephone … the legislator has to be available to be seen and be seen by the other legislators to participate formally.”

Earl, with input from Legislature Clerk Pamela LaGrou and County Manager Matt Landers, wrote a seven-point amendment to the original resolution (which was not acted upon), with a key stipulation as follows:

“The videoconference shall be conducted in compliance with state law and ensure that all legislators and members of the public have the opportunity to see and hear a legislator videoconferencing and such videoconferencing legislator can see and hear the other members of the legislature.”

Earl said there aren’t a lot of cases concerning this matter but there are many opinions, including those of the attorneys connected to the Committee on Open Government, an organization that holds a lot of weight with judges.

The attorney also noted that if videoconferencing is used, the public notice of the meeting must inform the public as such, identify the locations for the meeting and state that the public has the right to attend the meeting at any of those locations.

Genesee County has been able to acquire the technology – legislators call it “the owl” – to be able to show all meeting participants on the Zoom call. This prompted Earl to say that he would support having legislators not on a particular committee to be able to call in and participate via Zoom as long as they weren’t going to vote or had no bearing on the required quorum.

Earl also proposed that the legislature could adopt a rule limiting the number of times a legislator could “attend” a meeting through videoconferencing, specifically three times in a calendar year.

Stein then said she understood that most of the legislators “would like to have the meetings in person for those that serve on the committees themselves and (for those not on the committee) to be able to participate through Zoom, and have that kind of hybrid opportunity."

“That’s where I come down on this question but right now our rules don’t allow even that to happen.”

At that point, the individual legislators gave their thoughts. They all stated that it was the responsibility of the committee member to be in the room unless it was an emergency, and also were open to permitting legislators not on the committee to follow along via Zoom.

“I would like to see everybody show up, except for some extreme situation … but I really think you have the responsibility to be here,” Gordon Dibble said, adding that he would support those not on the committee signing in remotely.

Christian Yunker said he was in favor of the hybrid model, noting that the opportunity for others to listen in and participate “probably is valuable enough that the rest of us should do that at least for the foreseeable future.”

Brooks Hawley said “if you’re on the committee, you should be here, but if you want to see what is going on and you have a prior engagement, such as work, family commitment or something like that, I think you should be able to do that (participate remotely).”

Earl advised that the legislature can’t prohibit videoconferencing but also isn’t required to implement guidelines on videoconferencing.

Gary Maha said he was OK with the hybrid approach, but added that “we’re elected to represent our constituents and if you could be here, you should be here."

Chad Klotzbach agreed, stating that videoconferencing “has created a platform for people to actually see what we’re doing.”

Marianne Clattenburg suggested postponing any formal vote until after the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have no problem with having people listening to the discussion remotely, but I think voting remotely, I’m against that and would hate to see that become a precedent,” Clattenburg said.

In closing, Stein summarized the points brought out through the discussion – in-person for a quorum and voting, remote participation for others, expanding the technology to include a laptop at the podium for public speakers, and providing additional technical support for the legislative clerk.

When the legislature does decide to act upon formalizing the rules and adopting the amended resolution, the matter would go to the Ways & Means Committee for further discussion and a vote.

Legislators agreed to wait until after the pandemic, with Maha suggesting “the simpler the better.”

With that, Stein said, “I hope the executive order is extended” and adjourned the meeting.

Grant Would Assess Broadband Situation

In another development, the legislature during its regular meeting approved applying for a $95,000 grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission’s State Economic & Infrastructure Development Investment Program to subsidize a countywide broadband inventory/availability study and develop a subsequent business plan.

Landers said the county was informed of the grant by the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, which is currently being led by former Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell.

“This grant would provide a pretty comprehensive broadband study throughout the county,” Landers said. “The G/FLRPC is submitting this on our behalf and it’s a $95,000 grant with a 20-percent local match ($19,000). If we get it, we could find what our gaps are in broadband access in our community and it would also fund a survey of the homes to get a better understanding of where the gaps are and the level of residents’ desire for broadband access.”

Landers said two other counties may partner with Genesee to increase the odds of getting the grant.

“Federal funds are out there to help alleviate this, but we need to understand what our gaps really are before we can go after those bigger grants,” Landers said.

Landers Warns of 'Cluster Pop-up'

Landers reported that the COVID-19 positivity rate is down, the number of people receiving the vaccine is up and many restrictions have been lifted, but urges citizens to remain vigilant.

"It's easy to get cluster pop-ups," he said. "We had 20 to 25 cases (recently) that were linked to a few events -- a birthday party here and a couple of other events there."

March 5, 2021 - 10:57am

The director of Emergency Communications for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office is getting his ducks in a row, calling upon the Genesee County Legislature to appropriate funds to advance a public safety capital project that includes the building of a communications tower on Molasses Hill Road in the Town of Attica.

Speaking at the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting Wednesday, Steven Sharpe presented a resolution that calls for the reallocation of $301,835.67 in unexpended funds and unanticipated revenue to the public safety communications tower project.

“As we are building the tower on Molasses Hill Road, which is just over the Wyoming County line, we’d like to move money from the original capital project for the radio system that was created in 2013, and move the balance of funds from that 2013 capital project into the more recent public safety communications tower project,” Sharpe said.

He indicated that the Molasses Hill site will fill “a dramatic hole that we’ve had since we put the 800-megahertz system back in in 1991 as we’ve always had problems along Route 98 and along Route 238 going into Attica.”

Sharpe said a settlement involving Nextel has resulted in an additional $255,243.86 in unanticipated revenue coming into the county. The resolution also includes the sum of $46,591.81 that has yet to be spent from the 2020 communications operational budget and the 2013 800-megahertz radio upgrade capital project.

The Ways & Means Committee approved the measure, which now goes before the entire legislative body on Wednesday.

Sharpe said the total cost of the project is $1.9 million, which is about $200,000 more than what is currently in the capital project budget. But, he added, that he is waiting to hear about funding from the Statewide Interoperability Communications Grant program and that the $1.9 million figure includes “some contingencies in case we run into something that we don’t expect.”

“Right now, this allows us to make sure we’re paying the bills until that next round of money comes in, and once we have that money we will reimburse against it,” he explained, adding that grants will cover most of the project cost.

When asked about the timeline of the Molasses Hill work, Sharpe said language is in the contract to have the tower connected to the radio system network by April 30.

“They have to have the microwave equipment completely done by August 6th and we’re hoping that once they’re connected to Darien and we’re talking to the network, we’re going to start optimization in May or June,” he said. “We’re looking at doing coverage analysis in June and July so we have full coverage of the trees, make any adjustments in August and final acceptance, hopefully, in September …”’

The committee approved a second resolution that authorizes amending a “zero dollar” lease agreement with American Tower Asset Sub LLC, of Woburn, Mass., to upgrade the public safety radio system equipment on a tower on South Lake Road in Pavilion.

Sharpe said this is necessary because the Cedar Street (Batavia) tower is overloaded.

The County is changing its originally planned microwave link from Darien to Molasses Hill to Cedar, which would have reused an existing microwave link.

“Instead what we’re doing now is going from Darien to Molasses Hill to Pavilion,” he said. “What that does is allows us to have a parallel path for our radio system, and in the future as we have to do any work or upgrade or replace the Cedar Street, we won’t have to take the whole network down and we’ll still have a parallel path.”

He said the lease agreement gives the county greater flexibility.

“Back in 1998, the town and the county had the wisdom, as far as zoning rules, to negotiate for free access for our equipment on that tower. There are some minor costs, such as structural analysis and if we have to change the tension on those guy wires,” he said.

Sharpe said there are nine towers in Genesee County, one in Albion that connects to the Orleans County system and one in Chili that connects to the Monroe County system.

“Verizon just built a tower on Hundredmark Road in the Town of Elba, so that might be a future site, which would give us 10 sites within the county that are transmit sites to go along with our two dispatch centers at 14 West Main Street in the city and one at the dispatch center on Park Road,” he said.

March 3, 2021 - 9:29pm

At the suggestion of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s tourism staff and Airbnb officials, County Attorney Kevin Earl and Manager Matt Landers today led a discussion about changing a local law to impose a “bed tax” on residents who rent out their homes on a limited basis.

Speaking at the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, Earl said he is communicating with representatives of Airbnb, the popular vacation rental online company that helps (for a commission) homeowners arrange lodging for tourists.

His proposal, if supported by the legislature, would generate additional income for the Chamber to run its tourism operations.

“First of all, the Airbnb proposed agreement applies to occupancy taxes – bed taxes as we call them … and the second thing is the important discussion we have to have (because as of now) our law has an exemption for under six units,” Earl advised.

The attorney said a house being rented out for travelers would be considered as one unit.

“So, we would have to have the consent to go ahead and change that to allow the law to apply for under six units,” he said. “Number three is a corollary of that, if we do that, we want to make sure that if somebody rents their house or apartment for a couple days, a couple weekends or one week, that they don’t have to go through all of the process (of) collecting and enumerating bed tax to the county.”

Less Than Six Units, More Than 10 Nights

He then suggested changing the law so that it would apply to less than six units, but only under circumstances when they are rented for more than 10 nights during an entire calendar year.

By modifying existing law, the 3 percent bed tax currently in place for motels and hotels would also be charged to the rental units (homes, apartments and even the small structures at campgrounds).

The hotel adds this charge to the customer’s bill (which also includes an 8 percent sales tax) and remits this occupancy tax payment on a quarterly basis to County Treasurer Scott German, who then appropriates it to the Chamber for tourism purposes.

A nickel of each dollar generated is kept by the county as an administration fee and the remaining 95 cents goes to the Chamber..

Landers said the proposal “has been expressed to us as a matter of fairness because this is something that would even the playing field. Hoteliers have to pay this and (there are) people who are utilizing Airbnb services throughout our county.”

He also mentioned that he did a “quick search” a couple summers ago and found that there were 28 of the Airbnb-variety units in the county, giving him reason to believe a change in the law would be warranted.

“If there was one or two, maybe it wouldn’t be worthwhile but there is enough out there and something that our Chamber of Commerce has expressed interest in exploring,” he said.

He reported that Airbnb has similar contracts with other New York counties.

Landers: Looking for a Consensus

“Kevin and I didn’t want to go through the process of making all these changes – it’s a policy change – if the legislature didn’t have the desire to go forward with these changes,” Landers said. “We can come back again in the future with actual recommended changes of the local law and go to a public hearing … if there is a consensus.”

Legislator Gary Maha asked Landers if he has an estimate of the amount of revenue that would be realized by such a change. The county manager said he did not, referring back to the 28 units he identified a couple years ago but didn’t have a breakdown of the dollars received.

“It’s nothing that would come to the county … the lion’s share goes directly to the chamber,” he said. “This is an area I think will only grow in the future. Airbnb is getting more households and is easier to deal with, and revenue is probably going to be growing. I can’t tell you an estimate of how big it is right now, but if I had to place a guess, it’s only going to go up.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked if the modified local law would have an effect on campsites “where folks have those little houses that folks can rent.”

“If they rent those through Airbnb at a campground will that be impacted? And are campgrounds that have those little chalets, I’ll call them tiny houses, are they already paying a bed tax and a sales tax?”

German responded affirmatively, noting that Darien Lake’s campground has “several of those little huts and they are being taxed at 3 percent.”

Law Would Target Booking Companies

Earl said wording of a new law would have general language that would define Airbnb as well as businesses such as Flipkey, HomeAway and VRBO as booking companies.

“So, this will apply to any that are now known or any in the future. We will make the definition broad enough so that if XYZ company comes in as a booking agent – and even realtors (who) could possibly book houses,” he said.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg asked if the new law was implemented, would the Chamber help promote those individuals and companies offering homes for rent by including them in a list available to the general public. Landers said he would expect that to be the case and would share her view with the Chamber staff.

Still, at first sight, she sees the proposal as “more regulation” and said she needs more information before supporting it.

Legislator Christian Yunker asked who is responsible for keeping track of the number of nights and the revenue -- Airbnb or the homeowner?

Landers said that while Airbnb captures the money and remits the funds to the county, individual owners would have to provide a report to the treasurer’s office for reconciliation purposes. Hotels and campgrounds also are subject to that requirement, he added.

Klotzbach contended that Airbnb should be responsible for reporting, but Landers and Earl said the company just wants to pass the money along and is not in favor of a process where individual homeowners’ identities are disclosed.

There's a Cost of Doing Business

At that point, Landers shifted the debate by offering to change the time period.

“Instead of 10 days, if we really want to capture people that do this a lot, then it could be over 30 days or over 60 days,” he said. “I guess at that point you should know if you’re renting a place out for that many days in a row that’s a cost of doing business versus maybe two weeks out of the year, you rent the place out or you’ve got a room that you’re renting out and it’s something you don’t think about.”

He said the county doesn’t seek to be “overly regulatory” but acknowledged the request from the tourism agency “that was hit particularly hard during COVID as a way to capture revenue from people outside of our area to assist with tourism.”

Legislator John Deleo said he didn’t have a problem with someone trying to make some extra money to “keep the water level below their nose” but agreed with Clattenburg that more information is needed before deciding.

Earl said there is no time limit, but is ready to move forward when the legislature approves. Clattenburg then asked Landers and Earl to provide further details while Ways & Means does its own research.

March 2, 2021 - 8:10am

Although delayed, the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council reportedly will be receiving the full amount of its state funding that has been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving Executive Director Gregory Hallock reason to believe the agency will be able to provide all of its services and programs in 2021.

“We just received word that we will be getting the full $127,000 (mostly from the New York State Council on the Arts), we just don’t know when the money is coming in,” said Hallock during an agency review Monday for the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

Hallock said that GO ART! had to “shut everything down” last March at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, resulting in cancelled events, such as the July 4th Picnic in the Park (it was held virtually) and the halting of renovations at the 201 E. Main St. facility.

“It was a scary situation, but we are seeing the light,” he said, adding that the agency currently has about $70,000 on hand, twice as much as he expected.

With the assurances of its usual monetary support – and through the utilization of Payroll Protection Program grants, GO ART! is ready to transition its two employees back to full time later this month and is “planning to be fully open on September 1st,” Hallock said.

He said he is excited about the new features at the building, including a dance studio – “we even have a disco light,” he said – as well as a film studio, podcast studio with soundproofing windows, a hair studio, remodeled kitchen, and library with a grand piano.

GO ART! is looking to open Tavern 2.0.1 in September, Hallock said, disappointed that it was in operation for just two and a half months in 2020.

“We’re ready to make a ‘big bang’ when we get the go-ahead to start that back up,” he said.

The executive director’s report pointed out the value of a cultural component, noting there is a 7:1 return on dollars spent both directly and indirectly.

“Indications show that in our very region, arts/cultural tourists spend an average of 50 percent more than residents do per event, with an emphasis on indirect spending in the restaurant and hospitality sectors,” he stated.

He said GO ART! is able to support local organizations and individuals through the NYSCA Decentralized Re-Grant Program.

More than $43,000 in grants funded by the NYSCA, namely “Reach,” “Ripple” and “Spark” grants, were awarded in Genesee County in 2020, he said.

“Reach” grant award recipients included the Genesee Valley Wind Ensemble’s concert season, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, Arc of Genesee/Orleans, Holland Purchase Historical Society, Elba Betterment Committee, Woodward Memorial Library, Genesee Chorale, ACORNS music in the park, Gillam Grant Community Center and the Batavia Concert Band.

Individual artists receiving “Ripple” grants were David Burke, Bart Dentino, Mandy Humphrey and Eric Zwieg.

Hallock said GO ART! spent $20,000 toward facility construction prior to the shutdown, and is set to resume the exterior and interior renovations, which are estimated to cost $218,000. Work will be done on the main entrance awning, kitchen roof, gutter system, storm windows and chimney.

GO ART! has received six grants for this project, totaling $199,500, he said, and is seeking grants to install an elevator, update the central air system and create a cultural garden.

The agency also is working on a partnering grant with the arts councils in Wyoming, Livingston and Monroe counties to share a full-time marketing director, Hallock said. Currently, GO ART! shares a full-time folklorist with Wyoming and Livingston counties.

Hallock said plans including offering the building for long-term room rentals, artist nights and other programs. Despite the pandemic, he said the agency assisted other organizations by using the building as a distribution site for food and clothing, and distributed 16,000 art kits to youth in Genesee and Orleans counties.

In legislative action, the Human Services Committee recommended approval of a resolution to allocate $6,500 to GO ART! for 2021. This is the same amount of funding that was appropriated in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

February 24, 2021 - 7:51pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers today said he is hopeful that an urgent request to the governor’s office to designate Genesee Community College as a COVID-19 mass vaccination will become a reality.

Legislative leaders and public health directors in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties last week sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to authorize the use of the GCC campus as a regional location to administer the vaccine.

“We remain optimistic at this point that our request will be heard,” Landers said during a Genesee County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “There is some hope and optimism through discussions with the Finger Lakes (Region) control room.”

The letter stated that the three counties have experienced delays in testing supplies and now have not received enough vaccine, adding that “having a regional clinic with less than a half hour commute would benefit these communities."

Genesee County lawmakers are confident that they have enough staff and volunteers to vaccinate 2,000 or more people per day.

Copies of the letter were also sent to Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties state representatives, Assemblyman David DiPietro, Senator Patrick Gallivan, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, Assemblyman Michael Norris, Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, and Senator Edward Rath III.

On another front, Landers said that he and John Welch Jr., Orleans County chief administrative officer, were on a call with New York Association of Counties officials to talk about the two counties’ plan to build a joint jail on West Main Street Road in Batavia.

“We are focused on our joint jail and we talked about the history of the Genesee County Jail. And because of the governor’s budget wording, there is new, revised hope that there will be an opportunity (for it),” he said. “Obviously, we have a close partnership and a history of sharing with Orleans County – a willingness of two administrative bodies to do what is right for the taxpayers in the least costly manner.”

Landers said Genesee is moving forward with the project as it has asked a design firm to update its jail study to determine the proper number of beds.

“If they (Orleans County legislators) aren’t able to decide or meet the timeline we have … they could always jump in down the road (through) future expansion,” he said.

He also shared that in Albany County, excess jail beds were used to create a homeless shelter.

A report by Legislator Gary Maha indicated that if a federal stimulus plan passes in mid-March, counties who certify their COVID-related financial losses would be able to be reimbursed in 60 to 90 days.

In legislative action, Wade Schab of Alexander, a longtime parademic, was approved as a Genesee County coroner, replacing Jeff McIntire, who relocated to Florida.

Previously: Ways & Means supports resolution appointing Wade Schwab to fill vacant county coroner post​

February 22, 2021 - 11:00am

Not satisfied with the latest water rate study conducted by a New York City consulting firm, Genesee County government leaders will be putting their heads together in the coming weeks to find a path to a unified water rate for customers in the county’s two retail areas and lone wholesale area.

Tim Hens, county water system coordinator (as well as highway superintendent and engineer), updated the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee last week about the topic, which was prompted by a request by several towns in the Western Genesee MCWA Retail Area to look into the possibility of one rate for all.

The MCWA, or Monroe County Water Authority, provides water to most of the county, and determines the rates that users pay. Genesee County is divided into three zones: the East and West Retail Areas and the Central Wholesale Area. Currently, the rates are different in the three areas, with the West paying more than the other two, Hens said.

The West is comprised of the Town of Pembroke, Town of Darien and Village of Corfu.

The East side is comprised of Byron, Bergen, Le Roy, Stafford and Pavilion and the associated villages in those areas.

And the Central (or northwest) is comprised of the towns of Alabama, Oakfield, Elba, Batavia, Alexander, the villages in those towns, and the City of Batavia.

“Both East and West are retail because the Monroe County Water Authority operates the system,” Hens said. “They do the maintenance and they do the billing. MCWA leases the lines from the towns, operate it on their behalf, and establish the rates.”

MCWA IS THE ‘ULTIMATE AUTHORITY’

Hens said the MCWA, as a public authority, is required to have a third-party consultant come in and look at the total operation costs – pump stations, water treatment plants, water towers, annual maintenance, billing and all the overhead that goes into operating the system – prior to releasing a report.

“But the ultimate authority establishing the rate resides with the MCWA board,” he emphasized.

Concerning the Central Wholesale Area, Hens said those towns and villages are “technically buying water from Genesee County.”

“We purchase water on a wholesale basis from Monroe County at the Seven Springs connections in the Town of Stafford and that water is blended with water produced in the City of Batavia water plant, and then sent out to those areas,” he explained. “Most of the wholesale areas are operated by the Town of Batavia as it has intermunicipal agreements with each of those towns, except for the Village and Town of Oakfield and the City of Batavia, which operate their own systems.”

Hens said that each town still has jurisdiction over its market locally, but buys water from the county at wholesale versus buying it directly from the MCWA.

“The individual rate that each town charges is based on a rate that Genesee County charges them for water, which we use basically a 50-50 blend between the Monroe County wholesale and the City of Batavia rate from the water plant,” he advised. “Those two rates right now are about 10 to 15 cents apart so averaging them together, there isn’t that big of a difference.”

BUYING WATER AT WHOLESALE RATE

He said the county charges the wholesale rate (around $2.43 per 1,000 gallons) to the Central municipalities and, in turn, they mark that up to cover their overhead, capital reserve and/or debt service, and charge the customers just as the MCWA does. Those fees increase the total rate to around $6 per 1,000 gallons, which is within 30 cents per 1,000 gallons of the MCWA retail rate after factoring in all charges.

“At the end of the day, the total rate charged to customers in the Center part of the county, with the exception of the Village of Oakfield, is very comparable to what East residents are paying and not too much different from what the West residents are paying,” Hens said. “Oakfield is a bit higher due to their debt service.”

Customers residing in the Western Genesee Retail Area pay more due to several factors, Hens said.

“What makes the West side unique is that it is a small geographic area with less customers and they also have the operation of the Corfu water plant to factor in. Monroe County uses that plant to essentially treat and disinfect byproducts coming from Erie County because we’re kind of at the end of the system,” he said. “Another factor is the cost of operating the pump station in Pembroke. That area is 60 to 80 miles from the home base in Monroe County.”

Furthermore, much more water is coming in to the East side – a larger area with more customers and just one operational expense: the North Road pump station.

“That results in the difference in retail rates with the West side, obviously, being more expensive,” Hens said/ “The West side water is also expensive due to the higher cost of water in Erie County which MCWA must buy and then markup to cover their costs.”

DISCREPANCY IS PART OF PUBLIC DISCOURSE

Hens said the price difference between the East and West came to light a few years ago during negotiations over sales tax agreements and water rates with the towns and villages.

“At the time it was about a 90-cent difference between the East and West, with the West being more expensive – and we received a lot of feedback from municipalities on the West side of the county (stating) that there was a perception of unfairness in the rate,” he said.

As a result, the county was asked to investigate – in consultation with the MCWA -- and try to come up with a uniform rate throughout the county.

“We did that about a year ago as the legislature passed a resolution asking the Water Authority to study the feasibility of a unified county rate so that East and West would basically pay the same,” Hens said. “The thought was that because of the water usage difference between the East and the West, a unified rate would be halfway between or skewed toward the East because it is using about twice the amount of water that the West does.”

Hens said county officials were eager to see the rate study, hoping that it would lead to opportunities to move Erie County water through the West side of the system -- potentially to Alabama, Oakfield or Elba if those towns were to migrate to a retail situation with Monroe County.

BILLED VS. MASTER METERED WATER

“So, we got the study back, and the rates are a little bit higher than what I anticipated,” he said. “The biggest factor in the difference from what I projected and what the consultant (Amawalk Consulting Group of New York City) came up with was they used billed water and I used master metered water. The master metered water includes lost water and hydraulic bleeds to other systems where the billed water is only what is used by customers. This skews the ratio in water between East and West.”

The consultant’s findings for 2020 projected a combined, unified rate of $4.21 per 1,000 gallons, while Hens’ came up with $3.99 per 1,000 gallons. He said the $4.21 price is an increase of 47 cents per 1,000 gallons for East customers and a savings of about 80 cents per 1,000 gallons for West customers.

Since the average house uses about 60,000 gallons of water per year, a 47-cent increase on billed water to an East customer would equate to about $30 per year.

Hens said if you project that out over the next five years, the rate in the West expands “quite quickly,” with the gap increasing to almost $2 per 1,000 gallons versus the $1.30 gap that exists now.

“One of the things that the study didn’t consider – which I’m a little disappointed in – is that we’re seeing substantial growth in water usage on the East side, especially in the next two or three years,” he said.

PROPOSED DISTRICTS TO INCREASE USAGE

Amawalk apparently didn’t “read the tea leaves” on future usage, Hens said, noting that large water districts proposed for Byron, Bergen and the Town of Bethany will use about a combined 500,000 gallons of water per day on average.

“If that usage was factored in, then the unified rate would skew more heavily toward the East rate -- and the savings in the West would be more and the impact upon the users on the East would be even less,” he said.

Hens said the study also did not consider the Center (wholesale) portion of the county, which has seen a predominant increase in water usage.

“There are several moving pieces on the Countywide Water System that either impact the rate study dramatically or the rate conversely impacts on the Phase 2 and Phase 3 projects,” he said.

Hens’ presentation drew reaction from county legislators and town officials.

Legislature Gordon Dibble, who represents Darien and Pembroke, bemoaned the fact that customers pay more in those areas, and said he hoped the study could be amended.

Water to Darien, Pembroke and Corfu comes from Erie County and already is more expensive. Hens said that the Erie County base rate for water is the “real culprit” for the difference in price.

40-YEAR AGREEMENT IN FORCE, BUT …

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein concurred, noting that the West is facing an 11-percent increase for 2021 compared to a 4.4-percent increase in the East. Again, Hens said, factors include the Erie County base rate, operational costs at the Corfu water plant and the number of gallons of water used.

Stein also pointed out that the towns agreed to the terms when they signed a 40-year water agreement as part of Phase 1.

Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. responded by saying he understood but brought up that the county indicated that a transmission line between Alexander and Darien was supposed to be put in but it never happened.

He, too, urged legislators to look at the entire system “and come up with a way to make it fairer for everyone.”

Going forward, Hens said a detailed discussion is on the agenda for the April 13th meeting of the Genesee County Water Resources Agency. The GCWRA was created in 1998 from the legislature’s Water Supply Task Force to assist in the implementation of water improvements for the county.

Earl LaGrou, of Alabama, GCWRA chair, said the report is essential to the future and longevity of the county water system.

FINANCIAL STABILITY IS THE KEY

“That’s what they’re trying to secure – the type of funding that is needed … to continue on with our latest phase, to help pay for that, but also water systems are not a five- or 10-year entity, they’re 30, 40, 50 years and they want to make sure there is enough cash flow to have upgrades,” he offered.

“We’re in Western New York. If there’s an emergency ice or weather-related incident where a pipe freezes, they have to have money to repair that so people aren’t without water. That’s what they’re trying to do – just get an across-the-board, easier rate that helps solidify the financial stability of the water system.”

LaGrou said GCWRA board members just received the report from Hens and will review it before making a recommendation to the Genesee County Legislature.

“Our board kind of does all the homework and we make recommendations – we don’t set forth policy,” he said. “Between now and April 13th, I’m sure that Tim will bring to us the pros and cons of the recommendation for the water rates ... so we can make an educated decision before the April 13th meeting. There may be some calls back and forth.”

That 10-member committee also includes Stein and legislators Gary Maha and Christian Yunker.

February 17, 2021 - 9:15am

The Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee on Tuesday voted in favor of appropriating more than $11,000 in citizen donations to the ongoing renovation project at the Genesee County Animal Shelter at 3841 W. Main Street Road.

The approved resolution calls for using $11,437 in donations in order for contractors to epoxy coat additional flooring and provide fenced-in tops to the moveable kennels that are proposed for the “stray side” of the shelter.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, in reporting to the committee, said these items were not included in the original plan.

Afterward, he went into more detail about the project, which has a price tag of more than $220,000.

“The floors are being resealed and re-epoxied, primarily for bacteria control and cleaning,” he said. “The what we call ‘stray side’ of the kennel – the naughty side of the kennel, per se – is basically being redone. We’re putting automatic flush drains in the floor drain so that cleaning and sanitation can happen easier and quicker.”

Other improvements, mostly to facilitate the housing of dogs, include weatherization, regrouting and the introduction of mobile kennels, he said.

“There’s the weatherization of the enclosure around the kennels so that the external portions of the kennels are heated and conditioned as well as the inside. We are doing substantial regrouting and repointing of all the block and tile work in between the actual kennels themselves,” he said.

Hens said the pole barn-type building “looks nice on the outside” but is 20 years old, resulting in the rotting out of materials and ground that are constantly exposed to urine, feces and water.

“That is being replaced, and we’re swapping out for mobile kennels, primarily so the volunteers and the staff can move kennels around,” he added. “We’re trying to create a quarantine space for contaminated animals and things like that.”

The number of animals at the shelter, which is under the supervision of the Sheriff’s Office, varies from week to week, he said, noting that recently there were 57 dogs and cats at the facility.

Construction is underway, he said, but has been delayed a bit due to COVID-19-related supply-chain issues. He said he hopes to have the work finished by April.

In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions, which will be forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee and/or the entire legislature for final voting:

  • Extension of a contract with GLOW Counties and Environmental Enterprises Inc. for the GLOW Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program at a cost not to exceed $33,000 for 2021.

GLOW Solid Waste Coordinator Peggy Grayson said the county has contracted with GLOW Counties and Environmental Enterprises for 17 years and has received exceptional service. She said collection of household goods is scheduled for Sept. 18 at the Wyoming County Highway Department in Rock Glen and collection of electronics will take place on Sept. 25.

  • Amending the Sheriff’s Office budget to use $79,921 this year in available grant funding from the Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and an agreement with the Village of Bergen to provide additional services.

The grants include two DHSES grants ($47,661), a NYS GTSC Police Traffic Services Grant ($27,000) and the Village of Bergen agreement ($5,260).

Sheriff William Sheron said the DHSES money will be used to place laptop computers, radios and other communications equipment in patrol cars, while the Police Traffic Services Grant funds will be used to pay overtime necessary to support the program’s requirements.

Available funds from the Village of Bergen contract will be used as warranted to provide additional patrols in the village during the spring and summer months, he said.

The committee also accepted a $2,000 grant for the Sheriff’s Office to participate in the statewide Child Passenger Safety Program between Oct. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021.

Sheron said deputies would be available to show people how to properly install child safety car seats and to provide seats, if necessary.

  • Approval of special events applications at the Genesee County Park and Forest, a memorandum of understanding and a donation to support a Student Conservation Association internship as the county continues its relationship with the Association for Conservation of Recreational and Natural Spaces.

The ACORNS group will be using the park for a music event on Aug. 7 and a 5K/10K trail run and walk fundraiser on Oct. 3. Proceeds are used to assist the county with future programming, donations and other support.

The memorandum of understanding solidifies ACORNS’ standing with the county, according to Highway Superintendent Hens, who reported the organization has grown from 16 to 50 members who help the county promote the park.

ACORNS has donated $5,700 to the county to fund a 16-week, full-time SCA intern, whose responsibilities will include overseeing volunteers and assisting with environmental education.

Legislator Christian Yunker praised ACORNS, stating that the group “does tremendous things to support the county park.”

February 16, 2021 - 10:23pm

Acknowledging that there are obstacles to overcome before a shared jail with Orleans County is a reality, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers today said the firm hired to design a proposed 184-bed facility is being called upon to update its study.

“Even though the study we had done that was the basis for the design work on the jail is only about three-, three-and-a-half years old, a lot has happened in those three-, three-and-a-half years,” Landers said during the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “So, we are having SMRT (the architectural firm) update the study.”

Not much has been said about the jail in recent months as the county – as well as the entire nation – has been dealing with COVID-19 and budgetary concerns stemming from the pandemic.

In June, Landers reported that the county closed on the land acquisition – a parcel just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road – and the schematic designs of the jail were complete.

The county has contracted with SMRT and Pike Company Inc., the construction manager, for about $2.3 million and $1 million, respectively.

Landers said discussions with Orleans County officials have resumed, and they are encouraged by wording in the New York State budget “that seems to make it easier for counties to share a jail.”

“NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) has indicated that when they advocated for this budget, they were actually looking at us, specifically, as a possibility (for a shared jail),” he said. “We’re hoping that the governor’s office will be able to assist us with additional funding.”

Originally, the plan was to build the jail in the fall of 2019 – 184 beds with a maximum population of 144. Landers said he’s not so sure that 184 is the right number now.

“Because of the bail reform, and the reformed bail reform, and current environment, we want to have an updated number,” he said. “When people were asking me, ‘Matt, why are we looking at a jail at 184 beds?’ I want to say that we had a study done by people who do this for a living.”

He said an update of the study will “kill two birds with one stone” as it will determine the jail bed needs for both Genesee and Orleans counties, and he doesn’t anticipate a lot of extra work to update the report.

“It’s something that we really should do anyway for our own bed needs. We, at the same time, are monitoring the state budget … and working with Orleans County and looking at the vast number of hurdles that are still out there,” he said.

Landers said if all goes well, a groundbreaking could come in the spring of 2022, but “it will take further discussion with the legislature, building consensus on the size and scope (of the project).”

February 10, 2021 - 7:41pm

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers this afternoon reported that Genesee County has the lowest seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 in the Finger Lakes Region.

“It’s a nice feeling to have, a nice distinction to have at this point – especially given that just several weeks ago we were not only the worst positivity rate in the Finger Lakes Region, but we were competing for the worst in the state,” Landers said during the regular meeting of the County Legislature via Zoom videoconferencing. “It’s nice to see the turnaround and that our positivity rate is below 3 percent.”

He called it a “quick turnaround” and said it is due to “all the hard work we have been doing in this community in terms of messaging, distancing and the testing and the vaccination.”

On another front, he said the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Draft Report has been posted on the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office page of the county’s website -- Welcome to County of Genesee.

He encouraged residents to look it over and provide feedback by sending an email to: [email protected]

“I’ve gotten some comments already and I welcome more,” he said.

The Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative has set its next meeting for 6 p.m. Feb. 23 (via Zoom) -- not on the 22nd as originally scheduled due to some members being unable to attend.

A resolution to accept the report is expected to be considered by the Public Service Committee on March 15, a couple weeks before it needs to be submitted to the New York State Office of Management and Budget.

In official action, the legislature:

  • Voted in favor of accepting an $11,100 grant from the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund to launch the CallHub pilot program for the county’s Office for the Aging.

To be utilized over the remainder of this year, the grant will allow the Office for the Aging to help people safely connect with phone calls going through CallHub, a secure web-based tool that makes communication between individuals and groups of people easier, quicker and safer through a designated phone number.

The resolution that was passed indicated that CallHub is an application that allows for improved program management for staff and volunteer-based programs, through mass messaging and real-time data collection and monthly reporting capabilities.

OFA Director Diana Fox said the office’s “safe” number appears on the caller ID, keeping the caller's personal number private.

“This is advantageous for volunteer-based programs and staff working remotely due to the pandemic,” she stated.

  • Approved amendments pertaining to the payment schedule of 2021 contracts with The Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans Counties, Restoration Society, Living Opportunities of DePaul, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, and Arc of Genesee Orleans.

Per New York State requirements, regular payments to these agencies should be paid quarterly, not monthly as the current contracts stipulate.

As a result of the legislation, quarterly payments will be as follows:

The Mental Health Association of Genesee & Orleans Counties, $95,142.75; Restoration Society, $71,113.50; Living Opportunities of DePaul, $11,201.25; GCASA, $387,668.25; Arc of Genesee Orleans, $10,436.25.

Landers said funds provided to these organizations are “pass-through” from the state.

“This is not what we traditionally consider outside agency funding,” he said. “When we refer to outside agency funding we refer to Genesee County taxpayer-supported funding for agencies such as the Holland Land Office or GO ART!”

February 3, 2021 - 5:57pm

Whether you call it “refunding” or “refinancing,” Genesee County stands to save a pile of money by consolidating a couple loans and reworking the payment plan.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing this afternoon, County Treasurer Scott German said the municipality may have the opportunity to save more than $20,000 in interest costs over the next 13 years.

“It’s called refunding, but for us, regular folks, it’s refinancing,” German said. “We’re going to refinance two of our existing debts.”

The two debts in question, both Public Improvement Serial Bonds, are from 2009 and 2014, totaling $2,050,000 and $4,745,847, respectively.

German said there are four years left on the 2009 debt, but “doing that one by itself wouldn’t be worth it because the cost would be prohibitive.”

So, working with Financial Advisors of Syracuse and the bond counsel firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe of New York City, the county is prepared to put the two loans together and, if interest rates are favorable when the time comes to refinance in September, it could result in a net savings of $263,819.63.

“We technically can’t refinance that until September, so all we’re doing right now is taking care of all the paperwork – getting that out of the way – so when the market looks good in September, we’ll go to market,” he said. “If the rates go up between now and then, we won’t do it. We’ll just pull it.”

Committee members approved a resolution authorizing the debt consolidation with the goal of realizing a savings in interest fees.

In other action, the committee recommended approval of an affiliation agreement with Brockport State College for Rebecca Nigro to participate in and complete an internship that will help her complete her master’s degree in Public Administration.

It was reported that Nigro is in her last semester and is carrying a 3.95 grade-point average.

The college approved the internship as long as the county had someone with a master’s degree to oversee Nigro’s activity. Nigro works for the county, serving as the supervisor/cluster care for the Department of Social Services.

January 27, 2021 - 6:55pm

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he finds some good and some bad with the proposed New York State fiscal year 2022 budget with the “good” connected to a suggestion made by Genesee County officials to loosen the restrictions on municipal investments.

“A suggestion that actually came from Genesee County was the ability to invest our money a little more, I don’t want to say aggressively, (but) the restrictions that governments – counties and municipalities – in New York State had was one of the most restrictive in the nation,” said Landers, reporting to the Genesee County Legislature this afternoon during its meeting via Zoom videoconferencing.

Landers said if Gov. Andrew Cuomo ultimately accepts the suggestion to give local governments more flexibility in their investments, it could lead to a six-figure increase on Genesee County’s bottom line.

“I don’t have an exact figure, you’d have to talk to Treasurer Scott German about that, but I do know that we budgeted $150,000 in 2021 and that was just in the general fund,” Landers said, noting that investments are volatile depending upon interest rates.

Last summer, Landers and German looked into the county’s investment strategies – it has a contract with the three+one firm out of Pittsford – and found out that New York’s investment regulations were the most restrictive in the nation.

“I passed that along to NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) and they passed it along to the (NYS) Division of Budget, and lo and behold, it came out as one of the governor’s suggestions in his budget to loosen up the restrictions,” Landers said. “So, there’s evidence that ideas coming out of Genesee County can actually have an impact on the state.”

Landers said news of the governor’s support in the investment arena puts the county in prime position to generate additional revenues.

“I’m sure Scott will be pleased to put three+one to work if we get this additional relief in how we can do investments,” he said.

Sticking with the “good” part of the state budget, Landers said the county now is projecting a 5-percent reduction in state aid – down from the 20 percent it put in its 2021 budget.

“This is assuming that the state gets $6 billion in stimulus money from the federal government,” he said. “If the state gets nothing, then we would be looking at the 20 percent (decrease).”

Landers also mentioned the state’s reconfiguration of its Aid and Incentives for Municipalities program – action that will affect counties that have towns and villages receiving AIM funds.

“We’re still trying to figure out how the AIM impact will be – the state is shifting – taking some of the sales tax proceeds from counties and making towns and villages whole through AIM,” he said. “More than half the counties are going to benefit from this shift, but some counties are going to be hurt depending on the makeup within their county of municipalities that are receiving AIM.”

The county manager also reported that the allocation of the county’s extra 1 percent in sales tax no longer will need state approval, but on the “bad” side, said the county is looking at the possibility of losing $160,000 in Video Lottery Terminal revenue generated by patrons at Batavia Downs Gaming.

In legislative action, the board implemented a Rule 19 resolution to ratify prior measures that grant Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein emergency powers as they pertain to financially protecting non-county workers – both volunteer and professional -- at COVID-19 testing clinics.

The resolution gives Stein authority in two circumstances beyond a Jan. 14 resolution that granted emergency powers for the chair to execute necessary COVID-19 documents – an agreement for services for COVID-19 volunteers and an agreement for paid services for COVID-19.

On another front, the legislature set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. on April 28 at the Genesee County Old Courthouse as part of the mandated eight-year review of Agricultural District No. 4.

The district was created in December 1980 and, under Article 25AA of the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law, Section 303-a, it must be reviewed eight years after the date of creation and every eight years thereafter. Property in Agricultural District No. 4 is located in the towns of Byron, Bergen, Elba, Stafford and Le Roy.

In other action, the legislature passed the following resolutions:

  • A construction contract with Union Concrete and Construction Corp, West Seneca, in the amount of $1,767,387 to replace bridges on Meadville Road over Canal Feeder in the Town of Alabama, Sharrick Road over Murder Creek in the Town of Darien, and Tower Hill Road over Spring Creek in the Town of Byron.

The resolution also called for a consultant agreement with CHA Consulting Inc., of Buffalo, for the three projects for an amount not to exceed $340,000.

Union Concrete and Construction Corp. submitted a bid that was around $400,000 less than the engineer’s estimate of construction costs. Ninety-five percent of the capital project will be paid by federal aid, with a 5 percent local match taken from the 1 percent sales tax fund.

  • A consultant agreement with C&S Companies, Rochester, for an amount not to exceed $109,000 in connection with the replacement of the Upton Road over Bowen Creek bridge in the Town of Batavia.

Work, which will be covered by federal aid at the 95 percent level, is expected to start immediately.

  • Payment of $4,535 in costs related to dental surgery for K9 Rayzor, with fund coming from the K-9 Donations Reserve Account (gifts and donations that were made to the K-9 program).

Expenses consisted of $2,317 for the surgery plus costs for his handler’s lodging, vehicle fuel and food to transport Rayzor to the hospital where the surgery was performed, as well as a recovery bed for the dog.

  • A contract extension through Dec. 31 with the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services, Albany, in the amount of $170,672.

This money funds the county’s full-time assistant public defender, part-time assistant public defender, investigator and paralegal’s salary and fringe benefits as well as a parity stipend for an assistant public defender, cell phone service for one, landline telephone service for two, the investigator’s mileage and investigation online service software.

  • Contracts with SkyMark Refuelers LLC, Kansas City, Kan., in the amount of $324,590 for ground service equipment, broken down as follows: $189,600 for a Jet-A refueler (diesel option) and $134,990 for an AvGas refueler (diesel option).

The cost for these contracts is partially covered by a state grant.

  • A change order to a contract with Suburban Electric, Albion, in the amount of $65,302 in connection with work being done at pump stations in Churchville and Mumford to expand water supply capacity under Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program.

The change order calls for the installation of a different Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) within the Motor Control Center (MCC); eliminating the power management system; modifying the MCC; increasing the height of the telemetry tower from 50 to 70 feet, adding an additional telemetry tower at the Riga Pump Station and adding a backup power system for the MCC.      

This is the second change order on this contract and brings the total contract cost to $832,984.50. The original award of the contract was for $759,000.

  • Allocation of up to $300,000 to support the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce for publicity and tourism services connected to the “I Love New York” program through Dec. 31.

Funds from the county’s 2021 hotel and motel tax receipts (bed tax) will be used, with the stipulation that the county will only fund tourism activity to the extent actual revenues from bed tax are realized, not to exceed the fiscal year appropriation of $300,000.

  • The creation of two temporary full-time clerk-typist positions, effective from Jan. 25 until July 23. The clerk typist salary and fringe ($38,707) are allocated in the 2021 Health Department budget.

The position’s salary is partially funded by state aid/performance funds. The cost to the county will be approximately $22,158.

January 27, 2021 - 5:33pm
posted by Press Release in news, genesee county legislature.

Press release:

The Genesee County Legislature will begin a phased-in process of resuming in-person meetings beginning Monday, Feb. 1. Legislators and administration will meet in-person with all others participating via Zoom videoconference.

Starting March 1st, department heads and persons scheduled to present to a standing committee or the full legislature will meet in-person along with legislators and administration.

In April, the public may be added to in-person meetings which will be held in the third floor Legislative Chambers at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia. A face mask covering the nose and mouth is required and everyone entering the building will sign in and out.

"The Genesee County Legislature is taking steps forward in a cautious and calculated manner while closely monitoring every health metric," said Legislature Chairperson Rochelle Stein. “We will proceed by following Public Health advice on a prudent reopening plan and will continue to monitor outcomes and be prepared to pivot back to remote meetings if required."

January 8, 2021 - 12:23pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee has agreed to give Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein the authority to sign documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic that need prompt attention without prior formal consent of the full board.

At a meeting via Zoom videoconferencing on Wednesday, Stein referred to a memorandum of understanding from the New York State Health Department that “came very quickly (this week) and in order for Genesee County to receive COVID vaccine this had to be turned around immediately,” she said.

“This is actually on our agenda today as a ratification of my prior signature. This really helps the public health department to keep the process rolling so that Genesee County has the opportunity for that vaccine to be delivered here locally.”

Stein reasoned that while in the pandemic, the county must act quickly and prudently to support the health department.

“So, in consultation with our public health department and our county manager and the county attorney – once having all of their approvals to sign this MOU – I did provide my signature,” she said. “If there are other COVID-related agreements that need to be signed very quickly, such as this, I think that I would feel better as the chair having the weight of the rest of the legislature with me as I take that on.”

Therefore, she asked for the committee’s approval to sign these types of documents, only as they relate to COVID-19.

Committee members were in full agreement, with Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg noting that she believed Stein already had this authority during emergency situations.

“And she’s not going to sign anything where any funds are expended or anything like that,” Clattenburg added.

The recent MOU with the state DOH to ensure distribution and administration of the vaccine by the Genesee County Health Department was time sensitive, prompting County Attorney Kevin Earl to render an opinion “that under these exigent circumstances to obtain vaccine that is crucial to the health and welfare of Genesee County residents, the Chair could sign the MOU, subject to ratification and approval of the terms and conditions by the full Legislature.”

Legislators Gary Maha, Christian Yunker, John Deleo and Gregg Torrey spoke in favor of the request, with Torrey asking if a formal resolution was needed to put this plan into action.

At that point, Earl said he was first looking for a consensus and then will draft a resolution to be considered at the next full legislature meeting (on Jan. 13).

Legislator Gordon Dibble said he wanted to make sure that the legislature was informed in a “timely fashion” when these situations arise and Stein assured him that would be the case.

Clattenburg, speaking directly to Stein, said lawmakers have “total confidence in you and you’re doing a great job.”

“We want to thank you on behalf of all our citizens for the work that you are doing as the chair. This is something that I know you didn’t anticipate last January,” Clattenburg added.

Stein thanked legislators and county employees for pulling together during some trying times.

“We could not do this without a full team effort and everyone working on behalf of the citizens of Genesee County,” she said. “It really is amazing what you can do when you decide to work together.”

January 6, 2021 - 4:19pm

Update: 5:30 p.m.

The Ways & Means Committee did approve the resolution as indicated below, sending the measure to next Wednesday’s meeting of the full Genesee County Legislature for final approval.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg praised Brooks Hawley’s work during his time on City Council.

“I think he has a good grasp of local government and I’m looking forward to working with him, as we all are,” she said.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said that the leaders of the towns of Batavia and Stafford came together to give their “unanimous support” to Hawley.

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

If all goes according to plan at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, Brooks Hawley will be one step closer to returning to a position in local government.

A resolution on the Ways & Means agenda has Hawley filling the vacancy on the legislature that was caused by the recent resignation of Andrew Young, who now is a Batavia Town justice.

Hawley is expected to be appointed to represent the towns of Batavia and Stafford (District 4), effective Jan. 13 -- when he will be sworn in at the full legislature meeting -- and running through 2021.

He will be eligible to run for election in November and, if elected, would serve the final two years of the District 4 term.

“I’m very excited to represent both towns and am looking forward to serving my community,” said Hawley, 44. “Having lived in the Town of Batavia for about four years now, I have joined the Batavia Republican Committee and last year became an alternate member of the Town Planning Board.”

It was in December 2016 when Hawley stepped out of the political arena by resigning his Councilman-at-Large seat on the Batavia City Council due to relocating his family out of the city and into the home of his late grandfather, state Assemblyman R. Stephen Hawley, in the Town of Batavia.

At the time, the former City Council president said, “I'm not leaving and going away to never be heard from again” – a statement that is proving to be true.

Hawley is employed as a recreation director at Geneseo State College. He and his wife, Rhiannon, have three children, Ayla, 14; Troy, 11, and Quinn, 8.

State Assemblyman Stephen M. Hawley is his father.

In other action, Ways & Means:

  • Approved a memorandum of agreement between the county and Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Genesee County that supports CCE in the amount of $338,548 for 2021 – the same dollar figure provided in years 2017 through 2020.
  • Extended a contract with e3communications of Buffalo through February for public relations and social media services to disseminate information in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The county will pay the firm up to $8,000 for the two months.
  • Supported the appointments of Christi Waldron and Francis Roswick to the Office for the Aging Advisory Council, and James Sunser and Stefano Napolitano to the STOP-DWI Advisory Board.
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