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November 19, 2020 - 11:05am

young_2.jpgUpdate, 1:30 p.m., with comments from Andrew Young:

"The justice position alllows me to continue to serve in a different capacity. It's something that I've always wanted to do at some point ... but the opportunity arose and it just seemed to make sense now," he said.

"From the legal perspective, I'm going to start an intense training program for the things that I don't know. But I think, more importantly, for this position, it's more about sound judgment and the right attitude than it is legal proceeding knowledge. There is plenty of assistance and support out there, I would guess that every town judge in the state -- 99 percent of them -- is not a lawyer, so they have a good program to train you and help you understand, procedurally, how to do things."

Young said he is looking forward to a new challenge, adding that he is confident that someone will be able to step into the legislative role.

"I'm really proud of the service that I have provided (as a legislator)," he said. "One thing is sure, my heart was in it, and was passionate about my opinions of how things should go."

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

Andrew Young is stepping down from the Genesee County Legislature to accept the Batavia Town justice position.

The Batavia Town Board, at its meeting on Wednesday night via Zoom videoconferencing, passed a resolution appointing Young, 51, to the bench as a result of the resignation of current Town Justice Michael Cleveland, effective Nov. 27.

Young’s term will run through Dec. 31, 2021. The annual salary is $28,000.

The town board also passed a related resolution that adds Young’s name and new title to the document, “Town of Batavia Official Undertaking of Municipal Officers.”

Young has yet to respond to a telephone call and emails from The Batavian, which received the following notice from Assemblyman Steven Hawley last night about the vacancy*:

Individuals interested in possible Republican endorsement to fill upcoming vacancy on Genesee County Legislature, District 4, Towns of Batavia & Stafford should submit letter of interest & resume to: [email protected] & [email protected]. No later than 11/28 @ 5 p.m.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, contacted by telephone, said she respected Young’s work as the representative of the towns of Batavia and Stafford. Young also is the chair of the Public Service Committee and is the legislative liaison to the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him and to know him,” Stein said. “His viewpoints as he served as a legislator, I truly valued. I am happy to consider him a friend due to serving in local government, and I wish him all the luck.”

Stein, who said that she expects that the legislature will be receiving a resignation letter from Young in the coming days, said that Young “demonstrated a leadership that will be missed.”

Young, owner of Reliant Real Estate in Batavia and a real property owner/manager, has served on the governing body since Jan. 1, 2014. His current term runs through Dec. 31, 2024.

Previously, he was co-owner of Pakhound Parcel Logistics and P.W. Minor Shoe Factory.

*Editor's note: We posted Hawley's solicitation solely for Town of Batavia Justice applicants on Nov. 3:

GOP candidates wanted to serve as Justice of Town of Batavia Court, Cleveland resigns

November 18, 2020 - 6:11pm

Some late changes to the 2021 Genesee County budget require using a bit more of the municipality’s fund balance, but they won’t affect the property tax levy or tax rate, County Manager Matt Landers said this afternoon.

The county legislature’s Ways & Means Committee forwarded resolutions to both amend and adopt the $143,204,679 All Funds spending plan and to finalize the tax levy at its next full meeting on Nov. 23.

Per the resolution, the budget as presented and amended calls for $31,451,727 to be raised by property taxes – an increase of $400,069 from 2020 – and a tax rate of $9.80 per thousand of assessed value.

Landers said that $2,407,767 is being appropriated from the fund balance to help get the tax rate to that figure, which is 31 cents less than the 2020 tax rate. The fund balance amount is $607,732 more than what was allocated in 2020.

The county’s General Fund budget figure is at $110,276,137.

Landers mentioned the major changes to the budget, which were implemented after a final review by management and departmental leaders.

“Most of the budget changes are due to a recent contract settlement with our AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL–CIO) union, which represents the highway and facilities management employees,” he said. “My proposed budget had the costs sitting in the contingency account, but since we settled the contract we are going to move the funds into the appropriate departmental lines.”

Landers said that some costs in the mental health budget were under-budgeted as officials attempted to gauge the decrease in reimbursements from New York State. Additionally, changes were made on both the revenue and expense side in the public defender’s office in light of the county’s five-year plan.

“We are utilizing additional fund balance in the 2021 budget to cover this. The changes don’t impact the tax levy or the tax rate at all,” he reported.

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg thanked Landers and his team for conducting “a very smooth budget process considering the times that we’re in.”

“I appreciate the give-and-take from everyone and I think we did a good job with this budget,” she said.

The committee also set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 on a local law to approve the salaries of county officers who are elected or appointed for a fix term in accordance with a section of the Municipal Home Rule Law.

The salaries of these officers, which will take effect Jan. 1, are as follows:

  • Commissioner of Elections (2) -- $49,761;
  • Highway Superintendent -- $115,110;
  • Director of Real Property Tax Services -- $66,385;
  • Director of Human Resources -- $80,050;
  • Commissioner of Social Services -- $89,319;
  • Public Defender -- $103,453;
  • County Attorney -- $127,845;
  • County Clerk -- $97,862.

In another development, the committee reappointed Richard Siebert of Stafford as Genesee County Republican Election Commissioner for a three-year term, effective Jan. 1.

Legislators commended Siebert, Democratic Election Commissioner Lorie Longhany and all those who worked during the recent election for a job well done as they dealt with several changes to the system while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

November 16, 2020 - 5:40pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee this afternoon approved the acceptance of a $758,980.80 bid by Concrete Applied Technologies Corp. of Alden – one of 12 bids submitted to Highway Superintendent Tim Hens – to replace the Upton Road over Bowen Creek bridge in the Town of Batavia.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the meeting was held remotely via Zoom videoconferencing.

In a highly-competitive bidding process, CATCO’s bid was just $650 less than the next lowest bid, Hens said, adding that he is aware of the company’s solid reputation.

“We have never worked directly with them but they have been involved with the City (of Batavia) on a few projects,” he said. “They did the Main Street project about 20 years ago and they have a very good reputation. They’re a well run company and they do a lot of work in Buffalo and Rochester.”

According to the resolution that was voted upon, 95 percent of the cost will be covered by federal aid with the remaining 5 percent to come from the county’s Reserve Fund.

Hens said CATCO’s bid is $68,000 less than the engineers’ estimate of probable construction costs.

Work is expected to begin next spring or summer.

In other action, the committee:

  • Voted in favor of a one-year contract with Safe Driver Solutions of Dansville, effective Jan. 1, for federally required drug and alcohol testing, terminating a previous pact with Partners in Safety of Middletown.

Hens said a couple issues factored into the decision, including having a company closer to Genesee County and Safe Driver Solutions’ pricing procedures.

Partners in Safety charges the county for all of its drivers, even if they aren't selected for random drug and alcohol testing, he said.

“It just happens to be the timing of our renewal of our annual contract, and their (Safe Driver Solutions) pricing structure is different because they only charge you for the actual people who get selected randomly,” Hens said.

He explained that "the pool is actually much (larger) because the way they operate under federal rules, they basically create a driver pool with all of their clients – so we get lumped in with the towns in Livingston County and Livingston County highway.”

“It’s a bigger group of people so we’re not hitting as many employees on an annual basis, and essentially not getting charged for that.”

Hens said he anticipates saving around $1,000 annual with Safe Driver Solutions and likes the fact that the county will be working with a local company to address issues concerning screening, post-accident responses and reasonable suspicious responses. Per the contract, Safe Driver Solutions staff members travel to the highway department to do the testing.

  • Voted to add a second citizen representative to the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, following up on CJAC’s decision at a meeting in September to make the committee as diverse as possible.

To make room for the citizen rep, the Genesee County Bar Association delegate has been removed in light of the appointee’s recent retirement and a sufficient number of attorneys and law enforcement members on the committee.

The CJAC, created in 1981, services to promote public good and safety through improved coordination and cooperation among criminal justice agencies and other organizations in the community. More than 30 people from law enforcement, human services and social services agencies are on the committee. 

November 9, 2020 - 12:38pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, covid-19.

The Genesee County Legislature has decided to conduct business remotely in response to a recent surge in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

Legislative Clerk Pam LaGrou this morning issued a media advisory stating that “due to a resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases and caution for all citizens, the Genesee County Legislature will meet remotely until further notice.”

The next meeting of the legislature is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, but instead of meeting at the Old County Courthouse, participants will be admitted via Zoom videoconferencing.

“This decision is being made given the increased number of COVID-19 cases in not only Genesee County, but the region and state as a whole,” County Manager Matt Landers said. “This is a proactive measure taken by the legislature to try and do everything possible to limit the spread further.”

Public Health Director Paul Pettit said the supports the board’s decision.

“We have seen a significant increase in cases and activity over the past couple weeks, with many of these cases and exposures being driven by nonessential gatherings without masking and social distancing by those present,” Pettit said. “The other driver is folks working while symptomatic.”

Pettit advised that this time of the year presents a higher level of challenges because colds and other seasonal ailments have similar symptoms to COVID-19.

“With the numbers increasing, changes like moving meetings to remote/distance platforms are practical ways to continue the work while helping to reduce risk,” he said.

Pettit offered the following “reminder/education” points to consider:

  • More people are having gatherings, but even at keeping them under the 50 people limit it still only takes one person to spread this virus. We are encouraging people to rethink their socialization to limit any nonessential gatherings of non-household members no matter what the size. Also, many of the gatherings are moving indoors which increases the potential for spreading the virus and can limit physical distancing.
  • Limit time at any functions/gatherings. The longer people are in confined places or near non-household members the higher the chance of spreading the virus. It seems more people are attending gatherings and going to work while being symptomatic. The numbers are showing that people are gathering and some who are symptomatic are attending events, gatherings and work. People should be checking their baseline health...you know what is normal for you. If something feels a little off and different from what your norm is STAY HOME!
  • Be diligent about keeping your distance from those who are non-household members of at least 6 feet ... more if you are engaging in physical activity, speaking loudly, singing, etc. 
  • Wear your mask/face covering! The masks are to be used in conjunction with physical distancing.
  • Wash/sanitize your hands and frequently shared items to decrease the transfer of germs. Washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water or using at least a 60-percent alcohol hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available helps.
  • The Finger Lakes region is showing an increase in hospitalizations and admissions to ICU because people are not following the guidelines. Many people are saying they are "tired" of not being able to do what they want to and are being careless around other people who may have underlying health issues. For those who are diligent about following the guidelines, we appreciate their compassion and caring for those they don't even know.
November 4, 2020 - 9:14pm

landers_11_4_20_a.jpg

Supported by an audience of department heads and legislators, first-year Genesee County Matt Landers tonight formally presented the municipality’s 2021 proposed budget, a $142,953,227 all funds spending plan drafted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It increases the tax levy by $400,069 but lowers the property tax rate by 31 cents per thousand of assessed value.

No one from the public signed up to speak at the budget hearing at the Old County Courthouse.

That left it to Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to credit management and departmental leaders for being able to “flex and pivot” to develop a budget that doesn’t override the New York State tax cap, and to Landers to summarize – or “Landerize” as he put it – the path that got the county to this point and set a course heading into 2021.

“It certainly was a challenge to put together a 140-plus million dollar budget in a pandemic, but here we are today able to present a balanced budget that is under the tax cap,” he said.

Aided by PowerPoint slides, Landers presented the following key dollar amounts and percentages for 2021:

  • Recommended All Funds Budget is $142,953,227; a decrease of $759,766 or .53 percent;
  • Recommended General Fund Budget is $110,241,924, a decrease of $3,767,378 or 3.30 percent;
  • Recommended Property Tax Levy is $31,451,727, an increase of $400,069 or 1.28 percent;
  • Tax Rate Decrease from $10.11 to $9.80, approximately 3.06 percent;
  • Recommended Fund Balance Usage of $2,334,857, an increase of $534,822 from 2020 adopted budget.

Although the tax levy is going up, the tax rate is going down due to an increase in the county’s assessment.

To illustrate the property tax impact, Landers showed a slide depicting the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $106,800. It revealed that the 31-cent tax rate decrease amounts to a decrease of $33.11 in property taxes, assuming no assessment increase.

Barring any last minute adjustments by the legislature, the budget as it currently sits is scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 23.

Landers outlined several parameters that needed to be followed before his team, that included Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer and Executive Assistant Vicky Muckle, could dive into the numbers. Those instructions were to keep county support to the various departments “flat,” hold the line on contributions to outside agencies and funding of Genesee Community College, taking a team approach and, per the legislature’s wishes, not overriding the tax cap.

“It was a consensus that we would not be cutting them (outside agencies) but we would be at flat funding, which in itself is asking a lot of some of these agencies that are feeling the same budgetary constraints and costs and COVID-related items that we are,” Landers said. “So, I was pleased that they would accept flat funding, and most were appreciative that we did not cut them.”

He said it was a difficult decision to not increase funding to GCC, which he called “an excellent economic engine” in the county.

Landers also mentioned other factors, some triggered by COVID-19, that carried much weight in the formation of the budget, notably word out of Albany of a 20-percent reduction in state aid for most programs, double-digit increases in health care and retirement costs, $23 million in yearly state mandated services provided by the county – “with no end in sight,” he said – plus a 10- to 15-percent loss in sales tax revenue and decrease in projected interest earnings.

In response to these challenges, Landers pointed out he used more of the unexpended fund balance that he was anticipating and hopes that the county will be able to replenish it over time. He gave credit to former County Manager Jay Gsell for implementing a strategic hiring freeze, furloughing employees and deferring capital projects as the pandemic took hold.

The county also made the decision to reduce its revenue sharing with towns and villages, with Landers stating that the previous agreement was “unsustainable” in this current economy.

On the bright side, Landers said this allowed the county to increase its budget for infrastructure by $1 million next year -- $900,000 for bridges and culverts and $100,000 for roads -- a benefit that will “lessen the blow” to towns and villages because "that money will be going into their communities."

He said the budget also calls for the creation of three full-time positions (a dispatcher and two human resources employees) and a part-time person to assist the veterans service coordinator.

Looking forward, Landers said the focus will be on six areas:

  • Sales Tax Revenues;
  • Status of a Federal Stimulus Package;
  • Status of State Aid Reductions;
  • Status of COVID-19 and a Hopeful Vaccine;
  • Effects of Bail Reform on Jail Population;
  • State Allowing Possible Joint Jail with Orleans County.

“The (new) Genesee County Jail, pre-COVID, was the biggest story going on – right up there with water (the county’s water project),” he said. “It will be getting started shortly … as a consolidation effort with Orleans County.”

At the present time, state law prohibits joint county jails, but Landers said he his hopeful that the governor could change his position in his 2021-22 budget.

Landers acknowledged that legislators could make some “tweaks” to the budget before stating “that it is in the legislature’s hands now.”

Stein closed the session by saying the legislature is determined to fund the operations of this county, adding that the manager’s and budget office “door is open” for people to express their feelings.

“We are here to serve with you and for you,” she said.

Photo: Genesee County Manager Matt Landers at tonight's budget public hearing at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 3, 2020 - 6:59am

Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, is determined to look beyond the rumors and posturing to make sure his department is ready when federal and state governments roll out the first phase of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“There’s a lot of chatter out there … locally, we’ll have our plan ready,” Pettit said on Monday afternoon as he advised the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee of the importance of three resolutions pertaining to the health department’s readiness to administer a vaccine.

The first resolution renews the county’s agreement with Genesee Community College to use the campus – at no charge -- as a Point of Dispensing Clinic during an emergency for the period of Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2023.

Pettit said GCC (possibly the new athletic facility) is an ideal site for distributing the vaccine, which he said likely will be made available in phases – first to elder care facilities such as nursing homes and then to healthier adults and children.

He mentioned that there could be up to 30 million doses by the end of the year, but didn’t know how many the county would get, speculating maybe 50 to 100 doses of the initial outlay. He noted that as the number of public vaccinations increase, private providers and pharmacies would be enlisted to support the health department’s efforts.

For smaller clinics, Pettit said the county already has the use of the fairgrounds and County Building II.

Pettit also responded to Legislator John Deleo’s comments about New York State wanting to review any federally approved vaccine before allowing it to be dispensed to its residents and about talk that the proposed vaccines are not sufficient for minorities.

That’s when he said he and his staff are focused not on the “chatter” but on making sure they are prepared when the time comes.

A second resolution was an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for the CDC to provide vaccine to the Genesee County Health Department at no cost to the county.

“This is the first step for us to receive the vaccine when it becomes available,” Pettit said, adding that he hasn’t heard of any vaccines that have cleared phase three of their trials yet.

A third resolution was a request to create a full-time COVID-19 Response Specialist, a Civil Service position, effective Nov. 12, 2020. The position would be funded by COVID-19 monies until June 30, 2022, at no cost to the county.

Pettit said coronavirus funding previously created one job and now the department needs this one, borrowing the title from a similar position in Wyoming County.

He said he wasn’t sure of the pay rate, thinking it was around $17 to $18 per hour, and noted that the job is tied to Orleans County and could lead to a full-time position.

Responsibilities of the Response Specialist would be to assist with contact tracing, testing and – eventually – vaccination. Pettit said the county continues to utilize the services of contact tracers employed by the state.

The Human Services Committee approved all three resolutions, which now will be forwarded to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday.

In a related development, the committee approved a contract renewal with Mary Younge of Rochester to provide nursing services on an as-needed basis for 2021. Pettit said Younge provided support to the county at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak in March, April and May.

November 2, 2020 - 9:33pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee this afternoon approved a proposal to end a longstanding agreement with the City of Batavia for the operation and funding of the City Youth Bureau, action that reportedly will save the city around $20,000 next year.

Jocelyn Sikorski, executive director of the Genesee/Orleans County Youth Bureau and City of Batavia Youth Bureau, presented the resolution, which will be considered by the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday and then, if passed, by the full legislature on Nov. 11.

Sikorski said the measure will eliminate the need for an executive director at the city level. She also said it is her understanding that city officials are on board with terminating the contract that was to run through Dec. 31, 2021.

“Just like the county manager (Matt Landers) met with you in executive session (about this), the interim city manager (Rachael Tabelski) met with the City Council in executive session,” she said. “It does save the city money. And they don’t need an executive director. The responsibilities can be shifted to a program coordinator position as well as to the assistant city manager position.”

Sikorski said plans call for City Council to receive a copy of the county’s resolution once it is finalized and then to consider a similar resolution at its Nov. 23 Business Meeting.

She said the city’s budget situation is a key factor in the dissolution of the agreement.

“The budget was the biggest thing, which Rachael is involved with at this point and time,” she said. “Any resolutions that go before City Council, the program coordinator can provide, and also reports to City Council – the written reports. Otherwise, a lot of my responsibilities had to do with administration with the Youth Board, the garden committee, administration of the department and other items like that. Maintaining relationship with the Y (Genesee Area Family YMCA), who is a major partner with Liberty Center (is important). The program coordinator has to establish that."

Legislator Gary Maha asked about funding sources for the city.

“I know that they’re in a tough budget issue right now …,” Sikorski said. “I think the interim city manager is looking at options but has guaranteed that youth services still will be provided for the city.”

Tabelski, contacted by telephone, agreed that it is a cost-cutting move for the city.

“The contract with the county had about 20 percent of the director’s (Sikorski) time allocated and we paid $19,525 in 2020 and are projected to pay $20,711 in 2021,” Tabelski said. “That is the contract that we’re dissolving and that will be the city’s savings.”

She said the city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – “to the extent we that we can.”

“Our current model, we do have a program coordinator and an assistant city manager. The goal is to split those duties between those two positions (which currently are vacant),” Tabelski said. “We also have the YMCA that helps staff the Liberty Center for Youth, which we haven’t reopened yet. There’s a lot of shifting and moving pieces, but we still wanted to go forward with the dissolution at this point.”

Tabelski explained that the city and county first entered into an accord in 2011 to share the youth bureau director.

“At that time, according to NYSOCFS (New York State Office of Children and Family Services), all youth bureaus had to have a director and then you received administrative dollars for having a director. At that point, it was a win-win,” she said.

In 2014, the legislation changed, she said, with the state recognizing only county youth bureaus. Thus, city, town or village youth bureaus or recreation programs had to apply for funding through the county. The two municipalities’ current agreement was renewed in 2018.

The resolution states that the county has “received additional funding from New York State for other youth bureau programming for Genesee and Orleans County youth bureau services, and in order for it to effectively implement the new programming, the county needs to terminate the existing Youth Bureau Agreement with the City of Batavia and reallocate staff resources” (effective Dec. 31, 2020).

Regarding the city’s overall financial outlook, Tabelski said it is facing a shortfall of $850,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins on April 1. She said about $500,000 of that is due to a 20-percent reduction in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding and the remaining $350,000 is due to rising salary and health care benefits’ expenses.

For the 2020-21 (current) fiscal year, the city is showing a budget deficit of $750,000, which is less than the $2.5 million that had been forecasted.

“Massive credit to the employees and departments for the savings and cuts that they’ve made, which is part services and programs,” Tabelski said. “We didn’t have summer recreation. Certainly, it’s a savings, but we weren’t able to have programming over the summer due to COVID. A lot of things are in flux and I think all municipalities are feeling this way right now.”

Tabelski said she was grateful to the county legislature for passing a sales tax agreement with the city.

“That helps our revenue forecast to remain quite stable because we’re guaranteed to get a portion of the sales tax,” she said.

In related developments, Sikorski introduced a pair of resolutions to authorize inter-municipal agreements with Orleans County for the youth bureau operation and for the STOP-DWI public information and education component for 2021.

Orleans County will pay Genesee County $5,266.25 per quarter for a total of $21,065 for the operation of its youth bureau.

For the STOP-DWI agreement, the cost to Orleans County will not exceed $10,475 for the entire year.

Another resolution designates the following appointments to the Genesee County Youth Board:

Tessa Lazarony and Emma Osborn, youth representatives; Jay Lazarony, at-large; Paul Osborn, Oakfield/Alabama/Elba. All terms are from Nov. 1, 2020 through Oct. 31, 2023.

October 29, 2020 - 5:15pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, genesee county, genesee county legislature.

Public Notice

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, That the Genesee County Legislature will meet at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia, New York on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 at 6 p.m. for the purpose of holding a Public Hearing on the Tentative Genesee County Budget for 2021.

Further Notice is hereby given that a copy of said Tentative Budget will be available in the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature, 7 Main St., Batavia, New York where it may be inspected by any interested person.

Pursuant to Section 359 of the County Law, the maximum salaries that may be fixed and payable during said fiscal year to members of the Genesee County Legislature and to the Chair, thereof, are hereby specified as follows:

Members of the Legislature $12,606 each

Chair of the Legislature $16,835

Pamela LaGrou, Clerk
Genesee County Legislature
Oct. 29, 2020

October 28, 2020 - 7:05pm

Genesee County and Randsco Pipeline Inc., have agreed to put their quarrels on the back burner in order to proceed with a key segment of the county’s Phase 2 Water Supply project, a multimillion venture that is vital to supplying water to residential and commercial users.

The Genesee County Legislature this afternoon voted in favor of a late addition to its meeting agenda – a resolution to approve Work Change Directive No. 1 that directs the water and wastewater pipeline installation company “to promptly complete the work as specified in the (directive) by the completion dates (previously set forth).”

County Attorney Kevin Earl called what amounts to a ceasefire as “very positive because the county needs this portion of the project to proceed so that the rest of the project can be completed, with the ultimate goal of bringing more water to Genesee County.”

“This change directive was approved by the county and also was approved by Randsco’s attorney, so that means that Randsco is going to move forward with its portion of the project and both sides are going to reserve their rights to all issues,” he said. “Disputes regarding money or any other matters will be addressed afterwards.”

Edward Kowalewski Jr., attorney with Hodgson Russ LLP of Buffalo, drafted Work Change Directive No. 1, and it subsequently was reviewed and approved by County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, Earl and Clark Patterson Lee, the Rochester engineering firm representing Genesee County on the water project.

Randsco Pipeline has contracted with the county to connect water main in the North Road and Vallance Road areas in the Town of Le Roy under the I-90 Thruway as part of the county’s Phase 2 Water Supply Project.

Last Wednesday, the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee passed a resolution authorizing Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to sign an engagement letter with Hodgson Russ to provide legal advice concerning “serious disputes” with the contractor at the rate of up to $305 per hour.

Today’s action reopens the door for Randsco to resume the contracted work authorized by the legislature.

“This is good news,” Stein said.

The Batavian previously reported that the legislature approved a change to a contract with Randsco Pipeline, adding $125,000 to a pact for the installation of reinforcing sleeves on five tangential tee connections along the transmission main on North Road in the Town of Le Roy.

The modification raised the total contract amount to approximately $5.6 million.

Hens said that the change order related to the reinforcement of five tangential tees or hydrant assemblies off the 36-inch water main on North Road and to prevent any future leaks at the tees due to settlement or car accidents involving hydrants.

Randsco Pipeline’s work is part of a $23.5 million project that will add 2.4 million gallons per day to the county’s water supply from Monroe County Water Authority sources, essentially doubling the current output of 2.5 million gallons per day.

On Tuesday, Hens issued a media release, stating that water main work will be resuming on North Road between Conlon Road and Route 19 in the Town of Le Roy.

The road will be open to traffic, but there will be lane closures and temporary delays starting at 7:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. each day for the remainder of the week.

October 22, 2020 - 7:56am

The Genesee County Legislature is reaching out to a Buffalo law firm as it has encountered “serious disputes” with a Macedon-based water and wastewater pipeline installation company contracted to connect water main under the I-90 Thruway as part of the county’s Phase 2 Water Supply Project.

On Wednesday, the Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of a resolution authorizing Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to sign an engagement letter with Hodgson Russ LLP to provide legal advice concerning disputes with Randsco Pipeline Inc., at the rate of up to $305 per hour.

“We are seeking advice to assure that our risks are limited for our contract for water supply, and that’s all I can say,” Stein said after the meeting. “It pertains to Phase 2 – the big water line.”

Scott Smith, owner of Randsco Pipeline Inc., was equally tight-lipped, stating, “I’m not going to comment on any of the matter.”

According to the Randsco Pipeline website, Smith purchased the company in 2015, and was able to expand its services -- primarily public projects throughout the state -- by moving it from Victor to Macedon.

In a Sept. 23rd story, The Batavian reported that the legislature approved a change to a contract with Randsco Pipeline, adding $125,000 to a pact for the installation of reinforcing sleeves on five tangential tee connections along the transmission main on North Road in the Town of Le Roy.

The modification raised the total contract amount to $5,657,030.60.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said that the change order related to the reinforcement of five tangential tees or hydrant assemblies off the 36-inch water main on North Road and to prevent any future leaks at the tees due to settlement or car accidents involving hydrants.

Hens said the work is part of a $23.5 million project designed to add 2.4 million gallons per day to the county’s water supply from Monroe County Water Authority sources, essentially doubling the current output of 2.5 million gallons per day.

The resolution to sign the engagement letter for legal advice states that “serious disputes have arisen with Randsco Pipeline Inc. regarding the work … and these disputes are likely to result in litigation involving the County of Genesee.”

It also states that Hodgson Russ was recommended to the county by Clark Patterson Lee, the engineering firm involved in the project. County Attorney Kevin Earl then drafted the letter, with both the legislature’s Public Service and Ways & Means committees accepting the rate of up to $305 per hour.

The resolution states that legal costs will be paid from the county’s water fund through a budget transfer from wholesale water purchases that came in under budget.

In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions (which will be voted upon by the full legislature at its Oct. 28th meeting):

-- A capital project for the Darien-Alexander Townline Road over Tunnery Creek Bridge Replacement at a cost of $1,076,213, with 80 percent of the expense ($860,970) covered by federal aid. The county’s 20-percent share ($215,243) will be taken from its road and bridge reserve fund.

-- The reappointment of Dennis Phelps of Alabama as a director of the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District through Dec. 31, 2023.

-- The reappointment of John Gerace as the Town of Batavia (District #4) representative to the Genesee County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Committee through March 31, 2023.

October 21, 2020 - 3:07pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature, Town of Bethany.

Town supervisors and village mayors in Genesee County have varied opinions when it comes to the circumstances surrounding changes in revenue distribution from the county that have occurred over the past six months.

Some, such as Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post, have voiced their support of the County Legislature, reasoning that lawmakers and county management have acted prudently as they deal with the negative financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Others, such as Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr., have criticized the legislature for nullifying agreements between the county and municipalities from 2018 and 2019 to make quarterly revenue payments.

It was in May, a couple months into an economic shutdown, when legislators rescinded the authority of the county treasurer to make those payments, action that Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein called a temporary move and pleaded for town and village officials to “hang in there with us.”

Since then, the legislature continued to pass resolutions that provide money to the municipalities, now calling them "voluntary revenue distributions" that are not subjected to a formal contract. The fourth and final payment for 2020 is expected to be approved by lawmakers at their meeting next week.

On Tuesday, Hyde said the county’s decision to cancel the revenue sharing agreement has led to a “lack of trust.”

“They left the towns hanging when the county decided to completely cut the sales tax revenue distribution from the towns, and left us to fend for ourselves,” said Hyde, who is completing his sixth year as supervisor and has three years remaining on his current term. “Yes, there have been some distributions (in 2020) but they aren’t what we were supposed to get.”

Hyde also said he’s not convinced that the municipalities will receive the amounts the county has publicized for 2021, either.

“Until it shows up in the town’s bank account, I’m not taking them at their word for it. They took an agreement that all the towns (and villages) worked hard at to come up with and signed and agreed to, and they just threw it away.”

Town Received 16.2 Percent Less

Final revenue distribution dollar amounts for 2020 released by the county show that the Town of Bethany was allocated $502,644.47 – that's 16.2 percent less than the $599,560 than it would have received if the previous distribution agreement was still intact.

The 16.2 percent is slightly more than the 14.8-percent average decrease across all the municipalities for 2020, Landers said. 

Click here for a table showing the 2020 distributions (pdf) (made in four payments) for all towns and villages and the percentage of decrease.

Landers said the first payment was made per the previous agreement with the towns and villages. The remaining three payments were based on current taxable assessed valuations of the municipalities.

“So, municipalities that had recent assessment increases at a higher rate than other municipalities did better than municipalities that had low assessment increases or no assessment increases,” Landers explained. “In the Town of Batavia, for example, because they had more growth, its decrease is less than 14.8 percent (actually 11.8 percent), while some municipalities had higher than 14.8 percent.”

The county manager said the legislature understands the difficulty that this creates for towns and villages, “but we’re just basically trying to share in it and not pass all of our (losses) as we’re projecting a 20-percent reduction in our state aid and a 4 to 5 percent (reduction) in sales tax. So, we’re trying to share the best we can while also maintaining our operations.”

County Allocates $10 Million for 2021

Going forward, the county recently announced it plans to distribute $10 million to the towns and villages in 2021. That represents a 28.5-percent decrease from what it originally planned to share.

The Town of Bethany is supposed to receive $410,123 next year and has budgeted accordingly, Hyde said.

“We’re trying to do what we can to survive with whatever the county gives us, we’re going to use it for road maintenance, to keep the taxes down, things like that,” he said. “We’re trying to get off the county welfare wagon.”

Hyde said his 2021 preliminary budget of $1,100,935 calls for an increase of 28 cents in the property tax rate – from $3.71 per thousand of assessed value to $3.99 per thousand of assessed value.

“It’s better than what it could have been,” Hyde admitted, noting that when the distribution agreement was ended, the town was looking at a tax rate of $9 per thousand.

Fund Balance to be Utilized

He said the budget lists revenues at $476,221 in revenues, fund balance to be used at $226,842 and the tax levy at $397,872. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Bethany Town Hall.

“We’ve cut everything – every line in the budget pretty much. We asked all the elected officials if they would be willing to take a 10-percent pay cut, which they did, and the town had to eliminate a person from the highway department,” Hyde said.

Hyde said he and the board “have done a good job over the last six years, not raising taxes and maintaining everything that we need to, and I’m sure the residents are happy about that. This whole thing threw a monkey wrench it in.”

He said he would like to see someone with a financial background “step up” and run for his office in 2023, but until then, he said he will continue to monitor the state Comptroller’s website each month to see how much each county has either lost or gained in sales tax revenue.

“From January 1st through the end of September, Genesee County’s sales tax is only down 7 percent,” he said. “And here we are down (much more than that) because of whatever the county is doing with the money. That doesn’t make sense does it.”

Landers responded to Hyde’s concerns by noting the legislature voted in favor of a resolution to authorize the final distribution of this year.

“That’s why we passed that Rule 19 resolution to try to demonstrate that it’s on the way and it will get paid in the next audit at the legislature meeting on October 28th,” Landers said. “That’s when the payments for the final distribution go through and on that Friday (Oct. 30) is when the ACH (automated clearing house) payment will show up in their bank accounts. For those who don’t have direct deposit, the checks will be mailed out.”

Bethany Signs Plowing, Mowing Contract

In another development, the Town of Bethany has entered into an intermunicipal agreement with the county to provide snow and ice control and mowing services on county roads.

According to a resolution to go before the entire legislature on Oct. 28, the cost per mile for the 2021 snow and ice season is $6,521 and the cost per mile for mowing is $474. This represents a 1.1-percent increase in the rate for snow and ice over the 2020 season and a 2-percent increase in the cost for mowing.

The total annual payment to the Town of Bethany for these services will be $141,961.85 for snow and ice control and $10,328.46 for roadside mowing.

“With this contract, all towns except the Town of Batavia have snowplowing and mowing contracts with Genesee County,” Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said. “It is the most efficient way for us to plow the roads for our residents.”

Hens said the agreement with the Town of Batavia stipulates that the county plows roads east of Route 98 and the town plows roads west of Route 98 since their highway garages are on opposite sides of the city/town.

“Again, it’s the most efficient way. We’ve been doing it that way for 20 years,” Hens added.

October 20, 2020 - 10:03am

In his fourth week as interim executive director of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, Jay Gsell said he is focused on networking throughout the agency’s nine counties to help the region bounce back from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gsell was back at the Old County Courthouse on Monday afternoon, in the legislative chambers – upstairs from the office where he spent one day shy of 27 years as the Genesee County manager. He retired in August and, about a month later, accepted the interim position with G/FLRPC.

During a review of the regional planning council’s recent activities for the legislature’s Public Service Committee, Gsell said a $400,000 CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant awarded to the G/FLRPC will go a long way toward “disaster and recovery planning, and resiliency planning from the pandemic but also what it is going to look like coming out on the other side.”

“We will be working closely to see what the GCEDC (Genesee County Economic Development Center) and others are doing in terms of once COVID is under control and putting that into perspective,” Gsell said. “And we will be working with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council and others to make sure you are not duplicating effort but also how do we come together to make sure the region comes back.”

The G/FLRPC qualified for the grant through its designation as an Economic Development Administration-designated Economic Development District.

Gsell said he is working out of an office on the eighth floor of a building owned by a private developer in downtown Rochester, commuting from his Batavia home five days a week for about five to six hours per day. He said he has an open-ended contract with the agency.

“It’s really up to what the executive committee (which includes Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein and Esther Leadley of Pavilion) and the regional board want to do as far as the time period,” said Gsell, who is temporarily filling the position that was manned by David Zorn until his retirement after about 29 years on the job.

Gsell said Zorn told him that he worked about 35 hours a week doing the basic job and spent another 30 doing “everything else.”

“Dave Zorn did a great job … now I’m starting to liaison with other agencies they deal with, and the other counties -- starting to network like Dave had done.”

Gsell said the G/FLRPC has an annual budget of around $700,000, with Genesee County providing $9,400 each year.

“It has been a flat level of county funding for a number of years and we don’t expect that to change,” Gsell said, noting that larger counties, such as Monroe, contribute more to the agency which has four full-time employees with an average tenure of about two and a half years.

He said the G/FLRPC benefits Genesee County through its work on behalf of watershed development, on comprehensive plan updates and government workshops to help local zoning officials get their mandatory hours of training every year.

“Plus, the grants that are coming in support all the counties and we also have an alliance with the Genesee Transportation Council and each of the municipal planning departments in the county,” he said.

The G/FLRPC was established in 1977 and set up “to do transportation funding, infrastructure funding, wastewater quality, environmental funding activity, and to be clearing house for grants for other organizations to help them focus on the bigger picture," Gsell said.

Counties in its original membership were Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Yates. Wyoming County was admitted in 1986. The nine counties in the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region comprise 4,680 square miles, with a population exceeding 1,217,000 residents.

The voting members of the Council are chief elected officials, local legislators, department heads and community leaders representing the participating counties, City of Rochester and the community at-large.

October 15, 2020 - 9:55am

county_collaborative_1.jpg

Genesee County leaders are advocating a spirit of togetherness as they take a divide-and-conquer approach to fulfilling the requirements of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on community police reform and reinvention.

On Wednesday night at the Old County Courthouse legislative chambers, the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative met for the first time, with 15 of the group’s 19 current members attending either in person or via Zoom videoconferencing.

County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein put out a call for unity and respect as she welcomed those who are tasked to address the policies and procedures of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office per the Executive Order issued on June 12.

“Together … we have an opportunity to learn from each other … to improve and manage public safety … through thoughtful, respectful and robust discussions,” Stein said. “Step by step by step, we will do this together.”

Stein emphasized that each member of the committee – from public officials to representatives of social or minority groups -- was important to meeting the governor’s directive.

“Each community must envision for itself the appropriate role of the police,” she said, “and policies must be developed to allow the police to do their jobs to protect the public and the policies must be with the local community’s acceptance.”

Following her opening statement, Stein introduced Robert Bausch, former County Legislature chair, who will serve as moderator for the group. After that, the committee members who were social-distanced throughout the room said a few words about themselves.

County Manager Matt Landers then read highlights of the Executive Order, focusing on the section that outlines the 15 different policing strategies that must be analyzed by Sheriff William Sheron and the community stakeholders.

Landers distributed a 10-meeting timeline (on Monday nights at 6:30), with five of those meetings dedicated to reviewing those 15 strategies as follows:

  • Nov. 2 – Use of force policies, procedural justice, any studies addressing systemic racial bias or racial justice in policing;
  • Nov. 16 -- Implicit bias awareness training, de-escalation training and practices, law enforcement assisted diversion programs;
  • Dec. 7 -- Restorative justice practices, community-based outreach and conflict resolution, problem-oriented policing;
  • Dec. 21 -- Hot spots policing, focused deterrence, crime prevention through environmental design;
  • Jan. 4 -- Violence prevention and reduction interventions; model policies and guidelines promulgated by the New York State Municipal Police Training Council; standards promulgated by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.

Sheron is scheduled to give a report on his department to legislators and the committee during a regular meeting of the legislature on Oct. 28, and will answer questions afterward.

Last night, the sheriff pointed out that the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office recently was reaccredited by New York State, which means that the agency has met or exceeded 133 standards as set forth by the state. The department was initially accredited in 2000.

Accreditation aside, Sheron said he would appreciate members' input, adding that "constructive criticism" is a vehicle "to making it better for our citizens."

The remainder of the collaborative’s meeting timeline indicates: a review of the draft report on Jan. 18; presentation of the draft to the public for feedback on Feb. 1; review and vote on the final report on Feb. 15; submission to the county Ways & Means Committee on March 3; adoption by the full county legislature on March 10; and delivery to the state Division of the Budget prior to April 1.

The Executive Order stipulates that the reform plan must be submitted to the state by April 1 or else it could jeopardize the locality’s state aid.

Landers said that the timeline isn’t etched in stone and that he is open to adding to the group’s number, especially if the interested person represents “another perspective or opinion.”

He added that the county’s Information Technology staff will be recording the meetings and the public is invited to attend in person (adhering to COVID-19 guidelines) or via Zoom.

Members present at last night’s meeting -- along with Landers, Stein and Sheron -- were:

  • Community members Julie Carasone, Perez Dinkins, Barb Starowitz, Tyrone Woods; Genesee Community College international student Rachel Gelabale;
  • Nonprofit community group member Lynda Battaglia, Genesee County Community Mental Health Services;
  • Faith-based leader John Keller, Northgate Free Methodist Church;
  • Educational group member Rachel Siebert, Genesee Valley BOCES;
  • Local elected official Gregory Post, Town of Batavia supervisor; Genesee County Public Defender Jerry Ader;
  • Genesee County District Attorney Lawrence Friedman;
  • Genesee County Sheriff’s Department Officer Howard Carlson.

Other members (who did not attend) are community member Leandro Mateos; John Bennett, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Millie Tomidy-Pepper, YWCA of Genesee County; and Genesee County Undersheriff Bradley Mazur.

The collaborative includes several persons of color and a cross section of people who have deeper views of societal issues through their interaction with minorities in their fields of employment, such as farm ownership, social and mental health services, substance use counseling, pastoral guidance, cultural competence and athletics.

Photo: The first meeting of the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative took place Wednesday night at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

October 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

A decrease in the Genesee County property tax rate and a much smaller than anticipated increase in the Town of Batavia property tax rate.

That’s the latest word from the managers of both municipalities who shared developments from today’s meetings with the legislature and town board, respectively, concerning their 2021 budgets.

“We’ve had several budget meetings with our county legislature and at this point and time I’m ready to propose a county budget that has a decrease in the (property) tax rate of approximately 31 cents down to $9.80 (per thousand of assessed value) from $10.11,” said first-year County Manager Matt Landers.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post had encouraging news as well, reporting that his current budget calls for about a 39-cent increase – from $2.45 per thousand to $2.84 – which is considerably less than the potential 88- or 89-percent increase that was bandied about a couple weeks ago.

“Everyone should thank the county legislators for their hard work to make it possible for the revenue distributions they have just made,” Post said, referring to a final 2020 payment of $6 million and a pledge to distribute $10 million in 2021 to the county’s 13 towns and six villages. “Now, we feel much better about taking $550,000 from our fund balance to make this happen.”

Both budgets are tentative and subject to change, but in all likelihood any modifications should be slight at this point.

Holding the Line Paved the Way

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she was hoping that her colleagues and management would be wrong in August (when they predicted a dire outcome).

“I’m glad we were, so we could increase this amount up to 10 million dollars,” she said of the 2021 revenue distribution, which is $2 million more than previously announced. She then applauded the efforts of everyone involved, noting that she appreciated their “work and consistency and your sticking with us.”

Landers echoed her sentiments, pointing out that the moves the legislature has made over the past six months, under the direction of Stein and former County Manager Jay Gsell, “have helped put us in a (good) position and helped me to put together this budget.”

“We’ve been able to fund our roads and bridges to the level that I’d like to fund them in 2021 … and they made a lot of good decisions … on furloughs, hiring freezes, deferring capital projects, deferring acquisitions.”

In order to lower the tax rate, Landers is proposing using about $2.3 million of the county’s $15 million fund balance. He said that is necessary due to a projected 20-percent (or more) cut in aid from New York State.

“We still don’t know if there’s going to be a stimulus for governments,” he said. “The stimulus isn’t anything I am looking toward for revenue replacement; the stimulus would benefit Genesee County primarily in that it would provide revenue to the state, and the state would not have to cut us.”

A 20-percent cut in state aid translates to a $2 million hit to the county’s budget, which will come in at around $144 million.

Sales Tax Numbers Better Than Anticipated

“As you saw in the resolution tonight (at the legislature meeting where the revenue allocations were approved), we’re going to budget $10 million of revenue distribution to our towns and villages in 2021,” Landers said. “We are projecting a small reduction in sales tax, but not anything that we would have thought six months ago. There were estimates that sales tax would be down 30 to 40 percent, but now we’re projecting a 5- to 10-percent reduction in sales tax.”

With sales tax numbers better than expected, the county is able to provide $10 million next year to support the towns and villages.

Landers said he and department heads went through the budget line-by-line during a couple Saturday morning workshop sessions and he “feels comfortable at this point submitting a budget that has roughly a 31-cent decrease in the tax rate, with a levy increase of approximately $400,000 (due to an increase in the county’s assessed value).

“I wish we could do more; I wish we could reduce taxes more,” he said. “It’s one of those (situations) where I’m glad we could come to a consensus with the legislature. I’m glad that we’ve got a balanced budget that I’m going to be proposing and once it goes from my hands to the legislature, it's their ability to modify it and amend it as they see fit.”

He said he expects the legislature to “tweak a thing or two,” but is relieved to have made it this far in the budget process.

“I’m glad to get through my first budget session. I never envisioned putting one together in a pandemic and a financial crisis, but I am glad that we are able to have a stabilized tax rate for Genesee County citizens,” he said. “I understand that it is going to utilize a little more fund balance than we like to, but that’s what the ‘rainy day’ fund is for. If we potentially didn’t have a 20-percent reduction in our state aid, we might have been able to have the possibility of further reductions (in the tax rate), which would have been great.”

Landers said the county’s fund balance is at 12 to 13 percent of its general fund expenditures – the proper level according to guidelines from the state Comptroller’s office.

The spending plan will be presented at a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Old County Courthouse. It is slated to be adopted by the legislature on Nov. 23.

Town Supervisor Breathes a Bit Easier

Post said he expects to get a good night’s sleep tonight for the first time in months after coming out of a budget workshop this afternoon at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The town received word that it would be getting another revenue check from the county in the amount of $1 million this year and just shy of $1.7 million from the county in 2021.

While the $1.7 million is less than what board members originally had hoped for, it is enough for them to be able to allot $550,000 from the fund balance to lower the tax rate.

“That, plus the fact that our investments are beating the market rate by a factor of six times, puts us in position to do that,” Post said, letting out a sigh of relief.

He attributed the town’s ability to weather the economic storm to its collaboration with the county, City of Batavia and Genesee County Economic Development Center that has resulted in developing “multiple streams of income.”

“This all started 12 years ago … by incentivizing businesses that provide sales tax revenue,” Post explained. “All of these entities have collectively applied those principals to our community and we’re reaping the benefits.”

The town board has indicated it will conduct a special work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 20, prior to adopting a preliminary budget on Oct. 21. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 4.

October 14, 2020 - 9:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature.

Update 11 a.m. with comments from Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein:

"We can gladly say that this is good news for the people in our county's towns and villages and City of Batavia. As the calendar moves on, there were key factors that we had to understand before we could determine (the amount to be distributed). The taxpayers are the ones who will benefit as they are the most important people in this entire conversation. It shows that we can work collectively in a manner that can least harm our taxpayers."

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

The Genesee County Legislature later today is expected to pass a pair of resolutions that will authorize the distribution to towns and villages of another $6 million in revenue to close out 2020 and $10 million in anticipated revenue for 2021.

“These are the dollar amounts that the legislature felt it could share for the rest of 2020 based on total revenues that come into the county, taking into consideration various lost revenues – state aid, sales tax and interest earnings,” County Manager Matt Landers said this morning.

Landers said the final round of $6 million in payments brings the 2020 total distribution to the county’s 13 towns and six villages to $12,179,543.

Looking ahead, the legislature’s intention to provide $10 million in revenue distribution for next year is welcome news to the municipalities, especially the town boards that are in the process of finalizing their budgets for their 2021 fiscal year that begins in January.

For villages, the 2021 distributions will help in crafting budgets for 2021-22 as their fiscal years run from June 1 through May 31, except for Alexander, which runs from April 1 through March 31.

The $10 million is more than what Landers called “a conservative estimate” of $8 million that the legislature projected in early September – but still less than the $14 million originally budgeted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially, we didn’t want to project a number that we couldn’t provide, and after another month or so of reviewing the data and reviewing where our revenues are coming in, the legislature felt comfortable increasing that $8 million estimate to $10 million,” Landers said.

Revenues are determined by a formula that takes into account the municipality's taxable assessed value and equalization rates.

Following are the dollar amounts (total of $6 million) that represent the final payments for 2020:

TOWNS

  • Alabama, $237,321;
  • Alexander, $245,122;
  • Batavia, $1,025,995;
  • Bergen, $296,990;
  • Bethany, $246,247;
  • Byron, $284,878;
  • Darien, $593,614;
  • Elba, $221,624;
  • Le Roy, $495,998;
  • Oakfield, $183,392;
  • Pavilion, $327,483;
  • Pembroke, $600,149;
  • Stafford, $379,168.

VILLAGES

  • Alexander, $44,197;
  • Bergen, $113,589;
  • Corfu, $80,543;
  • Elba, $64,499;
  • Le Roy, $435,583;
  • Oakfield, $123,609.

Following are the dollar amounts (total of $10 million) that represent full payments for 2021:

TOWNS

  • Alabama, $408,817;
  • Alexander, $399,714;
  • Batavia, $1,692,733;
  • Bergen, $510,034;
  • Bethany, $410,123;
  • Byron, $462,932;
  • Darien, $973,751;
  • Elba, $361,341
  • Le Roy, $824,606;
  • Oakfield, $300,052
  • Pavilion, $544,694
  • Pembroke, $1,023,383;
  • Stafford, $651,846.

VILLAGES

  • Alexander, $71,208;
  • Bergen, $199,528;
  • Corfu, $138,044;
  • Elba, $106,922;
  • Le Roy, $720,318;
  • Oakfield, $199,954.

The full legislature meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Old County Courthouse and will be followed by an informational meeting to set the timeline of the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative at 7 p.m.

In another development, the county’s Information Technology department has been working since Tuesday morning to restore phone, financial management and email networks to full efficiency. Officials have been unable to use email and getting through by telephone has been hit-and-miss.

October 8, 2020 - 8:29am

After a trying, stressful and – ultimately – successful time managing the Primary and Special Elections in June, Genesee County Board of Elections commissioners say they are reenergized and ready to tackle the national Election Day next month.

“We are full staff now and we’re prepared as we can be for the big one,” said Republican Commissioner Richard Siebert on Wednesday afternoon during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee at the Old County Courthouse.

Siebert and Democratic Commissioner Lorie Longhany recapped their efforts during the June 23 Primary and Special Elections for the 27th Congressional District prior to outlining plans for the Nov. 3 general election.

Calling it a “year like we have never experienced before,” the officials stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing guidelines from Albany made it very difficult for their team of poll workers, inspectors and technicians.

Beyond the state-mandated coronavirus health and safety protocols that were put into place at 24 polling sites, the local election office had to send out 40,000 absentee ballot applications – paying for printing and postage both ways.

“It was a big expense to the county,” Siebert said.

The commissioners reported their deputies “worked tirelessly and seamlessly to navigate through each Executive Order, delegate job duties to various county employees who helped with the large volume of election mail and to run point on every aspect of this most difficult election, including post-election absentee ballot counting.”

Siebert said the technicians charged with preparing the ballots had to program the electronic voting machines for six elections. Unable to meet strict deadlines and without scannable absentee ballots, staff had to hand count approximately 5,000 ballots.

Longhany noted that the teamwork of election workers on both sides of the political aisle and the assistance of Genesee County employees – led by County Manager Matt Landers and Human Resources Director Anita Cleveland – enabled the Board of Election to fulfill its duties and provide all the opportunity to vote without unreasonable wait times.

“We received a great deal of help from around the county,” she said. “It showed how cooperation is the name of the game for us.”

Siebert said the four complaints they received were addressed “and satisfied with explanation,” while Longhany added that an issue at the 400 Towers senior apartment building at East Main and Swan streets has been rectified.

“With the COVID and (having a senior population), they didn’t want us there, but they’ve come back on line with us for the general election,” she said.

Both officials said they are prepared for around an 80-percent turnout of the county’s 37,000 eligible voters for the November election.

They reported that 4,000 absentee ballot requests have been processed thus far, and that training is ongoing for 200 poll workers to use new electronic poll books in addition to their other duties.

Siebert said the electronic poll books are advantageous in that “it will tell us if a person has already voted.”

Additionally, Longhany said the absentee ballots for the coming election will be scannable – enabling workers to count the 6,000 to 7,000 they expect to receive in a timely fashion.

In summary, the commissioners thanked the legislature for its support -- both financially and by providing volunteer hours -- to ensure voters have the opportunity to “exercise their rights and feel confident in the integrity of our system.”

In a related development, the Ways & Means Committee forwarded a pair of resolutions concerning “chargebacks” to the county’s 13 towns and the City of Batavia stemming from costs incurred during elections in 2019.

The first authorizes the county treasurer to bill the municipalities for $7,794 in charges for expenses during the early voting period of Oct. 26-Nov. 5, 2019. Those charges range from $233 in the Town of Bethany to $1,817 in the City of Batavia.

The second allows the county treasurer to bill the towns and city for $54,785 in charges related to training and per diem fees for poll workers, inspectors and coordinators during the local primary (June 25, 2019) and general election (Nov. 5, 2019). Those charges range from $1,470 in the Town of Pavilion to $19,450 in the City of Batavia.

Landers said the county’s real property department will notify all the municipalities of the charges this year with the expectation that the county treasurer will bill and collect what is owed in 2021.

October 6, 2020 - 11:59am

joyce_1.jpg“A vet is a vet, I don’t care where they live or reside.”

That, in a nutshell, sums up the philosophy of Bill Joyce, Genesee County Veterans Services director, who isn’t bound by geographical borders when it comes to assisting those who have served in the military.

Joyce is an East Pembroke resident who retired as a sergeant major after 40 years of active and reserve duty in the pArmy, with tours of duty in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He accepted his current role in May 2012 and has positively influenced the lives of thousands of vets over the past eight years.

On Monday, he presented his departmental review to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee, reporting that “I know that I’ve been busy” although the regional office has been closed due to COVID-19 and that no actual claim and appeals numbers are available.

His report indicated that his office had 6,410 contacts and provided 8,040 client services over the past year, with a portion of those visitations involving vets from outside Genesee County. During his time on the job, Joyce has become known throughout the state as someone who can be counted upon to find solutions.

“We didn’t close the office, despite COVID-19, which was not only beneficial for our (Genesee) county veterans but for our outside (the) county veterans,” he said. “Today, I had a call from a Dutchess County veteran that can’t get a hold of anybody down there. As long as I can work by email, telephone, fax, I’ll take them.”

Joyce said he has been frustrated over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Rapid Appeals Modernization Program, which “is nothing like it is supposed to be. It’s not rapid.”

He said that some veterans have been waiting for almost a year for their appeals to go through. But, although the regional office is temporarily closed, he said he has found other ways to network.

“The regional office was supposed to be doing the appeals – they’re no longer there, so now I’m doing virtual,” he explained. “A veteran comes to my office and we sit there in front of my computer with the judge on the other side or they’re sitting on their telephone and I’m sitting on my computer and the judge is on the computer. So, we have appeals going through and not waiting for the regional office to get back in gear.”

Joyce said he continues to take on referrals from the Department of Social Services, assisting wives and widows of veterans with pension issues and education for children in cases where the vet has a 100-percent service connected disability.

He also has a key role in proceedings at the Western New York National Cemetery located at Route 77 and Indian Falls Road in the Town of Pembroke.

Joyce has been selected to serve on a memorial committee set up to attain donations for family members of deceased veterans.

“The VA (Veterans Administration) cannot buy stuff,” he said. “It’s as simple as a golf cart for a wheelchair (bound) spouse or family member to visit their loved one (at the cemetery). This committee is formed at all national cemeteries to buy something as simple as a golf cart for family members to visit their loved ones.”

He said donations from businesses or individuals can be made through the committee, which is working on a memorandum of understanding to accept contributions.

Joyce also is organizing the honor guard in neighboring counties to be ready since construction of the cemetery is ahead of schedule.

“They had the consecration of the grounds two weeks ago and they put the sod over the ground that was consecrated and we had the honor guard there,” he said. “The building that you see from the road – it shouldn’t be there – that’s how far ahead of schedule they are. The one committal shelter that you can see from the road, it shouldn’t be there (for the same reason).”

For those wishing to view the progress at the cemetery site, drone videos are posted on the Genesee County Veterans Services website.

Joyce responded to a question from Legislator Gary Maha about the pre-need application for veterans to secure their burial plot at the cemetery.

“The pre-need makes you feel good; you know you have a place for burial,” he said. “As I tell all the veterans, when it comes to your house, it’s in two envelopes. One’s the shipping and the other one is probably a 6 by 12 with a VA emblem on the outside. Take your discharge (paper) and make a copy of it, and put it in that envelope.

“So, whatever family member is making the arrangements for you can hand that to the funeral director. Then, the funeral director calls the national cemetery administration and they see that you’re already approved (with a docket number).”

Joyce noted that the veteran’s spouse can also be buried in the same vault. More information about the pre-need application is on the website.

October 5, 2020 - 8:45pm

Despite dealing with a public health crisis that has affected all of its programs and services, the Genesee County Department of Social Services has rolled with the changes to “continue to serve the residents of Genesee County efficiently and effectively,” the agency’s commissioner said today.

David Rumsey, presenting his departmental review at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee at the Old County Courthouse, reported that the diligence of his 107.5 employees (including a part-timer) has “come to the forefront in 2020 during the COVID-19.”

“With their ability to adapt to a new style of remote working, virtual training and a different feel for how to conduct business, they persevered and continue to serve the residents of Genesee County efficiently and effectively,” Rumsey said.

His 30-minute talk was based on a seven-page report that touched upon programming issues relating to: family visitations; child residential placements; and youth and adult protective services; budget issues relating to personnel; Medicaid costs; family assistance and foster care; and staffing developments.

Rumsey said the agency was at 50-percent staffing through June 1 (it’s back to 100 percent now) and that made it difficult to deliver services.

“All programs and services, in part, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that waivers were granted – and are still in place – for all program areas from conducting face-to-face interviews.

Child Protective Services Drop with Schools Closed

 With schools closed, child protective services decreased substantially, he said, as DSS was unable to get reports from school administrators. “We are seeing an uptick in CPS calls now,” he said.

He noted that the coronavirus hampered the agency’s ability to reunite families and perform court-ordered visitations until August, when DSS staff began supervising these visitations while adhering to all Center for Disease Control and Health Department COVID-19 guidelines.

Regarding foster care, Rumsey said the county had 69 young people in various foster care placements settings in August: 36 in regular foster homes; five in cluster homes; 17 in therapeutic foster care; and 11 in residential care. Additionally, two are at state training schools (detention) and one is at the New York State School for the Blind.

“The most prevalent reasons (for foster care) are still substance abuse and/or mental health issues of the caretakers or children” or the extreme acting out by the child(ren) that compromises the safety of the family members or community,” Rumsey explained, adding that costs to house foster children are substantial.

He said that placement in a “voluntary agency therapeutic foster home can typically average about $45,000 annually for board/admin, while placement in our own county foster homes, ranges up to $11,000 annually for board.

“We currently have 17 youth in placement with Hillside or Glove House therapeutic foster homes,” he reported.

The High Cost of Residential Placements

Rumsey said costs for residential placements for “our very high need and hard-to-place youth” affect expenditures and budget appropriations the most, with board and tuition expenses at residential treatment centers ranging from $145,000 to $230,000 annually for each of the 11 current placements.

He said that savings should be realized in 2021, however, as the state’s Family First Initiative is requiring Departments of Social Services to “reduce the number of residential placements by 30 percent and place those youth with families instead.”

The commissioner said that getting a foster child into an adoption setting takes time, thus keeping costs high. He said that of the 69 youth in foster care, 14 are freed for adoption.

DSS also intervenes when it comes to law enforcement and protective services for youth and adults, Rumsey said.

In 2019, New York State’s Raise The Age law stipulated that a youth can be prosecuted as an adult in criminal cases as long as he or she is at least 18 years old.

While the original concern was that more teens would be placed in both residential foster care and secured detention, this has not materialized, Rumsey said. He added that any increase in RTA spending or electronic monitoring should have no cost effect on the DSS budget as the state continues to promise 100-percent reimbursement on any RTA-identified youth.

Adult Protective Services Stretch Staff

Rumsey reported that Genesee County DSS has 161 cases in the Adult Preventive and Protective Services category, and that has caused additional strain on the staff.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, one worker was furloughed, which left four workers and one supervisor to oversee all the protective service for adult cases and handle preventive services (representative payee), utility referrals and guardianships,” he said.

On the subject of state-mandated Medicaid, Rumsey said New York has failed to live up to its promise to take over the administration of the program and sees “no light at the end of the tunnel.”

And, based on the requirement for a five-year look-back period for chronic care (nursing home), cases continue to take a great deal of time for eligibility determination, he said.

Rumsey said the department’s budget “remains on track despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” although a 20-percent cut of state aid looms.

“Personnel expenses are as budgeted, and we continue to experience a moderate turnover rate,” he said. “In 2020, we added two assistant county attorneys and one housing coordinator to our staff and hired a director of Fiscal Operations and Child Support (Jennifer Groff), five caseworkers, three social welfare examiners, two youth workers, an intake supervisor, intake clerk, and one part-time chauffeur. At the same time, we had one retirement, 10 resignations and two terminations.”

He said that only two of five vacant positions will be filled.

Medicaid Costs Fixed Through 2020

The county’s weekly Medicaid shares have been reduced to $153,807 per week, and will remain at the level through the first few months of 2021.

“This is the County’s local share of the entire Medicaid program, no matter how many additional people are enrolled or how many benefits are provided,” he explained.

Rumsey said the agency is providing temporary assistance for needy families at an average of 99 households per month involving around 203 individuals, with many of those being “child only” cases.

In closing, Rumsey defended and praised his employees.

“The work done at DSS does matter to our community. The job they do is not easy, and can be trying at times, and the role of this agency is often misunderstood,” he said. “Even with the additional stress the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the staff and their families they continue to work hard and are dedicated in the services they provide. I commend them all for the job they do every day.”

County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein echoed his sentiments.

“It has been six months and we are just really starting to get into our COVID experience of what we’re going to be living in for probably the next year to year and a half,” she said. “Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for the genuine and sincere care that your staff has demonstrated to our community. It is … appreciated by all of us here at the county because it is tremendous the pressure and the stress that is on every single person in the community and your staff.”

Commitee Passes Several Resolutions

In other developments, the committee approved several resolutions (to be forwarded to the full legislature) submitted by Mental Health Services Director Lynda Battaglia and Public Health Director Paul Pettit.

On the mental health side:

  • A contract with Jessica Kurzdorfer of Scottsville to provide additional psychiatric nurse practitioner hours at a rate of $95 per hour from Oct. 19 through Dec. 31. The pact calls for a maximum of 300 hours in that time period.
  • A contract with Spectrum Health & Human Services in Orchard Park for crisis after-hours services from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 at a cost not to exceed $12,534. Battaglia said the number of cases has increased considerably since April.
  • A renewal of a contract with Consilium Staffing of Irving, Texas, for psychiatry services at the same cost as what already has been budgeted for 2020 and 2021.

On the health department side:

  • An agreement with FairBridge Inn & Suites on Federal Drive, Batavia, to provide temporary lodging for both COVID-19 isolation and quarantine of individuals who are unable to stay in their homes and have a home in which to sequester themselves. The contract, to run through Aug. 26, 2021, calls for a rate of $40 per night if the stay is at least seven days or a rate of $50 per night if the stay is less than seven days. Costs are covered by the county.
  • Acceptance of a $23,130 from the state Department of Health to support the county’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Program. The grant period is Oct. 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021.
  • Contracting with Melissa Caputi of Batavia, an occupational therapist, to provide addition special education itinerant teacher services, classroom services and evaluator services in the Preschool Supportive Health Services Program retroactively for the period of Aug. 15, 2020 through June 30, 2021. The pay rate is established by New York State, with 59.5 percent of the service costs qualifying for state reimbursement, less any Medicaid payment on Medicaid-eligible children.
September 23, 2020 - 6:35pm

The Genesee County Legislature today approved a resolution authorizing changes to a pair of projects designed to increase the county’s water supply capacity under Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program.

Passage of the measure took place at the legislature's monthly meeting at the Old County Courthouse, following adoption of a proclamation designating Sept. 20-26 as Sheriff's Week in Genesee County.

The first adds $125,000 to a contract with Randsco Pipeline Inc., of Macedon, for the installation of reinforcing sleeves on five tangential tee connections along the transmission main on North Road in the Town of Le Roy. It raises the total contract amount to $5,657,030.60.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said this change order, coupled with a previous change to zinc-coated pipe and other related items totaling $190,285, raises the total contract amount to $5,601,485.

Hens said that the latest modification is to reinforce the five tangential tees or hydrant assemblies off the 36-inch main on North Road and to prevent any future leaks at the tees due to settlement or car accidents involving hydrants.

The second, which has no financial impact, allows Villager Construction Inc., of Macedon, to take up to 90 more days to perform installation work, primarily at the Chestnut Ridge water transmission main in the Town of Chili and the pump station offsite water mains in Mumford and Churchville. Delays in the project were due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The total amount of that contract stands at $4,942,165.

Both projects are part of a $23.5 million initiative that is intended to add 2.4 million gallons per day to the county’s water supply from Monroe County Water Authority sources, essentially doubling the current output of 2.5 million gallons per day, Hens said.

“Several Genesee County funded projects are occurring in Monroe County to get the water to our border and several are occurring in Genesee County as well,” he said. “The county is also assisting several municipal projects in Genesee County.”

In other action, the legislature approved a year extension a telephone system maintenance contract with Meridian IT of Rochester to provide continuous monitoring, remote and on-site service of all equipment, including handsets and incremental software upgrades for the IP Office servers installed at every County location.

The contract amount is not to exceed $24,943.

Per the resolution, Meridian IT “provides a level of expertise that in-house staff do not have. The telephone system is a critical component to supporting county departments and this outsourced service is necessary to ensure its availability and reliability.”

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.

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