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genesee county

August 22, 2013 - 6:13pm
posted by Timothy Walton in Barack Obama, genesee county, photo.

Earlier today, the motorcade of President Barack Obama passed through Genesee County. These photos, submitted by Jordan Difilippo, show the motorcade passing through Genesee County on the Thruway. The photos were taken from Keiffer Road in Pembroke.

A helicopter was first to pass by, followed by New York State Troopers, Genesee County Sheriffs, several law enforcement motorcycles, then more State Troopers, Secret Service SUVs, the President's bus, more Secret Service SUVs, two other buses, more State Troopers, more motorcycles and then more State Troopers in the back. 

August 22, 2013 - 4:23pm
posted by Timothy Walton in Barack Obama, genesee county, photo.

Earlier today, the motorcade of President Barack Obama passed through Genesee County. These photos, submitted by Jordan Difilippo, show the motorcade on the I-90 headed towards Buffalo. The photos were taken from Keiffer Rd in Pembroke. The exact route was not made clear, but it's rumored he took the I-490 to the I-90.

A helicopter was first to pass by, followed by New York State Troopers, Genesee County Sheriffs, several law enforcement motorcycles, then more State Troopers, Secret Service SUVs, the President's bus, Secret Service SUVs two other buses, more State Troopers, more motorcycles and then more State Troopers in the back. 

July 19, 2013 - 11:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, history.

It was a lot of work, says Sue Conklin, county historian, for facilities management staff to move all of the county's archives and historical documents from the old firehouse on West Main Street to County Building #2.

The staff moved:

  • 1,690 archival items in 575 boxes
  • The research collection of 3,082 books and 666 notebooks
  • 519 bound volumes of newspapers
  • 7 large wall maps, 19 pen and ink drawings, 19 watercolors and 30 framed photographs
  • 39 filing cabinets and 3 map cases

Plus staff had to disassemble and reassemble 21 bookcases, 23-foot-long newspaper shelving and all of the shelving for the county archives.

The whole move took more than two weeks.

"Now that the relocation has been completed the county historian is happy to report that all items made the move, nothing was damaged or lost," Conklin said. "Somehow facilities management managed to move on sunny, dry days, too. It was a great effort and the result is one the county will benefit from for generations."

The move gives the history department a little more space and gets irreplaceable documents out of the flood plane.

The department is responsible for storing all of the county's critical documents, from court cases to financial documents, with state-mandated document retention policies -- depending on the document -- from seven to 80 years.

At the rate documents come in, Conklin anticipates running out of space in about seven years.

The new layout -- in space once ocupied by the BOCES nursing program -- allows for easier access and better display of the county's archival records than the old location. The research library has more space and makes it easier for researchers -- including those in wheelchairs -- to move around.

July 11, 2013 - 11:04am
posted by Vicky Muckle in genesee county.
Company Name: 
Genesee County
Job Type: 

Position Available: Genesee County Probation Director II

Salary Range: $56,742 - $71,921


July 8, 2013 - 6:02pm
posted by Bonnie Marrocco in genesee county, Earth Day, Buffalo Zoo, Party for the Planet.

Students and teachers throughout Genesee County who are involved in environmental studies participated in an Earth Day-related event at the Buffalo Zoo in late June. The students created projects about climate change, natural habitats, invasive species, renewable energy, and recycling.

These were showcased in an Environmental Education Science Fair at the “Party for the Planet” -- sponsored by the Sierra Club/Niagara Group along with Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities & Civic Engagement.

Alexander Central School submitted posters and projects highlighting its Outdoor Classroom. Alexander School is building the first certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom in WNY -- where nature will be connected to curricula.

This outdoor classroom provides experiences that encourage students to appreciate the environment. Students will be able to participate in such activities as building, balancing, adding, subtracting, sorting and classifying using materials from nature like pinecones, sticks, plants, etc. Various stations will facilitate nature observation and art, poetry, journaling, music, drama and physical activities.

Batavia School District entered three projects from Jackson Elementary School.

Students in Aimee Nelson and Heather Landers’ first-grade classes submitted projects on the Rainforest, which combined science and art. Each student prepared a research report focusing on a particular animal in the rainforest. They also submitted 3D projects depicting the four layers of the rainforest.

Jessica Torrey's class studied the temperate deciduous forests. Detailed artwork and individually written reports highlighted each student's understanding of the interconnectedness of life in the forest.

Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia submitted its Gardeners and Scientist project, which children's librarian Kelly March organized.

The submission is from "The Great Sunflower Project," which is one of the programs offered through the library’s “Dig into Reading” summer reading club. Activities for Great Sunflower Project include the study of pollination and pollinators, growing sunflowers, as well as taking part in the national “Backyard Bee Count” – the world’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinator conservation.

Each participant in the Environmental Education Science Fair in Buffalo will receive special legislative recognition for their work.

For more information on environmental education programs in Genesee County, contact Judy Spring at 343-2362 or 344-1122 or e-mail [email protected].

May 15, 2013 - 10:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, business, INSURANCE.

Local governments, including Genesee County, that participate in pooling a workers compensation insurance program have a chance to get help reducing workplace injuries using consultants for essentially no cost.

Bill Fritts, president of Lawley Genesee, explained what his company is prepared to do for local governments if Lawley becomes the worker compensation insurance broker.

The possibility came to Fritts's attention, he said, after receiving a request for proposal from the county for a new workers comp plan.

As a broker, Lawley can apply its commissions to provide a variety of services to members of the pool.

Genesee County, along with all of the local school districts and most towns and villages (but not the City of Batavia) are part of a self-insurance pool for workers compensation.

If a worker is injured on the job, the pool will pay the first $500,000 of coverage.

What the county has been shopping for is a new carrier for "excess coverage" -- an insurance company that pays any claims in excess of $500,000.

There are only three such carriers in the nation.

Under the plan presented by Fritts, Lawley will accept bids from the carriers, select one and manage the relationship.

With its commissions, Lawley will then use its own experts to identify areas where worker safety can be improved and look for other cost-saving opportunities.

Lawley's consultants will study claim history, look for departments that have safety records that can improve and then study work that's going on in those workplaces to see what safety improvements can be made.

"We'll look at what members are hurting and helping you," Fritt said. "We send in loss-prevention consultants to those areas first that hare hurting you and see what safety programs are needed. We might create incentive programs if they need to change their culture and help them change their culture."

There is no additional fee for the pool members for the extra services.

"I've seen the results and it's pretty amazing," Fritts said. "It makes you feel pretty good because you're preventing injuries."

At the next Ways and Means Committee meeting, legislators will have a chance to vote on the offer.

May 9, 2013 - 6:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, genesee county, second-hand dealers.

County officials hope a proposed local law will make it harder for thieves to sell stolen property.

The law will be presented for the first time to the County Legislature at Monday's Public Service Committee meeting.

It would require certain secondhand retailers to:

  • Obtain a county license through the County Clerk's Office;
  • Maintain records of sellers and items sold, including pictures of precious metal items;
  • Obtain and examine a photo ID;
  • Make a daily report to the Sheriff's Office of items purchased from sellers;
  • Not purchase items from people under the age of 18;
  • Retain items purchased without reselling or altering them for 10 days;
  • Report suspicious sellers to law enforcement.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the proposed law went through a diligent review process that included looking at the successes and failures of similar laws in other jurisdictions.

Assisting in crafting the law were County Clerk Don Read, County Attorney Chuck Deputy Chief Jerome Brewster from the Sheriff's Office and Batavia PD Det. Pat Corona.

There have been burglaries solved in communities, like Rochester, because of such laws, Friedman said, which is why local law enforcement officials came to him with a request to draft something for Genesee County.

The law would also help the victims of theft recover stolen property.

We spoke to the DA just before the sentencing of Ryan P. Johnson -- who admitted to stealing $68,000 in precious family heirloom jewelry from a Batavia resident but the thief could only help recover $14,000 of the stolen items.

"We'll try to get restitution for the victim, of course, but what's that worth?" Friedman said.

A similar law in a Southern Tier county was eventually repealed because it was overly broad, Friedman said, taking in, for example, flea markets.

The proposed Genesee County law carefully defines covered businesses as pawn shops, precious metal dealers, transient merchants that deal in such items and scrap metal processors (scrap metal processors are exempt from a couple of the law's provisions, such as retaining items for 10 days).

"We tried to come up with a list who is affected by this and we came up with 10 businesses," Friedman said.

Those 10 business owners will be receiving invitations to attend a public hearing on the proposed law once the date is set.

The typical residential garage sale person isn't covered by the law, nor are thrift stores, which don't buy items for resale.

Reputable dealers will welcome the new law, said Jimmy Vo, owner of Batavia Gold Rush, at 4152 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

Reasonable people, he said, don't want to see victims lose valuables and the law will put all of the secondhand dealers on equal footing, with all purchases handled the same way.

There are a couple of aspects of the proposed law Vo would like to see changed before it passes, however.

First, pawn shops, he said, should be required to hold typical retail items for 14 days before reselling them, while precious metal dealers (or pawn shops buying precious metal) should be allowed to sell those metals seven days after purchase.

Any delay in reselling gold, for example, puts a precious metal dealer at risk, he said, because prices can fluctuate quickly.

One day last week, he said, gold lost 20 percent of its value.

"Anybody holding gold lost his shirt that day," Vo said. "The longer you hold gold, the more you can lose."

Seven days should be enough time, he said, for law enforcement to help a victim identify and recover an item, but the proposed 10 days makes the delay unreasonably long.

Vo also takes issue with the requirement that dealers report suspicious sellers. He said New York has previously tried to get such laws through, but they don't work because just somebody is twitching, for example, doesn't mean a peson is on drugs. A police officer has to meet a higher level of probable cause to arrest somebody, so a dealer can't be expected to act as a law enforcement officer just because somebody is acting suspicious.

Overall, Vo said he's happy with the proposed law. As a one-time crime victim himself, he thinks it's important to give victims a tool that will help law enforcement capture criminals and victims recover stolen property.

Often times, the personal value of the property far exceeds any monetary worth.

"That ring that belonged to great-great-grandma may be worth only $100, but it can't be replaced," Vo said. "That's the gut-wrenching problem that can be solved with a law like this."

UPDATE 10 p.m.: We didn't get a chance to talk with Det. Pat Corona before writing the story, but he called us tonight.

Corona said it's his hope that the law will act as a deterrent to would-be burglars, help law enforcement solve crimes, help victims recover property, be convenient for resellers and serve the community better.

"My motive is help victims recover their property and help us hold people responsible," Corona said.

April 24, 2013 - 10:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, CSX railroad.

Emergency responders in Genesee County are feeling a little stress tonight over what is apparently an unexpected closure of six railroad crossings on the CSX line that stretches east and west along Route 33.

Reportedly, a contractor is replacing railroad ties and the crossings at Wortendyke, Upton, Wilkinson and Colby roads and Ellinwood Avenue have been torn up and are unpassable as a result.

The work means that fire departments that have portions of their districts south of the CSX line -- Batavia, East Pembroke and Corfu -- cannot easily and quickly get to some portions of their districts. Darien is cut off from a northern portion of its district. If Pembroke, Indian Falls and Alabama were needed in some southern parts of the county, their response times could be delayed.

Mutual aid from neighboring fire departments is often critical in emergency situations, and right now the Alexander and Darien fire departments are facing the possibility that vital emergency mutual aid could be delayed until the crossings are repaired.

The crossing closures could also impact response times for Mercy EMS and local law enforcement.

We have a call into the nighttime media contact for CSX but have yet to receive a call back.

According to a dispatch supervisor, the county was not notified until this morning about the closures and told the roads would reopen tonight. When troopers and deputies went to the confirm the closures, contractors said the closures will remain in effect until at least the morning, and possibly longer if the rain continues.

"We all understand they need to do the work," dispatcher Gary Diegelman said. "It's just the manner they're doing it that is concerning."

UPDATE Thursday, 6:30 a.m: A deputy informs dispatch that he spoke with the work crew and is informed the crossings will be closed all day and possibly into tomorrow.

UPDATE Thursday 8:55 a m.: Upton and Snipery have reopened.

March 6, 2013 - 10:34am
posted by Sharon Sauers in genesee county, Maintenance, Full Time.
Company Name: 
ATB Staffing Services
Job Type: 

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February 20, 2013 - 9:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county.

Text of Mary Pat Hancock's State of the County Address:

Good evening and welcome to our 2012 State of the County Address. It is always a treat for me to prepare these programs. Although we have all lived through the time period, often our memories are blurred by the cataracts of multiple tasks and layers of activities and responsibilities present in each of our lives. So this is our chance to examine some of the transforming events of 2012 and suggest some goals for the coming year. 

This will not be my usual State of the County. In the past I have gone through the accomplishments of each department and perhaps the challenges facing them in the New Year. This year those accomplishments are still most significant, especially remarkable as we are all operating under strict fiscal restraints that place additional duties and responsibilities on all. But this time I choose to take the GPS view of our county -- from a height. What major trends are impacting us and how are we, as a county, dealing with this new order? These changes are so significant that every department, every employee, as well as all of our citizens are impacted. Let us start with the national level. 

My term of office as the President of the New York State Association of Counties ran from September of 2011 until Fall of 2012. As president, I attended three meetings of the National Association of Counties, representing NYSAC. My access to the policy making board meetings of that group was total. What an amazing experience. Hopefully, I carried the message that New York was indeed, “Open for Business” and working hard to improve. I was able to increase my knowledge of how other counties work in this nation and what role they play. Personally, I was impressed with Pittsburgh, the location of the Summer National Conference, and the city of my birth. The results of its comprehensive overhaul were amazing. The leaders in that community never gave up on their city and it does them credit.

During the many networking exchanges I also learned that the frustrations of other states are similar to ours, and yet they can be different in ways that are enormously challenging. We most often are frustrated by state and federal regulations, aging infrastructure and fiscal constraints, although (Super Storm) “Sandy” certainly woke us to another level of challenge. Many of them are challenged by shortages of natural resources, climate change, natural disasters and of course, tight revenues. We always have the hope that laws and regulations will be modified and improved -- many of them have to face the reality of reinventing themselves to face new unalterable circumstances. We have much to learn from each other. In addition many of the newer trends in government were featured in presentations and workshops. Some of these are becoming familiar to us; collaboration is one of these trends. A myriad of workshops and presentations demonstrating various “how to implement” as well as an equal number explaining “why it is necessary to explore” presented a world of data and opportunities to connect with those successfully practicing what they preach. One of these workshops led to learning about a grant for counties collaborating and sharing a public health administrator. We were able to apply and qualify for that national grant. It is an exciting concept recognizing our cross-jurisdictional sharing. A connection with the national association is very useful in this fast-paced, changing world. I would encourage us to keep that connection alive. In addition, with our new representative, Congressman Collins, recently sworn in right here in our courthouse we can work to keep the federal communication lines to counties open, strong and productive.

At the state level, it was a challenging time for NYSAC, the New York State Association of Counties. Their goal, as established by their membership, was to rein in unfunded state programs that counties administer, or increase the state funding to pay for “their” mandated programs. The association was recognized by the Empire State Society of Association Executives for their Excellence in Government Relations specifically for their mandate-relief advocacy campaign developed by NYSAC’s staff and leadership to educate state lawmakers on the issues that impact counties.

More after the jump (click on the headline):

January 30, 2013 - 7:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, taxes, Genesee ARC.

Genesee ARC will be able to claim its recycling center at 3785 W. Main St. Road, Batavia, as a tax-exempt property despite missing an important deadline.

According to the county's Deputy Treasurer Matt Landers the nonprofit organization failed to apply for tax-exempt status on the property by the tax status deadline date.

As a result, three local government agencies included in their budgets anticipated revenue from the 5.3-acre parcel, which has an accessed value of $860,000.

When ARC asked to receive tax-exempt status, Landers said his initial reaction was "no," because of the budget concerns.

Then a staff member found a legal opinion that states that an owner is eligible for reconsideration of tax-exempt status after a missed deadline if the assessor concurs in writing that the property was eligible on the tax status date.

The decision wipes out more than $30,000 of anticipated revenue for local governments.

Batavia City Schools anticipated in its 2012-2013 budget revenue of $21,543.07.

According to Landers, district officials, when faced with the revenue loss, double checked the legal opinion and reached the same conclusion as the county Assessor's Office.

The county was set to receive in 2013 $3,650.37 in Medicaid mandate taxes and another $4,189.84 in county property tax.

The Town of Batavia Fire District will see its revenue for 2013 drop by $2,012.36.

Genesee ARC held its grand opening for its new recycling facility on West Main, formally a location for Duro Shed, in September.

January 26, 2013 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, genesee county, Andrew Cuomo, pensions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a program that would help local governments save on near-term pension costs, potentially relieving local administrations of a major budgeting challenge, but both County Manager Jay Gsell and City Manager Jason Molino are reacting to the news with some caution.

Molino said until he can fully study the budget bill, assuming this provision even moves forward, he can't really comment on it.

He isn't yet ready to agree with the governor that the city will realize $3.1 million in pension savings over the next five years.

In a press release yesterday, Cuomo isn't promising local governments that they will completely avoid the pension expense, just some relief from near-term pension cost instability.

From the press release:

Under the plan, localities are given the option for a stable pension contribution rate that significantly reduces near-term payments but still keeps the pension systems fully funded over the long term. Local governments which opt in would avoid significant volatility in contribution rates and be better able to plan for the future. Though the locality receives short-term relief, because the contribution rate remains fixed, the total amount paid into the fund by the locality would not be diminished over the life of agreement, thereby maintaining the fiscal stability of the pension fund.

While over the next five years, Genesee County could receive a $11.5 million benefit over five years under the plan, Gsell is also keeping the proposal at arm's length.

Here's his e-mail response:

On the surface it is intriguing, but there are concerns as to the back-end balloon escalators in 10 to 25 years and what Comptroller Dinapoli will do every 5 years to "protect" the retirement system dollars is a major note of caution. This could be the NYS version of the Titanic iceberg, only it involves our budgets and employees retirement assets. Once the full details and not just the second-floor spin are revealed we will look at our pay-as-you-go options.

A year ago, Albany enacted a Tier VI retirement plan, which covers only new hires by government agencies. The plan will supposedly greatly reduce local government pension costs, but not for decades from now. What Cuomo is proposing now is to shift those savings so local governments can realize some benefit from Tier VI in the near term.

In the press release, Cuomo hails the plan as a major step toward helping local governments.

"The difficult financial pressures facing localities are well-known here in Albany, and my administration from day one has been committed to helping local governments meet their budgetary obligations as well as continue to provide critical services to their residents," Governor Cuomo said. "While the Tier VI reforms were a major step toward helping local governments deal with the pension crisis, we understand that more help is needed. For this reason, the Executive Budget proposed the Stable Rate option to offer local governments and schools a bridge to the long-term savings of Tier VI, as well as greater predictability."

January 5, 2013 - 5:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, genesee county, Gary Maha, NY-27, chris collins.

Elected officials from national, state and county government were at the Old Courthouse today for both a ceremonial and official swearing in for office.

For Rep. Chris Collins, State Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley, taking the oath in Batavia today was ceremonial. But for Sheriff Gary Maha, Treasurer Scott German, coroners Donald Coleman and Karen Lang, along with Undersheriff William Sheron and Deputy Treasurer Matt Landers, the oath was official.

Collins spoke briefly about his commitment to representing the people of the 27th Congressional District, hearing the concerns of voters, especially in Genesee County, and working in Congress to help control spending and bring down the deficit.

"My job in representing this district is that we stand up for our children and grandchildren to get spending under control, to get our deficits down to zero in some reasonable time, like 10 years, and grow the economy," Collins said.

He promised that the people of Genesee County will see him frequently in the county.

Prior to the ceremony, Collins took his wife, Mary, daughter, Caitlin, son, Cameron, and staff members to a no-media lunch at the Pok-A-Dot. Collins has referred to the Pok-A-Dot as a good-luck charm, dining there on election day for the primary and general elections, but when he showed up today, he reportedly told people there that he wanted a chance to enjoy lunch with his family without cameras around.

Sheriff Gary Maha takes the oath, administered by Assemblyman Steve Hawley, as wife Susan Maha holds the Bible.

Above, Coroner Donald Coleman, who has served in the position for 21 years, takes the oath of office.

To purchase prints of the photos in the slide show, click the link in the upper left of the slide show.

December 28, 2012 - 3:12pm
posted by Leslie DeLooze in genesee county, civil war, talks.
Event Date and Time: 
February 4, 2013 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm
Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia. Lynne Belluscio, curator at the LeRoy Historical Society, will talk about the active underground movement in Genesee County that helped escaping slaves make their way to freedom in Canada. Presented in conjunction with A Tale for Three Counties 2013.
November 9, 2012 - 8:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget, GCEDC.

At a hearing giving the public a chance to weigh in on the proposed 2013 Genesee County budget, five people showed up to speak.

Three of the speakers addressed funding for Genesee County Economic Development Council, one spoke on veterans issues and the fifth told legislators they need to find a way to balance the budget without raising taxes.

Kyle Couchman and John Roach both spoke out against spending more than $200,000 to underwrite the EDC's economic development efforts.

Couchman said he liked the idea of holding the funding in reserve until GCEDC came forward during the year with specific justifications for its expenditure.

"I came here tonight because I wanted to be a voice for the community, for the people who don’t always get to the meetings but have a strong feeling on this issue," Couchman said.

Roach (top photo), who also addressed veterans issues, said there are other things some $200,000 could be spent on, from reducing the county's debt to holding it a reserve fund for a new jail.

GCEDC doesn't need the money, Roach said. The county does.

Charlie Cook, the incoming chairman of the board for GCEDC, spoke up for continued funding from the county.

Cook, who is owner and CEO of Liberty Pumps in Bergen, used his own company as an example of how GCEDC aids business growth.

He said 13 years ago, Liberty Pumps had a 33,000-square-foot building and employed 50 people. Today, after two expansion projects, Liberty Pumps employs 130 people.

"Our people pay taxes and support the local economy," Cook said. "It’s impossible to put a price tag on the impact of growing employment and the ripple effect of those incomes in the community. More employment creates other jobs, enhances the tax base, supports the residential real estate market and retail economy and provides much needed resources to local communities and schools."

The county's support of GCEDC sends an important message about the community being united behind economic growth, Cook said.

"It’s deeply disappointing and discouraging to me as a volunteer that the GCEDC -- an organization whose sole purpose is to benefit the community and its residents -- is threatened with abandonment by that community," Cook said.

More than a dozen veterans showed up to the meeting. There had been concern recently in the veterans community about the Veterans Services office being located inside the Department of Social Services.

County Manager Jay Gsell is now working on a plan to move the office, and make it its own department again, either at the Job Development office on East Main Street or the VA hospital.

Jim Neider, speaking for many of the veterans present, said either proposal helped relieve much of the concern in the veterans community.

Roach said he favored the job development location because of better parking and, he noted, the VA center serves veterans from all over the region. If they see a veterans services office there, they may not realize it's there only to serve Genesee County residents.

Former Legislator John Sackett also spoke. He knocked the legislature for blaming other agencies for mandated spending as an excuse for a tax increase when there are still cuts in the budget that can be made.

He complained that employees and elected officials are not being asked to give back some of their benefits, especially in the area of health care. He questioned any deficit spending on the county nursing home. And he said the county shouldn't be creating two new staff positions.

The meeting opened with remarks by Legislative Chair Mary Pat Hancock followed by a budget overview from Gsell.

The headline out of Gsell's talk was that the county is exploring options for selling or transferring the nursing home to another entity.

The county cannot afford, year after year, Gsell said, ongoing operating losses from the nursing home.

The nursing home will not be closed, he said. It will not be abandoned. Employees won't lose their jobs. Patients will not be put out on the street.

Gsell said state and federal mandates continue to eat up most of the revenue generated for the county from property taxes and the top nine mandates consume 78 percent of the tax levy.

Counties in 48 of the 50 states don't have these mandates, Gsell said.

"Recent comments by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and I quote, 'For many years, they (local governments), just put their hands deeper into the pockets of the taxpayers and the taxpayers have left' would give you the impression that county governments in New York State volunteered to get into the funding of benefits programs such as Medicaid, EI/pre-K services, indigent defense, Safety Net, etc.  Governor -- we did not!

"The state dictated to county governments to pony up and help the state shoulder the burden," Gsell added. "Hence, the New York State imposed property tax."

The county's $145 million spending plan includes a .08 cents per thousand property tax increase, making the rate $9.97 per thousand. The rate increase is four cents below would could be raised under the property tax cap. To help balance the budget, the county will spend $2.5 million from reserves.

The budget is up nearly $4 million over last year. All of the increased spending is driving by mandates expenses, particularly in Medicaid and employee pensions.

The budget is scheduled for adoption Nov. 28.

November 8, 2012 - 2:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, county planning.

Felipe Oltramari is becoming director of planning for Genesee County at a potentially very interesting time.

It's a time when trends nationally are changing and a time when the county could be on the verge of unprecedented growth.

Oltramari's appointment was approved by the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday and will be official once it's approved by the full legislature next week.

The 36-year-old native of Chile takes over for Jim Duval, who went to work for the planning department 1976, the year Oltramari was born (Duval became director in 2000). Oltramari worked for Duval for 10 years and said Duval did a fantastic job of running the department.

"If I can do half the job he did, I’ll be a very successful planner," Oltramari said.

Oltramari moved to the United States when he was 12 after his mother married a Kodak employee. He graduated from Irondequoit High School and then got a bachelor's degree from SUNY Geneseo in biology with a concentration in environmental science. After earning his master's in 2002 in environmental land planning from SUNY ESF (Environmental Science and Forestry, near Syracuse), he went to work in Genesee County's planning department.

"I'm looking forward to leading the department," Oltramari said. "We have a great staff. Holly McAllister and Jill Babinski have both always done a great job for county residents."

With the early success of the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and the STAMP proposal in Alabama, the county planning department -- which acts as technical assistance and advisory for town and village planners -- could become very busy in the next few years.

Helping to managing growth, planning it intelligently and protecting natural resources will part of Oltramari's duties.

"One of the things the county has to keep in mind is we have great natural resources," Oltramari said.

Chief among those resoures is great farming soils, Oltramari said. while only about 8 percent of the Earth's surface has prime farm soils, Genesee County is about 50 percent prime farm soils.

So much good soil is even more valuable when you consider the water availability in this region.

"That’s one thing that makes us a bread basket for our state, and our country at one point," Oltramari said. "That’s one thing that we have to remember, how to manage and take care of our resources and not take it for granted."

One way to do that is through what's known as new urbanism, or planning around form rather than use.

"Before we worried about factories next to homes," Oltramari said. "But now the factory might be in China and things get assembled and shipped here. The global economy has changed the way local economies work. I think one of the things we'll see is people worrying less about what the use is next door and instead worry about how it looks and sits next their property, how it relates to their property."

Oltramari is looking at trends in places like Miami and Denver, and even Buffalo, to plan growth around tighter clusters of mixed-use development, where homes are more neighborhood friendly and shopping and work are close by.

Such developments help save space, and can help protect farm land.

Unlike places such as Clarence and Williamsville, which has already been through periods of sprawling growth, Genesee County has an opportunity to manage its growth in a way that better preserves resources and promotes community.

"If we grow in a smart way, don’t waste space, treat it like we should, we'll be a successful county," Oltramari said.

October 18, 2012 - 10:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county.

There simply isn't enough cost savings to justify merging the county planning gepartment with the highway department, legislators concluded in a discussion at Wednesday's Ways and Means Committee meeting.

The cost of expanding office space at the highway department's facility on Cedar Street offsets any possible cost saving by sharing clerical staff.

Tim Hens, highway superintendent, said that while the planning department is understaffed, the merger wouldn't necessarily address their biggest staffing need -- help with the GIS map system.

"It's easy to get bogged down in GIS," Hens said. "If you lighten the load on the GIS side of things, we would probably all be better served in the future."

One recommendation from Hens was to move GIS support to the IT department.

Legislators uniformly said they valued the planning department's reputation for being unbiased in its assessment of land use issues.

While moving the planning department into the highway department wouldn't necessarily jeopardize that independence, it could damage the perception for the public and for the various planning boards around the county.

Senior Planner Felipe Oltramari said he shared that concern.

"Any sort of perceived bias could sour that relationship (with the municipalities) that we built over decades. With Jim (Duval, former planning director) being there for 35 years, we really have built a level of trust between the planning department and the municipalities."

As a former town supervisor in Le Roy, Legislator Shelly Stein said the department's reputation for independence is real and necessary to maintain.

"Without that -- our planning department being independent -- we lose, we all lose as a county," Stein said.

The perception could be lost because the highway department sometimes has its own projects that need to be reviewed by planning and the department also occasionally does work for Genesee County Economic Development Center.

With the possibility of STAMP in Alabama, the growing ag park in Batavia and other economic development growth opportunities, the planning department could get super busy in future years. A staff of two planners won't cut it, but for now two is all they get.

Duval retired early this year, and while Oltramari will likely be promoted to director, County Manager Jay Gsell said, his senior planner position won't be filled as the county continues to look for ways to save money.

October 18, 2012 - 10:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget.

Your opportunity to sound off about the proposed 2013 Genesee County Budget will be 7 p.m., Nov. 8, at the Office of the Aging, 2 Bank St., Batavia.

The proposed $100.9 million spending plan will be supported in part by a 10-cents per $1,000 property tax rate increase, making the rate $9.99.

The total levy is $26,428,478.

While the budget may include cuts to nursing home staff, no other significant changes in county government are planned, though legislators have warned that in the near future drastic cuts may be necessary if Albany doesn't deliver on mandate relief.

October 4, 2012 - 10:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget.

There are no sacred cows in county spending any more said Mary Pat Hancock, chair of the Genesee County Legislature, during a budget session on Wednesday.

After first-term Legislator Shelly Stein questioned with trepidation why the county finances the Holland Land Office Museum, Hancock said the legislature should consider every discretionary line item as a possible cost savings.

Legislature Robert Bausch added county parks, GoArt! and the libraries into the mix.

Marianne Clattenberg and Ray Cianfrini had already suggested Genesee County Economic Development Center for the chopping block.

Of course, it's not going to go over well if the legislature cuts both the county's economic engine and its tourism engine, Hancock said.

Clattenberg said that, at least with her constituents, she won't be able to explain a cut to something like HOLM if there aren't also cuts to GCEDC.

Legislators believe the county is facing a fiscal crisis of massive proportions, driven by Albany's cap on tax increases and the inability of state officials to curb spending -- specifically the so-called "unfunded mandates" that counties must fund with no control over how much the expenditures will be or how the money is spent.

During the meeting, there were no votes taken, no decisions made, no real proposals put forward. The budget conference was just a chance for each member of the legislature to sound off about their budget thoughts and concerns.

Frank Ferrando, participating in his first round of budget talks as a legislator, suggested his colleagues stop calling the Albany-driven spending spree "mandates." He said what the mandates really are is a tax on counties levied by Albany politicians.

During the meeting a lot of anger and frustration was directed at Gov. Andrew Cuomo for earlier in the day proclaiming that the tax cap enacted nearly two years ago by the State Legislature is working.

"It frustrates me that the governor can take credit and the Assembly and the Senate can take credit for the tax cap," Ferrando said. "They're killing us and we're too soft on them. It's time to face off. The counties are going broke. They're taxing the heck out of us. The rank-and-file don't get it. You call it a mandate. They don't know what a mandate is. Tell them it's a tax. Everybody gets what a tax is. Our taxes are going up."

Earlier in the meeting, Hancock made a lengthy statement about Cuomo taking credit for the tax cut, but never addressing the need for mandate relief. And she pointed out that the county legislature will need to make big cuts --  if not this year, then next -- to what small part of the budget it does control.

"He says they curbed out-of-control spending by the counties," Hancock said. "That's the message he's put out there, making us all the bad boys and bad girls of local taxes, but he's not talking about mandate relief or a true takeover of Medicaid.

"He said the tax cap worked and to some extent, that is true," Hancock added. "It's not going to change until the people see their services are not the same. They can't be the same. You cannot do what you did for less money.

"They feel if we were just a little more clever, if we pinched here and we did this little bit more wisely, then we would have plenty to spend on local services, but we don't have any control over a lot of these expenses," Hancock continued.

"You heard about the impact on all of the constituents we serve," Hancock said. "You heard from our veterans. You heard from Genesee Justice. You heard from probation. You heard from DSS. These people serve your constituents and we're the ones cutting their budgets. We're the ones sitting here at this table and the pie is getting smaller."

Stein opened the discussion Wednesday evening by asking why the county has both a probation department and Genesee Justice.

"Why they can’t be one, or is that taboo and we can’t talk about?" Stein said.

Her initial remarks were met by a long silence.

County Manager Jay Gsell pointed to a bottle of hand sanitizer in the middle of the conference table and said, "Pretend that's the grenade. You notice nobody's pulled the pin yet."

Gsell then explained that there really are some key differences between the two departments. Probation deals primarily people who have been convicted of a crime and Genesee Justice supervises people going through the court system. One agency is more enforcement-oriented, the other more about monitoring activity and behavior. Probation gets state funding. But release under supervision gets almost no funding support although it helps keep the county's jail costs down, Gsell said.

The other sacred cow several legislators expressed a willingness to gore is the Genesee County Nursing Home.

It simply costs the county too much money, they said, and is a problem that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

"We need to get some direction as a legislature or we're just going to keep shoveling money into that place," Annie Lawrence said. "I just see no end to it if we continue to be owner/operators of such a place. The state and federal government are just going to shift more and more of the cost onto local taxpayers."

A looming crisis for the county are roads and bridges. Lawrence and Ferrando wondered if the county shouldn't finance repairs and reconstruction through bonds. But Gsell said one of the problems the county faces is some existing debt (which will be paid off in two years) and the failure of the state and feds to reimburse the county for social service expenses, most of it tied to the nursing home.

"That $6 million in rolling debt from the state and feds affects our bond rates," Gsell said.

When it came Cianfrini's turn to share his budget thoughts he opened with, "I know I'm going to make some enemies with this, but ..." and then he raised the issue of cutting spending for GCEDC.

"I know, it's a job well done and they've done a great job, but I don't see how we can continue to fund them at the current level when they show profits into the millions of dollars," Cianfrini said. "We're at the point, and I made this comment earlier, where we should only provide essential county services. If it's not an essential county service, we should look at cuts there."

Cianfrini also expressed concern that not everybody in the county has tightened their belts as much as they should. He cited specifically a case of members of the Public Defender's Office all going to a conference at a cost of $4,000 or $5,000.

"Was that necessary?" Cianfrini said. "No. How much of that is going on in the county. I don't know. I think we have to really start looking at where all this money is being spent and (ask) is it really necessary.

Cianfrini also suggested the county look at the services it offers and decide which ones the county should start charging a fee to provide. If the county can't raise taxes sufficiently to cover increased expenses, maybe the county should take a page from Albany's way of operating and start tacking on fees.

"It's always tough to find new sources of revenue," Cianfrini said.

September 4, 2012 - 3:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in genesee county, Le Roy, weather.

The deluge of rain has flooded roadways and drainage pipes causing driving hazards and other problems.

There are reports of flooding on Route 5 and Gilbert Street, Route 19 and Hilltop, Route 19 and Wolcott in Le Roy.

In the city, Watson and Thorpe are flooded again, about six to eight inches of water as the storm wound down. The basement of 14 Watson St. flooded again. Watson and Evans was also flooded.

We'll add more info as we get it.

UPDATE 3:50 p.m.: According to the National Weather Service, it's about 72 degrees out with humidity of 87 percent. More showers and possibly a thunderstorm are predicted until midnight, with showers forecast thereafter. Route 5 is reopened.

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