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genesee county legislature

July 23, 2021 - 9:06am

As a result of three committee meetings this week, Genesee County legislators have much to vote upon when they meet as a full board next Wednesday.

Resolutions passed at Monday’s Human Services and Public Service meetings and Wednesday’s Ways & Means meeting that were not previously reported upon by The Batavian include the following:

  • $1.4 million for COVID-19 testing in schools

The New York State Department of Health has awarded the Genesee County Health Department funding in the amount of $1,415,984 for COVID-19 school testing activities and to purchase personal protective equipment for all public and private school pupils from Universal Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Public Health Director Paul Pettit said the money can also be used for testing supplies and telehealth services for both students and faculty. Distribution of funds will be based on the population at each school, he added. The grant does not cover vaccination.

  • ARP funds to help spruce up OFA

This resolution calls for using $64,416 of more than $233,000 awarded through the American Rescue Plan for a capital project at the Genesee County Office for the Aging on Bank Street.

The project consists of reconfiguring and adding office space, carpeting and painting, replacing the dishwasher and garbage disposal, and adding other furnishings, equipment and subscriptions to enhance the client experience, OFA Director Diana Fox said.

The Human Services Committee also approved using some of the ARP money to fund two new positions at the OFA – a part-time program assistant and full-time financial clerk typist, both through Dec. 31, 2024 – and expand a part-time program assistant position from 15 hours biweekly to 19.5 hours biweekly, also through Dec. 31, 2024.

Two part-time vacant nutrition program meal site assistant positions were eliminated.

  • Radio system contract with L3 Harris is extended

The Public Service Committee recommended approval of an extension of the public safety radio system maintenance services contract with L3 Harris Technologies Inc., through Dec. 31, 2026, at a cost of $188,567 per year.

The agreement was set to expire on Dec. 31 of this year, but since the county will be adding a new tower site on Molasses Hill Road in Alexander, it was determined to extend it at this time.

Another resolution to accept $205,530 in grant funding from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communication was approved. The money will be used to offset a portion of the 2021 Communications budget, according to Emergency Communication Director Steve Sharpe.

  • SROs to continue at Byron-Bergen, Pavilion

School Resource Officers will remain at Byron-Bergen and Pavilion central school districts for at least another year, with B-B opting for a September through August 2022 schedule at a cost of $102,813.81 and Pavilion going with a July through June 2022 schedule at a cost of $119,021.07.

Sheriff William Sheron said the difference in cost is due to one SRO having a single health insurance plan instead of a family plan. The cost to the schools include the hourly rate for a deputy sheriff, fringe benefits and insurances.

Public Service also approved a resolution to expend $10,757 from the K9 Donations Reserve Account to help in the recovery of K9 Rayzor, who recently suffered a leg injury and is need of physical therapy and medications before returning to service.

K9 Frankie also has had physical issues, but currently is fully functional, said Sheron, who thanked the public for donations to the fund, which has been depleted.

  • More funding for Justice for Children Advocacy Center

A grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services’ to fund the Justice for Children Advocacy Center has been renewed, with this year’s amount of $190,143 representing a $2,000 increase from last year.

Funds from this grant will enable the program to provide services for children and families affected by abuse in the Batavia, Warsaw and Albion areas, JCAC Coordinator Theresa Roth said.

  • ARPA funds to aid Genesee County Airport

Thirty-two thousand dollars in funding from the American Recovery Plan Act to offset expenses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be coming to the Genesee County Airport.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said the money will be used to help pay down the debt service on the terminal and main hangar. Hens noted that the county is expected to receive about $100,000 in this type of funding by the end of the year, and all will be used in the same manner.

July 19, 2021 - 8:46pm

Next Wednesday, July 28th, is shaping up as round three in Genesee County’s attempt to get a grip on the size and cost of the new county jail it has been mandated to build by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

At the end of the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting today at the Old County Courthouse conference room, County Manager Matt Landers said he has received an updated 10-page bed study from the SMRT architectural firm of Portland, Me.

Landers said he plans to go over the report at a meeting of the full legislature next week, and expects to have a revised cost estimate from the Pike Company of Rochester at that time as well.

“We’ve done this twice before,” Landers said. “Going back three or four years, the legislature gave me a thumbs-up, and probably two years ago when we were getting a better handle on the costs, I did it again and got the legislature to agree to $60 million. We were all in agreement – thumbs up.”

Calling the coming session a “good gut check,” Landers said it will be the first time that two new legislators – Brooks Hawley and Chad Klotzbach – will get to hear the full scope of the project.

Genesee County has been conducting its due diligence on the construction of a 184-bed jail on land just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

Landers is hoping that $60 million figure is still in play, but things could change in this post-COVID environment.

“Now, we’re in a different world, COVID, numbers, everything. So, once again we need to make sure everyone is on board for whatever cost estimates are before us,” he said. “The next thumbs up is going to dictate preparing our bid documents and going out to bid sometime in the spring. If cost estimates are two or three times (what we budgeted for), we’d have to stop and wait.”

He noted that SMRT reported that the 184-bed number is still intact, but even that isn’t etched in stone.

“We all know that the state is taking a left turn, to a degree, with social justice reforms,” he said. “Is that the way it’s going to be for awhile or is there going to be a pendulum swing, using the sheriff’s (William Sheron) words. But how much of one?”

Another factor is whether the state will allow those sentenced for one or two years to be kept in county jail.

“Now, if it’s longer than a year, you’re sentenced to state prison,” Landers said. “The state, using the mantra of social justice and to save money, may decide to shift these people and keep them in (county) jails, which meets their argument of keeping them closer to their families.”

WHAT ABOUT THE CURRENT JAIL BUILDING?

When asked if it was possible to sell the current jail in tandem with the sale of the City of Batavia police station building, Landers said it was “an interesting concept but there a lot of pieces that would have to work together.”

“It’s going to take longer to build a jail than it’s going to take to build a police station. We’re not going to be out of the current jail for two or three years and that’s if there are no cost overruns and we are ready to go in the spring,” he said.

Landers also mentioned that Genesee Justice and the backup 9-1-1 center are housed in the jail building.

“We have to make sure we have the ability to move all of that out into a new location. All of that has to happen,” he said. “And to tie that with the city. They may be waiting on us, and we’re still not out.

“Timing is everything. If everything tied up and we wanted to sell it, maybe it would work, but we have as part of our contract with SMRT a dedicated study to see what we could use the current jail building for in the future.”

The county manager said he has thought about using the jail portion of the building at West Main Street and Porter Avenue as a countywide records’ center.

“I have been thinking that it could be a shared services model because all of these towns have permanent records,” he offered. “We could take a jail cell and say ‘Town of Byron, here’s your permanent records'; 'Town of Bergen, here’s your permanent records’ and actually have a centralized shared service project where all the records from the county come to one area.”

July 9, 2021 - 2:01pm

Despite the efforts of state representatives in Albany, the Genesee County Legislature’s hopes for enabling legislation to remedy its sales tax and revenue distribution dilemma have been dashed by the Democratic majority in the New York State Assembly and Senate.

"Senator (Edward) Rath and Assemblyman (Steve) Hawley tried everything they could to make this happen, but their colleagues in the majority didn't agree," said Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein on Thursday night.

So, as a result, county leaders have come up with a plan on their own – actually two options depending upon buy-in to updated water agreements from all municipalities – to ensure equitable sharing of revenue to Genesee’s towns and villages.

On Wednesday, Stein and County Manager Matt Landers presented their solution at a meeting of town supervisors and village mayors at the Old County Courthouse.

The Batavian has attained a copy of the discussion outline, which includes the following two options that are on the table:

(1) Distribute $10 million annually to the municipalities in sales tax revenue for the next 38 years as long as all towns and villages sign updated water supply agreements by Aug. 13. As of today, the Towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu have yet to sign.

OR

(2) Without universal updated water supply agreements, the county will allot $7 million for annual sales tax distributions to towns and villages, and pass annual revenue distribution resolutions for another $3 million, to allow for the equalization of water surcharge revenue.

SEEKING THE STATE’S HELP

Landers said the county’s current revenue sharing process has created a situation, per state law, where towns with villages inside them have to keep two separate books and have two separate tax rates – an A fund for townwide sales tax that affects everyone and a B fund for sales tax that only affects the services of taxpayers outside the village.

“(State legislation) would have fixed an accounting issue with towns that also have villages,” Landers said.

Unfortunately for the county, state lawmakers didn’t go for the idea.

“The enabling legislation that we were seeking during this last New York State session was to be able to allow the towns that had villages inside them to receive that revenue distribution into their B funds, which was the unintended consequence of revenue distribution,” Stein said. “That failed to get picked up in Albany.”

She said the majority in both chambers “felt the county of Genesee was trying to usurp the power of the state. Therefore, (they were) not interested in helping Genesee County fix that B fund revenue issue.”

ALL IN ONE BASKET?

Now, the county is looking to place all the municipalities back into the sales tax revenue pool.

“The risk to the county in putting everyone back into the sales tax is that we have that water surcharge to help pay for the big water – to bring it into the county,” Stein said. “Without having all 20 towns and villages sign on, we would then most likely get sued by the other 17 that are paying the surcharge – and we would deserve it, let’s put it that way.”

She explained that the $10 million figure that the county is committed to putting into the sales tax agreement would fix the unbalanced A and B tax rate in all but one town – “and that one, through some shared services, could happen very quickly. The $7 million would fix three.”

Should the Towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu opt into the water agreement, the county would be able to distribute the $10 million in sales tax revenue to the towns and villages, with the amounts determined by the taxable assessed value of each municipality and equalization rates.

“If those two towns and one village decide not to opt in to the water agreement, the county – in order to equalize the surcharge of the $1.20 per thousand (gallons) for the water users – would have to go to revenue distribution without those three signed agreements (option 2 above),” Stein said.

Calls and emails to Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr., Pembroke Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. and Corfu Mayor Thomas Sargent for comment were not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

Landers said that he plans to meet over the next couple weeks with government officials in those locations.

“We’re not looking to single out those municipalities,” he said. “I understand they are trying to do the best for their residents.”

A NEW SALES TAX AGREEMENT

In order to make this work, the county needs the Batavia City Council to agree to amend the 40-year sales tax agreement (there are 38 years remaining). The current agreement is only between the county and the city.

“This is a fix that the county has available to us; the county has no skin in this game,” Stein said. “The sales tax agreement is between the City of Batavia and the county, and those are the signatories still to this agreement. We are both amenable to fixing that unbalanced rural property tax situation.”

Landers pointed out that as things stand now, revenue distribution has to go to the town’s A fund; it is not allowed to go to the B fund.

“It would disproportionately hurt rural taxpayers – farms, rural landowners,” he said. “Genesee County legislators agree that unbalance taxation can not continue on rural property taxpayers. Going back to a sales tax model was the only option once the enabling state legislation failed.”

He also credited City Manager Rachael Tabelski for being amenable to revising the sales tax contract.

“It doesn’t impact the City of Batavia one penny, but they understand that if they amend the sales tax agreement it would help our town taxpayers. Rachael was absolutely 100 percent on board with doing this,” Landers said. “Sales tax instead of revenue distribution fixes the problem with rural taxpayers.”

HOW WILL IT WORK?

According to the plan outline, the proposed amended sales tax agreement between the county and city would be dated July 1, 2021 to limit the exposure of towns with villages accounting for voluntary revenue distributions incorrectly in their B funds.

Landers said that revenue distributions would be finished for this year ($5 million has been doled out through June 30), and that two quarterly sales tax payments totaling $5 million will be made before the end of 2021.

“Starting in 2022, quarterly payments totaling either $10 million or $7 million will be distributed. If it is the $7 million figure, then an additional $3 million in voluntary revenue distribution payments will be made,” he reported.

The timeline indicates that a draft of the new sales tax agreement will be sent to the state Comptroller’s Office for review by July 19, and a resolution to cancel the remaining payments for 2021 will be taken to the county’s Ways & Means Committee on July 21. The full legislature would consider that resolution a week later.

The goal is to have an amended signed sales tax agreement sent to the Comptroller by Sept. 14 for formal approval.

HOW MUCH WILL BE DISTRIBUTED?

Following are the projected amounts to be dispersed to the towns and villages, with the first figure based on a $10 million sales tax distribution and the second figure based on a $7 million sales tax distribution:

  • Town of Alabama -- $407,659; $285,361.
  • Village of Alexander -- $71,006; $49,704.
  • Town of Alexander -- $398,581; $279,007.
  • Village of Attica -- $28,333; $19,834.
  • Town of Batavia -- $1,687,937; $1,181,556.
  • Village of Bergen -- $198,962; $139,273.
  • Town of Bergen -- $508,589; $356,012.
  • Town of Bethany – $408,961; $286,273.
  • Town of Byron – $461,621; $323,135.
  • Village of Corfu – $137,653; $96,357.
  • Town of Darien – $970,992; $679,694.
  • Village of Elba – $106,620; $74,634.
  • Town of Elba – $360,317; $252,222.
  • Village of Le Roy – $718,277; $502,794.
  • Town of Le Roy – $822,270; $575,589.
  • Village of Oakfield – $199,387; $139,571.
  • Town of Oakfield – $299,202; $209,441.
  • Town of Pavilion – $543,151’ $380,206.
  • Town of Pembroke – $1,020,483; $714,338.
  • Town of Stafford -- $649,999; $454,999.
June 24, 2021 - 7:53am

A waste of time and money?

Genesee County governmental leaders on Wednesday expressed their public displeasure over the extremely low early voting turnout prior to Tuesday’s Republican Primary races in the towns of Bethany, Byron and Stafford.

County Manager Matt Landers reported that only six people took advantage of the nine days of early voting – all of them casting their ballots in the Town of Stafford, which held a primary for the position of town clerk.

“The other two races had zero voters even though we had nine days of early voting – at a not cheap cost” (to those municipalities), he said. “So, some food for thought.”

Landers said the county will “charge back” expenses (personnel, etc.) for the early voting at the ARC Community Center in Batavia to the towns. He explained that the three towns will pay proportionally based on the total number of registered voters in the municipalities, not by the number of people who voted.

He said he expects the total cost to be several thousand dollars considering that four election workers were called to duty each day under supervision of both Republican and Democrat commissioners.

Upon hearing that just six early votes were cast, Legislator Marianne Clattenburg brought up that Democrat lawmakers in Washington have been promoting “a one size fits all” voting reform.

“This is a perfect example of how that does not (fit),” she said.

That prompted Landers to say that while the county conducted nine days of early voting, “there’s a push to make it 15 days …”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said calls and/or letters to state and federal representatives are in order.

“I think that would be incumbent upon us to alert our representatives, both in the state and federal government … as an example of funds that aren’t being used in the manner that is prescribed and the value of those funds being used,” she said.

In another development, Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia reported that the department’s application for a mobile access program has been accepted.

“This is an exciting opportunity to change how we deliver crisis service at the times that people need this service the most,” Landers said. “We look forward to seeing the results of that program.”

A key feature of the mobile access program is the use of an iPad for mental health crisis response with law enforcement personnel on-site.

June 23, 2021 - 6:42pm

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Commended by the Genesee County Legislature this afternoon for “standing in the gap” during the COVID-19 pandemic, Genesee County Probation Department employees were honored with a proclamation designating July 18-24 as Pretrial, Probation and Parole Supervision Week.

Legislator Gordon Dibble presented Probation Director Timothy Michalak with the proclamation at a meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein thanked probation officers for conducting COVID-related home visits and volunteering to work at the county's mass testing and vaccination clinics.

Michalak thanked legislators for the recognition, stating, “As we all emerge from this pandemic, our officers who did a fantastic job will continue to work hard and make a positive change within individuals and our community, with a particular focus this year on restoring trust and encouraging hope.”

The proclamation reads as follows:

“WHEREAS, community corrections is an essential part of the justice system and probation officers uphold the law with dignity, while recognizing the right of the public to be safeguarded from criminal activity; and

WHEREAS, community corrections professionals are responsible for supervising adult and juvenile offenders in the community and are trained professionals who provide services and referrals for offenders, and

WHEREAS, community corrections professionals work in partnership with community agencies and groups while promoting prevention, intervention and advocacy; and

WHEREAS, community corrections professionals provide vital services, support, and protection for victims and are advocates for community and restorative justice; and

WHEREAS, Genesee County Probation Officers have endeavored to maintain public safety while managing the added challenges and stressors of a global pandemic and volunteered to stand in the gap when called upon to conduct COVID-related home visits and work at the mass testing clinics and vaccination clinics, and

WHEREAS, Members of the Genesee County Probation Department partnered with law enforcement and county departments during the holidays to ensure children and seniors in need received a gift or food through the “Stuff the Cruiser” and Holiday Tote Project, and

WHEREAS, community corrections professionals are a true Force for Positive Change in our communities, Now, Therefore, Be it

RESOLVED, that in humble appreciation of our hard-working probation professionals, the Genesee County Legislature does hereby proclaim July 18-24, 2021 as Pretrial, Probation, and Parole Supervision Week and extends our gratitude for their conscientious service and achievements.”

Photo from left: Legislator Gordon Dibble, Probation Director Timothy Michalak, Probation Officers Bryan Pike, Terri Buchholz, Jason Mindler, Carly Luttrell, Beatriz Mateos, Ben Heale, Supervisor Kevin Wright, Officer Jessica Turman and Supervisor Rachel Sanfratello. Other members of the Probation Department staff are Senior Officers Michele Tucci, Jeremy Barber and Traci Russo and Officers Bill Bogan and Jeff Hyde. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 18, 2021 - 9:07am

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Keeping abreast of the latest technology, maintaining a talented and dedicated staff and understanding the importance of building relationships have enabled Alleghany Farm Services LLC to deliver on its motto: Digging In. Helping You Grow.

Chad Klotzbach, managing partner, on Thursday invited customers, community leaders and friends to learn more about what it takes to properly provide drainage to farmland – and also to enjoy some food and refreshments – during a Field Day event at their business at 7342 Alleghany Road, Basom.

“We figured after COVID. Everybody is planted at this point. Wheat hasn’t come off yet. So, it’s a good kind of beginning to the summer break for everyone to get out and have a bite to eat and check everything out,” Klotzbach said.

Invitations were sent to about 300 people, mostly customers, he said. The company’s customer base stretches across the state and also to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont and, most recently, Maryland and Delaware.

Alleghany Services was founded in 1983 by Chad’s father, Drew, who continues on as a partner in the firm, which consists of multiple companies, with Alleghany Farm Services and Alleghany Construction as the two largest.

Last night’s event, which featured complimentary food from Center Street Smokehouse and beverage from 42 North Brewing Company – and live radio coverage by WCJW (CJ Country), highlighted the farming side of the operation.

“Our focus tonight is to educate people about drainage and the benefits and the various equipment we have to serve the customers – from our large tile plows to even our smallest one that services vineyards and orchards,” said Klotzbach, who started with the company in 2010 after graduating from Clarkson University and advanced to managing partner about two years ago.

With about 30 employees and millions of dollars in specialized (and computerized) equipment, Alleghany Farm Services has installed 20 million feet of pipe over the past 10 years – it’s up to 4 million feet a year now – and has more than doubled its size in the past five years.

Klotzbach said it is the largest business of its kind in the Northeast and was the first to incorporate Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology in drainage design and installation in the same region.

Operations Manager Christina Fetzer explained that field drainage consists primarily of three machines -- a tile plow, an excavator and a challenger tractor.

“Those three pieces of equipment work together to install the pipe in the ground,” said Fetzer, a Lancaster resident who has been with Alleghany Farm Services for about two years. “The tile plow is equipped with GPS and the entire field is designed ahead of time.”

A graduate of Canisius College with a master's in Business Administration, Fetzer said many factors go into the design of how the pipe is to be installed.

“There’s field elevation, crop type and soil type, and we take all of that into account ahead of time to have a custom design put in. That’s inputted into the machine via GPS to install in the field,” she said.

Klotzbach said it’s all about water management and configuring the pipe system to ensure maximum crop production.

“When you install subsurface drainage in a grid pattern, you’re controlling pretty much the water table,” he said. “You’re dealing with surface saturation so you can get on the crops earlier in the spring and same thing in the fall. If you get an inch of rain, you have a lower point of saturation in the soil. With the pipes behind able to take the water away, it just allows you to get on – you can do your spring, your plowing, whatever you’re needing with harvesting.”

Klotzbach, a Genesee County legislator representing the towns of Alabama and Oakfield, said the Alleghany Farm Services team continues with its customers after the job is done.

“It starts with our sales team and then we collect data and do extensive research in order to create the proper design,” he said. “We can install on average about 15,000 feet a day per machine. We stand by our work and remain in contact after projects are completed to make sure everything is performing correctly.”

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For more information about Alleghany Farm Services and Alleghany Construction, send an email to [email protected] or call (585) 762-4411.

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Photos, from top to bottom:

-- Two-year-old (almost 3) Weston Passamonte enjoys a few moments in the driver's seat of a full-size tile plow during Thursday's Field Day event. The boy's father, Joe, works for Alleghany Farm Services. 

-- Chad and Drew Klotzbach.

-- Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, left, and Legislatore Marianne Clattenburg stand next to a vineyard plow. The vineyard plow is only seven feet wide, which enables it to go between existing grape rows and narrow orchard rows.

-- The cabin of the large tile plow, complete with GPS, cameras and other technology to ensure the proper drainage system design and installation.

-- Chad Klotzbach and a group of his customers with a stack of tiling in the background.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

June 17, 2021 - 3:28pm

Genesee County is required to extend Local Law Introductory No. 1, Year 2019 – the statute that governs how the municipality applies its hotel/motel room occupancy tax – by Sept. 30, and it will do so either with or without a revision to include online booking platforms, such as Airbnb.

County legislators, Manager Matt Landers and Attorney Kevin Earl continued an ongoing discussion of the topic during Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, and this time included Erik Fix and Kelly Rapone, president/chief executive officer and tourism director, respectively, for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

Fix and Rapone emphasized a changing landscape when it comes to travelers’ lodging, citing a 47-percent increase in Airbnb business since 2018.

“It’s safe to say that the law that was established in 1995 (the original year of the Local Law), doesn’t necessarily hold true today,” Fix said. “The landscape for how folks utilize our community from a visitor’s standpoint has changed … So, what we put in place 25 years ago, doesn’t really apply to those people today.”

Fix added that the goal is to come up with a formula to change the bed tax law to include booking sites where folks can book rooms (people’s homes, apartments, cottages, cabins, etc.) for a night or a week – “however we see fit, based on the changes that have taken place.”

Rapone said that homeowners and some businesses are reaping economic benefit of making rooms available on a short-term basis. Currently, these people are not subject to the 3-percent occupancy or bed tax, as it is called, that applies to hotel and motel guests.

She said she found 17 local listings on the Airbnb website (actually 23 as of today).

“And it’s not just private homes that you’ll find there,” she said. “Some businesses, hunting preserve and Farmer’s Creekside Inn, which has five guest rooms. Rates range from $40 per night to $500 per night for a really nice property on Horseshoe Lake, and weekly rates are offered.”

She reported that she contacted two Batavia-area hoteliers and both are in favor of the legislation being changed.

“They feel that these other lodging options out there have an unfair advantage (compared) to some of the costs of operating that they have, particularly insurance, franchise fees, sales tax and, of course, the bed tax,” she said.

Rapone also noted that Airbnb and similar lodging options were seeing 80- to 90-percent occupancy while hotels see 65 to 75 percent in their peak months.

“So, from the hoteliers' perspective – two of them representing three properties – they’re very much in favor of this. Not that they’re in favor of more tax and more laws, but for them this is an advantage for other people,” she said.

She said that Airbnb has agreements with about 30 other New York counties and, it was later noted, that the company previously reached out to Genesee County leaders about forging a contract here.

The sticking point as far as a revision of the Local Law is the number of rental units and the length of stay.

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

“It has to be less than six units and likely just one since houses are being rented out – so anything would be eligible,” Earl said. “I wouldn’t think we’d want to include somebody that rents the house out for a weekend to a cousin. We’re thinking a minimum of 10 or 14 (nights) per calendar year; a money-making proposition.”

Rapone said her research reveals that Airbnb’s arrangements with other counties generally focused on 29 nights being considered as a nonresident, but found some that go up to 90 days at seasonal summer destinations.

The bed tax that is imposed is a levy on top of the 8 percent sales tax. Rapone said the bed tax is charged only to visitors, not county residents. She said that 60 percent or more of the bed tax revenue goes to the Chamber for marketing and advertising the county’s assets, with up to 40 percent earmarked for administration.

Fix noted that Airbnb is one of multiple booking websites (Vrbo is another), and that any change in the law would affect all of them.

Landers said the county can’t contract with Airbnb because most of their rentals are one, two and three unit rentals, which currently aren’t covered by the local law.

“So, if we want to have an agreement with Airbnb, we have to change the Local Law,” he said. “It expires at the end of September … I think the time is right.”

He compared it to imposing sales tax on internet retailers, which was done after lobbying from the brick-and-mortar stores. He also said that lawmakers are taking their time on this issue in an attempt to prevent "any unintended consequences," such as the repercussions that arose over proposed stricter regulation of secondhand dealers.

When asked for the length of stay, Fix said it would require more research, but offered that 30 days right now seems like the standard length.

While no decision was made, the county has to renew the Local Law before the end of September, likely extending it for three more years. It can add language to include Airbnb and similar companies to coincide with the renewal or it can wait until any time after Sept. 30.

Previously: County discussion focuses on local law pertaining to 'bed tax' status of Airbnb-type rental units

June 16, 2021 - 12:04pm

Noting that it was “bound to happen sooner or later,” Genesee County District Attorney Lawrence Friedman is overseeing a relatively inexperienced staff as he moves toward retirement after more than 24 years on the job.

Friedman provided a review of his department at Monday’s Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting, reporting that all five of his line assistant district attorneys were hired during the past 27 months, and when he retires at the end of this year, the office will have another new attorney.

He said he hopes that these attorneys – Kaitlynn Schmit, Joseph Robinson, Robert Shoemaker, Andrew DiPasquale and Aaron Moore – will continue to serve the county after his departure.

“I’d like to think that most of them will stay,” he said. “Eleven years ago, every attorney had more than 20 years’ experience. When I retire, nobody will have more than two and a half years. It’s a major change, and I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.”

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell, who has been an assistant DA for 30 years, is running unopposed in November to succeed Friedman.

Friedman was an assistant district attorney for six years and first assistant DA for nine years prior to becoming the DA.

He said it has yet to be determined if Finnell’s position will be filled internally or not.

In his report, Friedman said that operations have not returned to pre-pandemic conditions, stating that town and village courts have reopened but on a limited basis. County Court recently returned to full staffing but many matters are being handled virtually.

The county’s first post-COVID-19 felony jury trial is taking place this month.

“We have, not surprisingly, built up a substantial backlog of cases and it will take quite some time to get caught up,” he reported, adding that it is a cause for concern with many new employees on board.

He said he is requesting the creation of a temporary assistant DA position and also hopes to find an experienced prosecutor to fill in for another assistant DA who will be on parental leave.

Friedman reported that a Discovery Reform grant for $228,720 has been obtained, with $3,791 going to the Village of Le Roy, $48,898 to the City of Batavia and the remaining $176,031 to Genesee County. The latter amount fully covers the Discovery Reform expenses incurred for the one-year grant period by the DA’s office and Sheriff’s Office, he said.

PROBATION DEPARTMENT UPDATE

County Probation Director Timothy Michalak presented his department review as well, reporting that about 500 adults currently are on probation and that he expects that number to go up.

“(With bail reform,) you can’t put anybody in jail so, yes, I believe it will increase,” he said.

Michalak reported that the department’s probation officers are handling an average of 70 cases each, calling that number “not terrible – a bit over the 50 that is recommended,” but thinks that amount is bound to increase as the court system returns to normal.

He informed the committee of the department’s “Ce Check-In” software that enhanced its supervision during the pandemic with time, date and location stamps and, on smart phones, photo capability.

“Going forward, we’re going to continue using it to a smaller extent,” he said.

Concerning the department’s budget, Michalak said he saw no major issues, and anticipates receiving full reimbursement from New York State – not the 20 percent less than he had budgeted.

He also said Probation received $30,000 more in Department of Social Services shared services funding, and that covers a large percentage of two juvenile probation officers and one juvenile supervisor.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE RENEWS SRO PACTS

On another law enforcement front, the PSC recommended approval of renewals of memorandum of understanding with Alexander, Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama school districts and Genesee Valley BOCES for school resource officers for the 2021-22 school year.

The Alexander contract covers a full year – July 1-June 30 – while the Pembroke and O-A pacts run from Sept. 1-June 30. Genesee Valley BOCES increased its coverage from 10 to 12 months.

The full year costs to each district and BOCES are in the $98,000 to $99,000 range.

Sheriff William Sheron submitted another resolution to accept $41,876 from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to continue the Community Service Sentencing Program and Pretrial Services Program for one year, starting July 1.

The sheriff also reported that the Village of Bergen wishes to renew a contract for additional road patrols for another year, effective June 1, at a cost not to exceed $13,500.

The PSC recommended for approval both the grant and increased road patrol resolutions.

June 15, 2021 - 1:30pm

Sixteen months ago, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers observed that because of bail reform in New York, it was the “worst time in state history to be building a jail … but it must be built.”

Well, since that time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit society extremely hard – resulting in staggering increases in construction costs – while the legislation that eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses remains in place despite calls throughout the state to “reform the reform laws.”

On Monday afternoon, Landers updated county legislators of the municipality’s state-mandated obligation to construct a new jail, expressing the view that it may be difficult to get under the $60 million price tag for a 184-bed jail on property just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“We rely on experts that do build jails across the county and rely on trends and speak to the interested parties in the community to better understand how large a jail to build,” he said. “It behooves us to take a step back and make sure we update this study. And although it is less than four years old, a lot has happened in four years.”

Landers said that a revised report from Pike Company, project construction manager, is nearly finished.

“I have been told that we are days out from getting a draft of it, and then we will study it and bring it to the attention of the legislature for review before we finalize a report,” he advised. “At the same time, there was a smaller meeting of consultants (with county management) to try to get a timeline established of what a restart would look like.”

He said if the county is to make “meaningful moves forward, we really need to understand what kind of costs we’re looking at for the jail.”

Previously, legislators supported a budget of $60 million.

Landers said that “estimates had us right around there – maybe a shade over.”

“So, when we put this on pause (due to the pandemic), we were working really hard to shave it to get under that $60 million goal the legislature had put in place,” he said.

Landers said he had approved having SMRT, an architectural firm out of Portland, Me., do a cost estimate of the final design, based on 184 beds, with the understanding that the county might lop off cells in increments of eight if necessary. He said he expects to receive that report, including the amount of cost savings by reducing the number of beds, in two to three weeks.

When that report is finalized, Landers said that Graham Vickers, principal/director of justice practice for SMRT, will appear before the legislature to go over it and answer questions.

“The cost of the jail may drive additional decisions,” he said, adding that questions being asked now focus on whether to wait for construction prices to come down before relaunching the project.

Landers said that Vickers indicated restarting in July and putting it out to bid in the fall.

“That would be the ideal timeframe where we could have our project out there for bidding before companies are already set up for the following year,” he said.

Landers said a major reason for the update is the fluctuation in jail population in the county over the past two years.

He reported that currently the county is responsible for 50 inmates with six of those females being housed outside of the county. By comparison, there were 141 inmates in June 2019. At that time, the thought was that a 184-bed jail was the right size. Now, the thinking is that it could be too big.

Landers said the county’s plan to partner with Orleans County is on hold, but Genesee can’t afford to delay the project.

“What we can do is move forward with the jail and be a viable option at some point in the future if Orleans wanted to partner with us …,” he said.

He said recently the idea of adding a backup 9-1-1 center at the new jail – a 20-foot by 20-foot space that would accommodate two dispatchers – came to light, with the possibility of obtaining a grant to fund it.

In closing, Landers said much depends on what happens to the bail reform laws – whether further legislation is passed to give judges more discretion in remanding those accused of a crime to jail.

“Everything swings back and forth, but with the state legislature controlled by one party, I don’t see it swinging too far back,” he said.

County Sheriff William Sheron, who also was on the Zoom call, said he thinks otherwise.

“I believe the pendulum will come back,” he said. “People are reoffending and reoffending … it’s just a matter of time.”

May 26, 2021 - 6:27pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he is ready to do his part to conserve water this summer as all indications point to “another tight water season for us here.”

Echoing what County Engineer Tim Hens said in a report on The Batavian last month, Landers is urging residents to take steps to use less water as hot summer days near.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature this afternoon, Landers said a water conservation press release is going out on Friday, listing 10 “little things” that people can do to conserve.

“Demand is outpacing supply and on peak days, there is going to be a potential shortage,” he said. “So, just like last year (when) we asked our residents to hold back on doing certain things, we’re going to be asking residents to do the same this summer to help us get through, especially on hot days.”

Landers said that on there likely will be some days where the county will run short. He said it is “critical” for everyone to do their part.”

“I promised Tim that I won’t water my lawn this summer. So, I’ll do my part,” he added.

Conservation efforts last year from residents “stepping up and helping us out” resulted in a decrease in use of 300,000 gallons per day, Landers said.

“We’re asking for the same cooperation this summer as we work feverishly and hard to complete Phase 2 (of the countywide water project), which will give us a little bit of breathing room,” he advised. “As we all know, Phase 2 is delayed, largely due to COVID, and will be coming online next summer.”

May 17, 2021 - 7:45pm

durei_2.pngThe lawyer who coordinates the Assigned Counsel Department for Genesee County said she believes that virtual court appearances will continue in one form or another even as society pulls out of the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kristie DeFreze, (photo at right), an attorney with the Bonarigo & McCutcheon law firm in Batavia, made that observation this afternoon as she presented a review of the indigent legal services unit during the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting.

“I think that, in some form, it is here to stay – at least in Family Court,” said DeFreze, noting that she see positives and negatives to conducting court proceedings remotely via Zoom or other type of videoconferencing. “For certain court appearances, they will keep it around.”

DeFreze said that virtual sessions seem to have cut down on court time and waiting time – as well as expenses – but have led to an increase in time spent communicating with clients and other parties.

County Attorney Kevin Earl agreed, stating that virtual meetings are good for routine appearances, such as traffic court cases, but “when it comes to hearing and trials, it’s very difficult to know ahead of time what exhibits you need, (which can lead to delays).”

The decision to continue remote proceedings rests with the administrative judge of the judicial district, she said. That position in this area – the 8th Judicial District – currently is held by Paula L. Feroleto.

In reporting the makeup of the panel attorneys in Genesee County, DeFreze said that most of the lawyers practice outside of Genesee County.

On the criminal panel, nine of 13 are from outside the county; on the family panel, eight of 12 are from outside the county; and on the appeal panel, five of six are from outside the county.

When asked why this was, she said it is a matter of dollars and cents.

“We have a smaller pool here when compared to Erie and Monroe counties, plus the pay rate is very low,” she said.

While attorneys may normally charge $150 to $300 an hour for their services, they receive only $60 an hour for criminal cases, and $75 an hour for felony or family court cases in which they are called upon to step in for the county public defender’s office.

“We’re working to increase that rate … which would give local attorneys more incentive to get on the panel,” she said.

DeFreze said that referrals are up in family court from 117 in 2020 to 151 so far this year, and down in criminal court from 120 in 2020 to 110 this year. She pointed out that the time frame for the 2020 referrals was from Jan. 1 through June 15.

She reported that the assignment backlog due to COVID shutdowns has mostly caught up in family court because the court has been accepting filings and scheduling appearances for the second half of 2020 through the present. On the criminal side, she said there is a backlog because justice courts have just starting scheduling sessions on appearance tickets in the last month.

Going forward, DeFreze, who contracts with the county as the Assigned Counsel administrator, said she is looking into establishing an electronic voucher system for attorneys’ clock hours/reimbursement along with a resource office outside of the courthouse for lawyers to meet with clients and potential witnesses and have access to equipment such as a printer and scanner.

She said that additional expenses incurred would be paid out of a state grant specifically to enhance delivery of public defense services in four key areas: counsel at arraignment; caseload relief; initiatives to improve the quality of indigent defense; and eligibility standards for representation.

“I will work with the county attorney on the appropriate process for review and comment on these updates,” she reported. “This will allow us to ensure quality representation for our indigent defendants and family court parties, and more efficiently track the statistics required for annual reporting.”

May 13, 2021 - 9:33am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 12, 2021 - 8:23pm

Better late than really, really late.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other action, the legislature:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2021 - 7:36pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaccination Process ‘In A Transition’

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 29, 2021 - 9:22am

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

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

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

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

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

April 28, 2021 - 7:41pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other developments, the legislature:

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

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

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

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

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

April 20, 2021 - 3:21pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant Would Assess Broadband Situation

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

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

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

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

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

Landers Warns of 'Cluster Pop-up'

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

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

March 5, 2021 - 10:57am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said the lease agreement gives the county greater flexibility.

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

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

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

March 3, 2021 - 9:29pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less Than Six Units, More Than 10 Nights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landers: Looking for a Consensus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law Would Target Booking Companies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's a Cost of Doing Business

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

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

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

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

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

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