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Ray Cianfrini

February 24, 2016 - 6:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, Ray Cianfrini.

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The text of the State of the County address delivered today by Chairman Ray Cianfrini:

For those of you who know me, you know that I like to keep things brief and to keep the program moving. I’m sure my address tonight will not be out of character.

Let me start by saying welcome again to our new legislator, John Deleo, and to all our new department heads; Eve Hens our new purchasing director; Pam Lagrou our new clerk of the legislature; Ruth Spink, our director of the office for the aging; Theresa Asmus-Roth, the program coordinator for Genesee Justice and Mike Cianfrini, our new county clerk. This is an exciting time to be part of our county government and we need you as leaders to use your talents and your energy to bring us new ideas and not always accept the status quo, but to challenge it and change it when necessary.

I would also like to take a minute and say how our county takes great pride in the accomplishments of its leaders.

And we in Genesee County are proud to recognize and praise two of our longtime county leaders in county Manager Jay Gsell and county Sheriff Gary Maha.

Jay is scheduled to receive the prestigious Wolcott “Jay” Humphrey III Community Leadership Award from the Chamber of Commerce at their awards ceremony on March 5.

And our own sheriff, Gary Maha, the longest tenured sheriff in the state, has received the likewise prestigious sheriff Grover Cleveland award from the NYS Sheriff’s Association. This is the highest award to a sitting sheriff and has only been awarded on four other occasions.

We congratulate both of you for these well-deserved honors and we thank you for bringing us pride and recognition to Genesee County.

Last year I spoke of making 2015 a year of progress in our county and in looking back I think it's safe to say we may have overachieved in accomplishing our goal

Let’s look back to last year…….

Our Genesee County jobless rate at the end of 2015 was 4.8 percent, down from 5.5 percent the previous year. This is the lowest jobless rate in our county since 2006.

At Genesee Community College, construction began on the new student awareness center and the new student wellness event center with completion expected by this year.

Tourism continues to be strong in our county. The year 2015 saw a 2-percent increase in bed tax revenues and the Chamber of Commerce has used the “bed tax reserve” revenue to assist in the acquisition of a new chamber office on park road with a new visitors center.

A new ride is being built at Darien Lake and a new hotel is being built at Batavia Downs gaming facility and both are sure to bring additional visitors to our county.

Our airport began construction of its new $5.9-million terminal scheduled for completion next month.

The airport also saw record sales of jet fuel in 2015 continuing a trend that has seen our fuel sales increase every year since 2008.

The legislature gave its initiative and support for rifle hunting in Genesee County last year and also commenced its first ever deer management hunt at the county park.

We funded two new deputies for the Sheriff’s Department and we went to a full-time county attorney.

We adopted a new management salary schedule to bring parity to our management personnel and we successfully completed contract negotiations with both of our CSEA employee bargaining units.

In addition, the legislature adopted a 2015 county budget that reduced the tax rate by $.18 (cents) per thousand and for our 2016 budget we held the line with a zero-percent tax increase.

Also, agriculture is still our major industry in Genesee County and in 2015 we continued to be the “breadbasket of Western New York."

We suffered disappointment with the departure of Muller Quaker yogurt manufacturing, but we were very fortunate to have Dairy Farmers of America acquire the facility with the expectation of a new and perhaps larger dairy presence in the ag park.

To showcase our local agricultural riches, GCC hosted a “Harvest Fest” and Stein Farms in Le Roy held a “field to fork feast” on their farm in September.

We have also seen expansions at O-AT- Milk in Batavia and Yancey’s Fancy in Pembroke. And, (regarding) business facilities, a national site selection publication has ranked Genesee County as one of the fastest growing “food processing employment leaders” in the nation, ranking it seventh in their list of top 10 mid-sized metro areas for food processing growth.

While all of these are measures of progress last year, I feel strongly that the two major accomplishments of 2015 were the sale of the county nursing home and the reality of STAMP (Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park).

As you know, the legislature, after a long and arduous process, sold the county nursing home last year to premiere health care for the sum of $15.2 million.

We anticipate a closing by this summer and when complete, we not only close the “fiscal dark hole” that generates almost $3 million annual deficits to our county budget, but once the county has settled all its debts and short-term borrowing and employee obligations, some of the sale proceeds can be designated to fund much needed infrastructure repairs.

We feel strongly that the sale of the nursing home to a well respected private ownership group is a win-win situation for all involved, including the employees and residents of the home.

On the economic front, last year Steve Hyde, the CEO of our GCEDC (Genesee County Economic Development Center(, stated that “2015 is the year STAMP comes to life” and he was right.

With our support and the hard work of the staff at GCEDC stamp became a reality when 1366 technologies announced last October that it is set to break ground by this summer on a new solar chip manufacturing plant on the STAMP site.

They have committed over $700 million to the project and will create over 1,000 jobs with an additional 5,500 construction and supply chain jobs.

With this announcement, the state released $33 million dollars from its budget for site improvements to the STAMP site, which will provide water to the Town of Alabama and water and sewer to the STAMP site.

So as you can see, 2015 had an aggressive agenda that resulted in a very productive year with progress made on many fronts and I applaud our management and my colleagues on the legislature for their hard work and dedication. It was a year we could all be proud of.

However, with a new year in front of us there is still much to do.

In a perfect world of county government, there would be no state mandates, taxes would be low; revenues would be high.

Social service programs and our jail population would be reduced; everyone would have county water; our roads and bridges would be in excellent shape and our sheriff would have all the deputies he asks for.

Unfortunately, in our real world of today, things are far from perfect.

The state continues to overburden counties with mandates that are an onus to our taxpayers. We need only look at our county cost of Medicaid, indigent legal defense and pre-K programs forced on us by the state to cry out for the need for reform.

Our jail population, especially for female inmates, puts a tremendous strain on our tax dollars and the need for a new 125-bed jail for males and females at a cost of over $36 million is facing us in the near future.

Our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair.

Sales tax revenues are flat and with the cost of gasoline going down, they will continue to be flat.

Our sales tax agreement with the city of Batavia and our county-wide water agreement with the city, which includes completion of phase 2 of the county water project, are both scheduled to expire in 2018, less than two years away.

As a result, I see 2016 as a year of tremendous challenges.

County water and distribution of sales tax revenues are the “hot button” topics that must be resolved in the next two years.

I feel it is imperative that we begin discussions immediately to explore how best to allocate our sales tax revenues with our municipalities when the current agreement expires and hopefully have some concessions that allow the county to complete phase 2 of the county water project.

In addition, we need to develop a strategic plan for how best to use the net proceeds from the sale of our nursing home to address our aging infrastructure.

Our roads and bridges have been too long neglected. I’m sure many of you are not aware that our county is responsible for every bridge in the county over 5 feet, which would include most all culverts, and we have already been advised by our highway superintendent about the deteriorating condition of many of our county bridges. We need to act now!

On the economic front, the STAMP project will come to life and hopefully we will see the growth of new businesses to support 1366 technologies and the installation of water to the Town of Alabama and the STAMP site.

We look forward to the new hotel on Park Road and we will continue to work in partnership with the City of Batavia and GCEDC on the pathway to prosperity to provide funding for development and enhancement of the brownfield opportunity area in the city.

I feel it’s time for the county to consider selling some parcels of county-owned property that are currently underutilized and a drain on county revenues.

Let’s look at the Holland Land Office and the former engine house property to see if they might be better served by being in the hands of private or not-for-profit ownership.

And hopefully with some state assistance, I would like to see us increase our rural broadband capacity to those areas of the county still without this increasingly vital resource.

And finally, let’s look at a small-scale solar project to see if it can benefit the county in reducing our energy costs.

Now on the state level, our governor has been asking counties to consolidate or share services to reduce our tax burden.

Five years ago the governor instituted the property tax cap to municipalities with the understanding that when implemented, counties would get mandate relief.

Through innovation and creativity we in Genesee County have stayed under the tax cap for all five years, but where is our mandate relief? Surely not in the meager checks for $15 or $20 we got earlier this year from the state.

And yet in our governor’s budget state aid to municipalities remains flat and he is lowering our tax cap, still looking for us to come up with innovative ideas on how to stay under the cap.

“Ok, governor, we get it!” We’ll keep working on it, but how about you and the legislature giving us the tools to work outside the box?

Give us the legislation that allows us the opportunity to pursue a regional jail with an adjoining county instead of our county taxpayers bearing the entire cost of a new jail that will be in excess of $36 million. 

And why stop at just a new regional jail? Why not look at a regional county-wide justice court system that consolidates our current 15 city, town and village courts into two or three centrally located district courts in the county to reduce costs on all the municipalities and the Sheriff’s Office and provide for a more efficient justice court system?

These are the challenges that face us this year.

As legislators and managers, we need to keep our priorities in order and understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges we face.

Rather than think and talk about the problems, we need to think and talk about the solutions.

We rose to the occasion last year and we have the right people in the right place to attack these hard issues in 2016 because we, as leaders, have the capacity to translate vision into reality.

Let me end by saying 'thank you' to all our hard working and dedicated employees, department heads, managers and legislators for putting Genesee County in the forefront of progress and economic development in our state. It is you who are our county’s greatest assets.

Thank you.

February 4, 2015 - 2:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Oakfield, law, Ray Cianfrini, Michael Del Plato.

Press release:

Del Plato Casey Law Firm, LLP and Raymond F. Cianfrini, Esq., of Cianfrini Law Firm, LLP, are proud to announce that Mr. Cianfrini has joined Del Plato Casey Law Firm as an “Of Counsel” attorney as of January 1, 2015. 

Mr. Cianfrini’s office will continue in its long-standing location of 31 Main Street, Oakfield, New York, where legal assistant and office manager Rhonda Natalizia will also continue to serve clients. 

Michael A. Del Plato and Peter M. Casey will also offer a wide range of legal services at the Oakfield office, in addition to their current location at 73 Main Street, Batavia, New York. 

Mr. Cianfrini, a 1972 Graduate of UB Law School, has been continuously engaged in legal practice in Genesee County and the surrounding area for 42 years.  He will continue to provide quality, client-focused legal services as part of Del Plato Casey Law Firm.  Mr. Cianfrini, Mr. Del Plato, and Mr. Casey may be contacted at either the Batavia office (585-344-1050) or the Oakfield office (585-948-5201).

Del Plato Casey Law Firm, LLP is a general practice law firm handling Commercial and Residential Real Estate matters, Wills and Trusts, Estates and Probate, Business Formations, Family Law matters, Divorces and Legal Separations, Criminal Defense, DWI matters, Traffic Offenses and Personal Injury.

Additional Note: Ray Cinanfrini is chairman of the Genesee County Legislature. Michael Del Plato is recently retired as a City Court judge.

January 15, 2014 - 8:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county legislature, Oakfield, Ray Cianfrini.

The Ray Cinanfrini era of the Genesee County Legislature has officially begun and the lifelong Oakfield resident certainly has some plans to try and make an impact.

In the top drawer of the desk in his county office Cianfrini keeps a sheet of 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece paper filled from top to bottom with ideas he would like to pursue.

Whether any of them are ever brought forward, pan out or receive the support of the other eight members of the county's legislative body, only time will tell.

"I think this job is going to be a challenge," Cianfrini said. "We have a group of legislators who are dedicated. We have some new members who are young and energetic. I'm excited, but I'm also a little scared. Whatever happens, I'm going to give it everything I've got to ensure the county is in as good of shape, if not better, than when I took over."

Cianfrini, who served seven years as the mayor in Oakfield before being elected to the Legislature in 2007, replaces Mary Pat Hancock, who held the chair for 13 years.

Hancock's former office has been cleared of its mementos, photos and paintings. The walls are now bare. Since taking over the job, Cianfrini said, he simply hasn't had time to deal with decorations.

"I used to say I was a full-time attorney and a part-time legislator," Cianfrini said. "I think the roles have been reversed right now."

The job will be daunting, no doubt, in a time when state government is more and more burdensome, infrastructure is aging and the county struggles to find ways to grow its economic base, there's nothing easy about leading a whole county.

Cianfrini is an unabashed booster of Genesee County, but he's also more than aware of the problems we face.

"I don't like the idea that we might lose industry," Cianfrini said. "I hope we're able to maintain the high level of active, large employers we have. Agriculture, of course is a big industry for us and we have the two new yogurt plants, so I'm hoping our dairies will be around for a long time. If anything scares me, I would hope crime does not seep into Genesee County. I know we have crime, but I hope we don't get the overflow of crime that seems more prevelent in the larger cities around us. And I worry about whether our children will have a place to find jobs locally."

That focus on jobs and industry is one reason Cianfrini appointed himself as the Legislature's representative on the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board.

While Cianfrini has gained a reputation as something of a GCEDC critic at a time when many local residents worried about seeming excesses in the agency, Cianfrini said his position about the IDA is often misunderstood.

"My criticism in the past has been focused on their operations, their internal operations, in particular their compensation for employees," Cianfrini said. "I've never criticized the GCEDC in their performance. I think they do a bang-up job. I think they're intelligent and hard-working people. I'm not in there with an agenda. I'm not there to impose on them any of my particular feelings. I'm there to learn more about the GCEDC. I'm there to help, if I can."

Top on Cianfrini's agenda is assisting the development of the STAMP (Science, Technology & Advanced Manufacturing Park) project in Alabama, which is part of his district.

"I'm a huge supporter of STAMP," Cianfrini said. "It's a transformational project that's going to be a tremendous economic boost for Genesee County."

It's in the county's best interest, Cianfrini believes, for GCEDC to succeed in attracting new business and growing local industries and he's supportive of those goals.

"I know this may sound crazy, but I'm going to be there rooting for them to achieve their goals and create new opportunities for economic development."

At the same time, he said, he's mindful of his responsibility to provide both oversight and communication about GCEDC activities for the rest of the Legislature.

"I am there as the only representative of the county Legislature, so I will scrutinize what goes on. If there's issues that I think need to be addressed, I'll bring those back to the Legislature," Cianfrini said. "I did not put myself on the board soley for the purpose of changing the way in which they do business. I'm there to learn. I'm there to offer any assistance I can, but if there's something I don't think is right, I'll be, as most people know, the first person to bring that to the attention of the Legislature."

The 68-year-old Cianfrini graduated from Oakfield-Alabama High School in 1963. His undergrad degree is from the University at Albany and he was drafted into the Army after his first year in law school. Following a two-year hitch, Cianfrini completed his law degree in 1972 and moved back to Oakfield.

He has practiced law in Oakfield for 42 years.

He's married. His wife, Karen, is a nurse at UMMC. They have three children.

Their oldest son, Michael, 39, is also an attorney. He and his wife, Melissa, worked for big law firms in Pittsburgh, but decided they wanted to move to Oakfield to practice law and joined Cianfrini's law firm more than 10 years ago. Late in 2013, Michael Cianfrini was appointed deputy county clerk. Melissa Cianfrini is in her third year as an assistant district attorney.

Daughter Christy Connor is an epidemiologist in San Diego. She and her husband have three children.

The Cianfrini's youngest son, Steve, 33, served eight years in the Army as a combat helicopter pilot, with an 18-month tour in Iraq, where his helicopter was once shot down, and a tour that included heavy combant in Iraq. In search of a more tranquil life, Steve left the Army not long ago and took a job in Grand Rapids, Mich., as a postal carrier.

Not too many months ago, when asked about the anticipated vacancy in the Legislature's chair, Cianfrini demurred, expressed little interest.

That changed, he said, when Annie Lawrence, the more senior Republican on the Legislature, made it clear to her colleagues that she didn't want the job. 

Cianfrini decided he was up for the challenge and that he could make the time to do the job right.

"The way I look at it, there was county government for 200 years before I came in and there will be county government, hopefully, for 200 years after I leave," Cianfrini said. "I just want to make sure while I'm here at the helm that government runs efficiently at the lowest cost."

The job is important, Cianfrini said, because Genesee County is important.

"I just love Genesee County," Cianfrini said. "I think anybody who has been born here has difficulty giving it up. We have two major metro areas around us. If we want to go to a football game, if we want to go to the opera, or to a show or shopping, we have it. The beauty is, we've got the serenity of Genesee County. It's a beautiful area. It's a great place to raise children. I think the school systems are excellent. Why give that up to go someplace where you don't know what you're getting into?"

To help make this an even better place to live, there are some ideas Cianfrini would like to pursue.

For example, he thinks the Legislature should take a look at public safety in county-run buildings.  He wants to, maybe, propose opening up the County Park in Bethany to bow hunters during bow season. That would generate revenue for the county and also help deal with the exploding deer population in the park. Perhaps, he said, the county government should go paperless, with Legislators carrying around iPads instead of binders and folders. He would like to look at a public-private partnership to build more hangars at the Genesee County Airport.

That's just a part of the list he keeps in the top drawer of his desk.

He also anticipates working out an agreement with the GCEDC that would lessen the burden on taxpayers to help support the agency.

Last year, the county supplemented GCEDC's revenue (which comes mostly from fees paid by businesses that use the agency's services) with a $215,000 expenditure. 

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, has always argued that the county government needs "skin in the game" to prove to site locators that economic development is supported in Genesee County, and that the money helps GCEDC balance its books.

Cianfrini has another approach he would like to try and be thinks just might fly.

"I've talked with GCEDC and they're willing to talk now about the possibility of working out a formula that might minimize the county's contribution," Cianfrini said. "At times when their cash flow is good, we don't pay as much taxpayer money to support them, but on the other hand, when maybe money is tight, or revenue is drying up, maybe we increase our contribution rather than have a fixed amount. They seem willing to talk about adjusting that payment."

Now that Cianfrini has a more comprehensive responsibility in Genesee County than just representing one district, or just chairing one committee, he's working hard to get to know the rest of the county's business, learning as much as he can as quickly as he can about all of the county's departments.

He sees his role as a facilitator to develop and implement policy, and that means he needs to really understand the nuts and bolts of county government.

"I kind of look at it like this," Cianfrini said. "From a team perspecitve, we're like a football team. The people are the owners of the team. The taxpayers are the owners. The Legislature, we are kind of the board of directors to set the policy for the team. Jay Gsell, our county manager, is kind of the general manager of the team. Our department heads, they're the coaches. They're the ones working with the players. The players are the employees. I'm seeing my job as the chairman of the Legislature as one to help move policy along and to maybe offer some fresh ideas."

Asked if he thinks his new job makes him one of the more powerful people in Genesee County, Cianfrini said, no, not really.

"I think I can influence certain things, what things will come before the Legislature," Cianfrini said. "I think I can influence the direction we may be going in. If that means power, so be it, but I don't think of it as a powerful job. I don't want power. I don't seek power. I want efficiency and I want results. That's where I'm coming from."

January 19, 2012 - 8:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Ray Cianfrini.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center can generate a lot of money for itself, Legislator Ray Cianfrini said Wednesday, so he would like the county legislative body to start looking at how much this Industrial Development Agency gets from the county budget.

"I just think we should look very close at their budget and revenue," Cianfrini said. "I’m sensitive to the fact that we had to cut a lot of things out of the budget for nonprofits that do not generate revenues and they’re hurt by the fact that we cut them."

His comments followed a Ways and Means Committee meeting in which a resolution was approved authorizing the county to accept, on GCEDC's behalf, a $750,000 state grant to help bring a mushroom farm to the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

While Cianfrini was less direct about his concerns during the meeting, afterward, he said, yes, he does question bonuses being paid to GCEDC's executives while the county is providing $234,000 in supplemental funding to the agency.

"I personally received a lot of phone calls from constituents," Cianfrini said. "This riles them and they’re angry over the bonuses. I think that maybe that I, as a legislator, and we as legislative board, should be looking at GCEDC a little more closely and say, 'if you have the money to pay the bonuses, should we be funding you at the current level?' "

The bonus issue has been controversial for a year now, sparked by a state audit report that questioned the method of bonus disbursement, and it reignited a month ago when $120,000 in new bonuses were announced.

At the same time, the county has been forced to cut some programs, such as Meals on Wheels.

Cianfrini used the mushroom farm grant as an example of how GCEDC and its nonprofit Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. generate significant profits.

With the $750,000, GCEDC will be able to sell the land for the mushroom farm and make a profit, make a loan and get the principle repaid plus interest, and collect a $16,000 fee for the operations expense of putting the deal together.

"This is a great moneymaker for the LDC," Cianfrini said. "And what do they put into it? Nothing. What are they going to get out of it? A lot.

"I just wanted people to understand how this works," Cianfrini added. "The state puts up the money. We dispurse it. They get to loan it out. They get income, they get revenue, they get operating expenses."

Cianfrini said the GCEDC executives are well compensated for what they do, but he's opposed to bonuses.

"If they continue to pay bonuses, then I’ll look at their funding and see if it's legtimate," Cianfrini said.

November 9, 2010 - 10:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, history, Oakfield, Ray Cianfrini.

raycianfrini_klan.jpg

We don't usually think of bed-sheet-robed and pointy-hatted white men burning crosses as a New York kind of thing.

That only happened in the deep, racist South, right?

Several years ago a client delivered a set of pictures to Oakfield attorney Ray Cianfrini that were clearly shot decades before in his hometown, showing men dressed exactly like Ku Klux Klan members.

While Cianfrini knew his parents had faced prejudice because of their Italian heritage -- his mother was denied a job in an insurance agency and his father was barred from the volunteer fire department -- nobody had ever told him that the Klan was once quite popular in Genesee County.

"I was shocked," Cianfrini said. "I had never seen that depicted in a picture before. I never knew that the Klan was here."

The set of pictures -- which were taken to document the funeral of a top Klan official in Oakfield in 1922, including a cross burning -- started Cianfrini on a effort to completely research the history of the Klan locally.

But not because he wanted to show anybody up, embarrass the families of former Klan members, revenge the prejudice shown against his parents or otherwise seek some sort of retribution.

He just thought it was an interesting bit of Genesee County history that should be preserved.

"I don't hold any grudges," said Cianfrini, a former mayor of the Village of Oakfield and currently a county legislator.

From about the turn of the century until the Great Depression, large portions of the American population were gripped by anti-immigrant prejudice (see The Gangs of New York).

In the 1920s, the Klan -- originally founded in 1865 -- was resurgent and recruiting millions of members in all parts of the nation. Genesee County was no exception.

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