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Orleans County

Orleans County lawsuit aimed at stopping WNY STAMP pipeline dismissed over 8-year delay in objecting

By Tom Rivers
sewer stamp
A sewer line is shown on Aug. 12 on Route 63 in the Town of Alabama. Genesee County Economic Development Center is trying to install the sewer main along 9.5 miles of Route 63 – from the STAMP site to Oak Orchard Creek. Construction was halted before the sewer line made it to Orleans after a lawsuit was filed.
Photo by Tom Rivers.

A State Supreme Court justice on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit and temporary injunction against the construction of a nearly 10-mile-long sewer main from the STAMP manufacturing site in the town of Alabama along Route 63 to Oak Orchard Creek in the town of Shelby.

Judge Frank Caruso ruled in favor of the Genesee County Economic Development Center. GCEDC argued that Orleans County had 23 chances to state its objection to the sewer main since 2016 but waited until construction started to voice its opposition.

Judge Caruso cited the legal argument of “laches,” where there is a lack of diligence in making a legal claim. Attorneys for GCEDC argued in court that waiting until construction commenced on the project should be considered an unreasonable delay.

The judge also ruled in favor of GCEDC due to a statute of limitations. He made his decision from the bench in court today, following about an hour of arguments in the main courtroom of the county courthouse. He will also issue a written decision.

Orleans County officials say the county will appeal the decision and has other court options to try to halt the project.

“The fight here is not over,” said Alex Eaton, an attorney for the Orleans County Legislature. “We have several more paths to prevent Orleans County from becoming a dumping ground for STAMP sewer discharges.”

The county also has a lawsuit to be heard in April about GCEDC using eminent domain to take easements in Orleans County. The attorneys for Orleans said another county’s IDA can’t do eminent domain in another county.

Orleans also supports the Tonawanda Seneca Nation in its litigation against several federal entities regarding the permitting of the sewer pipeline.

“Orleans County leadership remains steadfast in our opposition to anything that puts Oak Orchard Creek in jeopardy,” Eaton, an attorney with Lippes Mathias, said in a statement released from the County Legislature. “The county and its residents rely on the creek for water, recreation and tourism, and that is why we will continue to protect the interests of our community.   Again, while we are disappointed in today’s result, there is a long way to go before this issue is settled.”

Orleans County filed its lawsuit on Sept. 11, naming GCEDC, G. DeVincentis & Son Construction Co., Inc., Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation, and STAMP Sewer Works, Inc.

Matthew J. Fitzgerald and James O’Connor of Phillips Lytle LLP appeared in court today on behalf of GCEDC. They contended that the sewer main underwent a rigorous environmental review of 9,200-plus pages and was ultimately approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The attorneys said those agencies found no evidence of harm to Oak Orchard Creek or the community.

The sewer main would allow businesses at the 1,250-acre STAMP to discharge treated sewer water into the Oak Orchard. At STAMP’s peak, the sewer main could discharge up to 6 million gallons daily in the Oak Orchard. The sewer main is imperative for economic development at the site.

“STAMP does not survive without somewhere to discharge the treated sanitary water,” Fitzgerald said in court today.

Fitzgerald said the four-month statute of limitations passed after Orleans filed the Article 78 proceeding on Sept. 11, and the county failed to notify other parties that would be hurt if the lawsuit successfully halted the sewer main.

He said property owners who paid for easements for the temporary construction could lose out on payments. The Town of Alabama would miss out on 100,000 gallons of sewer capacity, and Niagara County Water District would miss out on selling water to the STAMP site. Orleans didn’t factor in those impacts in the lawsuit, Fitzgerald said.

The crux of the case, he said, was the contention that Orleans never gave its support for economic development from another county. But he said Orleans officials were notified in 2016, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 to voice any concerns over STAMP, and GCEDC served as the lead agency.

“The response was silence,” Fitzgerald said. “They slept on their rights for approximately eight years. They could have objected.”

He said STAMP has about $100 million in public funds committed to developing the site so far, and about $1 billion has already been spent or committed in private investment.

Orleans' attorneys contend that Genesee County used its money through its industrial development agency to fund the sewer main and pursue eminent domain in another county, powers that an IDA does not have.

Jennifer Persico, an attorney with Lippes Mathias representing Orleans, said the STAMP sewer project clearly used Genesee County funds to move the project into Orleans County.

The GCEDC attorneys said the project was funded through state grants and wasn’t actually GCEDC money.

The town of Shelby also joined Orleans in the lawsuit. The Shelby attorney, Jeffrey Allen, said Shelby supports the efforts of Orleans County to halt the pipeline before it gets into Orleans. He said there are many violations of general municipal law related to the project.

Shelby previously supported the project, but he said that was a statement considering its environmental impacts.

“The consent was not that they could run roughshod over the autonomy of Orleans County,” Allen said in court.

Eaton, an attorney for Orleans County, said the case could be a landmark for the state. He said the courts should protect smaller neighboring counties from being forced to take on negative impacts from another county’s economic development efforts.

“This would be one of the biggest expansions of IDA power in New York State,” Eaton said.

Tom Rivers is editor

Orleans County accuses Genesee County of not cooperating on STAMP wastewater plans

By Press Release

Press release:

Last night, the Orleans County Legislature voted unanimously for a resolution to preserve the Oak Orchard River and local tributaries in Orleans County.  The Legislature continues to push back against Genesee County’s Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park’s (STAMP) plan to discharge to six million gallons of wastewater a day from STAMP into Oak Orchard River by way of the Town of Shelby.  

“Tonight’s resolution and the lawsuit we filed last week to prevent this wastewater discharge are not actions we take lightly, as we have a long record of partnering with our friends in Genesee County,” said Lynne Johnson, Chairman of the Orleans County Legislature.  “But partnerships are built upon being able to have conversations on difficult topics like wastewater and then cooperating on a solution that works for everyone.   

“Yet, throughout this process, Genesee County and their economic development agency have not engaged with Orleans County leadership, developed a plan in the backroom to dump wastewater in Orleans County without our input and then, when questioned, just decided to attempt to steamroll us, rather than work together.  I cannot express enough the level of disappointment we feel in their actions.”  

Johnson said the resolution clearly states the concerns Orleans County has regarding the wastewater discharge, including impacts on tourism, sport fishing, flooding, property damage, declining real estate values and more.  Johnson believes there are other avenues Genesee should be exploring for managing wastewater.  

“I have said all along and want to repeat it again, that our legislators are in support of STAMP and the economic development projects that will lead to investment and jobs for our entire region,” said Johnson.  “But that economic growth cannot come at the expense of Orleans County’s natural resources.   

Johnson also acknowledged the efforts of New York State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who represents both counties in the State Legislature and has been attempting to mediate a solution.  

“We appreciate that Assemblyman Hawley is taking an active role in bringing all parties together,” said Johnson.  “We must work together on an alternative.” 

GCEDC board chair releases open letter to community in response to Orleans County lawsuit

By Howard B. Owens

See also: Orleans County files suit over WNY STAMP sewer line

Press release:

A number of concerns have been raised about the impacts of the construction of an underground pipeline that would discharge treated water from businesses at STAMP into Oak Orchard Creek.

These are concerns that we have taken very seriously and addressed.  Multiple engineering studies and peer engineering and environmental regulatory reviews have been conducted to assess potential impacts of discharging this treated water into the Creek.  This process is similar to how municipalities treat water before it is discharged into local waterways.

While existing businesses at STAMP, including Plug Power and Edwards, would discharge approximately 50,000 gallons per day of treated water into Oak Orchard Creek, the studies and peer reviews assessed the impacts of the potential for a maximum of 6 million gallons per day as if STAMP was at full build-out.

The various studies and peer reviews conducted by engineering professionals took that maximum level into account and determined that the increased flow from the STAMP discharge will not have a noticeable impact on the 100-year flood elevations downstream, nor will it impact stream velocity, water levels, water quality impairments and/or area-wide erosion.

Concerns also have been raised about potentially impacting the capacity at water treatment facilities in neighboring communities, which could negatively impact bringing new businesses and/or assist business expansion because of a lack of capacity.

Again, citing these same studies and peer reviews for the potential for a maximum of 6 million gallons per day if STAMP was at full build-out, it was determined that:

  • The increase in surface water elevations in Oak Orchard Creek during a 10-year storm event would be approximately 1/8” to 1/4”, with STAMP discharging at the maximum expected level of 6 MGD. 
  • Given the above, the Medina water treatment plant, which currently operates with a maximum permitted level of treating 4.5 MGD, could expand by another 10 MGD in order to accommodate new capacity for business growth and/or expansion without impact from STAMP’s maximum expected 6 MGD discharge.  
  • An adjoining dam to Oak Orchard Creek could absorb the 6 MGD into its storage capacity without modification to the dam’s operations.  

We want to support our partners in economic development to assist any we can to enhance investment in the GLOW region.  We would not advocate for something that would be detrimental to our partners, as we all are working collaboratively to bring prosperity to our region.

Finally, we want to thank the approximately 38 landowners who agreed to temporary and permanent easements on their properties to allow the underground pipeline to be constructed.  We appreciate their understanding of the temporary and permanent need to use their properties for this critically important regional economic development initiative.

Please visit to review the various engineering studies and peer-reviewed documents related to this project.


Peter Zeliff
Genesee County Economic Development Center

Orleans County files suit over WNY STAMP sewer line

By Tom Rivers
stamp sewer line
The new sewer line is shown on Aug. 12 on Route 63 in the Town of Alabama, Genesee County. Orleans County officials are seeking to stop the construction from going to the STAMP site about 10 miles north to the Oak Orchard Creek.
Photo by Tom Rivers/OrleansHub

Story courtesy

Orleans County is suing its neighbor to try to stop a sewer line from coming into the Town of Shelby and depositing up to 6 million gallons of what Orleans says is “contaminated” water into the Oak Orchard Creek.

The county on Monday filed an Article 78 complaint in State Supreme Court, seeking to halt placement of a sewer line from the STAMP site to the Oak Orchard Creek, a 9.5-mile long pipe along Route 63 that has been under construction since Aug. 3.

Orleans is asking for a temporary restraining order to stop construction so the arguments can be heard in court without the pipeline getting built in Orleans County.

See also: GCEDC board chair releases open letter to community in response to Orleans County lawsuit

The court action from Orleans County is called a “frivolous and politicized attack” in a court response from Craig A. Leslie, attorney for GCEDC and others named in the suit.

Orleans County officials contend the county never gave its permission for the project, and the Genesee County Economic Development Center formed a “sham corporation” – STAMP Sewer Works – to make the project happen.

The STAMP site is 1,250 acres and is considered a top priority for economic development officials in the region. It is targeted for advanced manufacturing – semiconductors and renewables manufacturing.

Plug Power is currently building a $290 million facility at STAMP for a green hydrogen production facility that includes an electric substation. The new facility will produce 45 metric tons of green liquid hydrogen daily when fully operational, making it the largest green hydrogen production facility in North America. Plug will employ 60 people.

Another company, Edwards Vacuum, announced last November it would build a $319 million “factory of the future” at STAMP in a project serving the semiconductor industry. Edwards plans to employ 600 high-skill professionals at the semiconductor dry pump manufacturing facility.

The commitments from the two companies follow a 20-year effort to develop STAMP in a rural area of Genesee County, only a few miles south of the Orleans County border. STAMP has been pushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Gov. Kathy Hochul and her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.

But Orleans County officials say the Genesee County Economic Development Center has been driving the contracts for the project, including engineering and construction – and that is illegal because an economic development agency can’t fund and push projects outside its own county unless it has permission from the other municipalities, Jennifer Persico, an attorney representing Orleans County, wrote in the complaint filed in State Supreme Court in Orleans County.

orleans attorney
Jennifer Persico, an attorney with Lippes Mathias LLP, speaks during an eminent domain public hearing on July 27. She said at the hearing that the Genesee County Economic Development Center illegally created STAMP Sewer Works as “a sham corporation” to do the eminent domain proceedings against two Orleans County property owners.
Photo by Tom Rivers/OreleansHub

In the court filing, she said Orleans “strenuously objects” to the sewer project.

Genesee County EDC is illegally funding a project outside its jurisdiction, Orleans contends in its complaint. The EDC paid for easements to allow for temporary construction, including all but two in Shelby. Orleans County secured two easements in Shelby with the stipulation no sewer line can be constructed.

Orleans officials contend the sewer discharge could limit the county’s efforts to develop its own business park in Medina, and the water may cause flooding and hurt the county’s $30 million annual fishing industry at the Oak Orchard, which is world renowned for salmon and trout fishing.

GCEDC, on March 25, 2021, awarded a $9,777,000 contract to G. DeVincentis & Son Construction Company for the 20-inch sewer main, which goes from the northern refuge boundary to the north of Shelby Center. GCEDC accepted a low bid from Highlander for construction at $5,193,445 and approved a $900,000 contract and a $560,000 contract to Clark Patterson Lee for engineering services for the sewer project. GCEDC approved the bids without the consent of Orleans County.

The request for bids shows GCEDC contemplated construction in Orleans County without the consent of Orleans, Persico said.

GCEDC also has purchased 18 temporary easements in Orleans County to allow for construction of the sewer line, without consent of Orleans, a violation of general municipal law, according to the complaint.

Orleans, in the complaint, also faults Genesee County EDC for improperly forming STAMP Sewer Works, for illegally funding and noticing the eminent domain hearing at the Alabama fire hall on July 27.

Orleans seeks to have the Supreme Court annul the easements. The county also seeks to stop the GCEDC-backed project in Orleans without the county support. That includes efforts from the GCEDC-affiliated Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation and STAMP Sewer Works.

Leslie, attorney for GCEDC, asked the judge, Frank Caruso, not to approve a temporary restraining order on the project. Leslie said the sewer line construction has received all of the needed environmental and right-of-way permits from the state Department of Transportation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to cross the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

Leslie said Orleans County shouldn’t be granted a temporary restraining order because the project is still weeks and even months from getting into Orleans. Persico wrote in her court filing the project was likely a matter of hours or days until it started in Orleans. The contractor is currently installing the sewer line in the refuge in Genesee County, Leslie wrote.

Orleans is beyond its authority and is seeking to stop all sewer line construction when the project is currently solely in Genesee County.

Leslie, the GCEDC attorney, said the claim that GCEDC is using its own money is false because the funding is part of $33 million awarded for STAMP development by Empire State Development, a state entity “which fully supports the STAMP project,” Leslie wrote.

He responded that the Town of Shelby gave its consent to the sewer line project, and so did the Orleans County Department of Health.

He asked the judge to deny the Orleans request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order.

“Orleans County will sustain no injury by the continued construction of the Force Main, particularly in Genesee County, while this matter is appropriately determined by this Court,” Leslie wrote to Judge Caruso. “Meanwhile, STAMP Sewer will be irreparably harmed if the overbroad and unreasonable order requested by Orleans County is granted.”

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Batavian sought additional comment from GCEDC, and a spokesman referred us to a website that has been set up to address the issues raised by the lawsuit

Covid-19 test kits to be distributed throughout Orleans County starting Jan. 25

By Press Release

Press Release:

New York State has provided Orleans County Emergency Management Office with free at-home COVID-19 test kits to distribute to residents. Starting Tuesday, January 25, 2022, each library, town hall, village hall, and the Orleans County Office Building will have a limited supply of COVID-19 test kits to distribute to their residents during normal business hours until the kits are gone. Please note all the school districts have received kits for their students and will distribute according to their respective plans. A maximum of one kit per family will be distributed at the following locations:

  • Orleans County Office Building: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Town of Yates: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Village of Lyndonville: Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.  Closed Daily 12:30-1 p.m.
  • Town of Ridgeway: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Village of Medina: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Town of Shelby: Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Town of Carlton: Tuesday–Friday 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. / Saturday 9 a.m.-12p.m
  • Town of Gaines: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. / Monday Evenings 5-7
  • Village of Albion: Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Town of Albion: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 8:30-11 a.m. and 12-3:30 p.m.
  • Town of Barre: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Town of Kendall: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. -3:30 p.m. (closed for lunch from noon to 12:45 p.m.)
  • Town of Murray: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m./ Saturday 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Village of Holley: Monday-Friday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Town of Clarendon: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. / Tuesday 12 -6 p.m./ Friday 9 a.m.-2 p.m. / Saturday 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Yates Community Library: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m./ Friday 10 a.m.-5  p.m./ Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Lee Whedon Library: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m./ Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Hoag Library: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. / Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. / Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Holley Community Free Library: Monday, Wednesday 10 a.m.-1 p.m. /4-8 p.m. / Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. /Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“Residents should use at-home COVID-19 tests after a possible exposure to someone with COVID-19 or when they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “Testing is one mitigation strategy that can help reduce the community spread of COVID-19.”

For Free PCR and rapid testing you can go to the NYS COVID-19 Testing site located at GCC Albion Campus Center at 456 West Avenue, Albion. Walk-ins and registration allowed Monday-Saturday.

To register:

To report a Positive At-home Test:
Individuals can visit the GO Health website COVID-19 Testing page under Emerging Issues ( and choose the appropriate Home Test button for their respective county. Individuals should complete the at-home tests according to the directions provided. When the test is completed, individuals should take a picture with the individual’s name, the date and the time they took the test legibly written in permanent marker within 15 minutes of reading the test. Towards the end of the online form, the individual will be required to upload the picture on the website and attest to the authenticity and truth of the form. If there are any missing sections that are required, the form is invalid. At this time, individuals do not need to report negative at-home test results. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to self-isolate immediately. You may not be contacted regarding your contacts, so it is important to notify your close contacts (those who you spent 15 minutes or more in a 24 hour period 2 days prior to symptoms or 2 days prior to a positive test result). It is important to continue with self-isolation from household members as much as you are able. Isolate for 5 days and if you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, your symptoms are getting better, and you can tolerate a tight-fitting mask you can return to work/school but you are still required to wear a tight-fitting mask for 5 more days. If you must share space, make sure all in contact with you are wearing masks covering their nose and mouth and frequently shared items/surfaces are sanitized often. To access isolation orders and isolation release paperwork visit our website at (COVID-19 Isolation & Quarantine Documents & Information) and complete and print out or print and hand write the forms from the county you reside in and provide to your employer or school.

Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are now available for Orleans County

By Press Release

Press Release:

New York State has provided Orleans County Emergency Management Office with free at-home COVID-19 test kits to distribute to residents. Starting Thursday, January 6, 2022, each town hall and the Orleans County Office Building will have a limited supply of COVID-19 test kits to distribute to their residents during normal business hours until the kits are gone. Please note all the school districts have received kits for their students and will distribute according to their respective plans. A maximum of 2 kits per family will be distributed at the following locations: Orleans County Office Building: Monday-Friday 9:00-4:30

Town of Yates: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00-4:30

Village of Lyndonville: Monday-Friday 7:30-4:00 Closed Daily 12:30-1:00

Town of Ridgeway: Monday–Friday 9:00-4:30

Village of Medina: Monday-Friday 8:30-4:30

Town of Shelby: Monday–Friday 8:30-4:00

Town of Carlton: Tuesday–Friday 8:30-2:30 / Saturday 9:00-12:00 p.m.

Town of Gaines: Monday-Thursday 10:00-3:30 / Monday Evenings 5:00-7:00

Village of Albion: Monday-Friday 8:00-4:00

Town of Albion: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 8:30-11:00 and 12:00-3:00

Town of Barre: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:00-3:30

Town of Kendall: Monday-Friday 9:00-3:30 (closed for lunch from noon to 12:45)

Town of Murray: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00-4:00 / Saturday 9:00-12:00 p.m.

Village of Holley: Monday-Friday 8:00-4:00

Town of Clarendon: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9:00-4:00 / Tuesday 12 noon-6:00 p.m. / Friday 9:00-2:00 / Saturday 10:00-12:00 p.m.

To report a Positive At-home Test:
Individuals can visit the GO Health website COVID-19 Testing page under Emerging Issues ( and choose the appropriate Home Test button for their respective county. Individuals should complete the at-home tests according to the directions provided. When the test is completed, individuals should take a picture with the individual’s name, the date and the time they took the test legibly written in permanent marker within 15 minutes of reading the test. Towards the end of the online form, the individual will be required to upload the picture on the website and attest to the authenticity and truth of the form. If there are any missing sections that are required, the form is invalid. At this time, individuals do not need to report negative at-home test results. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to self-isolate immediately. A case investigator will contact the individual to determine any potential contacts, check on the individual’s health and provide guidance on their isolation.  Please answer the phone and be able to provide information regarding potential contacts when called. Also note, depending on our case load, it may be one to three days before you are called.  It is important to continue with self- isolation from household members as much as you are able. If you must share space, make sure all in contact with you are wearing masks covering their nose and mouth and frequently shared items/surfaces are sanitized often.

Genesee, Orleans healthcare, government officials making push to 'boost' lagging vaccination numbers

By Mike Pettinella

With the percentage of Genesee and Orleans county residents who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine significantly less than the New York State number, local healthcare and government officials are stepping up their efforts to reach those who, for one reason or another, are among the “vaccine hesitant.”

Speaking during a media briefing via Zoom this morning, Genesee/Orleans Public Health Director Paul Pettit reiterated what he has been saying for the past year: “That vaccines are the best protection against the coronavirus … and against severe illness and death.”

Statistics provided by Pettit reveal that 61.8 percent of Genesee County residents and 59.3 percent of Orleans County residents, when looking at the total population, have received at least one dose of the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. (The first two are administered in two shots; J&J is one shot).

That pales in comparison to the state as a whole, with the percentage of the total population that has received at least one shot at 79.4 and the percentage of those 18 and older at 91.8.

When looking at the completed series, Genesee County’s number falls to 55.9 percent and Orleans is at 52 percent. In the age 5-11 category, Genesee is at 10.6 percent and Orleans at 9.5 percent.

For the eight-county Finger Lakes Region, the one-dose percentage is at 70.7 percent and the completed series percentage is at 63.1 percent, Pettit reported.

“That’s why we again are trying to get our vaccination rates up as high as we can,” he said. “COVID vaccines significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.”

Pettit placed special emphasis on the vaccine booster shots that recently became available.

“We just need to go and get that booster shot now and make sure we're protecting ourselves as best as we can,” he said, adding that both Genesee and Orleans health departments continue to offer weekly COVID-19 vaccination clinics (Wednesdays in Genesee County and Thursdays in Orleans County).

Joining Pettit on the call were Dan Ireland, president of United Memorial Medical Center; Matt Landers, Genesee County manager; Marianne Clattenburg, Genesee County legislator, and Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chair.

Acknowledging the need to improve Genesee County’s vaccination numbers, Landers – as initially reported on The Batavian – mentioned the Finger Lakes Region’s push for a “targeted rural campaign” focused on hard to reach populations such as Native American, Amish and Mennonite, hard to reach zip codes and under vaccinated zip codes.

“We’re trying to find more creative ways to attack and go after targeted media advertising towards them,” he said, adding the plan is to use direct advertising, postcards and other mailings. “Their targets are not necessarily trying to change minds of people that are absolutely set, but it's really to educate, to go after vaccine hesitancy and to go after some of the harder to reach populations potentially …”

On the hospital side, Ireland said UMMC and Rochester Regional Health’s “number one priority” is to maintain full access to healthcare in the community, noting that UMMC is open for all types of elective surgeries at this time.

He also pointed out the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing masks where appropriate and getting tested, especially prior to social or family gatherings.

He said that his family did just that before Thanksgiving and, fortunately, no one tested positive.

“So, really it’s a small step, but it makes a big difference,” he said. “And it will help us on the hospital side. Because certainly as we continue to have a fair number of unvaccinated in the community. It makes a difference when they become positive as we're seeing a higher percentage of unvaccinated patients in our hospital versus the vaccinated COVID patients.”

Statistically, Ireland said that there are more than 200 patients who have tested positive for COVID in RRH hospitals, with 11 percent of those at UMMC. Sixty-two percent in the Intensive Care Unit are COVID positive, with 80 percent of those people unvaccinated.

“Put in non-statistical terms, the unvaccinated truly are showing signs of higher acuity in the hospital,” he said, noting that 100 percent of patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.

Ireland said UMMC continues to partner across the RRH system and with other hospitals in the region to “work on any load balancing options that we can provide; in order to make sure that all patients in our region get care, regardless of where you seek that care.”

He added that 95 percent of RRH outpatient clinics are open, although he did say that wait times may be longer than normal.

Looking at specific areas of concern:


Pettit said the number of positive cases have remained steady recently but are still too high, with 250 active cases in Genesee County and 334 active cases in Orleans County. Forty-eight of those are in the hospital (35 in Genesee and 13 in Orleans).

Over the past seven days, the positivity rate in Genesee and Orleans is at 12.5 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively.

As far as breakthrough cases are concerned (positive tests of those who are fully vaccinated), Pettit said the percentages are 30 percent in Genesee and 29 percent in Orleans – with these types of cases increasing over the past two months.

He urged those who have been vaccinated with Moderna or Pfizer at least six months ago and those who had the J&J vaccine at least two months ago to get a booster shot.

Pettit pointed out that most of the spread is from social gatherings "where there's prolonged contact indoors" and from those who think they just have a cold (due to it being cold and flu season).

"So, again, one of our messages we've said from day one is if you're symptomatic, stay home, don't go to work, don't go to school, stay home while you have the symptoms, get that test and verify," he said. "Regardless of COVID, we don't want to be spreading germs around."


Pettit said that limited testing is being offered at both health departments by appointment, and that local pharmacies and urgent care centers also are providing testing.

He advised that home testing kits will become more prevalent as time goes on, and that GO Health is getting closer to accepting results of home testing.

“Ultimately, they are very accurate, if done properly. And a positive is a positive on those test kits. So, again, we'd encourage you to get those and use them if available,” he said.

Homebound individuals are asked to call their health departments (Genesee: 585-344-2550, ext. 5555; Orleans, 585-589-3278) to get on a list for a home visit.


Pettit said the Omicron variant has not bee identified in Genesee or Orleans, but “that does not mean that it is not here, it just means that it has not been detected (yet).”

He said the new variant likely spreads more easily than the original COVID virus, very similar to how Delta (variant) spread a lot easier.

“The early indication is that the severity does not seem to be too bad again, but it is early and they're continuing to track that,” he offered.


For those in isolation or quarantine, responding to health department or New York State contract tracers is essential, Pettit said.

“I can't reiterate this enough,” he said. “We need folks to answer the phone; we need folks to engage with us during the process. Because if we don't, if we're not able to do the investigation, and we're not able to talk to you, to release you, we can't send the (release) letter.”


Pettit said the collective goal is to keep students in school, and “this year, I think we've done a fairly good job of that.”

Per state mandate, masking continues to be required indoors at schools.

He said his department is talking with superintendents about new strategies, specifically Test to Stay and Test Out of Quarantine.

“There is a checklist and the schools have those and we are discussing how we can implement but ultimately they have to have a written plan around how they would implement these different approaches within their school system,” he said. “And one of the biggest barriers is that it has to be done equitable. We can't have this just for some kids and not for others …”

Flu season is here: Help protect yourself and your family

By Press Release

Press Release from Genesee and Orleans County Health Department:

The smell of the evergreen trees, the taste of warm hot cocoa, and the cheerful Christmas songs are some lovely things that bring family and friends together during this festive season. With cold weather moving people indoors, there is also an increased risk of the spread of illnesses such as the flu , also known as influenza. However, there are ways to lower your risk of getting sick with the flu. National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is December 5-11, 2021. NIVW is an annual observance in December to remind everyone that there is still time to get vaccinated against the flu to be protected during the upcoming winter and holiday months. “You can protect you and your family members by getting vaccinated against the flu each year,” said Paul Pettit, Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. “The vaccine lowers the chance of getting you and those around you sick with the flu. We also encourage those that have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, to get vaccinated as soon as possible ahead of the Holidays.” The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Experts say that flu viruses are spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. The runny nose, sore throat and slow development of symptoms which are common for a cold, are not as common for the flu which tends to appear suddenly and includes a fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, chest discomfort and cough. Although a cold can be a bother, you usually feel much worse with the flu and sometimes influenza’s complications could be deadly.

Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year. It's best to get the flu vaccine early in flu season, ideally by the end of October. That way, the body develops antibodies in two weeks’ time which provides protection from the influenza virus. You might wonder, is it too late to get vaccinated? The simple answer is no. “Getting the vaccine later is better than not getting it at all,” said Mr. Pettit. “Once you have the flu vaccine, research shows that the vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness if you do get the flu.”

Below are the number of reported flu cases for Genesee and Orleans Counties since 2018 according to the New York State Department of Health. You will notice that there was limited flu in 2020-2021 because people were practicing public health precautions such as frequent hand washing, social distancing, limiting social gatherings, wearing face coverings, and staying home when ill. In addition, less germs were spread because people were staying home and limiting their contact with people outside of their household as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Flu seasons are unpredictable every year, so there is a new flu vaccine developed to potentially provide protection for the viruses that are considered to have the most potential to cause serious illness. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible. If you have not received your annual flu vaccine this year, now is the time! It generally takes 2 weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to develop immunity.

Talk with your primary care provider or visit your local pharmacy to get the flu vaccine. To make an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the GO Health website:

If you want to see weekly flu updates, you can use the NYS Flu Tracker: For more information about Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments, visit You can also visit Facebook at: Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments, Twitter, and Instagram: @GoHealthNY


Genesee, Orleans counties recognize those who volunteered 'countless hours' during COVID response

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee and Orleans counties this afternoon thanked all the volunteers who spent "countless hours" to assist local officials in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

"The reason for this is (to recognize) all of the countless hours the volunteers in our communities in Genesee and Orleans gave to our community during the testing phase and also during the vaccine clinic phase," said Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein at the appreciation luncheon at Genesee Community College.

"We had an unbelievable response when we said we needed help. These are the folks who came and helped without even a care for themselves."

Stein said certficates were made for the 250 or so people who contributed to the two counties' efforts.

She also thanked Bill Schutt of the county Emergency Management Services department for his role as "COVID czar," along with Public Health Director Paul Pettit and EMS Coordinator Tim Yaeger, adding that it wouldn't have been possible "without all hands on deck."

Photos by Alecia Kaus. 

Burglary suspects in Orleans County may also have hit Oakfield homes

By Howard B. Owens

Four men accused of burglaries in Albion, Medina and Lockport are also potential suspects in a series of burglaries in Oakfield in September and October.

The Orleans County District Attorney's Office announced the arrests today, according to Orleans Hub.

None of the suspects have been charged yet in Genesee County.

Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster congratulated the job done by law enforcement in Orleans County, but said the local cases are under review by Genesee County District Attorney's Office. Local charges may yet be filed.

From Orleans Hub:

Albion Police Chief Roland Nenni said the four were persons of interest in the crimes before their arrests. Police from Albion, Medina Lockport and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department were in daily communication, sharing information and gathering evidence.

“Criminals don’t follow jurisdictional lines and neither do we,” Nenni said at a news conference at the Village Hall. “We became one big sheriff’s department or police department.”

The arrestees are:

  • Jonathan Banks, 21, of 4886 S. Townline Road, Medina, faces 10 counts of second-degree burglary, one count of attempted burglary and attempted robbery in the second degree, six counts of grand larceny, seven counts of petit larceny, three counts of attempted petit larceny, and four counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief. He is held in Niagara County Jail on $160,000 bail.
  • Isaiah Bonk, of 531 E. Center St., Medina, faces nine counts of second-degree burglary, one count of attempted burglary in the second-degree, six counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, seven counts of petit larceny, three counts of attempted petit larceny, and four counts of criminal mischief in the fourth degree. He is held in Orleans County Jail on $50,000 bail.
  • Jasper Lloyd, 20, of 107 E. Bank St., Albion, was charged with two counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, two counts of grand larceny and one count of criminal mischief in the fourth degree. He is in Orleans County Jail on $50,000 bail.
  • Thomas Shingleton, 36, of 177 Bates Road, Medina, has been charged with one count of attempted burglary in the second degree and one count of attempted petit larceny. He is in Orleans County Jail on $20,000 bail.

Photo: Town of Batavia's Ladder 25 sees first action in Albion

By Howard B. Owens

Town of Batavia's newest fire truck, Ladder 25, saw its first live firefighting Thursday at the large factory fire in Albion. Photo by John Spaulding, a Livingston County-based fire services photographer. For complete coverage of the fire and its aftermath, visit Orleans Hub and scroll down.


CORECTION: First structure fire. The truck was used in Ed Arnold Scrap fire. 

Three Batavia residents injured, Medina woman killed in Orleans County accident

By Howard B. Owens

A Medina woman died and three Batavia residents were hospitalized following a two-car accident at Oak Orchard River Road and Waterport Road, Town of Carlton, yesterday evening.

Sun glare appears to be a leading contributing factor to the accident, according to the Orleans County Sheriff's Office.

Ashley D. Morehouse, 28, of Medina, was driving a 2000 Pontiac sedan west on Oak Orchard River Road when she failed to stop for a stop sign, according to the Sheriff's Office. Her car was struck by a northbound 2003 Pontiac SUV driven by Lorrie D. Kuhns, 52, of Batavia.

Morehouse was pronounced dead at the scene by Orleans County Coroner Scott M. Schmidt.

Her passenger, Gary L. Weese, 40, of Batavia, was flown by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital.

Dominic Amrhein, Morehouse's 4-year-old son, was transported by Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance to Strong. Dominic was strapped into an approved child safety seat in the rear passenger seat, the Sheriff's Office said.

Thomas S. Kuhns, 61, of Batavia, and Lorrie Kuhns were taken by a Medina FD ambulance to ECMC.

The accident remains under investigation and is being conducted by Deputy M.J. Emens, Deputy J.J. Cole, Deputy K.J. Colonna, Lt. R.E. Perry, Investigator C.L. Black and Chief Deputy T.L. Drennan.

Carlton and Albion fire departments responded to the accident.

Tom Rivers makes the leap from print to online news with new site serving Orleans County

By Howard B. Owens

For 17 years, Tom Rivers soldiered on in small-town, print journalism, honing his craft writing about pinewood derbies, high-school graduations and new varieties of cucumbers.

All that changed over the past 30 days. After 15 years at the Batavia Daily News, he quit. He quit to become an online news journalist in Orleans County. officially launched today.

Rivers did it, in part, because, "it seemed like the county would benefit from having a locally owned, locally run news site."

It's a big step and an unusual one, to go from a steady job at a daily newspaper to a locally owned, online-only news start-up. (There are nearly 100 successful locally owned online community news sites in the nation, and perhaps without exception, all founded by out-of-work journalists who started their ventures as much out of necessity as passion).

Rivers has the passion, but he also has the financial backing many locally owned start-ups lack.

Karen Sawicz, owner of the Lake County PennySaver, is providing the resources necessary to get OrleansHub off the ground.

While Rivers is the editor, reporter, photographer and public face of OrleansHub, the PennySaver is supplying technical, advertising and back-office support and Sawicz is paying his salary until online advertising revenue can carry the site on its own.

The 38-year-old journalist, who is married with four children, said he couldn't have carried out the vision for OrleansHub without Sawicz's support.

It's clear Rivers admires Sawicz. They're both Rotary Club members and have known each other for years. 

"One of the things I liked about her is she's in charge of the hot dog stand at the strawberry festival," Rivers said. "In terms of the thankless job that no one wants, she goes and deals with the health department, gets all the stuff, cleans it up, puts it away. I just thought that showed something. She's also willing to do the heavy lifting. When I first came out here, there were two chambers (of commerce), Albion and Medina, and she was willing to be kind of the leader to bring those two together."

Sawicz's parents purchased the PennySaver in 1960 and she bought it from them in 1989.

Rivers said locally owned businesses in Orleans County have never had a bigger cheerleader than Sawicz.

Sawicz chaffs at the idea of county governments giving out government contracts to non-local businesses and Rivers opposes tax subsidies for national retailers.

They have a mutual passion for Orleans County that brings them together as a publishing team.

They both think existing media outlets weren't giving Orleans County the coverage it deserved.

"There's more that happens in Orleans County than just the bad stuff," Sawicz said. "We want good stuff to be told, too."

Rivers thinks the Daily News does a better job than other news outlets of getting beyond the murders and the weird crimes, but there just wasn't enough news getting published about his home community, he said.

In a way, Rivers is now competing with his former employer, but he is not about to say anything negative about the Daily News. While he acknowledges the newspaper industry as a whole is struggling -- part the reason he wanted to give online-only news a try -- he also thinks small-town papers will survive.

For the Daily News, however, the launch of OrleansHub puts the Johnson family, owners of The Batavia Daily News, the Livingston County News and the Watertown Daily Times, in a unique position.

Where the vast majority of online-only news sites are in urban or suburban settings, the Johnson's rural newspapers are likely the only ones in the nation facing competition from multiple start-ups in rural communities.

Besides OrleansHub and The Batavian squaring off against the Batavia Daily News, there is the Genesee Sun in Livingston County and the aggregation site in Watertown.

Only time will tell how all that shakes out, but for Rivers, he's just focused on making his new venture a success, and he knows that will take hard work.

And he's OK with that.

"(Being a journalist) is actually a fun job and I wanted to do more, to work more than just 35 hours a week," Rivers said. (Daily News staffers are limited to 35-hour work weeks these days, according to Rivers.)

In his time with the Daily News, Rivers won several statewide writing and reporting awards. He also published a regionally successful book based on his series of articles about working in GLOW-area farm fields called "Farm Hands."

Rivers has a new book out, a collection of his columns written for the Daily News, called "All Ears." Rivers said the book is "a love letter to the Daily News." (For more on Tom's books, click here.)

It also served to close one chapter on the professional career of Tom Rivers and now he's excited about the unlimited possibilities of being online news site owner.

The efficiencies of online publishing means Rivers will be able to produce more news than a print news staff produces and he'll get it published quicker, with more real-time news reports than Orleans County readers will be able to get from any other source.

Rivers is also an avid photographer and is looking forward to publishing more photos with his stories than he could publish in print.

And he's passionate about Orleans County and plans to be an advocate for growth and community pride in the area.

He hopes OrleansHub will energize younger readers to get involved in their community.

"They're not newspaper readers," Rivers said. "They might realize they can get plugged into the community with the history society or youth baseball. As you show them more of the community, they will see more ways to get plugged in, and I think that's what we need to be a viable, vibrant community."

One of the things that gave Rivers the courage to make the leap from being a print employee to an online journalist was covering the ag beat for so many years.

He would see farmers, many in their 50s or 60s, hit hard times or a changing market place and they would totally reinvent their businesses.

He mentioned LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville, which had a thriving Empire apple business that was a century old when storms nearly destroyed the farm. The owners came back from those difficulties to move into heirloom apples and open a winery and become one of Orleans County's agricultural success stories.

"You have to be able to change," Rivers said. "Even though you might be growing the best Empire apples, if they're not paying the bills or if long term that's not the way to do it, you have to switch."

Rivers made the switch and Orleans County is likely to be better off because of it.

Corfu teen dies in Orleans County crash Sunday night

By Howard B. Owens

For the second time in eight days, a motor vehicle accident has claimed the life of a Genesee County teen.

Kelsey Milks, 19, of Corfu, died Sunday night in a three-car accident on Alleghany Road, Town of Shelby, just north of the county line.

The cause of the accident has not been determined.

Milks was a passenger in a vehicle driven by 20-year-old Dana R. Cipra. Cipra is hospitalized at Erie County Medical Center.

Two Mercy Flight helicopters were called to the scene Sunday and Town of Alabama volunteer firefighters provided traffic control and set up a landing zone at a location in Genesee County.

According to WIVB, "a red minivan was traveling north on Route 63, near the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge Swamp, when it collided head-on with a southbound car. A third vehicle then collided with the car."

Walter C. Hawkins, 73, of Medina, was driving the minivan. He was treated and released at Medina Memorial Hospital.

The driver and passenger in the third vehicle were uninjured.

Milks was a senior at Pembroke High School when she participated in a GO ART! art show.

Boy Scouts honor 2012 'Distinguished Citizens' at GCC

By Daniel Crofts

Area scouts showed their colors and displayed true Boy Scout pride last night for the "BoyPower Distinguished Citizens" dinner at Genesee Community College.

These young men and their leaders are members of Iroquois Council Trail, Inc., the Boy Scouts of America council serving Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Livingston and Niagara counties. Every year, they honor one outstanding community member from each county.

Betty Lapp was the 2012 Distinguished Citizen for Genesee County. Lapp is the former director of GCC's Nursing program. She retired in 2005, and has been a "professional volunteer" ever since.

Originally from Ohio, Lapp has an impressive track record as a Geneseean:

  • Board Chairperson of United Memorial Medical Center
  • Board Chairperson of Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (formerly BOCES)
  • Regional Action Phone
  • Family Counseling Services
  • Parent Teacher Association
  • Cub Scouts
  • Genesee County Department of Health
  • Genesee County Mental Health Services

Her service to the wider region includes membership in the following organizations:

  • Lake Plains Community Care Network
  • WNY Rural Area Health Education Center
  • Genesee Valley School Boards Association

Other recipients were:

James Culbertson, Livingston County

David Bellavia, Orleans County (Bellavia currently lives in Batavia, but is originally from Lyndonville)

MORE after the jump (click on the headline to read more):

Mitchell McLaughlin, Wyoming County

Ken Kaufman and Michelle Farina, Niagara County

According to Roger Triftshauser, DDS, BoyPower Dinner chairman and master of ceremonies, these are people who have "gone over and above in service of the common good."

Click here for a list of past recipients.

The featured guest speaker was Vice Admiral Dirk J. Debbink, chief of the Navy Reserve. He spoke of his days as a Boy Scout and of what the Scouts taught him about preparedness, leadership, teamwork, self-reliance, and the "power of an oath."

Triftshauser announced that he would be paying for two Boy Scouts to attend this year's summer camp in honor of Debbink. He chose to do this in lieu of giving Debbink a personal gift, for which he knew he would receive a check in return.

Additional photos:

Scout Executive James McMullan

Photo courtesy of Kevin Carlson

Silent auction items:

Batavia resident seriously hurt in crash in Orleans County

By Howard B. Owens

A 29-year-old Batavia man is in the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital following a head-on collision in Orleans County on Saturday afternoon.

Paul J. Smith was southbound on Oak Orchard Road when his car crossed into oncoming traffic. According to the D&C, Smith told investigators that he fell asleep at the wheel.

The driver of the sedan Smith's car hit was Barbara J. Lamka, 44, of Albion. She was extricated from her vehicle and taken to Strong by Mercy Flight, where she's listed in satisfactory condition.

Local fire companies dispatched to Orleans County for house fire

By Howard B. Owens

Fire units from Oakfield, Elba and Batavia are being sent to Orleans County for a mutual aid fire call.

There is a house fire at  5717 Burns Road, Barre.

A pumper and tanker from Oakfield are at the scene, Elba requested to fill in at Barre's fire hall and Batavia's Fast Team requested to the scene.

UPDATE 9:47 a.m.: Alabama pumper requested to fill in at the East Shelby fire hall.

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Four county departments, along with ESU and hazmat team called to scene of fatal tanker fire in Barre

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee County volunteer firefighters were called to the scene early this morning of a tanker truck fire that claimed the life of the truck's driver in Barre, Orleans County.

The tanker was carrying ethanol and the fire reportedly spread quickly into the wooded area around the accident.

To fight an ethanol fire, fire fighters must use foam, so Genesee County units that have foam cabability were called to the scene.

Units responded from Town of Batavia, Elba, Byron and Oakfield, along with Genesee County Emergency Services Unit and the county's hazmat team.

The fire is now out and clean up work along is in progress.  

One Elba tanker along with the hazmat team and ESU remains on scene at this time. Emergency Coordinator Tim Yaeger said the remaining Genesee County personnel wlll be on scene yet for quite some time.

Local Cornellians host Dean Kathryn Boor, from Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

By Sarah Noble Moag

The Genesee-Orleans Cornell Club is pleased to announce a luncheon Thursday, April 7, 2011  with Dean Kathryn Boor'80 from Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Ms. Boor was named the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences  last July. 

Event Date and Time

Head chef at Alex's believed to have died in accident in Orleans County

By Howard B. Owens

The owners and staff of Alex's Place, Park Road, Batavia, are in mourning this weekend following the apparent death of head chef Russell Bugbee, 31.

While the Orleans County Sheriff's Office has not officially identified Bugbee as the driver of a car involved in a one-car accident at 11 p.m., Thursday, in Murray, Alex's was closed Friday after word of the accident reached owners Matt and Jennifer Gray.

The accident remains under investigation and official identification of Bugbee as the victim is awaiting a medical examiner's confirmation.

Matt Gray issued the following statement this afternoon:

On Thursday night, Alex’s Place lost our family member and friend Russell Bugbee. Russ was in a one-vehicle accident on Route 31 in the Town of Murray, New York and was pronounced dead at the scene. We were closed for business yesterday and we would like to thank the community for the support and understanding they have shown Alex’s and our staff. A native of Connecticut, Russ moved to Batavia in 2007 for what he thought was a six-month project to help an old friend out in a new business venture, the purchasing of Alex’s Place. He never left, growing to love the town and the people (and hating the snow). Over the last three years he made Alex’s his own with his creativity and dedication, becoming an integral part of our daily lives both at work and out. At just 31 years old and so talented he left us far too early. A memorial service is planned to be held on Monday, November 1st at Alex’s Place, time to be announced. A collection is being held for his family and donations can be sent care of Alex’s Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY 14020.

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