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Ways & Means Committee

Safety is the name of the game for new county position

By Joanne Beck


Workers’ Compensation is hardly a sexy topic, but it’s becoming a vital component of Genesee County’s offerings, Assistant County Manager Tammy Ferringer says.

After a four-month search, Ferringer found and hired the county’s first health and safety coordinator who will serve as executive secretary for a cooperative Workers' Comp program of most every taxing entity in the county, including schools, towns and villages.

Up to recently, the participating entities haven’t shown much interest in training offered related to on-the-job safety issues, Ferringer said.

“Participants weren’t interested in training until this past year,” she said. “It was exciting to see a lot of attendance.”

Participants of the Workers’ Comp program pay a premium to be a member of the plan, and trainings are one of the perks that also help them to keep employees safe at work and reduce insurance claims, injuries and related absenteeism.

Workers' compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job.

The new position was born out of the budget process this past year, Ferringer said after Kathy Jasinski had announced that she was going to be retiring at the end of the year.

“And so that prompted us to try and reenvision the gaps of the plan as it exists,” she said. “And we just wanted to enhance the services that are available to the plan participants ... the worker's comp plan that's administered by Genesee County, and towns, villages, school districts, any taxing entity in Genesee County can opt into the plan. And currently, there's a large list of them.”

Enter Dustin Watterson, a lifelong Oakfield resident who is now the full-time health and safety coordinator. He will be taking on administrative tasks, serving as safety officer for the county and going out on the road to meet plan participants.

“Dustin is going to be charged with the administrative piece of acting as executive secretary to the workers' comp plan. And he'll work with me on the administrative tasks necessary to make sure that it’s efficiently run," she said. "And then we are going to take this safety approach in-house, and he is going to go out on the road, and he is going to garner relationships with our participants and make sure that they know what's available to them.

“It keeps our workers safe, that’s the most important thing for everyone,” she said.

She added that if claims are contained, then costs will be reduced as well, which is also beneficial to any business operation.

Watterson has a decade of experience working in the security business via sales and consulting and is familiar with OSHA compliance, and items such as ADA railings, ramps, and rooftop fall protection, he said. Not only is the financial piece important, but also the morale of an employee who can otherwise be spared those days spent home recovering from an accident at work, he said.

Although Workers' Comp is one large umbrella, it covers multitudes of jobs and careers, Ferringer said.

“Our plan has so many different industries or types of workers, from law enforcement to nurses to just regular office staffs and highway workers and construction. There's such a diverse group of workers, we’re trying to make sure that we capture all of their needs,” Ferringer said. “But also, by working together with them … we’re just allowing them enhancement to help keep this community safe.”

During Wednesday’s Ways & Means meeting, County Manager Matt Landers introduced Watterson with confidence in his new role working with plan participants.

“I think he can help them with their safety plans,” Landers said.

Dustin Watterson, Genesee County's new health and safety coordinator, and Assistant County Manager Tammy Ferringer talk about the expanded and safety aspects of Workers' Comp Wednesday. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Proposed air show requires some schooling, county official says

By Joanne Beck

Making sure to clarify that he has no intentions of going to Las Vegas for a  fun three-day fling, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens asked for the Ways & Means Committee’s blessing to attend an air show conference in December.

A trip to Nevada would include costs of the county employee’s time for the three-day event, and a registration fee of $508. Hens said he will take care of the travel and lodging expense, and he feels it’s worth the investment during the preliminary planning stage of an air show at Genesee County Airport.

“We’re not sponsoring the Air Show. We're not the ones running the air show, but our airport is hosting an air show, and I feel it's important from an operational standpoint, as well as the safety to the visitors — the people that are going to come to the air show — that the county puts on a professional face and make sure we have a safe show and limit the liability for the county as much as we can,” Hens said to the committee Wednesday. “So the two things I'm most interested in with the conference are their air show 101 and air show 102 certifications, they are classes that they put on.”

Those two certification classes are more about airplane movements and operational needs at the airport, he said, versus things like concessions and gate entry fees.

“It's more about hosting the air show than it is operating an air show,” Hens said.

The schedule also includes a first-timers orientation, crisis communications, the human side of an air show and accidents: anticipating the unimaginable, and several other topics.

The International Council of Air Shows is scheduled for Dec. 12 through 15 in Las Vegas, and it’s a combination of a convention setting where flying acts can promote themselves to air shows across the country, and a series of training for air show operators and airport personnel to learn how to host this type of event to be “safe and proper,” he said.

Legislator Shelley Stein noted the mention of a military jet team and asked what types of aircraft will be landing at the county airport. Hens said that the committee has so far discussed items including a cold war era jet, which doesn’t require as much runway and support on the ground as a modern fighter jet F 22 or 23 would require. Due to the popularity and necessary advance booking or the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, they won’t be in the show next year, he said.

It may be possible to borrow planes from Cleveland and Toronto and share them with other air shows during the same weekend.

“So they could get an F-35 or F-20 to fly by and do a short demonstration over the field, but they wouldn't land in our airport,” he said. “And they wouldn't require any ground activity support once on the field. It would just be a flyover from Toronto, do a 15-minute deal, and fly to Cleveland and do a 15-minute deal. And that way three air shows could share military assets.”

Those scheduling details will happen at the conference, he said, and isn’t anything the county needs to be involved with. He agreed with Legislator Marianne Clattenburg, who summarized his trip’s goal as doing what he can to protect a county asset of the airport.

“Exactly. We have invested a lot of money there. And so this has to come off without any damage or any liabilities,” he said.

Legislator Gary Maha emphasized the county’s need to not financially support the air show, and others agreed. Hens mentioned logistics, and being cognizant about providing handicap-accessible parking for those in wheelchairs or who may have difficulties with walking.

“Things that we need to think about from a facility standpoint, and protect ourselves from a trip and fall type of activity. So all that stuff gets talked about in the sessions,” he said. “The travel requests I put in simply asked for the registration fee. I'm willing on my part to get myself out there. I have a place to stay out there; that's already paid for. And airline miles, so it's not really coming out of pocket, it’s simply the time away from the office and the registration fee for the conference.”

Clattenburg wanted to confirm that Hens — since he’d be on the clock while out west — would be available for Zoom meetings or other needs, especially “regarding our water issues.” Yes, he would, Hens said.

County Manager Matt Landers believes it’s a worthwhile trip to take, he said.

“I think it's important for him to have this knowledge with us having a large-scale airshow like this coming to our community,” Landers said. “I agree with legislators. I don't think by having Tim getting this background knowledge it shows that we are sponsoring anything, just that we want to be prepared.”

The committee voted to approve the request and pass it onto the full Legislature for vote.

Hens said he’d be discussing the show with committee members later on Wednesday.



Dennis Dunbar, director of Air Show Operations for EAA AirVenture, president of Dunbar Airshows, and event organizer for the ICAS Safety and Operations Subcommittee, has been named committee chairman for this local event, Hens said.




Top photo from Hens' online media account; above, Dennis Dunbar photo from Air Show Magazine.

Ways & Means Committee's message to Gov. Hochul, New York State lawmakers: 'Keep local taxes local'

By Mike Pettinella

It has got to stop!

That’s the message Genesee County legislators likely will be sending to Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Assembly and Senate next week through a resolution that calls for Albany to end the practice of taking local sales tax revenue from communities and putting it into the state’s treasury.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday passed the measure – sending it to the full board for consideration at next Wednesday's meeting.

Genesee County is taking action in conjunction with a directive from the New York State Association of Counties for municipalities to make their voices heard.

“This has been proposed before, but I guess NYSAC is trying to hone in on the fact that they weren’t hearing enough from localities – that we weren’t making enough noise,” Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg said.

According to the resolution, since 2019, New York State has diverted more than $677 million in local sales taxes away from cities, towns and villages and into the state’s general fund.

It reads, in part, that “local sales tax revenue should stay in the community where it is collected.  It is time to return to responsible budgeting to keep local tax revenue in the communities where it can fund local programs such as parks, community colleges, meals for seniors, day care services, 9-1-1 programs, mental health and addiction services and other quality life programs.”

The resolution calls for this practice “to expire permanently at the end of this fiscal year as originally intended.”

In other action, the committee approved:

  • Appointments of C. Joseph Mahler and Thomas Clark, both of Batavia, and Peter Stanbridge of Bethany, to three-year terms on the Genesee County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Committee.
  • A contract not to exceed $213,268 with U&S Services of Tonawanda for a countywide heating, ventilation and air conditioning control system upgrade. The amount is slightly less than the $225,000 that has been budgeted for this project.
  • Two resolutions pertaining to the replacement of the South Street culvert over a drainage ditch in the Village of Le Roy. The first to establish the capital project, which will be covered by state aid of $757,410 and the second is to contract with Lu Engineers of Rochester for consulting and design services at a cost not to exceed $174,000, which is part of the state’s contribution.

GCEDC leaders back measure to help Rochester Regional Health secure $218 million in tax-exempt bonds

By Mike Pettinella

Officials of the Genesee County Economic Development Center are asking Genesee County legislators to consider expanding the “jurisdictional reach” of a locally controlled funding unit to facilitate $218 million in bond funds for Rochester Regional Health’s expansion projects.

Speaking at the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting this afternoon at the Old County Courthouse, GCEDC President Steve Hyde encouraged passage of a resolution that would permit the Genesee County Funding Corp. to act as a conduit bond issuer for a business enterprise – either for-profit or not-for-profit – located in Genesee County that has operations directly or through affiliated entities in other counties in New York State.

The resolution, which was passed by the committee and forwarded to the full legislature, calls for an expansion of the “mission and public objective” of the GCFC to promote economic development and expand the jurisdictional reach by making the GCFC eligible to issue bonds for projects outside of Genesee County.

If passed, Rochester Regional Health, which operates United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia along with health care facilities in other counties, would be the beneficiary of the amendment to the GCFC’s current certificate of incorporation.

Hyde said that RRH is planning to invest $42 million in Batavia, primarily on the construction of a 105,000-square-foot medical center off Route 98, north of the city, and another $50 million or so on an expansion in Potsdam (St. Lawrence County).

“That’s almost $100 million in new money plus they are refinancing existing debt,” he said, pointing out that the issuance of the bond through GCFC would enable RRH to get a tax-exempt corporation interest rate instead of a taxable rate. “If not, they would have to seek multiple bonds in a number of communities and the fees would be much higher.”

He said RRH leadership approached the GCEDC “to use our GCFC, which is a county affiliate that we manage on your (the legislature’s) behalf.” The GCFC board consists of five members, all appointed by the legislature.

Mark Masse, GCEDC senior vice president of operations, said Genesee County has seen tremendous growth of companies with locations in other counties.

“This won’t affect the county’s bond rating,” he said. “It is similar to a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) with no risk to the county.”

Hyde said RRH is focusing on the adaptive reuse of its North Street and Bank Street campuses, including expanding senior health care at the Jerome Center and possible razing a couple buildings on North Street because parking is an issue.

“And there will be more specialties at the new medical center, such as cardiac care and surgical (improvements),” he said.

Should the legislature vote in favor of the resolution, it would not change the fact that every project connected to the GCFC would have to be approved by the governing body and a public hearing would have to be held for tax exempt circumstances, Masse said.

County Attorney James Wujcik said the resolution’s wording was appropriate, adding that the expansion of the GCFC territory “makes Genesee County more attractive for investment.”

Genesee CARES officials report that 12 businesses have applied for pandemic-related relief thus far

By Mike Pettinella

A dozen businesses, seeking more than $500,000 in assistance, have applied thus far for financial assistance through the Genesee CARES Business Recovery Fund -- the new program that is providing up to $75,000 to small businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jim Krencik, marketing director for the Genesee County Economic Development Center, and Michael Zimmerman of The Harrison Studio, which is overseeing the initiative, updated Genesee County legislators today at their Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

Supported by a $1 million Community Development Block Grant, the program has been created to help businesses with 25 or fewer employees that were hurt by the pandemic to receive grants of up to $75,000. Eligible applicants are for-profit ventures within Genesee County with 25 or fewer employees.

Krencik said the 12 businesses that filled out application forms – which can be found at – have asked for $550,000 in relief.

“If they’re all viable, we’re not sure yet,” he said, while encouraging business owners who have completed applications to follow up to make sure everything is in order.

He added that applications are taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

A crucial element to the process is that these businesses have to add at least one full-time equivalent job.

“Adding one FTE is a large increase (for small businesses),” he said. “Our goal is to have 20 to 40 businesses supported. If we get more, we could apply for additional funding.”

Krencik said businesses can apply for funds in any or all of four categories.

Those categories are as follows:

  • Employment Restoration and Job Hiring -- Businesses will be eligible to receive a grant of up to $25,000 per full-time equivalent job position created, restored, or retained, up to a maximum of $60,000.
  • Outdoor Dining Development -- Businesses will eligible to receive up to $50,000 in grants to facilitate outdoor dining enhancements. Eligible activities include professional and soft costs, furniture, and equipment, and working capital expenses related to expanding, installing, or improving outdoor dining and gathering spaces. Construction or renovation costs will not be eligible.
  • Working Capital -- Businesses will be eligible to receive a maximum of $50,000 of grant funds to be used to assist with working capital expenditures (such as payroll, marketing, rent, utilities, etc.) for businesses that can demonstrate the impact of COVID has put a strain on their cash flow which cannot be met through other funding sources.
  • Business Resiliency -- Businesses will be eligible to receive grants of up to $25,000 to support small business efforts to respond to the pandemic. Funds will be used for projects such as developing safety and resiliency plans, purchasing PPE, installing touchless point-of-sale systems, and other improvements to allow for social distances and all businesses to operate safely.

Zimmerman, responding to a question from Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein about agricultural-related enterprises, said that as long as the business meets the requirements (for profit and 25 or fewer employees), they should be eligible.

“The use of the funds is a pretty broad net,” he said, “and cover most business needs. I imagine (that a farming business) could find working capital needs to which to apply the grant funds.”

To be considered for the first round of approvals, applications must be submitted no later than March 9.

In related action, the Ways & Means Committee approved a resolution to create a line item in the county's budget to reimburse eligible expenses.

Genesee's WROTB director slams state senator's attempt to restructure board of directors, place a cap on perks

By Mike Pettinella

The longtime Genesee County representative to the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. believes bills being introduced by State Sen. Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo, if passed into law, are a “power grab” that would destroy the governance structure of the public benefit company that operates Batavia Downs Gaming and harness track.

Speaking to the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon, Richard Siebert, a WROTB director for 28 years, said the proposal by Kennedy (photo at right) would “basically demolish everything we’ve had at OTB.”

“It would eliminate the status that we’ve had since 1974 when our county joined and everybody else (other participating counties) joined,” he said. “The legislation would basically eliminate the directors as we know them … (and) would put perhaps Genesee as a director in with Livingston County, Chautauqua County, Catt (Cattaraugus) County, Orleans County, Seneca County; basically, eliminate all of us, and put just one director, perhaps appointed by the governor.”

Siebert said he wanted the legislature to be aware of Kennedy’s Senate bills, which were introduced last week in response to State Comptroller’s audits – released in September 2021 -- that faulted WROTB management for lack of oversight of perks distributed and for failure to receive prompt reimbursement for personal use of an official vehicle.

The audit by the Comptroller’s office took place over the course of a little more than two years, between September 2017 and December 2019.

According to Kennedy’s website, the three bills would result in the following:

  • Revise the structure of the board based on population. As OTB profits are distributed by population, this bill would require that the membership of the board of directors be based on population.
  • Cap the allowance of promotional items for certain members of the corporation. This legislation would make the gift rules governing OTB associates consistent with the Public Officers Law, Legislative Law, and Executive Law, where state employees may not receive a gift of any kind valued at an amount greater than $15.
  • Prohibit OTB corporation vehicles from being used as take-home vehicles.

Regarding the current makeup of the WROTB, each of the 15 counties plus the City of Buffalo and City of Rochester that receive benefits from gaming and racing revenues are represented by a director.

“It basically is a power grab for the bigger counties,” Siebert said. “We’ve always had one county, one vote. Genesee, Orleans – we’ve always had the same vote as the City of Rochester.”

Contacted minutes ago, WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek said the board has directed him to “explore all of our options.”

“All I will say at this time is that we’re exploring all of our options, including litigation, relative to the proposed bills,” Wojtaszek said. “It’s pretty simple.”

The WROTB directors meet for their monthly public session at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Park Road facility’s corporate board room.

Siebert said he wants the Genesee County Legislature and other county legislatures to draft resolutions to “exercise our Home Rule” opposing Kennedy’s plan.

“We have to realize that under Home Rule, we started this but with the Senate, the governor and the Assembly all in one little room, anything can happen,” he said. “This is very serious and can have serious consequences to our county.”

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg agreed with Siebert’s assessment of the situation, reiterating that “it’s definitely a power grab.”

“We all know what it’s about. It’s about the money that’s been shared … pretty liberally with a lot of municipalities and we need to fight this as hard as we possibly can.”

Kennedy, in announcing the proposed legislation, said the Comptroller’s report “outlined mismanagement and dysfunction at the Western Regional OTB, and demonstrated a clear need for reforms at the corporation, which has been plagued with problems for years.”

“Through this legislation, we’re holding members accountable, revising outdated policy, and creating fairer representation on the OTB board moving forward. Taxpayers deserve better, and we intend to ensure they receive that.”

Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli apparently is in the Democratic senator's corner, judging by his comments.

“The Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. gave generous perks to board members, employees and others, ignoring state rules,” DiNapoli said. “My auditors found a troubling disregard for appropriate safeguards to hold people accountable and protect public resources. Senator Kennedy is proposing legislation that addresses this mismanagement and our major audit findings. I look forward to working with Senator Kennedy on these critical reforms and holding government accountable.”  

Time to move on jail bonding resolution, county manager says; committee OKs GCEDC, CCE appropriations

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers this afternoon urged lawmakers to move swiftly on the financing piece connected to the construction of a new county jail.

Landers, speaking at the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, said it is important for the governing body to approve a bond resolution in early January – preferably by Jan. 5 or Jan. 6 – in order for him to meet the schedule he has mapped out to solicit construction bids by early March.

“Time is of the essence and to wait until the end of January is going to be difficult with a timeline -- the timeline that we're looking at,” he said.

He outlined several items that need to be done, including approval of the State Environmental Quality Review, drafting bid packages, awarding contracts and preparing for cash outlay until the bond proceeds are received in mid-April. He noted that County Manager Scott German has sent documentation to bond attorneys and expects to have the resolution “in our hands by the fifth of January.”

“If we can pass it then … it takes 60 to 90 days, and we expect it to get closer to the 90 days just because of the pure size (of the bond),” he said.

The county is looking at financing around $70 million via a 30-year bond. Landers estimated that annual payments would be $3 million to $3.5 million.

Landers suggested taking up the matter at the legislature’s 2022 organizational meeting on Jan. 5 but, after discussion, it was decided to conduct a special meeting immediately after the organizational meeting.

In other action, the committee:

  • Approved a special counsel agreement with Napoli Shkolnik PLLC for the New York City law firm to represent the county in litigation pertaining to generic drug manufacturers' overcharging of self-insured county employees and dependents for medical care supplies and pharmaceuticals.

Napoli Shkolnik LLC previously worked on behalf of Genesee and other counties on the opioid settlement, and is doing the same in this matter.

County Attorney Kevin Earl said the latest litigation claims that manufacturers have illegally price fixed or violated antitrust laws. He noted that Genesee County will not be responsible to pay anything, unless there is a recovery, and only will have to pay based on the net amount recovered.

  • Approved a resolution to contract with Direct Energy Business, LLC, of Iselin, N.J., to supply natural gas to 20 Genesee County accounts at a fixed rate instead of the current variable pricing policy in an effort keep utility costs in check.

The contract, if approved by the full legislature, would run for 16 months, beginning on Jan. 1, 2022. The change is expected to save the various county budgets around $9,000 during that time.

  • Approved a memorandum of understanding with Cornell Cooperative Extension for the county to support the agency in the amount of $385,484 for 2022 – an increase of nearly $47,000 from this year – and a contract renewal with Genesee County Economic Development Center to provide $233,513 as its yearly contribution plus an additional $25,000 for workforce training program administration.

Landers pointed out that the increases are for 2022 only and the total amounts are subject to change in 2023.

County to GCC: We will pay half of infrastructure renovation only if New York State comes through

By Mike Pettinella

While deeming all five of the capital improvement projects proposed by Genesee Community College President Dr. James Sunser as “necessary,” members of the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon decided to partially fund four of them next year – as long as New York State lives up to its end of the bargain.

The committee, after hearing of the county’s plan of action from County Manager Matt Landers, voted in favor of spending up to $1.7 million, which equals half of the cost of the following projects:

  • Replacement of the soccer/lacrosse turf on the field adjacent to the Richard C. Call Arena (Total cost $950,000).
  • Replacement of the cooling tower (Total cost $410,000).
  • Renovation of a connective corridor (Total cost $180,000).
  • Complete roof replacement on the Technology Building (Total cost $1,060,000).
  • Replacement of the Conable Technology Building parking lot (Total cost $800,000).

The resolution passed at a meeting at the Old County Courthouse today is subject to final approval by the full legislature. It reiterates what Sunser communicated to the committee on Nov. 3 – that New York State would contribute 50 percent of the funding as long as Genesee County did the same.

Landers said the county will appropriate money for the first four projects listed above in 2022 and hold off on the Technology Building parking lot until 2023.

“If the state says no, then we’re back to the drawing board,” Landers said. “These are necessary projects, but we’re not on the hook if there is no state support.”

In other action, the committee:

  • Approved using an additional $680,000 from unexpended reserves to keep the 2022 budget tax levy the same as it was in 2021 -- $31,451,727.

This action, reported first on The Batavian last week, drops the property tax rate to $9.18, which is less than the $9.37 that was proposed in the preliminary budget. The 2021 tax rate was $9.80.

The full legislature is expected to vote on the budget at its meeting next Monday.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein commended management, staff and her colleagues for conducting a budgetary process that was “clear, direct, concise and responsive to the questions asked by the community” and for not raising the tax levy.

  • Scheduled a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Old County Courthouse to consider Local Law Introductory No. 7, Year 2021, that puts the salaries of county elected or appointed fixed term employees at the following levels:

-- Commission of Elections (Richard Siebert and Lorie Longhany), $51,055.
-- Director of Human Resources (Anita Cleveland), $93,341.
-- Commissioner of Social Services (David Rumsey), $93,993.
-- Director of Real Property Tax Services (Kevin Andrews), $5,000.
-- County Clerk (Michael Cianfrini), $100,749.
-- Treasurer (Scott German), $107,966.
-- Sheriff (William Sheron), $110,243.
-- Highway Superintendent (Tim Hens), $124,626.

  • Approved monthly premium rates, effective Jan. 1, 2022, of the county’s Self-Funded Health Benefits Plan to reflect an across-the-board 4.5 percent increase over the 2021 rates.

The county offers Partnership Plus and Traditional Plans (for some Genesee Community College employees), and Health and Wellness Plans (for all county employees) with rates ranging from $727 a month for single plans, to $2,844 a month for family (three or more) plans.

County employees also have access to dental and vision benefits.

On average, the county pays 87 percent of the premium and the employees pay 13 percent, Landers said.

  • Reappointed Molly Haungs, marketing manager of LandPro Equipment, to a two-year term on the GLOW Workforce Development Board and James Kingston of Elba to a two-year term to the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District board of directors.

Previously: Genesee Community College president asks county for up to $1.7 million to help fund five infrastructure projects

Ways & Means approves changes to county bed tax law to include Airbnb, similar short-term lodging sites

By Mike Pettinella

A public hearing regarding Local Law Introductory No. 6, which modifies the Genesee County Hotel and Motel Occupancy Tax Law to include Airbnb-type short-term lodging sites, has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Old County Courthouse in Batavia.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday voted to set the public hearing as required by Municipal Home Rule Law while approving a resolution to replace the occupancy (or bed tax) law that initially was adopted as Local Law No. 2, Year 1995, and has been amended several times since then.

The current version is set to expire on Dec. 31 of this year.

County Attorney Kevin Earl said the primary changes focus on the number of units and the number of days in which properties are rented. The proposed amendments have been discussed at length by legislators and officials of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce in recent months, 

“Our current law only applies to six or more units," Earl said. "So, we eliminated that threshold to apply to single units. In other words, if somebody rented out their house, it would apply now. But they would have to do it for overnight accommodations and rent it out for more than 14 days in a year.”

Earl said the 14-day provision was put into the wording to exempt a homeowner who may rent his or her house occasionally, such as for a couple days or a week.

The restated law also includes a definition for booking companies, Earl said, notably Airbnb, Flipkey, Home Away, VRBO and Relators. The new law, if approved by the full legislature next week, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022 and run through Dec. 31, 2024.

The revision certainly will increase the county’s bed tax income as these short-term, home-based properties would be subject to the 3 percent fee that already is added on to hotel/motel bills.

Exemptions to the fee include permanent residents for a period of occupancy in excess of 30 days; persons placed in a hotel or motel by the Department of Social Services, the Red Cross, Salvation Army or other similar organizations due to emergency housing needs; housing for indigent or homeless persons; or exempt organizations.

Earl told legislators that a formal agreement between the county and Airbnb is in the works as the revised law will result in greater responsibility of those renting out homes or similar facilities.

In a related development, the committee approved a resolution brought forth by Kevin Andrews, deputy county treasurer, to use up to $2,250 from the bed tax reserve to fund an audit on the amount of money generated in occupancy tax from local hotels. The Freed Maxick accounting firm has been selected to perform the audit.

Andrews said that, to his knowledge, an audit of this type has not been done before, and that the treasurer’s office will be providing records from three hotels in the county for the audit.

In other action, the Ways & Means Committee approved the following resolutions:

  • An intermunicipal agreement between the county and City of Batavia to the Water Infrastructure Investment Act, which provides up to 40 percent of capital project costs in grants since it is the county’s responsibility to fund and provide for capital improvements at the City Water Treatment Plant.

County Engineer Tim Hens said the total cost of several planned projects at the plant are expected to be around $3.4 million, adding that the improvements are necessary to maintain production as the Countywide Water Project moves into Phase 3. He said the City of Batavia will act as the lead agency in the grant application process.

  • Acquisition by the county of an easement of a parcel of land on the west side of the South Lyon Street bridge in the city in order to keep the replacement of the bridge on schedule. The bridge, which was constructed in 1910, is closed now and due to be replaced in 2022.

Hens said the county previously acquired properties at the four corners of the bridges, and the only easement remaining was an area “through the (Tonawanda) creek bed, along the west side of the bridge.”

He also said that, according to land records, no individual owns the parcel in question.

“So, you’re essentially acquiring an easement from an unknown entity or not an entity at all,” he said. “It’s a very hard thing to describe.”

After discussions with New York State officials, Hens said acquiring the easement – equating it to using eminent domain on an unknown owner -- would be the fastest way to put the county in position to replace the bridge.  

  • The appointment of Chad Brade of Oakfield to fill an unexpired term as county coroner until Dec. 31, 2022.
  • The appointment of Chandy Kemp to the Genesee County Economic Development Center board of directors through June 30, 2024, replacing Amy Vanderhoof, who resigned on Sept. 28.

Previously: Lawmakers continue to ponder whether to impose a bed tax on internet lodging booking agencies

Genesee Community College president asks county for up to $1.7 million to help fund five infrastructure projects

By Mike Pettinella

Categorizing five potential projects as “long-standing critical needs,” Genesee Community College President Dr. James Sunser today requested that Genesee County enter into a 50-50 agreement with New York State to fund up to $3.4 million that would be required to complete all of the work.

Speaking at the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Sunser outlined five projects that he said are part of the college’s Facilities Master Plan approved by the GCC Board of Trustees, and submitted to the Genesee County and to the Dormitory Authority of New York State.

“They’re all under that plan that would allow for 50 percent funding from the state should our local sponsor, Genesee County, approve those plans and commit a similar amount,” he said, adding that the five plans fall into the college’s “deferred maintenance type of issues.”

Under the college’s proposal, the county and the state each would contribute $1.7 million upon completion of all five projects.

Sunser said these projects aren’t new construction, but items that “we have long-standing need for that we’re looking to work on.”

Specifically, the five initiatives proposed are as follows (with the county, if approved, paying for half of the total cost listed):

-- Replacement of the soccer/lacrosse turf on the field adjacent to the Richard C. Call Arena (Total cost $950,000).

Sunser said the field was part of a previous capital project sponsored by Genesee County.

“What we're talking about replacing is not the facility itself, not the underpinnings of it, not the lighting and the electrical, it's merely the covering -- the surface of the field that is now going on 13 years old and had the expected lifecycle of about 10 years,” he said.

He noted that the field will be used for a women’s national soccer tournament starting next Wednesday – an event that will include the GCC squad.

-- Replacement of the cooling tower (Total cost $410,000).

Sunser said the cooling tower handles the cooling for all of the college’s original buildings -- through the original buildings and into the Conable Technology Center.

“That cooling tower is well past its useful life … and that does need replacing at this point. And we're asking for some assistance in doing that,” he said.

-- Renovation of a connective corridor (Total cost $180,000).

Sunser said the corridor connects the original buildings from the cafeteria areas into the fine arts building and theater, adding that he believes the initial design was “flawed.”

“And it's been a long-standing issue where the entrance on both sides of that connecting corridor is below the building levels,” he said, causing water backup and icing in that area. “That’s been one of the areas that we find that we have slip and falls periodically throughout the winter.”

-- Replacement of the Conable Technology Building parking lot (Total cost $800,000).

“That’s our oldest lot now on campus, and it also has an area that is prone to some icing and some issues, and another area we have documented claims against the college for slip and falls,” Sunser said. “The drainage is much like what was in the drainage and the other lots before we've made those improvements during the last major capital plan on campus.”

That particular lot measures 95,000 square feet and is approximately 17 years old.

-- Complete roof replacement on the Technology Building (Total cost $1,060,000).

The structure was built in 2000 and the 26,000-square foot roof has been developing leaks due to end of life failures in stress points, according to the project justification report.

When looking at the big picture, Sunser said if the projects are approved by Genesee County, they can be submitted to the state in the current budget cycle.

“It has been indicated from SUNY (State University of New York) that there would be receptivity to those at this point,” he said. “If they’re approved, then we can work along with the county and the legislature in the future to determine when they'll actually be handled as far as the work being done.”

When asked about the impact to the county’s 2022 budget, Sunser said, “I would imagine that traditionally the counties when they've gone up for bonding on projects, that this would get incorporated into that plan as well.”

Legislator Gary Maha brought up that the county has already committed to spending $70 million for a new jail and that another nearly $2 million is “kind of hard to swallow in one year.”

Sunser said he could “appreciate” that, adding that GCC leaders are “working as hard as we can to take as much pressure off the county as we can – in terms of critical maintenance.”

“These are all long-standing critical needs as far as the infrastructure of the campus. And one of the things that we've been really focused on over the past year is that everywhere we've had the ability to use appropriately (specialized) funds to reinvest in the facilities of the campus, we’ve done that.”

However, he said he viewed the projects as investing in a county partnership facility that you can, I hope, rest assured that the college has been investing in -- in good faith right along -- to try to make sure that we don't have these kind of going back to the old Fram oil filter and pennywise, pound foolish type of mentality. And we've done quite a bit over the course of the summer -- investment in the facility wherever we could to take pressure off the county and not have to make these kind of requests.”

At that point, Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said lawmakers were not prepared to make a decision today, but would discuss it further.

“We do have your numbers,” she said. “We appreciate the fact that you're here, and if you have any other questions, we will get them (answers) to you.”

This summer, the legislature approved a $2.6 million contribution to GCC for 2021-22 -- an amount that represents about 7 percent of the college's $37.4 million budget. County Manager Matt Landers said that percentage is one of the lowest in the state for counties that support community colleges.

Committee backs relaxing of sheriff's deputies residency requirements to ensure adequate pool of candidates

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday threw its support behind a pair of local laws designed to relax residency requirements for the county’s seasonal and laterally transferring sheriff’s deputies.

County Attorney Kevin Earl, at the committee’s meeting at the Old County Courthouse, introduced resolutions calling for adoption of local laws that would supersede Section 3(1) of the New York State Public Officer Law.

Section 3(1) of the Public Officer Law states that no person shall be capable of holding a civil office, which includes deputy sheriffs, unless at the time he or she shall be chosen for employment they are a permanent resident of the political subdivision or municipal corporation of the state for which he or she shall be chosen (in this case, Genesee County).

In the area of seasonal deputies, Local Law Introductory No. 4, Year 2021 would expand the residency territorial area to include Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Livingston and Wyoming counties.

Seasonal sheriff’s deputies are defined as those hired for a fixed period of time not to exceed 90 days to work for a specific purpose, and must be fully trained with New York State Police Officer certification.

“A lot of this is driven by (Six Flags) Darien Lake needing additional employees,” Earl said.

Genesee County Undersheriff Brad Mazur said that permanent county sheriff’s deputies would be considered first for seasonal security work at Darien Lake, followed by seasonal deputies who live in Genesee County.

“Then, if we still couldn’t fill it, we would go outside to the contiguous counties,” he said, adding that two or three City of Batavia Police officers provided coverage at the theme park last year.

All costs for these seasonal deputies are covered by Darien Lake, Mazur said.

Concerning lateral transfers, Local Law Introductory No. 5, Year 2021 would expand the permanent residency requirement timeframe for a lateral police officer transfer to a Genesee County deputy sheriff position “to ensure an adequate pool of qualified applicants” by giving transfers six months after their hiring date to find a home in Genesee County.

Qualifications include current employment as a fully trained and certified police officer in New York and meeting all requirement of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Earl said that the mandate to reside in Genesee County within six months would be a condition of the deputy’s employment, meaning that the deputy could be fired outside of an arbitration process if the requirement is not met.

Previously, the county stipulated that transferring officers had to live in Genesee for two months before beginning employment.

Both Local Laws require public hearings, which have been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Old County Courthouse.

Future early voting location weighs heavily on minds of county election commissioners

By Mike Pettinella

While having enough space at the ARC of Genesee Community Center in the City of Batavia to hold early voting certainly wasn’t a problem in June of this year, Genesee County Board of Election commissioners are convinced they will have to find a different location for November elections in 2022 and 2024.

Richard Siebert and Lorie Longhany, Republican and Democratic commissioners, respectively, told the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday that they are looking – without much success at this point – for another place in the city with the capacity to conduct early voting when residents come to the polls to elect a governor (2022) and president (2024).

“The ARC won’t be large enough for the gubernatorial and presidential elections,” Longhany said.

The commissioners said they have been inquiring about sites within the city limits – following a requirement that early voting must take place in the municipality with the largest population – but have come up empty.

Should a city location search prove unfruitful, they said they believe they could get permission to have early voting at Genesee County Building 2 on West Main Street Road, which they called “an ideal site.”

Siebert reported that just six people voted in advance during June’s off-year Republican primaries in the towns of Bethany, Byron and Stafford, with all of six of those votes being cast for the Stafford Town Clerk primary.

“And I was one of those six,” he noted.

He said it cost $6,000 over the nine days of early voting (June 12-20) at the ARC Community Center at 38 Woodrow Rd.

Early voting expenses normally are charged back to the participating towns, he said, but a portion of an $18,156.45 grant from the New York State Board of Elections Early Voting Expansion Program could be used in this case. The grant contract runs out on Jan. 28, 2022.

Siebert and Longhany said there has been talk about scaling early voting back to three or four days, but pre-election day activity is expected to pick up considerably during major election years. So, that possibility remains to be seen.

Siebert advised that the grant also can be used to pay the $7,700 maintenance fee (which is tied to information technology) that was charged to the Board of Elections.

Ways & Means Committee members approved the acceptance of the early voting grant as well as another award from the state Board of Elections Technology Innovation and Election Resource grant program for $58,999.06.

This grant runs through Jan. 27, 2023 and would assist the county with the capital purchase of software, technology upgrades, equipment and broadband service.

The commissioners said replacement of electronic voting machines, which are out of warranty, is in their budget for 2022. Each machine costs about $11,000.

In other action, the committee:

  • Approved the budget and apportionment of expenses of the Genesee County Self-Insurance Plan for 2022 following a report by Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer that the county’s switch to NCAComp Inc. of Buffalo as its third-party claims administrator has put the program on solid footing.

“We’re in much better position. Claims are being paid timely and the injured are experiencing a better result,” Ferringer said, noting that the plan is fully funded.

She said the county has paid out $760,000 in benefits and awards thus far in 2021, with $460,000 in compensation, $186,000 in medical benefits and $114,000 in expenses. That is down from $1.4 million in 2020 and $1 million in 2019.

Ferringer said that rates for all the town, village, county and other entities enrolled in the plan have decreased for 2022, except for fire departments, which increased by an average of approximately 2 to 4 percent. She attributed the fire departments' retail rating increase to 5.2 percent increase in the "loss cost" (an industry rating).

Currently, there are 39 new open claims this year, she said, while 66 have been closed.

  • Approved the appointment, effective Sept. 8, of Pamela LaGrou as county privacy officer per provisions of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. LaGrou, who was appointed county compliance officer effective Aug. 16, served as the clerk of the legislature for the past five-plus years. Lisa Casey, former confidential secretary for the City of Batavia, is stepping into that role.

Previously: Low early voting turnout exasperates county legislators

Committee backs increase in sales tax allocation to $8.5 million; Batavian Gerace hired to assist with water project

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee today acted upon a suggestion by the Pembroke Town Board to increase the amount of sales tax earmarked for distribution to towns and villages by passing a resolution amending the county’s sales tax allocation agreement with the City of Batavia.

Meeting at the county Emergency Management Services office on State Street Road, the committee approved a restated contract with the city – which along with the county is one of the two taxing municipalities in Genesee County.

The amended agreement ups the amount of sales tax revenue the county is willing to share with its towns and villages over the next 38 years from $7 million to $8.5 million.

It also drops the amount of other revenue the county will distribute – on a periodic basis – from $3 million to $1.5 million – keeping the total amount at the $10 million level that county leaders felt comfortable sharing.

This latest legislation, which is subject to final approval by the full legislature at its Aug. 25 meeting, was triggered by the recent opting in of revised water supply agreements with the county by the Village of Corfu and the Town of Pembroke.

When the Pembroke Town Board voted to opt in to a new water agreement last week – leaving the Town of Darien as the lone municipality to not sign on to a new deal, Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. proposed increasing the fixed sales tax distribution amount.

Genesee County, with a goal of equalizing water rates across the board and having the ability to raise the water surcharge as its Countywide Water Supply Project progresses, initially offered to distribute $10 million in sales tax money as long as all 17 towns and villages opted in to new water supply agreements. If not, then the split was going to be $7 million in sales tax and $3 million in other revenue.

Following today’s Ways & Means meeting, County Manager Matt Landers acknowledged that Pembroke’s suggestion was well received by the legislature.

“The legislature was supportive of moving from $7 million to $8.5 (million) because it does help those towns and villages with their accounting issues that came to light by not being able to share revenue distribution into their B funds,” he said.

“So, the legislature was receptive to the opportunity to share extra sales tax as we understood the Town of Pembroke’s position, seeing that Corfu has already passed it and Darien had not passed it. Pembroke was left thinking what’s the advantage for them to sign the updated water supply agreement if there wasn’t going to be an increase over the $7 million.”

When asked about the status of the Town of Darien, Landers said he continues to speak with officials there and is hopeful that something can be worked out prior to the legislature taking up the final resolution next week.

In other developments, Ways & Means:

-- Approved a request by County Attorney Kevin Earl to extend the statute that spells out the county’s hotel/motel room occupancy tax by three months – through the end of the fiscal year – as the legislature attempts to sort out whether to pass a long-term revision that would include taxation of online booking platforms, such as Airbnb.

“It would be a major change if we did it right now,” Earl said, referring to drafting complex changes at this time. “So, what I’m proposing is to extend the current law to the end of the year … and, obviously, the final one that we propose would be for three years starting in January.”

Legislators have been grappling with this issue for several months, reaching out to Chamber of Commerce staff members for their input in how to capture a portion of the income being generated by increasingly-popular home-based lodging sites.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg agreed that it would be wise to wait before enacting a permanent bed tax law because “I don’t know if we’ve really come to terms with all that is involved …”

-- Welcomed Batavia native Justin Gerace on his first day as a county assistant engineer, with his primary responsibility focusing on helping to facilitate the long-term Countywide Water Supply Project.

A 2014 Batavia High School graduate, Gerace earned his associate’s degree in Engineering Science from Genesee Community College before transferring to the University of Buffalo. At UB, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s degree in Structural and Earthquake Engineering.


Last fall, he worked for the structural engineering firm of Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger in New York City, but said he felt the call to return to his roots.

Previously, he was an intern for LaBella Associates in Rochester and for Arup in New York City.

“(County Engineer) Tim (Hens) informed me of this position .. and I thought it was a good fit,” he said. “I will be able to stay local and be near my family.”

Gerace acknowledged a “big learning curve” as he studies documents and visits water pump stations in and around Genesee County.

“I’m excited … I know there’s work to be done over the next 10 or 15 years,” he said, noting the county is moving into Phase 3 of the water project. “Just getting up to speed on all of the moving parts. It’s pretty daunting.”

Ways & Means passes measures rescinding revenue distribution payments, accepting HCA with Plug Power

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers has yet to hear from government officials in the towns of Darien and Pembroke and Village of Corfu on whether they will be opting in to an updated countywide water supply agreement. But he is sticking to his timeline to enact a new sales tax distribution plan to all municipalities.

Landers, at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, presented a resolution that immediately (when passed by the full legislature) rescinds the county’s annual voluntary distribution payments. It also directs the county treasurer to discontinue all future such payments until further notice.

The measure passed and will be forwarded to the legislature’s next meeting, which is set for July 28.

Landers said the county made the first six monthly distribution payments this year but is changing course going forward – offering municipalities (with a deadline of Aug. 13), the following options:

  • With universal buy-in to revised water supply agreements, accept $10 million annually over the next 38 years, with the amounts per town or village determined by the total assessed property valuation;
  • Without universal buy-in, accept $7 million in annual sales tax distributions and another $3 million in periodic revenue distribution over the next 38 years, minus equalization of water surcharge revenue to those municipalities not opting in.

Currently, Darien, Pembroke and Corfu have not signed the water agreements, although their town and village boards have scheduled meetings over the next couple weeks.

“The towns and villages are aware of this resolution (to rescind the agreement that was passed in 2020),” Landers told the committee.

On Monday, a draft of the new sales tax agreement – without any specific dollar amounts filled in -- was sent to the New York State Comptroller’s Office for review.

Landers has set Sept. 14 as the date to send the amended and signed agreement to the Comptroller for formal approval.


In other action, the Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of a resolution to hold a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Old County Courthouse to provide information regarding the application of funding from the Community Development Block Grant COVID-19 Response program in the amount of $1 million.

Landers explained that the money is targeted for assistance to small businesses in the county, those with 25 or fewer employees.

He said the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corp. will help facilitate the money, if received, to go toward programs such as job creation, equipment/furnishings for parklet-type outdoor dining locations, personal protective equipment, and air handling measures, telecommuting employment and related initiatives.

“We have 12 months to spend the money from the date of applying,” he said, adding that the GGLDC, Downtown Batavia Improvement District, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and other outlets will be promoting this heavily. “This is money beyond the $11 million that we received from the American Rescue Plan Act, and we still have that.”

Landers said the majority of the funds will be in the form of grants, with some to be allocated as loans.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” he added.


The committee also approved a resolution authorizing the county to enter into a Host Community Agreement with Gateway Hydrogen LLC, also known as Plug Power Inc., of Latham, which is planning to build a green hydrogen production facility at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama.

Landers reported that the county – as long as the proposed project goes through – would receive $366,000 annually for 20 years plus another $147,000 annually from a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement.

“This brings revenue to the county to be used for general operations without having negative tax cap implications as well as giving us the option of how to use it,” he said, adding that it is projected to start on Jan. 1, 2023.

Host Community Agreements or Host Benefit Agreements are legal contracts that benefit both the community and the developer of a project -- stipulating the benefits a developer agrees to fund or furnish, in exchange for community support of a project.

Benefits can include commitments to hire directly from a community, contributions to economic trust funds, local workforce training guarantees and more.

In this case, Landers said some of the funds could go toward a Niagara County connection that would increase the water supply to the northern region of the county, including around the STAMP site.

“This may be able to support the possible connection to Niagara County,” he said. “It’s basically gap water between Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Countywide Water Program.”

He also said he believes the Town of Alabama will be entering into a HCA with Plug Power.

The PILOT agreement will serve to lower the tax cap, which helps reduce the property tax rate, he said.

Previously: Genesee County leaders present plans to distribute $10 million in sales tax/other revenue to towns and villages

County Building II to get cell phone reception booster from Verizon -- and the price is right

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County’s new Information Technology director made a favorable impression upon county legislators at Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting when he presented a resolution that came with a zero financial impact.

Batavian Michael Burns, (photo at right), who began employment with the county on May 24 after more than 20 years at the Rochester Institute of Technology, requested that lawmakers approve acceptance of a cell phone booster that will improve reception at County Building II on West Main Street Road.

The booster is being provided at no charge by Verizon Wireless, which has an agreement with the county for installation, maintenance and operation of the in-building coverage system.

It was Burns’ first request of legislators, who forwarded the resolution to next week’s meeting of the full board.

Burns thanked legislators for the opportunity to work in his hometown and was welcomed by Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, who voiced her pleasure that his initial resolution didn’t cost the county any money.

Previously (feature story on Burns from April 30): Batavia resident accepts Genesee County information technology director position after long career at RIT

In other action, the committee:

  • Approved using $21,250 from the 1 percent sales and use tax reserve to purchase body cameras, docking stations and annual licenses for road patrol for the Sheriff’s Office. Apparently, the request was made last year but was not transferred to the county’s 2021 budget.
  • Accepted a grant for $50,099 from the state Department of Health and Health Research Inc. for the county’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program, starting on July 1 and extending through June 30.

Legislative committee sets public hearing for June 23 to integrate Code of Ethics, Financial Disclosure Statement

By Mike Pettinella

While more of a “behind the scenes” aspect of municipal government, a Code of Ethics and Annual Financial Disclosure Statement are essential in educating public employees and public servants of expected standards of conduct and potential conflicts of interest.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon, following the lead of County Attorney Kevin Earl, took a step toward unifying its Code of Ethics by setting a public hearing on Local Law Introductory No. 2, Year 2021, to repeal and replace the county’s current Ethics and Disclosure Law.

The public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 23 during a meeting of the full legislature at the Old County Courthouse.

Earl said this measure is being taken not because the current Code of Ethics is inadequate but to merge the various aspects of the code into one document.

“Currently, the Ethics Law and the Annual Financial Disclosure Statement came about in a Local Law in 1990,” Earl said. “The Local Law was amended two times by other Local Laws (in 1991 and 1992), so one of the problems is that when you want to find out what’s current, you have to toggle – go back and forth – between three Local Laws, which makes it difficult.

“So, the main purpose of this is to put everything in one Local Law; everything is right there and you can see everything in one place.”

Earl said that he updated some of the language in the code and disclosure statement, basing the county document on the New York State Comptroller’s Office model ethics code.

“We almost quoted it word for word – except for items that apply specifically to Genesee County,” he said.

According to General Municipal Law, officers and employees of a municipality are prohibited from having certain conflicts of interest, and each municipality is required to adopt a Code of Ethics covering disclosure of interests in legislation before the local governing body, holding of investments in conflict with official duties, private employment in conflict with official duties, future employment, and such other applicable standards.

The Genesee County Code of Ethics and Annual Financial Disclosure Statement, which must be filled out annually by designated county employees and members of specific boards and committees. Approximately 125 people currently are required to adhere to the code and submit the financial statement.

Sections of the updated document include:

  • Repeal and Replace. Local Law Introductory No. 2, Year 2021, would repeal and replace the original code and the ensuing amendments;
  • Code of Ethics. This is the section that spells out requirements for county employees and appointees, and includes: term definitions; applicability; prohibition of using a municipal position for personal or private gain; disclosure of potential conflict of interest; procedure for recusal or abstention; investments and/or private employment in conflict with official duties; future employment; personal representation; use of municipal resources; interest in contracts; nepotism; confidential information and gifts.
  • Board of Ethics. This defines the committee that is appointed by the County Legislature and will render advisory opinions to officers and employees with respect to the General Municipal Law governing any Code of Ethics.
  • Financial Disclosure and Annual Statements of Disclosure. This section defines the terms used and reporting categories along with the procedures and key dates for filing the annual statements with the Clerk of the Legislature.
  • Whistleblower Protections. This part indicates the county’s prohibition of illegal or unethical activity, and safeguards any employee who reports such activity from being discharged, discriminated against or from being subject to retaliation.
  • Penalties. Anyone making false statements can be fined, disciplined or discharged from their duties, but an appeals process that brings in the Board of Ethics is in place.
  • Effective Date. The new Local Law shall take effect upon proper filing with the Office of the Secretary of State.

In another development, County Manager Matt Landers reported that the county has received the first half of its $11.1 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The exact total going into the county coffers is $5,562,984.50. The second half will be distributed in 12 months.

Previously: Landers outlines four areas to use ARPA funds, says plan to spend $11.1 million is on the drawing board

Genesee County's vexillologist updates legislative committee on status of flag design contest

By Mike Pettinella

As a vexillologist since childhood, Genesee County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari knows more than a thing or two about how flags should look.

He shared some of his knowledge on the study of flags earlier this week during a discussion with the county’s Ways & Means Committee about the progress of a public contest to find a replacement for the current Genesee County flag – a blue banner that features the county seal in the middle with the words Genesee County above and Founded 1802 below in block letters.

“One of the no-no’s for flags is never to put words on them,” Oltramari said, admitting the county flag has ruffled his feathers to a certain degree. “Flags are symbols, and they’re not supposed to say things. Especially when they’re flying … you really can’t read them so it makes no sense.”

Oltramari said he became hooked on flags since his elementary school days after seeing pictures of them on the inside cover of a dictionary.

“I’ve been a flag bearer all my life,” he said. “I memorized them and to this day, I’m very good. I like going to GCC, where all the flags are hanging … and I can name them all. It’s fun.”

He explained to the committee that the international and national vexillology associations took their name from the word vexillum, which is Latin for the flag-like object used as a military standard by units in the ancient Roman Army.

When the county embarked on a comprehensive plan update and the Genesee 2050 project associated with it, Oltramari took that as an opportunity to get citizens involved by holding a design contest to update the flag – with categories for adults and children.

Online voting on the five finalists in each division ended on April 30 – resulting in first-place designs pending approval by the legislature before results are released to the public. Oltramari said using the county seal on the new flag is allowed.

Should the designs receiving the most votes move forward (and that is uncertain at this point), Oltramari suggested drafting a commendation and making a presentation to the children’s category winner.

He also thought it would be proper to make the children’s flag the official county flag for a day and fly it outside.

“After that, it would be put in the Genesee County History Department as a display,” he said. “It would be an extra cost to have that flag printed but I thought it would be a nice gesture.”

According to a press release from the county about the flag contest, those who voted online have a chance to win free shelter reservations at DeWitt Recreation Area and the Genesee County Park & Forest for the upcoming season.

Voters were automatically entered into the drawing by voting for one of the flag designs and by filling out any of the Genesee 2050 surveys. The more surveys someone completed, the more chances that person had to win.

To see pictures of the five finalists in both categories, click on the Previously link.

Previously: Vote for a new Genesee County Flag -- one created by an adult AND one by a child

Legislative committee approves $50K more to GCC, sets budget public hearing for June 9

By Mike Pettinella

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon approved a $50,000 increase in the county’s sponsorship of Genesee Community College – raising the amount for 2021-22 to more than $2.6 million – and set a public hearing on the two-year college’s $37.4 million budget for 5:30 p.m. June 9 at the Old County Courthouse.

GCC President James Sunser reported that the budget, which takes effect on Sept. 1, is $700,000 less than the current year spending plan, attributing the decrease in cost savings due to a five-step plan that was put into place in March 2020.

Aid from New York State will decline as well based on the formula provided to the college, Sunser said.

“It goes down to $9,736,511 based on 98 percent of prior year actual,” he said. “The college is also asking the county to consider a $50,000 increase in their … contribution. That increase in sponsorship would bring the county to $2,686,374 or 7.2 percent of the total budget.”

Sunser said the budget calls for a $100 per semester tuition increase for full-time students, $5 per credit hour increase for part-time students and $1 per credit hour for Accelerated College Entrance students.

He also noted that the college’s charge-back rate to counties outside of Genesee would decrease.

“The increase in the county’s sponsorship helps us to minimize that reduction by a bit – so that does have an effect on charges to other counties as well,” he said, adding that the college makes about $500,000 in other income (prior year recoveries, investments, etc.) but will be using almost $1.9 million in reserves to balance its budget.

Concerning the use of available funds, Sunser said the objective “would be to get that down to zero usage throughout the year through a combination of things like salary savings, better than anticipated contract costs, utility bills – things of that nature.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked if money from the American Rescue Plan was available for colleges.

Sunser replied that up to $2 million could be heading to GCC, but half of that would go directly to students and the other half would be for COVID-19-related expenses going forward.

If the college does get that federal funding, Sunser said it would be used for Zoom videoconferencing technology in all classrooms and maintenance projects at the campus.

“We would be outfitting all of our classrooms so that we can do Zoom technology to and from – not only to people’s homes but to the other six campus centers as well,” he said.

Sunser pointed out that GCC has reduced its budget by $4 million over the last two years and is down about 34 full-time positions “through a combination of voluntary retirements, natural turnover and then some folks that we had to retrench to make the budget work.”

In the end, Stein said she was on board with the additional $50,000.

“All of our costs are going up, regardless of what we do,” she said. “If we continue to short or say no, someday we’re going to have to pay the piper. And I know when we came on the legislature, it was a $250,000 jump in one year, and that was really difficult.

"So, understanding the costs going forward and the fact that they reduced their budget to the amount that they have, meeting in the middle is a good place for us to be here in Genesee.”

Upon approval by the full legislature following the public hearing, the sponsorship of $2,686,374 for the 2021-22 fiscal year would be included in the county tax levy for 2021.

Former Coroner Compensated

In other action, the committee supported “discretionary compensation” in the amount of $1,369 to former Genesee County Coroner Jeff McIntire for time spent on the job following the airplane crash in October 2020 in the Town of Pembroke that claimed the lives of attorneys Steven Barnes and Elizabeth Barnes.

Previously, the legislature passed a local law giving them authority to provide additional compensation in catastrophic events.

County Manager Matt Landers said that McIntire, who since has relocated to Florida, lost about 80 full-time employment hours while taking part in the long investigation of the crash,

Previously: Genesee Community College eliminates six, doesn't renew seven full-time positions

County, deputy sheriffs' union agree to contract through 2023; mortgage tax distribution hits new high

By Mike Pettinella

Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon voted in favor of a four-year contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, with the Genesee County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association that calls for between 2 and 2 ½ percent annual pay raises.

Terms of the pact include salary increases of 2 percent for both 2020 and 2021, 2.25 percent for 2022, and 2.5 percent for 2023.

Additionally, according to County Manager Matt Landers, deputies will pay slightly more toward the employee share of health insurance premiums but will receive slightly more for the uniform allowance.

Landers said that it was his understanding that the contract passed overwhelmingly in a vote by the union membership, which consists of road patrol deputies, investigators and school resource officers.

A telephone call to Union President John Baiocco was not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

“The contract has expired, so hopefully in the future we can put ourselves in a position to have a contract settled without having any period where there is an expired contract,” Landers said. “That’s my personal goal as county manager and I’m going to work very hard to accomplish that. In this case, COVID threw everything for a loop. This is an atypical contract. I don’t expect the next contract to have a year and half expired before we ratify a new one.”

Landers said Sheriff William Sheron “hammered out directly with the union some things that are more procedural, but as far as monetary terms, we pretty much got that done with both sides agreeing that it is fair.”

Per the resolution, funds to cover contract costs were budgeted in the county’s contingency account.

Landers said that due to vacant positions in the Sheriff’s Office, funds are available to cover a portion of the increase. The total transfer from contingency is $116,199.

Mortgage Tax Distribution Increases

In other action, the committee approved a resolution authorizing County Treasurer Scott German to distribute the first of two mortgage tax payments for 2021 to the City of Batavia and the county’s towns and villages.

The amount to be allocated, $465,343.03, is more than $75,000 higher than the first payment in 2020 and $200,000+ more than the first payment in 2019.

County Clerk Michael Cianfrini said he attributes the increase to the robust housing market.

“It’s probably a combination of the economy improving so you’re seeing more house purchases than you’ve seen in recent years,” he said. “My speculation is that it is due to the fact that housing prices have gone up so much, and the mortgages that people are taking out on the houses are significantly higher than recent years.”

The amount of the mortgage tax distributions are as follows:

  • City of Batavia -- $81,520.65;
  • Town of Alabama -- $12,378.68;
  • Town of Alexander -- $19,562.53;
  • Town of Batavia -- $80,877.17;
  • Town of Bergen -- $24,236.58;
  • Town of Bethany -- $14,662.19;
  • Town of Byron -- $21,697.85;
  • Town of Darien -- $37,676.58;
  • Town of Elba -- $11,478.03;
  • Town of Le Roy -- $43,476.29;
  • Town of Oakfield -- $13,307.92;
  • Town of Pavilion -- $13,335.52;
  • Town of Pembroke -- $44,538.34;
  • Town of Stafford -- $21,776.79;
  • Village of Alexander -- $2,014.82;
  • Village of Attica -- $708.96;
  • Village of Bergen -- $3,348.50;
  • Village of Corfu -- $2,696.30
  • Village of Elba -- $1,418.78;
  • Village of Le Roy -- $12,577.40;
  • Village of Oakfield -- $2,055.15;

The committee also recommended the reappointment of Matt Gray, of Batavia, owner of Eli Fish Brewing Co., to the Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center effective July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2027.

All of the Ways & Means Committee action will be forwarded to the full county legislature at its May 12 meeting.

Reallocation of funds moves Genesee's public safety communications tower project forward

By Mike Pettinella

The director of Emergency Communications for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office is getting his ducks in a row, calling upon the Genesee County Legislature to appropriate funds to advance a public safety capital project that includes the building of a communications tower on Molasses Hill Road in the Town of Attica.

Speaking at the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting Wednesday, Steven Sharpe presented a resolution that calls for the reallocation of $301,835.67 in unexpended funds and unanticipated revenue to the public safety communications tower project.

“As we are building the tower on Molasses Hill Road, which is just over the Wyoming County line, we’d like to move money from the original capital project for the radio system that was created in 2013, and move the balance of funds from that 2013 capital project into the more recent public safety communications tower project,” Sharpe said.

He indicated that the Molasses Hill site will fill “a dramatic hole that we’ve had since we put the 800-megahertz system back in in 1991 as we’ve always had problems along Route 98 and along Route 238 going into Attica.”

Sharpe said a settlement involving Nextel has resulted in an additional $255,243.86 in unanticipated revenue coming into the county. The resolution also includes the sum of $46,591.81 that has yet to be spent from the 2020 communications operational budget and the 2013 800-megahertz radio upgrade capital project.

The Ways & Means Committee approved the measure, which now goes before the entire legislative body on Wednesday.

Sharpe said the total cost of the project is $1.9 million, which is about $200,000 more than what is currently in the capital project budget. But, he added, that he is waiting to hear about funding from the Statewide Interoperability Communications Grant program and that the $1.9 million figure includes “some contingencies in case we run into something that we don’t expect.”

“Right now, this allows us to make sure we’re paying the bills until that next round of money comes in, and once we have that money we will reimburse against it,” he explained, adding that grants will cover most of the project cost.

When asked about the timeline of the Molasses Hill work, Sharpe said language is in the contract to have the tower connected to the radio system network by April 30.

“They have to have the microwave equipment completely done by August 6th and we’re hoping that once they’re connected to Darien and we’re talking to the network, we’re going to start optimization in May or June,” he said. “We’re looking at doing coverage analysis in June and July so we have full coverage of the trees, make any adjustments in August and final acceptance, hopefully, in September …”’

The committee approved a second resolution that authorizes amending a “zero dollar” lease agreement with American Tower Asset Sub LLC, of Woburn, Mass., to upgrade the public safety radio system equipment on a tower on South Lake Road in Pavilion.

Sharpe said this is necessary because the Cedar Street (Batavia) tower is overloaded.

The County is changing its originally planned microwave link from Darien to Molasses Hill to Cedar, which would have reused an existing microwave link.

“Instead what we’re doing now is going from Darien to Molasses Hill to Pavilion,” he said. “What that does is allows us to have a parallel path for our radio system, and in the future as we have to do any work or upgrade or replace the Cedar Street, we won’t have to take the whole network down and we’ll still have a parallel path.”

He said the lease agreement gives the county greater flexibility.

“Back in 1998, the town and the county had the wisdom, as far as zoning rules, to negotiate for free access for our equipment on that tower. There are some minor costs, such as structural analysis and if we have to change the tension on those guy wires,” he said.

Sharpe said there are nine towers in Genesee County, one in Albion that connects to the Orleans County system and one in Chili that connects to the Monroe County system.

“Verizon just built a tower on Hundredmark Road in the Town of Elba, so that might be a future site, which would give us 10 sites within the county that are transmit sites to go along with our two dispatch centers at 14 West Main Street in the city and one at the dispatch center on Park Road,” he said.

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