Orleans Hub - News in Orleans County, New York
Genesee warns of possible Covid exposure at Le Roy Moose Lodge, Flying J Travel Center
Posted 24 November 2020 at 11:21 am

Health Alert from Genesee County Health Department

The Genesee County Health Department is alerting the public to possible Covid-19 exposures at The Le Roy Moose Lodge and the Flying J Travel Center in Pembroke.

Contact tracing is in progress. However, unidentified individuals may have unknowingly been in contact with the positive cases.

Le Roy Moose Lodge:

• Monday, November 16th, between the hours of 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

• Friday, November 20th, between the hour of 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

• Saturday, November 21st, between the hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Flying J Travel Center:

• Tuesday, November 17th, between the hours of 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

• Wednesday, November 18th, between the hours of 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

• Thursday, November 19th, between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We advise all individuals who were at the LeRoy Moose Lodge or the Flying J Travel Center on the stated dates and times to monitor their symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms of Covid-19 develop, contact your primary care provider to seek testing immediately and self-isolate until you receive your test results.

Symptoms of Covid-19 include but are not limited to fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

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NY adds more restrictions in part of Monroe County, which goes to Orange Zone
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2020 at 11:09 am

New York has put more restrictions in place for part of Monroe County, where Covid cases have significantly increased.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday part of Monroe – much of the City of Rochester, and parts of the surrounding areas including Brighton, Gates and Irondequoit – would change from a precautionary yellow zone to an orange zone. (Click here to see the map of the orange zone.)

The change means schools in the orange zone close for in-person schooling and some businesses will face more restrictions, included being temporarily closed until the cases and hospitalizations drop.

“We need a reality check because these are dangerous times that we’re in,” Cuomo said on Monday “We are in a place now where there is a bad synergy – a sense of Covid fatigue.”

Much or Monroe, Erie and part of Niagara counties (North Tonawanda) are also in the less restricted yellow zones. Erie County officials worry parts of that county could be designated in a red zone, which has the most severe restrictions.

Here are the restrictions for the three zones:

Yellow Zones

  • Non-residential gatherings limited to 25 people, inside and outdoors.
  • Residential gatherings capped at 10 people, inside and outside.
  • Houses of worship, limited to 50 percent of maximum capacity.
  • Businesses all open.
  • Dining limited to 4 people per table, inside and outside, with bars and restaurants closing at 10 p.m. for on-premises consumption.
  • Schools remain open with 20 percent of in-person students and staff tested each week.

Orange Zones

  • Non-essential gatherings are limited to 10 people.
  • Certain non-essential businesses need to reduce in-person by 100 percent. Those businesses with a higher risk for transmitting Covid-19 include gyms, fitness centers or classes, barbers, hair salons, spas, tattoos or piercing parlors, nail technicians and nail salons, cosmetologists, estheticians, and all other personal care services.
  • Houses of worship are limited to a maximum capacity of 33 percent maximum occupancy or 25 people, whichever is fewer
  • Any restaurant or tavern won’t be allowed to serve patrons food or beverage on premises but may be open for takeout or delivery, and provide outdoor service (as long as no seated group exceeds four people).
  • Schools are remote-only and closed for in-person classes

Red Zones

  • Non-residential gatherings prohibited.
  • Residential gatherings prohibited.
  • Houses of worship will be the lesser of a 10-person maximum or 25 percent of maximum occupancy.
  • Non-essential businesses are closed.
  • Dining is limited to takeout or delivery only.
  • Schools are closed except for remote only.
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Jacobs urges release of more water from Lake Ontario this winter, to stave off spring flooding
Posted 24 November 2020 at 9:41 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Members of the National Guard stack sandbags near houses along Lake Ontario in Carlton in this photo from June 2, 2019. This spot is the peninsula near Kuckville.

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) has called for increased outflows from Lake Ontario to protect lakeshore communities from the devastating flood damage they experienced over the past several years.

In a letter to the binational entity charged with managing outflows, the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB), Jacobs asked the board to allow increased flows from the St. Lawrence Seaway as was done during the winter 2020 season.

“Our shoreline communities have suffered from economic and property damage caused by severe flooding for years now,” Jacobs said. “As we continue to work toward long-standing and more permanent solutions, increasing the outflows now could provide critical temporary relief in the interim. Furthermore, the on-going COVID-19 pandemic has created extensive economic, community, and government response challenges – taking action now to prevent severe flooding will ensure those hardships are not amplified in lakeshore communities.”

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB) was created by the International Joint Commission (IJC) in its 2016 Order of Approval. The Board’s primary responsibility is to ensure Lake Ontario outflows meet requirements set forth by the IJC’s Plan 2014. Previously the ILO-SLRB was permitted by the IJC to deviate from Plan 2014 outflow requirements from May 2019 through June 2020. Jacobs has asked that the ILO-SLRB operate under the winter 2020 deviation rules for the upcoming season.

Recently, Jacobs joined other members of the New York Congressional Delegation in calling for the IJC to present a strategy for mitigating high-water levels. In addition, the lawmakers asked that the IJC provide an update on its ongoing review of Plan 2014 – after its implementation communities saw record high water levels and severe flooding in 2017 and 2019.

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NY Association of Counties praises Cuomo for banning toxic firefighting foam
Posted 24 November 2020 at 8:34 am

Press Release, New York Association of Counties

The New York State Association of Counties applauds Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing legislation (S.7880-B Breslin/A.9952-B McDonald) to end the incineration of firefighting foam that contains toxic PFAS chemicals.

Since the 1970s, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) have been used in firefighting foams because of their ability to produce a fast-spreading foam. However, we now know that these “forever chemicals” accumulate in our bodies and the environment and have been linked to serious health effects, including birth defects, delayed development, liver and immune system damage, and cancer.

Ending the incineration of PFAS is the right thing to do to prevent these dangerous chemicals from being released into our air and water and threatening the health of neighboring communities. We commend the Governor for continuing his strong environmental legacy by signing this legislation into law and making New York the first state in the nation to prohibit the burning of firefighting foam containing PFAS.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued this statement about the ban:

“While the federal government has failed to regulate these compounds or protect the health of our communities, New York continues to respond to the threats posed by emerging contaminants like PFAS in our environment with sustained science-based actions,” Cuomo said. “While this measure will ban incineration of firefighting foam containing these compounds in cities like Cohoes, our work is not over. We remain fully committed to this effort and will continue to advance comprehensive, statewide measures which protect all New Yorkers and our environment from emerging contaminants.”

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AG files suit against Catholic Diocese of Buffalo for failing to protect minors from sexual abuse by clergy
Posted 24 November 2020 at 8:23 am

Press Release, New York Attorney General Letitia James

BUFFALO – New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and former senior leaders, Bishop Emeritus Richard J. Malone and former Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz, for failing to follow mandated policies and procedures that would help to prevent the rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests within the Catholic Church.

The Office of the Attorney General’s two year-long investigation into the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults within the New York dioceses of the Catholic Church found that allegations of improper sexual conduct against diocesan priests in Buffalo were inadequately investigated, if at all, and were covered-up for years.

Even though the diocese’s leadership found sexual abuse complaints to be credible, they sheltered the accused priests from public disclosure by deeming them as “unassignable,” and permitted them to retire or go on purported medical leave, rather than face referral to the Vatican for possible removal from the priesthood.

“When trust is broken with spiritual leaders, it can lead to a crisis of faith. For years, the Diocese of Buffalo and its leadership failed to protect children from sexual abuse,” said Attorney General James. “Instead, they chose to protect the very priests who were credibly accused of these atrocious acts. Individuals who are victims of abuse deserve to have their claims timely investigated and determined, and the Buffalo Diocese refused to give them that chance. While we will never be able to undo the wrongs of the past, I can guarantee that my office will do everything in its power to ensure trust, transparency, and accountability moving forward.”

In 2002, following media reports of widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests, the United States Conference of Bishops adopted specific policies and procedures that required dioceses to conduct proper investigations, and take swift and immediate action on those investigations. Both Bishop Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Grosz personally voted for adoption of these policies, and the Diocese of Buffalo had publicly announced that, beginning in 2002, it complied with them.

During its investigation, OAG found that the Buffalo Diocese, Bishop Malone, and Auxiliary Bishop Grosz failed to comply with the measures by refusing to take substantive action when faced with claims of sexual abuse within the diocese. The diocese has recently and publicly admitted that it found substantiated allegations of improper sexual conduct against 78 diocesan priests.

Attorney General James’ civil complaint alleges that, contrary to the diocese’s governing policies and the diocese’s public statements concerning its stance on sexual abuse by priests, more than two dozen of the identified priests were not referred to the Vatican for potential removal from the priesthood — an action that only the Vatican is authorized to approve. Instead, diocese leadership granted the priests protection from public disclosure, resulting in the misuse or waste of charitable assets by supporting priests whom the diocese considered to have committed sexual abuse, and a failure to provide victims with public vindication of their claims.

The suit, filed in the New York County Supreme Court, applies New York’s civil laws governing nonprofit charitable corporations, religious corporations, and charitable assets to address the failed institutional and individual responses to the decades-long crisis of clergy sexual abuse. Under New York law, the Diocese of Buffalo and its leaders have a responsibility to discharge their duties in good faith and with the care a prudent person would use, including their duty to comply with the procedures they have publicly adopted to respond to victims and address the conduct of their employees.

The complaint illustrates these unlawful acts, in part, through a detailed examination of personnel histories for 25 priests in the diocese who were accused of abuse. After extensive delays, most were ultimately removed from ministry, but were not timely referred to the Vatican for a trial and potential removal from the priesthood.

The complaint seeks an order requiring compliance with the mandatory policies and procedures by the diocese and defendant Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, who, as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo, serves as the interim leader of the diocese. The OAG is also seeking the appointment of an independent compliance auditor to monitor and review the diocese’s compliance with sexual abuse policies and procedures.

The claims against Bishop Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Grosz, who resigned from the diocese during the duration of the OAG investigation, seek restitution and a bar on future service in a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization operating in New York.

In addition to Monday’s lawsuit, Attorney General James filed a motion to allow for the disclosure of the accused priests’ names and alleged conduct outlined in the complaint.

The OAG’s extensive investigation into the sexual abuse of children within the New York dioceses of the Catholic Church began in September 2018, following reports of priests accused of sexual abuse who had been based in New York. OAG issued subpoenas to the Diocese of Buffalo in addition to seven other dioceses in New York. The OAG’s investigation into other New York dioceses is ongoing.

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo includes 600,000 Catholics in eight counties, including Orleans. The Diocese issued the following statement on Monday:

“We will be reviewing this lawsuit just announced by the New York Attorney General and weighing the Diocese’s response.

“In the meantime, we wish to reiterate that there is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or of sexual harassment of an adult in the Diocese of Buffalo by any member of the clergy, employee or volunteer.

“The Diocese has put in place rigorous policies and protocols governing required behavior as well as a code of conduct which all clergy are expected to abide by. Moreover, the Diocese has committed to full cooperation with all civil authorities in both the reporting and investigation of alleged crimes and complaints.”

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Flu cases starting to show up in WNY
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 9:26 pm

It’s flu season and cases are started to show up, especially in Western New York.

The State Health Department reported there were 197 cases of the flu from Nov. 8-14, and 102 of those were in Western New York.

Erie County had the most with 79. Orleans County didn’t have any confirmed cases that week, but its neighbors had some. Genesee County had two cases, while Niagara reported six cases, and Monroe had 9.

So far this flu season there are 648 cases. The 197 from Nov. 8-14 are up 17 percent from the 162 the previous week.

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Department encourage people to get their flu shots to build up their immunity.

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Photos: Tree cutter has been busy since last week’s windstorm
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 8:24 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Brian Bruski takes down a sugar maple located between two houses on East Park Street in Albion today.

Part of the tree fell in last week’s wind storm, totaling a resident’s vehicle.

Bruski, owner of B & B Tree Surgeons in Albion, said he has been working in the tree business for 42 years, since he was 14. He has owned his own company since 1993, and works between Buffalo and Rochester.

Bruski is up about 50 feet in his bucket truck, taking the tree down in sections. He tied a rope on the big branches so when they were cut they wouldn’t land on a house.

A flock of geese flew by while Bruski worked on taking down the tree.

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Medina PD purchases and delivers Thanksgiving meals for local families
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 7:48 pm

Photo courtesy of Medina Police Department

MEDINA – The Medina Police Department’s Police Benevolent Association has used donations collected from “No Shave November” to purchase Thanksgiving meals for some local family.

Pictured from left are PBA Union President Greg Fraser, First Presbyterian Pastor William Wilkinson and Police Chief Chad Kenward.

Members of the Police Department were allowed to grow facial hair during “No Shave November” and collect donations to be giving to a good cause.

This year the PBA chose to purchase Thanksgiving dinners for local families. The Medina Area Association of Churches helped to select recipients. Today the meals were purchased and delivered by MPD police officers.

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Orleans reports 29 more Covid cases, while Genesee has 77 more since Friday
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 5:21 pm

Hospitalizations from Covid up to 17 in the 2 counties

Orleans and Genesee counties are reporting 106 new cases of Covid-19 since Friday, and also 73 recoveries of people who had Covid and have been released from mandatory isolation.

Orleans has 29 new confirmed cases since Friday,  bringing the county’s total to 571 since March.

The new positive cases are residents of Albion, Barre, Clarendon, Gaines, Murray, Ridgeway, Shelby and Yates.

The individuals are in the age groups of 0-19, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Nine individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Department reported this afternoon.

Orleans also has 36 more recoveries of people who tested positive for Covid and have been removed from the isolation list.

The county has two people hospitalized due to Covid.

(The Health Department also reported that four of the 29 new totals being reported today were not included in the mandatory isolation count as their positive test results were received after their isolation period was completed. The local health officials encourage anyone who has been tested to self-isolate and limit contact with others while waiting on the test results, especially if there are symptoms.)

• Inmate at Albion Correctional tests positive: An inmate has a confirmed case of Covid at the Albion Correctional Facility. This is the tenth inmate to test positive at the women’s prison.

• Albion Middle Schooler tests positive for Covid: The Albion school district also reported this afternoon that a Middle School student tested positive for Covid on Saturday, Nov. 21. The student is a hybrid learner in the middle school.

Since the student was last in school on Friday, Nov. 13, the Health Department determined there is no need to do further contact tracing due to the 48-hour look-back period, school officials said on the district website.

In Genesee County, there are 77 new confirmed cases since Friday, bringing the county’s total to 729 since March.

The new positive cases reside in Batavia, Darien, Elba, LeRoy, Oakfield, Pavilion and Pembroke.

The individuals are in the age groups of 0-19, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Two of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.

The Health Department reports that 37 of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.

In Genesee, there are 15 people hospitalized due to Covid, which is up from eight on Friday.

• 3-county dataClick here to see the confirmed cases in genes, Orleans and Wyoming counties. There are currently 254 active cases in the three counties, with 168 in Genesee, 36 in Orleans and 50 in Wyoming.

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Schumer makes it 22 years in a row of going to all 62 counties in NY

Photos by Tom Rivers: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer speaks in Medina last Thursday outside Medina Memorial Hospital. Schumer is pushing for federal funds to be released for more Covid testing sites, especially in rural communities like Orleans.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 3:35 pm

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, with a stop in Greene County today, has completed a 62-county tour of the state. This is the 22nd year he has made it to all 62 counties.

Schumer was able to go to all of the counties despite Covid-19 and the increasing demands of his role in the U.S. Senate as minority leader.

Schumer said he is the first state-wide elected official to visit every single county in New York each year he has been in office.

“Twenty-two years ago, upon my election to the United States Senate in 1998, I promised that each and every year I served, I would visit all 62 of New York State’s diverse counties,” Schumer said. “Not only has this ritual remained a steadfast passion of mine because of all I learn from my constituents and bring to Washington, D.C. as both a senator and the Democratic Leader of the Senate.”

Schumer said he made 86 visits to upstate New York and Long Island. Last Thursday he was in Orleans County at Medina Memorial Hospital to highlight the need for federal funding to expand Covid testing in rural areas, especially options for free testing sites.

“Especially this year, when New York battled the global health and economic pandemic especially hard, visiting all 62 counties was vital for me to learn firsthand the struggles and needs of New Yorkers, from one end of the state to the other,” Schumer said. “Through a year that much has changed – I, too, traveled with masks and disinfectant in tow to much smaller and more understated events – one thing remained the same: my commitment, dedication, and love for New York.”

In recent years some of Schumer’s stop in Orleans County included:

• On Nov. 27, 2019, Schumer visited Miller’s Organic Hemp Farm on Route 98 in Carlton to discuss the emerging hemp industry and the need for federal government to improve regulations for sampling and testing hemp. Terry and Gina Miller hosted Schumer’s visit to their farm.

• Schumer was at the Village of Holley Police Department on Aug. 24, 2018 when he was in Orleans County. He launched a push to pass the “Providing Officers with Electronic Resources (POWER) Act” as part of a package of bills to address the opioids crisis across Upstate New York and the United States.

• The senator stopped in Kendall on Oct. 9, 2017 at the Eagle Creek Marina to highlight a push for federal funds for infrastructure updates that will improve Great Lakes fisheries and restore habitats through the Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program Act.

• On Nov. 11, 2016, Schumer joined Nelson Leenhouts, chairman and CEO of Home Leasing, to discuss the importance of keeping federal tax incentives for redeveloping historic sites, including the former Holley High School. Those tax credits were an importance piece in allowing Home Leasing to complete the $17 million renovation. Schumer also observed Veterans Day at the Holley VFW earlier that day.

• Anthony Piedimonte Farms in Hulberton hosted Schumer on June 29, 2015 to discuss a June 9 computer crash of the federal system that processes temporary farm-working visas. Schumer joined local farmers and urged the U.S. Department of State to fix the computer glitch. That computer crash created a backlog of stalled applications and prevented farms across the state from accessing legal temporary workers to harvest their crops.

• Aug. 14, 2014, Schumer was in Holley at the former Diaz Chemical, where he pressed the federal EPA to continue a Superfund cleanup.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer shakes hands with Terry Miller, owner of Miller’s Organic Hemp Farm, during a stop at the farm on Nov. 27, 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hometown Christmas show in Albion continues – online
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 12:30 pm

Event that honors memory of Nicholas Kovaleski has raised $25K for scholarships in 10 years

Photos by Tom Rivers: Dancers rehearse the opening number of the 10thannual Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas. Performers will be videotaped today with the show available to watch online beginning Dec. 4. A $10 purchase gives 24 hours of access of watching the show. There are also baskets up for raffle. Tickets can also be purchased online for the baskets or in person at Gotta Dance by Miss Amy.

ALBION – Covid won’t be stopping the 10th annual Hometown Christmas show in Albion. While there won’t be an in-person audience the show will be available to watch online.

Nicholas Kovaleski

Amy Sidari, owner of Gotta Dance by Miss Amy, has directed the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas shows the past decade. They honor the memory of one of her dancers.

Nicholas Kovaleski also excelled in football, swimming and tennis for Albion, and was a Boy Scout. He valiantly battled leukemia and passed away at age 15 on June 29, 2011.

The Hometown Christmas show includes some of Miss Amy’s dancers and other performers from the community, including singing by Gary Simboli, Marcy Downey and Riley Seielstad. Jim Babcock, a local contractor, will appear as Santa and two of his employees, Craig Lane and David Karcz, will be dressed in reindeer costumes.

Sidari also will give a message about love, community and unity during this difficult year.

“With love we can overcome the negativity, the restrictions and feelings of lost hope,” Sidari said. “With Covid, our whole community has gone through its own grief. We’re a group that wants to bring joy to people.”

Kelly Kovaleski will share with the audience about her late son, who was upbeat while pushing himself to excel. The Hometown Christmas shows have raised $25,000 in scholarships which are given to Albion seniors selected by Kelly and Jay Kovaleski who “Live with Purpose.”

Kelly Kovaleski and Amy Sidari have worked together on the Hometown Christmas shows in memory of Kovaleski’s son, who passed away from leukemia at age 15 on June 29, 2011. They are wearing facemasks with the “Live with Purpose” message that a guiding principle in Nicholas’s life.

That was the guiding principle for their son. Albion seniors submit applications for the scholarship, and the Kovaleskis want to honor students who step up for their families and friends.

The scholarships have ranged from $500 to $800. Last year the Kovaleskis were able to award three scholarships – Laiken Ricker, Masey Ferchen and Colby Ferchen were the winners.

The scholarships and fundraising are through the Jim and Diane Salmon Children’s Fund, which is a 501c3 organization, allowing tax exempt donations.

Salmon, a home repair radio host for WHAM in Rochester, had Nicholas as a guest on the show.

“He was sick, but he was wonderful,” Salmon said. “He did a great interview.”

Salmon said the Hometown Christmas continues to honor Nicholas’s memory, and this year provides an important outlet for the performers and the audience.

“This show is a testament of the tenacity of Miss Amy, and Jay and Kelly Kovaleski,” Salmon said. “They have found a way to do the show and do it within the rules.”

Michayla Kovaleski rehearses a dance on Sunday for this year’s Hometown Christmas show. She is Nicholas’s sister and works as a dance instructor at Miss Amy’s. She recently graduated from Nazareth College.

People can purchase an online ticket for $10 and then have 24 hours of access to watch the show, which will be about an hour. The show will be available on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.

Sidari also will host watch parties at the studio for small groups to view the performance on the big screen. (Sidari’s Cabaret at Studio B has already done online shows with Gary Simboli.)

The event also includes the chance to win at least one of 40 baskets donated by the community. Tickets can be purchased and placed in-person at Miss Amy’s or purchased online with notes sent to Miss Amy on which baskets the tickets should go.

For more information on the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas, click here.

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14-year-old girl gets deer while hunting with her mom
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 November 2020 at 9:33 am

Photo courtesy of Jen Lilleby

MEDINA – Lyla Lilleby, 14, of Medina shot her first deer on opening day Saturday while hunting with mom, Jen Lilleby.

Lyla lives in Medina. She got the 6-point on Blackburn’s farm on Fruit Avenue. This is Lyla’s first year of hunting.

“She loves all outdoor sports including fishing with her grampa and is very competitive,” her mother said.

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NY Farm Bureau says Thanksgiving meal up 6%
Posted 23 November 2020 at 8:59 am

Cost of classic Thanksgiving dinner increases from $46.37 to $49.23

Press Release, New York Farm Bureau

File photo by Tom Rivers: These turkeys were part of the 2014 meat auction at the 4-H Fair in Knowlesville. The cost of a turkey is up about $2 compared to Thanksgiving a year ago.

New York Farm Bureau’s 2020 Market Basket Survey shows the price of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner saw a modest 6 percent uptick from last year’s meal.

The average total price, which includes a 16-pound turkey and other common items found on a holiday dinner table, is $49.23 or a $2.86 increase over last year. (The survey showed the average price for the Thanksgiving dinner was $57.54 in 2018.)

Turkey prices are about $1.41 per pound in New York State, which is about an 11% increase over last year’s average price in this informal survey. Prices found by volunteer shoppers ranged from $.68/lb. to $1.69/lb. This price is above the national average of $1.21/lb. As we move closer to Thanksgiving, turkey prices may continue to drop in the stores, reflecting sales in the final days before the holiday.

The New York numbers revealed price increases in several categories including for a gallon of whole milk, Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Mix, fresh cranberries and a 14-ounce package of cubed stuffing. Some ingredients saw decreases. These include whipping cream and a carrot/celery veggie tray.

This year’s survey also includes a more notable increase for an expanded menu that includes a four-pound ham, five-pound bag of russet potatoes and a package of frozen green beans. When those prices are included, the total meal price jumps to $64.31, more than $4 over last year’s number.

The survey highlights that the classic meal remains affordable with a price point of under five dollars per person for a 10-person meal. The affordability demonstrates that although farmers and ranchers dealt with significant issues this year related to market and distribution disruptions due to the pandemic, consumers are still benefiting from relatively low retail prices, in part because the actual cost of the food – the portion paid to farmers – is only eight cents of each dollar consumers spend on food at the store.

“It has been a challenging year for every New Yorker, but farmers haven’t stopped doing what we do best, growing quality, nutritious food. Market disruptions have affected some prices, but overall, our volunteer shoppers found the traditional dinner remains affordable for many shoppers,” said Darleen Krisher-Meehan, chair of New York Farm Bureau’s Promotion and Education Committee. “While the holiday season may look a little different this year, we should all give thanks that our food supply remains strong and stable thanks to our farmers and employees who have proven to be essential workers in 2020.”

This survey is one of the responsibilities of the NYFB State Promotion and Education Committee and is part of the national effort with the American Farm Bureau Federation. AFBF’s 35th annual informal national price survey found the average national cost of this year’s feast is $46.90, about $2 less than New York’s number.

New York Farm Bureau’s volunteer shoppers sampled prices at 14 different supermarkets throughout the state trying to get the best prices available, but they did not use promotional coupons or special deals such as “buy one-get one free.” They were also encouraged to use online shopping because of the pandemic.

The shopping list includes 15 common Thanksgiving food items ranging from turkey and rolls to stuffing and celery to pumpkin pie mix, enough to feed 10 people around the dinner table. An average for miscellaneous ingredients, like flour and butter, is also included. The 2020 Thanksgiving survey displayed considerable price variation across the state. The best advice for shoppers is to compare prices to save money.

For more on the survey, click here.

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Sales tax revenues have plummeted in state, but not in Orleans

Photo by Tom Rivers: Downtown Albion is pictured on Saturday, a day after the Christmas decorations went up on light poles.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 November 2020 at 5:36 pm

A report on sales tax revenues for the first 10 months of the year shows a significant drop for the state, but an increase in Orleans County.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s Office shows sales tax is down $3 billion statewide through October. The total sales tax collected in the state the first 10 months is $46.8 billion.

The sales tax for counties and cities is down 5.2 percent compared to the first 10 months of 2019, according to the comptroller.

Orleans County, however, is up by 7.7 percent or by $1.1 million, from $14.4 million to $15.5 million.

The county’s sales tax has seen some big swings each month: $1.4 million in January (up by $100,000), $1.2 million in February (up by $100,000), $1.9 million in March (up by $500,000), $900,000 in April (down by $500,000), $900,000 in May (down by $400,000), $2.6 million in June (up by $700,000), $1.2 million in July (down by $100,000), $1.2 million in August (down by $200,000), $3.0 million in September (up by $1.0 million) and $1.3 million in October (same as 2019).

The comptroller’s monthly report on October showed a 5.2 percent drop state-wide compared to October of 2019. DiNapoli said that decline is less severe than in other months during the pandemic.

“Statewide local sales tax collections have declined year-over-year for eight straight months,” DiNapoli said in a news release. “Our local governments are on the forefront of the pandemic response and they need financial aid from the federal government to help them get through this crisis.”

DiNapoli reported last month that local sales tax collections dropped 9.5 percent in the July-September quarter, down $452 million from collections in the same quarter of 2019.

“Revenues are down and New York continues to withhold billions of dollars in spending due to the fiscal impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” DiNapoli said. “Caution is needed because rising infection rates may force more shutdowns and even greater economic damage. Washington must respond with more economic stimulus, including real relief for state and local governments.”

While Orleans is up so far in sales tax revenue, that isn’t the case for other local counties. Here are how some nearby counties are doing through the first 10 months of 2020, compared to the same time period last year.

  • Genesee County: $33.7 million (down 3.9 percent or by $1.4 million)
  • Livingston County: $29.2 million (up 1.0 percent or $300,000)
  • Orleans County: $15.5 million (up 7.7 percent or by $1.1 million)
  • Wyoming County: $16.0 million (up 2.8 percent or by $400,000)
  • Monroe County: $412.6 million (down by 4.1 percent or $27.7 million)
  • Niagara County: $104.5 million (down by 1.3 percent or $1.4 million)
  • Erie County: $661.0 million (down 2.7 percent or $19.5 million)

Orleans County officials in a tentative 2021 budget plans to continue sharing $1,366,671 with the 10 towns and four villages. That has been the number since 2001.

However, the county is seeing the state take some of the local sales tax and divert it. The county will see $102,814 in its sales tax withheld by the state in January and sent to the Fiscally Distressed Hospital Fund, with another $87,460 to be withheld later 2021, said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer.

The county also will have $290,276 taken from its sales tax for AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities). That used to be paid for by the state to some towns and villages but now comes from the local sales tax.

The shifting of sales tax to AIM and the Distressed Hospital Fund will cost the county $480,550, Welch said.

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Cuomo urges Congress to extend unemployment programs during Covid pandemic
Posted 22 November 2020 at 4:38 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today called on Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas.

The programs provide critical benefits for millions of American families that have faced unemployment as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, including supplemental benefits for individuals and support for local and state governments. Cuomo, who is chairman of the National Governors Association, sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face another surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed.

“The pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis. As we enter the holiday season, and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop Covid, critical federal unemployment benefits are about to expire. Inaction from Washington is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk.”

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, New York State has paid more than $55 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.8 million New Yorkers — which represents more than 26 typical years’ worth of benefits.

“Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and should once again take action before the calendar year ends to bring badly needed support to millions of struggling Americans,” Cuomo said.

Nationwide, more than 20 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, including 12 million covered by programs that will expire on December 31, 2020. In New York, that includes 1.2 million current claims from New Yorkers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits for freelancers, self-employed workers, and others who do not typically qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, and 682,000 claims from individuals who are receiving 13 additional weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program after exhausting the 26 weeks of traditional benefits.

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