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genesee county legislature

September 15, 2020 - 11:50am

The federal government is letting counties such as Genesee down by failing to “bridge” a gap in funding necessary to prevent a collapse of its infrastructure, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said on Monday.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Hens said most of the county’s large bridges are in desperate need of repair – a situation that seems to have fallen upon deaf ears in Washington.

“We have roughly 100 federal aid bridges and they all have design lives on them of 50 to 75 years,” Hens said, noting that the majority of these spans were built in the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s. “All at the same time, we’re getting slammed with 40 to 50 bridges that need to be replaced and we’re only getting funded for one or two every other year. There’s no way we’re going to keep up.”

Hens said federal money used to come in to do two bridges a year, and then it decreased to one per year. It’s even less frequent now.

“It’s extremely frustrating … we have pushed very, very hard (for funding) all the way up to the president,” he said, adding that he’s uncertain of the status of a bill currently in the Senate.

Genesee County, as is the case with other municipalities across the state, is in the midst of a serious financial crunch due to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut things down in mid-March. The economy has started to recover, but sales tax revenue for the year is down and New York State has cut aid by 20 percent across the board.

Delays in federal funding for roads and bridges forced the county to have to pay “the full shot” (instead of the usual 5 percent) to replace a bridge on Stroh Road in Alexander, a cost of $1.8 million that was taken from the $7.5 million allocated for infrastructure after the sale of the county nursing home.

Hens said the county’s bridges are “getting worse,” advising that 48 of the 92 larger bridges (over 20 feet) are listed as deficient per state standards.

“Statewide, we are probably on the lower end of bridge conditions … and we’re definitely near the bottom of the list of counties in terms of the condition of our bridges,” he said.

Genesee County is responsible for all bridges in the county, an “an extra burden on us that most counties don’t have,” Hens said.

As he presented his departmental review, Hens said the large bridges showed nine “red flags” in 2020 – up from just two in 2019 – with two of those problems permanently corrected with the rehabilitation of bridges on Colby Road in Darien and McLernon Road in Bethany.

The county has 278 bridges of less than 20 feet, and 19 of the worst 30 have been replaced since 2016, including one this year.

Overall, keeping the roads up to snuff and performing preventative maintenance have become more challenging due to budget restraints and lack of funding, Hens said.

Along those lines, he said it is likely (pending negotiations with the employees’ union) that the county will switch to one-person snowplowing – instead of the usual two in the truck – to save money.

“The bottom line is that it seems like we keep kicking the can down the road relative to preventative maintenance and as anybody knows if you put off maintenance on your home, you’ll have bigger problems to deal with – and that’s where we’re headed with highways and bridges,” Hens said. “The continued budget cuts – we’re really out of options at this point. It’s kind of like which finger do you want to cut off your hand?”

He said that further cuts for highway will lead to dropping critical services such as driveway installations and ditching.

“There’s just nothing left to get rid of. Even if I was thinking about trying to privatize some of my department, you still have the maintenance and capital expense – there’s nothing left to cut, bottom line,” he said.

Hens’ 10-year capital plan shows expenditures for infrastructure and related expenses totaling $125 million.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg brought up the nursing home money and asked what the county’s share was when federal aid for infrastructure came into play.

Hens said that the county’s share is normally 5 percent, prompting Clattenburg to respond that 5 percent of $125 million was about $6 million – less than the $7.5 million in nursing home money.

“Where’s the crisis here?” she asked. To which Hens replied, “The crisis is the fact that we don’t always get federal aid. I usually program two federal aid bridges a year and we don’t always get that.”

Clattenburg then blamed federal lawmakers for putting the county in such a bind.

“We need to stop fighting each other and start thinking about real problems that people are having in Congress. We’re ready to go – we’ve been frugal. We put the money away so we can do this work, and now everything is stalled,” she said.

Legislator Andrew Young agreed, wondering, “Why they’re not talking about an infrastructure bill at the federal level? I don’t get it.”

Despite the financial woes, Hens said he is submitting a county road fund budget of $5,799,749 for 2021, within about $18,000 of the 2020 budget. The county’s general fund contributes more than $5.3 million of that amount.

He said the budget could increase by up to $50,000 if the Town of Bethany enters into a plowing and mowing agreement with the county for next year.

September 11, 2020 - 12:05pm

The executive committee of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council is setting its sights on hiring recently retired Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell as the organization’s interim executive director.

Although contractual details have yet to be finalized, all signs point toward Gsell, who retired last month after 27 years as the county’s chief administrative officer, stepping into the G/FLRPC position until a permanent replacement is found for current Executive Director David Zorn.

Zorn has announced that he will be retiring after about 29 years of service at the end of this month.

“We have yet to have him sign on the dotted line, but we are very excited for the opportunity for him to work with us and for us, and to shape our future,” said Rochelle Stein, G/FLRPC treasurer, this morning. “He brings a lot of energy and a lot of positivity … we’re just absolutely thrilled.”

Stein said the agency is looking for Gsell to work for three to six months with the focus on reviewing its policies, procedures and practices, and making recommendations to “put ourselves into that 21st, 22nd century (functionality).”

“This is an opportunity to take a look at the regional planning council, at our function, at our form – to make sure all of our counties and cities are getting what they want for their participation and membership,” she said.

Stein, the Genesee County Legislature chair, pointed to Gsell’s track record of success and mentioned that the G/FLRPC is fortunate to bring someone with his experience and contacts on board.

“With that in mind we elected to put in an interim director instead of immediately seeking a replacement,” she said. “It was fortuitous for us in that Jay’s retirement fell when it did. Jay has a great depth of knowledge as to the value of the planning council and the membership and the region.”

She said that they are giving him a “list of ideas and topics that we want him to work on to assure ourselves as we’re going forward that we are meeting the needs of our partners and constituents, and, of course, our planners and economic development people and our transportation people.”

“We’re just looking for him to really be the face for now of a change for us, and (the) updating and modernizing of how we work and what we work at. Not in a negative way, but in a positive, stepping forward way.”

Gsell said he appreciates being considered for the job, noting that he will be meeting with the executive committee in the near future to hopefully make it official.

“I guess you could look at it as sort of a ‘refresh’ of an organization,” he said. “Dave has been there a long time and kudos to him for his service. So, in the transition this is an opportunity for a regional organization to take a look at itself and that is what I will be helping to do.”

Other members of the executive committee are Chair Timothy Cutler, Yates County, chair; Vice Chair Tracy DiFlorio, Monroe County; and Secretary Zorn, who works out of the G/FLRPC office in Rochester.

Stein said that Genesee County contributes just under $10,000 annually to belong to the council, a fee that hasn’t changed in 10 years, which goes toward regional project administration and personnel expenses. She added that since Gsell is in the New York State retirement system, he is limited to $30,000 annually if he takes another public employment position.

“Quite frankly, we are getting a bargain with Jay’s experience and background,” she offered.

The G/FLRPC is represented by government and civic leaders from nine counties and the City of Rochester.

Its mission, according to its website, is to identify, define, and inform its member counties of issues and opportunities critical to the physical, economic, and social health of the region. It provides forums for discussion, debate, and consensus building, and develops and implements a focused action plan with clearly defined outcomes, which include programs, personnel, and funding.

Stein said regional projects center around planning, transportation, economic development and, when applicable, the census.

“On the planning side, if there are projects that need to be reviewed or planned for -- like the Walkable Communities Grant that Bergen and the City of Batavia received, where would you put a textured, drop-down apron for your pedestrian crossing so that you could accommodate people with disabilities? That was one of the grant-funded opportunities that came through the G/FLPC,” she said.

The council provides training for local planning and zoning board members and code officers in the county, she said.

September 3, 2020 - 8:54pm

The Genesee County Legislature is proposing an $8 million revenue distribution to its towns and villages in 2021.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein on Wednesday said that is the revised offer for revenue sharing, noting that it represents about a 44-percent decrease in what the county originally had planned to distribute, before COVID-19 disrupted its financial outlook.

“At our last conference call with municipal leaders, I think it was on Aug. 22, we gave them a number – eight million dollars to be shared for the 2021 budget, so they have a number,” Stein said. “So, if that is something that would be easier for them to comprehend and to see, our county manager is ready to put that out in an email form to folks so they can have something they can budget to for 2021.”

County Manager Matt Landers said the legislature had envisioned allocating $14,294,065 but had to revise its thinking due to the negative effects of the coronavirus on the economy.

“We will be providing a specific figure – based on the $8 million proposal -- for each town and village to budget off of shortly,” he added.

Stein repeated the refrain she has used since the county, in May, decided to rescind the county treasurer’s authority to make voluntary quarterly revenue distributions to the towns and villages – effectively ending agreements with the municipalities passed in 2018 and 2019.

Despite that action, the county made distributions of $1.1 million and $2 million to the municipalities in the second quarter of 2020, following a (pre-COVID-19) $3 million distribution in the first quarter.

“We are all in this together,” she said. “We’re all working through this in the same way but it’s still ‘mud’ until we get out of it.”

She said payments are determined by the taxable assessed value of each community.

“(It’s) a process that has been used in the past – so that seems like a fair and equitable way to distribute it,” she said. “We all need something from which to budget to, and realize how difficult it is without any foundation to build a budget from – so absolutely.”

Stein said that the picture could brighten (or become dimmer) as revenue comes in this fall, but was quick to point out that the closure of Six Flags Darien Lake throughout the summer is a major blow.

Landers said he is hopeful the county could do more to help keep town and village property tax rates as low as possible.

“This is a conservative estimate of what the county will be able to provide in funding for 2021 to the towns and villages,” he said. “As the county’s budget season progresses, we will re-evaluate that amount.”

He provided a snapshot of distributions since 2018, explaining that the county budget is comprised of a variety of different revenues, from state and federal reimbursements, property taxes, sales tax, fees for service, interest income, etc.

“When the county determines what it can share in revenue, it is looking at the overall financial picture,” he said.

  • Distribution in 2018 -- Genesee County shared sales tax with towns and villages amounting to $14,335,643.41.
  • Distribution in 2019 -- Genesee County shared sales tax with towns and villages amounting to $14,368,445.17.
  • Distribution in 2020 -- Genesee County has not distributed any sales tax to towns and villages because it only shares sales tax with the City of Batavia for the next 40 years. Genesee County has distributed $6,179,543.09 in other revenue to towns and villages for the first two quarters – a 7.6-percent decrease from what was originally planned.

News that the county has provided a tentative distribution amount will make the jobs of town supervisors and village mayors a bit easier as they devise their budgets for 2021.

“We have been calling upon the county to put a number in writing, and if it is $8 million, then that’s a step in the right direction,” said Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz. “Without something to go by, it’s not possible to put a budget together.”

Farnholz, who took office in January after two years on the town board, said the Town of Le Roy budgeted $1.2 million in revenue sharing from Genesee County in revenue in 2020.

A 44-percent decrease would put that figure at $672,000 for 2021.

“If I know that we would have to mitigate $300,000 or $400,000 or so, it puts us in a much better position, considering that we have $1.6 million in reserves, he said. “But it needs to be in writing -- what number is the county willing to share? -- so that we can budget.”

The retired Le Roy Central School teacher said most of his counterparts at the town and village levels agree that a working dollar amount is necessary.

“Our position is that we’re even willing to take a little bit more of a hit (due to the county being stuck with so many state-mandated costs),” he said. “Back in May when this started, we had a discussion – one of the plans put forward at a GAM (Genesee Association of Municipalities) meeting was whatever percentage in revenue the county is down, the towns should be down the same percentage.”

He said he had a conversation with Stein prior to learning that the $8 million was a solid number.

“I told Shelly, this is business. When we conduct business – when I go buy a car or Stein Farms goes and buys a tractor, we have an agreement that has dollar figures attached to it. I don’t think Bob Johnson (Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac in Le Roy) is going to give me a Chevy if I promise to pay him just on good faith,” he said.

September 2, 2020 - 7:33pm

Every bit of funding helps when it comes to testing positive cases of COVID-19 and those who may have come in contact with those individuals, especially considering the cost of testing.

At today’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee, lawmakers accepted a $6,785 grant from the New York State Association of County Health Officials for test kits and lab-testing expenses.

Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit said his agency does limited testing “when we have positive cases and follow up testing with direct contacts of those cases.”

The health department conducts nasopharyngeal swab testing, a deep nasal process that uses the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing protocol.

With each test costing around $100, this funding can go a long way, Pettit said.

“The mini-grant we were just awarded will be used to provide kits and funding for our cases and contacts," he said. "Prices for testing vary considerably depending on the type of test and lab running the sample."

Pettit said that turnaround time can be an issue, too, as the common NP-PCR test currently averages four to 10 days for the result to come back, depending upon the location of the lab.

He said that lag could change as point-of-care tests are “just starting to come on line and will hopefully be available across the state soon. These tests provide results within 10 to 15 minutes and are significantly cheaper than PCR testing.”

The health department doesn’t offer general community testing, but acts as an advocate with other agencies to increase state-sponsored testing in Genesee and Orleans counties.

“This has been and remains a significant issue that needs to be addressed for all rural counties,” Pettit said.

In a related development, the health department contracted with ACM Global Laboratory of Rochester to analyze COVID samples and to bill insurance companies for lab testing performed on behalf of Genesee County. The pact runs through March 17.

In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions:

  • Adoption of a $170,218 budget for the 2021 Genesee County STOP-DWI plan – an increase of about $5,000 from the 2020 budget but $73,000 less than requested by law enforcement and other agencies that benefit from the program.

All STOP-DWI activities are funded completely from fine collections and have no impact upon the county’s general fund.

County Manager Matt Landers said there has been a significant decline in drunk/drugged driving arrests in 2020, primarily due to the coronavirus. He is projecting 145 such arrests for 2020, compared to more than 200 in a typical year.

“There are less people on the road … less festivals and carnivals where people would be (drinking) and driving,” he offered.

Departments that receive STOP-DWI funds include Genesee County Sheriff, City of Batavia Police and Le Roy Police (with half of the funding going to those three agencies), as well as District Attorney, Genesee Justice, Probation, City/County Youth Bureau and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Money also is allocated for administration costs.

  • Creation of a mental health clinical therapist position to replace a mental health clinic social worker position, a move that would expand the candidate pool, according to Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia.

The title change, effective Sept. 10, will allow the department to hire therapists who hold degrees in areas other than social work, Battaglia said, and will have no financial impact as both civil service jobs are at the same grade level.

  • Amendment of the Office for the Aging budget to accept $117,708 in funding from several sources to support the COVID-19 public health emergency by enabling the agency to purchase home-delivered meals, groceries and other supplies for homebound seniors.

Funding sources include the Federal Stimulus Packages Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Cares Act Nutritional Services, Supportive Services, Caregiver Support and New York Connects.

  • Acceptance of a $32,360 grant from the state Health Department’s Bureau of Community Environmental Health and Food Protection to support the county’s efforts to make sure businesses aren’t selling tobacco products to persons under the age of 21.

The renewal of funding for the county’s tobacco enforcement contract runs from April 1 of this year through March 31.

Pettit reported that tobacco use among youth has decreased, but vaping usage has increased.

August 26, 2020 - 8:17pm

proc_8_26_20_a.jpg

The Genesee County Legislature today sent a timely and vital message of “hope and healing” as it issued a proclamation in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (Sept. 6-12), World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) and National Recovery Month (September).

Legislator Gary Maha, reading from the decree that also shined a light on mental health awareness, said that “in these challenging times, messages of hope and healing are needed more than ever” as representatives of the County Mental Health Department, Genesee Justice and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse looked on at the Old County Courthouse.

“Where millions of people around the world join their voices to share messages of hope and healing … these observances are united to raising awareness that prevention is possible, treatment is effective and people do recover … in these challenging times messages of hope and healing are more needed than ever,” Maha read.

The proclamation went on to state that county residents have “access to high-quality prevention support, rehabilitation and treatment services that lead to recovery and a healthy lifestyle … and that every day in Genesee County, people begin treatment at behavioral health services and community supports to begin the road to wellness and recovery.”

Maha read that that the “benefits of preventing and overcoming mental health challenges, suicide attempts and loss, and substance abuse are significant and valuable to individuals, families and our community at large … (and) it is essential that we educate residents about suicide, mental health and substance abuse and the ways they affect all the people in the community.”

Lynda Battaglia, director of mental health and community services at the Genesee County Mental Health Department, said it was “wonderful” that the legislature was acknowledging these issues and spoke of the “incredible collaboration” across agencies – calling it “a shared mission” to provide help and hope.

She said that every day, on average, 132 people die by suicide.

“Every number is a person … a loved one,” she said.

Battaglia encouraged those contemplating suicide or having serious mental health or substance use issues to reach out because they “are not alone.”

“There are people who want to help you and care for you,” she said. “We are your lifeline.”

Photo, from left, Shannon Ford, GCASA services director of Communications, Development and Prevention; Sue Gagne, Genesee County Suicide Prevention Coalition coordinator and GCASA recovery center coordinator; Maha; Catherine Uhly, director of Genesee Justice; Legislator Gordon Dibble; Battaglia. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 26, 2020 - 6:22pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, HVAC, gyms, fitness centers.

As permitted by the governor’s office, many gyms and fitness centers in Genesee County reopened on Monday, but there remains a great deal of confusion as to what the owners of these facilities need to do to keep their doors open.

That’s the word from County Manager Matt Landers, who addressed the legislature this afternoon at its monthly meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

Landers said the county health department reached out to about 25 businesses and “less than half of them understood the process going forward.”

“And that’s only a snapshot of what’s out there,” he added.

According to state guidelines, these varied facilities (gyms and fitness centers, yoga and Pilates studies, boxing centers, boot camps, and dance and martial arts studios, etc.) are subject to a county health inspection within two weeks of their opening to ensure proper protocols are in place and adhere to State guidelines to protect customers and staff.

“A lot of these facilities are opening and didn’t have follow-up guidelines or make appointments with the health department,” Landers said. “It seems that they were excited and opened without reading the second part of the information that came out.”

Landers said the county health department is currently performing these inspections, but city, town and village code enforcement officers may be called upon to assist.

“You don’t have to be a nurse … to certify that the HVAC system and safety plan is in place,” he said

He also mentioned the possibility of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce setting up a Zoom information session for owners of these types of businesses.

Reopening requirements include:

  • Developing a business safety plan;
  • Having a heating, ventilation and air condition inspection by an approved professional;
  • Completing an affirmation that the state guidelines are understood and will be implemented.

Once the business safety plan and air handling inspection are complete and an attestation form is submitted, Genesee and Orleans Counties will begin the process of scheduling inspections. These steps must be completed prior to scheduling an inspection. For Genesee County call (585) 344-2580, ext. 5555, and for Orleans County call (585) 589-3278.

In other developments, legislators:

-- Accepted $258,726 in funding from the state Department of Health to be used by the Genesee County Public Health Department for COVID-19 contact tracing, overtime and supplies, with expenses over that amount to be partially offset by state aid.

-- Re-appointed Kathryn Ribbeck and Janet Olivieri to the GLOW Workforce Development Board through 2022. Ribbeck is the human resources manager at O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative, Inc., Batavia, and Olivieri is human resources manager at Lapp Insulators LLC, Le Roy.

-- Approved a contract with Empire Access to provide an independent internet circuit for the Board of Elections’ two locations at County Building II on West Main Street Road. The contract will run for 36 months at a cost of $285 per month.

-- Created a full-time position of epidemiologist or community health nurse, effective Aug. 31, 2020, with the salary and fringe benefits allocated for in the 2020 health department budget. The position is fully covered by COVID-19 funding until June 30, 2022.

-- Accepted a $250 donation from Linda Keister in memory of Batavian Kathy Owen to go toward an environmental program for Genesee County youth at Genesee County Park and Forest Interpretive Nature Center in Bethany.

August 20, 2020 - 8:50am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, Chris Jacobs.
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Genesee County government leaders made the most of their 30 minutes with Rep. Chris Jacobs on Wednesday afternoon, informing the recently elected congressman of the major challenges they face in maintaining bridges, acquiring rural broadband and boosting the water supply.

Jacobs appeared at the County Legislature’s Committee of the Whole meeting at the Old County Courthouse, a session set up specifically bring him up to speed on pressing issues in Genesee County – one of eight counties comprising the 27th District that he represents.

It includes all of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara and Ontario counties. Jacobs won a special election on June 23 to fill the vacant seat, and was sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on July 21.

County Manager Matt Landers, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein provided plenty of food for thought – letting Jacobs know about:

  • “An unacceptable level of bridges that are headed in red flag status and in need of significant repair.”
  • A lack of high-speed internet on some rural roads that “leaves us behind”;
  • The “heavy lift” that is the estimated $75 million Phase 3 of the county’s plan to ensure an adequate water supply well into the future.

BRIDGES

Genesee County is unique, Landers said, in that it is one of a few New York counties that has the “sole responsibility” of maintaining all bridges in the county.

“That has been a burden on Genesee County for a long time,” he said. Throw in the fact that Genesee has regularly shared revenue with its municipalities, and the result are budgets that are “very tight and lean for years. As such, our infrastructure is suffering.”

Landers said that insufficient revenue sources have led to “an unacceptable level of bridges that are headed in red flag status and in need of significant repair.”

Hens said the county maintains 95 bridges of spans of at least 20 feet, with 60 percent of those on county roads and 48 percent of them being structurally deficient or obsolete. The county also is charged with the condition of several smaller bridges.

“Genesee County has been beating the drum for roads and bridges for probably 10 years now,” Hens offered, adding that the average age of the 95 bigger bridges is 65 years – the end of their lifespan. He said he foresees a “tsunami of bridges” coming at the county, all needing to be replaced at the same time.

Projecting to 2029, Hens said $29 million will have to be allocated in order to maintain those bridges, “assuming that we do get continual delivery of federal aid from our regional partners at DOT and FHWA (Federal Highway Administration).”

Federal emphasis in recent years on interstate highways and the impact of COVID-19 on local finances are additional roadblocks in this area, he noted.

“But it’s one that we continue to press forward, so whatever help you can provide us,” Hens said to Jacobs, adding that he has prepared spreadsheets to illustrate the county’s plight.

Jacobs replied by stating that a federal infrastructure bill is “long overdue” and added that rural broadband is a “critical” piece of that legislation.

Stein said the county is “not in the position where property taxes all have to go toward” bridges and infrastructure, but residents pay their property taxes with the expectation that infrastructure and public safety needs will be met.

Hens touted a philosophy of “streamlining project delivery” – doing more for less by being creative and using available materials and manpower.

To illustrate this, he shared that the county invested $70,000 into the restoration of a small bridge in the Town of Bethany, which ran through a large dairy farm. With the bridge closed, the farmer was incurring up to $1,000 a day to haul silage and hay around detours.

Hens said the county couldn’t wait for federal aid to come, so it turned the federal aid back and addressed the situation in house.

“We essentially will have the project done in seven weeks at a cost less than our 5 percent local share of just the design phase of the project,” he said. “If the county went with the federal plan from start to finish, it would have been a $1.6 million project. (Now) we’re going to have a new bridge in place that will last for 20 to 30 years for about $70,000.”

The congressman's response to that statement indicated he wasn’t sure if he heard Hens correctly.

“Seventy thousand?” Jacobs said. “Seventy thousand versus $1.6 million? (With COVID-19), we’re going to have issues with the debt and deficit. It’s not just that we have to cut doing things or not; we can do things more efficiently. If you take what you just did and extrapolated that throughout the country, can you imagine how much money that would be?”

Hens said that federal funding process comes with “strings attached” and usually is structured in a generic way – not looking at the actual project – and takes about 18 months from the design work through construction.

BROADBAND

While not a lot of time was spent talking about broadband capabilities, the message was clear.

Stein said lawmakers are aware of a huge project under way in the county to increase high-speed internet on rural roads, but there are still roads that are without broadband technology.

“That’s a problem for our schoolchildren, especially in COVID with the hybrid model of in school and out of school,” she observed. “That leaves us behind and we have to have an even playing field.”

WATER

“Public water has been the key to this community since the early 1990s, and we have progressed a spine-type background into our communities and we are at a junction right now where we’ve got to make the next big jumps,” Stein reported, adding that despite great strides some residents are without public water due to the high cost of infrastructure.

She said the USDA is “an incredible partner” but other funding sources must be found as the county’s water project moves into the next phases.

Landers outlined Genesee’s countywide water system that has the county acting as the overseer, with vital connections to the Monroe County Water Authority and the City of Batavia. He said the structure eliminates the need for small aquifers and wells in towns and villages.

“It’s a model that we’re proud of,” he said. “There are things we never would have envisioned, such as how cows love drinking public water,” he said, drawing some laughs. Because farmers and small towns have jumped on board, the “demand has increased more than we could have ever imagined.”

He said management is mapping out demands for the next 10 years or so, trying to stay a step ahead, and have forged contracts with all the municipalities and agreements with Great Lakes and Erie County Water Authority.

Calling it a complex arrangement that includes water user surcharges to help pay down the debt service, Hens said the county is embarking upon Phase 2 with a $30 million price tag, which will be followed by Phase 3 at an estimated cost of $75 to $83 million.

“Phase 3 which would generate enough water to replace the City of Batavia water plant, but also bring in about 17 million gallons of water from Monroe County and Erie County,” he said. “It’s a very heavy lift for us so any outside help we can get from our partners at the federal level, whether its USDA or Congress, would be greatly appreciated.”

Hens made note of the rising food processing industry in the county – an offshoot of agriculture.

“They’re tremendous users of water. So, for us, water is gold, and the more water we can get here for our residents to support jobs and industry, the better off we are,” he said.

AGRICULTURE AND STIMULUS

On other subjects, Jacobs said he was “thrilled” to be appointed to the agricultural committee by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and reiterated his claim that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding on to $3 billion in federal stimulus funds.

Acknowledging that he has a lot to learn about the farming industry, Jacobs said he has met with local farm bureau leaders and wants to form an agriculture advisory roundtable to meet with him on a regular basis.

He said the roundtable will help him “to have a pulse of what’s going on in our district and also help me to have the right message when I’m at important stages like the budget process.”

Jacobs said he believes another stimulus bill will happen in September, and has signed onto legislation supporting local governments in the next stimulus bill. He then took another shot at Cuomo, urging the governor to release $3 billion from the first CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

“We need to push him to do his administerial job to get the money to the local communities,” he said.

August 20, 2020 - 8:29am

Genesee County is preparing statements totaling nearly $100,000 for assessment services provided to towns and the City of Batavia in 2019.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution authorizing Kevin Andrews, director of real property tax services, to bill the municipalities for assessment rolls, tax rolls, tax bills, supplies, and assessment updates that were provided by the county in the previous fiscal year.

These “charge-backs” amount to $87,477 in services rendered and another $10,950 in licensing fees charged by New York State for specialized software “that assessors use to keep track of their assessment inventory and that we use to then produce assessment rolls, tax bills and tax rolls,” Andrews said.

Bills will be mailed to the towns and city in January, with the expense applied to their 2021 budgets, Andrews added.

The charge-backs and fees range from $3,336.83 for 1,107 parcels in the Town of Bethany to $17,715.23 for 5,531 parcels in the City of Batavia. The total number of parcels assessed was 29,159.

In another development, the committee authorized the appointment of Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer as the administration officer and to act as the Genesee County STOP DWI coordinator for the Genesee County STOP DWI Advisory Board.

The committee approved the following referrals from Monday’s Public Service Committee meeting:

  • A consultant agreement with CPL Team of Rochester in an amount not to exceed $80,000 to develop Well C of the City of Batavia’s well fields on Cedar Street to increase the water supply during times of high creek water turbidity or during times of low groundwater that negatively impact Well A or Well B.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said Well C could produce up to a million gallons of water per day – “almost as productive as Well A and B.” He said the emergency water situation in July prompted a meeting with city officials to expedite action to make Well C a viable option.

Hens estimated the total cost for construction, including cleaning, screening and re-casing the well, at $200,000 to $300,000.

  • A change-order contract for $8,682.50 with Suburban Electric in Albion to install Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol communication controls and fuel pressure sensors for backup generators at pump stations in Churchville and Mumford.

The pump stations are being constructed at those locations as part of Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program.

Hens said the change order was necessary so that the Monroe County Water Authority can monitor the generators remotely during emergencies.  The change order increases the total cost of the contract to $767,682.50.

  • The appointment of Candace Hensel of Byron to the Genesee County Planning Board for a three-year term effective through May 31, 2023. Hensel owns the Byron Hotel and Trailhouse.
August 19, 2020 - 6:39pm

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Armed with a petition of 1,100 signatures, Pavilion Town Supervisor Robert LaPoint (in photo) told the Genesee County Legislature this afternoon that the community he serves is galvanized to do something about what he says is a dangerous traffic situation in the vicinity of Pavilion Central School on Route 63.

“With the help of the school district, we put forth a petition just to see if there was interest in the community to try to address this issue and, in under a week, we had 1,100 signatures on that petition in support of it – which is just under half of the population of the Town of Pavilion,” he said. “There is definitely energy in the town to try to do something about this.”

LaPoint informed lawmakers of the situation during a Committee of the Whole meeting attended by Congressman Chris Jacobs at the Old County Courthouse Legislative Chambers. The meeting was set up to appraise the congressman with the county’s infrastructure needs, specifically bridges, water and high-speed internet access.

In Pavilion, LaPoint said the excessive amount of tractor-trailer traffic coming through the hamlet has created a hazardous condition, putting students, staff and parents at risk.

He said the amount of traffic on Route 63 coming from the north or the south past the school dictates how quickly school buses and cars exiting the school parking lots can pull onto the state highway.

“The elementary school is just off 63 on York Road and the high school and middle school are on Route 63,” LaPoint said. “The bus loops and the student parking lots exit directly onto Route 63. This is in a 35-mile-per-hour zone, but that seems like it’s an optional speed limit to many of the trucks that come through town.”

As a result, he said, the traffic flow “coming in and out of the school at various times of the day is a real challenge.”

LaPoint said he has spoken with state Department of Transportation officials, although “not in formal terms,” and understands that the DOT will have final say in any changes, such as traffic control devices or additional signage.

Noting that he would rely on road engineers for advice, he underscored that “everyone agrees it is a problem and a dangerous situation waiting to happen with our students, our faculty and our parents.”

When asked by The Batavian reporter what the petition stated, LaPoint said it “says we need to address the dangerous traffic conditions around the schools, and it goes into specifics about some of the challenges.”

“The elementary school doesn’t exit directly on to Route 63, but they’re 100 feet away. Over 50 percent of the cars exit the elementary school and attempt to turn, and it’s only a stop sign. The stop sign that terminates York Road, the cross street of Route 63 and then (there is) the bus loop; it’s like a continuation of York Road.”

LaPoint said he observes buses and cars backed up so far that they block all the parking lots.

“Everyone is stuck there waiting because without a timed traffic light, it’s just up to the traffic (on Route 63) to decide when you can go out,” he said. “And (it’s) because we have so many heavy tractor-trailers going down that road. To me, school buses and tractor-trailers don’t mix.”

Legislator Gary Maha asked LaPoint if the stretch near the school was zoned as a school district.

“It is not,” LaPoint answered. “It’s just a 35 (mph) right on through the hamlet. What they (DOT) told me was that without walkers and without a crossing guard … there was no way to get a school speed zone. We don’t have walkers or traffic safety crossing guard because it would be absurd to attempt to have students walking on that road. It would just be far too dangerous for us.”

Maha mentioned serving on the Route 63 Corridor committee led by Bruce Tehan about 30 years ago, and a study that looked at creating a bypass for trucks coming off or going to Interstate 390 and not using the Thruway.

“We found it would cost $1 million a mile (for a bypass),” Maha said.

LaPoint said the best option would be to have a flashing light put in at the intersection of Route 63 and York Road, one that could be activated during drop off times in the morning and at dismissal.

“We have an SRO (school resource officer) there, but I don’t know technically speaking how these things could be operated -- if an SRO could operate it,” he said. “I know he’s jumped out to direct traffic at various times because the flow situation can get so bad. It messes up the school, too. If their buses take an extra 10 minutes … then they’re not back in time.”

He brought up that transportation could become a bigger headache with the school entering into an in-school and remote learning schedule.

LaPoint also said he would like to see reduced speed all the way up to Route 246 about a quarter-mile to the southeast of the school, pointing out the difficulty at times of making turns from Route 246 (Perry Road) onto Route 63.

“What we have on 246 is a north-south road crossing at an angle, essentially double the size of road you’re trying to get across, when you try to clear that intersection,” he explained. “Not to mention that you need to square up to the road to see because there’s a blind hill there.

“When traffic is coming down above the speed limit, you can’t get across … and I’ve driven tractors and wagons across that intersection, and you do a sign of the cross and open it wide open and go. By the time you get across the road, you might be relying on somebody hitting the brakes that you couldn’t see before you left.”

On another front, LaPoint reported that the Town of Pavilion is “on the cusp” of building a new water tank to provide water service to the eastern and most of the northern part of the town, and that the town is hoping to add more water districts in the coming years.

While acknowledging that the Town of Pavilion would welcome any financial support for infrastructure, he was quick to thank the legislature for planning to make another revenue distribution to the county’s towns and villages.

Previous: Legislature set to distribute another round of payments to towns and villages.

“It really puts the proof in the pudding that when we started this whole thing (COVID-19), everybody was getting nervous,” he said. “The legislature is not trying to seize money. It is trying to be prudent at both the legislative county level and with all of our area municipalities. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 19, 2020 - 1:08pm

The Genesee County Legislature is preparing to make another round of voluntary payments – the third such distribution this year – to towns and villages.

Later this afternoon, the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee is expected to put its stamp of approval on a resolution to appropriate $2 million to 19 municipalities in the county.

These voluntary distributions became a lightning rod for debate among town and village administrators in late March after the county decided to suspend payments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect upon its revenue stream.

The legislature did authorize voluntary distribution payments to towns and villages on April 24 ($3.025 million) and on July 22 ($1.1 million).

County Manager Matt Landers said that the April distribution was money “originally planned, pre-COVID” while the July payment was made and the proposed current distribution will be made after “month-by-month reviews, recommendations and decisions going forward.”

The latest proposed payments (subject to a vote by the full legislature on Aug. 26) are as follows:

  • Town of Alabama -- $79,106;
  • Town of Alexander -- $81,708;
  • Town of Batavia -- $341,998;
  • Town of Bergen -- $98,996;
  • Town of Bethany -- $82,082;
  • Town of Byron -- $94,960;
  • Town of Darien -- $197,872;
  • Town of Elba -- $73,874;
  • Town of Le Roy -- $165,332;
  • Town of Oakfield -- $61,130;
  • Town of Pavilion -- $109,162;
  • Town of Pembroke -- $200,050;
  • Town of Stafford -- $126,390;
  • Village of Alexander -- $14,732;
  • Village of Bergen -- $37,864;
  • Village of Corfu -- $26,846;
  • Village of Elba -- $21,500;
  • Village of Le Roy -- $145,194;
  • Village of Oakfield -- $41,204;
  • Total Distribution -- $2,000,000.
August 17, 2020 - 9:08pm

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The Genesee County Office of Emergency Management Services distributed more than 100,000 masks and nearly 22,000 2-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer through June 30 in its efforts to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

In a departmental review presented to the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee today, EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger (pictured above) reported that his office assisted about 250 agencies, “which then touched about another 100 agencies" from March 16 through June 30.

Yaeger said supplies went to first responders, churches, for-profit agencies, nonprofit agencies, and other organizations as it was “tasked upon us” during what he called a “difficult time.”

According to his report, the Personal Protective Equipment supply distribution was as follows:

  • N95 masks -- 8,412;
  • Surgical masks -- 66,636;
  • Cloth masks -- 48,354;
  • Gloves -- 65,300;
  • Hand Sanitizer (gallons) -- 605;
  • Hand Sanitizer (2 oz.) -- 21,996;
  • Thermometers -- 150;
  • Gowns/Tyvek Suits -- 1,275.

His report also indicated that the Emergency Operation Center, activated in response to COVID-19, was staffed on Monday through Friday, monitored on the weekend and manned by the department’s full-time staff with assistance from deputy fire coordinators and county fire instructors.

Hours of operation started at 12 per day before being reduced to nine per day during the final month.

He credited his employees, (Deputy Coordinator) Bill Schutt, Gary Patnode and Jeanette Diehl, for pulling together as a team, and noted that first responders in the community were understanding, “very, very cooperative, and everybody got through this.”

Yaeger reported that staffing of volunteer fire and emergency management services personnel throughout the nation, including Genesee County, is at a “critical level making it many times unlikely to provide the manpower necessary to respond to emergency situations.”

With that in mind, he said that a Volunteer Services Task Force at the county level has been established to address this issue. Several meetings have taken place to look at viable solutions and funding avenues.

He believes that the best option for emergency services is a “hybrid; volunteer/career, paid/unpaid, staffed/unstaffed, local/county system.”

His report indicates that qualified staffing needs to be available when mobilized, and hopes that the task force would come up with an effective plan.

“We need to find a better system that we have today,” he said.

Yaeger also reported on other aspects of his department as follows:

  • Nineteen of 20 jurisdictions (the Town of Alexander being the exception) have signed onto the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan, which serves as a “blueprint for reducing the county’s vulnerability to disaster and hazards.”

Adopted in 2009, the HMP is a required guide for municipalities to be eligible for any state and federal mitigation funding. The updated County HazMat plan was approved by the legislature in October 2019.

  • Three new deputy field coordinators have come on board in the past 16 months – Brian Schollard, Dan Coffey and Chuck Dodson.

In a related development, the PSC approved the acceptance of a State Homeland Security Program grant in the amount of $109,781 in connection with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The bulk of the award ($82,336) will be appropriated to the Emergency Management Office operating budget to be used to develop regional partnerships, citizen preparedness efforts, cybersecurity programs, information-sharing capabilities and planning.

The remainder will be directed to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement terrorism prevention initiatives.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 17, 2020 - 5:53pm

Unlike the process used during New York’s four phases of business reopening – where all decisions were in the governor’s hands, local governments will have a say in the way gyms can finally welcome back customers after five months of a COVID-19-generated shutdown.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced that gyms can reopen as soon as Aug. 24, but only at 33-percent capacity and with masks to be worn by everyone inside at all times.

However, “localities” will have a role, the governor said, in that local elected officials and health department leaders will be able to make some decisions. Furthermore, health departments will be required to inspect the facilities either before opening or within two weeks of reopening.

He didn’t share more details – a fact not lost upon Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein.

Speaking at today’s Public Service Committee meeting, Stein wondered aloud what code the health department should be using when doing the inspections and asked whether the gyms could hold classes.

“There may have to be a conversation in regard to gyms and with (county Public Health Director) Paul Pettit,” Stein said.

She said that it looks as though “new powers” are being given to the public health director, and hoped that a “checklist or template” would be made available by the state to assist members of the Finger Lakes Region control room.

“This is just seven days away from today,” she said.

County Manager Matt Landers said the county has the right to “delay classes indoors” and to delay the openings of gyms until Sept. 2 although he doesn’t expect to go down that road.

A state requirement to have MERV13 air filters* installed in all gyms could pose a problem for fitness centers housed in older buildings.

Landers said he is realizing there are more gyms in Genesee County than he thought, with four or five in Le Roy alone.

“There will be a lot of fun stuff over the next couple weeks,” he said, implying there is plenty of work ahead.

Movie theaters continue to be on the outside looking in as no announcement was made on their reopening.

“Maybe movie theaters should file a lawsuit and then they’ll be able to open. That seems to be how it works,” Stein said, alluding to the fact that more than 1,500 gym owners filed a class-action suit last week against the governor for not lifting his closure mandate.

*From Wikipedia: MERV is the acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, a measurement scale designed in 1987 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers to report the effectiveness of air filters. 

August 10, 2020 - 10:26am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Jay Gsell, county manager, genesee county legislature.

3-7-20_chamberawards_146.jpgAfter living and working in six different cities in six different states over a 19-year period, the Jay Gsell family rolled into Batavia in 1993 with the head of the household in contention for the vacant Genesee County manager’s job.

Twenty-seven years later, and just five days away from completing a distinguished career as the county’s chief administrative officer, Gsell recalls with clarity the 48 hours that resulted in his hiring to succeed Charles Meyer, who had served 11 years as Genesee’s first county manager.

“We had been three years, which seemed like six, in Marshalltown, Iowa, and then there was a conscious decision by my wife (Ann Marie) and I that we wanted to come back east, because we’re both from New Jersey and I felt more comfortable in that setting,” he said.

“Obviously, our daughter (Claire) was just getting ready to go into middle school and we wanted to go somewhere and stay long enough to get her through high school. And, lo and behold, we’re still here.”

Gsell is retiring on Friday – the day before his 69th birthday.

Looking back, he said he had applied for a number of jobs, interviewed for a couple and turned down one or two prior to setting his sights on Genesee County.

“I think there were 70 candidates and they cut it down to 10 finalists, and then the 10 of us came and were interviewed over a day and a half,” he said. “It was over in the Batavia Club (now GO ART! on East Main Street) by various groups of citizens and legislators and city council people, and that kind of stuff. We went from room to room to be interviewed.”

He said after interviewing, he went back to Iowa and received a call from Carl Perkowski, the county legislative chair.

“I actually was in Des Moines at the time because my wife was doing a regional theater show there,” Gsell said. “He made the offer on the phone, we talked about it and agreed that if it happens, let’s do it.”

The ‘Interloper’ Meets Florence Gioia

The date was on Aug. 13 or 14, Gsell said, and he was at the Old County Courthouse waiting for the legislature to vote.

“I’m upstairs in the legislative chambers and the resolution is there. (The late legislator) Florence Gioia is in the audience, and complaining about where did they find this interloper and carpetbagger, and why couldn’t they find somebody local to be the next county manager,” Gsell recalled. “And so, I’m sitting there over on the side, and after she did her little piece – and she was in that yellow slicker that she always wore – I just raised my hand, and said, ‘Hi, Miss Gioia. I’m that interloper.’ ”

Gsell’s eyes lit up at this point and, while laughing his signature laugh, he added, “And the rest as they say, is history.”

A product of New Jersey (the northern counties of Passaic and Essex), Gsell is the oldest of five and actually is a Junior, although he doesn’t use the Jr. after his name. Just as in the early days of his professional life, he moved around a lot while growing up.

“Every time there was another kid, we moved to another house,” he said.

He graduated from Seton Hall Prep School on the campus of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and earned a track scholarship to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. In fact, he was a scholarship athlete in high school, as an undergraduate and in graduate school, clocking personal best times of 9:02 in the steeplechase (his primary event) and 4:09 in the mile.

Getting ‘On Track’ for a Master’s Degree

Gsell’s success as a runner played a key role in his enrollment at American University, where he earned his master’s degree in public administration in 1974.

“Glenn Wood, a friend of mine who was at that time the world-record holder in the mile in the senior age 40-plus division and a professor at American University, said you ought to come here, we have a good public administration program. So, I said, what does that entail? And then he said we also need an assistant coach for the track and cross-country teams.”

That was enough to persuade Gsell to head for Washington, D.C., where he attended school at night, worked during the day and ran two and a half hours a day with his contemporaries while coaching them as well.

“I did this for 18 months, got my master’s degree and then I set out to try and get a real job,” he said.

Following an internship in Richmond, Va., and a regional government post in the nation’s capital, Gsell took on several real jobs over the next 19 years – starting as a city budget analyst in Trenton, N.J., where he met his wife, and then on to city management roles in North Shores, Mich.; Eau Claire, Wis.; Winchester, Conn.; Cumberland, Md., and Marshalltown, Iowa.

Gsell said that the mindset of municipal government officials at that time was of a nomadic nature.

“I wasn’t probably going to set down my roots in one of those first four or five communities that we lived in and moved to,” he said. “It was my psychosis or my psychology that said, ‘I gotta move; it’s just going to happen.’ ”

No Giving in to Ralph Nader

While in Connecticut, Gsell recalled an interaction with famed political activist/consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who lived in Winchester.

“I met Ralph Nader twice, personally. He came into my office to complain that his old grammar school was being renovated and he didn’t like the way they were doing it,” he said. “He thought that because the school budget was part of the town/city budget, he felt that I could go in and just tell the superintendent and the board of education that you’re not going to do that. I respectfully disagreed with him.

“But it’s interesting that when you walk in and see this icon sitting in your office, I was like, ‘What the heck did I do?’ You genuflect, and ask 'where’s the holy water?' ”

Gsell said that every stop prior to Batavia proved to be a learning experience (he cut his teeth dealing with the media while serving as the assistant city manager in Eau Claire) and he is proud to say that he left each location on his own terms and on good terms.

The Genesee County manager job proved to be his first and only county government position.

“For me, it was a matter if I was going to break the mold of moving frequently, either going to larger governments or on to a different challenge,” he said. “Leaving local government at the town, village and city levels and moving to a county was going to be, for me, somewhat unique. But in hindsight, it was a great move.”

Gsell has made his mark both professionally and as an active member in civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club, United Way, HomeCare & Hospice, Chamber of Commerce. Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Leadership Genesee and the Genesee Area YMCA.

Finding a Home on Washington Avenue

He and his wife have lived on Washington Avenue in Batavia, not far from the Batavia Middle School, for the entire time.

We’ve never lived in the same house as long as we have in Batavia, neither of us, even when growing up,” he said. “We must have looked at 18 houses in a day and a half. I think it was the last house we saw. We saw nothing in Le Roy. Everything was either from Stafford, west. As soon as Ann Marie walked in and saw the woodwork and everything else, she said this is the house.”

In time, Jay, Ann Marie and Claire realized that Batavia would be their permanent home.

“I think it was between conversations with my wife and daughter, after Claire graduated from Batavia High in 1999, that it was pretty clear at that point,” he said. “I thought, OK what else is it that I would want to accomplish that I couldn’t do here? It really became then that this would be where we set our roots down.”

Gsell said his son, Christopher, who he had adopted when he was in the third grade, had moved out to California to spend some time with his biological father. Today, Christopher, 45, is chief creative officer for Halo Media LL, and lives in Brooklyn with his wife.

Tragedy struck the family on March 22, 2009, when Claire, passed away at the age of 27.

“She had been working in a pretrial services program in Monroe County toward her goal of becoming a probation officer, and two weeks later (following her death), we got a letter stating that they wanted her to work there in that capacity,” Gsell said. “She really wanted that job. This would have made her day.”

Aa 2003 graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Claire also worked part time at DePaul.

“As my wife always says, ‘Man plans and God laughs,’ ” Gsell said, indicating a strong faith has sustained them in their loss.

Unloading the Nursing Home was a Big One

Reflecting upon his career in Genesee County, Gsell said priorities included adopting “consistent and well-funded budgets that were balanced so we weren’t living on the edge in terms of revenue assumptions” and making wise decisions about county facilities, specifically mentioning the county-owned airport, courts facility and former nursing home.

“We’ve spent almost $30 million at the County Airport, most of which has been federal and state money, and turned that into a Class A reliever airport under the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and state guidelines in the regional pattern,” he said. “And we sold the nursing home for $15.2 million to Premier Healthcare to stop the bleeding. Fortunately, Premier is in the business of operating nursing homes. It still is the owner and they own the one in Le Roy, too.”

He said the county had been operating the nursing home at an average annual deficit of about $2 million for eight years prior to unloading it in 2017.

“We used about $5 million of the sale to settle obligations while we still owned the facility,” he said. “As far as profit, not even close as the nursing home owed money to the county’s general fund.”

Gsell said the 52,000-square-foot, two-story Genesee County Court Facility on Ellicott Street (across from his office on the lower floor of the Old Courthouse) has served its purpose, but he wishes it had two more stories.

“If that were the case, it would have been city and county law enforcement with dispatch on the first floor and you go up from there,” he said. “All criminal justice would have been located in one place, and we would have had more storage in the building. I guess that constraints at the time were such that it just wasn’t in the cards.”

Gsell: City Police Should Be on Park Road

Gsell also said that the City of Batavia should have partnered with the county about 10 years ago on what is now the county sheriff’s office on Park Road.

We tried numerous times to pull that off. We spent a lot of time going back and forth – where to locate it. Just for the sheriff’s administration building, we were all over the City of Batavia, looking at various sites, working with consultants as to where to put the two together,” he said. “As it turns out, we at least accomplished consolidated dispatch, which even to this day is not universal in the State of New York as far as counties and relatively larger cities.”

He said about 20 sites, all inside the city, were considered for a combined city/sheriff’s police building.

“Finally, the county, seeing the reluctance from the city, had to do something. As it turned out, we worked with the city and the VA Medical Center to use the Park Road site because the city actually owned that property, which was within the city limits,” he explained. “That was one of the opportunities that was missed -- for us to put our two law enforcement entities completely together.”

Gsell said much progress has been made in bringing water to the county, through a long-standing agreement with the Monroe County Water Authority and recent connections with the Erie County Water Authority; in the area of shared services with towns and neighboring counties; and on a new state-mandated county jail that has been “paused” by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were ready to put that sucker out for bid late last year and all of a sudden COVID-19,” he said. “Now, we’re exploring a joint jail with Orleans County, which would need approval from the state legislature. The need is not any less -- it’s the ability to determine what the right size is as well as where the financing will come from because our sales tax has taken such a hit.”

He’s Known as ‘The Dean’ to His Colleagues

Gsell said his job has been made much easier over the years thanks to consistently strong legislatures and the constant communication with other county managers and administrators throughout the state.

“We’ve always had very good legislators … good people to work with,” he said. “Plus, I am thankful to have made close friends with colleagues; people who rely on each other and network with each other every day.”

One of those people is Shaun Groden, Greene County administrator and president of the New York State Association of County Administrators and Managers. 

“Jay is the dean of New York State county managers, partially from his tenure but primarily through his expertise,” Groden said. “He always is able to dissect the issue, and he has a rabid sense of humor, too.”

Groden said administrators seek feedback and advice from one another via a listserv (electronic mailing list), and all value Gsell’s opinions.

“Jay would often add his two cents and it was typically humorous as well as insightful,” he said. “Just the other week, his response was both comedic and right on point. I am going to miss these comments.”

A Trip to Italy; Remembering Barber Conable

At the end of this work week, Gsell will turn the managerial reins over to Matt Landers, his assistant for the past six years. He said he is leaving the county in good hands.

“It’s what our legislative body and our team here is all about – a very professional local government organization that respects tenure as far as employees are concerned, understands the serious nature of what it is we do … and as far as the succession process, we try to build that into a lot of our departments so when an opportunity occurs, we can promote from within,” he offered.

Gsell said he will continue to stay involved in the community and that he and Ann Marie may do some traveling once coronavirus-related restrictions are eased.

“Ann’s only family is her nephew, Brian, down on the Jersey Shore. He’s about the only person we could go visit right now. My siblings are in North Carolina or Virginia, and we can’t go see them right now,” he said. “My other sister lives in Michigan with her husband and three kids.”

He said his wife wants to go back to Italy. “She’s 110-percent Italian,” he quipped.

“Ann Marie has been all over the place when she worked as the first female tech for Dow Jones, making sure the ticker tape machines were working at the brokerages,” he said. “Me, I’ve been to Canada, that’s it.”

Travel plans aside, he says he takes great satisfaction in completing the task before him and being able to forge so many lasting relationships. And he considers himself blessed to have met a particular congressman who was born in the Wyoming County Village of Warsaw and lived in the Genesee County Village of Alexander.

“The fact that I got to meet the real Barber Conable, up close and personal, to me was at the top of my list, all things considered,” he said. “When I was in high school that’s when he was at his ascendancy in the Congress – the most respected congressperson of that era in Washington, D.C., during Watergate.

“Who gets to call that part of their legacy? Barber was it. I met him in that Saturday morning coffee klatch over at Karl Buchholtz’s place (Genesee Hardware) on Ellicott Street, and I was thinking to myself, ‘Holy crap, Barber Conable! Really, really?’ That’s almost as good as my Lou Holtz (head football coach at the College of William & Mary from 1969-71) moment.”

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At top, photo by Genesee County Chamber of Commerce; Gsell in his office at the Old County Courthouse, photo by Howard Owens; Gsell (in back row, second from the right) as a freshman member of The College of William & Mary track team, submitted photo.

July 23, 2020 - 10:26am

The agenda for Wednesday’s Genesee County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse featured 34 resolutions, with three of them catching the eye of former legislator John Sackett Jr. of Byron.

Addressing the board during the public comments portion of the meeting, Sackett provided brief commentary on a water district agreement with the Town of Bethany, the county’s annual financial support of Genesee Community College, and contracts with six schools for school resource officers.

Legislators approved an inter-municipal pact with the Town of Bethany that calls for the county to reimburse the town in the amount of $152,835 for 38 years.

The annual reimbursement, according to the resolution, represents the amortized cost of the $4.5 million in improvements being made by Town of Bethany Water District No. 5, enhancements that will benefit the county.

Sackett questioned this plan, and asked why the county didn't help "Byron Town Board members, past and present, who did their proprietary work on taxpayer-supported water projects?"

Prior to that, he said that during his tenure as a Genesee County legislator (1992-2001), he came up with a list of eight private companies that might be able to provide water to residents.

“No response, I’ll say it again, no response from the Genesee County water board,” he said. “What does that tell you? They were all appointed.”

Legislators voted to contribute $2,636,374 to Genesee Community College for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The college’s total budget is $38.1 million.

Sackett urged lawmakers to hold the line on employee raises, stating that the college “strokes its board members, using Downstate figures to justify raises.”

As previously reported on The Batavian, GCC leadership has instituted many cost-cutting measures to balance its budget, including a pay freeze approved by both collective bargaining units on the campus.

On the subject of school resource officers, Sackett called the contracts, which range from $85,000 to $102,000 for 10-12 months, a “waste of dollars, whoever pays.”

“If you really believe in safety in education, educate the school teachers in these school districts in the use of handguns – hidden with monthly training,” he said. “It would cost less and be much more effective.”

Genesee County has SRO agreements with Alexander, Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama, Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. The districts pay for the services of a sheriff’s deputy, with hourly rate, fringe benefits and insurance as the covered expenses.

Sackett, who just turned 92, served on the Byron Town Board for 20 years, including several years as supervisor.

In other action, legislators approved:

-- Acceptance of a $120,000 grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services to support medical services at the county’s Justice for Children Advocacy Center. The contract term runs from Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2022, meaning that the annual award is $60,000.

-- A consultant agreement for $617,000 with Fisher Associates of Rochester to provide preliminary engineering and final design work in connection with the planned 2023 replacement of the South Lyon Street bridge in the City of Batavia. The design work and right-of-way acquisition are expected to take 12 to 18 months.

-- Three resolutions for work at the Genesee County Airport – one to accept a Federal Aviation Administration grant of $172,335 for the demolition of an existing T-hangar, one to contract with C&S Engineers of Syracuse for construction observation and administration of the T-hangar demolition at a cost not to exceed $29,000, and one to contract with Telco Construction of Buffalo (general contractor) and Upstate Companies of Mt. Upton (electrical) to build a new T-hangar.

The Telco contract is not to exceed $745,700 and the Upstate contract is not to exceed $103,500. Funding for this project will come from state aid ($626,250) and county money ($218,750).

-- An amendment of the county’s shared services property tax savings plan, changing the date from 2019 to 2020. The plan, which explores ways to collaborate with towns, villages and neighboring counties to reduce costs, will be submitted to the Department of State, Genesee Association of Municipalities, and eight local school districts.

Previously: Jail project with Orleans County, City water upgrade, SROs top the list of Genesee's shared services plan

-- Acceptance of $76,700 from the state Board of Elections’ Cybersecurity Remediation Grant Program to help county election commissioners assess security vulnerabilities and develop an effective risk management strategy. The funding will cover the period of Dec. 21, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2021.

July 22, 2020 - 8:28pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, covid-19.

landers_and_gsell.jpg

As L. Matthew “Matt” Landers contemplates taking over as Genesee County manager in about three weeks, he figures that if he displays half the vim and vigor as his predecessor, he’ll do just fine in his new role.

“The energy level that Jay exudes – it’s infectious, it’s important. There’s a lot to be said in having that energy and that great personality and that great style,” Landers said following tonight’s Genesee County Legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “I hope that I can come anywhere close to Jay’s ability to command an audience and liven a room …”

Landers was speaking about the high-octane Jay Gsell, who – when he retires on Aug. 14 – will have served the county in an effective and passionate manner for 27 years.

Legislators, prior to voting unanimously on the resolution to promote Landers from assistant county manager, honored Gsell with a proclamation recognizing his numerous accomplishments and extensive community involvement.

An Elba resident, the 43-year-old Landers said he admires Gsell’s ability to meet people, listen to them and quickly count them as friends.

“Jay’s ability to know everyone’s name – inside and out, third uncle, second twice removed – his ability to communicate in that manner is important,” he said. “To have that connection. He’ll see somebody out in the community and he’ll notice who they are, their name, their connections, their life story – how they’re connected to him. That’s impressive for somebody not from the area originally.”

Landers said he feels confident in his ability to communicate, acknowledging that his style “is a little more direct and to the point.”

“I can probably … say the same thing in a lot less words,” he said, before going on about Gsell’s energy and personality.

As far as the job itself, Landers said he is excited and prepared, having worked with Gsell the past six years.

“While it’s exciting, it’s also a challenge,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of work … The most things I do, I’m pretty even-keeled and levelheaded. I’m not going to overthink this. I’ve got a job ahead of me and I’m ready … to jump right in.”

He said that COVID-19 is “creating a lot of challenges for us at the county that weren’t there a year ago when I was looking forward to taking this opportunity.”

“Obviously, the COVID is going to put a big financial constraint on our budget and our resources, and we’re meeting with department heads already, preplanning for our budget, and preparing for different strategies that we can utilize to get through this difficult financial time.”

Landers mentioned that providing enough water to county residents “at an affordable rate” and navigating through the pandemic and financial concerns to eventually build a state-mandated new jail are priorities.

Holder of a master's degree in Public Administration from Brockport State College, Landers spent 10 years as the county’s deputy treasurer before becoming the assistant county manager. He talked about the plan that legislators and management drafted for him to eventually replace Gsell.

“The plan, in general … I thought the logic at the time – if everything worked out – that this would be a potentially a good fit for me to take over someday for Jay,” he said. “I was in the treasurer’s office for 10 years, enjoyed working over there with Scott (German), but when the opportunity over here came up, it was something that I kicked the tires, and spoke with Jay and some of the legislators then.”

German thanked legislators for “seeing what I saw (in Landers) when I hired him in 2004, and then quipped that Landers was “one of the top five deputies that I ever had working for me,” even though he only had three.

Legislators Marianne Clattenburg, John Deleo and Rochelle Stein congratulated Landers, expressing their pride in being able to promote homegrown talent.

“Matt, I could not be happier for the success that you have ahead of you,” said Stein, the legislature chair. “It will be another quarter of a century before this (transition) plan has to be put in place again.”

Landers said he couldn’t have had a better mentor than Jay Gsell.

“I have been able to learn a lot more about the county outside of the treasurer’s office, and have been put in a good position to succeed in the manager’s office because of the six years working under Jay,” he said.

Landers is active in the Kiwanis Club (he is a former president) and coaches and helps run a girls’ softball program. He and his wife, Melissa, reside in Batavia with their two children, Kaitlyn, 14, and Benjamin, 10.

Landers’ appointment takes effect on Aug. 15, and he will earn a base salary of $121,000.

Photo: Matt Landers, left; his mother and stepfather, Manetta and Paul Potter; and Jay Gsell following tonight’s Genesee County Legislature meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 22, 2020 - 3:56pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature.

Genesee County officers and lawmakers say they are doing their part, now it’s up to Congress to reciprocate by passing meaningful legislation to stop the bleeding caused by COVID-19 and the resulting economic slowdown.

A two-page document created by the county budget office and legislature sends a clear message to the state’s Congressional delegation: Stop local service cuts; provide direct aid to counties. The flyer was distributed to the members of Congress who represent New York, state Assembly and Senate members, county town and village officials, and the media.

“We’re looking for assistance from the federal government through an additional stimulus package that would provide needed revenue to both New York State and local municipalities,” Assistant County Manager Matt Landers said. “The revenue to New York State would be vital to Genesee County to hopefully stop further state aid cuts to the county and the aid from the stimulus package directly to municipalities would help us replace revenue that has been lost, such as sales tax.”

The flyer lists 23 different actions the county has taken in an effort to stabilize its budget and continue the delivery of essential local services.

They are as follows:

  • Developed contingency plans based on loss of State revenue and other economy driven tax revenue losses;
  • Reduced spending to offset reductions in sales tax, State aid and other locally derived fees impacted by COVID-19;
  • Held efficiency meetings with all department heads and asked for a list of line items in their budgets that they could cut and see potential savings through the end of the year and future years;
  • Limited spending to essential items only with approval on a case by case basis;
  • Requested justification for all purchases based on operational need;
  • Suspended/deferred the purchase of new equipment or leases, unless necessary to keep staff working or to respond to COVID-19;
  • Instituted system to track all expenditures related to COVID-19 for potential reimbursement from FEMA;
  • Reviewed all contracts for performance metrics during COVID-19 and made payment adjustments to reflect services rendered;
  • Limited training to only what is mandatory;
  • Eliminated all unnecessary travel, including commitments for future discretionary travel;
  • Instituted a strategic hiring freeze, with exceptions only for essential positions, i.e. public safety, public health and EMS;
  • Made permanent layoffs;
  • Implemented furloughs;
  • Reduced seasonal employment – PT Highway, Parks and Forest;
  • Updated contracts to allow for flexibility if needed, updated and implemented contingency measures, further scrutinized mandated and unmandated programs for flexibility options;
  • Overtime costs significantly reduced;
  • Deferred most capital projects;
  • Delayed the opening of pavilions at County parks;
  • Reduced road and bridge repairs to offset 20 percent reduced funding from CHIPS/PAVE NY;
  • Reduced planned public facilities projects, highway infrastructure projects, and soil and water conservation initiatives;
  • Jail construction project delayed while further discussions with the State are conducted to allow for a joint two county jail shared service initiative;
  • Currently investigating areas of privatization of County services;
  • Planned reduced or flat funding for outside agencies in 2021 budget.

Landers said legislators have put programs and expenditures under a microscope, leaving no stone unturned in an effort to get the county budget under control.

“We’ve been aggressive with everything that has come before us. If we have any wiggle room or any discretion in how we spend, we have not been spending money,” he said. “We’ve been scrutinizing like we have never before – out of necessity – because of the lost revenue coming in through sales tax.”

Landers said sales tax revenue for the second quarter decreased by 18 percent compared to 2019.

He said it’s still not clear on what is coming down the pike as far as state aid is concerned, but he is afraid it could be “a significant potential loss of revenue and reimbursement.”

The county is mandated by the state to provide certain services, such as probation and monitoring of those convicted of crimes, Landers said. The problem with state aid is that Albany may only reimburse the county a fraction of what has already been spent on those mandated programs.

While difficult to quantify the total amount of all of these cost-saving measures, Landers did say that furloughs and hiring freezes alone saved the county around $800,000.

“A portion of what has been saved is a reflection of the environment that we’re in with the pandemic,” Landers said, specifically mentioning less travel, conferences and training, as well as the boarding out of fewer inmates (due to COVID-19 and bail reform).

July 19, 2020 - 6:35pm

Whether you call it cooperation, consolidation or collaboration, the concept of municipalities engaging in shared services agreements likely will become a hot ticket item as time goes on.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said he believes New York State leaders increasingly will look favorably upon counties, cities, towns and villages that pool their resources toward a goal of more efficient government.

And in this period of COVID-19 -- the cause of game-changing reductions in revenues, Gsell agrees that sharing services are more crucial than ever.

“Realistically, yes, I think they are -- at least to have that kind of notification back to the state that here are the things we’re considering,” he said, following the submission of the county’s 2019 shared services plan to the Genesee County Legislature for possible adoption this week.

Currently, Genesee County is contemplating shared services opportunities in the areas of criminal justice/law enforcement, water systems, weights and measures, procurement and real property assessment with its partner municipalities as well as neighboring counties.

After the county held three public hearings as required by law, its Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of the plan, which, upon approval, would be forwarded to the Department of State, Genesee Association of Municipalities and eight local school districts.

The resolution is on the agenda of the full legislature's meeting this Wednesday.

Gsell said this is the county’s second shared services proposal in accordance with the state’s “soft mandate” (the first was submitted in 2018).

The new plan prioritizes two projects: county assistance with the City of Batavia’s upgraded water system and a joint Genesee/Orleans county jail to replace the current jail on West Main Street.

He said that he sees these two ventures as prime candidates for state funding under the shared services program – as long as funding continues to be made available.

“By helping the City improve its water system – which it already is addressing in the areas of lead services and new water meters -- it can revert to retail,” Gsell said. “With that in place, we can help make sure that all the rates across the county are uniform.”

As far as building a new jail, Gsell said Genesee County has a designed facility (near County Building 2 on West Main Street Road) ready to go out to bid, but is on a temporary pause due to the coronavirus.

“One of us builds it, the other one hosts their inmates and we have a longstanding funding agreement to do that,” he said.

Gsell said the state needs to get on board to make it work.

“The state, itself, needs to be engaged and involved and make the changes to state statute,” he said. “So, we’ll put that on their radar screen.”

He said officials from both counties have talked to people in the governor’s office in Albany about moving the shared services agreement forward.

“We’ve told them that we’re thinking about this (and said) are you people going to be more than just standing on the sidelines or will you be progressive with us, when and if it gets put into a state budget?” he said.

Gsell said that the jail project was in the governor’s budget at one point but was left out when the 2020-21 final state budget was adopted.

“But that doesn’t mean it is a dead issue … it’s something that our two counties think is at least something to do more than just kick the tires on,” he said.

He added that this type of a “significant first-of-its-kind in the State of New York venture might also attract some funding to actually make it happen.”

The shared services plan also includes school resource officers.

At the present time, the county supports a police presence at Alexander, Byron-Bergen, Pavilion, Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (Board of Cooperative Educational Services -- BOCES). Le Roy and Batavia school districts have SRO (School Resource Officer) agreements outside of the scope of the county.

“With SROs, some of the schools may not have a physical presence the way it has been in the past, so where does the SRO go in the future?” he asked. “We believe that it is pretty vital in the day-to-day function of a school system, but it may not be afforded. As schools continue to utilize SROs, it could be done as part of the state’s shared services program.”

July 16, 2020 - 9:00am

Update, June 16, 11 a.m. with link to a map of Ellicott Trail.

-----------

In the eyes of Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post, Wednesday’s grand opening of Ellicott Trail -- the 4.6-mile walking/bicycling path stretching from Seven Springs Road to Pearl Street Road – illustrates perfectly what can be achieved through collaboration.

“It’s a great example of what communities can do working together, in spite of COVID, in spite of setbacks, in spite of funding issues. This has been legitimately and overwhelmingly successful,” Post said during last night’s Town Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing.

A joint venture of the Town and City of Batavia with support from Genesee County, Ellicott Trail is actually about 9 miles from end to end if you include sidewalks and bridges.

CLICK HERE for a webpage that includes a map of the Ellicott Trail.

The $1.7 million project was funded mostly by a state Department of Transportation grant, with the City and Town each contributing 10 percent of the cost.

Post commended all those who worked to make the trail a reality – “there probably has been 100 persons involved in design, development, construction and administration,” he noted – and had high praise for the Town Highway Department, led by Tom Lichtenthal, highway superintendent.

“It has been an extraordinary effort by those three gentlemen that serve Tom in the highway department as well as Tom putting in yeoman’s hours … to complete all of these tasks under some pretty serious deadlines,” Post said.

The Town received a certificate of merit from the New York State Assembly, recognition fronted by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley.

Post said the project hasn’t been an easy one to navigate.

“I appreciate everyone’s attendance in constructing this project over the last four and a half years,” he said. “It has been one of the largest boondoggles administratively that we’ve ever undertaken, but I think it’s one of the showcase constructs and is very visible and well received …”

In other developments, Post:

-- Reported that Town employees have been working overtime to deal with recent water pressure issues.

“Crews have been working 12 hour days, seven days a week, contending with unprecedented amount (of demand) that have taxed the resources, so we’re now pulling water from Monroe County, Erie County and the City of Batavia’s plant,” he said. “There have been a few times where it has been very close to not having enough water.”

He said there was an incidental pressure drop for an hour on one segment of Galloway Road, but since then “we have installed a booster pump and 800 feet of 8-inch water main on Powers Road, and through shared services with the New York State Thruway today, secured that with barriers to prevent any expansion or contraction issues that may interrupt that flow. So, we’re still maintaining pressure flow to everywhere in the town.”

Post said while Genesee County is working on getting additional water flow from the east, the Town is placing “a priority on any unnecessary use of water or any unanticipated use of water for firefighting services” that will result in the need to add people on to operate valves for an interim period.

-- Acknowledged the revenue distribution to towns and villages passed yesterday by the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee.

“On a good note, I’d like to inform everyone that there was a Ways & Means Committee (meeting), that has adopted a proposal to distribute some revenue sharing to all the communities,” he said.

“The amounts are listed in the paper (actually on The Batavian, click here to view), and we also did receive our discounted money from the video lottery terminal (generated by Batavia Downs Gaming).

-- Advised that Town Hall staff will continue to operate remotely, but the drive-thru window will be open.

“Courts are opening on a limited basis and that will continue as they get new direction from the state on their email train,” he said.

He also said he will be renewing a state of emergency declaration effective at 6 o’clock today “to comply with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and state and federal requirements to maintain cash flow -- so that reimbursements will be seamless for the additional costs and expenses we have accrued through this episode and to continue to keep everyone healthy.”

July 15, 2020 - 5:20pm

Update: 7:45 p.m. with comments from Rochelle Stein, County Legislature chair

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon approved $1.1 million in voluntary distributions to the county’s towns and villages.

The measure will now go to the full legislature for final approval at next Wednesday’s meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

According to the resolution, the payments are being made “in good faith” despite “the unprecedented financial constraints that Genesee County faces in determining a voluntary distribution.”

The amount of the payments, which are based upon taxable assessed valuation, are as follows:

  • Town of Alabama, $43,508.30;
  • Town of Alexander, $44,939.40;
  • Town of Batavia, $188,098.90;
  • Town of Bergen, $54,447.80;
  • Town of Bethany, $45,145.10;
  • Town of Byron, $52,228.00;
  • Town of Darien, $108,829.60;
  • Town of Elba, $40,630.70;
  • Town of Le Roy, $90,932.60;
  • Town of Oakfield, $33,621.50;
  • Town of Pavilion, $60,039.10;
  • Town of Pembroke, $110,027.50;
  • Town of Stafford, $69,514.50;
  • Village of Alexander, $8,102.60;
  • Village of Bergen, $20,825.20;
  • Village of Corfu, $14,765.30;
  • Village of Elba, $11,825.00;
  • Village of Le Roy, $79,856.70;
  • Village of Oakfield, $22,662.20.

"This proves that we are being true to our commitment that there is an intention to share when we gain information," Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said. "We said that there are four things that we have to understand before we can send out any distribution, and we learned one of them -- sales tax and other revenue that has or hasn't been adjusted by the state. That is so important."

Stein said the total of $1.1 million is "a step in the right direction," especially in light of the fact that state aid for the county's mental health services, highway improvement fund and video lottery terminal revenue each were cut by 20 percent.

"We've asked the town and village leaders every Saturday to stick with us and have patience," she said. "We can make a better decision when we have facts. We are holding up to our word and we are doing what we can, when we can."

Stein, in late March, advised town and village leaders that the county couldn't abide by the current distributuion schedule due to COVID-19 and the state being "on pause," stating at the time that "the county would not be able to write checks that we could not cash.”

Action by the legislature to cancel distribution agreements from 2018 and 2019 caused quite a stir among leaders of the municipalities that also were facing serious budget problems.

Assistant County Manager L. Matthew Landers said the distribution is "an amount that the legislature feels is safe for the county to make and prudent for the county to make at this point in time, considering there are still a lot of unknowns."

Landers mentioned the uncertainty surrounding the four measurement points that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put in place to possibly cut state aid, although two of them – April 30 and June 30 – have come and gone.

He said the board has continues to wait and see if another federal stimulus package will be passed, which would factor in concerning the amount and/or frequency of future distributions. 

Landers to Replace Gsell as County Manager

In other action, the committee recommended the appointment of Landers to replace Jay Gsell as the county manager, effective Aug. 15 – the day after Gsell’s scheduled retirement date following 27 years of service.

Landers, an Elba Central School graduate, has been employed by the county for 16 years, serving as Deputy Treasurer for 10 years before taking his current position.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and master’s degree in Public Administration from Brockport State College.

A longtime Kiwanis Club member, Landers, 43, and his wife, Melissa, reside in Batavia with their two children, Kaitlyn, 14, and Benjamin, 10. He is active as a girls' softball coach and league official.

His base salary is set at $120,000, plus longevity.

The full legislature also will vote on this resolution next Wednesday.

July 13, 2020 - 6:36pm

Calling 2020 a “tumultuous year” for first-time homebuyers, Mary Leo, executive director of The Housing Council at PathStone, today presented the annual report of the agency’s counseling and owner-occupied rehabilitation programs today to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

“The lack of housing choices … makes it very competitive” for those looking to capitalize on federal programs and banking institutions’ willingness to purchase their first homes, said Leo, an 11-year employee of the agency who was hired as executive director recently.

Leo said 36 of a possible 58 family units that completed a homeownership program were able to close on their first house, which means that 22 graduates are “still out shopping.”

Her report, covering July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, indicated that PathStone’s relationships with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development, Habitat for Humanity and local banks “have resulted in a growing pipeline of referrals to the agency,” which received $12,150 from Genesee County in 2019.

The 36 families able to purchase a home through the program are 15 more than the previous year.

Leo also said that finding one-bedroom apartments is a challenge, with “more (financial) support available than apartments."

She mentioned the agency’s foreclosure prevention arm that resolved 11 pending cases in Genesee County over the past 12 months.

PathStone’s Genesee County Handyman program assisted 92 senior citizens, down from 2018-19 due to a decrease in funding and COVID-19, she said.

“We anticipate a rise in the need for this service in the coming months,” she said.

On the subject of funding, Leo said funding remains “flat or slightly down.”

She explained that the federal Housing and Urban Development agency issues housing awards based on the number of counselors in the office and not on the number of clients served as was the case in previous years. Since Genesee County has just one certified counselor, it has resulted in long wait times for applicants.

Genesee County’s contribution is used for a portion of staffing costs for the homeownership counselor, the deputy of Housing & Grants Programs for grant writing and the county’s Handyman Program. The remaining funds are used for a portion of office space and supplies.

Leo said PathStone has received funding from several other sources, including Genesee County United Way, Key Bank, Citizens Bank, M&T Bank and HUD Housing Counseling.

A funding request also went out to Rochester Area Community Foundation to support the Genesee County Handyman Program, Leo said.

Direct subsidies for first-time buyers include a $300,000 grant from Affordable Housing Corporation for acquisition/rehabilitation, $40,000 from NYS RESTORE and $100,000 from Affordable Housing Corporation for owner-occupied rehabilitation.

In other developments, the Human Services Committee:

-- Approved a contract for $25 per hour, not to exceed $4,500, with Susan Gagne to serve as suicide prevention coalition coordinator through the county’s Community Mental Health Services agency. The pact is set to run through the end of this year.

Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia said filling this position is “crucial” in light of an increase in attempted suicides since COVID-19.

-- Approved the acceptance of two grants for the Office for the Aging from the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund – one for $88,000 for centralized intake and the other for marketing coordination. The grants are to be utilized through June 30, 2021.

-- Approved a contract with Tender Loving Family Care Inc., of Webster, for social adult day care services at the rates of $87 per day per person for a five-hour block, $105 per day per person for a full day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and $120 per day per person for an extended full day (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The agreement stipulates that expenses will not exceed $37,750 for the period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. It is being funded by: $14,040 under Title III-E Respite grant; $18,720 from the Unmet Needs grant; $990 from Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly grant; and $4,000 from Western New York Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver Support Initiative.

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