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May 11, 2017 - 6:08pm
posted by Norm Itjen in genesee county.
National Corrections Officers Week 2017. A great debt of gratitude to all the Corrections Officers working for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. You do a very difficult job with little or no appreciation.  
May 4, 2017 - 4:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, shared services, consolidation, news.

The latest mandate on county governments isn't all bad, the way at least one local legislator and County Manager Jay Gsell see it.  

It's not a bad thing, they say, to look at opportunities to institute new shared services agreements among local agencies.

The difficulty may come in finding where those cost savings can be realized when the county has already consolidated many operations with other government agencies.

To meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo's requirement, the county must convene a committee of people representing the other government agencies in the county -- the city, schools, towns, villages -- and explore options for consolidation of agencies or shared services among agencies. The committee's work will result in a report approved by the County Legislature and delivered to the governor's office within two years.

There's no requirement that any of the ideas generated by the process actually be implemented.

That's certainly the governor's goal, Gsell said, but right now he just wants to push along the process of local agencies talking along these lines.

"In the initial year this is more (about) dialogue and discussion, (to) gauge whether there is interest in doing some of the things we’ve talked about," Gsell said.

Legislator Andrew Young said he thinks it's a good idea to have these discussions anyway.

"It helps get the discussion started," Young said during yesterday's Ways and Means Committee meeting. "I’m not saying it’s going to be easy because when mandates come down on us from the almighty it bothers us, but we should try to embrace this.”

Going back to the 1990s, the county has been involved in finding opportunities for shared services, Gsell said, starting with the Highway Department and its arrangement with town highway departments. The county has also been involved in creating shared services for emergency dispatch, consolidating the youth bureaus, including combining with Orleans County, and the health departments between Genesee and Orleans counties.

None of that will help the county with this report, though. The participating local governments must look for new opportunities.

Those might include a consolidated assessors office (right now, three assessors are shared among multiple agencies), or the creation of a centralized procurement office, consolidating code enforcement and zoning.

Right now, those are just examples and all come with their own challenges. Identifying those challenges will be part of the reporting process for the governor.

There may be ideas for consolidation or shared services that require the approval of legislators in Albany, and big projects, such as a shared jail between Genesee and Orleans counties, come with an array of challenges and potential legal complications.

The fact, though, that the county has completed so many shared services projects bodes well for officials to find more opportunities to cooperate, Gsell said.

"All of that stuff is behind us, but the fact that we’ve done this is an indication to me that we can do more," Gsell said. "We just have to put it on the table and get people to put on the table what are their issues, what are their constraints, and how do we get past them."

April 6, 2017 - 1:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in drugs, drug use, genesee county, news.

There has been a sharp increase locally in overdose-related deaths, usually involving a combination of drugs including opiates, over the past four years, according to a report prepared by the Genesee County Health Department.

The rise is alarming, said Director Paul Pettit, and emphasizes the need for the work of a three-county task force that has come together to find ways to address the drug-use epidemic that has hit the region.

It's not just the number of deaths that have increased, Pettit said. There are more drug-related arrests, more drug-related visits to emergency rooms, and first responders are using the drug Narcan more frequently to help revive opiate overdose victims.

In 2013, there were five deaths in Genesee County that the Monroe County Medical Examiner attributed to the overuse of opiate-related drugs. 

There were 18 in 2015. 

In 2016, 17 deaths with toxicology completed were attributed to drug mixtures that included opiates, with four toxicology reports for last year still pending.

To date in 2017, there are seven deaths where toxicology is still pending.

"That's a pretty significant increase over the past four years," Pettit said. "It's indicative of a problem going on out there."

Of the 17 known OD-related deaths in 2016, only five were attributed to heroin mixed with other drugs, whether prescription drugs and/or over-the-counter medications. (Note: the ME for 2016 was Erie County.)

There were nine deaths caused by a combination of prescription opiates mixed with other drugs.

There was one death caused by "acute and chronic substance abuse."

It's possible that some of the heroin deaths linked to other substances might mean the heroin was laced with fentanyl or another drug.

Fentanyl is frequently linked to overdoses because users never know how much fentanyl has been added to their heroin and fentanyl is more powerful than heroin. 

A 30-gram dose of heroin will kill an average size male, but only three milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal.

Of the 18 overdose deaths in 2015, 14 involved prescription opiates used in combination with other drugs and two were caused by heroin used in combination with other drugs.

In 2014, there were 12 drug-induced deaths. Nine of the 12 involved prescription opiates combined with other drugs. Heroin, used singularly or in combination with other drugs, contributed to three deaths. 

There were no heroin-related deaths in 2013, but there were five opiate-related deaths involving prescription medications.

The stats do not include Genesee County residents who died in other jurisdictions, but it does include non-county residents who died here. 

The Health Department is still in the process of compiling statistics prior to 2013.

Pettit said officials would like to get much closer to real-time statistics for drug-related deaths. When seven people in Erie County died within a 24-hour period last week, officials there were able to know almost immediately the cause of death was heroin laced with another substance. 

For Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties, officials sometimes wait months for toxicology reports from Monroe County.

One goal, Pettit said, is for the counties to come together and work with the medical examiner offices to get more timely reports, at least within a month of the deaths.

Of the some 500 deaths in the county annually, only about 50 resulted in a request for a toxicology report.

"We want to hone our data collection, look at trends on how things play out in the community," Pettit said. 

The stats will help inform community-wide responses.

The Genesee, Orleans & Wyoming Opioid Task Force has held one meeting and will be meeting again from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Wednesday April 19, at Genesee Community College, Room T102.

The task force is comprised of health officials, addiction specialists, law enforcement personnel, church leaders, other service providers, former drug addicts and the family members of addicts. About 75 people are participating from the three counties. 

"It's great to see the community coming together on this issue and show a desire to have a positive impact to help those folks in our community who are struggling," Pettit said.

February 21, 2017 - 3:01pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in genesee county, crime, accident, news, Stafford.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office filed charges Feb. 16 against Nicole K. Sullivan in relation to a one-car accident that occurred during the early morning hours of June 10.

Sullivan, 31, of Perry, is charged with: falsely reporting an incident in the third degree; unlicensed operator of a motor vehicle; aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree; operation of an unregistered motor vehicle; failure to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of change in address; no seat belt; and driving left of pavement markings.

On June 10, at approximately 2:25 a.m., an accident on Fargo Road, Stafford, was reported. When deputies arrived on the scene, they say they found a male, later identified as Zachery W. Schwartz, 20, unresponsive in the vehicle and a female, Sullivan, on the front porch at a nearby home.

At the time, Sullivan told officers that there was a third occupant, who was driving the car, and fled the scene, traveling north on Fargo Road.

Schwartz was flown via Mercy Flight 5 to Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, for extensive head injuries. Sullivan was taken via Mercy ambulance to Strong for head and leg injuries.

Fire personnel conducted a thorough search on foot of the surrounding areas using FLIR Technology (thermal imaging) in an attempt to locate the unknown driver involved in the crash. The New York State Police assisted by maintaining a roving perimeter of the area. Area hospitals were also notified to call the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office if they received any potential car accident patients.

Approximately three hours after the accident was reported, Sullivan admitted to police that she and Schwartz were the only occupants in the vehicle and she was the driver.

The charges stem from the allegation that Sullivan was in fact the driver of the car at the time of the collision and she gave false information concerning the details of the incident. It is further alleged that there was not an unknown driver of the car who fled the scene as originally reported by Sullivan.

Assisting at the scene of the accident included Stafford, Batavia, and Le Roy fire departments, Genesee County Emergency Management, and Mercy medics.

For original post, click here.

February 9, 2017 - 10:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, genesee county, state of the county, news.


In his State of the County address on Wednesday evening, County Legislature Chairman Ray Cianfrini said the City of Batavia has been "put on notice" about the county's desire to reduce how much sales tax revenue it shares with the city.

Reached later that evening, City Manager Jason Molino said, "I don't know where those comments are coming from because the City and the towns and villages have been very engaged in an open, constant and engaged discussion about these issues."

There is a working group of legislators, council members, along with two town supervisors and members of both county and city staff, who have been working diligently for months on a new sales tax agreement and water services agreement, Molino said. Cianfrini is a member of that oversight committee. 

Molino shared with The Batavian a 42-page PowerPoint presentation titled "20 Identities ... One Genesee County Community" that goes into comprehensive detail about the process, timeline, history of the issues involved, and milestones that need to be reached to hammer out a new agreement covering how sales tax will be allocated and water issues handled.

Molino said he thought the whole process over the past several months has been cooperative and productive but repeated several times over the course of the conversation, "I just don't know where he's coming from."

The committee had seemed to be on the same page, he said, about reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, taking into account the shared needs -- which includes a possible new jail and infrastructure repairs for roads and bridges -- facing all of the municipal entities in the county.

"We made it very clear in the beginning that bridges and roads and a new county jail is more than just a county responsibility," Molino said. "It's all of our responsibility. There is an ownership responsibility that we all agree we must find a solution together. It's been a very cooperative process with the staff and oversight committee."

Currently, the county sales tax rate is 4 percent. That revenue is shared with the city and other municipalities in the county. The city gets 16 percent of that 50 percent and the other 34 percent is split among the other entities. The 10-year agreement expires in a year.

In his speech, Cianfrini said the county is facing some difficult financial issues in the future and suggested the county needs to keep more of the sales tax revenue for itself. He noted that Genesee County's share is more generous than Orleans, Livingston or Wyoming counties. He mentioned specifically the need to fund a potential new jail, a cost of $34 million to $42 million, and the backlog in repairs to roads and bridges, at a cost of $17 million. 

"Negotiations for a new agreement began eight months ago, in July of last year, and the pace has been excruciatingly slow," Cianfrini said. "I can certainly understand the City’s desire not to have changes made to the agreement, but the needs of the county today and for the future are much different than they were when the last agreement was signed 10 years ago."

Cianfrini said changes need to be made that benefit the county.

"The county has put the city on notice that if a new agreement is not in place by February of next year, the county will consider the current sales tax sharing agreement to be terminated," Cianfrini said. "We await the results of the negotiations, but again, I want to be clear, time is of the essence and changes need to be made."

Among the milestones the oversight committee has agreed to, Molino said, is a review in May that will determine if any changes in the process need to be made. The May deadline was selected because if there is a new agreement, the state's comptroller needs six-months notice to implement changes.

The committee is also working on water supply issues for the county and the city, assessing the needs and challenges that may be faced in the future. 

The document outlining the scope of work for the committee recognizes that are different goals and needs for the various entities involved, and each faces significant constraints, such as reduced staffing, the need not to increase property taxes and growing expenses. It also lays as a ground rule for the committee's work that everybody is going to have to give up something -- the people involved must focus on the big picture. 

The oversight committee includes Cianfrini, legislators Bob Bausch and Marianne Clattenburg, council members Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Kathy Briggs, and representing the towns and villages are Darien Supervisor David Hagelberger and Bergen Supervisor Don Cunningham.

The working group, which meets regularly and reports back to the oversight committee, includes Molino, County Manager Jay Gsell, Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens and City Director of Public Works Matt Worth.

If the process yields an agreement, the timeline for approval includes presentation to elected officials in each entity in June and approval by July.

"This was an approach that everyone bought into," Molino said. "Everyone is committed to a mutually beneficial agreement that benefits the towns and villages, the city and the county. Everyone bought into this and everyone was supportive of this process."

Click here for a PDF of the oversight committee document.

February 9, 2017 - 9:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news, state of the county.


Full text of Legislator Ray Cianfrini's State of the County speech, delivered yesterday evening in the Old Courthouse in Batavia:

I would like to begin my program as I have in the past by recognizing individuals who are serving in new leadership positions in our county government.

We first want to welcome Bill Sheron as our new county sheriff. Bill is not a new face but a veteran who has served as undersheriff for many years and has over 38 years in the department and he brings experience, dedication, and stability to the office. We wish you and your new undersheriff, Greg Walker, nothing but success and we’ll continue to pray for the safety of all your deputies. A new face in an important position in our county government is Kevin Earl, our new county attorney. Kevin comes prepared with many years of experience in municipal law and he has hit the ground running knowing that he comes into office at a crucial time with the new sales tax and water agreements to be resolved. Welcome on board Kevin.

The last new county positions to be filled are those of county court and surrogate’s court judge and we were proud to see our former colleague and former county attorney, Chuck Zambito, elected to that office in November. It is reassuring to have someone so eminently qualified as Chuck to serve as our county court judge and know that the county is in good hands with him on the bench.

Last year in my state of the county address I  indicated that 2016 would be a year of challenges and I was right. In looking back on 2016, I  reflect on the disappointments and successes we faced. It was truly a year of highs and lows.

I originally intended to bemoan our failure to complete the sale of our nursing home by the end of the year as a major disappointment and in some respects, it was. However, as we are now all aware, at 7:56 am on Thursday, February 2, the sale was completed; the balance of the purchase price was deposited into our account and the county is no longer in the nursing home business. Let us all rejoice!

The long wait is over and all our hard work has paid off. However, with that door closed, another now opens and we must now go forward to ensure that we allocate these net proceeds in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

As you know, Genesee County suffered through a severe drought last summer that tested the resiliency of our local farmers. Many took a major financial hit in combating the drought, but with determination and hard work, and a little help from the weather, it looks like the worst is over.

Also, because of state mandates and an ever shrinking tax cap from the state, it was disappointing that we, as a county legislature, found it necessary to override the tax cap and pass a budget that included a tax rate increase for 2017. No one likes to raise taxes, especially me.

Our county manager presented us with a budget that kept us under the tax cap and included a tax rate decrease, but a majority of my colleagues felt strongly that we were continuing a policy of deficit spending and a need to raise rates to meet our future demands. We can only hope that in 2017 we return to a healthy fund balance from the use of our nursing home proceeds, that we find increased sales tax revenues and that we have decreased spending by having eliminated the nursing home as a fiscal “dark hole” and hopefully we can avoid having to raise taxes again.

It was a major disappointment last year when we saw no relief from the dreaded state mandates that eat up over 75 percent of our county tax levy.

How disappointing was it when both houses of the state Legislature approved a state takeover of indigent legal defense only to have the governor veto the legislation when it came to him for his approval? How disappointing and frustrating wait when the state approved pay raises for district attorneys in our state only to discover that we, the counties, must pay the raises? And how disappointing was it that our state-imposed tax cap originally set at 2 percent was reduced to only .68 percent this year?

Quite frankly, upstate counties, including our own, are getting sick and tired of being the governor’s “piggy bank” that he can tap into whenever he wants to fund or promote a part of his downstate New York City-centric agenda.

Governor, enough is enough! But for all these disappointments, we had great progress and successes on the county level last year.

Our unemployment rate continues to remain the lowest in the GLOW region; the City of Batavia, in collaboration with the GCEDC and the county, has begun its “pathway to prosperity” with hopes for a revitalized downtown and new economic growth; we opened our new $5 million airport terminal that enhances the airport’s ability to be a major revenue source; construction has begun on the River Street bridge much to the delight of Legislator Dejaneiro; construction started last year on our new state of the art Chamber of Commerce headquarters that had its grand opening just last month: construction also began on the new success center and the wellness and event center at Genesee Community College, both scheduled for completion this summer; and in a move to attack the devastating opioid and heroin addiction crisis affecting not only families in Genesee County but across the state, our own Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, better known as GCASA, has received an $820,000 state grant for an opioid treatment program that can handle 150 treatment slots.

And finally, in the public safety sector, a new cell tower in Le Roy has been approved and funding became available to enhance the performance our public safety radio communication system. With 2016 behind us, what do we have to look forward to in 2017?

1. Because the nursing home sale is now complete, we face a new challenge as to how to best allocate the proceeds to best meet our current and future county needs.

2. Genesee County is responsible for the repair and maintenance of over 250 miles of roads and we own and maintain 379 bridges with over a five-foot span. It is no secret that this infrastructure is failing. We desperately need to fix our country's roads and bridges and the nursing home proceeds and hopefully sales tax revenues will go a long way in accomplishing that goal. I note that our current president and our governor are both advocating for major infrastructure improvements and we can only hope that federal and state funds will find their way to Genesee County to help us rebuild our roads and bridges.

3. I’ve referred to it as the “elephant in the room,"  but I think it's time to begin discussions with Orleans County, as informal as they may be, about the feasibility of a new regional jail. The governor talks about sharing county assets and services and I think we should take him seriously on this matter and “go outside the box” about looking to share the cost of such a large undertaking with our adjoining county. I have had a brief conversation with my counterpart in Orleans County and I can say with certainty that they share our concerns regarding a new jail and they too are interested in beginning the conversation.

4. Let’s get serious about shedding some county owned real estate that continues to be a drain on our finances. Specifically, I’m referring to the former engine house property and the Holland Land Office building. The engine house property is little used and its loss would be insignificant to the county. This is low-hanging fruit. Let’s sell it! I understand that the Holland Land Office is more controversial and there has been a recent campaign of misinformation coming from their board making the public think the county wants to close the Holland Land Office Museum. Let me be clear about one thing: Neither I nor any other member of the Legislature has advocated closing the museum. But I find it difficult to accept paying over $60,000 a year to own and maintain the building when it could be better served by being owned by the Holland Land Purchase Society or some other nonprofit entity. As a historical building, I recognize that it has a place in our local culture and continues to be a major tourist attraction. However, other towns and village share their own historical buildings and museums that we don’t subsidize or support and it is increasingly more difficult to justify having the county own, insure and maintain the building. We should transfer ownership to the Holland Land Purchase Society for a nominal fee and leave it to them to make it successful. The society has to learn to stand on its own or we need to pass ownership to someone who has both the means and desire to house the museum.

5. It now appears rifle hunting for big game will become permanent in Genesee County this year. Our legislature has passed the necessary resolution seeking permanent status and the next move is for the state legislature to give final approval. Our state senator and state assemblyman will be working diligently to make this happen. Now if only we could repeal the SAFE Act!

6. STAMP is moving forward. We haven’t seen ground breaking for 1366 Technologies yet, but GCEDC has approved the engineering work necessary to have the infrastructure work begin on the water lines to Alabama and the STAMP site and bids will be solicited soon with groundbreaking expected in early spring. Let’s continue to be optimistic that STAMP will become reality.

7. It’s hard to believe that in today’s fast-moving technological world there are still areas of Genesee County that are without high-speed Internet services. In the words of Governor Cuomo, “…Internet connectivity is no longer a luxury – it is a necessity as vital a resource as running water and electricity.” The state is currently investing $500 million into a new broadband program that provides funding for high-speed Internet access to unserved and underserved areas across the state. Also, it was recently announced that more than $170 million in federal funds for rural broadband services will be coming to upstate rural communities in New York. Because it is both essential and critical to the furure of our local economy, our children’s education and the safety of our citizens, it is imperative that we in Genesee County, together with private enterprise, take all necessary steps to go after these broadband funds to ensure high-speed Internet access to every household, business and farm currently unserved or underserved so that they may be able to participate in the global community.

8. A huge issue confronting the county this year is the current sales tax agreement with the City of Batavia, which expires a year from now in February 2018. Under the current agreement, sales tax revenues are shared 50 percent to the county, 16 percent to the City and the remaining 34 percent is divided among the towns and villages proportionate to their assessed valuations. Let’s keep in mind that Genesee County is one of the most generous counties when it comes to sharing its sales tax revenue. For example, in the GLOW region, Orleans County retains 77 percent of 3 percent with a cap of $1.367 million and the other 1 percent is retained by the county; Livingston County keeps 93 percent of 3 percent and retains their 1 percent for Medicaid expenses and Wyoming County keeps 100 percent of their 4 percent local sales tax. Negotiations for a new agreement began eight months ago, in July of last year, and the pace has been excruciatingly slow. I can certainly understand the City’s desire not to have changes made to the agreement, but the needs of the county today and for the future are much different than they were when the last agreement was signed 10 years ago. While not directly tied into the sales tax agreement, our current and future water demands and our ability to pay for water and complete Phase 2 of our countywide water project are major components of our future sales tax needs. Throw in the need for a new county jail projected to cost between $34 and $42 million and infrastructure repairs to our roads and bridges projected to cost over $17 million and it becomes evident that an increased source of revenue is needed, without raising property taxes, and it is imperative that the county make the best deal possible with the new sales tax agreement. In other words, changes must be made to benefit the county. The county has submitted a plan to the city and towns that keeps their sales tax revenues capped at the current level together with a phased-in reduction or elimination of water plant rent and payments for lost water currently paid to the city. The county has put the city on notice that if a new agreement is not in place by February of next year, the county will consider the current sales tax sharing agreement to be terminated. We await the results of the negotiations, but again, I want to be clear, time is of the essence and changes need to be made!

And in closing, I feel it necessary to respond to the governor’s recent proposal (which is really nothing more than another state mandate) that requires counties to prepare a plan for shared or consolidated services among the units of local government contained within the counties, excluding school districts, resulting in a countywide referendum for approval.

This proposal is not only an affront to all the counties, like Genesee County, that have worked diligently over the years to find shared efficiencies and limit spending. But it is also a blatant attack on our sacred principle of home rule! As NYCOM recently stated regarding this misdirected and unworkable proposal “the last thing New York needs is another mandate from Albany; particularly one that would circumvent local democracy via a county-determined, all-or-nothing referendum. New York’s strength is our representative form of democracy, not government by plebiscite.” Somehow the governor has this warped view that local governments do not or will not work together to share or consolidate services. Maybe he should get out of Albany and come to Genesee County to see what we’ve done with our health department, youth bureau, highway department and police communication systems.

If it is his goal to shrink the size of government, why not start with his own bloated state bureaucracy? And don’t tell us you’ve “done all you can to reduce property taxes in the state” and then throw the counties under the bus. You saddle us with an unrealistic and ever shrinking tax cap; you handcuff us with unfunded mandates; you limit our ability to choose how to administer them; you force us to either make drastic cuts in services or raise our local property taxes; and you hinder our ability to achieve maximum economic growth and then you have the audacity to proclaim you’ve “done all you can to lower property taxes.” How many times do we have to tell you we need mandate relief and why do our pleas continue to fall on deaf ears?

Genesee County has survived, is surviving and will continue to survive while we wrestle with these burdensome unfunded state mandates, but just think, if only for a minute, what we could accomplish without them. Thank you.

February 2, 2017 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, tourism, business, news.

A weak Canadian dollar kept many tourists from the north out of New York and Genesee County, as a result, saw a decline of 3 percent in bed tax revenue, Tom Turnbull, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told county legislators yesterday.

Turnbull and tourism director Kelly Rapone provided a review of chamber and tourism activity at the Ways and Means Committee meeting.

"People were not traveling as much," Turnbull said. "But talking with our friends in Buffalo-Niagara, we did better than them. They were down 10 percent."

The weak exchange rate for Canadians didn't keep too many golfers away, though, Turnbull said. Because the prices at local golf courses are so competitive, the chamber was still able to sell a number of golf packages.

Turnbull thinks the county's bed tax revenue will return to a level of $420,000 or higher in 2017 in a large part because this will be the first full year of operation for the new hotel at Batavia Downs and this year a new hotel should open on the north side of the Thruway in Batavia, the Fairfield by Marriott.

Group sales have continued to do well, if not better, Turnbull said. Genesee County continues to be a popular location for soccer, lacrosse and baseball tournaments. 

"That brings people into the hotels and they spend money and that’s what we’re looking for," Turnbull said.

Rapone shared copies of the new tourism promotional material the chamber has available. She also debuted the totally redesigned tourism website visitgeneseeny.com. The modernized website will make it easier for tourists to find information about visiting Genesee County, she said, and it will also make it easier on both golfers and staff to handle bookings for golf packages.

During the meeting, Legislator Ray Cianfrini also floated the idea of creating an entertainment tax. He noted that when he's gone to venues in other counties he's noticed the ticket price includes an entertainment tax, so he's been researching it. The tax, if implemented, would likely apply only to venues over a certain size, say with seating of 2,500 or more, and colleges would be exempt.  

The only current venue where such a tax might apply is Darian Lake Performing Arts Center.

"It might be another source of revenue," Cianfrini said.

February 2, 2017 - 10:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in nursing home, genesee county, news.

County Manager Jay Gsell just announced that as of 7:56 a.m., Genesee County is out of the nursing home business. 

The sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home to Premier Healthcare Management, LLC is complete after state regulators cleared the way for transfer of title. 

The county has received payment in full in the $15.2 million transaction, Gsell said.

January 27, 2017 - 4:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news.

Press release:

Legislature Chairman Raymond Cianfrini will deliver his annual State of the County Address at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, in the Legislature Chambers at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

December 30, 2016 - 3:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in nursing home, genesee county, news.

A demand put on the company buying the Genesee County Nursing Home by the NYS Department of Health has delayed closing on the title transfer, so in an emergency session this morning, County legislators approved a short-term lease agreement with the buyer.

The agreement will allow Premier Healthcare Management LLC to take over management of the nursing home on Jan. 1.

The county expected to be out of the nursing home business by midnight Dec. 31, so it canceled all of its third-party contracts related to the nursing home effective the last day of the year and told all county employees at the nursing home that they were going off the county's payroll.

This latest wrinkle in the sale process, therefore, caused a bit of turmoil among county officials, said Ray Cianfrini, chairman of the Legislature.

"The fact that this came up at the last minute is disconcerting to all of us," Cianfrini said.

The surprise twist in the plot isn't expected to change the eventual outcome of the sale, Cianfrini said. Officials believe the sale will go through by Jan. 15, but if it doesn't, Premier will pay the county $5,000 per month in rent for January and February. If the deal doesn't close by Feb. 28, rent payments go up to $50,000 a month.

Essentially, Cianfrini said, the health department is trying to nail down assurances that Premier isn't going to acquire the nursing home and the flip it to another buyer who will convert the building into condominiums.

That apparently happened in New York City not long ago, Cianfrini said, so the state is leery of a repeat scenario. Cianfrini doesn't think that is Premier's intention. He said Premier seems intent on establishing a strong presence in Western New York, where it's finding it easier to do business than in NYC.

Premier agreed to pay $15 million to the county to acquire the nursing home, which has been running in the red as a county operation for a decade, with deficits hitting as high as $2 million a year. Premier has already transferred $1.5 million to the county and has agreed to pay another $200,000, which is money the county will keep if the deal, for some reason, doesn't go through.

December 29, 2016 - 10:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, news, Sheriff's Office.


With his family all around and many lifelong friends in attendance, William Sheron, after 21 years as undersheriff, became Genesee County's top cop Wednesday evening during an oath-of-office event at the Old Courthouse.

Administering the oath for Sheron was Thomas Graham, town justice in Oakfield, who was Sheron's first trainer when Sheron first joined the Sheriff's Office, walking into dispatch one day in 1977 and meeting Graham as a fresh-faced 18-year-old who "had no clue as to what I was doing, no clue at all." Graham had just been promoted to deputy and said, "sit down and start learning. The sooner I get you trained, the sooner I get to move on to being a deputy."

"He was at the start of a career that has been just phenomenal and the best part about it has been the people," Sheron said. "You’re not going to find nicer people. Every time I’ve progressed, people have stepped up and said they would help me out, ‘whatever you need, Bill.’ This is just the culmination of many, many years and I’m extremely proud to become Sheriff."




Greg Walker was sworn in as undersheriff.


Don Coleman, county coroner. 


Scott German, county treasurer.


Kevin Andrews, deputy county treasurer.


Shirley A. Gorman, assistant district attorney.


Karen Lang, county coroner.


Randy Baker, town justice, Oakfield.

To purchase prints, click here.

December 15, 2016 - 11:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, budget, news.

Along the way to settling on a 2017 county budget, the process wasn't without a bit of acrimony, but looking forward to future budgets, there may only be more pain ahead.

The County Legislature passed its budget last night, 7-2. It raises county property taxes to $10.07 per thousand of assessed value, creating a property tax levy of $28,699,115. The increase required the Legislature to vote to override the state's 2-percent cap on an increase of the levy.

Legislative Chairman Ray Cianfrini said he thought his colleagues could have done better and voted against the budget, which takes effect Jan. 1. 

"The county manager presented us with a proposed budget that used reserves to decrease the tax rate and keep us under the tax cap," Cianfrini said. "Now, we are rejecting it for a budget with an increase in the tax rate and that goes over the cap. I think we could have done better."

John Deleo also voted no. (Corrected)

The budget County Manager Jay Gsell presented in October took $1 million from the reserve fund and redirected $1 million in anticipated sales tax revenue that would typically go into the long-term capital project fund and cut the tax rate to $9.79.  

A report earlier from County Treasurer Scott German stated that if the county continued on the same path it had for the past eight years, of spending about $2 million in reserve funds per year, the county would be broke within five years.

That particularly concerned legislators Andrew Young and Bob Bausch and they initially pushed for a budget that took nothing from reserve funds. The problem they ran into: the Legislature couldn't find $2 million in spending to cut without cutting essential services, such as law enforcement; and they were no more happy with the idea of a tax rate approaching $10.50.

The compromise a draw on reserves of only $500,000, but that lowered the rate to only $10.25, so the legislators met again to try and find more spending cuts. They invited in Undersheriff William Sheron (the next sheriff), Public Defender Jerry Ader and District Attorney Lawrence Friedman to discuss cuts.

Out of that, the Sheriff's Office still gets its two new corrections officers, which will help save the overtime costs associated with deputies transporting female prisoners between courts and jail facilities in other counties, and Ader keeps his caseworker, which helps ensure criminal defendants meet their obligations, but Friedman won't get to promote ADA Melissa Cianfrini to his first assistant.

He's been without a first assistant for six years and the discussion over the promotion became contentious, with both Ray Cianfrini, Melissa's father-in-law, and Friedman suggesting that the reason some on the legislature didn't want to give her a raise is because she's a woman.

That suggestion didn't go over well with members of the Legislature, particularly Bausch, who pointed out he has three daughters, including one who is an attorney.

Future budget years don't promise to get any easier for a county that has already been through years and years of spending cuts, eliminating more than 100 jobs, keeping management pay about 95 percent of market value, delaying maintenance on infrastructure, reducing spending on support agencies, selling the nursing home and holding off on building a new jail.

All this in an environment where the state continues to mandate increases in spending -- this year, for example, forcing the county to increase the salary of the district attorney -- and a new White House administration that promises to eliminate the Affordable Health Care Act.

That, Gsell said, "will render asunder state and county budgets."

The AHC required the county to take on more Medicaid expenses, mainly by ensuring more people who are qualified for Medicaid are receiving Medicaid. The number of people locally who are enrolled in Medicaid has gone from 8,800 to 12,200.

The county's share of the expense is now $178,000 per week.

That expense won't be reduced if the AHC is repealed because the people currently receiving Medicaid will still be eligible for Medicaid, but the federal government's share of the expense, which flows through the state to the county, will be reduced.

That's a mandated expense the county can't legally avoid.

And the increase in enrollment is not without its benefits, Gsell said. It helps control expenses because people are in managed plans and are not relying on emergency rooms for their medical care.

And the fight continues with the state over other mandated costs. The state recently increased the standards for indigent legal defense and with the changes, there was supposed to be relief from the $1.2 million in county expense, but the bill that would make that change has lingered on the governor's desk.

That will be a topic of discussion next week, Gsell said, when representatives from all 52 counties in the state meet for their annual convention.

Meanwhile, work has already begun on the request of legislators to come up with a five-year plan for the county. There is a template recommended by the Comptroller's Office and the county's auditors for five-year planning, Gsell said, and staff has already started working through it.

That plan will set priorities, provide a framework and anticipate contingencies that may help with future budget discussions.

Also, last night, Cianfrini announced that discussions have begun at the most preliminary stages with Orleans County about building a regional jail.

December 8, 2016 - 12:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, genesee county, news.

Assuming the County Legislature passes its proposed 2017 budget next week, it will contain the largest property tax increase in recent memory, taking the rate from $9.86 per thousand to $10.07 per thousand of assessed value.

Nobody likes a tax increase, Ways and Means Chairman Bob Bausch noted after Wednesday's committee meeting where the new proposed tax rate was announced, but a 2-percent increase is far more manageable for most people than a 4- or 5- or 6-percent increase, all of which were on the table at one point during the budget talks over the past couple of months.

To get the rate down to $10.07, from a proposed rate of $10.25 a week ago, the Legislature had to come together on a proposal to withdraw another $500,000 from reserve funds -- a total of $1 million out of reserves --to balance the general fund.

The total property tax levy will be $28,969,114, a 2.13-percent increase over last year, which will require the Legislature to override the state's tax cap on levy increases.

It looks like Ray Cianfrini, the chairman of the Legislature, will be the sole dissenting vote on the 2017 budget. He thinks the tax rate can be lower. He thinks the county can afford to withdraw more money from the reserve to help keep the tax rate down.

"The budget being presented is a better budget than we had a week ago, but, again, I'm not going to support it," Cianfrini said.

Over the past dozen years, the county has not calculated into its projected revenue the proceeds of properties sold at the annual tax lien auction.

The count doesn't tally this up as anticipated revenue because it's so unpredictable. One year, the county brought in an extra $400,000 from the auction, but another year it was down to only $7,000 in revenue.

However, Cianfrini said, the average is $142,000. He would like the county to budget for at least some level of revenue from the auction.

Cianfrini is also concerned the county in its budget planning is not giving enough credit for the coming cost savings from the sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home and the boost that will give to the reserve fund balance.

After spending $1 million from the reserve, the county will have a fund balance of $7.7 million. The anticipated net proceeds from the nursing home sale will be more than $6 million, giving the county a fund balance in excess of $14 million.

That's a record amount, Cianfrini said.

"The fund balance is still taxpayer money," Cianfrini said. "It's money we collected from taxpayers and didn't spend. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should give that money back to the taxpayers."

No members of the Ways and Means Committee responded to Cianfrini during the meeting and the resolution to recommend budget approval to the full Legislature passed 4-1.

After the meeting, Bausch said he isn't comfortable counting on any amount of money coming from the sale of Nursing Home until all of the bills related to the sale are paid, which won't happen for another eight or nine months.

"At some point, we will know what those final numbers are," Bausch said. "We have made a significant commitment to our constituents to use that money for roads and bridges. Yes, there is a discussion to be had (about what to do with the money), but we're not anywhere near ready for that discussion."

December 7, 2016 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, genesee county, news.

A week of wrangling and discussions has helped county legislators come up with a 2017 budget that will increase the property tax rate to $10.07 per thousand dollars of assessed value.

A week ago, it was looking like the rate would be about $10.25 cents.

The rate still represents a jump over the 2016 rate of $9.86 and requires a tax levy override by the County Legislature.

While there were some minor spending adjustments made since last week, much of the change is rate is based on an agreement by the Legislature to take $1 million from reserve funds, rather than $500,000, to balance the budget.

At the Ways and Means Committee meeting tonight, only Legislator Ray Cianfrini voted against sending the budget to the full Legislature for approval. Cianfrini said he didn't think the proposed budget accounted enough for the anticipated sale of the Nursing Home, expected to close before the end of the year, and what that will mean for the county's reserve funds and expenditure savings.

The Batavian will have a more complete county budget story posted sometime tomorrow morning.

December 7, 2016 - 3:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in emergency communications, genesee county, Le Roy, news.


A new 165-foot communications tower is being installed today on Town of Le Roy property off of Asbury Road (the site at one time of an airport).

The tower is part of the county's upgraded 800 megahertz digital communications system and will help fill in some dead spots in the town and village of Le Roy. It will also help in spots in Le Roy where communication was harder inside of buildings.

Steven Sharpe, director of emergency communications for Genesee County said the tower will also help complete the phase of building interoperable capabilities with Monroe County's emergency dispatch center, which will then also create a bridge for communications with Ontario County.

"Our goal is to improve interoperable capabilities throughout the region," said Sharpe (in the bottom photo, taking a video of the shelter for communications equipment being lowered into place.

The tower is funded with a $3 million grant from the state.





November 29, 2016 - 10:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in budget, genesee county, news.

When the Genesee County Legislature's Ways and Means Committee meets next week, it will be asked to support a county budget that will pull $500,000 from reserves to help balance the budget and raise property taxes to $10.25 per thousand of assessed value.

It won't return a first assistant DA position to the District Attorney's Office, a decision made on an 8-1 vote by the Legislature that prompted Chairman Ray Cianfrini to call his fellow members, "hypocrites."

While other budget matters were discussed during Monday's meeting, the proposal to provide District Attorney Lawrence Friedman with a first assistant -- a position that hasn't been filled in the department for six years -- dominated the conversation.

Friedman tried to make the case for the position, which he intended to fill with Melissa Cianfrini, Ray Cianfrini's daughter-in-law.

Both Friedman and Ray Cianfrini questioned whether the Legislature's reluctance to fill the position, or, more, it's seeming unwillingness to set the salary at what they believe the position is worth, is driven by gender bias.

Friedman exited the meeting quickly after the overwhelming vote against the position and Cianfrini (who cast the one vote in favor of the job) was out the door of the Old Courthouse as soon as the meeting was adjourned.

The position is necessary, Friedman said, because there should be a second-in-command when he's not in the office, there should be somebody else in the office who can handle budget and human resource matters and there should be somebody trained in other aspects of the DA's job because traditionally the first assistant DA becomes the next DA if the position becomes vacant. Friedman was first assistant before he became DA and Robert Noonan was a first assistant before he became DA.

The lack of a first assistant puts the DA's office at a disadvantage, Friedman suggested, against the Public Defender's Office, which only recently acquired its first top assistant, and also has an investigator and a case worker that the DA's office doesn't have and Friedman has never sought.

The county attorney also has a top assistant, and 60 of the 62 district attorneys in the state, including all of the smaller counties, have first assistants, and those offices often also have investigators.

The first assistant also traditionally covered a couple of specialty law areas, such as civil forfeitures, which can generate revenue for the county, and cybercrime and child pornography -- specialties that have gone uncovered by the Genesee County DA's office since Dave Gann retired six years ago.

Legislator Bob Bausch, one of the Legislators who initially questioned the need for a first assistant in the DA's office, said he wondered if it was necessary in an office where all the ADAs are professionals and in the day and age of digital communications.

"Yes, in this day and age, I am accessible, even on vacation, by email and text messages and I’m not complaining about that, but I believe there should be somebody who is trained and has the experience necessary to serve in my absence," Friedman said.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg questioned why after five years it was suddenly an urgent need in the DA's office to have a first assistant.

Friedman made the point that after Gann left, he was asked to cut spending in 2011 and again in 2012, so he didn't think it was appropriate then to ask to backfill the position.

"I waited five years and I realize it’s never going to be restored unless I push it," Freidman said to explain why he's asking for the position now.

Other members questioned whether the position was really necessary since the office was able to operate six years without it.

"I guess I wonder why we would be penalized because I’ve tried to comply and not pushed and not asked for more money all the time and I’ve waited and I’ve waited and I just feel it’s time," Friedman said. "You know, you could make us wait forever obviously, but I don’t think we ever should have gone without that position, but we did. In a sense, I feel, we were not forced to, but it was the right thing to do at the time. I hate to see us penalized for doing the right thing back then."

Included in Monday's discussion was the potential salary of the reconstituted position. In his initial request, Friedman asked for an increase in his salary budget of $30,000. County Manager Jay Gsell knocked that down to about $9,000, to bring the salary in line with recommendations of a management salary study completed four years ago.

Friedman argued that Melissa Cianfrini is underpaid relative to her 17 years experience as a litigator and that her salary is only where it should be now because of a grant received through the Department of Social Services to pay for prosecution of welfare fraud cases.

Traditionally, the county has paid a new top assistant what that person's predecessor made, which is how Friedman arrived at the $30,000 above Melissa Cianfrini's current salary.

That seemed to be the pay range Ray Cianfrini was pushing for because the next undersheriff, Greg Walker, will be paid the same $89,000 salary outgoing undersheriff William Sheron made. That is a salary that is about $3,000 more than recommended by the four-year-old management salary report.

Ray Cianfrini said it seemed only fair that if Walker was paid according to what the previous undersheriff made, which will represent a pay cut for Walker, then the new first assistant in the DA's office should be paid what the previous first assistant made. Or they should both be paid according to the recommended salary structure.

At a previous meeting, Cianfrini first raised the concern that the Legislature's potential unwillingness to raise the salary for the position was driven by gender bias.

Friedman brought that subject up again Monday evening.

"All I can say is I hope the potential of different treatment of our office is not based on the gender of the person who is going to be receiving the position," Friedman said.

Bausch was the first to speak up and reject that suggestion, noting that he has three daughters, one who is an attorney, and a wife who worked professionally until she retired.

"With members of the press here, I just want to make this point, because I don’t want to be hassled when I go home," Bausch said. "Don’t accuse me of saying this was an issue based on the sex of the employee, because I’ve got four women who are going to kill me.”

With the 8-1 vote against creating the position, the salary question was moot, and Cianfrini wasn't happy.

"Amazing, absolutely amazing," the chairman said. "It makes me think about whether there are other agendas involved here. Ok, let’s go on to the next … you’re all a bunch of hypocrites as far as I’m concerned.”

Some legislators took the barb in good humor, with Legislator Shelly Stein piping up to ask a question, "Hypocrite Stein, here."

Another topic covered Monday was what if any personnel cuts should be made in the planning department, or how the department might generate revenue to cover its expenses. Director Felipe Oltramari said when he first took over the department, it was short staffed and over the past year, with better staffing, they have been able to catch up on a lot of work.

A cut in staffing might mean the department would need to eliminate some of the technical assistance it provides to towns and villages, which helps ensure consistency and conformity in the application of zoning and code enforcement on projects.  

Stein, among others, suggested that down the road, municipalities might be charged a fee for such support.

It's either that or reduce the amount of sales tax revenue shared with the municipalities.

Bausch and Legislator Andrew Young continued their push for a five-year plan for county government. 

Revenue and expense woes are only going to get worse, so a plan is needed.

Young is worried about a treasurer's report that suggests the county will fall into insolvency within five years unless it stops dipping into its reserve funds to balance the budget.

Bausch believes the county will be forced to build a new jail within five years and the expert advice given to the county is that they will need $18 million in reserves when that project goes out to bond. Currently, the county is about $11 million short and Bausch doesn't see how the county closes that gap on its current course.

November 29, 2016 - 6:12am
posted by Genesee Chamber... in genesee county, history, news, tourism, hlom.

If you have a history lover or a curiosity seeker on your holiday shopping list, the gift shop area of the Holland Land Office Museum (131 W. Main St., Batavia) is going to be your best friend this holiday season.

Genesee County is blessed with rich American history. The county’s location and people have made significant contributions to the history of our country. The Holland Land Office Museum has a great gift shop that features many local history books and local history items for sale. It’s refreshing to see such a nice array of offerings.

You can visit the gift shop area Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Take a look at some of our favorite items:











Visit www.VisitGeneseeNY.com to learn more...
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