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genesee county legislature

May 27, 2020 - 7:47pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, New York Forward, genesee county legislature, Foodlink.

Thirty-nine Genesee County businesses have prepared New York State-mandated reopening plans that address physical distancing, protective equipment, cleaning, communication and screening as they look to move into Phase Two on Friday.

County Manager Jay Gsell said at tonight’s Genesee County Legislature meeting that those businesses have “attested to having their reopening plans in place.”

“They don’t submit them anywhere, but they’ve attested to the fact that they’ve done that and that list is maintained and updated every day (by state officials),” he said.

Gsell said he expects to see a detailed listing of the business categories permitted to open in Phase Two -- professional services, retail, administrative support, real estate and rental and leasing – and also hopes that the next phase will include some parts of county government.

“There will be some guidances coming along … in the next 12 to 24 to 48 hours,” he said “It’s not something that anyone can answer at this point.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, who serves in the Finger Lakes Region “control room” with Gsell and officials from other counties, said that as of Monday, campgrounds and tent camping were able to open.

She also reported that the Finger Lakes Region is on track for the Phase Two opening in two days, and that she will be seeking more information about the open meeting executive order that expires tomorrow.

Gsell also advised that a bilingual (English/Spanish) list of all the food pantries in Genesee County is being put together and that a Foodlink food pantry is scheduled for next Wednesday at Northgate Free Methodist Church on Bank Street Road.

He said fresh produce and meat will be included in the food distributed to those who are part of what he believes will be a long line of vehicles.

In other action, the legislature recognized the county’s Emergency Management Services on National EMS Week (May 17-23) with a proclamation read by Legislator John Deleo.

EMS Coordinator Timothy Yaeger said he “truly appreciates” the recognition on behalf of the dedicated, hard-working volunteer fire and EMS departments in Genesee County – Mercy EMS, Mercy Flight, City of Batavia, Le Roy Ambulance and Darien Ambulance.

May 21, 2020 - 3:05pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, covid-19, town of stafford.

An incident several weeks ago involving two non-compliant persons infected by the coronavirus has resulted in the Genesee County attorney seeking a budget transfer of $2,838 to pay the fees charged by another lawyer called into the case.

County Attorney Kevin Earl on Wednesday presented a resolution to the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to cover, per the decree, the “unexpected legal expenses due to violations of Health Department quarantine orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The resolution goes on to state that available funds from the county attorney’s personal services line would be moved to the COVID-19 expense line, with the full amount expected to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Earl said that the money is there due to the county’s furlough of his secretary.

In recounting the circumstances leading up to his request, Earl said two individuals broke their quarantine, which prompted the enlistment of County Judge Charles Zambito to get emergency orders that permitted police to arrest them and take them into custody.

“We arranged that we would take them to a facility that Monroe County had established if we had to do this,” he said. “We did get the orders, and the judge, basically, ordered (attorney) Fred Rarick to represent both of these individuals so that there would be no claims that we were taking them into custody or violating their rights without representation.”

Earl said he “clearly believes” that expenses will be reimbursable “because there was no other reason for this other than the COVID response.”

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg asked if the two individuals would be taken to a hotel in Monroe County per a previous agreement between the Genesee & Orleans and Monroe county health departments to provide temporary living quarters for those who had no other housing.

Earl said that this was a different situation, one where a violation of the law came into play.

“We didn’t want to take them to our jail if they had been exposed or tested positive, so the Monroe County sheriff had opened up a facility -- he retrofitted an old jail,” he said. “Obviously, once we have them in custody, we have to take care of them. So, they had a facility where they could provide medical treatment if necessary.”

Clattenburg said that the two people “were going out into the community at the height of the community spread” and that county sheriff’s deputies and city police had to be called in.

“I just want people to realize that we did take the situation very seriously, and those people were a danger to others in the community and were being monitored for quarantine,” she said. “When we found not to be complying, we did take some action here and this is the result of the expense that we had.”

Legislator Gary Maha asked if the duo was taken into custody and transported to Monroe County.

“As we had hoped, the actual having of the order, personally serving upon them, and knowing that if we saw them one foot off the property, they would be immediately taken into custody was enough,” Earl responded. “So, fortunately we didn’t have to go to that step … and I think there’s also a deterrent effect … We did not have to have them arrested but we were ready if we did (with a warrant).”

The committee then approved the resolution, which will move to the full legislature for voting.

In another development, the committee supported a request by County Treasurer Scott German to help the Town of Stafford with its 2021 town/county tax collection.

German said Stafford Town Supervisor asked him if the county would once again collect taxes for the town this year, and German said yes, but the fee would be doubled to $5,000.

“He (Clement) and the (Stafford Town) board were fine with that,” German said.

The treasurer said the reasoning behind the fee increase is that the process took more time than expected and that it lines up with the price charged by Wyoming County for the same service.

“Wyoming County charges about $3.50 per parcel and that is what this will essentially do,” he said, noting that Stafford has about 1,400 taxable parcels. “This will put us on the same playing field as Wyoming County.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked if there was a measurement that would justify the new fee.

German said that if another town was to ask the county for tax collection help, he would use the $3.50 per taxable parcel rate going forward.

Legislator Andrew Young, who called for the increase, said, “It’s really not something we want to get in the business of doing; it’s just a matter that one of our partners needs some assistance and we’re going to assist them.”

German agreed and said he will forward a contact signed by both entities to the legislature for consideration in the form of a resolution.

May 20, 2020 - 7:31pm

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers provided a snapshot of the current financial status of Genesee County government tonight and, although the complete picture has yet to develop, it does present a clear view that steps being taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic are resulting in significant cost savings.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means videoconference meeting, Landers projected that the county will be $1.4 million on the plus side before any potential state aid and sales tax losses are considered.

“When you take into consideration about $800,000 on the departmental level and an additional $600,000 through various measures and means, we’re looking at possibly about $1.4 million to the good,” Landers said. “These are all pre-state cuts and pre-sales tax implications as well, and doesn’t have mortgage tax figured in – and that could be another $100,000 or so.”

Landers reported information received from department heads and County Treasurer Scott German as the basis for his forecast.

“In general, what got reported back to us … in essence, the savings on a departmental level are about $800,000 on their budgets through the course of the year and going forward, projecting out,” he said.

He said departmental revenues would decline by $1.5 to $1.6 million for the year, but expenses will be down about $2.4 million for the year – resulting in the $800,000 savings.

“A large chunk of that is the jail, which has significant savings,” he offered. “They’re looking at roughly a net savings of $370,000, primarily from not boarding out, medical savings, food savings. They budgeted boarding out males and females and, obviously, they’re not boarding anybody out.”

Beyond that, Landers said the county health department’s preschool (ages) 3-5 program will see a savings of $308,000 as schools have been closed. This program primarily consists of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and other programming.

Moreover, the county’s hiring freeze and furlough strategies are on track to produce savings of $236,000 and $160,000, respectively, he said.

Landers said that additional revenue is expected in tax foreclosure properties ($131,000), contingency costs not utilized ($35,000), forfeited bail ($25,000) and delaying of projects ($100,000), which more than offset losses in interest earnings ($100,000) and Western Regional Off-Track Betting revenue ($35,000).

“At this point in time, I’m happy to see that we’re a million-four to the good versus a million-four to the bad … but we’re really at a wait-and-see situation right now until we can really see what is going to happen with the state reimbursement on state aid, the sales tax money and (federal) stimulus four,” he said.

Landers also said that a fourth federal stimulus package to help states and local governments would make paint a much brighter picture for the county.

“If we receive a windfall of money to help offset our sales tax losses, the ripple effect is huge because that would also mean that the state is receiving something else,” he said. “And it would not need to give a pass-down, devastating state aid cut that could be from a couple million to seven or eight million dollars they could hit us with.”

County Manager Jay Gsell advised the committee that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has three state budget “measurement periods” at his disposal.

The first (the month of April) has already passed but an announcement is “imminent,” Gsell said, and the others are May 1 through June 30, and July 1 through the end of the year.

He said that negotiations are taking place at the federal level in regard to another stimulus package, expressing the opinion that the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives will not pass as presented.

“That does not look like that (HEROES Act) is going anywhere,” he said. “Our NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) people last night were telling us that looks like it is strictly a negotiating standpoint, and not a viable piece of federal legislation.”

Gsell said if a bill that is acceptable to both the House and Senate does materialize it likely won’t happen until June.

In a related financial development, the committee forwarded a resolution authorizing County Treasurer Scott German to distribute mortgage tax money to the City of Batavia, towns and villages – an amount totaling $388,967.72 – as follows:

-- City of Batavia, $103,929.86;
-- Town of Alabama, $7,911.34;
-- Town of Alexander, $15,902.45;
-- Town of Batavia, $46,467.74;
-- Town of Bergen, $14,956.42;
-- Town of Bethany, $7,929.85;
-- Town of Byron, $18,118.73;
-- Town of Darien, $31,923.49;
-- Town of Elba, $9,388.03;
-- Town of Le Roy, $33,675.72;
-- Town of Oakfield, $13,118.74;
-- Town of Pavilion, $16,232.73;
-- Town of Pembroke, $31,468.05;
-- Town of Stafford, $18,986.41;
-- Village of Alexander, $1,649.66;
-- Village of Attica, $565.80;
-- Village of Bergen, $1,998.11;
-- Village of Elba, $1,154.38;
-- Village of Le Roy, $9,670.41;
-- Village of Oakfield, $2,021.87;
-- Village of Corfu, $1,897.

The total is more than $126,000 that was distributed as the first payment of 2019 and the most for the same time period in the last eight years.

May 19, 2020 - 1:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county legislature, public service committee.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee on Monday authorized the legislature chair and county treasurer to act quickly toward securing a $69,000 aviation grant being funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens told the committee that news of the award was received earlier in the day and has to be approved and returned to the Federal Aviation Administration by June 18.

“This is a $69,000 grant that is being provided to all of the general aviation facilities across the nation,” Hens said. “It is being funded under the CARES Act and is intended to be used as stimulus for airports because obviously air traffic has dropped off of the face of the earth.”

Hens said the grant will replace funds that were set to be taken from the county’s 1 percent sales tax fund and will come in handy since he expects fuel sales revenue at the airport to decline this summer.

He said that he and County Treasurer Scott German believe that the best way to proceed is to use the $69,000 toward “the existing debt service that we pay on the terminal and main hangar when it was constructed.”

The measure will be forwarded to the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee for consideration at its meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

In other action, the PSC approved the following:

-- A resolution to sign a construction contract with Occhino Corp. of West Seneca in the amount of $496,526.70 and a consultant agreement with Lu Engineers of Rochester in the amount of $112,000 to work on the replacement of the Whitney Creek bridge on Judge Road in the Town of Alabama.

Hens said Occhino’s bid came in at nearly $180,000 less than engineers’ estimate for the construction portion of the project.

“The two contracts together ($608,000) are lower than what we figured to spend on just the construction contract,” Hens said, adding that the capital project will be funded by federal aid (80 percent) with a 15 percent state match and a 5 percent match from local sales tax. “So, we’ll end up using quite a bit less in sales tax than we thought.”

He said the county has received a “solid green light” from both the federal and state level to continue forward on this funding and expects work to start soon.

-- A resolution to renew a contract with the NOCO Company for unleaded and diesel fuel for use at the fuel farms at the highway garage on Cedar Street and at the Town of Batavia highway department on West Main Street Road.

Hens said the county will be paying uncommonly low prices this year – 64 cents per gallon for unleaded and $1.09 per gallon for diesel. That’s a drop from $2.09 and $2.35, respectively, from the prices at this time last year.

He said he anticipates spending around $600,000 to $700,000 for fuel in 2020 -- a significant savings from the $1 million the county spent in 2019.

Committee members then asked Hens to look into a bulk purchase in advance – sort of a “futures contract” – to see if he could lock in the low rates for an extended period of time.

-- Resolutions reappointing Thomas Schubmehl of Pembroke to serve another term on the Genesee County Planning Board through May 31, 2023, and Janette Veazey-Post of Oakfield and LuAnne McKenzie of Pavilion to serve another term on the Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board through June 1, 2023.

May 19, 2020 - 11:27am

Genesee County legislators, governmental leaders and law enforcement personnel are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to sinking money into the existing County Jail on West Main Street while a $60 million new jail project remains on hold.

Members of the Public Service Committee, maintenance department heads and jail officials engaged in a 30-minute Zoom videoconferencing discussion on Monday, with everyone, at debate’s end, agreeing to spend only what is necessary to keep the current jail functioning at acceptable levels.

 “If the new jail is deferred for any length of time, relative to revenue problems, we have an existing facility that we basically have been duct-taping and bailing twine together for the last couple years with the expectation that we’d have a new facility in its place,” said Tim Hens, county highway superintendent who also oversees capital projects.

Hens said that $3.5 million worth of projects at the 40-year-old jail are “in the can” for the next five years if the county is forced to slam the brakes on the 184-bed, four-pod state-mandated new jail that was moving at full speed ahead in February – just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.

He said that replacement and/or repair of the heating/cooling system, fire protection/sprinkler system and plumbing top the list of items that need to be addressed, estimating the “high priority stuff” at $1.5 million.

“And that’s just looking at the jail, the rear portion of the building. This doesn’t consider the Genesee Justice and the front end of the building, which has its own issues and problems,” he said. “There is easily three quarters of a million dollars that you can put on the front end of the building just from a cosmetic stonework standpoint.”

Operationally, things could become much more expensive should the New York State Commission of Correction (COC) require Genesee County to start housing females at the jail, said Hens, noting that he has had talks with Sheriff William Sheron about that possibility.

“The operational change to do that would be very, very costly. I don’t even know how you begin to peel that off. You’d probably have to do another study. You’d have to parcel out a floor for females versus males, there would be significant capital change to adjust how the jail operates,” he said.

At this time, the jail population consists of 32 men and one woman (who is being held at a neighboring county jail).

Sheron said that extensive renovations would have to be made to the interior of the jail and that programming and compliance changes would need to be implemented to accommodate the female population.

“What that would entail at this point?” he asked. “I estimate millions of dollars to do that.”

Legislator Andrew Young inquired if any word had come down from the COC or anywhere else about directing the county to house female prisoners.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel answered that one of the reasons for a new jail is so the county could “bring female inmates back into our own jurisdiction.”

“They’ve already taken our variance away for males and weekenders and it’s only a matter of time, I feel, before that will go away for females, and they’ll say, ‘Well, population is down and you’ll have to house them there,’ ” Zipfel said. “I have every reason to believe it will happen if things continue the way they are. I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t.”

Dialogue on putting money into the old jail continued with legislators Gary Maha and Marianne Clattenburg and Zipfel agreeing to not put good money after bad, except for maintenance that needs to be done for safety reasons and to avoid a temporary shutdown of the current jail.

Clattenburg suggested calling a special meeting of all the legislators.

“If we’re going to put money into a jail that we’re not going to use much longer, I think that Legislator Stein might want to make that a Committee of the Whole discussion,” she said.

Hens recommended continuing the design of the new jail to have it ready to receive some favorable bids when legislators get more clarity on their revenue stream.

“You’re going to have some hungry contractors out there chomping at the bit since the private construction has basically been locked down for quite a while now and probably will be for the foreseeable future,” he reasoned.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, who is spearheading the new jail plan, said the design of the project is complete.

“We’re there for a four-pod, 184-bed jail; we’re there with the design and ready to go,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of when the dust settles to see that’s going to be what we’re moving forward with. And we’ll continue to have discussions with our regional partners.”

Landers added that county officials have built a solid relationship with the state and that COC officials would understand that “we’re at a reasonable place” with the design and haven’t abandoned the project.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said this is an instance where the county can act upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plea to “reimagine government -- and especially in regard to this incredible cost of the jail project.”

“If we can’t move forward with talking about and demonstrating an opportunity for us to do a shared services model with the jail, we’re missing the boat as far as I am concerned,” she said. “We also need to fully understand what the new impact of social just reforms that went through this last budget that none of us have really talked about because we’ve all been talking about COVID and that’s where our focus has been.”

Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn then wrapped things up with a punch list of maintenance items at the current jail that could pop up in the coming months – two boilers in the basement (estimated at $20,000 per boiler to replace), an old generator (with renting one an option should it stop working), kitchen hood system ($4,500) and replacement of copper pipe in the sewer system.

May 18, 2020 - 9:01pm

The powers-that-be in Albany have made it clear to municipalities that they are in charge when it comes to reopening the state’s 10 regions.

-- Four phases, with each listing the types of businesses than can reopen – subject to rigid requirements.

-- Progression through the phases dictated by seven metrics tied to the coronavirus.

-- A fully regional approach, with communities prohibited from doing their own thing.

But when it comes to the enforcement of possible violations of quarantine orders, social distancing mandates or the wearing of face coverings, Genesee County leaders say they are being left in the dark.

Speaking during today’s Public Service Committee videoconferencing meeting, Legislator Andrew Young asked pointed questions about how to handle potentially confrontational situations as people lose patience with an economic shutdown that is into its ninth week.

“Let’s say it got down to the police force,” Young said. “Exclude code enforcement and zoning for a minute. Let’s assume that it’s someone’s home or something. That would have to be a police officer. What’s the threat like? What’s the crime? Is it an executive order and what’s the consequence? That’s a really gray area.”

County Manager Jay Gsell quickly responded, “Absolutely.”

Gsell, providing an update on the Finger Lakes Region “control room," reported that law enforcement and the county Health Department have dealt with issues, such as gatherings, that “might impose potential risk in regard to positive contact tracing and what the state will then look at in regard to the (metrics) dashboard that they have set up.”

He also mentioned that although the county has little input in the reopening process, it bears the burden of enforcement against acts of defiance.

“Whether it be the health department, zoning, code enforcement, basically, the bottom line, is really more and more likely to come to some part of law enforcement,” Gsell said, adding that Monroe County officials said that the State Police should be involved.

“… they would like the state patrol to be really part of this – really the bolstering of and the backup even to our own law enforcement -- if the kind and considerate request for people to stop doing something that seems to be violating or is violating the guidances, that state patrol would be there to help,” he said. “We don’t understand that that’s necessarily going to happen, but that’s what we’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis with the way this entire process is rolling out, starting with Phase One.”

Gsell said the extent to which Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive orders come with a “certain degree of legal enforceability” is superseded by the county’s right to know what it can and can’t do in touchy situations.

Young said the county needs to look to the Sheriff’s Office for answers.

“It’s really about our sheriff (William Sheron Jr.),” Young said, calling for a discussion with the full legislature on this issue. “Does he feel he’s comfortable with this? Is he willing to do this? Does he want to? Do we want him to is another question, right?”

Gsell explained that the state response to handling civil or criminal disobedience has been sketchy.

“The state is advising us to not engage in, I guess we’ll call it the ‘heaviest hand’ but recognize, and haven’t really dealt with the idea, that there’s going to be some people,” he said. “And we’ve already run into them in a couple cases, when they are approached and asked by either health department or even law enforcement people, and the response is not what I would call positive or compliant, and then the question is, ‘Now what are we going to do?’ and to what extent is this going to become … a potential incident.”

County Attorney Kevin Earl brought up a real incident – a recent news report that police officers in New York City wrestled a woman to the ground in front of her kids when she didn’t have her mask on properly. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s response was that he wasn’t prepared to press charges over masks at this point.

“The (NYS) Sheriffs' Association attorneys wrote a very long memo, saying basically kind of the same thing,” Earl said. “Possibly, if they didn’t disperse or something of that nature, could be disorderly conduct or failing to obey a lawful order of the sheriffs, but even the Sheriffs' Association, when they talked about this last week, is not really gung-ho on that course of action.”

Earl also said that lawyers noted that the governor has pointed to a section of the public health law that could be used, but “again, not many people are keen on that.”

He said bail reform means that people receive a ticket and don’t have to disperse.

While that could lead to escalation, Earl said that a violation of quarantine orders carries more weight.

“Basically, between (District Attorney) Larry (Friedman) and the sheriff and I, we came to the opinion that the best way to do it was to get an order from Judge (Charles) Zambito, with the order saying if they did not do this, they could be arrested and taken to that facility in Monroe County that opened up for that purpose and we, of course, got an inter-municipal agreement," he said. "So, Larry was pretty much on the side of civil action in that regard."

Earl encouraged all parties involved to seek “voluntary compliance,” adding “I don’t think we want an incident of where our sheriff’s (deputy) is taking down a lady because she didn’t have her mask or face covering.” He finished by saying he would try to provide more direction for the legislature.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg proposed further debate while expressing confidence that the public “will make an effort to do the right thing and to remember that these precautions are not about taking away your civil liberties but they’re about the health and safety of the most vulnerable among us.”

Gsell said the emphasis must be on positive messaging.

Alluding to the “control room” meeting, he said, “that the community has to keep rallying around the idea (that) we have to get past this together and not as a bunch of individuals or as (Health Director) Paul (Pettit) would call them, the ‘COVID-iots’ running around deciding that today is May 18th and all bets are off.”

May 15, 2020 - 7:01am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, Richard Seibert.

The process to replace John Hilchey on the Genesee County Legislature begins with the Republican Party committees in the two towns that he represented, according to the county’s Republican Party election commissioner.

“The procedure would be that the Republican committees in the two towns – Alabama and Oakfield – would have to have a meeting to interview candidates to replace John,” Richard Siebert said Thursday. “Upon having that meeting, when they selected a candidate, they would then recommend that candidate to the County Legislature, which makes that appointment.”

On Thursday, Hilchey, the District No. 1 legislator, resigned, citing conflicts with his employment. He joined the legislature after winning the election in November 2017.

Siebert said the person who emerges from the committee meetings – “hopefully the best qualified person they can find,” he noted -- would serve for the rest of the year.

“And that person would still have an opportunity to get on the ballot for the November election, which they call an ‘opportunity to ballot’ and any party can do it, not just the Republicans,” he explained.

Others could run for the post as well, Siebert said, meaning there could be a contest in six months.

He also said the winner this November would serve in 2021 and then, provided he or she wishes to continue, be on the ballot again in November 2021, when that seat goes for a four-year term.

Potential candidates for the seat must reside in Alabama or Oakfield to be eligible.

Letters of intent will be accepted until May 22 and should be sent to Alabama Chairman Earl LaGrou at 7420 Macomber Road, Oakfield, NY 14125, or Oakfield Chairman Daniel Manges at 7475 Fisher Road, Oakfield, NY 14125.

For questions, contact LaGrou at (716) 912-8195 or Manges at (585) 813-3516.

Siebert said he was shocked to hear of Hilchey’s resignation.

“I can’t remember a legislator just stepping down,” he said. “I do know that John was very devoted and was a great asset to those two towns and will be deeply missed.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein accepted the resignation with regret, stating that “we are losing a community leader who has served the people of Alabama and Oakfield honorably and well.”

May 13, 2020 - 7:04pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature.

By a narrow margin earlier tonight, the Genesee County Legislature voted in favor of a resolution that removes authorization from the county treasurer to make revenue distribution payments to towns and villages until further notice, thus rescinding agreements forged in 2018 and 2019.

Five legislators – Chair Rochelle Stein, Marianne Clattenburg, Andrew Young, John Deleo and John Hilchey – voted “yes” and four legislators – Gregg Torrey, Gary Maha, Christian Yunker and Gordon Dibble – voted “no.”

Legislature Clerk Pam LaGrou announced that the measure passed with a weighted vote total of 172, eight more than the 164 needed for approval.

Earlier, an attempt to table the resolution also failed, with the weighted vote number to table at 154. The four legislators who voted “no” to the resolution were the ones who voted “yes” to hold off.

Just prior to the final vote, Stein made a brief statement in an attempt to quell town and village officials’ fears.

“I would just like to offer that I have been having a conversation every week with our leaders and there is every intent to ensure that they are not left behind, and we are all in this together,” she said. “There is the opportunity for all of us to work through this together and make sure we successfully come through. There is intent to continue to provide support for towns and villages as we have demonstrated before and that will continue.”

After the vote, Vickie Almquist, a Village of Bergen trustee who was signed into the Zoom videoconference meeting said, “Thanks for nothing.”

The resolution to rescind the authority to make the quarterly payments has caused quite a stir throughout the county (see an earlier story from today below, headlined, Legislature chair asks towns, villages to 'stick with us and hold tight' as county deals with loss of revenue).

Clattenburg said that the resolution was necessary because the county realizes it is unable to make the payments (which include sales tax receipts) “at the level of 2018, so this takes away the treasurer’s ability to make those payments at that level.”

Her statement prompted another question from Almquist: “For ever and ever?”

Dibble, who represents the towns of Pembroke and Darien, then proceeded to make a motion to table the resolution, explaining that “such actions could be delayed without the loss of options currently available to us.”

“I’m confident that the towns and villages fully understand the negative potential this situation has created and that a significant loss of revenue is certain,” he said. “I ask that we table this resolution before us to take advantage of the additional weeks such tabling would afford us.”

Yunker seconded the motion, and that was followed by Almquist asking, “So, you’re going to do this forever then, huh?”

Then a man, identified as Elba Village Mayor Norm Itjen (see comments below), asked why he wasn’t allowed to speak, mentioning that he raised his hand at the beginning of the meeting and “was passed over.”

“This will show in a vote,” he said, and was followed by Almquist's comment, “Really, you’re never going to give us any money ever again.”

“I hope you guys get voted out next time,” Itjen said, before the duo were muted out of the meeting.

The three other legislators who voted against the resolution spoke prior to casting their ballots, reasoning that they could use the time before another round of payments was due (in July) to receive more information and provide more clarity.

Maha said he was going to vote against the resolution “because after listening to our representatives from the towns and villages, I understand their frustration and share some of their concerns with the language that’s in this resolution.”

“We have plenty of time – two months – to rescind this resolution. I think we can get together and craft some language so it isn’t so strong. At the end, it says we’re going to discontinue these payments until further notice. I think we can change some of the language that would satisfy our towns and villages and show our support for them, and allow us to continue making distribution payments to them without any specifics … as to how much.”

Torrey said he worked closely with the three towns that he represents (Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion) and the Village of Alexander when the current agreement was crafted.

“I’m not comfortable leaving them in a vacuum during this very difficult time,” he said. “I think we have time to get more clarity and draft a replacement agreement that will better serve the county and our partner towns and villages.”

Yunker, who represents the towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen, said that rescinding the treasurer’s authority to make the payments leaves the villages with “no clarity and zero commitment, and without a replacement (document).

“All we need to do is act like they are our partners and come up with a resolution, committing something to them,” he said. “I believe we have time – a distribution doesn’t need to be made for several months -- and we can work with our partners … to see what comes out of the federal stimulus, and see what comes out of the state budget and use the time. There’s no rush, so I’m going to vote ‘no.’”

In other action, legislators:

-- Passed a resolution calling on the Congressional delegation to provide counties with direct federal aid to support counties’ COVID-19 response and reopening economic activity efforts, further stating that counties outside of New York City can expect to lose between $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion in local revenue and state aid.

-- Passed a resolution accepting a grant of $74,261 from the New York State Board of Elections’ NYS HAVA CARES Act program to implement measures necessary for responsible, safe, and fair elections during the COVID-19 pandemic, for a contract term beginning March 28, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.

May 13, 2020 - 2:38pm

Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein is taking exception to what she says is misinformation about a proposed resolution to rescind revenue distribution payments to towns and villages during the coronavirus crisis.

Reacting today to news that the Genesee Association of Municipalities and the Town of Bergen supervisor are objecting to the measure, Stein said that the resolution to cancel agreements from 2018 and 2019 that authorize the county treasurer to make quarterly revenue payments to the towns and villages is a temporary move that has yet to cause “harm to anybody.”

“The legislature has considered at Ways & Means (committee meeting) that we are going to rescind the authorization for those two agreements so that there is no authority for the treasurer to write those checks,” she said. “That has to happen because there is no further action necessary for the treasurer to just write those checks.”

She said that is the key to the “whole conversation that I think the towns and villages like to just overlook. And the last three words in the resolution to rescind say, until further notice.”

“At no point has the county said there will not be any further revenue distributions. That’s a comment that comes from the towns and villages,” she said. “There are two sides to this story and it’s very unfortunate that our comments and our weekly call and awareness that we’ve been providing (have been misconstrued) because we want our partners to take action like the county has taken action.”

The Batavian has obtained copies of a resolution passed by GAM representatives at a special Zoom meeting on Monday night as well as a letter written on Town of Bergen letterhead from Supervisor Ernest Haywood.

GAM Seeks Alternative Solution

The GAM resolution – passed by a 20-1 vote with the Town of Oakfield voting “no” – reads, in part, that elimination of the funding would cause extreme financial hardships for Towns and Villages, which already have adopted budgets, made expenditures and have borrowing obligations based upon the revenue from Genesee County.

It went on to request the county to continue the revenue sharing, “and if the amount of sales tax is reduced then the amount to be paid to towns and villages … be reduced by the same amount (percentage) as the county sales tax revenues were reduced by.”

GAM President Thomas Dix, a Pembroke Town councilman, contacted today said the members understood the county’s unenviable position … “but they we’re hoping to find an alternative solution that might allow for some more revenue to be shared with the towns and villages – and the City as well, since the City has a unique position.”

Dix offered that the all governmental leaders in the county take their jobs very seriously and are considering the situation “very, very carefully from all angles.”

“They are capable of thinking outside the box and they are capable of disagreeing and compromising on any issue, always in the best interest of the people they serve,” he said. “And I take my job very seriously as president of GAM by making sure that every municipal leader has a clear line of communication with every other municipal leader. Because I believe that it's when communication breaks down that we start to see the worst problems come to the surface.”

Haywood’s letter expands upon GAM’s resolution, stating that “immediate action needed: call or email today as action to eliminate funding is set for Wednesday p.m.”

Indeed, the full legislature has a Zoom videoconference meeting scheduled for 5:30 today and the resolution in question is No. 8 on the agenda.

Bergen Supervisor: Call Your Legislator

Haywood’s letter exhorts people to call or email Legislator Christian Yunker, who represents the towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen, or Stein to “tell them to continue to share, even at a reduced rate, the sales tax revenue with the towns and villages.”

Continuing, the letter states:

“The legislature is set to take action on a proposal that will eliminate the sharing of revenue all together. We understand the county is getting less but the county should keep all they are getting and should continue to share the lesser amounts with towns and villages.

“Tell them to be sure we (County and Towns and villages) are ‘all in this together’ by the county not keeping all sales tax revenue but continuing to share at the reduced rates they receive it. Without the revenue, the town will be in critical financial shape and will ultimately next year have to raise taxes by over 20 percent to accommodate for the loss of revenue.”

A phone call to Haywood for further comment on his letter was not returned by the time this article was posted.

Stein emphasized that the county has continually kept “our partners” abreast of developments coming from Albany.

Stein: Directive Issued on March 28

“On March 28th, I told the chief elected officers of the communities here that the schedule that we had set forward for the revenue distribution – and it’s not the sales tax anymore and we have to be very clear about that – would not be met this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the New York State On PAUSE,” she explained. “The county would not be able to write checks that we could not cash.”

Stein said she repeatedly has communicated that “we are all in this together and together we are going to find a way to be successful regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State On-Pause, or the state government budget gap of $13 billion and growing.”

“And it is important to remember that this is not our fault,” she said. “But what is important for us is to have a plan moving forward. We have four points of measurement. The first one is a possible federal COVID 4 stimulus directly to the towns, villages and counties. For us, that would be a game-changer.”

She said the county is waiting to hear from Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding changes to the state budget, expecting between a 20 to 50 percent decrease in state aid for mandated services. Cuomo has specified four measuring periods for adjustments – the first being the month of April and the second being May 1 through June 30.

“As we gain knowledge on each one of those events for measuring where the revenue to the county is and the impact, I’ve asked the towns and villages to stick with us and hold tight,” said Stein, noting that the county has instituted hiring freezes and furloughs along with holds on capital projects. “We’ll have greater clarity and understanding as we move through these time periods.”

First-quarter Payments Have Been Made

Currently, all first-quarter payments to towns and villages have been made on time and per the amounts set by the previous agreements, Stein said.

“Right now, to date, there is no harm to anybody. Together, we can work our way out of this, but we also know that this is not a one-year situation,” said Stein, who also is heavily involved in the reopening of the economy as the Genesee County appointee to the Finger Lakes Region control room. “Our NYSAC (New York State Association Counties) group is indicating this will impact our budget through 2024."

Dix and Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post both said they recognize the county’s plight and trust that the communication lines remain open.

“My own personal opinion as a citizen, I understand that it’s in the best interest of Genesee County residents, although towns and villages do not like the idea because it’s going to hurt their budgets directly,” Dix said. “Once you understand the backside of it and … how the money is being shared and how the state impacts that decision, it is actually probably the best way to protect the interests of the residents of Genesee County.”

Post called the county resolution “a prudent measure” that eventually will work itself out.

“I don’t feel it will be a permanent thing,” Post said. “But GAM wants some reassurance that this doesn’t end the sales tax agreements. I don’t think it will but nobody knows for sure what is going to happen, especially with state mandates. The legislature has indicated there will be candor and transparency.”

May 6, 2020 - 8:13pm

Genesee County legislators are making it clear to their constituents that there is “no joy in Mudville” after having to strike out previously approved revenue distribution payments to towns and villages due to the financial devastation caused by COVID-19.

The Ways & Means Committee today, via Zoom videoconferencing, supported a new resolution that immediately rescinds measures passed in 2018 and 2019 that authorized the county treasurer to make annual payments – in quarterly amounts – to the towns and villages.

It will now be forwarded to the full legislature for voting, likely at its May 13th meeting.

“The members of the legislature do not take this move lightly,” Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg said. “These circumstances are really something that nobody could have foreseen. Hopefully, they’ll be limited in scope and we’ll get through this and we won’t have a go-around again, but we don’t even know if that’s the case right now.”

Clattenburg emphasized that legislators will stay in contact with town and village officials, adding that “when we are able to get back to them with some more revenue sharing, we will certainly have those conversations.”

The resolution refers to the sacrifices the county has had to make through this crisis, including: the elimination of multiple capital projects and asset acquisitions; instituting a hiring freeze; furloughing many (currently 48) employees; and cutting contracts and agreements with outside agencies.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said they have no choice but to stop the payments until further notice in light of the uncertainty surrounding any aid from the federal or state government.

“Our responsibility is to stay abreast of the situation of where the revenue is coming from,” she said. “The county treasurer has been authorized to make these payments without any further action from the county legislature, and that is the purpose for rescinding these – to remove that authority from the treasurer. We understand that the COVID impact could be with us until 2024 and I think that we’re being generous with that timeframe right now.”

County Manager Jay Gsell cited a report released today by the New York State Association of Counties that, he says, points to “very severe and drastic prospects in the loss of sales tax and state aid.”

The report, Gsell said, predicts that Genesee County could lose from $4.2 million to $9.9 million in sales tax and from $3.3 million to $8.4 million in state aid depending upon the gravity of the economic condition at the state level.

“This is truly not a good 'new normal' but it is something we’re going to have to deal with,” Gsell said. “One of the small glimmers may or may not be federal stimulus 4.0. The U.S. Congress and the President effectuating what we know at the moment does include resources for state, counties, cities, towns and villages -- and that our state senators are solidly behind -- (would help to alleviate the local situation).”

Legislators John Hilchey and John Deleo agreed with the latest action.

“In light of the pandemic now, we can’t fulfill our obligations to those two resolutions of 2018 and 2019 and this gives us a chance to reset with us rescinding until further notice,” Hilchey said. “It’s something we have to do to get out from the obligations of those prior resolutions.”

Deleo said dealing with the potential cuts along with state mandates is discouraging.

“The thing is, we’ve always been very thrifty and frugal, and this is definitely unforeseen and this is going to hurt,” he said. “Now to have this thrusted upon us. With all the mandates that New York State kept throwing on us and now they’re going to cut even more, this is going to be one hell of a ride.”

Clattenburg said that municipalities have entered an “age of austerity … that needs to be across every level of government.”

“I think it needs to be in school districts, our towns and villages and in city budget. The recognition (must be realized) that for a lot of people life has changed dramatically. People are losing jobs and they might not get back those same jobs.”

For Stein, it’s a matter of the legislature living up to its obligations in the most effective fashion.

“We are sharing everything we that we know and being honest and transparent,” she said. “Our responsibility in the county is to provide public health and public safety and emergency operations here, and we are taking care of those responsibilities on behalf of the entire population and communities of Genesee County.”

April 22, 2020 - 7:13pm

The Genesee County Legislature this afternoon approved an agreement between the Genesee & Orleans County and Monroe County health departments to provide temporary living quarters at the Clarion Pointe Hotel in Rochester for COVID-19-infected people needing isolation and quarantine.

The stipulated rates are $140 per room per night in April and $144.74 per night in May.

“Basically, these people need alternate housing because their present abode won’t allow them to safely isolate or quarantine” under Department of Health order, County Manager Jay Gsell said.

He added that he expects this provision to be utilized infrequently, if at all, but that “contingency plans have to be put in place during the pandemic.”

Health Director Paul Pettit said the agreement, which runs through the end of the year, is most cost effective for his department, which will coordinate transportation of infected persons to the hotel when necessary.

Expenses for this program are expected to be offset with COVID-19 funding from the Centers for Disease Control.

Pettit said individuals using this service are "compliant" with mandated safety controls but just need a suitable location for their quarantine/isolation. He said they will be turned over to Monroe County officials for their care during the quarantine/isolation period. He said the hotel rates include meals.

The agreement has been reviewed and approved by Genesee and Orleans county attorneys, but has yet to be ratified by Monroe County lawyers.

Genesee County Attorney Kevin Earl said final approval of the resolution would be subject to his review and acceptance of any revisions made by Monroe County attorneys.

In another development, the legislature, after much back-and-forth at previous committee meetings, voted to table a resolution calling for construction of a $109,000 storage building at the Genesee County Airport.

John Hilchey made the motion to table the project and Gary Maha seconded it to set up a unanimous vote that put it on hold temporarily.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens had reported that the new structure would be used to store jet fuel trucks -- with the goal of keeping the fuel lines from freezing in the winter – and other equipment, such as a mower and grader.

He said that Thompson Builds of Churchville came in with a bid of $109,000 – about $30,000 less than the next lowest bid. Funding will come from the county’s 1 percent sales tax.

Legislator concerns centered upon the amount of spending on capital projects during an uncertain financial period triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In other action, legislators approved the following resolutions:

-- Implementation of a memorandum of agreement with the county Civil Service employees’ union that allows the county manager to carry out furloughs – or temporary leave of absences – over the next 30 to 90 days to cut payroll costs.

Gsell said about 45 employees are being furloughed, but their jobs will remain intact and they will keep their health care benefits, while accessing the extra $600 in unemployment stimulus funds as well as normal unemployment insurance.

-- Establishment of a county COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Policy to cover its employees for reasons related to the coronavirus on the heels of state and federal laws passed last month.

-- Acceptance of $27,883 in funding from the state Department of Health for COVID-19-related operational costs. Previously, the county received $67,490 in state funding for similar measures.

-- Renewal of contracts with Seneca Pavement Markings of Horseheads (Chemung County) for an amount not to exceed $165,000 for pavement markings and with H2H Facility Service Inc. of Rochester for office cleaning services at the Justice for Children Advocacy Center’s sites in Batavia, Albion and Warsaw at a monthly rate of $505.82.

-- Funding of a highway fire alarm system for $97,161 and an alarm control panel at 5130 Main St. for $15,000 – to be paid by the 1 percent sales tax.

On a separate note, Gsell reported that Genesee County received a significant order of non-medical cloth face masks (around 20,000) from New York State, provided by FEMA for public distribution.

Agencies or organizations engaging in activities where public interaction is involved and that need masks for staff/volunteers or the public are asked to contact the Genesee County Emergency Operations Center at 815-7178 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

April 15, 2020 - 5:57pm

Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit reported a bit of welcome good news related to local COVID-19 trends at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee videoconferencing meeting.

“If you look at the (tracking system) mapping around you can see that although our cases climbed collectively, our active cases are actually trending downward,” Pettit said. “That is a great sign as you’ve probably seen that in the numbers that we’ve had, where last week we were pushing eight to 10 to 11 (active cases) a day and this week it’s 1, 2, 3.”

Pettit said he is “very proud” of the department’s tracking system. (See daily update story below.)

“I’ve compared it to some of our neighboring counties and around the state, and we’re able to provide great data for folks in both our counties. We have the confirmed case layer and the active case layer,” he said.

The director was in attendance to advance a resolution showing that the NYS Department of Health has awarded the Genesee County Health Department funding in the amount of $27,883 for COVID-19 investigations, data management, overtime, quarantine support and supplies.

The resolution was passed unanimously by Ways & Means and will go to the full legislature for a final vote.

This money comes on the heels of $67,490 in state funding that was received a couple weeks ago.

While grateful for state assistance, Pettit said his department has been unable to acquire the amount of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that it needs.

“We’re still terribly short, unfortunately. We’re working with emergency management closely; there is a little bit of flow coming through there (with) some reports of levels of PPE coming in for this Friday.”

He said it is a percentage of what the department has been ordering but “it still pales in comparison to what we have asked for and what we really need.”

County Manager Jay Gsell concurred, adding that finding PPE is a statewide problem.

“Our county EMO (Emergency Management Office) people have been constantly, constantly making inquiries, and asking and asking repeatedly,” Gsell said. “The state controls all this. Where is it? When is it coming here? They’ll just tell us that they’ve got tons of hand sanitizer. That’s about what it is.”

Gsell said that the county has been working with United Memorial Medical Center and other sources to get testing kits, but is getting no answers from the state Office of Emergency Management when it comes to PPE.

Pettit said the health department is fully staffed at this point (the legislature authorized additional employees through the crisis), and acknowledged a “lot of overtime, especially on the weekends with our nursing level and epidemiologists.”

He credited other Genesee County departments for assisting his agency, including county employees who are helping to drive health officials to the daily mandatory checks on those in quarantine and isolation.

“There are some tired eyes and a lot of yawning, and we’ve been going through a lot of coffee here at the health department, but beyond that we’re holding together,” Pettit said. “It’s a group effort and people are doing a great job in tracing down these contacts and containing them, which is the ultimate goal.”

In a related development, Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she signed an extension to Genesee County’s State of Emergency declaration to be in effect until May 12, as per Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order.

April 13, 2020 - 7:57pm

While a number of capital projects have been chopped or pushed off to another day by Genesee County leaders, resulting in the deferral of more than $1 million in expenses, a plan to erect a new building to store fuel trucks and other equipment at the County Airport remains intact.

By a 3-1 vote this afternoon, the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee approved a resolution to forward a $109,000 project to its Ways & Means Committee for consideration before going before the full board.

After debating the project for about 30 minutes, John Hilchey, Christian Yunker and Marianne Clattenburg voted “yes” while Gordon Dibble voted “no.”

In reporting to the committee, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said the new pole barn structure will replace an old farm building that has a dirt floor “and doesn’t have a big enough door for us to fit any of our modern equipment in.”

“The highway department force would be tearing the building down and we have put together a bid package for a new pole barn to be constructed on its site,” Hens said. “Basically, just the frame and the skin of the building (would be contracted out). County Highway would pour the concrete floor and we’d do the wiring for the building.”

Hens said Thompson Builds of Churchville came in with a bid of $109,000 – about $30,000 less than the next lowest bid. Funding will come from the county’s 1 percent sales tax.

“It’s a super-competitive price,” Hens said, adding that he understands the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on sales tax revenues but has set this project as a priority.

“This is one of those buildings that I’d still like to move forward. It does provide us a place to store our fuel equipment inside, which is really the driving factor for me,” he said.

The county has been storing the fuel trucks in old blue “T-hangars” that are located close to the runway and not capable of storing airplanes.

Hens said the problem with these hangars lies with the fact that they are unable to keep the cold wind from freezing the trucks’ fuel lines.

“We did have an outside area where we stored these pieces of equipment and put some plugs in … some block heaters for that equipment, but the block heater will only heat the engine end of the truck and it doesn’t deal with the fuel delivery end of the truck,” he said.

The highway superintendent also said heavy winds put the Jet A fuel truck out of commission for several days each winter, costing up to $5,000 in fuel sales profits – with a big impact on fuel sales to Mercy Flight.

Furthermore, the blue hangars are scheduled to be torn down this summer as part of a project fully funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“That project needs to move ahead. We just opened bids on it on Friday, and the FAA wants the project to move forward this summer,” he said.

Hens also noted that the new building would be able to store the large equipment used for mowing at the airport and the grader that currently is housed at the Highway Department on Cedar Street and driven through the City to the airport when needed.

Legislator Gary Maha, sitting in on the meeting, said he thought county crews could find a way to rig the heating blocks to keep the lines from freezing,

“I don’t think this is essential at this time,” he said. “I’d like to put this on pause for a year … and reevaluate it later.”

Dibble said he wasn’t against the project but disagreed with the timing.

“I would like to see us somehow make it through this winter to give us another year to see where we’re going on this whole thing,” he said. “It’s the same process we’re applying to a lot of projects across the county. I would like to see us drive the grader one more year and do what we can do to keep the fuel lines from freezing up.”

Yunker mentioned that Hens saved the county more than $700,000 in delaying projects and “made some very good arguments that it is going to be a problem with delivering fuel.”

“Between all the other dollars he’s cut out, we’ve got a very competitive bid and he’s going to do a lot of work on his own,” Yunker said. “It’s one of the more necessary projects that he had in mind, so I’m am going to support the project.”

County Manager Jay Gsell reported that for 2020 and 2021, Hens has put off $1.4 million in capital projects in response to the coronavirus’ impact upon county revenues.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she supports the project for various reasons.

“The potential that we would lose the sale of jet fuel along with a greater use of our workforce’s time and be able to shelter our equipment is extremely important because it extends its life,” she said. “And I would hate to lose the opportunity of grabbing this bid because it so competitive. I know it’s $109,000 … but the return on this is going to be sooner rather than later.”

Clattenburg agreed, noting that the blue hangars will be coming down soon.

“We’re not going to have those hangars to store them in because they have to be torn down, and we’re going to get 100 percent funding to do that,” she said. “I’m going to support this knowing that it’s a competitive bid, our workforce will have time to do this and contribute a lot of work toward this construction.”

Beyond the financial aspect, Hens said he does not want to tarnish the airport’s fine standing with aviators.

“The impact on our reputation of the ability to sell fuel in the winter months would probably be more of an issue for me than the actual dollar value loss,” he said. “We do get some big jets that rely on us (and) we do have a good runway to land on in the winter time. I would just hate to hurt our reputation we have build up in the last 20 years.”

In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions, which will now head to the Ways & Means Committee:

-- A contract renewal with Seneca Pavement Markings of Horseheads (Chemung County) for an amount not to exceed $165,000 for pavement markings – both center line and edge line. This is a 5 percent increase over the previous pact, the first increase since 2018, Hens said.

Hens said the estimated cost for this service is $300 per mile for center line markings and $170 per mile for edge line markings, which constitute the majority of road markings. He said markings last anywhere from six months to two years depending upon traffic volume.

The contract does not cover the cost of markings for roads in towns, but 11 of the 13 towns in Genesee County (except Darien and Pembroke) use the county’s bid prices, Hens said.

-- Renewal of a contract with H2H Facility Service Inc. of Rochester for office cleaning services at the Justice for Children Advocacy Center’s sties in Batavia, Albion and Warsaw. The two-year contract calls for a monthly rate of $505.82.

The cost of these services is covered by grants from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services and the NYS Office of Victim Services and are included in the 2020 Justice for Children Advocacy Center Budget.

-- Permission to apply for a State Homeland Security Program grant for $109,000 which is divided between the Sheriff’s Department (25 percent) and Emergency Management office to work together toward terrorism prevention, and Homeland Security and cybersecurity initiatives.

The county has received this type of funding for the past eight to 10 years, Gsell said.

-- The rejection of all bids for a five-year lease purchase of a new hydraulic excavator that came in at $375,000.

“I think we can probably milk another two to three years out of this piece of equipment,” Hens said. “Having the extra $75,000 (the 2020 expense), that will remain in the surplus in the road machinery fund and hopefully allow us, when we start doing 2020-21 budgeting, to not have to rely on so much revenue coming from either general fund or county road fund sources.”

-- Establishment of two capital projects – a highway 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.

This resolution, however, stipulates that six other capital projects will be put on hold, preserving $442,636 of sales tax revenue.

A similar resolution halted two more projects – an all-season pavilion and a park & forest boardwalk – returning another $180,000 to the 1 percent sales tax coffers.

April 9, 2020 - 11:57am

Press release:

April 9

Dear Fellow Resident,

Each day is changed from our normal routines. Most of us feel frustrated, a bit scared and a loss of control. However, we can control our reaction to COVID-19. Every Genesee County resident can take action to provide defense to the spread of COVID-19.

We are the first line of defense to Stop The Spread.

Please adhere to these Civic Responsibility Guidelines:

  • If you are sick – Stay Home. Call your primary doctor and follow their advice. Do not show up at the hospital unannounced. Healthcare staff is already working hard on those who are sick. Don’t add needless stress to our healthcare system. Think of others first.
  • Follow guidance from authorities – if you are told to stay 6 feet apart – Stay Apart.
  • If you need essentials – Shop Solo! Don’t take your family on a shopping trip. You put others at risk, especially those working to ensure you have your essential items. Think of them first.
  • Use mail-order for prescriptions. Drug stores are offering many options to enable you to receive medications. Call and ask so you can Stay Safer At Home.
  • Consider a grocery delivery service. They can deliver to your door. Be sure to wipe down items before bringing into your home. Recipe for solution: 1 gallon of water to 5-6 tablespoons of Clorox/bleach.
  • Face Covering is recommended when you go out in public. Stay 6 Feet Apart even with your face covered. Online tutorials on face coverings are available.
  • All gatherings including holiday celebrations, such as Easter and Passover are cancelled by Executive order of NYS Governor. Stay Apart so we can be together again.
  • Children crave routine, stay in sync with daily bedtimes, meals schedules, dressing for the day and routines. It leads to calm for young children.
  • Stay in touch virtually- with family and friends. Take 5 minutes each day to talk with a family member or friend to check in with their needs. Offer to assist if you are able. Do not engage in group activity.

The Care & Crisis Hotline is available if you need to talk to someone – call (585) 283-5200 or Text 741741. We are here to listen.  

Remember that we all want to be in control and these actions will give sense of control against COVID-19.

I ask you, along with my fellow elected community leaders, do this for others who must work in these difficult times. Those who provide you with food, medicine, healthcare; they want to go home, too.

Let’s all do our part now and for the next few weeks to stay apart so we can all be together again.

Together we are Genesee Strong,

Rochelle M. Stein, Chair, Genesee County Legislature

Town and Village of LeRoy

On behalf of the Genesee County Legislature

  • Marianne Clattenburg, Vice Chair, City of Batavia, Wards 2 & 3
  • Andrew Young, 2nd Vice Chair, Towns of Batavia & Stafford
  • John Hilchey, Towns of Alabama & Oakfield
  • Christian Yunker, Towns of Elba, Bergen, Byron
April 8, 2020 - 6:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county legislature.

Faced with another proposal in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2020-21 executive budget that shifts more costs to municipalities, the Genesee County Legislature today unanimously passed a resolution calling on state senators and assembly members to overturn a plan to shift the total expense of mental health competency restoration services to counties.

Cuomo’s spending plan makes counties responsible for 100 percent of the Office of Mental Health State Operations costs for certain individuals receiving mental health treatment at State-operated Forensic Psychiatric Centers – up from the current 50-percent model.

Genesee County officials believe an increase of this magnitude would adversely affect the quantity and quality of local behavioral health programs to help those with mental illness and development disabilities.

“I think this would definitely have a significant financial impact,” said Lynda Battaglia, director of Genesee County Mental Health Services. “Counties, overall, may not have anybody that needs restoration for a year or two, and then the following year they might have four or five. It’s a little bit challenging to budget for something that can be extremely unpredictable.”

The county paid $64,000 in 2018 and $78,000 in 2019 for restoration services to the OMH and an additional $23,000 in 2018 and $75,000 in 2019 to the Office for People with Development Disabilities. These figures represent half of the total cost of these services.

This year’s budgeted amount for OMH is $60,000.

Battaglia said expenses are incurred for individuals who have been arrested for a crime and have been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

“Therefore, they need to be restored to competency so they have an understanding of the court proceedings and the charges being brought against them so they can aid in their defense if needed,” she said. “If they are found to be needing restoration, they go to a state forensic unit for the service -- for the restoration. And the length of time for restoration is really just dependent upon every individual.”

People with developmental disabilities who have found themselves in the criminal justice system also need restoration and counties are responsible for them as well, she added.

The resolution continues to state that counties are not privy to any information about the treatment for which they are paying, unlike other payors “for medical services (that) are clearly entitled both under HIPAA and MHL (Mental Hygiene Law) to receive information about the services for which payment is sought” and that depending on the “medical or surgical treatment required (the cost) could be hundreds of thousands of dollars and have devastating impacts on county budgets.”

County Manager Jay Gsell said this is another example of the governor placing more weight on the counties’ shoulders.

“NYSAC (NYS Association of Counties) told us that this looks like it’s going to stick in the new budget so you need to come up with some kind of strategy as to how you’re going to react to it,” Gsell said. “We’re finding out with the state budget that they did these things at the very last minute. How do you keep up with this stuff? Now, we know that the budget we adopted four or five months ago is no longer the same.”

In another development, Gsell spoke about the "trial run" on Monday of the county Emergency Management alert that went out to mobile devices.

"It's a work in progress," he said, acknowledging that certain devices did not receive the alerts. "We're using it to reinforce 'safer at home' and 'no social gathering' messages. It's not refined yet, but hopefully will be in a few days or week."

In other action, legislators -- during their video conferencing meeting on Zoom and YouTube:

-- Read proclamations noting “County Government Month” and “Public Safety Telecommunicators’ Week (April 12-18).

The first one recognizes Genesee County for its commitment to keeping systems moving during what Gsell called a “trying but encouraging time” and the other thanks 9-1-1 center dispatchers for exemplary service to citizens, police officers and firefighters, especially as they have been “tested during this current pandemic.”

-- Appropriated $3,107 to the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education Alliance for the 2020 calendar year.

-- Voted to fund, through the Genesee County STOP-DWI program, a $3,778 purchase of MARijuana Driving Experience (MARED) campaign kits and accessories for the City of Batavia Police Department.

April 1, 2020 - 9:06pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county legislature, Ways & Means Committee.

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc at all levels of government, producing a degree of uncertainty that has municipal leaders frozen in their tracks.

If that’s not enough, tack on a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to shift funding of hospitals and nursing homes to the counties – a potential move that, according to Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, would devastate the county budget.

“If the state gets to go down this road, we could be in a world of hurt that we haven’t seen from the days when we owned the (Genesee County) nursing home and were financing deficits,” Gsell said during this afternoon’s County Legislature Ways & Means Committee meeting, which was live-streamed by Zoom on YouTube.

Calling it a “switcheroo that the governor has pulled,” Gsell reported to the committee that mandating county funding of “distressed hospitals and nursing homes” could be a way New York State generates more revenue – by taking more of counties’ sales tax – without having to increase the burden on counties already obligated to fund Medicaid.

“I’m not really sure where this came from,” said Gsell, adding that Genesee County is on board with the New York State Association of Counties’ plea to state lawmakers to reject proposals that would undo local Medicaid caps and result in higher property taxes for struggling homeowners or cuts to vital local services.

Gsell said it is essential that state legislators accept the $6.7 billion in new federal healthcare funding included in the first stimulus package – action intended to help states and local governments through this public health crisis.

He said the governor's proposal is a “backdoor way” of putting New York counties in a $250 million hole while attempting to plug a state budget gap that could reach $15 billion due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“To involve us in two fiscal entities and, obviously, vital services that we have no control over, no veto or anything else – and we haven’t seen any of the details – is both scary as well as quite off the beaten path,” Gsell said.

The county manager acknowledged that things will be much clearer after the 2020-21 state budget is passed (it could happen at midnight tonight), but he and the county legislature still are taking an ultra-conservative approach when it comes to spending.

He said the county’s current budget calls for approximately $864,000 in outside agency funding, (not including Genesee Community College) for tourism promotion, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Genesee County Economic Development Center, public libraries, Holland Land Office Museum, GO ART! and Finger Lakes Regional Planning.

County Treasurer Scott German reported that the sales tax reserve stands at $1.1 million, and that money from the infrastructure reserve that was earmarked for the new county jail now has been put on hold.

Gsell confirmed that the county will revisit the jail project in the spring of 2021, noting that – due to the effect that the state’s bail reform law has had on jail population -- the plan to build a four-pod jail could be reduced to three pods. He also said they will be looking at the possibility of a shared-services arrangement with Orleans County.

The Ways & Means Committee also put the brakes on, at least temporarily, a $125,000 project to construct a building to house fuel trucks, mowing and facilities equipment and a grader at the Genesee County Airport.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said that the new building – which would replace a 70-year-old pole barn that is in “rough shape” – is necessary because wind and cold weather were causing the trucks’ fuel lines to freeze.

The project had been previously approved by the Public Service Committee and went out to bid, Hens said, adding that Thompson Builds came in as the low bidder at $109,000. That price was to build the frame and shell; county employees will be used to put down the concrete floor and do the electrical work.

Hens said he hoped the project would continue, but in light of the county’s fiscal situation, offered a second option: storing the fuel vehicles in a bay or two of new hangars that are set to be built this summer with money from a state grant.

In an effort to rein in expenses, Hens said he already has cut $600,000 from the 2020 budget by pulling back on capital projects and has deferred another $800,000 in projects scheduled for 2021.

Legislator Gary Maha said he thinks the building is needed, “but I don’t think it’s the right time to spend that kind of money.”

“We don’t know where we’re going to be when this whole thing is said and done,” he said. “We put a stop on the jail. The jail is needed, but we put a stop on that. And I think we need to put a stop on all capital projects until we know where we are budget-wise.”

Legislators Andrew Young and Rochelle Stein agreed, prompting Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg to request more information about construction costs and referring the project back to the Public Service Committee.

December 12, 2019 - 8:37am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county legislature.

The Genesee County Legislature adopted a local law Thursday that set the salaries for seven officer positions for 2020.

Following a public hearing that drew no comments, legislators voted in favor of Local Law No. 3, 2019, establishing salaries for the following jobs, which are filled by election or appointment for a fixed term:

-- Commissioner of Elections (Lori Longhany and Richard Siebert), $49,037;

-- Highway Superintendent (Tim Hens), $113,421;

-- Director of Real Property Tax Services (Kevin Andrews), $65,410;

-- Director of Human Resources (Anita Cleveland), $78,676;

-- Sheriff (William Sheron), $106,518;

-- Treasurer (Scott German), $99,393;

-- Commissioner of Social Services (David Rumsey), $87,999.

The local law takes effect on Jan. 1.

December 11, 2019 - 10:42pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county legislature.

bausch_and_zipfel.jpg

Genesee County Legislature Chairman Robert Bausch, right, shares a laugh with Genesee County Jail Superintendent Bill Zipfel at this afternoon's reception in Bausch's honor at the Old Courthouse. Bausch is stepping down after 10 years as a legislator, including the past two as the board chair.\

The District 2 (Bergen, Byron, Elba) representative also has chaired the Ways & Means Committee for the past six years. He said that getting the new county jail project financing in place is one of the legislature's major accomplishments.

bausch_cake_cutting.jpg

Bausch cuts the cake made in his honor as county employees, legislators and friends look on. He thanked the 18 men and women that have served on the legislature and his family for their support during his time in office.

He also said that the selling of the former county nursing home was "a personal plus and minus because in my case, my father was very instrumental in building the nursing home, but issues had to be addressed."

bausch_cow_award.jpg

Vicky Muckle, left, executive assistant to County Manager Jay Gsell, and Pam LaGrou, Genesee County Legislature clerk, present Bausch with the Top COW Award. COW stands for Committee of the Whole and Bausch was recognized for calling 24 of those special meetings during his tenure as chairman -- 12 in 2018 and 12 this year.

Bausch also received a framed print of County Building I and the Old Courthouse from Don Read, former county clerk. Today's legislature meeting was his last, which means that he and his wife, Jan, will have more time to visit his five children and nine grandchildren (with another on the way) in Buffalo, Mendon, the Silicon Valley (California) and Philadelphia.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

December 2, 2019 - 4:05pm

Public Notice

Notice is hereby given that there has been introduced before the Legislature of the County of Genesee, New York, Local Law Introductory No. 3, Year 2019, a Local Law in Relation to the Salaries of Genesee County Officers Elected or Appointed for a Fixed Term.

The Genesee County Legislature will conduct a Public Hearing on proposed local law Introductory at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia, at 5:30 p.m. on the 11th day of December.

All interested persons will be heard.

Pamela LaGrou, Clerk, Genesee County Legislature

September 12, 2019 - 5:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in RPEA, Milestones, genesee county legislature.

Submitted photo and information from the Retired Public Employees Association:

Gordon Dibble of the Genesee County Legislature commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA) this week.

Dibble presented a 50th Anniversary Proclamation to Genesee Valley Chapter Chair Jan Beutner (photo, middle) and Chapter Member Susette Langston (at right).

RPEA is celebrating 50 years as the only organization in New York State whose sole purpose is to advocate on behalf of state and local government retirees and their beneficiaries.

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