Local Matters

Community Sponsors

Ways & Means Committee

July 21, 2021 - 6:48pm

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.

SHOOTING FOR A $1 MILLION GRANT

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.

HCA WITH PLUG POWER IN THE WORKS

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

June 3, 2021 - 9:34am

burns_1.jpgGenesee 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.
June 2, 2021 - 8:14pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Ways & Means Committee, Code of Ethics, genesee county.

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

May 23, 2021 - 2:47pm

county_flag.gifAs 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

May 19, 2021 - 7:02pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Genesee Community College, Ways & Means Committee.

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

May 5, 2021 - 5:17pm

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.

March 5, 2021 - 10:57am

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.

March 3, 2021 - 9:29pm

At the suggestion of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s tourism staff and Airbnb officials, County Attorney Kevin Earl and Manager Matt Landers today led a discussion about changing a local law to impose a “bed tax” on residents who rent out their homes on a limited basis.

Speaking at the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, Earl said he is communicating with representatives of Airbnb, the popular vacation rental online company that helps (for a commission) homeowners arrange lodging for tourists.

His proposal, if supported by the legislature, would generate additional income for the Chamber to run its tourism operations.

“First of all, the Airbnb proposed agreement applies to occupancy taxes – bed taxes as we call them … and the second thing is the important discussion we have to have (because as of now) our law has an exemption for under six units,” Earl advised.

The attorney said a house being rented out for travelers would be considered as one unit.

“So, we would have to have the consent to go ahead and change that to allow the law to apply for under six units,” he said. “Number three is a corollary of that, if we do that, we want to make sure that if somebody rents their house or apartment for a couple days, a couple weekends or one week, that they don’t have to go through all of the process (of) collecting and enumerating bed tax to the county.”

Less Than Six Units, More Than 10 Nights

He then suggested changing the law so that it would apply to less than six units, but only under circumstances when they are rented for more than 10 nights during an entire calendar year.

By modifying existing law, the 3 percent bed tax currently in place for motels and hotels would also be charged to the rental units (homes, apartments and even the small structures at campgrounds).

The hotel adds this charge to the customer’s bill (which also includes an 8 percent sales tax) and remits this occupancy tax payment on a quarterly basis to County Treasurer Scott German, who then appropriates it to the Chamber for tourism purposes.

A nickel of each dollar generated is kept by the county as an administration fee and the remaining 95 cents goes to the Chamber..

Landers said the proposal “has been expressed to us as a matter of fairness because this is something that would even the playing field. Hoteliers have to pay this and (there are) people who are utilizing Airbnb services throughout our county.”

He also mentioned that he did a “quick search” a couple summers ago and found that there were 28 of the Airbnb-variety units in the county, giving him reason to believe a change in the law would be warranted.

“If there was one or two, maybe it wouldn’t be worthwhile but there is enough out there and something that our Chamber of Commerce has expressed interest in exploring,” he said.

He reported that Airbnb has similar contracts with other New York counties.

Landers: Looking for a Consensus

“Kevin and I didn’t want to go through the process of making all these changes – it’s a policy change – if the legislature didn’t have the desire to go forward with these changes,” Landers said. “We can come back again in the future with actual recommended changes of the local law and go to a public hearing … if there is a consensus.”

Legislator Gary Maha asked Landers if he has an estimate of the amount of revenue that would be realized by such a change. The county manager said he did not, referring back to the 28 units he identified a couple years ago but didn’t have a breakdown of the dollars received.

“It’s nothing that would come to the county … the lion’s share goes directly to the chamber,” he said. “This is an area I think will only grow in the future. Airbnb is getting more households and is easier to deal with, and revenue is probably going to be growing. I can’t tell you an estimate of how big it is right now, but if I had to place a guess, it’s only going to go up.”

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked if the modified local law would have an effect on campsites “where folks have those little houses that folks can rent.”

“If they rent those through Airbnb at a campground will that be impacted? And are campgrounds that have those little chalets, I’ll call them tiny houses, are they already paying a bed tax and a sales tax?”

German responded affirmatively, noting that Darien Lake’s campground has “several of those little huts and they are being taxed at 3 percent.”

Law Would Target Booking Companies

Earl said wording of a new law would have general language that would define Airbnb as well as businesses such as Flipkey, HomeAway and VRBO as booking companies.

“So, this will apply to any that are now known or any in the future. We will make the definition broad enough so that if XYZ company comes in as a booking agent – and even realtors (who) could possibly book houses,” he said.

Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg asked if the new law was implemented, would the Chamber help promote those individuals and companies offering homes for rent by including them in a list available to the general public. Landers said he would expect that to be the case and would share her view with the Chamber staff.

Still, at first sight, she sees the proposal as “more regulation” and said she needs more information before supporting it.

Legislator Christian Yunker asked who is responsible for keeping track of the number of nights and the revenue -- Airbnb or the homeowner?

Landers said that while Airbnb captures the money and remits the funds to the county, individual owners would have to provide a report to the treasurer’s office for reconciliation purposes. Hotels and campgrounds also are subject to that requirement, he added.

Klotzbach contended that Airbnb should be responsible for reporting, but Landers and Earl said the company just wants to pass the money along and is not in favor of a process where individual homeowners’ identities are disclosed.

There's a Cost of Doing Business

At that point, Landers shifted the debate by offering to change the time period.

“Instead of 10 days, if we really want to capture people that do this a lot, then it could be over 30 days or over 60 days,” he said. “I guess at that point you should know if you’re renting a place out for that many days in a row that’s a cost of doing business versus maybe two weeks out of the year, you rent the place out or you’ve got a room that you’re renting out and it’s something you don’t think about.”

He said the county doesn’t seek to be “overly regulatory” but acknowledged the request from the tourism agency “that was hit particularly hard during COVID as a way to capture revenue from people outside of our area to assist with tourism.”

Legislator John Deleo said he didn’t have a problem with someone trying to make some extra money to “keep the water level below their nose” but agreed with Clattenburg that more information is needed before deciding.

Earl said there is no time limit, but is ready to move forward when the legislature approves. Clattenburg then asked Landers and Earl to provide further details while Ways & Means does its own research.

February 17, 2021 - 5:37pm

It looks as though the Genesee County Legislature has found a qualified person to fill the vacant position of county coroner.

Minutes ago, the governing body’s Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of a resolution appointing longtime paramedic Wade Schwab as coroner, effective Feb. 24 through Dec. 31.

The measure will be put on the agenda of next Wednesday’s full legislature meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

One of the four county coroner jobs became open earlier this year upon the resignation of Jeffery McIntire, who moved to Florida.

The resolution follows Section 400 (7) of County Law that stipulates that an appointee shall hold office until Dec. 31 following the first annual election, at which the vacancy can be filled by election. The position will be on the ballot in November for the unexpired term, which carries through Dec. 31, 2023.

Schwab introduced himself to the committee, noting that he has lived in Genesee County for many years and has been a paramedic for about 30 years.

Just recently, he accepted a full-time paid paramedic staff position with Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance in Albion. Before that, he was employed for nearly 20 years with Mercy EMS, climbing to the rank of crew chief of special operations. He also is part of the City of Batavia’s Emergency Response Team.

He told the committee that he has become more interested in the coroner position over the years.

“Back when I was employed by Genesee Memorial Hospital as a medic, we used to have a full-service morgue on premises and did autopsies,” he said. “I’ve got a fairly well-rounded background as far as being able to handle the position as I move into the next chapter of my life, and I greatly appreciate the appointment.”

Schwab joins the county team that also includes Karen Lang, Adam Palumbo and Tom Douglas.

He and his wife, Laurie, live in Alexander with their two German shepherds.

February 3, 2021 - 5:57pm

Whether you call it “refunding” or “refinancing,” Genesee County stands to save a pile of money by consolidating a couple loans and reworking the payment plan.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting via Zoom videoconferencing this afternoon, County Treasurer Scott German said the municipality may have the opportunity to save more than $20,000 in interest costs over the next 13 years.

“It’s called refunding, but for us, regular folks, it’s refinancing,” German said. “We’re going to refinance two of our existing debts.”

The two debts in question, both Public Improvement Serial Bonds, are from 2009 and 2014, totaling $2,050,000 and $4,745,847, respectively.

German said there are four years left on the 2009 debt, but “doing that one by itself wouldn’t be worth it because the cost would be prohibitive.”

So, working with Financial Advisors of Syracuse and the bond counsel firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe of New York City, the county is prepared to put the two loans together and, if interest rates are favorable when the time comes to refinance in September, it could result in a net savings of $263,819.63.

“We technically can’t refinance that until September, so all we’re doing right now is taking care of all the paperwork – getting that out of the way – so when the market looks good in September, we’ll go to market,” he said. “If the rates go up between now and then, we won’t do it. We’ll just pull it.”

Committee members approved a resolution authorizing the debt consolidation with the goal of realizing a savings in interest fees.

In other action, the committee recommended approval of an affiliation agreement with Brockport State College for Rebecca Nigro to participate in and complete an internship that will help her complete her master’s degree in Public Administration.

It was reported that Nigro is in her last semester and is carrying a 3.95 grade-point average.

The college approved the internship as long as the county had someone with a master’s degree to oversee Nigro’s activity. Nigro works for the county, serving as the supervisor/cluster care for the Department of Social Services.

January 8, 2021 - 12:23pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee has agreed to give Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein the authority to sign documents related to the COVID-19 pandemic that need prompt attention without prior formal consent of the full board.

At a meeting via Zoom videoconferencing on Wednesday, Stein referred to a memorandum of understanding from the New York State Health Department that “came very quickly (this week) and in order for Genesee County to receive COVID vaccine this had to be turned around immediately,” she said.

“This is actually on our agenda today as a ratification of my prior signature. This really helps the public health department to keep the process rolling so that Genesee County has the opportunity for that vaccine to be delivered here locally.”

Stein reasoned that while in the pandemic, the county must act quickly and prudently to support the health department.

“So, in consultation with our public health department and our county manager and the county attorney – once having all of their approvals to sign this MOU – I did provide my signature,” she said. “If there are other COVID-related agreements that need to be signed very quickly, such as this, I think that I would feel better as the chair having the weight of the rest of the legislature with me as I take that on.”

Therefore, she asked for the committee’s approval to sign these types of documents, only as they relate to COVID-19.

Committee members were in full agreement, with Ways & Means Chair Marianne Clattenburg noting that she believed Stein already had this authority during emergency situations.

“And she’s not going to sign anything where any funds are expended or anything like that,” Clattenburg added.

The recent MOU with the state DOH to ensure distribution and administration of the vaccine by the Genesee County Health Department was time sensitive, prompting County Attorney Kevin Earl to render an opinion “that under these exigent circumstances to obtain vaccine that is crucial to the health and welfare of Genesee County residents, the Chair could sign the MOU, subject to ratification and approval of the terms and conditions by the full Legislature.”

Legislators Gary Maha, Christian Yunker, John Deleo and Gregg Torrey spoke in favor of the request, with Torrey asking if a formal resolution was needed to put this plan into action.

At that point, Earl said he was first looking for a consensus and then will draft a resolution to be considered at the next full legislature meeting (on Jan. 13).

Legislator Gordon Dibble said he wanted to make sure that the legislature was informed in a “timely fashion” when these situations arise and Stein assured him that would be the case.

Clattenburg, speaking directly to Stein, said lawmakers have “total confidence in you and you’re doing a great job.”

“We want to thank you on behalf of all our citizens for the work that you are doing as the chair. This is something that I know you didn’t anticipate last January,” Clattenburg added.

Stein thanked legislators and county employees for pulling together during some trying times.

“We could not do this without a full team effort and everyone working on behalf of the citizens of Genesee County,” she said. “It really is amazing what you can do when you decide to work together.”

December 3, 2020 - 9:39am

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday recommended distribution of more than $400,000 in mortgage tax revenue to the county’s towns, villages and City of Batavia.

The resolution will be considered by the full legislature on Dec. 9.

County Clerk Michael Cianfrini and Treasurer Scott German reported that $418,882.58 is available to be dispersed to the municipalities as the second such payment in 2020. The amount is about $26,000 more than the second distribution in 2019.

Mortgage tax money per municipality is as follows:

City

Batavia -- $95,905.39

Towns

Alabama -- $11,089.24

Alexander -- $13,616.07

Batavia -- $48,557.18

Bergen -- $30,595.20

Bethany -- $11,101.99

Byron -- $10,696.76

Darien -- $24,213.72

Elba -- $12,788.20

Le Roy -- $54,789.53

Oakfield -- $12,464.24

Pavilion -- $16,056.13

Pembroke -- $29,194.08

Stafford -- $20,570.76

Villages

Alexander -- $1,402.37

Attica -- $493.46

Bergen -- $4,227.01

Elba -- $1,580.73

Le Roy -- $15,850.24

Oakfield -- $1,924.86

Corfu -- $1,765.42

In other action, the committee recommended approval of:

  • Resolutions to recoup delinquent water/sewer accounts and unpaid school and village taxes, which will be added to the 2021 tax levy as permitted by law.

The county will need to relevy $215,266.39 in outstanding water/sewer bills, with more than half of that amount ($142,941.72) from the Town of Batavia.

Other towns affected are Alabama ($6,351.53), Alexander ($1,138.64), Bergen ($1,187.11), Byron ($36,829.40), Darien ($13,504.56), Elba ($2,027.66), Oakfield ($995.45), Pavilion ($9,852.56), Pembroke ($309.31) and Stafford ($128.45).

The county’s share of the total amount collected is $14,082.80.

In 2020, the total was $172,303.13 with $11,272.23 being the county’s share.

Per Real Property Tax law, more than $1.8 million in unpaid school taxes are to be returned to the county for inclusion in the 2021 county and town tax levy.

The amounts not paid range from $429,215.50 in the Town of Le Roy to $66,864.83 in the Town of Bethany, with the Town of Batavia reporting $99,100.70.

The county makes the school districts whole for their portion and retains a 7-percent fee. The 2020 total was $2,265,897.64.

On the village tax side, unpaid taxes to be levied again amount to $164,023.11 – ranging from $137,935.92 in the Village of Le Roy to $601.35 in the Village of Elba.

Again, the county makes the villages whole for their portion and retains a 7-percent fee. The 2020 total was $199,731.83.

  • A resolution to renew a contract with the Genesee County Economic Development Center for 2021 that calls for county support of $233,513 to the agency, the same amount as 2020.

The sum shall be paid in regular installments and is subject to an “out clause” just put into outside agency contracts that gives the county the right to withhold funding in emergency situations.

  • A five-year lease with Genesee County Job Development Bureau for the continued operation of the Genesee County Career Center at the Eastown Plaza in Batavia, effective Feb. 1, at an annual cost of $126,000.

The amount is $9,108 more than the current lease, but there will be no increase in costs to the county since rent payments are covered by grant and fee-for-service funding.

  • A resolution to appoint Kathleen Carlson (Byron-Bergen), Erik Fix (Le Roy/Stafford) and Caris Carlson (youth representative) to the Genesee County Youth Board for terms running from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2023.
November 21, 2020 - 12:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county, Ways & Means Committee.

Genesee County governmental leaders have trimmed the fat from the county’s self-funded employee health benefits plan that has been hit with consecutive years of double-digit premium increases, County Manager Matt Landers said this week.

“I will say that the plan is run lean, believe it or not,” Landers said following a vote of the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee to approve monthly rates for 2021, effective Jan. 1. “There is no healthy reserve fund balance in that fund. We are just covering our costs.”

And the costs to the county are considerable as participants pay an average of 15 percent of the total premium, with the county picking up the other 85 percent.

Genesee County has budgeted $13,994,483 for 2021 for actual claims plus administrative and ancillary costs. Approximately 680 employees of the county and Genesee Community College are enrolled in the plan, with total participation including additional family members at approximately 1,660.

Landers said that medical and prescription drug premium rates are increasing 17.6 percent in 2021, and this is on the heels of a 10-percent increase for 2020.

“While it is painful, we are increasing the premiums as little as possible,” he said. “We’re trying to be mindful of the impact it has departments, on taxpayers and on individuals that are paying these increased premiums through cost sharing.”

He said the goal is to have everyone on the plan pay 15 percent of the total premium – which will be achieved through negotiations with the county’s four unions – and that each county department has a budget for the health care costs for its employees.

“Right now, the average county employee is pretty close to paying 15 percent,” he said.

For an illustration of the cost, an employee signed up under “Family (3 or more)” in the Health and Wellness Plan will pay around $339 per month for that coverage in 2021.

With the total monthly premium set at $2,261, the county is responsible for $1,922 per month.

Landers explained that being self-insured means that all medical and prescription drug bills come directly to the county.

“We’re self-insured, so when a person goes in for a surgery or somebody has a premature baby delivered and stays in the hospital two months, we’re not sending (bills) to Blue Cross & Blue Shield, we are our own self-insured company,” he said. “So, basically the doctor or the hospital … sends a bill to Genesee County for $175,000 and we’re the ones paying that.”

Other monthly rates under the Health and Wellness Plan include Single, $696; 2 Members, $1,391; Retired, single, $696; and Retired, family 3 or more, $2,261. The county also offers dental and vision benefits for both Single and Family.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said management and health plan consultants did their best to keep costs as low as possible.

“We understand that this increase in premiums is necessary, but if you go on to the market, you will see that it is right in line. So, I’m just pleased with this, considering where we are today,” she said.

November 18, 2020 - 6:11pm

Some late changes to the 2021 Genesee County budget require using a bit more of the municipality’s fund balance, but they won’t affect the property tax levy or tax rate, County Manager Matt Landers said this afternoon.

The county legislature’s Ways & Means Committee forwarded resolutions to both amend and adopt the $143,204,679 All Funds spending plan and to finalize the tax levy at its next full meeting on Nov. 23.

Per the resolution, the budget as presented and amended calls for $31,451,727 to be raised by property taxes – an increase of $400,069 from 2020 – and a tax rate of $9.80 per thousand of assessed value.

Landers said that $2,407,767 is being appropriated from the fund balance to help get the tax rate to that figure, which is 31 cents less than the 2020 tax rate. The fund balance amount is $607,732 more than what was allocated in 2020.

The county’s General Fund budget figure is at $110,276,137.

Landers mentioned the major changes to the budget, which were implemented after a final review by management and departmental leaders.

“Most of the budget changes are due to a recent contract settlement with our AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL–CIO) union, which represents the highway and facilities management employees,” he said. “My proposed budget had the costs sitting in the contingency account, but since we settled the contract we are going to move the funds into the appropriate departmental lines.”

Landers said that some costs in the mental health budget were under-budgeted as officials attempted to gauge the decrease in reimbursements from New York State. Additionally, changes were made on both the revenue and expense side in the public defender’s office in light of the county’s five-year plan.

“We are utilizing additional fund balance in the 2021 budget to cover this. The changes don’t impact the tax levy or the tax rate at all,” he reported.

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg thanked Landers and his team for conducting “a very smooth budget process considering the times that we’re in.”

“I appreciate the give-and-take from everyone and I think we did a good job with this budget,” she said.

The committee also set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 on a local law to approve the salaries of county officers who are elected or appointed for a fix term in accordance with a section of the Municipal Home Rule Law.

The salaries of these officers, which will take effect Jan. 1, are as follows:

  • Commissioner of Elections (2) -- $49,761;
  • Highway Superintendent -- $115,110;
  • Director of Real Property Tax Services -- $66,385;
  • Director of Human Resources -- $80,050;
  • Commissioner of Social Services -- $89,319;
  • Public Defender -- $103,453;
  • County Attorney -- $127,845;
  • County Clerk -- $97,862.

In another development, the committee reappointed Richard Siebert of Stafford as Genesee County Republican Election Commissioner for a three-year term, effective Jan. 1.

Legislators commended Siebert, Democratic Election Commissioner Lorie Longhany and all those who worked during the recent election for a job well done as they dealt with several changes to the system while adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

November 6, 2020 - 1:13pm

Employees of the Genesee County’s Central Services department, while not in the public spotlight, are worthy of recognition for their efforts to keep municipal buildings clean and control costs related to purchasing, printing and mailing, the county’s purchasing director said earlier this week.

“This year our main focus was on the safety and health component,” said Eve Hens during her department review at the County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

Hens said a heightened emphasis was placed upon the physical safety of the custodial crew, making sure that all practices complied with Center for Disease Control and Department of Health guidelines. Those included the purchase of nontoxic cleaning supplies throughout all the facilities and three electrostatic cleaners to meet COVID-19 standards.

“(The custodial staff) maintained communication with building occupants throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to coordinate increased cleaning and sanitation practices as required,” Hens reported, noting that custodians maintained and cleaned 36,000 square feet per full-time equivalent (position) for most of 2020 – more than the industry standard of 28,000 square feet per FTE.

Hens said the department met its objectives of reducing expenses and staying within budgets for purchasing, ensuring that officials were properly trained to follow purchasing policy and procedure, operating in a safe and secure manner, and striving to improve efficiency in all areas.

“We continue to provide top level customer service both internally (for county employees) and externally (for the public),” she said, reporting that the cleaning staff received a 90-percent rating via a survey of county employees.

In the area of purchasing, Hens said a “paperless” office was created to save money, specifically transferring paper documents to computer storage, which is safer as well.

Through the use of P-Cards for vendor invoicing, the department will save $77,500 this year, she said, significant in light of reduced transactions due to COVID-19.

Hens said mail room/print shop activities were “a bit of a challenge at 50-percent staffing” (due to furloughs), but her staff continues to perform courier service to all 12 county buildings, plus the Town of Batavia offices, City of Batavia Police Department and Premier Genesee Nursing Home (on behalf of the Department of Social Services).

A contract with IMS Inc., of Liverpool, a data and mail services company, enables the county to receive a reduced postage rate for first-class unsorted mail.

The county is expected to spend about $51,000 in mail costs this year, a decrease of $12,000 from 2019 and less than the “benchmark” figure of $60,000, Hens reported.

October 8, 2020 - 8:29am

After a trying, stressful and – ultimately – successful time managing the Primary and Special Elections in June, Genesee County Board of Elections commissioners say they are reenergized and ready to tackle the national Election Day next month.

“We are full staff now and we’re prepared as we can be for the big one,” said Republican Commissioner Richard Siebert on Wednesday afternoon during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee at the Old County Courthouse.

Siebert and Democratic Commissioner Lorie Longhany recapped their efforts during the June 23 Primary and Special Elections for the 27th Congressional District prior to outlining plans for the Nov. 3 general election.

Calling it a “year like we have never experienced before,” the officials stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing guidelines from Albany made it very difficult for their team of poll workers, inspectors and technicians.

Beyond the state-mandated coronavirus health and safety protocols that were put into place at 24 polling sites, the local election office had to send out 40,000 absentee ballot applications – paying for printing and postage both ways.

“It was a big expense to the county,” Siebert said.

The commissioners reported their deputies “worked tirelessly and seamlessly to navigate through each Executive Order, delegate job duties to various county employees who helped with the large volume of election mail and to run point on every aspect of this most difficult election, including post-election absentee ballot counting.”

Siebert said the technicians charged with preparing the ballots had to program the electronic voting machines for six elections. Unable to meet strict deadlines and without scannable absentee ballots, staff had to hand count approximately 5,000 ballots.

Longhany noted that the teamwork of election workers on both sides of the political aisle and the assistance of Genesee County employees – led by County Manager Matt Landers and Human Resources Director Anita Cleveland – enabled the Board of Election to fulfill its duties and provide all the opportunity to vote without unreasonable wait times.

“We received a great deal of help from around the county,” she said. “It showed how cooperation is the name of the game for us.”

Siebert said the four complaints they received were addressed “and satisfied with explanation,” while Longhany added that an issue at the 400 Towers senior apartment building at East Main and Swan streets has been rectified.

“With the COVID and (having a senior population), they didn’t want us there, but they’ve come back on line with us for the general election,” she said.

Both officials said they are prepared for around an 80-percent turnout of the county’s 37,000 eligible voters for the November election.

They reported that 4,000 absentee ballot requests have been processed thus far, and that training is ongoing for 200 poll workers to use new electronic poll books in addition to their other duties.

Siebert said the electronic poll books are advantageous in that “it will tell us if a person has already voted.”

Additionally, Longhany said the absentee ballots for the coming election will be scannable – enabling workers to count the 6,000 to 7,000 they expect to receive in a timely fashion.

In summary, the commissioners thanked the legislature for its support -- both financially and by providing volunteer hours -- to ensure voters have the opportunity to “exercise their rights and feel confident in the integrity of our system.”

In a related development, the Ways & Means Committee forwarded a pair of resolutions concerning “chargebacks” to the county’s 13 towns and the City of Batavia stemming from costs incurred during elections in 2019.

The first authorizes the county treasurer to bill the municipalities for $7,794 in charges for expenses during the early voting period of Oct. 26-Nov. 5, 2019. Those charges range from $233 in the Town of Bethany to $1,817 in the City of Batavia.

The second allows the county treasurer to bill the towns and city for $54,785 in charges related to training and per diem fees for poll workers, inspectors and coordinators during the local primary (June 25, 2019) and general election (Nov. 5, 2019). Those charges range from $1,470 in the Town of Pavilion to $19,450 in the City of Batavia.

Landers said the county’s real property department will notify all the municipalities of the charges this year with the expectation that the county treasurer will bill and collect what is owed in 2021.

August 20, 2020 - 8:29am

Genesee County is preparing statements totaling nearly $100,000 for assessment services provided to towns and the City of Batavia in 2019.

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday approved a resolution authorizing Kevin Andrews, director of real property tax services, to bill the municipalities for assessment rolls, tax rolls, tax bills, supplies, and assessment updates that were provided by the county in the previous fiscal year.

These “charge-backs” amount to $87,477 in services rendered and another $10,950 in licensing fees charged by New York State for specialized software “that assessors use to keep track of their assessment inventory and that we use to then produce assessment rolls, tax bills and tax rolls,” Andrews said.

Bills will be mailed to the towns and city in January, with the expense applied to their 2021 budgets, Andrews added.

The charge-backs and fees range from $3,336.83 for 1,107 parcels in the Town of Bethany to $17,715.23 for 5,531 parcels in the City of Batavia. The total number of parcels assessed was 29,159.

In another development, the committee authorized the appointment of Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer as the administration officer and to act as the Genesee County STOP DWI coordinator for the Genesee County STOP DWI Advisory Board.

The committee approved the following referrals from Monday’s Public Service Committee meeting:

  • A consultant agreement with CPL Team of Rochester in an amount not to exceed $80,000 to develop Well C of the City of Batavia’s well fields on Cedar Street to increase the water supply during times of high creek water turbidity or during times of low groundwater that negatively impact Well A or Well B.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said Well C could produce up to a million gallons of water per day – “almost as productive as Well A and B.” He said the emergency water situation in July prompted a meeting with city officials to expedite action to make Well C a viable option.

Hens estimated the total cost for construction, including cleaning, screening and re-casing the well, at $200,000 to $300,000.

  • A change-order contract for $8,682.50 with Suburban Electric in Albion to install Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol communication controls and fuel pressure sensors for backup generators at pump stations in Churchville and Mumford.

The pump stations are being constructed at those locations as part of Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program.

Hens said the change order was necessary so that the Monroe County Water Authority can monitor the generators remotely during emergencies.  The change order increases the total cost of the contract to $767,682.50.

  • The appointment of Candace Hensel of Byron to the Genesee County Planning Board for a three-year term effective through May 31, 2023. Hensel owns the Byron Hotel and Trailhouse.
August 19, 2020 - 1:08pm

The Genesee County Legislature is preparing to make another round of voluntary payments – the third such distribution this year – to towns and villages.

Later this afternoon, the legislature’s Ways & Means Committee is expected to put its stamp of approval on a resolution to appropriate $2 million to 19 municipalities in the county.

These voluntary distributions became a lightning rod for debate among town and village administrators in late March after the county decided to suspend payments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect upon its revenue stream.

The legislature did authorize voluntary distribution payments to towns and villages on April 24 ($3.025 million) and on July 22 ($1.1 million).

County Manager Matt Landers said that the April distribution was money “originally planned, pre-COVID” while the July payment was made and the proposed current distribution will be made after “month-by-month reviews, recommendations and decisions going forward.”

The latest proposed payments (subject to a vote by the full legislature on Aug. 26) are as follows:

  • Town of Alabama -- $79,106;
  • Town of Alexander -- $81,708;
  • Town of Batavia -- $341,998;
  • Town of Bergen -- $98,996;
  • Town of Bethany -- $82,082;
  • Town of Byron -- $94,960;
  • Town of Darien -- $197,872;
  • Town of Elba -- $73,874;
  • Town of Le Roy -- $165,332;
  • Town of Oakfield -- $61,130;
  • Town of Pavilion -- $109,162;
  • Town of Pembroke -- $200,050;
  • Town of Stafford -- $126,390;
  • Village of Alexander -- $14,732;
  • Village of Bergen -- $37,864;
  • Village of Corfu -- $26,846;
  • Village of Elba -- $21,500;
  • Village of Le Roy -- $145,194;
  • Village of Oakfield -- $41,204;
  • Total Distribution -- $2,000,000.
July 19, 2020 - 6:35pm

Whether you call it cooperation, consolidation or collaboration, the concept of municipalities engaging in shared services agreements likely will become a hot ticket item as time goes on.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said he believes New York State leaders increasingly will look favorably upon counties, cities, towns and villages that pool their resources toward a goal of more efficient government.

And in this period of COVID-19 -- the cause of game-changing reductions in revenues, Gsell agrees that sharing services are more crucial than ever.

“Realistically, yes, I think they are -- at least to have that kind of notification back to the state that here are the things we’re considering,” he said, following the submission of the county’s 2019 shared services plan to the Genesee County Legislature for possible adoption this week.

Currently, Genesee County is contemplating shared services opportunities in the areas of criminal justice/law enforcement, water systems, weights and measures, procurement and real property assessment with its partner municipalities as well as neighboring counties.

After the county held three public hearings as required by law, its Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of the plan, which, upon approval, would be forwarded to the Department of State, Genesee Association of Municipalities and eight local school districts.

The resolution is on the agenda of the full legislature's meeting this Wednesday.

Gsell said this is the county’s second shared services proposal in accordance with the state’s “soft mandate” (the first was submitted in 2018).

The new plan prioritizes two projects: county assistance with the City of Batavia’s upgraded water system and a joint Genesee/Orleans county jail to replace the current jail on West Main Street.

He said that he sees these two ventures as prime candidates for state funding under the shared services program – as long as funding continues to be made available.

“By helping the City improve its water system – which it already is addressing in the areas of lead services and new water meters -- it can revert to retail,” Gsell said. “With that in place, we can help make sure that all the rates across the county are uniform.”

As far as building a new jail, Gsell said Genesee County has a designed facility (near County Building 2 on West Main Street Road) ready to go out to bid, but is on a temporary pause due to the coronavirus.

“One of us builds it, the other one hosts their inmates and we have a longstanding funding agreement to do that,” he said.

Gsell said the state needs to get on board to make it work.

“The state, itself, needs to be engaged and involved and make the changes to state statute,” he said. “So, we’ll put that on their radar screen.”

He said officials from both counties have talked to people in the governor’s office in Albany about moving the shared services agreement forward.

“We’ve told them that we’re thinking about this (and said) are you people going to be more than just standing on the sidelines or will you be progressive with us, when and if it gets put into a state budget?” he said.

Gsell said that the jail project was in the governor’s budget at one point but was left out when the 2020-21 final state budget was adopted.

“But that doesn’t mean it is a dead issue … it’s something that our two counties think is at least something to do more than just kick the tires on,” he said.

He added that this type of a “significant first-of-its-kind in the State of New York venture might also attract some funding to actually make it happen.”

The shared services plan also includes school resource officers.

At the present time, the county supports a police presence at Alexander, Byron-Bergen, Pavilion, Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (Board of Cooperative Educational Services -- BOCES). Le Roy and Batavia school districts have SRO (School Resource Officer) agreements outside of the scope of the county.

“With SROs, some of the schools may not have a physical presence the way it has been in the past, so where does the SRO go in the future?” he asked. “We believe that it is pretty vital in the day-to-day function of a school system, but it may not be afforded. As schools continue to utilize SROs, it could be done as part of the state’s shared services program.”

July 15, 2020 - 5:20pm

Update: 7:45 p.m. with comments from Rochelle Stein, County Legislature chair

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon approved $1.1 million in voluntary distributions to the county’s towns and villages.

The measure will now go to the full legislature for final approval at next Wednesday’s meeting at the Old County Courthouse.

According to the resolution, the payments are being made “in good faith” despite “the unprecedented financial constraints that Genesee County faces in determining a voluntary distribution.”

The amount of the payments, which are based upon taxable assessed valuation, are as follows:

  • Town of Alabama, $43,508.30;
  • Town of Alexander, $44,939.40;
  • Town of Batavia, $188,098.90;
  • Town of Bergen, $54,447.80;
  • Town of Bethany, $45,145.10;
  • Town of Byron, $52,228.00;
  • Town of Darien, $108,829.60;
  • Town of Elba, $40,630.70;
  • Town of Le Roy, $90,932.60;
  • Town of Oakfield, $33,621.50;
  • Town of Pavilion, $60,039.10;
  • Town of Pembroke, $110,027.50;
  • Town of Stafford, $69,514.50;
  • Village of Alexander, $8,102.60;
  • Village of Bergen, $20,825.20;
  • Village of Corfu, $14,765.30;
  • Village of Elba, $11,825.00;
  • Village of Le Roy, $79,856.70;
  • Village of Oakfield, $22,662.20.

"This proves that we are being true to our commitment that there is an intention to share when we gain information," Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said. "We said that there are four things that we have to understand before we can send out any distribution, and we learned one of them -- sales tax and other revenue that has or hasn't been adjusted by the state. That is so important."

Stein said the total of $1.1 million is "a step in the right direction," especially in light of the fact that state aid for the county's mental health services, highway improvement fund and video lottery terminal revenue each were cut by 20 percent.

"We've asked the town and village leaders every Saturday to stick with us and have patience," she said. "We can make a better decision when we have facts. We are holding up to our word and we are doing what we can, when we can."

Stein, in late March, advised town and village leaders that the county couldn't abide by the current distributuion schedule due to COVID-19 and the state being "on pause," stating at the time that "the county would not be able to write checks that we could not cash.”

Action by the legislature to cancel distribution agreements from 2018 and 2019 caused quite a stir among leaders of the municipalities that also were facing serious budget problems.

Assistant County Manager L. Matthew Landers said the distribution is "an amount that the legislature feels is safe for the county to make and prudent for the county to make at this point in time, considering there are still a lot of unknowns."

Landers mentioned the uncertainty surrounding the four measurement points that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put in place to possibly cut state aid, although two of them – April 30 and June 30 – have come and gone.

He said the board has continues to wait and see if another federal stimulus package will be passed, which would factor in concerning the amount and/or frequency of future distributions. 

Landers to Replace Gsell as County Manager

In other action, the committee recommended the appointment of Landers to replace Jay Gsell as the county manager, effective Aug. 15 – the day after Gsell’s scheduled retirement date following 27 years of service.

Landers, an Elba Central School graduate, has been employed by the county for 16 years, serving as Deputy Treasurer for 10 years before taking his current position.

He has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and master’s degree in Public Administration from Brockport State College.

A longtime Kiwanis Club member, Landers, 43, and his wife, Melissa, reside in Batavia with their two children, Kaitlyn, 14, and Benjamin, 10. He is active as a girls' softball coach and league official.

His base salary is set at $120,000, plus longevity.

The full legislature also will vote on this resolution next Wednesday.

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