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human service committee

June 3, 2016 - 5:44pm

A grant to pay for a historic marker for the boyhood home of Civil War-era Major General Emory Upton was approved, and the news was relayed to the Human Service Committee when it met Tuesday at County Building #2.

The Syracuse-based William G. Pomeroy Foundation agreed to provide $1,000 for a standard historical marker, mounting pole and shipping costs. Since 2006, the foundation's Historic Roadside Marker Grant Program has funded more than 282 markers in 46 New York counties.

The home at 9244 Upton Road in the Town of Batavia was built in 1823 by Emory's parents, Daniel and Electa Upton. The date has not been set, but there will be an unveiling ceremony/dedication after the marker is installed, attended by veterans groups, according to County Historian Michael Eula.

He has overseen the installation of three other markers during his tenure; there is a total of 19 in the county so far, one of which is in storage (for Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany).

The historian went on to outline what's happening in his department.

"I'm excited and optimistic about this department," he told the committee.

An average of eight visitors a month spend time in the History Department. Requests for information are up 2 percent; the only resulting uptick in revenue comes from copying fees. 

But the reputation of the Genesee County History Department is widening, Eula said, garnering attention outside the region, even outside the state.

The one area of concern that keeps the historian up at night, in fact that gives him nightmares, is the very real prospect of running out of shelf space for documents and records.

"Worst-case scenario is three years of shelving left," Eula said, "best case, four maybe five years."

He is tasked with storing documents from the Probation Department, the District Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, and more.

But he has no idea in any given year how many documents will need to be archived.

It is only with the aid of a part-time microfilm clerk that he is "able to stay afloat."

"The more backup we have, the better I sleep at night," Eula said.

To that end, he applied for a grant last year to pay for more clerk hours to transfer documents onto microfilm. It was declined.

"I have to resubmit it," Eula said. "There is a learning curve on my part."

The specialized language of grant writing for record management is something he's still finessing, he admitted, noting that it is more challenging -- nuanced differently -- than that required for purely historical matters.

If he succeeds in getting grant money for more clerking assistance, he said he would like to retain the person now doing the job and already familiar with the department. Besides, he worries about confidentiality.

"Bringing in an outsider, a third party, raises confidentiality issues," Eula said.

After the meeting, Eula gave the Human Service Committee a tour of the History Department and County Building #2. With fans blowing and walls stripped of baseboards in many places, there was residual evidence of the flooding with occurred on a bitterly cold winter night when a frozen pipe burst and water damaged the building. It would have been much worse, but an employee happened to stop by over the weekend and caught the flooding early. 

A contractor is working to paint and retile and make other repairs and the county's insurer is paying for it.

June 1, 2016 - 6:47pm

Say a middle-school student habitually sasses a teacher and repeatedly winds up in the vice principal's office. Or maybe a teen is often truant from school or acts out in a way that might get him or her in trouble with the law, perhaps already has.

In many cases, there's a voluntary way to make amends and square things with authorities. It's the Genesee County Youth Court -- an alternative for young people who face disciplinary action through school or law enforcement. The goal is to decrease behavior problems and increase "citizenship skills."

On Tuesday afternoon, the local legislature's Human Service Committee was given an agency review of the Youth Bureau by Director Jocelyn Sikorski, which includes the Youth Court.

She told them that referrals are up. There were 32 last year and there have been 17 to date this year.

With a success rate of 90 percent or better, there are cost savings to the county because this reduces the caseload in the juvenile justice system, Sikorski said.

Eligible young people are referred by either their school or law enforcement. Parents and guardians are involved throughout and everything is kept confidential. Sentencing is individualized and there's no permanent record in the youth’s file or record.

Youths who want resolution through the Youth Court, fill out an application. If approved, the defendant appears before a court of peers.

A "prosecutor" representing school and community interests argues their side and makes a sentencing recommendation. The defense acts on behalf of the teen in question and also makes a sentencing recommendation. A clerk-bailiff maintains court records, administers the oath, and makes sure the court runs smoothly. A panel of three teen judges listen to both sides of the issue and recommends a sentence based on what is heard in the courtroom.

This process gives the wrongdoer a chance to learn from mistakes through early intervention and positive peer pressure.

Those who voluntarily serve in the Youth Court learn about public speaking, group decision making and the justice system.

It began in 2008 and costs about $16,000 a year to run. Funding is provided by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), a component within the U.S. Department of Justice. Chelsea Dillon is the coordinator; she works collaboratively with the Probation Department, law enforcement agencies, the Dept. of Social Services and schools in the county.

Another program administered by the county Youth Bureau is the federally funded "Youth Opportunity Program," an AmeriCorps offshoot, now in its second year here.

The fledgling program enrolls at-risk and formerly incarcerated youth in direct service projects sponsored by AmeriCorps.

"We had a lot of learning in our office," Sikorsky said of the inaugural year. "We're getting better. There are challenges with the youth being served."

Steps are being put in place to prevent problems encountered initially. But through no fault of the county, future funding is not assured for its continuance here or elsewhere.

The federally funded AmeriCorps Program was also reviewed for the committee by Sikorski. It focuses on creating jobs and providing paths to opportunity for young people about to enter the workforce. Through AmeriCorps, participants learn valuable work skills, earn money for education and develop an appreciation for citizenship by working in community service helping others.

Going forward, a concern with the AmeriCorps program is the higher minimum wage of $9.70 an hour in 2017.

"We still will be competitive with that," Sikorski said, because with their education award and their bi-weekly stipend, an AmeriCorps participant makes $9.85 an hour.

"2018...(we) believe that we will struggle to recruit AmeriCorps members with the raise in the state minimum wage, with the money we have to give our AmeriCorps members. Our hands are tied based on that program."

The grant cycle is every 15 months, and Genesee County next cycle runs from October through the end of 2017, when the minimum wage is set to become $9.70 an hour. Each cycle requires a competitive grant application process to secure funds.

"The minimum wage I think will hit us in 2018," Sikorski said.

Committee Chair Rochelle Stein asked if the minimum wage requirement applies to AmeriCorps at all.

"If this is a government program, though, isn't that exempt?" Stein asked. "Because I thought that governments were exempt from the minimum wage increases. I could be wrong."

Sikorski replied: "My understanding is we're exempt (as county government) from the fact that we have to raise the wages to coincide with the raise in the minimum wage. Correct."

County Manager Jay Gsell said "But that may not apply to this program because it's not necessarily with public entities. That's one of those things that you'll have to look at. We'll have to look into that."

Gsell said the minimum wage hike requirements and any future budget impacts on various programs are still being determined.

Regardless of wages, all AmeriCorps members gain an education benefit. A 900-hour volunteer would get, for example, a $2,650 education award upon completion. A parent or grandparent can allocate it to their child or grandchild; you can use it to pay for your own tuition; and, student loans incurred during AmeriCorps participation can be deferred, and no interest will accrue on them.

In another Youth Bureau initiative, Sikorski happily reported that the Kiwanis Club provided $200 to buy "Halloween kits" last October for 90 boys and girls who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to dress up at school or go trick-or-treating in costumes with friends and family. A total of 40 went to children in one of the city's two elementary schools, and 50 went to underprivileged kids in the other.

"Oh, my gosh, it was so much fun!" she said.

The goal is to make this amusing seasonal holiday outreach travel -- next on one side of the county, then the other, then back to the city.

Stein asked about the back-to-school supplies and was told annually, they are able to help between 30 and 50 children with supplies.

Following Sikorski's presentation, the committee agreed to give permission for the Youth Bureau to apply for a grant from the U.S. Tennis Association to fund a summer tennis program. If granted, it would provide $1,900 to pay for a tennis instructor, mileage and some equipment.

May 3, 2016 - 5:05pm

Mercy Flight Air Ambulance enjoyed another successful year of aiding people in Genesee County, according to a presentation Monday afternoon before the Human Service Committee.

County Manager Jay Gsell requested contract approval for the provision of air medical transfer service in Genesee County for the 2016-17 fiscal year in the amount of $14,250, the same as it's been since 2011.

At the end of a presentation about the agency from Outreach Coordinator Lynn O'Donnell and Mercy EMS Operations Manager Larry Baumgardt, the committee recommended without discussion that the Legislature approve the status quo funding.

(The county is not involved with funding the ground ambulance services.)

Highlights of Mercy Flight for fiscal 2014-15 include:

  • A total of 179 requests for Air Ambulance (helicopter) from Genesee County; 91 transports completed;
  • Total Mercy Flight transports for 2015 were 1,100;

For Mercy EMS, in operation for six years now:

  • 7,377 requests for services; 4,824 transports completed;
  • In the City of Batavia, there were almost 3,000 calls for Mercy EMS in 2014; that number grew to 3,500 in 2015.

Call Types (55 percent were on scene; 45 percent were inter-facility transfers)

  • Adult Trauma -- 38 percent
  • Adult Medical -- 37 percent
  • Adult Cardiac -- 13 percent
  • Pediatric Medical -- 7 percent
  • Pediatric Trauma -- 4 percent
  • Neonatal -- 2 percent

Destination Hospitals:

  • Erie County Medical Center -- 33 percent
  • Buffalo General -- 23 percent
  • Strong Memorial -- 15 percent
  • Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo -- 12 percent
  • Mercy Hospital -- 6 percent
  • Other NY Hospitals -- 5 percent
  • Hamot Medical Center -- 3 percent
  • Other Pennsylvania and Ohio Hospitals -- 3 percent

Funding goes to:

  • Operations/Programs -- 93 percent
  • Development & Fundraising -- 7 percent
  • Misc. -- .5 percent

O'Donnell reported that Mercy Flight continues to upgrade its aircraft. Its Bell 429, the company flagship based in Batavia, recently completed its fourth year of service. Four American Eurocopters have all been refurbished, updated and painted to match the Bell. A Lear 31 twin engine jet is also housed at the Batavia base, in partnership with Thunder Run Aviation. The jet provides advanced life support transports beyond what can be provided by the helicopters.

Due to the new partnership between UMMC and Rochester General Hospital, more transports are being logged to Rochester General.

A good deal of time is spent promoting the agency and working with fire/EMS crews and community organizations, O'Donnell said. For example, Mercy Flight offers first responder ground crew safety training that teaches when and how to request Mercy Flight along with the safety requirements for preparing for a safe landing. There were six trainings in Genesee County in the 2014-15 fiscal year, and 84 first responders attended, a total that is "significantly up" from the previous year.

Another community involvement opportunity that Mercy Flight engages in is prom safety/DWI drills and local high schools. These help students make good decisions, reducing DWI-related accidents. Two were held in 2014-15 -- at Elba and at Byron-Bergen. Funding from the Governor's Traffic Safety Grant makes these possible and they will be offered again this year.

Strong partnerships continue with fire/EMS, law enforcement and UMMC, as well as the Chamber of Commerce.

For Mercy Flight, base tours and participation in community events such as the Genesee County Fair, YWCA Penny Carnival, UMMC Teddy Bear Clinic, Pembroke Winterfest, Summer in the City, Brick House Corners Fair and the Oakfield Christmas tree decorating help educate the public and help with fundraising, according to the report. Fundraisers such as the annual Hackers for Helicopters Golf Outing and dinner events at Batavia Downs Gaming and Batavia Country Club are important for these reasons, too.

For Mercy EMS, the ambulance fleet continues to be upgraded, including "graphic schemes that match the helicopters." Three new ambulances will be replacing three old ones. Also, two bases of operations are in place to improve response times for more remote location calls -- one in South Byron, the other in East Pembroke.

Taking part in the UMMC Teddy Bear Clinic and Mash Camps allow preschoolers and pre-teens to learn about EMS. Parades and EMS standbys for community events also provide outreach opportunities, as does allowing local EMT students and UMMC residents-in-training the chance to shadow EMS providers for real-life experience.

Committee Vice Chair Marianne Clattenburg, who represents District 8, asked if recruitment of EMS personnel is difficult.

"Absolutely, this is a nationwide problem," Baumgardt responded.

After a person is already a certified EMT, there's an additional two-year training period required to become a paramedic. That's is a daunting commitment for some and the pay rate in a small market like Genesee County compared to bigger markets does not help any.

"You've served Genesee County for 35 years and we're extremely happy and thankful for that extra level of protection," Committee Chair Rochelle Stein (District 5) said about Mercy Flight.

May 3, 2016 - 1:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, human service committee.

There's every reason to think this summer's fair will be as good as last year's, which had the largest attendance in decades -- about 21,000 -- and plans are afoot to bring in thousands more to the fairgrounds for new events that include a statewide sheep show and Christian music concerts.

That was what the Human Service Committee was told at its Monday afternoon meeting by Norm Pimm, treasurer of the Genesee County Agricultural Society, which oversees the fairgrounds.

"We ran out of parking two nights," Pimm said, noting they found more space somehow, because "if they were going to pay $5 for parking, we were going to find a place for them."

Pimm credited the record-breaking number of fairgoers to lots of positive publicity by local media and the most coverage to date from news outlets in Buffalo, including TV channels 2, 7 and 4, The Buffalo News, and a morning radio showwhich drew more people than ever from the neighboring Erie County.

"We had to get the kids up early so they could be out with the animals," Pimm said about working to get publicity.

Another plus in 2015 was the biggest midway yet, including 18 mechanical rides, and the bonanza that ensued from having a $5 three-hour limitless ride opportunity for children on a Saturday.

"Parents said you couldn't go to another amusement park for that price," Pimm said.

The plan is to expand the three-hour ride bonanza by adding one more day this year -- a Friday AND a Saturday.

"I like the price for the kids' rides," said Committee Member John Deleo, who represents District 7.

The fair officials also want "to try and pick up some pieces" of the shattered good times due to the necessity of fair cancellations by fire departments in Elba and Stafford. To that end, they plan to hire the Syracuse-based band Under the Gun, which regularly played the Stafford gig, to entertain fairgoers.

"They have a huge following," Pimm told the committee, and so does the country band Branded and the Buffalo-based blues trio the Jony James Band, both of which are also going to be on the 2016 roster.

Of Jony James, a Buffalo News writer noted "(Jony’s) slashing, quivering guitar cuts like lightening through the smoke and grit of rough and tumble roadhouses, while his voice carries a touching sort of quiet sadness.”

Also, a magician has just been signed to perform daily at the fair. The price for parking will remain unchanged at $5 per vehicle and admission will remain free to the fair, despite the fact that many others are starting to charge an entrance fee.

The Batavia Speedway will continue its operations.

Beyond the fair, the Empire Sheep Show is a statewide showcase that will bring people to Genesee County for four days. And the largest hitched horse show in New York is in the plans, too, one of two new horse shows planned for the venue.

To accommodate these and upgrade the fairgrounds, a loan was just signed to build a new 60 by 130 foot barn. The old barn will remain standing and can be used when additional show space is needed. Grants are being pursued for electrical improvements at the fairgrounds.

This fall, a brand-new Farm Museum will open at the fairgrounds, and a key goal is to attract youth to agricultural pursuits. Local farmers provided the seed money for a 40 by 130 foot building to house the museum, which will include a classroom, exhibit space and room to expand. Plans call for an animal clinic for youth focusing on both health and showmanship.

"At the end of the day, if we don't get youth involved, there won't be a fair in 10 or 20 years," Pimm said.

Lastly, Pimm said the Ag Society was approached by a couple of local churches wanting to hold Christian music concerts. The estimated number of potential attendees quickly ballooned he said, and is now hovering between 3,000 to 5,000 people.

Ed DeJaneiro Jr., committee member representing District 9, said Pimm's report of the Ag Society underscores its aim to provide educational and entertainment value at affordable prices.

By the by, here's a video of the Jony James Band from 2011's Artpark festival in Lewiston.

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