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Human Services Committee

August 11, 2022 - 4:20pm

Business is booming this summer at Genesee County’s six public libraries, which are having to adjust their budgets to account for rising costs of materials – especially when it comes to eBooks.

Two local librarians – Kim Gibson of Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield and Diana Reding of Corfu Public Library – joined Thomas Bindeman and Lisa Erickson, officials with the Lockport-based Nioga Library System, at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting earlier this week to submit a request for funding and update lawmakers on library activities.

The county appropriates funds to each one of the six libraries to support the purchase of materials such as computers, books, music, movies and magazines. For 2023, the libraries are asking for $41,680 (the same amount as last year), which represents about 13 percent of their cumulative budgets.

Broken down by library, the dollar amounts are as follows:

  • Byron-Bergen Public Library, $4,570 requested, $32,780 materials budget, 13.94 percent;
  • Corfu Public Library, $3,500 requested, $16,255 materials budget, 21.53 percent;
  • Haxton Memorial Library, $3,200 requested, $10,000 materials budget, 32 percent;
  • Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion, $1,950 requested, $14,700 materials budget, 13.27 percent;
  • Richmond Memorial Library, Batavia, $22,210 requested, $182,210 materials budget, 12.19 percent;
  • Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy, $6,250 requested, $62,000 materials budget, 10.08 percent.

The bulk of funding for the libraries comes from the residents of their municipalities. In the case of Corfu, Hollwedel, Richmond and Woodward, their budgets are put to a public vote. With Haxton and B-B, the town/village provide most of the funding at this point, but progress is being made toward changing the designation of those libraries to enable a public vote.

Bindeman said libraries are being challenged by increased costs for transportation – “Our fuel expenses are up by $19,000 this year,” he said – and for eBooks, a popular reading option.

“eBooks are costly to libraries,” he said. “People can go online, or they can go online at the library and download them. A consumer could go online and possibly get a book for 15 to 20 bucks, but the library’s cost for the same book might be 80 to 150 dollars.”

He said it’s what publishers and authors call “intellectual content” that drives up the price.

“Publishers and the authors feel that if a library gets it, they're getting ripped off because it's in the electronic world. And they feel once it gets on the internet, people will lift the book and all that,” he said. “And plus, normally if a consumer buys an eBook, he or she will only read it once or twice. And they see if a library buys it, it's going to have multiple uses.

“So, they're going to lose money on that, and that's why they charge so much. Also, we really don't own the book. It's only a lease for two to three years.”

He said electronic publishers “control the agenda” and it’s hurting the library system.

“We really don't have much voice. Because eBooks cost more for libraries, that means we won't be able to buy as many titles (books in print),” he noted. “Sometimes, it's kind of counterproductive to whatever they're thinking.”

Gibson and Reding used terms such as “amazing” and “come full circle” as they described how their libraries have bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic regulations that severely limited onsite interaction.

“We're getting back to pre-COVID levels -- getting our hours back to pre-COVID hours and getting staff and all that back to normal, whatever normal might be,” said Bindeman, who has been with Nioga for more than 40 years, the last 17 as the system’s director.

He said the Genesee libraries appreciate the county’s funding, understanding that government entities are facing similar financial challenges.

For more about the Nioga Library System, a non-profit cooperative library system that supports the 21 independent public libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties, go to www.niogalibrary.org.

August 9, 2022 - 4:02pm

duffy_burkel_1.jpg

Things are looking up for the Holland Land Office Museum at 131 West Main St., the Genesee County-supported facility dedicated to highlighting the events and people that have contributed to the region’s rich history.

Membership in the museum, which is managed by the board of directors of the Holland Purchase Historical Society, is nearing 250 and attendance since last July has surpassed the 3,000 mark.

Those benchmarks alone, says Executive Director Ryan Duffy, indicate that the museum definitely has bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duffy and Don Burkel, HLOM board president, presented their yearly report on Monday at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting.

“Our membership topped 200 for 2021 for the first time in quite a few years and we’re 90 percent to that number this year,” Duffy said. “Our goal (for 2022) is 250 and we’re 75 percent to that.”

He said the museum is attracting more international visitors – especially from The Netherlands (due to this area being a Dutch settlement) – while the recording of its guest speaker series is getting hundreds of views on YouTube.

Duffy also mentioned the restarting of the History Heroes program this summer, which brought around 27 young people to the museum, and that the Wonderland of Trees was the museum’s biggest yet in terms of visitors and sponsors.

Volunteer support is crucial to the museum’s success, he noted, and was glad to report that 17 people donate their time on a regular basis.

“Volunteers, docents and interns completed more than 1,500 hours of community service up to this date,” he reported, adding that attendance and gift shop sales have returned to pre-2020 levels.

Going forward, Duffy said directors are in the early stages of obtaining a design for a new entrance off the West Wing of the building “to create a more welcoming and efficient entry” that would be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. Additionally, this space would be utilized for the relocation of the gift shop and a larger space for the research library.

“This will be a better spot for the gift shop, hopefully generating double the annual revenue, and we would gain exhibit space (by utilizing the area currently occupied by the gift shop),” he advised.

The museum also has initiated the Garth Swanson Memorial Scholarship, which will be available to students in 2023, Duffy said.

The scholarship will benefit current high school students planning to attend Genesee Community College or students attending GCC currently with a passion for history. It is in honor of Garth Swanson, a longtime board member and patron of the museum who passed away in early 2022.

The Holland Land Office Museum is currently operating under normal, yearlong hours. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. For more information, call 585-343-4727.

Photo: Don Burkel, left, and Ryan Duffy, representing the Holland Land Office Museum, talked about the museum's activities over the past year at Monday's County Legislature Human Services Committee meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 30, 2021 - 8:58am

A nearly $1 million grant may be on its way to Genesee County Public Health to boost “workforce capacity" in the department's battle against COVID-19 and to enhance efforts in other areas, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said Monday afternoon.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Pettit offered a resolution – which subsequently was approved by the HSC – to accept $980,544 from the New York State Department of Health to recruit, train, deploy and manage the NYS Public Health Corps Fellowship Program.

Touted by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Public Health Corps consists of individuals of all educational levels (“fellows”) that have been accepted to participate in the program designed to “bolster and improve public health workforce capacity,” Pettit said.

The grant will run for two years, through July 31, 2023, he said, with $250,000 of the money allocated in the 2022 budget. The remaining amount will be part of the county’s 2023 budget.

Pettit said he has a list of about 15 people who have applied to join the Public Health Corps.

The HSC also approved a contract with Coastal Staffing of Naples, Fla., to serve as the staffing agency or employer for those selected into the program.

“Genesee County will interview these individuals and if they are hired, then they will go through Coastal Staffing as their employer,” Pettit advised.

In other action related to the health department, the committee gave the go-ahead to accept an $11,000 grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials for Genesee County to participate in a wastewater surveillance mentorship program. This will run from Jan. 1-July 31, 2022.

Pettit said the money will be used by health department officials to monitor the viral load in municipal wastewater systems throughout the county and to provide guidance and recommendations going forward if necessary.

Both measures will be considered by the full legislature at its Dec. 8 meeting.

COVID-19 LOCAL UPDATE

Reporting on the current COVID-19 picture in Genesee County, Pettit said the average number of cases per day over the last seven days has been steady at around 34, while the percentage of breakthrough cases is at 30-35 – up about 10 percent from what he had been seeing.

As of yesterday, there were 241 active cases – those in isolation – with 28 of those people in the hospital, he said.

Pettit said that 70 percent of Genesee County residents 18 years of age and older have received at least one vaccine shot, with that number decreasing to 59.6 percent when considering the county’s total population. That is much less than the 90 percent of NYS residents 18 and over who have received at least one shot.

He said the county health department is offering the complete spectrum of vaccinations – first shot, booster and doses for children ages 5-11.

“Booster clinics have been very steady,” Pettit said, adding that early studies show that booster shots provide a significant increase in protection from the coronavirus.

As far as testing is concerned, the county is offering testing once a week and has been meeting the demand. Pettit did point out that testing supplies are beginning to dwindle and if the state doesn’t receive the supply it has ordered, then “free” testing could end in a few months.

August 31, 2021 - 9:53am

More visitors, more members, more donations and more programming – especially in the digital realm – have Ryan Duffy, executive director of the Holland Land Office Museum, feeling optimistic about the direction of the history learning center and gathering place at 131 West Main St.

“Now that we’ve grown our digital audience, we feel more confident to continue our outreach … anywhere in the world, we can tell our stories,” Duffy said on Monday afternoon during an annual report to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee at the Old County Courthouse.

Calling it the “biggest impact” in a year of positive developments, Duffy said the HLOM experienced more than 4,000 views on its digital platforms and weekly Artifact Video Series on YouTube.

He said that people have made their way to the museum after watching installments of the video series.

“It has been a success and we’ll keep going with it,” he said.

Duffy touched upon several items on the seven-page report he provided to the HSC, primarily indicating increases in attendance, participation and membership, and enhancements in the museum’s collection systems and community partnerships.

He said that visitorship was up by 50 percent over the past year – with more than 1,500 people expanding their knowledge of local history since the museum reopened in July 2020. More than half of those visitors were from outside of the county, he said.

Additionally, more than 275 community members have used the HLOM’s meeting space in that same time period and more than 300 people attended the museum’s special events, programs and concerts in person, he reported.

Membership is up by 30 percent, Duffy said, moving within 27 people of his goal of 200 annual members. As a result, donations more than doubled and gift shop sales and online bookstore sales surpassed last year’s totals.

In collection and exhibit management, Duffy said, “We’ve almost fully modernized our collection system.”

This consisted of inputting index cards into the digital database, ongoing data entry for recently acquired, found and on-display artifacts, and digitizing of paper artifacts and resource materials.

Duffy said the museum collaborates with other historical societies and associations throughout Western New York, and with schools and colleges to offer as much education and outreach as possible, including tours for elementary school pupils.

The museum also has various community partnerships, such as Batavia High School’s Make a Difference Day, United Way’s Day of Caring, GO ART! events and the Buffalo History Museum’s webinar series.

The director also said the museum applied for and received a $2,500 Reach grant from GO ART! to support its History Heroes Summer Program.

Going forward, Duffy said the HLOM board of directors’ strategic plan boils down to “taking what we’ve done and seeing how we can grow.”

Key points of the plan are expanding an online storefront to allow people to buy items from the gift shop remotely, including options for donations, memberships and program tickets; heavier promotion of the museum’s community space, which now has a new projector, screen and audio system; pursuing more grant opportunities, and increasing the number of exhibits.

Duffy said the community space is open to groups from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on evenings (all by appointment) at a charge of $25 per hour. He said it can accommodate up to 60 people – 30 to 40 comfortably.

For more information, go to www.hollandlandoffice.com.

August 30, 2021 - 7:44pm

Genesee County stands to receive more than $400,000 via a settlement between New York State and the pharmaceutical companies comprising the Johnson & Johnson brand for their role in contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The county’s Human Services Committee today, on the advice of County Attorney Kevin Earl, recommended adoption of a resolution that would enable Genesee to participate in the New York Opioid Sharing Agreement.

The settlement, negotiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, would provide Genesee County with a sum between $177,000 and $413,000, Earl said, with approximately half of the money to be "front-loaded" as an initial payment representing the first three years – possibly as soon as February 2022.

"It is my understanding that the balance will be paid over the next nine years on the state's remaining 10-year payments," he added.

Earl said the actual amount is on a sliding scale, depending upon the number of municipalities opting in.

He said there is a good chance that the county would get its full share of the settlement funds, which could be as high as $229 million to New York State.

The resolution passed by the HSC (which is subject to approval by the full legislature next week) alleges several causes of action against defendants Johnson & Johnson, and affiliates based on claims that J & J contributed to the opioid epidemic by falsely promoting prescription opioids it manufactured and sold and by falsely promoting the increased use of opioids directly and generally through various “front groups” and failing to implement measures to prevent diversion of prescription opioids in connection with distribution of its products, all of which contributed to a public health crisis in the County of Genesee.

As reported previously on The Batavian (see link below), Genesee County has retained the services of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC of New York City to litigate on its behalf. Earl said this firm and another based in New York City represent the vast majority of municipalities in New York State.

Earl said two other law suits are in the works – one against Pharma, maker of oxycontin, which has filed bankruptcy (reorganization) and the other against the distributors of these powerful drugs.

“That’s three potential bites of the apple (for the county),” he said.

Any funds received in the Johnson & Johnson case would have to be used in areas related to expenses incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic, Earl said, although “there is quite of bit of flexibility” in the guidelines.

Those uses would include treatment/support groups, prevention, training, first responders and research. Allocation of the funds is being coordinated by the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

Previously: GCASA director: Multimillion dollar deal with opioid distributors would 'stabilize' treatment system

May 3, 2021 - 7:36pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaccination Process ‘In A Transition’

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 3, 2021 - 5:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Genesee County Fair, Human Services Committee.

The show must go on.

At least, that’s what officials of the Genesee County Agricultural Society are hoping as they make plans to hold the Genesee County Fair this summer.

Agricultural Society Treasurer Norm Pimm this afternoon expressed optimism as he reported to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee, which moments before voted in favor of allocating $11,000 in funding for 4-H judging expenses and 4-H premiums associated with the fair.

The 2021 fair is scheduled for July 24-31. Last year’s event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This year, we’re starting to see (that we’re) still creating a lot of excitement with the youth,” Pimm said. “There are 238 youth members in 4-H in Genesee County, across 23 clubs, and there are another 68 adult volunteers who help out with running those clubs.”

Pimm said fair organizers are awaiting guidance from the state as far as what can be done, including the setup of the midway.

“We’re going to try our best to move forward with the full fair. If not, we plan on definitely doing what we need last year – a scaled-back version with some of the youth shows,” he said.

Pimm said Genesee County will host the largest draft horse show in the state (outside of the NYS Fair in Syracuse) on July 23, the Friday before the official opening of the fair.

The next day will feature the Empire Classic Youth Sheep Show, which attracts participants from surrounding counties as well. Pimm said more than 70 took part in the show in 2020.

Other shows, including open beef and open swine, are set for July 25, with Genesee County 4-H-only shows scheduled throughout the week.

“Obviously, last year was not what we wanted as we had to cancel the fair. As far as we know we had the longest running fair – consecutive fair in New York, 181 years I believe,” Pimm advised. “But we were able to still have some youth shows. We thought it was important because some of the youth start their projects in November, so obviously, the November before last nobody knew what was going to happen.”

Pimm mentioned that the Agricultural Society did not accept county or state money last year due to the cancellation, but is appreciative of this year’s sponsorship.

“We didn’t take county funding last year,” he said. “We thought we would try to help the county out, but we can definitely use it this year and it will be put to really good use.”

February 1, 2021 - 7:38pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, COVID-19, Human Services Committee, health department.

Ever-changing policies and regulations, coupled with insufficient and reduced funding from Albany, have created a “very fluid environment” that prevents the Genesee County Health Department from looking too far ahead when it comes to its continuing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Health Director Paul Pettit conveyed that message to the Human Services Committee of the Genesee County Legislature this afternoon as he presented his departmental review via Zoom videoconferencing.

“We’re kind of entering phase three of this pandemic – the contact tracing piece and the testing – and now with the vaccinations,” Pettit said. “It’s going to be a long haul, but working together I believe we’ll get there over the next four to six months, hopefully.”

Despite the uncertainty regarding funding and vaccine availability, Pettit reported that he couldn’t be prouder of the health department staff – employees working as part of a shared services agreement with Orleans County.

“They’ve gone above and beyond for quite a long time, operating in response mode, which is tiring and stressful,” Pettit explained. “But they’ve risen to the challenge and I just want to tell the committee how proud I am of them. And I appreciate all of the support that the committee and the legislature give, not only to the health department but to all the county staff.”

The health department has been dealing with the pandemic for nearly a year, and that concentrated focus on helping those who have been infected or have had to be quarantined due to contact with an infected person has relegated other departmental initiatives to the back burner.

Pettit said the health department has received $264,576 in COVID-specific grant funding for use through 2022, and has spent about $135,00 thus far, with almost $75,000 of that for employee overtime and other expenses.

“Fortunately, we’ve had those grant funds to cover that, but still that’s a lot of money in overtime to meet the needs of contract tracing and the other activities that have occurred over the past 10 to 11 months,” he said.

He said he is expecting additional funds for vaccination and is waiting to see how that money will be funneled from the state to the counties.

“As we have talked about many times, this will be a significant effort over the next four-, six-plus months to vaccinate our entire population, so there is going to be a lot of expense around that,” Pettit said. “It’s a big effort in front of us so, obviously, these grant funds when they come will be very important to us to offset our public health and local funds – and making sure we’re utilizing them the best we can.”

In an effort to faciliate the county's vaccination clinic scheduling process, the Human Services Committee voted to approve a contract for staffing services from Coastal Staffing Inc., of Naples, Fla., for six months at an estimated cost of $65,500.

Pettit's departmental review touched upon several areas, as follows:

FISCAL PROFILE LOOKING AHEAD TO 2021

Article 6 is the avenue by which public health departments receive state aid revenue.

Pettit said Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to reduce Article 6 funding by 5 percent across the board, which means the local health agency will receive about $38,000 less than expected – down from $757,129 to $719,273.

Concerning performance incentive funding, Genesee/Orleans is anticipating about $10,000 this year, he said.

The health department is facing a 20-percent cut in funding for its lead and tobacco grants for the period of April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021, Pettit said, and may lose all of the funding for its rabies grant (about $15,661).

“In the executive (state) budget proposal there is a cut to the rabies grant – potentially a full extinction of the grant,” he said. “We spend a lot more than that on rabies every year. This grant, particularly, pays for all of our animal clinics that we’re required to do by law and pays for the vaccines for that. Also, for educational things that we do and it offsets some of our post-exposure costs, which is well in excess of $100,000 per year.”

Pettit said he is advocating to get that money put back into the state budget.

CROSS-JURISDICTIONAL SHARING WITH ORLEANS

Genesee is into the ninth year of its CJS relationship with Orleans with seven full-time shared administrative staff and one emergency preparedness assistant.

“We have a common shared Board of Health, and we continue to leverage that relationship and have shown it to be fruitful during the COVID response and our ability to utilize staffing across the lines to supplement and move resources as needed,” Pettit reported.

He said the counties have finished their strategic planning project in 2020, but have had to hold off on their quality improvement and workforce development plans. He also said they are hoping to gain accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board by 2022.

Pettit added that the CJS agreement recently was expanded to include the Wyoming County Health Department.

COMMUNITY HEALTH ASSESSMENT/IMPROVEMENT PLANS

Pettit said the updated work plan submitted to the state in December focuses on chronic disease, mental health and substance abuse issues.

He said the GOW (Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming) Task Force is continuing to meet, with the program formally coordinated by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

He also praised Ashley Rodriguez, a new Public Health associate, for contributing to the department’s COVID response.

“She is a huge piece of our efforts related to COVID, and is bilingual, which is very helpful (when communicating with Spanish-speaking residents).

ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES

Pettit said the county’s septic replacement program has been successful, with 14 households earning reimbursements of more than $86,000 thus far.

“It’s a program that our folks who live in certain areas of the county on certain creeks are taking advantage of,” he said, adding that the program runs through 2022.

PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

“Preparedness is COVID and we continue to spend a lot of time there,” he said, mentioning the department’s preparedness app – a joint venture with Emergency Management.

He said COVID has enabled the agency to build its Medical Reserve Corps, a volunteer group that could assist in the case of future health crises or emergencies, and said county employees have been actively engaged in the continuity of an operation plan that is designed to integrate the various departments as efficiently as possible.

EARLY INTERVENTION/3-5 PRESCHOOL

The department’s most expensive program, the Early Intervention (EI) and 3-5 Preschool services are expected to cost $601,500 in the coming year.

Pettit said 136 children are in EI and another 156 in the 3-5 Preschool.

He said there is a push for a shift of fiscal responsibility to schools, noting a "significant increase in transportation costs” since we have to now bus all of our kids out of the county. We don’t have a local center-based program any longer.”

As a result, he is projecting a 91-percent increase in transportation costs from 2020.

“Ultimately, until we get another center-based program back in the county, unfortunately all of our children in Genesee and Orleans counties have to be transported out to surrounding counties for those type of services,” he said.

In a related development, the Human Services Committee recommended the legislature accept an EI allocation of $31,982 from the New York State DOH for the period of Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021.

WEIGHTS & MEASURES

Pettit said a shared W&M director with Orleans County has streamlined the program to realize significant savings for both counties.

In 2020, the division inspected more than 650 devices and collected $16,762 in fees.

CORONERS/MEDICAL EXAMINERS

Coroner cases increased in 2020 from around 170 to 193, with 61 of those cases being handled by the medical examiner’s office in Monroe County, Pettit said.

He emphasized the need to appoint a new coroner to replace Jeff McIntire, who resigned. The county is currently operating with three coroners instead of four, but can request assistance from Orleans County if necessary.

January 5, 2021 - 3:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Youth Bureau, Human Services Committee.

chelsea_elliiott_2.jpgGenesee County is calling upon one of its own to provide experience and support while it conducts a search to fill the vacant youth bureau executive director position.

The legislature’s Human Services Committee on Monday voted in favor of creating a deputy youth bureau executive director, a temporary title that County Manager Matt Landers said will be given to Chelsea Elliott, (photo at right), who has worked for the county for the past seven years.

“Chelsea currently is our youth program coordinator and she is very capable,” County Manager Matt Landers said. “She runs our Youth Court and also coordinates the education piece on the youth side of the STOP-DWI program.”

The vacancy occurred last month when Jocelyn Sikorski stepped down to become executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, effective Jan. 25.

Landers said Elliott will be working with Sikorski over the next couple weeks to review the executive director’s responsibilities.

“We realize that there is going to be a period of time that the position is vacant, and looking at the need for somebody in house to transition us, this seemed like the most appropriate fashion (to proceed),” Landers said. “… with this being a union employee that would be stepping up into the role … we feel like this is a justified and prudent move for us to do.”

Landers said the resolution passed by Human Services (and subject to a vote of the full legislature) calls for the full-time deputy position to run for up to six months.

“We don’t anticipate it taking six months. We have spoken with Chelsea and she is agreeable to step up, and then once the director position is filled, the temporary position will be eliminated,” he said. “If Chelsea does have an interest (in succeeding Sikorski), this is something where we will have an opportunity to view her in the role. Certainly, she is eligible to throw her hat into the ring.”

The deputy executive director position provides additional pay for Elliott since her duties will increase, Landers said.

The change at the top of the county’s youth bureau comes as the City of Batavia, which has shared the county executive director for its youth programming, explores the possibility of contracting with an outside agency to provide city youth services.

January 4, 2021 - 6:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Human Services Committee, County Legislature.

The manner in which the first group set to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has grown in recent days makes one wonder whether the butcher, baker and candlestick maker will be the next ones to be added to the list.

Paul Pettit, public health director for Genesee and Orleans counties, today said the roster of the 1A prioritization group is “very fluid and keeps expanding, and it seems like every day.”

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, Pettit said the 1A group now includes health-related professionals well beyond those initially identified as the most essential of the “essential” workers.

“You may recall seeing a week or two ago (that 1A) was really targeted at EMS (Emergency Medical Services) workers, frontline healthcare workers and coroners, medical examiners, funeral home directors,” he said. “Since that time, the list has grown fairly substantially, which now includes private medical practices, hospital affiliated medical practices, public health workers, dentists, other dialysis workers, diagnostic treatment centers, and also includes occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, behavioral health workers and student health workers.”

Pettit noted that other frontline health workers, home healthcare aides and related providers are in the process of being added into the first group.

“As you can see it has grown fairly large over the last week or two (and) that could change tomorrow. So, we’re currently working again with the hospital and Oak Orchard Health, which is the former Pembroke Family Medicine, … to start to vaccinate the different groups that I just mentioned under the 1A prioritization,” he said.

Pettit said the vaccine is “starting to roll out” at United Memorial Medical Center.

“They’re holding pods actually today and a couple other days this week,” he said. “We’ll be getting the vaccine hopefully tomorrow – smaller amounts – and we will be starting to work on the 1A priority group. Obviously, day by day as more vaccine comes in to the community and more providers start to come online, it will speed things up.”

Pettit reiterated what he said during a media briefing last week (as reported by The Batavian) that it will take a couple weeks to meet the demand – especially as the 1A list continues to grow.

“The focus is on the 1As and keep in mind, that once we get the 1As done, we will have to start over with their second shot as the vaccination series is 28 days apart with the Moderna vaccine,” he said. “So, essentially we’re going to be giving folks their second round while we’re trying to start with the first round of the 1B essential group. It’s going to get a little muddled there about a month from now.”

He also emphasized that nursing homes throughout the state are part of program coordinated by the NYS Department of Health in conjunction with pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.

“They’ve gone in and have been vaccinating nursing home residents and staff. That is not anything that we have had any oversight … that is being done strictly through the state DOH,” he said.

In action related to the local health department’s efforts to COVID test, contact trace and vaccinate, the Human Services Committee approved three resolutions during today’s meeting:

  • A memorandum of understanding with the state DOH to ensure the proper distribution and administration of the vaccine by the Genesee County Health Department. The MOU is subject to ratification and approval by the full County Legislature.

“The governor is cracking down on this (adherence to making sure the vaccine is given per the state-mandate prioritization),” Pettit said. “At the moment, it (vaccine) is a scarce commodity; there’s not a lot of it out there yet and there’s a high demand for it.”

Pettit, again, talked about the stiff penalties that could be imposed, including the loss of the provider’s medical license and fines of up to $1 million for failure to comply.

“That is why that MOU … is being put in place,” he said. “It’s basically us attesting as a receiver of the vaccine that we – the county – will follow the state guidelines.”

  • The creation of two temporary full-time COVID-19 response specialist positions to assist the health department with testing, contact tracing and vaccination.

Each job, which will be in force for six months beginning Jan. 18, carries a salary and fringe benefits totaling $40,388, with those expenses to be paid with a combination of state aid reimbursement and Medicaid to State funds.

  • Acceptance of a $35,000 grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials to the health department for contact tracing, overtime and testing expenses.

Pettit said the money isn’t enough “to carry us through to the finish line” but expects more funding to be available as a result of the passage of the federal stimulus bill.

“We have a monumental task ahead of us "over the next four to six months,” he said.

In other news, the committee reported that the Orleans County Legislature reappointed Pettit as its public health director per the two counties’ municipal agreement.

November 30, 2020 - 8:26pm

In a move designed as a safeguard against unforeseen economic calamity, Genesee County is modifying its 2021 funding contracts with outside agencies.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services and Public Service committees today recommended approval of contracts with the Holland Land Office Museum, PathStone Inc., Nioga Library System and Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District – all with new wording that gives the county an out clause.

A similar pact with Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Genesee County was withdrawn, however, to give the agency’s board of directors more time to review the changes.

“The language change is simply putting in a clause that allows for the county to withhold funding in the event of an emergency,” County Manager Matt Landers said. “It is standard language we are putting in all of our contracts.”

Landers said that since the contract for CCE is forwarded “outside of our area to Cornell University, we haven’t allowed for enough time for proper review by CCE’s board.”

“We are just giving them some additional time to review,” he said, adding that the county attorney is working with CCE to make sure the latter has plenty of time to look at the recommended changes. He said he plans to reintroduce a modified resolution in January.

Additionally, the county will be making monthly or quarterly payments instead of one annual payment, Landers said.

“With some of the prior agreements, even (with) a clause to withhold funding, if we gave them all the money up front, it really wouldn’t do any good,” he explained. “So, we’re going through and streamlining so that payments are either going to be monthly or quarterly, and then also having a clause with the standard language that we’re putting in -- a 21-day notification.”

In response to a question from Legislator Marianne Clattenburg about the specifics of a 21-day clause, Landers and County Attorney Kevin Earl said it was inserted into the contracts to give the county flexibility.

“We’re trying to reassure partners that we’re not looking to pull the rug out from under them, but we’re just looking to not be in a position where we are required to continue funding when our funding technically dries up,” Landers said.

Earl added that it gives the outside agencies “time to react” to the withholding of funding.

“We can completely stop all the payments or any part of the payments,” he said, acknowledging that any action would have to be approved by the legislature per a resolution.

Details of the various contracts are as follows:

-- Holland Land Office Museum

The county will enter into agreement with the Holland Purchase Historical Society Inc. for the operation of the museum and programming for 2021 at an annual cost of $33,554 – the same level of funding as the past four years. Payments will be made on a monthly basis.

When asked if the amount of funding was adequate, Landers said the museum, as is the case with the other outside agencies, is “getting by.”

“I’m sure they could do more with more, but they’re making it stretch, and providing an excellent service in the community for the money that we give them,” he said.

-- PathStone Inc.

The 2021 contract with PathStone Corporation of Rochester for housing support and consulting service calls for the county to provide up to $12,150 in funding – an annual amount equal to what was authorized over the past four years.

-- Nioga Library System.

This agreement supports the Nioga Library System with $41,680 for 2021 in quarterly payments. This, too, is the same amount provided by the county in 2020.

The Nioga Library System is comprised of 21 libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties, including Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield, Corfu Public Library, Hollwedel Memorial Library in Pavilion, Byron-Bergen Public Library, and Woodward Memorial Library in Le Roy.

In September, The Batavian reported that Nioga officials anticipated a 25 percent or more cut in funding from New York State in 2021.

-- Soil and Water Conservation District

The county has agreed to support the agency to the tune of $151,891 for 2021, with payments made in regular installments.

One of 58 such districts in the state, the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District provides services and funds projects related to the conservation of soil and water resources, improvement of water quality, preservation of wildlife habitat and management of soil erosion.

-- Cornell Cooperative Extension

For the fifth straight year, the county is offering sponsorship in the amount of $338,548 per a memorandum of agreement with CCE.

The agency, with its office in Batavia, is in the process of hiring a new executive director. Interviews of finalists Jocelyn Sikorski of Batavia and Julianna Frisch of Brockport were scheduled to be conducted earlier today via Zoom videoconferencing.

November 30, 2020 - 5:46pm

The number of COVID-19 cases in Genesee County has reached a new plateau, the county’s public health director reported this afternoon.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, Paul Pettit said positive cases in the month of November have pushed the total to more than 1,000 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“Today, unfortunately, we will be announcing that we crossed over that thousand number threshold of positive cases since the beginning,” Pettit said, adding that about 500 or 600 have come during this month.

Pettit said the health department’s message of social distancing, smaller gathering and wearing a mask is as important as ever.

“We all know people who have had it and some people with more severe cases, too. So, again, it’s a little more troubling of a trend that we’re trying to keep an eye on and do our best to keep educating and hope people will adhere to the advice,” he said.

He also reported on the number of Genesee County residents who are hospitalized at this time with COVID-19.

“I think we have 12 people right now that are hospitalized as Genesee County residents, but they’re not necessarily in Genesee County -- they may be in Rochester or Buffalo hospitals,” he said, noting that a dozen hospitalizations translate to about 8 percent of the 130 to 140 active cases.

“Obviously, we went through a period where we didn’t have anybody in the hospital. Once someone gets hospitalized, they’re obviously having enough issues – breathing or some other secondary issue that they can’t manage at home.”

Pettit said the county averaged about 35 cases per day over the holiday break, which is equivalent to 425 to 450 in Monroe County. He said the numbers are “fairly high” and they could jump significantly if the “potential Thanksgiving bump that has been predicted” transpires.

“We should know by the end of the week into early next week if we’re going to have a lot of additional cases stemming from the holiday gatherings. We’ll be watching that closely,” he said.

He also said the heath department is working on a plan for rapid asymptomatic testing, as well as a strategy to deliver vaccine that will be arriving in the next week or two.

“I don’t expect to see a lot of it (vaccine) on the front end; it will be very targeted toward our highest-risk folks,” he advised.

Overall, Genesee County’s numbers are some of the highest in the Finger Lakes Region, Pettit said.

“We’re working hard trying to get those down and, again, a lot of that is going to come down to personal behavior – wearing masks and reducing density and mass gatherings,” he said.

As far as staffing, Pettit said the health department has added two employees and another will be starting soon.

"These are full-time temporary positions that have been created over the last month (with legislature approval) to assist with COVID response activities, and they 100-percent funded by a COVID grant," Pettit said. "These positions will help with case investigations, contact tracing, data entry and phone calls. We have hired an individual for the COVID specialist position, starting later this week, and will be interviewing this week for the financial clerk position."

In a related development, the committee recommended approval of a resolution to accept a $13,566 grant from the state Department of Health to support flu and COVID-19 response activities, with Pettit advising that a large portion of the funding will be used to cover employees' overtime.

The award, good through June 30, will be added to the health department's 2021 budget by another resolution in January, Pettit said.

November 2, 2020 - 9:33pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislator Gary Maha asked about funding sources for the city.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 2, 2020 - 2:14am

Utilization of public libraries is about to take off, mirroring what happened following the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the housing industry crashed, banks faltered and the stock market plummeted.

That’s how Bob Conrad, director of the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, sees it, and he expressed those views and more on Monday during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

Conrad said the peak year for public libraries in the United States and this county was 2010 as Americans responded to the economic downturn.

“And we’re in the midst of another one,” he said, noting that library services are in greater demand due to the trying times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accompanied by directors from five other Genesee County libraries and Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library System, Conrad asked legislators to not reduce their annual financial support of these institutions.

“Please keep funding the library (at the 2019 level) and we will do what we can on our end to keep the facilities open … and maintain funding from our primary funders,” Conrad said, adding that Genesee County’s contribution amounts to about 10 percent of the what the libraries spend on materials.

Per the libraries’ written report, “County funds are earmarked for library materials only, so the money will go towards books and other resources to help children learn to read, to help people get through hard times, and to help people develop skills and find jobs.”

County Manager Matt Landers revealed that the libraries will receive $41,680 for 2020, but couldn’t guarantee that figure for 2021. The amount will depend upon budget proposals submitted by county department heads (and ultimately approved); outside agencies such as the libraries will be considered after that.

Richmond Memorial Library, by far the largest of the six Genesee County facilities, receives about half of the county funding, which is distributed according to a formula based on service population, circulation and the amount of spending on materials.

Bindeman reported that the Nioga Library System of 21 libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties is facing a 24-percent cut in funding from New York State this year and possibly more in 2021.

“We’re looking at laying off three people and I’m taking a 5-percent cut in my salary, and we’re looking at reducing services,” he said. “There are rumors it could go up to 40 percent and then we’d be looking at a merger or really going down to barebones.”

He said Nioga was able to receive $108,000 in Payroll Protection Program funds.

“If I didn’t get it, our deficit would have been over $300,000,” he said, which represents about a third of its annual budget. “So, that would have been tough.”

Libraries are open, but functioning under strict guidelines as mandated by the state. Those restrictions include no sitting, reading, gathering, playing, and no in-person library programs of more than 25 people.

Conrad said Richmond Memorial saw a big after-school crowd during a normal year, but he doesn’t expect that to continue.

“Our current safety plan allows people to come into the building and check materials out and to use an assigned computer for essential purposes only,” he said. “We’re expecting almost zero school and after-school presence. It’s going to affect our stats and our numbers, but not necessarily our circulation.”

The subject of internet access for students, especially in rural areas, also was discussed.

Kim Gibson, director of Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield, said she and her staff are committed to “doing whatever we can” to (social distance) students so they can do their homework.

She said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent John Fisgus suggested a partnership between the school district and the library, something that would be beneficial if O-A’s plan of 100-percent in-person learning had to be changed.

“We’re very fortunate to have a nice size library, building-wise,” Gibson said, noting that the library increased its bandwidth for Wi-Fi.

She also said that 30 percent of O-A families do not have access to the internet.

“We have access to Wi-Fi upstairs and downstairs …,” she said. “I want to be there for these kids. We have it (Wi-Fi) open 24/7 outside and I see these kids out there trying to do their homework.”

The other directors at the meeting were Diana Reding, Corfu Public Library; Josselyn Borowiec, Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion; Nancy Bailey, Byron-Bergen Public Library, and Betsy Halvorsen, Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy.

Three of the libraries – Richmond, Woodward and Corfu – are connected to (but not regulated by) school districts and receive the bulk of their funding from property taxes as voted on by the public.

The Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Oakfield libraries are of the municipal type, with funding derived through sales and income taxes from the towns and/or villages they serve. Bailey reported that the B-B library is in the process of changing to the school district variety.

July 13, 2020 - 6:36pm

Calling 2020 a “tumultuous year” for first-time homebuyers, Mary Leo, executive director of The Housing Council at PathStone, today presented the annual report of the agency’s counseling and owner-occupied rehabilitation programs today to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

“The lack of housing choices … makes it very competitive” for those looking to capitalize on federal programs and banking institutions’ willingness to purchase their first homes, said Leo, an 11-year employee of the agency who was hired as executive director recently.

Leo said 36 of a possible 58 family units that completed a homeownership program were able to close on their first house, which means that 22 graduates are “still out shopping.”

Her report, covering July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, indicated that PathStone’s relationships with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development, Habitat for Humanity and local banks “have resulted in a growing pipeline of referrals to the agency,” which received $12,150 from Genesee County in 2019.

The 36 families able to purchase a home through the program are 15 more than the previous year.

Leo also said that finding one-bedroom apartments is a challenge, with “more (financial) support available than apartments."

She mentioned the agency’s foreclosure prevention arm that resolved 11 pending cases in Genesee County over the past 12 months.

PathStone’s Genesee County Handyman program assisted 92 senior citizens, down from 2018-19 due to a decrease in funding and COVID-19, she said.

“We anticipate a rise in the need for this service in the coming months,” she said.

On the subject of funding, Leo said funding remains “flat or slightly down.”

She explained that the federal Housing and Urban Development agency issues housing awards based on the number of counselors in the office and not on the number of clients served as was the case in previous years. Since Genesee County has just one certified counselor, it has resulted in long wait times for applicants.

Genesee County’s contribution is used for a portion of staffing costs for the homeownership counselor, the deputy of Housing & Grants Programs for grant writing and the county’s Handyman Program. The remaining funds are used for a portion of office space and supplies.

Leo said PathStone has received funding from several other sources, including Genesee County United Way, Key Bank, Citizens Bank, M&T Bank and HUD Housing Counseling.

A funding request also went out to Rochester Area Community Foundation to support the Genesee County Handyman Program, Leo said.

Direct subsidies for first-time buyers include a $300,000 grant from Affordable Housing Corporation for acquisition/rehabilitation, $40,000 from NYS RESTORE and $100,000 from Affordable Housing Corporation for owner-occupied rehabilitation.

In other developments, the Human Services Committee:

-- Approved a contract for $25 per hour, not to exceed $4,500, with Susan Gagne to serve as suicide prevention coalition coordinator through the county’s Community Mental Health Services agency. The pact is set to run through the end of this year.

Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia said filling this position is “crucial” in light of an increase in attempted suicides since COVID-19.

-- Approved the acceptance of two grants for the Office for the Aging from the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund – one for $88,000 for centralized intake and the other for marketing coordination. The grants are to be utilized through June 30, 2021.

-- Approved a contract with Tender Loving Family Care Inc., of Webster, for social adult day care services at the rates of $87 per day per person for a five-hour block, $105 per day per person for a full day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and $120 per day per person for an extended full day (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

The agreement stipulates that expenses will not exceed $37,750 for the period of July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. It is being funded by: $14,040 under Title III-E Respite grant; $18,720 from the Unmet Needs grant; $990 from Expanded In-Home Services for the Elderly grant; and $4,000 from Western New York Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver Support Initiative.

June 2, 2020 - 9:15am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Youth Bureau, Human Services Committee, COVID-19.

Mention the Genesee County Youth Bureau and thoughts of after-school activities or arts and crafts may come to mind. But, as you learn more about the agency’s operation, it becomes clear that interaction with today’s adolescent population is not all fun and games.

Youth Bureau Director Jocelyn Sikorski touched on a couple of the more serious issues on Monday as she presented a departmental review and outlook at the County Legislature’s Human Services Committee Zoom videoconferencing meeting.

Sikorski said the bureau received 30 referrals – the most ever – to Youth Court in 2019, with 24 of them coming from law enforcement and the remainder from schools and the Probation Department.

Eighteen of the referrals (and subsequent trials) occurred in the last three months of the year, resulting in a very busy time for Program Coordinator Chelsea Elliott and Program Assistant Chelsea Green, she said.

She recounted the story of a 15-year-old boy who was referred to Youth Court on a criminal mischief complaint and ended up having to perform 35 hours of community service, write three essays for reflection and a letter of apology, and take anger management classes.

“A lot of his issues were with his father, specifically, and as a result, she (Elliott) placed them to do community service at our local animal shelter,” Sikorski said. “And because of his age they asked that a parent be with him.”

Sikorski said that the boy and his dad completed the service together at the animal shelter and they continue to do so.

“On top of completing the community service hours and building the relationship with his father – which was something that was vital to his success – they are still supporting our local animal shelter,” Sikorski reported. “He is one of our positives out of our Youth Court system. They’re all very positive, but that’s one that really stood out.”

The director also shared a story connected to the department’s Safe Harbour program that deals with child trafficking and human trafficking. The youth bureau is in the first year of a five-year funding cycle through a contract with the Department of Social Services.

“Since COVID started, we had a call from Restore (a program of Planned Parenthood) and they said they have a young woman who they believed is being trafficked who was coming in for medical services, but they couldn’t ask her because the individual who was potentially trafficking her was coming to all her appointments,” Sikorski said.

Due to the virus guidelines, that other person was not allowed in the exam room, and that gave counselors a chance to provide resources such as domestic violence information and a list of places where the woman could go for temporary housing.

Sikorski said the young woman has two small children, so “she’s not necessarily ready to leave, but if she needs help, she knows where she can get it now and they were able to have that conversation with her.”

She said the bureau’s goal this year is to provide community education and training and to conduct a media campaign leading to a needs assessment to youth-serving professionals (police, school counselors) who work with anyone that would come in contact with a young person who could be at risk of being trafficked.

In 2019, the youth bureau distributed 35 Go Bags to at-risk or runaway youth, Sikorski said. These backpacks include supplies for a night – health and beauty products, a blanket, hat and gloves, granola bars, trail mix, bottled water and gift card for coffee. Twenty-seven of the Go Bags went to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, which has a bag in the trunk of all its patrol cars.

On the subject of activities and events for youth, Sikorski said COVID-19 has brought things to a standstill and that could be the case for a while longer since youth programs are in Phase Four of the state’s reopening plan.

“Our funded programs, all but one are closed and not operating at this time,” she said. “I’m waiting to hear back from some of our funded youth rec programs for the summer months.”

Sikorski said springtime is normally the bureau’s busiest time of the year,

“About every other week we had major events scheduled, and moving into the summer as well that we have had to cancel or postpone,” she said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have some semblance of normalcy in the fall where we will be able to get back to doing the things we routinely do for our community, but it has been a challenge.”

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The Genesee County Youth Bureau provides a variety of services, activities and events, primarily in Genesee County, including the Liberty Center for Youth in the City of Batavia, and also in Orleans County. For more information, go to its website

May 5, 2020 - 9:37am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, health department, Human Services Committee.

The local public health director on Monday said he is a bit wary about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional approach to reopening the economy will affect Genesee County.

“I do have some concerns around the regional approach here as we’re going to be able to move forward and (or) get stuck on pause based on what our entire region (Finger Lakes) does, and if you look at the metrics, it’s going to be driven by data,” said Paul Pettit, director of the Genesee and Orleans Health Departments.

Speaking at the Human Services Committee meeting of the Genesee County Legislature, Pettit said the region is “lining up a little bit more now” with the hospitalization rates that are part of the equation leading toward increased business activity.

“It’s based on 100,000 residents, so look at our Finger Lakes Region,” he said. “I think we’re around 1.3 million, maybe a little less, and we have to meet certain data points.”

On Monday, the governor stated that the Finger Lakes Region meets five of the seven metrics needed to reopen safely: decline in hospitalizations; decline in hospital deaths; new hospitalizations; percentage of hospital beds available; and percentage of ICU beds available.

The region does not meet requirements dealing with the number of residents tested monthly and the number of contract tracers, the governor said.

Pettit acknowledged that the governor's latest press conference provided more clarity in his four-phase approach to reopening by sharing the “different metrics we need to go through in order to progress.”

“We’ve been asking for weeks now exactly what this is going to look like, so it’s starting to shape up a little bit,” he said.

He said the county’s plan is to send information to businesses and other organizations with some guidance so, “hopefully when we get to Phase 1 here and we get to launch on May 15th – which we’re optimistic will happen – all of our essential businesses that will be added in, mainly around construction, manufacturing and some retailers, etc., will be ready to go.”

County Manager Jay Gsell indicated that the Finger Lakes Region is one of the five regions that on May 15th will be able to enter Phase 1.

“If our metrics and our data still continue to look positive, we should be able to look at the phasing of reopening of the Finger Lakes Region, which Genesee County is part of. That’s one small sliver of good news, at least this afternoon around 4:25,” he said.

Pettit was asked about antibody testing in Genesee County, and said that it is not widely available in this region.

“Unfortunately, just like the testing, we seem to be lagging behind,” he said. “We are getting some results in from antibody testing. We have not had anybody as of last Friday that had shown they had antibodies. There are some Genesee County residents that have been tested (for antibodies) at random sites the state has or health care workers.”

He said antibody testing reveals a “level of exposure to the virus … helping us understand how much of our community has been exposed, but it doesn’t really tell us much beyond that about protection and immunity … it’s still too new.”

The Human Services Committee passed a resolution accepting an additional $4,726 in funding from the New York Department of Health to cover increased workload costs in connection with early intervention administration as it pertains to referrals of children showing signs of lead poisoning.

In other developments, the committee voted in favor of four contracts pertaining to the Office for the Aging:

-- Increasing the amount of an agreement with ARC of Genesee Orleans by $40,000 for meal service preparation as demand has risen due to COVID-19. The original amount for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 was $223,927.

Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox said the additional expense is covered by federal stimulus funds and other funding streams that were directed to the agency. She also said that serving congregate meals has given way to home-delivered meals at this time.

-- Extending an agreement with the National Council on Aging Inc., to provide Aging in Mastery Program sessions through the end of the year -- beyond the previously approved May 2020.

The program offers interactive classes for adults 55 and older that promote behaviors that improve health, economic security, self-esteem and social activity.

-- Renewing a RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) grant of $47,500 through March 31, 2021 from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The grant, which was included in the 2020 county budget, enables the agency to utilize the network of local volunteers to assist older citizens in various areas, including coping skills, veterans’ support, environmental stewardship, reducing food insecurity, emergency preparedness and opioid awareness.

-- Renewing a contract with Willcare Inc., to oversee consumer-directed in-home services from June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021 at hourly rates ranging from $20.51 to $23.11 per hour, for a total not to exceed $25,792 for the specified year.

Under this plan, the control of homecare services is shifted from homecare agencies – which in many cases are unable to accommodate all requests -- to the consumer (or representative) for budgeting, care planning, decision-making and arranging for services and staffing.

May 4, 2020 - 6:40pm

Looking to literally buy some time while waiting to see if another round of federal stimulus funding transpires, the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee today tabled a pair of resolutions connected to Mercy Flight and the Genesee County Fair.

After hearing reports from Michael Gugliuzza, director of medical operations for Mercy Flight, and Amanda Gallo of the Genesee County Ag Society that touched upon lower revenues and uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 Pandemic, respectively, committee members voted to hold off on contracts that specified the amount of the county’s financial support for the two agencies.

The resolution for Mercy Flight funding calls for the county to contribute $12,825 to back air medical transfer service in the county for 2020. That amount is the same as what was provided in 2019.

The resolution for the Ag Society has the county’s sponsorship of 4-H Judging and Premiums during the 2020 Genesee County Fair at $11,000, which also mirrors last year’s support.

County Manager Jay Gsell informed the committee that Mercy EMS did receive money for Personal Protection Equipment and from the first round of federal stimulus because of its combined operations (ground and air service), but that wasn’t enough to make up for a drop-off in activity.

“You heard Mike talking about what the ground service and flight service have been experiencing – about a 40 percent drop in their actual service calls, and that’s really since the beginning of this year,” Gsell said. “They’re moving through it with regard to both the commitment that they have and obviously their significant presence here in the county, both at the County Airport and at Gateway II across Route 98 from the original county industrial park.”

The Genesee County Fair currently is scheduled for July 25-August 1, but those dates aren’t etched in stone due to the coronavirus and its impact upon the local business community.

“Once they have a fair date for certain, (funding is done) on a reimbursement basis – once the judging occurs,” Gsell said. “If they have it and they do the judging, then we make the payment based on the invoices, so we have a little bit of time there.”

Committee Chair Andrew Young, noting the lack of revenue and other factors, asked if this is something “that we can hold off on until we understand what’s going on with our revenue?”

To which Gsell responded: “We’d like to think that between the governor and Mr. (Robert) Mujica (Jr., NYS budget director) that they’ll fairly soon start telling us what they’re going to be doing with the state budget … and then we start looking at what that means to us in terms of general state aid and obviously sales tax – with sales tax being the really big driver.”

Gsell also said he hoped that another federal stimulus bill provides money to fund state and local governments by the end of the month, which would mean “another trillion-plus dollars is put into play across the country.”

Committee members Gregg Torrey and John Deleo along with alternate member Gordon Dibble joined Young in voting to table the resolutions, which likely will be placed on the group’s June 1 meeting agenda.

“We will wade through this,” Young said. “The funding through the next stimulus bill is really the wild card. I don’t know that we have a lot of other good news to look forward to … if it doesn’t happen, we’ll have to deal with it.”

June 4, 2019 - 3:19pm

A new interim director for Genesee County Community Mental Health Services was announced Monday at the Human Services Committee meeting.

Bernadette Bergman, the agency's board president, told committee members that the resignation of Director Ellery Reaves has been accepted and Augusta Welsh will serve as interim director through July 14 while the position is advertised.

If the job cannot be filled within 60–90 days, another interim mental health director from a neighboring county will fill the gap until a permanent director is appointed.

The prospect of sharing the agency's services with another county was also debated.

The committee discussed the possibility of a mental health director serving both Genesee and Erie counties.

Legislator Gordon Dibble noted the agency has not committed to shared services, but it is looking into other counties’ practices and whether a dual-county mental health director position would meet state requirements.

Committee members resolved to keep past experiences with shared services in mind as they continue to explore their options.

Welsh told the committee that Mental Health Services is collaborating with local school districts and nonprofit organizations like GCASA to reduce patients’ treatment costs and unnecessary emergency room visits. It is also seeking additional satellite locations to provide more convenient mental health and chemical dependency appointments to clients.

Welsh said the mandated new jail, once it's built, could serve as a prospective satellite site that could help maximize psychiatry services.

Also on Monday's agenda, Office for the Aging Director Ruth Spink informed the committee of slight increases in the per-unit cost of its ARC of Genesee Orleans home-delivered meals program.

The rate per meal will increase by 30 cents for home-delivered, congregate, cold/sandwich and frozen meals because state and federal funds cannot be used to cover meal preparation expenses.

“ARC is really struggling with continuing this program," Spinks said. "I think we’ve got a commitment to get through the next two years of this, but I’m not sure if they’ll be able to continue afterward just because of the increase in food costs and the increased cost in minimum wage.”

In order to prevent the end of the meal service after 10 years of success, the Office of the Aging and ARC will consider the possibility of a cooperative meal-service agreement with community organizations.

Similar to Mental Health Services, the Office for the Aging may partner with the new jail to offset rising food prices and wages of food service workers.

Lastly, the committee was provided an overview of an eight-month program for high school students that teaches leadership skills and good decision making.

City of Batavia Youth Bureau Director Jocelyn Sikorski expressed her satisfaction with the Genesee Youth Lead program and said it has garnered positive response from participants and local school districts as the 2018–19 academic year nears its end.

This community-based leadership development program immerses students in county policymaking and administration. Participants refine their problem-solving and teamwork skills during sessions that focus on a specific topic each time, targeting issues leaders in our county deal with.

These include: agriculture, health and human services, government, law enforcement, tourism, business, emergency preparedness, arts and culture, leadership opportunities, community service, team building, and job-readiness training.

“Great feedback from the kids with every session,” Sikorski said. “We evaluated every session, so we’re looking to gear up for next year. We start recruiting probably in the next week or two, and we’ll recruit all summer and then interview the kids in the fall again.”

The next Human Services Committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Old Courthouse in Batavia.

October 4, 2011 - 12:45am

For every department in Genesee County, this year’s mandated budget cuts are hard to swallow. The county legislature is forcing 5-percent cuts across the board, in order to fit the county budget under New York State’s new 2-property tax cap.

Nowhere is the hurt more apparent than at the County Office for the Aging. Director Pamela Whitmore had already lost $102,000 in annual state grant money this year – a significant blow to her 2012 budget. With the mandated 5-percent cut on top, the Office for the Aging will now have to eliminate over $134,000 in spending.

Whitmore likened the 5-percent cut to that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

“People are not going to get the level of service that they’ve gotten in the past,” Whitmore told the legislature’s Human Service Committee on Monday night.

She announced a planned $5,000 reduction to “Meals on Wheels,” which will now be on a three day-per-week delivery schedule if her budget goes according to plan. There are also pending staff cuts, social program reductions and fewer hours available for in-home services.

“Less staff means less time to do that face-to-face information and assistance – which is really the majority of what we do,” Whitmore said after the meeting.

Her message is further highlighted by this year’s census report, which shows a 16-percent increase in the over-60-year-old population in Genesee County. The census bureau also estimates that the population over 85-years-old, which is the most expensive to serve, has jumped by 33 percent in Genesee County the past decade (official numbers are not yet available for that category).

“It’d be one thing if the grant losses were just taking one program away…but most of our losses just took parts of each grant away,” Whitmore said. “So in essence, most of our services are still available, but there (are fewer) resources to provide them.”

In another Human Services report Monday, Chris Kuehl from the county nursing home told committee members that the home was able to reduce five positions to just three by consolidating some worker duties. That will save the nursing home $47,233 this year, and $104,439 in 2012, if the cuts are approved by the full legislature.

Also at the Human Services Committee, members approved the nomination of David Whitcroft as the interim public health director for Genesee County. Whitcroft's nomination comes on the heels of Randy Garney's abrupt retirement a week-and-a-half ago. Whitcroft will be paid $65,106 plus $600 in longevity pay. He officially takes over on Wednesday, if approved by the full legislature.

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