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Odessa, NY 14869

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Phone: 607-594-3856
Cell: 607-331-3182

Link to Website:
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Email:
runrite55@yahoo.com

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602 N. Franklin St.
Watkins Glen, NY
607-535-7151

 

 

Your

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O'Mara, Palmesano ask DEC chief
to extend Padua Ridge comment period

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 19, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano have sent a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos seeking an extension of at least 90 days in the period the DEC has set for public comment on the proposed expansion of the Padua Ridge gravel pit above Watkins Glen.

The two legislators said the current time period, set in January and extending to Feb. 28, "is, to say the least, woefully insufficient and inadequate for proper public comment and participation to carefully and thoroughly review a project of this magnitude and its potential, severely negative impact on the local community."

The letter follows:

"Dear Commissioner Seggos:


"Thank you for your urgent attention to the immediate need to extend your current public
comment period for the amended application before your department for a proposed 61-acre
expansion of the current 14-acre Padua Gravel quarry operation located in the town of Dix,
Schuyler County, which we represent.

"It is our understanding that you are in receipt of a resolution (Resolution No. 55) approved by the Schuyler County Legislature on February 12, 2024 opposing the current application, requesting its revision and further review by your department, and, in particular, calling on your department to 'reopen and allow an additional period of public comment on the application” to address “legitimate areas of concern prior to any decision on the project.'
We unequivocally support the need to, at a minimum, immediately extend, by at least 90 days, the current time for public comment which your department quietly opened in earlyJanuary and set a February 28, 2024, deadline.

"This time period, especially the way it has been set in motion, is, to say the least, woefully
insufficient and inadequate for proper public comment and participation to carefully and
thoroughly review a project of this magnitude and its potential, severely negative impact on the local community. As noted in Resolution No. 55, the current time period 'is insufficient to
review the 784 pages of documents that are on file with the DEC, and to hire required experts to review the record.'

"We wholeheartedly agree and we cannot state it strongly enough: The public comment period must be extended by at least 90 days.

"As outlined in detail in Resolution No. 55, this project proposes nothing short of a massive, five-fold expansion of the existing mine which, given its location up a steep grade directly above a neighborhood and the center of the iconic Finger Lakes village of Watkins Glen, has already contributed to flooding, raised longstanding concerns over truck traffic and motorist and pedestrian safety, and, as previously highlighted, poses a negative impact to the regionalviewshed so critical and vital to the local tourism economy.


"Furthermore, as you are aware -- and as it has also been outlined in Resolution No. 55 -- the process by which this expansion application has been brought forth, dating back as far as 2007, raises troubling and unanswered questions.


"There has been minimal, at best, public notice provided throughout your department’s
advancement of this application to its current status -- which is troubling.

"In short, the proposed expansion is strongly opposed by local residents, the village of Watkins
Glen and, as noted, Schuyler County. Community officials are also on record as stating that the mine is currently in violation of its existing permit.


"In light of these legitimate and well-founded local concerns, and the range of unanswered
questions surrounding the handling of the application by your department, we once again urge
you to immediately extend the public comment period for at least 90 days.


"We also request that you provide us, as soon as possible, copies of all pertinent records and
correspondence between your department and the project applicant during the 16-year period that this application has been under review by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Additionally, we request copies of any and all contracts that your department, the state Department of Transportation, or any other state entity has with the applicant for the purchase of aggregate or other materials from the Padua Gravel operation.

Thank you again for your immediate attention and action. If you would like to discuss this
request in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact us.
"

Sincerely,

Thomas F. O’Mara, Senate District 58
Philip A. Palmesano,
132nd Assembly District

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

O'Mara, Palmesano, other officials oppose Hochul's proposed cuts to road funding

Special to The Odessa File

BIG FLATS, Feb. 15, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning), Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C-Big Flats), Elmira Mayor Dan Mandell and other local leaders Thursday opposed Governor Kathy Hochul’s cuts in state funding for local roads and bridges in her proposed 2024-25 state budget.

At a news conference in Big Flats, the group called on the governor and the Democrat leaders of the state Legislature to restore the proposed cuts and keep strengthening New York’s commitment to local transportation infrastructure.

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend are once again being joined this year by their Republican colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to highlight their opposition to Hochul’s slashing of local transportation aid, particularly a proposed $60 million cut for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), the state’s primary source of funding for local roads, bridges, and culverts.

In a February 14, 2024 letter to Hochul and legislative leaders, O’Mara, Palmesano, Friend and their colleagues wrote, in part, “We once again stress that New York State's direct investment in local roads and bridges through CHIPS remains fundamental. It deserves priority consideration in the final allocation of state infrastructure investment in the budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year. CHIPS is the key difference for local communities, economies, governments, motorists, and taxpayers throughout the Empire State, including New York City and surrounding metro areas, and we cannot ignore this fact, especially this year. ... Local governments, for the foreseeable future, will continue to struggle to address budgetary demands in the face of the state-imposed property tax cap, rising pension, health care and highway construction costs, and unfunded state mandates, among other burdens.”

As Hochul and the Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly approach negotiations over a final 2024-25 state budget scheduled to be in place by April 1, O’Mara, Palmesano, Friend and their legislative colleagues are calling for this year’s final budget to restore Hochul’s proposed $60 million cut to CHIPS base aid and then increase the CHIPS base funding level by $200 million to a total of $798.1 million.

Since 2013, O’Mara, Palmesano and Friend have built a coalition of support within the state Legislature and worked closely with local transportation advocates from throughout New York on the “Local Roads Are Essential” advocacy campaign annually sponsored by the New York State Association of County Highway Superintendents (NYSCHSA) and the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH). The campaign brings hundreds of local transportation advocates to Albany in early March to rally support.

The latest analysis by the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways has found that the local highway system outside of New York City faces an annual funding gap of over $2 billion.

Estimates by the State Comptroller, state Department of Transportation (DOT), and other independent studies have shown a large number of local road mileage deteriorating and many local bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The 27th Annual Highway Report from the Reason Foundation, released last April, ranked New York State’s highway system at 49th in the nation.

According to the latest analysis from TRIP, a national transportation advocacy group, roads and bridges that are deficient, congested, or lack desirable safety features, cost New York motorists an additional $36.7 billion annually, up to $3,697 per driver in some areas, due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic accidents, and congestionrelated delays.

Photo in text: From left, Assemblyman Friend, Assemblyman Palmesano (at podium), and Senator O'Mara at news conference at the Big Flats Town Highway Garage to oppose Governor Hochul's proposed cuts in state aid for local roads and bridges. The lawmakers were joined by regional leaders and representatives of local highway departments. (Provided)

O'Mara, Palmesano join school officials, GOP in call for electric school bus delay

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 12, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara on Monday joined Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Horseheads School District Superintendent Tom Douglas, Republican colleagues in the state Senate and Assembly, and statewide school district representatives to propose legislation and call on Governor Kathy Hochul and the Legislature’s Democrat majorities to rescind the electric school bus mandate currently set to start taking effect in 2027.

The electric school bus mandate, enacted by Hochul and the Legislature’s Democrat majorities in 2022, requires new school buses purchased by local school districts to be all-electric by 2027 and all school buses in operation statewide to be electric by 2035. There is no provision made for geographical disparities, diverse weather conditions, or unique travel demands of the state’s school districts.

O’Mara and Palmesano -- who addressed the issue with colleagues at a news conference -- have introduced legislation (S8220/A8447) that, among other provisions, would delay the mandate’s implementation until at least 2045 and require additional cost-benefit and safety analyses before it can take effect.

"Many of us," said O'Mara, "believe that the Albany Democrats' current plan for imposing far-reaching renewable energy mandates on all New Yorkers is not feasible, affordable, or reliable. This is particularly true for local school districts being mandated to transition to all-electric school buses beginning in 2027. The current timeline raises far too many troubling questions on affordability, as well as surrounding reliability and safety for student transportation. We know that the existing plan comes with an enormous price tag for local schools. We are moving too far, too fast on this transition.

“The technology is simply not there yet. The electric grid can't support it and the necessary charging equipment and buses which are not produced in sufficient quantities will get less expensive as the industry advances from its infancy. Further, urban settings where this may be more feasible, and where congestion and emissions are greater, should be going first. It seems reasonable and fair to reassess and reexamine the current timeline and its potential impact on school districts, students and families, and local communities.”

Added Palmesano: “The consequences seem to get worse by the day while the Albany Democrats keep rushing to implement unreasonable and unworkable energy mandates on all of New York state’s citizens, businesses, communities, manufacturers, farmers, schools and others. This is especially true for local school districts, local economies and local property taxpayers if Gov. Hochul keeps pushing to meet the current timeline to transition to all-electric school bus fleets."

Horseheads School Superintendent Douglas added this: “Superintendents across the state are not against electric busing, a well-intentioned initiative. However, this initiative is one of the biggest unfunded mandates for schools. Districts across the state need an immediate pause of this initiative because of the projected costs and timeline as well as the failure of this technology to meet the demands of school districts’ daily transportation and athletic/extracurricular needs. In Horseheads, we have more than 80 daily bus runs in both the a.m. and p.m. hours. From our initial review, a dozen of those runs simply cannot be executed with electronic busing. This number increases substantially as the weather turns colder. In addition, school districts will have to construct their own power substations within transportation centers to handle the new electrical demands of EV busing. Buses will also cost at least four times as much as our current buses and may also need batteries replaced prior to the vehicles’ end of service life at a cost of $150,000 plus per vehicle."

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

O'Mara seeks noms for veterans tribute

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Feb. 4, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) is seeking nominations for the New York State Senate’s "Veterans Hall of Fame," an online tribute to the military service and civilian lives of distinguished veterans from the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and throughout New York State.

O’Mara is currently accepting nominations for the 2024 inductee to represent the 58th Senate District at a ceremony in late May.

Nominations will be accepted until Friday, March 1. Nomination letters should include a short biography highlighting the nominee's military service, and civilian service awards and achievements, and be emailed to omara@nysenate.gov.

“So many veterans served our nation courageously and honorably, and then returned home to lift the lives of our local communities. The Senate Veterans Hall of Fame is just one more way to give a local veteran a well-deserved and well-earned expression of our gratitude and admiration,” said O’Mara, who represents New York’s 58th Senate District encompassing Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, and Yates counties, and part of Allegany County (the towns of Alfred, Almond, Amity, Andover, Birdsall, Burns, Grove, Independence, Scio, Ward, Wellsville, and Willing).

The Senate established its Veterans Hall of Fame in 2005. It honors New York State veterans whose service in the United States Armed Forces has been accompanied by service to the community and accomplishments as a civilian. It pays tributes to veterans representing Senate districts statewide. Senators conduct induction ceremonies within their respective legislative districts and at the Capitol coinciding with veterans-related observances throughout the year.

Among those O’Mara has inducted into the Senate Veterans Hall of Fame are the following area veterans:

--Philip C. Smith, a highly decorated Korean War combat veteran and well-known figure in Schuyler County government and veterans’ affairs;

--J. Arthur “Archie” Kieffer, a World War II combat veteran and a widely admired fixture in Chemung County government as the Chemung County historian;

--Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio, Sr., a distinguished Korean War veteran and widely respected for his long-standing and active service to veterans and government in Watkins Glen and throughout Schuyler County;

--P. Earle Gleason, a lifelong Yates County resident and longtime director of the Yates County Veterans’ Service Agency;

--Richard T. “Dick” Gillespie of Penn Yan, a veteran of World War II;

--Andrew Swarthout of Yates County, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and mainstay of local veterans’ organizations.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Palmesano blasts Hochul prison closure plan

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 1, 2024 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) has joined Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C-Schoharie), Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio (R,C-Gowanda), members of NYSCOPBA, family members of correction officers and members of the Assembly Republican Conference to oppose Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to close up to five prisons in an expedited fashion with just a 90-day notification.

Current state law requires a one-year notification process before the closing of any state correctional facility. However, Gov. Hochul is seeking, from the Legislature, an expedited process of just 90 days.

“A one-year closure notification is damaging enough to employees, their families and impacted local communities, but allowing a prison closure with just a 90-day notification is a tremendous insult to those dedicated correction officers and staff who work a very dangerous job to keep us safe," said Palmesano. "The Legislature has the ability to reject this ridiculous 90-day notification proposal and we absolutely should reject it.”

“I have met correction officers who first worked at Livingston Correctional facility, then Gowanda and then Southport and then were forced to move on again after all of these devastating closures. We should be treating these hard-working and dedicated employees and their families with respect. For a family to uproot themselves and find a new home and a new school for their kids takes some time and the state should recognize that and, at least, show some support and compassion to these dedicated employees working this dangerous job to keep us safe. The governor should follow the law of a one-year notification instead of pushing for a fast-tracked 90-day closure notification.”

“This, all while this administration continues its failure to address the staggering rise in violent inmate-on-staff and inmate-on-inmate assaults happening inside our correctional facilities today. These prison closures, coupled with failed policies like the HALT Act, which eliminates and restricts the use of important disciplinary tools to segregate the most disruptive, violent and dangerous inmates from the rest of the general population, has created a dangerous powder-keg environment inside our correctional facilities.

"In addition, this administration continues to refuse to provide our correction officers with the adequate staffing, tools and resources they need to be safe,” said Palmesano. “Their answer is to jam more violent inmates into fewer facilities. These dangerous and failed policies will continue, unfortunately, to lead to even more violence, putting our brave and dedicated correction officers and staff at even greater risk.”

"Even as the prison population in New York has declined from 56,000 to 32,000 inmates and the state has closed more than 25 correctional facilities since 2011, violent assaults remain on the rise. Since 2011, inmate-on-staff assaults have increased by 197%, inmate-on-inmate assaults are up 217% and contraband seizures are also up 53%.

“Quite frankly, we should not be closing any additional correctional facilities, especially with only an insulting, 90-day notification. ... It is long past due for this administration and state to treat our correction officers and civilian staff as the professionals they are and with the respect they deserve and have certainly earned.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

O'Mara, Senate Republicans unveil package
to keep NY education funding a priority

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Jan. 29, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) on Monday joined his colleagues in the Senate Republican Conference to unveil a legislative package aimed at keeping educational funding a priority in New York.

According to a press release, "Key among the plan’s provisions is reversing the devastating cuts to schools that Governor Kathy Hochul included in her recently proposed 2024-25 state budget."

Republican senators said that Hochul’s proposed elimination of the “hold harmless” provision of the state education aid formula, which provides critical stability to local school districts, is a glaring example of Albany Democrats’ misplaced priorities. They added that the governor’s "bloated" $233 billion proposed budget siphons state aid away from local schools while, for example, dedicating $2.4 billion in taxpayer dollars to provide services and other assistance to a surging number of migrants coming into the state over the past few years, bringing the total to $4.3 billion in targeted aid to the migrant crisis.

O’Mara and his colleagues charged that the migrant crisis continues to get worse because the Democrats refuse to put an end to sanctuary city policies.

Said O'Mara: “We desperately need to get New York State’s fiscal house in order. But it’s outrageous for Governor Hochul to target small, largely rural school districts, with small tax bases and overburdened property taxpayers, across my legislative district and throughout the Upstate region as a way to redirect millions of dollars to close budget gaps of the Democrats’ own making and keep funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to the Albany Democrats’ far-left, largely New York City-based agenda and migrant crisis. That’s not an answer to this state’s deep-rooted fiscal irresponsibility. It’s just redirecting misguided priorities that won’t move us any closer to fiscal stability, taxpayer relief, or long-term affordability and sustainability for most New Yorkers.”

Senate Republicans said education should always be among the state’s top priorities and that they are committed to ensuring that New Yorkers' hard-earned tax dollars help schools obtain the resources they need.

They added that their legislative package will keep students safe and improve educational outcomes in schools throughout New York. It includes proposals to:

-- reverse "misguided changes" in the state’s education aid formula proposed in Hochul’s Executive Budget that, if enacted, "will take resources away from local schools";

-- close the pandemic learning loss gap by utilizing unspent federal emergency relief aid to support academic recovery programs, expand state grant funding, create an office in the state Education Department to track outcomes of such programs and focus on future aid increases for early education to ensure students are provided a solid foundation for future academic challenges;

-- prohibit the housing of migrants in K-12 schools or on school grounds throughout the state (S.7391, sponsored by Senator Alexis Weik); and

-- commit greater resources for school building security by creating a school resource officer program to permit the employment of retired law enforcement officers and provide grants to school districts and non-public schools (S.4985, Senator Oberacker).

O’Mara said that the Senate GOP legislative package outlined Monday is the first in a series of comprehensive proposals that will be put forth by the Republican Conference this session to try to ensure that education will remain a top priority.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara, center, with Senators Mario Mattera and Alexis Weik, at a news conference Jan. 29 at the Capitol. (Photo provided)

O'Mara seeks noms for 'distinction' award

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Jan. 25, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara today announced that he is seeking nominations for the Senate's 26th annual "Women of Distinction" program to honor local women making outstanding contributions to area communities.

O’Mara and his Senate colleagues annually select a “Woman of Distinction” honoree from their respective legislative districts.

The deadline for submitting a nomination is Friday, Feb. 23. It can be submitted online at www.omara.nysenate.gov.

The awards ceremony in Albany is scheduled for May 14.

"The ‘Woman of Distinction’ tribute is a meaningful recognition. I look forward to this annual opportunity to recognize an outstanding area citizen," said O’Mara, whose 58th Senate District encompasses all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and part of Allegany County (the towns of Alfred, Almond, Amity, Andover, Birdsall, Burns, Grove, Independence, Scio, Ward, Wellsville, and Willing).

"We all know someone who makes an enormous difference to the community at large. Whether she is a service provider, a law enforcement officer going above and beyond the call of duty, a teacher, a nurse, a business leader, or simply a community resident known for her good deeds, I'd like to see her recognized."

O’Mara’s past “Women of Distinction” honorees have included:

-- Virginia “Ginny” Houseknecht of Watkins Glen, a longtime area Cornell Cooperative Extension educator and leader, and founder of the Southern Tier Parkinson’s Disease Support Group;

-- Beverly “Bev” Stamp, co-owner and operator of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, a long-time and beloved ambassador of New York State’s nationally and internationally renowned wine and grape industry;

-- Carmella Hoffmann, Owner and Operator of Sunset View Creamery in Odessa (Schuyler County);

-- Natasha Thompson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier; and

-- Nancy Kirby, a longstanding advocate and leader for small businesses and entrepreneurship throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Palmesano rips School Aid reduction plan

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Jan. 22, 2024 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) has joined his Assembly Republican colleagues to voice his opposition to the proposed reduction in funding for some New York schools made by Gov. Hochul in her executive budget proposal.

The governor has proposed ending "Hold Harmless," a policy that ensures school districts don’t see a reduction in their education Foundation Aid compared to the previous year. Under Gov. Hochul's plan, more than half of the school districts located within the 132nd Assembly District will see a Foundation Aid reduction.

“Many school districts throughout the state, including those in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, rely on state aid to fulfill state-mandated educational requirements," said Palmesano. "We know salary, health insurance and pension payment costs continue to rise year over year. We also know that our schools, and especially our kids, are still trying to recover from the COVID lockdowns and remote learning experiment. This, coupled with other issues, has helped contribute to the growing mental health challenges our kids are experiencing in our local schools and communities.

"The governor knows this and she knows this is certainly not the time to cut critical education funding for our kids and school districts, especially our upstate, rural schools. It is a shame Gov. Hochul is proposing to hold their education hostage so she can divert resources to her other priorities.”

Palmesano noted the governor was able to find billions for other items in the budget but could not seem to find money for the children of New York.

“Budgeting is all about priorities," he said. "The governor should be prioritizing funding for our kids in our local schools over migrants here illegally and the Hollywood elite. The governor has proposed giving $2.4 billion to fund migrants in New York City, continuing massive tax breaks to Hollywood elites and removing consumer energy choices when it comes to how you heat your home, cook your food and the car you drive, including mandating the purchase of costly, unreliable and unproven electric school buses on local school districts and property taxpayers.

"Her priorities have made it clear she continues to be more focused on appeasing her far-left, radical base than actually helping working New Yorkers. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to reject yet another misplaced priority from this governor and restore this critical funding to our local schools during the budget process.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Finger Lakes Institute receives grant for feasibility phase of Odessa green initiative

Special to The Odessa File

ITHACA, Jan. 17, 2024 -- New York Sea Grant (NYSG) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have selected the Finger Lakes Institute of Hobart and William Smith College as one of eight recipients of funding through the New York Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program.

The Finger Lakes Institute will receive $50,000 for a feasibility phase project focused on opportunities to implement green infrastructure in the Village of Odessa to reduce pollutants and flooding within Catlin Mill Creek, L'Hommedieu Creek, and other downstream waterbodies. This project is designed to align with local efforts to improve sustainable economic and social benefits.

"New York State is committed to advancing resiliency, water quality protection, and sustainable land use in the Great Lakes watershed by investing in projects that make valuable contributions to our environmental goals," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

"The Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program empowers shoreline and watershed stakeholders to take an active role in conserving, protecting, and enhancing their unique environmental and ecological resources in keeping with New York's Great Lakes Action Agenda," said New York Sea Grant Associate Director Katherine Bunting-Howarth.

New York Sea Grant administers the New York Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program in partnership with DEC in support of projects that address the diverse environmental needs of waterfront communities in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region. Past projects have included adding ADA-compliant canoe and kayak accessibility, youth environmental education, restoration of fish passageways, and the creation of living shoreline habitat.

The New York Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program is funded by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). In the 2023-24 State Budget, Governor Hochul maintained EPF funding at $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program's history. To date, more than $1.4 million has been awarded for projects across New York's Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region.

Palmesano critical as farm OT regs kick in

ALBANY, Jan. 5, 2023 -- New York State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano reacted Friday to farm workers' overtime regulations taking effect.

“Farming as we know it in New York changed this week, and not for the better," he said. "With the new farm labor overtime regulations now in effect, family farms throughout the state will suffer. Lowering the threshold for overtime hours from 60 to 40 hours is wrong for New York farmers and farmworkers. At the hearing held by the Wage Board more than 70% of the testimony by both farmers and farmworkers was in support of keeping the overtime threshold at 60 hours.

The numbers paint a grim picture for our farmers. A Farm Credit East study predicts that the negative impact to farmers statewide will be devastating, with farm labor costs increasing by 42%, and net farm income decreasing by 20%. A Cornell University study showed that 70% of migrant workers would seek opportunities in other states to increase their earning potential if the threshold were lowered. The Cornell study also showed that a whopping two-thirds of dairy farmers would consider leaving the industry entirely.

"New York farmers have historically faced one of the most unfriendly business environments in the country. The Wage Laborer Board failed to consider that even before the Farm Labor Act was passed in 2019, farm labor costs in New York as a percentage of net farm income were already 63%, compared to just 36% nationally.

"More than 98% of farms in our state are considered family farms. These operations have been run through the same families for generations. Now with a decrease of the overtime threshold, we are in danger of losing more of our family farms forever.

"As I have said so many times before, NO FARMS, NO FARMWORKERS. NO FARMS, NO FOOD. Today marks a truly sad day in the history of Farming in New York.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

The members of the Legislature and various appointees posed at Wednesday's meeting for an annual photo. Seated from left: County Attorney Steven Getman, Deputy Clerk to the Legislature Jamee Mack, Clerk to the Legislature Stacy Husted, Legislature Chair Carl Blowers, and County Administrator Shawn Rosno. Standing from left: Legislators Jim Howell, Gary Gray, David Reed, Michael Lausell, Laurence Jaynes, Mark Rondinaro and Phil Barnes.

Blowers re-elected Chair of Legislature

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 3, 2024 -- Republican Carl Blowers of the Town of Dix was re-elected Chair of the Schuyler County Legislature at its annual reorganizational meeting held Wednesday morning. The vote was unanimous.

Blowers, a retired businessman, was first elected to the legislature in 2014 and re-elected in 2018 and 2022. He has chaired the legislature every year since 2020.

He is active in a number of organizations, including: the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, the Montour Falls Library, the Arnot Art Museum, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, the Erie Canal Way Heritage Fund, the United Way of Schuyler County, and Catholic
Charities of Chemung and Schuyler counties. He has served as a member of the Regional Board of Trustees of Corning Community College as well as its Chairman.


In other action, the legislature reappointed Stacy Husted of Montour Falls as Clerk of the
Legislature; Steven Getman of Montour Falls as Schuyler County Attorney, and Josette Colon as Public Defender.
M. Shawn Rosno continues at County Administrator.

Prior to the voting, County Court Judge Matthew Hayden administered the oath of office to newly re-elected legislators Mark F. Rondinaro (District VII) and Gary L. Gray (District VIII).


The County of Schuyler is governed by an eight-person legislature, headed by its Chair. Members serve staggered four-year terms with term limits. The legislature, in turn, appoints various department heads to oversee the County’s day-to-day operations, including the County
Administrator, Public Defender, County Attorney and Clerk to the Legislature.


The current members of the Legislature are Carl H. Blowers, Chair; Philip C. Barnes, Michael L. Lausell, James W.D. Howell, Jr., Mark F. Rondinaro, David M. Reed, Gary L. Gray, and Laurence W. Jaynes.

Photo in text: Schuyler County Judge Matthew Hayden swears in Legislators Gary Gray, left, and Mark Rondinaro, re-elected to four-year terms in November.

O'Mara to continue his regional offices

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Jan. 3, 2024 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) has announced that he will continue operating district offices in Elmira, Bath, and Waterloo throughout 2024, in addition to his Albany office.

O’Mara represents the 58th Senate District comprised of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Tioga, and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County (the towns of Alfred, Almond, Amity, Andover, Birdsall, Burns, Grove, Independence, Scio, Ward, Wellsville, and Willing).

He encouraged 58th district residents to contact any of his offices for state government assistance and information.

"Area residents should never hesitate to contact our offices for assistance, to address concerns, help facilitate access to state programs and services, or even just as a sounding board for suggestions and ideas,” said O’Mara.

He provided the following office contact information:

Elmira District Office: 100 West Church Street (Suite 103). Mailing address: 100 West Church Street, Suite 103, Elmira, New York 14901. Telephone: 607-735-9671.

Bath Satellite Office: 105 East Steuben Street. Mailing address: 105 E. Steuben Street, Bath, New York 14810. Telephone: 607-776-3201;

Waterloo Satellite Office: Seneca County Office Building, 1 Dipronio Drive (3rd Floor). Mailing address: Seneca County Office Building, 1 Dipronio Drive, Third Floor, Waterloo, New York 13165. Telephone: 315-393-3024.

Albany Office: Room 706, Legislative Office Building. Mailing address: Legislative Office Building, Room 706, Albany, New York 12247. Telephone: 518-455-2091.

O’Mara can be e-mailed at: omara@nysenate.gov.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Marmor named Assistant County Attorney

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 27, 2023 -- Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman has announced his appointment of Montour Falls resident Sophie Marmor as an Assistant County Attorney.

In this role, Marmor will join Getman in representing Schuyler County in civil litigation, family court prosecutions and related matters.

Marmor has been an attorney since 2013. Prior to joining the County Attorney’s office, she served as an assistant district attorney in both Chemung and Schuyler counties, a member of the Chemung County Public Advocate’s office and as a Judicial Intern in New York State Supreme Court.

Getman said, “I am honored to have an attorney with Sophie’s education and experience working for our office. I am confident that she will represent Schuyler County government effectively and ethically.”

Marmor stated “I am proud to be joining County Attorney Getman’s office. Having known Mr. Getman and his staff for a number of years, I have been impressed with their integrity and commitment to the taxpayers, children and families of Schuyler County."

In addition to Getman and Marmor, the Schuyler County Attorney’s staff consists of first assistant county attorney Kristin Hazlitt, of Hector, as well as secretaries Ramona Cunningham and Brandy Bower.

Marmor is a graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and of Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University, magna cum laude.

In addition to her attorney duties, Marmor has served as a member of the Schuyler County Coalition Against Underage Drinking and Drug Use, a teacher at the Jewish Community School of the Twin Tiers and as Captain of the Yeshiva University NCAA III 2008-2009 Varsity Fencing Team.

The County Attorney is the legal advisor to all county officials and prosecutes and defends civil actions by and against the county. In addition, the County Attorney prosecutes family court cases involving child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency and child support violations.

Photo in text: Sophie Marmor (Photo provided)

O'Mara rips Hochul over Clean Slate Act

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Nov. 16, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O'Mara (R,C-Big Flats) Thursday strongly criticized Governor Kathy Hochul for signing into law a measure known as the "Clean Slate Act" that he says will erase criminal records from public view and provide no protections for crime victims or law-abiding New Yorkers.

Hochul held a bill signing ceremony in Brooklyn Thursday morning.

O'Mara voted against the legislation (S7551A/A1029C) when it was approved by the state Senate earlier this year. He was joined by every member of the Senate Republican conference in opposition to the new law.

The Clean Slate Act calls for sealing criminal records -- including for violent crimes such as assault, armed robbery, attempted murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and others -- eight years after a sentence is complete for felonies and after three years for misdemeanors. O'Mara and his GOP colleagues said the action continues an alarming trend by Hochul and the Legislature's Democrat majorities to keep enacting pro-criminal policies despite rising rates of criminal violence statewide.

O'Mara said, "Another day in New York, another pro-criminal policy pushed by one-party rule. This state is facing a crisis of rising crime and lawlessness, and yet this new law continues to make our communities, neighborhoods, and streets even less safe. The crisis, caused in large part by Democrat-led cashless bail and other soft-on-crime policies, could be stopped if Albany Democrats stopped pushing a radical, pro-criminal agenda. These new actions once again prove that Democrats care more about protecting violent felons and dangerous individuals than they do victims and law-abiding New Yorkers."

Statewide polling throughout the past year continues to show that New Yorkers view crime as one of the most critical issues confronting the state and that New York is moving in the wrong direction to address it.

In 2019, Senate Democrats began completely reversing years of public safety progress by pushing the enactment of dangerous cashless bail laws, discovery law changes, parole "reforms," Raise the Age, HALT, and other pro-criminal policies, O'Mara said.

Senate Republicans have responded by continuously calling for the enactment of measures to restore public safety in New York.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Palmesano 'extremely disappointed' by Act

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Nov. 16, 2023 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano was highly critical Thursday of Governor Kathy Hochul's decision to sign the Clean Slate Act into law.

“I am extremely disappointed Gov. Hochul would sign the radical and criminal-friendly Clean Slate Act," said Palmesano. "This bill would automatically seal the records of those convicted of misdemeanors after three years and anyone convicted of a felony after eight years. This is unacceptable not just to me but also to crime victims and their families. This is truly an insult to them, allowing those who caused them harm to see their records automatically wiped clean.

“It is not just low-level crimes that will be sealed, either. Attempted murder, aggravated manslaughter, gang assault, aggravated assault upon a police officer, criminal use of a chemical or biological weapon, most kidnappings, burglaries, assault, attempted arson, grand larceny and endangering the welfare of a child will now be eligible to be sealed.

“Violent criminals will now have their records automatically sealed without any judicial review or input from law enforcement, crime victims or their families. This is unacceptable. Businesses should have the right to know who they are hiring, just as landlords deserve to know if they are renting their property to a dangerous felon. This legislation does absolutely nothing to decrease crime or address the concerns of everyday New Yorkers.

“Gov. Hochul continues to claim public safety is her most important priority. However, once again, it seems Gov. Hochul has been bullied by radical progressives instead of standing up for the citizens of New York. Whether it be Bail Reform, Raise the Age or Clean Slate, Democrats in Albany continue to adopt soft-on-crime policies that put the interests of criminals ahead of public safety, crime victims and their families. It's long past due for New York to reverse this dangerous trend, provide law enforcement with the support and tools they need and finally adopt common-sense criminal justice policies that make sure people are safe, and feel safe, in their own communities.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Yates' Andrew Swarthout is inducted into
New York Senate's Veterans' Hall of Fame

Special to The Odessa File

YATES COUNTY, Nov. 9, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) on Thursday inducted Andrew Swarthout of Yates County, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and mainstay of local veterans’ organizations, into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

Swarthout represents O’Mara’s 58th Senate District and joins approximately 60 other veterans from throughout the state inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

He was nominated for this year’s induction by Yates County resident Kathy Prendergast.

Senators honored their respective 2023 inductees through a virtual ceremony Thursday morning.

O’Mara will also recognize Swarthout at a local ceremony as part of the Yates County Bicentennial and Veterans Celebration Gala on Veterans Day, Saturday, November 11, at Seasons on Keuka Lake at Hampton Inn (110 Mace Street, Penn Yan). The gala begins at 5:00 p.m. and O’Mara’s presentation is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the event.

O’Mara said, “It is truly an honor to induct Andy Swarthout into the Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame to ensure that his service and his commitment to area veterans will always be remembered. I remain grateful that the New York State Senate provides this annual opportunity to salute the lives of our local veterans who have made such a difference for our communities, our state, and the United States of America. Andy served our nation in Vietnam with great courage and distinction. Then he came back home to Yates County where he has remained committed to the critical work of honoring and assisting his fellow veterans and their families. He’s made a great difference in so many lives and I am proud, through the Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame, to express our collective gratitude and respect.”

The Senate established its online Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2005 and, including this year, has inducted more than 500 veterans. The Hall salutes New York veterans for their service in the United States Armed Forces and their civilian accomplishments.

O’Mara’s previous Veterans’ Hall of Fame inductees are

--Philip C. Smith, a highly decorated Korean War combat veteran and well-known figure in Schuyler County government and veterans’ affairs (2011);

--J. Arthur “Archie” Kieffer, a World War II combat veteran and a widely admired fixture in Chemung County government as the Chemung County historian (2012);

--Painted Post Mayor and World War II combat veteran Roswell L. “Roz” Crozier, Jr. (2013);

--Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio, Sr., a distinguished Korean War veteran and widely respected for his long-standing and active service to veterans and government in Watkins Glen and throughout Schuyler County (2014);

--P. Earle Gleason, a lifelong Yates County resident and longtime director of the Yates County Veterans’ Service Agency (2016);

--Warren A. Thompson, a lifelong Steuben County resident and farmer, and a stalwart in the county’s civic and veterans affairs (2018);

--Paul C. “Digger” Vendetti of Elmira, a World War II United States Navy veteran and longtime caretaker at Woodlawn National Cemetery (2019);

--Richard T. “Dick” Gillespie of Penn Yan, a veteran of World War II (2021); and

--last year, Dennis Dennis L. “Denny” Wolfe, Sr. of Chemung County, a Vietnam War veteran and founder of the Vietnam War Museum in Elmira.

Other area veterans who are Hall of Fame members are Frank C. "Fritz" Pesesky, a veteran of World War II and former director of the Chemung County Veterans Service Office (2005); William K. Kastner, a Vietnam veteran and longtime director of the Steuben County Veterans Service Agency (2006); and Robert Laskaris, a highly decorated combat veteran and well-known figure in Chemung County veterans’ affairs (2008).

Photo in text: Honoree Andrew Swarthout (Photo provided)

Sheriff's Office, SCCUDD, Public Health taking back unwanted prescription drugs

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Oct. 18, 2023 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office, the Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD), and Schuyler County Public Health are encouraging community members to participate in National Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 28, 2023.

Community members can drop off their expired, unused, or unwanted medications between 10 AM and 2 PM at the Tyrone Fire Department and Odessa Fire Department. Community members who are trying to quit smoking are also able to dispose of tobacco products at the events.

“Medications that sit unused in homes can be dangerous,” warned Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey. “They can end up being taken and abused by someone, or a child can end up taking them by accident and become extremely ill or worse.”

Free and anonymous medication disposal will be available during these events. Medications, ointments, and sprays will be accepted. Needles cannot be accepted. Tobacco products, except for e-cigarettes, will also be accepted at these events.

“We are happy the Sheriff’s Office was able to add tobacco take-back services once again,” said Schuyler County Public Health Director Jill Kasprzyk. “It is great that community members have the opportunity to take that first step toward quitting, by throwing out their cigarettes, chew, or other tobacco products.”

Community members can also dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused prescription drugs year-round by using the 24/7 confidential drop boxes available at the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen, in the foyer at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls, and in the lobby at the Watkins Glen Village Police Department.

SCCUDD is a group of community members, businesses, and agencies that work to prevent, reduce, and delay the onset of substance use among Schuyler County youth by collaborating with community partners, promoting prevention education and substance-free activities, and implementing environmental strategies. SCCUDD works to reduce youth use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, which can cause lifelong problems.

For more information, or to become involved with SCCUDD, visit it online at www.schuylercounty.us/sccudd, or follow it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Photo in text: Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey (File photo)

State Senate GOP Conference opposes idea of 'Migrant Tax' on New York residents

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Sept. 20 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) has joined Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt and members of the Senate Republican Conference to respond to a recent proposal by leading state Senate Democrats to impose a “Migrant Tax” on New Yorkers to address the burgeoning migrant crisis statewide.

The Senate GOP penned a letter calling on Senate Democrats to immediately dismiss the proposal.

The letter reads, in part,“We have seen our local resources drained and not only chaos, but danger unfolding. It is deeply offensive that we would force New Yorkers to continue to foot the bill for the failures of Washington and Albany politicians as this crisis grows, a bill that Mayor Adams has estimated will cost the State of New York $12 billion to house and provide services to migrants over the next three years. ... New Yorkers have already been forced to shoulder this burden in an already tenuous economy. As members of the Senate Republican Conference, we have consistently stood with the taxpayers of New York State and we urge the Majority to reject any effort to raise taxes.”

O’Mara, the ranking member on the Senate Finance and Government Operations committees, said, “Theres no end in sight to New York's border crisis, and true to form, the only answer from some leading Albany Democrats is to want state and local taxpayers to foot the bill for ongoing chaos. It is a complete failure of leadership and common sense at the state and federal levels, and it just keeps getting worse. Upstate localities have every right to protect their communities from an onslaught of asylum seekers that threaten to overrun local resources, social services, schools, and budgets, to mention nothing of the public health and safety concerns. New York State taxpayers should never be forced to bail these sanctuary city Democrats out of a disaster of their own making.”

In September, the Senate and Assembly Republican conferences sent letters to Governor Hochul urging her to convene an extraordinary session of the Legislature in order to take action to ensure funding for affected communities, revoke sanctuary status to stem the influx of migrants, ensure local control for communities, and take further actions to ensure taxpayers are protected.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara urges Upstate emergency orders
to combat NYC relocation of migrants

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Aug. 15, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) Tuesday urged counties, cities, towns, and villages throughout the Upstate New York region to issue emergency orders in an effort to prevent Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams from moving forward on mass relocations of asylum-seeking migrants from the city to Upstate communities.

O’Mara said, “The migrant crisis is spreading out across this state as fast as Governor Hochul can find shelters and Mayor Adams can fill buses with migrants off the streets of New York City. It’s a crisis that is only going to get worse. Upstate localities should take every possible step, including issuing emergency orders, to try to exert local control over Governor Hochul’s plan to send migrants to the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and all over Upstate.

"The governor and her Democrat, New York City allies appear ready and willing to once again override local control in a crisis and begin shipping these illegal migrants anywhere and everywhere they can. Right now, it’s the only plan on their table, besides setting aside billions of dollars in state taxpayer dollars to help New York City survive a crisis that they have no idea how to handle. It’s a failed response on the state and federal levels. Our local communities should never be forced to bail them out of a disaster of their own making.”

Since the spring of 2022, New York City, which has long declared itself a sanctuary city, estimates that more than 100,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in the city from the southern border. The number of migrants has overwhelmed the city’s ability to find housing and provide food and other social services. As a result, Adams and Hochul have been working in tandem to identify shelters in communities around the state to move migrants.

Dozens of migrant advocacy groups are pressuring Hochul to take unilateral, executive action to overrule any county-level orders attempting to block the state from relocating migrants. Furthermore, the Biden administration recently denied Hochul’s request to utilize a largely vacant, 1,000+ acres, former military airfield in Brooklyn as a migrant camp.

Many local communities have already issued emergency orders prohibiting hotels, motels, and other facilities from contracting with the city or state to accept migrants without local approval. New York City has filed a lawsuit against many of these local bans, particularly on Long Island, and is trying to have all legal challenges heard in Manhattan courtrooms. A Manhattan judge recently ruled against the city’s attempt to centralize legal challenges and ruled, instead, that challenges should be heard in courts in the counties where orders are enacted.

Legislation has been introduced, which O’Mara co-sponsors, to help alleviate the ongoing migrant crisis and prevent similar chaos in the future. One measure (S6995) would clarify that a local state of emergency supersedes a state of emergency issued by the Governor when the two are in conflict. This would restore local control.

Another piece of legislation (S7009) would protect vulnerable populations -- including veterans, victims of domestic violence, and the disabled -- by prohibiting them from being ejected from a hotel, motel, or shelter in order to make room for migrants.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara, at podium during press conference Tuesday in Elmira, is flanked from left by Assemblyman Chris Friend, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Congressman Nick Langworthy and Elmira Mayor Daniel Mandell. (Photo provided)

$100,000 available for facade upgrades through matching-grant ARPA program

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 11, 2023 -- The Schuyler County Legislature, in partnership with the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED, has once again reopened the Downtown & Business ARPA Program, aimed at downtown revitalization with a match grant program to assist with building facade improvements.

Over $100,000 is currently available to building owners for facade improvements to commercial and mixed-use properties.

This downtown improvement program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and was established by the Schuyler County Legislature in January 2022. The purpose of the program is to support small businesses and existing building owners in improving the environment within downtown communities. From the initial allocation of $350,000, an estimated $100,000 is still available, and applications will be accepted through September 6, 2023.

Properties located within one-half mile of the downtown boundaries of Watkins Glen, Odessa, Montour Falls, and Burdett are eligible to apply. Applicants can apply for a minimum of $5,000 up to $25,000 for their project improvements (total improvement costs of $10,000 to $50,000). Eligible properties include existing commercial or mixed-use buildings and exclude single, two-family, and multi-family homes. Applicants must show the ability to fund the project, as this is a reimbursement program and funds will not be disbursed until the project has been completed with all documentation provided as explained in the guidelines.

As the Economic Development Agency for Schuyler County, SCOPED will assist in the administration of the grants by reviewing the applications and working with each project sponsor.

For a list of past awards, the grant guidelines, the application, and more information, visit https://www.flxgateway.com/downtown-improvement-fund.

Five Clute Park lifeguards were honored with Certificates of Valor at the Aug. 1 Watkins Glen Village Board meeting for their roles July 23rd in aiding a man outside the perimeter of their lifeguard stations who had been injured diving from a boat into shallow water. From left: Mayor Laurie DeNardo, lifeguards Cameron Holland, Hannah Nolan, Isabella La Face and Giuseppe La Face, and Park Manager Craig Bond. Not pictured: lifeguard Nikhil Manakkal.

Watkins board commits to pump upgrade

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 3, 2023 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Tuesday night approved a resolution committing the village to match funding to upgrade the Pump Station at Clute Park and a Force Main Reroute, a portion of the infrastructure projects it is undertaking.

The resolution committed the village to pay $1,213,500 to match funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, with the understanding that village officials would continue to seek other grants to offset the cost. Mayor Laurie DeNardo said that while such future funding is not guaranteed, to wait for the current pump station (which she said is outdated) and reroute to fail would cost upwards of $10 million “and shut down the park.”

“We’re going to continue to work through it,” she said of the village’s infrastructure upgrade needs. “We need to do this (resolution) to secure the money from the ARC and IIJA.”

The board also considered adding a small (possibly $2) fee per month to bills for recycling after approving a contract renewal last month with Cardinal Disposal that continues two-time-a-month collection -- a frequency that a survey of residents showed had support from more than 70% of respondents. The recycling, DeNardo said, has increased by $20,000 in two years, now reaching $60,000 a year. The added charge would have to be adopted by Local Law, preceded by a public hearing.

In other news:

--DeNardo said the village is now clear of “illegal marijuana shops” with the departure of the Fat Daddy’s shop on Franklin Street.

--The board heard that the Summer Rec program at Clute Park, resurrected this year after several years without it, has been a success, and that attendees will be constructing a cardboard Pirate Ship that will be carried on a Silverline Construction trailer in the upcoming Italian Festival parade.

--Heard that the old Clute Park pavilion will require upgrades for future use by the Summer Rec program -- with one program official deeming the pavilion an ideal program headquarters. The Event Center at Clute is too busy to serve the same role day in and day out.

--The board received fee recommendations for next year for Clute Park camping, including (for the first time) a military rate. The fees -- some the same as this year and some showing increases -- will be considered by the board before it votes on them.

--The board approved a second payment, totaling $178,600, for ongoing work at LaFayette Park. The money is for a new pavilion roof, and for the new restroom facility’s foundation flooring and miscellaneous framing.

Photo in text: Watkins Glen Deputy Mayor Peter Cherock at Aug. 1 meeting.

NYC suit against Schuyler County rejected

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, July 19, 2023 -- A state Supreme Court Justice has thrown out New York City’s lawsuit against Schuyler County over the county’s May state of emergency related to the possible relocation of migrant asylum seekers within the state.

Justice Lyle Frank on Wednesday granted Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman’s motion to dismiss the case for a failure by the city to state a cause of action against the county.

In doing so, Frank agreed with Getman that the city’s case against the county was “non-justiciable” and that the city’s arguments for continuing the lawsuit were “speculative and without merit.”

Attorneys from New York City’s Department of Law had argued that Schuyler County had continued to oppose the city's use of hotels in Schuyler communities to house asylum seekers despite the county’s emergency order having expired.

The decision comes a day after Getman traveled to New York City for oral argument before Frank on the motion.

Getman said he was relieved but not surprised.

“We were likely to succeed on a number of our claims, including mootness, arguments that the city lacked standing against Schuyler County and that the lawsuit was brought in an improper forum,” he said.

In May, Schuyler County Legislature Chair Carl Blowers issued a local state of emergency for 10 days that prohibited municipal programs from housing illegal migrants or asylum seekers in the county. It also prevented any hotel, short-term rental and motel in the county from entering into a contract to house them. It was issued in response to plans by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to send asylum seekers to other areas of the state. Blowers’ order expired May 21.

In June, New York City sued Schuyler County and more than 30 municipalities and local leaders throughout the state, alleging the emergency orders illegally obstructed the city's efforts to relocate migrants upstate. The suit asked the state Supreme Court to invalidate the emergency orders on claims that they were unconstitutional. It also sought to prohibit the municipalities from taking steps that "restrict or frustrate" the city’s efforts to address the statewide emergency, which Gov. Kathy Hochul declared on May 9.

Judge Frank’s decision applies to Schuyler County only, Getman said. The other municipalities’ motions are expected to be addressed in separate orders.

According to Getman, the city has approximately thirty days to appeal Frank’s decision.

Photos in text: Steven Getman (top) and Carl Blowers (Provided)

Watkins Glen Mayor Laurie DeNardo and Deputy Mayor Peter Cherock at meeting.

Glen Board gets glowing report on Corvette Festival, rejects Italian Festival fee request

WATKINS GLEN, June 20 2023 -- The Watkins Glen Village Board Tuesday night, in a 90-minute session, dealt with issues on several fronts.

The board:

--Heard from Tony Vickio, who devised and oversaw the Corvette Festival held in the village last month. Vickio said the festival was “a 30-year dream” of his that came together despite the forecast (and arrival) of rain during the display of cars at Clute Park.

Very little needs to be “tweaked,” Vickio said, for next year’s festival, other than perhaps shortening the hours of Clute Park display. One new feature, he noted, will be a visit by participants -- after driving the old course in the hills outside of Watkins -- to the Watkins Glen International track before departing the area at the end of the weekend.

After two years of the festival are achieved, he noted, organizers can file for non-profit status for the event as planning turns long-term. Mayor Laurie DeNardo said she was "totally supportive" of the festival efforts.

--Rejected a request by the Schuyler County Italian American Festival to return to the festival the parking duties, and parking income, that it had held in the past but which the village took over last year. While Mayor DeNardo said she had “empathy” for the festival as it strives to meet expenses each year, “I don’t think we can give them the store” -- in particular with the village waiving $4,500 in annual rental fees and providing staff help without charge.

Festival Treasurer Sally Conti, in a letter to the Board, said that with the loss of ride vendors last year and this year, a reduction in donations, and a slow response from craft and food vendors for this summer's event, the parking fees are sorely needed. "Without the rides and without the parking income, I doubt we can survive," the letter said.

--Said it is “looking into” live streaming of board meetings. Village Clerk Fred Warrick said the village is “close to getting there.”

--Passed a resolution opposing the expansion of the Seneca Meadows, Inc. landfill in Seneca Falls, near the Town of Waterloo. Mayor DeNardo said Watkins Glen is affected because “smelly, leaking” trucks en route to the landfill pass through the village in numbers that would  increase with a landfill expansion. She said three other municipalities had passed similar resolutions.

--Said it had received two recycling bids, each identical at $5,000 a month, up from the current $4,200. DeNardo expressed concern, asking “How are we going to keep sustaining this?” and suggesting the village seek input from residents on what they want to do.

--Heard from Village Clerk Warrick that it might be time to look at the village practice of providing leaf bags to residents. The cost to the village each year is $10,000, and Warrick said the bags are often misused. The board decided to study the issue for possible future action.

--Noted that the Finger Lakes Railway will be performing a track rehabilitation project starting in July, but that it will be minimally disruptive, focusing on “crossings down to lake houses.”

--Said that the Independence Day fireworks will be on Sunday, July 2, launched from a barge off the Clute Park shore. This is the first time a barge has been employed for the show, officials said, which will open up more parking on the Clute grounds for attendees.

--Decided to shift the first of two July meetings to the second Tuesday, July 11th, since the first Tuesday falls on the July 4th holiday. The second meeting of the month will be held as scheduled on July 18th.

Photos in text:

Top: Tony Vickio at the board meeting.
Bottom: Some of the leaf bags, piled in the Village Hall entryway.

'Money is tight,' Schuyler legislators told

WATKINS GLEN, June 13, 2023 -- The Schuyler County Legislature, at its monthly meeting Monday night, approved several resolutions and heard County Administrator Fonda Chronis caution that "money will be tight this year" as he prepares the next budget.

That tightness, Chronis said, is being caused by several circumstances, including a mandated increase in assigned counsel costs, an increase in pension costs, and changes in the amount of proceeds counties can claim from tax sales. He added, however, that a resurgence in sales tax, which recently has slowed, could counteract the situation. In any event, he said, the county spending plan will "stay at or below the tax cap."

Among the resolutions were:

--One approving the transfer of $10,000 in funds from the District Attorney's Seized Assets Reserve Account to the Sheriff's Department for the purchase of Axon Body Cameras.

--One approving a bid of $837,448 by Economy Paving Co. Inc. for repair of the Seneca Harbor Park Seawall.

--One approving amendment of the Schuyler County Sexual Harassment Policy to meet new minimum standards set by the state.

--One authorizing the Legislature Chairman, Carl Blowers, to execute a contract with the Village of Watkins Glen, on behalf of the Schuyler County Youth Bureau, providing $2,018 for the Summer Recreation Program at Clute Park.

--One approving issuance of Public Entertainment Permits to Watkins Glen International for its five major events this summer, including the NASCAR Cup Series, the Wine Festival and the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix.

Photo in text: Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers, left, talks with Legislator Phil Barnes before the start of the meeting.

New LED sign installed in Watkins Glen

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, June 1, 2023 -- A new electronic sign was recently installed in front of the Schuyler County Courthouse on Franklin Street in Watkins Glen. The sign will be used to promote community events and health information, in addition to sharing emergency messages, when needed.

“We are excited to have the new LED sign up and running,” said Schuyler County Public Health Director Jill Kasprzyk. “The sign is a great place to learn about events going on in the community like the History Walks the Historical Society organizes, rabies vaccination clinics, and community festivals like the upcoming Waterfront Festival. We are happy to be able to provide this message board for the community again.”

The new sign replaced an older LED sign that had been in place since 2013. The sign was replaced thanks to a joint effort by the Schuyler County Community Services and Public Health departments.

If you are interested in getting a message on the new LED sign, you can submit a request through the Schuyler County website. Visit http://www.schuylercounty.us/FormCenter/Public-Health-6/Requests-for-Messaging-on-the-LED-sign-40 or click on “How Do I...” on the top banner of the County’s website and click on “Have a message placed on the LED sign?”

Schuyler County Public Health also provided the following information about the sign:

--Please submit any message requests at least two weeks prior to the message start date.
--Messages promoting for-profit businesses, personal congratulations, birthdays, and other similar subjects are not allowed on the sign.
--Submitted messages may be edited for clarity or to ensure the text can fit on the sign.
--If there is an emergent need for a message to be placed, contact the office at 607-535-8140.

For more information, visit Public Health online at www.schuylercounty.us/publichealth or follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photo in text: The new LED sign on North Franklin Street, in front of the county courthous. (Photo provided)

Schuyler County extends state of emergency over the relocation of illegal immigrants

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, May 16, 2023 -- Schuyler County Legislature Chair Carl Blowers has extended for an additional five days the county’s state of emergency over the possible relocation of illegal immigrants within the state, Blowers and County Administrator Fonda Chronis announced Tuesday.

The extended order keeps the county under a Local State of Emergency that prohibits municipal programs from housing illegal migrants or asylum seekers. It continues to prohibit any hotel, short-term rental and motel in the county from entering into a contract to house them, or risking daily fines.

Like the original order, Blowers’ extension was issued in response to plans by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to send asylum seekers to other areas of the state.

The extension cites Schuyler County’s status as the second least populous county in the state and finds the county doesn’t have the appropriate services to take in large numbers of people without time “to gather needed information to develop a strategy that best fits the county’s needs and maintains public health and safety.” It also finds that Adams, along with federal and state officials, “are only just beginning to provide any information and transparency” on the processes being used to relocate migrants to other areas.

Under the extended order, anyone found in violation of the emergency rules may be liable for a civil penalty of up to $2,000 per migrant/asylum seeker per day, and could be found guilty of a Class B Misdemeanor. The Schuyler County Sheriff is authorized to issue appearance tickets for any violation and the County Attorney may commence civil lawsuits against violators as well.

Blowers has set the emergency order to be in effect for an additional five days unless sooner modified, extended, or revoked, and may be extended for additional periods.

A complete conformed copy of the Extended Emergency Order is available here: https://www.scribd.com/document/645832938/SCHUYLER-COUNTY-CONTINUATION-OF-THE-DECLARATION-OF-A-LOCAL-STATE-OF-EMERGENCY

Photo in text: Schuyler Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers (File photo)

**********

The original story from May 11:

Schuyler County issues state of emergency over the relocation of illegal immigrants

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, May 11, 2023 -- With Title 42 expiring on Thursday (May 11), Schuyler County has become the latest county in New York to issue a state of emergency over the relocation of illegal immigrants within the state, County Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers and County Administrator Fonda Chronis announced Thursday.

Blowers has issued an executive order that places the county under a Local State of Emergency that prohibits municipal programs from housing illegal migrants/asylum seekers. It also prohibits any hotel, short-term rental and motel in the county from entering into a contract to house them, or risk daily fines.

According to Blowers’ order there is reason to believe that these migrants could be transported to Schuyler County, with no reason to believe they will leave. The order finds a potential emergency for the public with the threat of large numbers of people being transported to the county.

The order notes that New York City Mayor Eric Adams has put in place plans to send illegal aliens to other areas and that Governor Kathy Hochul issued a May 9 Executive Order to boost support for asylum seekers. It also notes that Tompkins County, which borders Schuyler County, is a sanctuary county, increasing the chances of migrants finding their way to Schuyler County.

The county doesn’t have the appropriate services to take in large numbers of people, especially given its small population, and there is no legal basis to provide services to them through the Department of Social Services, the order states.

Under the order, anyone found in violation of the emergency rules may be liable for a civil penalty of up to $2,000 per migrant/asylum seeker per day, and could be found guilty of a Class B Misdemeanor. The Schuyler County Sheriff is authorized to issue appearance tickets for any violation and the County Attorney may commence civil lawsuits against violators as well.

Blowers has set the emergency order to be in effect for five days unless sooner modified, extended, or revoked, and may be extended for additional periods.

A complete conformed copy of the Local Emergency Order is available here: https://www.scribd.com/document/644652762/Schuyler-County-Executive-Order-2023-05-11

O'Mara, Palmesano rip new state budget

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, May 3, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats), Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee, released the following statement Wednesday on the final, approximately $230 billion, 2023-2024 New York State budget being enacted by Governor Kathy Hochul and the Legislature’s Democrat majorities:

“New York State taxpayers today and long into the future now face having to go on trying to afford, and trying to live and work under, one of the most bloated governmental budgets in the world.

"The bottom line on this budget is that it’s not affordable. To afford it, Governor Hochul and the Democrat majorities in the Legislature will keep on squeezing every penny they possibly can from state and local taxpayers through higher taxes, passing the buck to localities, more borrowing, raiding reserve funds, increasing fees, and every other anti-taxpayer, anti-business, anti-economic opportunity, and anti-economic growth action that’s contained in this new budget and will be the cornerstone of state budgets for a long time to come under one-party, all-Democrat control.

"New York State will remain the nation’s leader in irresponsible, irrational, and unsustainable spending that will overburden and make this state even more unaffordable for taxpayers, families, workers, small businesses, manufacturers, farmers, and every segment of our local economies.”

And from Assemblyman Phil Palmesano:

“When Governor Hochul released her budget, she claimed it would make New York safer and more affordable. The $229 billion budget adopted by the legislature did neither. This budget, unfortunately, is full of missed opportunities, misplaced priorities and unsustainable for the future.

“The governor promised to use her executive authority to adopt the needed reforms to our bail and criminal justice laws in the budget to help New Yorkers be safe and feel safe. However, the resulting actions did little, if anything, to address public safety and the crime crisis plaguing communities all across our state. New York still remains the only state in the nation that does not allow judges to consider the dangerousness of an individual to a community when determining their pre-trial release. This budget does not provide the needed changes to bail and discovery laws ... and allows an unchecked parole board to release dangerous and violent individuals back into our communities.

“New York families and businesses already faced the highest taxes and worst business climate in the nation. Even as seniors, families, farmers and businesses battle crippling inflation, this budget continues an unsustainable path of uncontrolled spending and increased debt, while extending businesses tax increases by nearly $3 billion. This budget will increase taxes on county property taxpayers, and it does not provide much-needed relief to small businesses to address their increased unemployment insurance costs assessed on them by this administration to pay back funds borrowed from the federal government to pay for covid unemployment claims. We know that unemployment claims, according to an audit by the Comptroller, amounted to over $11 billion in unemployment fraud.

"This budget does not provide the assistance needed to support the wages of our direct support professionals, who are tasked with providing the critical quality of care and quality of life services for our most vulnerable New Yorkers -- the developmentally disabled. However, the governor and Democrat majorities did make it a priority to provide $1 billion to NewYork City for the illegal migrant situation and to provide $700 million in tax credits to Hollywood millionaires for the Hollywood film tax credit.

“In addition, alarmingly, this budget continues a path toward a radical, unaffordable and unreliable energy plan for New York. It provides for a ban on natural gas in new buildings that eliminates energy choice for families and businesses on how they want to heat their homes, cook their food, and power their buildings. It is the first step in a plan to fully electrify all of New York state, including power generation, buildings and transportation. It is unsustainable for the grid, will increase the risk of potential blackouts, drive up utility, construction and home/business retrofit and conversion costs, and seriously jeopardize the future reliability of our energy supply for all New Yorkers.

"It is just one more thing that will continue the exodus of more New York families, farmers, small businesses and manufacturers from our state.”

Photos: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Schuyler observes 'Law Day' on May 1st

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, April 28, 2023 -- Law Day is Monday (May 1) and the Schuyler County Legislature has recognized as the Law Day 2023 theme “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.”

The legislature passed a resolution at its April 10, 2023 meeting, recognizing “Law Day” as an occasion of public acknowledgement of our nation’s heritage of justice, liberty, and equality under the law.

The resolution was submitted to the legislature by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman.

“Promoting collaboration and civility is an important component in the civic education of the citizens of the United States, the State of New York and the County of Schuyler so that we might respectfully resolve our disputes, strengthen the bonds between citizens, and protect the promise of freedom,” Getman wrote.

However, the resolution noted, “overly-entrenched political beliefs, unwarranted personal attacks, efforts to silence those with whom one disagrees, and a national news media often prone to sensationalism and partisanship may erode civility, collaboration and the blessings of liberty.”

In passing the resolution, the legislature called upon all Schuyler County residents “to observe this day by renewing their commitment to civic engagement, civility, and collaboration, to promote justice, liberty, and equality under the law.” It was supported unanimously by the members present.

May 1, 2023 is the 65th Law Day. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Law Day Proclamation to mark our nation’s commitment to the rule of law. Each year the American Bar Association selects an annual theme for Law Day.

A copy of Schuyler County’s resolution “Recognizing and Commemorating May 1, 2023 as ‘Law Day’ in Schuyler County” is available here: https://tinyurl.com/3cjexpvm

Photo in text: County Attorney Steven Getman

Village of Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan and Cornell Executive Director of Innovation Katherine Herleman accept the 2023 U.S. Department of Energy Better Project Award from senior U.S. DOE leadership. From left: Herleman; Chris Castro, Chief of Staff, State and Community Energy Programs, U.S. Department of Energy; Mayor Ryan; and Dr. Henry Clay McKoy Jr., Director, Office of State and Community Energy Programs, U.S. DOE. (Provided)

Montour Falls wins Department of Energy award for innovative sustainability projects

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, April 13, 2023 -- The Village of Montour Falls has been presented a 2023 Better Project Award from by the U.S. Department of Energy for outstanding accomplishments in implementing energy and waste reduction projects that support the municipality’s sustainability and decarbonization goals.

“Partners in our Better Buildings Challenge are sharing their success and innovation to accelerate their energy efficiency,” said Carolyn Snyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The Better Project awards highlight unique efforts to make meaningful headway in reducing energy, water, waste and greenhouse gas emissions.”

In 2021, the Village, which currently has a population of 1,604 residents, created an educational pilot program for food waste reduction and diversion strategies available to residents and businesses. The results of the pilot program have included the removal of 26 tons of food waste, 4 tons of wood waste, 156 tons of CO2e and 6.25 tons of methane from the waste stream -- the equivalent of taking 35 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the road.

Based on the success of the pilot program, the Village is now developing a permanent solid waste reduction education program and has commissioned a study to determine the best location for a compost facility that will serve the Southern Tier region. The compost facility will provide a new municipal revenue stream and cost savings through composting wastewater sludge and food scraps.

“Developing a clear, comprehensive set of practical community priorities was key to driving sustainability actions,” said Mayor Jim Ryan, who accepted DOE’s award in Washington, D.C.. “Over the past five years, the Village has demonstrated a strong commitment to community innovation and has networked extensively in order to create a variety of valuable partnerships. I am proud that the Village has been able to accomplish all of the projects to-date without passing on any cost to residents." This has been done "through a combination of grants, in-kind partner support, staff in-kind, and cost savings through increased building energy efficiency and LED streetlight conversion.”

Since 2018, the Village has engaged in climate mitigation and adaptation activities guided by DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative and New York’s Climate Smart Communities and Clean Energy Communities programs. These programs provide free access to regionally-based technical partners such as engineers, planners and design specialists. Cornell Engineering supported the Village’s first building energy audits, and WSP USA, one of the world’s leading engineering, environment and professional services firms, conducted the first community greenhouse gas inventory and climate vulnerability assessment, which have guided the municipality’s comprehensive plan.

“The Village leadership has successfully leveraged many resources at all levels and across all sectors to organize, develop capacity, and undertake a comprehensive set of actions that support broad sustainability and decarbonization goals," said Katherine Herleman, Executive Director of Innovation for Cornell Engineering. "They did this in a way that respects community traditions, strengthens ties between local government and community organizations, and attracts commercial and residential developers who want to invest in an area where the infrastructure and social systems will be resilient to the impacts of climate change. They successfully turned potential threats into opportunities, resulting in an incredible success story that will help other rural governments across the United States figure out what sustainability looks like in their own communities.”

Photo in text: The award, held by Mayor Jim Ryan at the presentation ceremony. (Provided)

Take Back of unwanted drugs, tobacco set
for April 22 at Beaver Dams, Hector FD's

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, April 13, 2023 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office, the Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD), and Schuyler County Public Health are encouraging community members to participate in National Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 22, 2023.

Community members can drop off their expired, unused, or unwanted medications between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Beaver Dams Fire Department and Hector Fire Department. Community members who are trying to quit smoking are also able to dispose of tobacco products at the events.

“Medications that sit unused in homes can be dangerous,” warned Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey. “They can end up being taken and abused by someone, or a child can end up taking them by accident and become extremely ill or worse.”

Free and anonymous medication disposal will be available during these events. Medications, ointments, and sprays will be accepted. Needles cannot be accepted. Tobacco products, except for e-cigarettes, will also be accepted at these events.

“We are happy the Sheriff’s Office was able to add tobacco take back services for the first time ever,” said Schuyler County Public Health Director Jill Kasprzyk. “It is great that community members have the opportunity to take that first step toward quitting, by throwing out their cigarettes, chew, or other tobacco products.”

Community members can also dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused prescription drugs year-round by using the 24/7 confidential drop boxes available at the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office in Watkins Glen or in the foyer at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.

SCCUDD is a group of dedicated community members, businesses, and agencies that work to prevent, reduce, and delay the onset of substance use among Schuyler County youth by collaborating with community partners, promoting prevention education and substance-free activities, and implementing environmental strategies.

For more information, or to become involved with SCCUDD, visit it online at www.schuylercounty.us/sccudd, or follow it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Nan Woodworth is sworn in, appointed to fill the final year of Laurie DeNardo's unexpired trustee term. Woodworth just completed a four-year board term, and had not sought re-election.

Cherock, Schimizzi sworn in as trustees, joined by Woodworth, back for a year

WATKINS GLEN, April 4, 2023 -- Peter Cherock and Margaret Schimizzi, who won Watkins Glen Village Board seats in the March election, were sworn in as trustees Tuesday night by Village Clerk Fred Warrick at the first board session overseen by newly elected Mayor Laurie DeNardo.

The new mayor was sworn in earlier, at a special session on March 28.

With DeNardo vacating her trustee seat, the way was open for her to appoint someone to fill out the final year of that unexpired term. And she did Tuesday by naming Nan Woodworth, who had just completed a four-year term on the board and had not sought re-election. When asked if she had needed her arm twisted in order to return to the board, Woodworth smiled and said "No, I'm okay with one more year."

Also sworn in was Village Justice Steven Decker, re-elected to another four-year term.

DeNardo also designated Cherock as the deputy mayor, and appointed Barbara Cook to a vacant seat on the Watkins Glen Housing Authority, which oversees the Jefferson Village apartment complex.

The board, meanwhile:

--Approved a grant closeout that will provide $34,000 to purchase needed kitchen equipment for the Seneca Lake Events Center at Clute Park.

--Set a wage scale for the village's seasonal laborers, and hired two such laborers for its parks, and four for cemetery work.

--Backed a plan by Lakeside Trolley to utilize 100 or so feet of parking on the north side of the street at Franklin and 3rd Streets -- alongside the Chamber of Commerce building. It will be used by the firm for "hop off, hop on" trolley transport. The plan is to transport passengers -- up to 60 a day -- around the lake region, with an eye toward also bringing visitors downtown for shopping. A petition of support from downtown businesses was submitted to the board.

The pull-off space would be used by the firm's trolleys, as well as by other shuttles. The plan calls for the people the trolleys bring downtown to leave their vehicles elsewhere, alleviating a municipal parking crush. The firm hopes to start operating its routes in early or mid-May, and run through October, with an eye toward possible reduced operation in November and December.

Photos in text: Peter Cherock and Margaret Schimizzi are sworn in as village trustees.

Steven Decker, right, is sworn in by Village Clerk Fred Warrick as Village Justice. Decker, running unopposed, was re-elected in March to a four-year term.

Schuyler set for $362K opioid settlement

County Legislature will vote on the matter at its April 10 meeting

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, March 31, 2023 -- Three national pharmacy chains -- CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart -- will pay Schuyler County up to $362,000 to settle claims the companies contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in that county, under a settlement agreement to be voted on by the Schuyler County Legislature at its April meeting.

On Monday (March 27), the county’s Management and Finance Committee, chaired by Watkins Glen legislator Phillip Barnes, voted to recommend the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents upon approval by the county legislature. The legislature will consider the measure on Monday (April 10).

The county is estimated to receive $125,031 from CVS, $158,486 from Walgreens and $79,038 from Walmart, Getman said.

According to Getman, the three companies all agreed to the settlement with the county as part of a nationwide agreement to resolve all opioid litigation brought by states and local political subdivisions, including a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office. The agreement calls for the three chains to pay the county over the next 15 years, with payments expected to begin in late 2023.

Getman said the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.

“Potential uses include treating opioid addiction, law enforcement expenditures, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.

The proposed settlement also orders the companies to implement changes to prevent fraudulent prescriptions, Getman noted. Those changes include the companies addressing their compliance structures, pharmacist judgment, diversion prevention, suspicious order monitoring, and reporting on blocked and potentially problematic prescribers.

If approved, the agreement would be one of several opioid settlements Schuyler County has been a part of over the past five years. In 2021, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson and up to $546,000 from distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation to treat, reduce and prevent opioid abuse. A similar agreement, for $41,000, was obtained from defendant Actavis, Inc. in early 2022. In January, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $116,000 from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

If these latest agreements are approved, the county will be in line to receive nearly $1.2 million total to date for opioid prevention and remediation.

“One cannot put a price on lives lost and families torn apart,” Getman said, “but with nearly $1.2 million expected to be delivered to Schuyler County, we can provide our community with financial assistance to continue this battle and hold these companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.”

The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately 30 defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of long-term opioid use.

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.

After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In 2021, Attorney General Letitia James championed legislation to create an opioid settlement fund and in 2022 she announced a tentative deal with CVS, Walgreens and Walmart that she says will deliver over $13 billion for communities nationwide to combat the opioid crisis.

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come.

The three companies involved in the latest proposed agreement have each issued their own statements denying liability and supporting settlement.

Said CVS: “The agreement would fully resolve claims dating back a decade or more and is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing ... We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders. We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.”

Said Walgreens: “The settlement frameworks include no admission of wrongdoing or liability by the company. As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis. We believe this is in the best interest of the company and our stakeholders at this time, and allows our pharmacists, dedicated healthcare professionals who live and work in the communities they serve, to continue playing a critical role in providing education and resources to help combat opioid misuse and abuse.”

Said Walmart: “Walmart believes these settlements are in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis, with aid reaching state and local governments faster than any other nationwide opioid settlement to date, subject to satisfying all settlement requirements. Walmart strongly disputes the allegations in these matters, and these settlements do not include any admission of liability. Walmart will continue to vigorously defend the company against any lawsuit not resolved through these settlements.”

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s lawsuit can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/5auyrmdc

A copy of the draft resolution approving the settlement can be found here:

https://tinyurl.com/resolutionintro20230410

The legislature’s meeting will be held Monday, April 10, at 6:30 pm at the Schuyler County Courthouse, 105 Ninth Street, Watkins Glen. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.

Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman (File photo)

Palmesano rips Hochul's housing plan

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, March 20, 2023 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) joined Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square), his legislative colleagues and town supervisors from around the state in pushing against Gov. Hochul’s housing plan at a press conference on Monday.

The governor’s plan, if adopted, would add 800,000 housing units across the state over the next 10 years. The problem, Palmesano said, is that the governor has pledged to override any local elected officials and zoning board members who refuse to go along with her plan. Bipartisan officials from around New York are advocating the plan be left out of the final budget due Saturday, April 1.

“The governor’s housing plan is misguided and shows a callous disregard for local home rule,” said Palmesano. “We have already seen her administration push solar and wind farms on our upstate rural communities with little to no input or approval from the impacted local communities. Her housing plan would destroy the suburbs by forcing high-rise buildings in areas that don’t suit them.

"Our local zoning board members and local officials are there for a reason; they know the needs of the community. No plan should be passed through the Legislature that would take local control away and hand it over to the Hochul administration. Local control, not Hochul control.”

Photo: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Those attending the Leadership Forum visited with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano. From left: Haylee Young, Molly O’Connell-Campbell, Maisie Robertson, Assemblyman Palmesano, Alessandro Carubia, Aiden Vogel, and Youth Bureau Program Coordinator Adam Lawton. (Photo provided)

Youth Court attends Leadership Forum

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, March 1, 2023 -- Members of the Schuyler County Youth Court recently attended the annual New York State Youth Leadership Forum held in Albany. The yearly event -- which for the past two years had been held virtually due to COVID-19 -- was back to an in-person format this year.

The two-day event at the Capitol building in downtown Albany brought together youths from all over New York State to discuss important youth-related issues and take part in a number of team/skill building seminars. Day two of the event featured tours of the Capitol building and State Museum along with meetings with local Assemblyman Phil Palmesano and staff from Senator Thomas O’Mara’s office to discuss the importance of youth programming in rural counties.

The County Youth Court is operated by the Schuyler County Youth Bureau and serves as a no-cost diversionary option for first-time offenders. The court meets once to twice a month and hears actual cases that are classified as misdemeanor or lower. Youth Court members volunteer their time to serve as the judges, jurors and bailiffs in an effort to help youth in Schuyler County. For more information on the Youth Court, call (607)-535-6236.

Montour Falls and Schuyler County officials pose with the symbolic $4.5 million grant check, held (center) by Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan. (Photo provided)

Montour Falls receiving $4.5 million from inaugural NY Forward Grant Program

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Feb. 22, 2023 -- Governor Kathy Hochul announced during a visit to the Southern Tier Wednesday that the Village of Montour Falls will receive a $4.5 million grant as a Southern Tier Region winner in the first round of the NY Forward Grant Program.

The announcement took place on the Goodwill Theatre Inc.'s Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson City. Hochul also announced that Johnson City has been named a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative selection, and that Waverly-- like Montour Falls -- was awarded a $4.5 million grant from the NY Forward Program.

New York Forward was created in 2022 to give smaller communities the opportunity to compete for the highly sought-after downtown revitalization grants. Municipalities throughout the state competed in their economic development region for a grant of either $4.5 million or two $2.25 million awards.

After submitting its application in September 2022, the Village of Montour Falls was named a finalist and presented its plan to the selection committee last fall. The plan outlined several transformative opportunities, which included:

--A new housing development with mixed-use buildings for lower-floor retail and upper-floor apartments as well as the construction of town-house style single-family homes.

--Streetscape improvements along NYS Route 14 (Catharine Street) and Main Street will include new lighting, widening and replacement of sidewalks to allow for outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes, and landscape improvements.

--A variety of infrastructure projects at Montour Marina such as the replacement of 3,000 feet of the sea wall to make the marina more resilient to future flooding, the construction of 20 new docks which will allow for 40 additional boat slips, demolition of the existing boathouse and construction of a new bathhouse facility.

--In addition to the infrastructure improvements, additional resources will be allocated for the construction of a new park office, marina store, a new ADA-accessible kayak launch, the improvement of access points at Queen Catharine Marsh, and the construction of a new playground which will be accessible by campers and the local community.

--Creation of a downtown improvement fund that will allow property owners to submit for smaller projects such as facade improvements, conversion of upper floors to apartments, business expansion, and other site improvements.

"On behalf of the Village of Montour Falls," said Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan, "I would like to thank Governor Hochul for her NY Forward program aimed toward communities like Montour Falls. I am pleased the Regional Economic Development Council recognizes our village's past achievements and embraced our plan to continue moving Montour Falls forward. I want to acknowledge the professionalism shown by the project team, which will ensure the implementation of project goals. This level of funding will help advance Montour Falls in meeting its economic and community betterment goals."

Carl Blowers, Chairman of the Schuyler County Legislature and a member of the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council (REDC), added this:

"The Forward New York award of $4.5 million for the Village of Montour Falls is an excellent investment by the State because it will transform Montour Falls and, by extension, Schuyler County. We are grateful to Governor Kathy Hochul for creating this new mini-DRI program for small communities and look forward to assisting the Village and State in completing significant revitalization projects in the Village. I am particularly pleased with the community engagement and student involvement in the process."

Added Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director of the Schuyler County Partnership afor Economic Development nd Co-Chair of the Southern Tier REDC:

"On behalf of the Southern Tier REDC, I congratulate the Village of Montour Falls on this fantastic award. I thank the State of New York and Governor Hochul for her vision and commitment to Upstate New York. The NY Forward program allows all communities within the Southern Tier to apply and participate in this new revitalization program. The team that presented on behalf of the Village were excellent ambassadors and conveyed a compelling message that paid off. We look forward to the resulting private sector leverage that these public dollars will bring to the Village."

"These," added Schuyler County Administrator Fonda Chronic, " are the things that a small county can do when we put our resources together and work toward a common good. Congratulations to Montour Falls."

Officials will meet with state representatives in the coming weeks to outline the process, create the local planning committee and work on community participation and feedback.

Photo in text: Governor Kathy Hochul was front and center for the grant announcement, flanked by SCOPED's Judy McKinney Cherry and Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan, with other officials standing behind them. (Photo provided)

Schuyler officials are taking extra steps to help property owners avoid tax foreclosure

Personal letters being sent as February 28 deadline nears

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 7, 2023 -- Over the next few weeks, some tax delinquent Schuyler County residents will be getting a personal letter from County Treasurer Holley Sokolowski and County Attorney Steven Getman.

The message is polite and to the point: Please pay your back property taxes before February 28.

That’s the date after which, if taxes are not paid, a State Supreme Court Judge may enter a judgment ordering the property seized and sold at public auction.

In an attempt to prevent that, Sokolowski and Getman are sending the letters, with handwritten notes on the envelopes, to approximately 80 property owners who still haven’t paid their back taxes.

“The letter reminds them of the deadline and provides options to avoid the foreclosure,” Sokolowski said. “Eligible property owners can pay the full amount due or arrange for an installment agreement.”

“It's the job of the county to collect taxes, but the main focus here is keeping people on their property and in their homes," Sokolowski said.

The letters also mention some of the services county tax dollars support, including law enforcement, public health, roads and bridges and social services.

The letters are based on research that found people are more likely to respond to personal letters and handwritten notes than to form documents, Getman said.

“A form letter may look like junk mail and get tossed,” Getman explained. “Handwriting shows the letter deserves more attention and sends a message that this is important.”

The letters are the latest step in the county’s efforts to collect overdue taxes.

According to Sokolowski, each November, the county mails out Foreclosure Notices and Petitions to properties with back tax liens from the prior year. Those notices go out by both regular and certified mail to property owners, mortgage holders and others with identified interests in the delinquent properties.

“The county also publishes a list of the delinquent taxes in two local newspapers and, in certain cases, posts warnings on the properties that they could be sold for back taxes,” she noted.

Only after each of those steps occurs, Getman explained, does the court enter a judgment foreclosing on the property.

After the court issues the foreclosure, the properties, if unredeemed, are sold at a public auction.

“The law requires the county to take every step to enforce the property tax laws and ensure that everyone pays their fair share,” Getman said.

"This is really just another way to do that, above and beyond what the law requires."

As County Treasurer, Sokolowski is the chief fiscal officer of county government and enforcement officer for unpaid property tax liens.

As County Attorney, Getman is the chief legal advisor for county government and responsible for the prosecution and defense of civil actions brought by and against the county, including tax matters.

Photo in text: County Treasurer Holley Sokolowski and County Attorney Steven Getman. (Photo provided)

O'Mara, Palmesano rip Hochul's budget

ALBANY, Feb. 1, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) on Wednesday said that Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed $227 billion 2023-2024 state budget remains a “spend, spend, spend strategy that’s a billion miles away from making New York State more affordable for taxpayers.”

And Assemblyman Phil Palmesano weighed in with similar sentiments, saying proposals like Hochul's will "continue the exodus of more New York families, farmers, small businesses and manufacturers from our state."

Like he did following Hochul’s State of the State message in early January, O’Mara warned that the state’s Democrat leaders, like they have for the past several years, are once again eyeing long-term commitments for higher state spending that will require tax increases, more state borrowing, and an unsustainable debt burden for taxpayers. Last year’s $220 billion spending plan left New York with the nation’s second-highest state budget, behind only California.

O’Mara predicted that Hochul and the Democrat-led Senate and Assembly will enact a final budget that significantly increases New York’s spending again this year and leave state and local taxpayers shouldering a long-term, unsustainable burden. He noted that the governor’s proposal already calls for increasing the current state budget by $7 billion, even before final negotiations with legislative leaders.

“Governor Hochul’s proposed budget," O'Mara said, "largely ignores the reality that New York State remains one of America’s highest-taxed, least affordable, most debt-ridden and overregulated states, and that we’re leading the nation in population loss. The spending habits of this government under one-party, all-Democrat control can only make New York a more expensive place to live and do business. There’s nothing in this plan that seriously addresses the need for lower taxes across the board, less regulation, debt reduction, mandate relief, or any of the other strangleholds on state and local taxpayers, small businesses and manufacturers, and continually hard-pressed upstate communities, economies, and workers.”

O’Mara was recently reappointed as the Ranking Republican member on the Senate Finance Committee which oversees the Legislature’s annual budget adoption process.

Joint Senate-Assembly budget hearings are scheduled to begin next week.

Palmesano, meanwhile, said in part:

“Gov. Hochul said her budget would provide a safer, more affordable, more livable New York in the upcoming year. While this is a nice slogan, the details of her budget couldn’t be anything farther from that. The governor’s budget proposal sets a new, record-high of $227 billion spending plan, a tone-deaf total that we must bring down and get under control during budget negotiations in the Legislature.

“Our state’s financial realities are grim. Just yesterday, the state comptroller reported that New York’s total debt could jump by 42% or $2.5 billion by 2027. This news comes as many financial forecasters predict a recession in the near future. The taxpayer cannot be on the hook for $227 billion in spending this year alone, a total exponentially higher than the budgets of bigger states like Texas and Florida.

“The governor and Assembly and Senate Democrats are also pushing a radical energy plan that has failed to answer our critical questions and concerns about cost and reliability impacts on New York families and businesses. As a matter of fact, the ‘Scoping Plan’ put forth by the Climate Action Council, that Gov. Hochul supports, is estimated to cost each homeowner over $35,000 to retrofit and fully electrify their homes for heating, cooking, hot water and clothes drying to meet the mandates of the plan. In addition to extreme cost, the plan puts the reliability of our state’s entire energy grid at risk of power blackouts from these unproven energy sources.

“The affordability of New York, or lack thereof, is undoubtedly contributing to the continued exodus of our residents. Tragically, we lost 500,000 of our friends and neighbors in the last two years as they sought out better options in more affordable states."

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

Opioid distributor Teva to pay up to $116K
in settlement with Schuyler County

Funds may be used for treating and preventing opioid misuse; County’s lawsuit against “Big Pharma” brings in over $824,000 in settlement agreements to date.

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 25, 2023 -- A major drug distributor and its subsidiaries will pay Schuyler County up to $116,000 to settle claims it contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in that county, under a resolution approved by the Schuyler County Legislature at a special meeting.

Meeting on Monday, January 23, the Legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents.

According to the resolution, distributor Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and its subsidiaries (Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., the Actavis Generic Entities, and Anda, Inc.), agreed to the settlement with the county in exchange for being released from a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office.

The agreement calls for Teva to pay the county over seventeen annual installments, with payments expected to begin later this year, Getman said.

According to Getman, the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.

“Potential uses include supporting police and first responders, treating opioid addiction, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.

The agreement also commits Teva to critical injunctive relief, Getman noted, including:

  • A ban on high-dose opioids and prescription savings programs;
  • Prohibitions on marketing opioids and funding third parties that promote opioids;
  • Restrictions on political lobbying; and
  • Disclosure of Teva opioid product clinical data.

The motion authorizing Getman to accept the settlement was made by County Legislator Phil Barnes (R, Watkins Glen) and seconded by Michael Lausell (D, Hector).

The Teva agreement is not the first opioid settlement Schuyler County has been a part of. In 2021, the county Legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson and up to $546,000 from distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker. A similar agreement, for $41,000, was obtained from defendant Actavis, Inc. in early 2022. Like the Teva agreement, payments to the county are scheduled to be made over time.

The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately 30 defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.

After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In November 2022, Attorney General Letitia James announced a tentative deal with Teva that will deliver up to $523 million to New York state to combat the opioid epidemic.

In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency due to the consequences of the opioid crisis facing the nation. That year, more than 70,000 individuals nationally and nearly 4,000 New Yorkers lost their lives to a drug overdose.

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against a number of other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come.

Said Getman: “One cannot put a price on lives lost and families torn apart, but with the more than $824,000 expected to be delivered to Schuyler County from these lawsuits, we can provide the County with financial assistance to continue this battle and hold these companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.”

Photo in text: County Attorney Steven Getman

Public officials and law enforcement officers took to the stage at the Performing Arts Center.

O'Mara, Palmesano join in call by law
officers for crackdown on 'sticker stores'

At press conference, urge Hochul, Legislature to pass legislation they sponsor

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 12, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) joined Assemblyman Chris Friend (R,C-Big Flats) and regional law enforcement representatives and other local leaders Thursday in calling on Governor Kathy Hochul and the Democrat leaders of the State Legislature to approve legislation that will allow a crackdown on the proliferation of businesses commonly known as “sticker stores.”

Such facilities, O'Mara and Palmesano said, are illegally dispensing and selling marijuana throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide, by taking advantage of a "loophole" in recent legislation legalizing -- within parameters -- the production and sale of recreational marijuana.

O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend currently sponsor legislation (S9365/A9815, which will soon be reintroduced and will receive new bill numbers for the 2023 legislative session) that, if enacted, would strengthen existing law, outlaw sticker stores, and establish criminal and civil penalties for violators. Any civil penalties collected by the state would be remitted to the county of the violating establishment.

They spoke, along with other officials, at a press conference held in the Performing Arts Center off Decatur Street -- in the former Watkins Glen Middle School. They called on Hochul and the Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly to immediately enact the legislation.

In a joint statement, O’Mara, Palmesano, and Friend said, “New York State needs to stop the proliferation of illegal marijuana ‘sticker stores’ throughout the region we represent and statewide. These illegal operations diminish the quality of life and risk the safety of the communities and neighborhoods where they operate. New York State is establishing a legal and appropriately regulated network of adult-use recreational marijuana dispensaries, with all the necessary safeguards. While we opposed the legalization of marijuana from the outset, if it’s going to go forward, it needs to take place under a legally established system with the appropriate oversight. We need to make it clear that these illegal sticker stores cannot operate and that there are criminal and civil consequences for any owners who continue to do so.”

They were joined in Watkins Glen by the following regional law enforcement representatives and local leaders: Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey (pictured at right); Schuyler County Administrator Fonda Chronis; Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman; Schuyler County Legislators Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro and Gary Gray; Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers; Schuyler County Emergency Services Director Kirk Smith; Watkins Glen village trustees Lou Perazzini, Laurie DeNardo and Nan Woodworth; Chemung County Sheriff William Schrom; Chemung County Executive Assistant District Attorney Wayne Witherwax; Chemung County Legislator Bill McCarthy; Steuben County Sheriff James Allard; Steuben County Legislator Hilda Lando; Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard; Penn Yan Police Chief Todd Dunham; and Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella.

Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey said, "I am concerned about the Sticker Shops in our communities who are knowingly and intentionally circumventing a statute to dispense marijuana. The state is working on creating a process for businesses to obtain a permit to sell it. Establishments that sell alcohol go through a lengthy process to obtain a permit to do so. To be able to legally sell marijuana will be and should be no different. The problem is that this process is being developed after making marijuana legal to possess. Perhaps, if the people who are responsible for enforcing and prosecuting New York State laws were consulted beforehand, some of these concerns could have been avoided."

Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard (pictured at right) said that four "sticker stores" have operated in his county, and that when raided deputies confiscated 100 pounds of marijuana, 300 pounds of "edibles" along with cash and money orders. Among the edibles are TCH-enhanced candy that resembles, in its packaging, real candy. (TCH is Tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.) After each raid, he said, the stores "are back in business the following day." While he said he is not against enterprise, these stores are making it difficult for anyone wishing to operate a dispensary within the spirit as well as letter of the law. "Sticker stores," he noted, have had "a two-year head start" on the others, establishing themselves and establishing a market. "We're trying to make it a fair marketplace," he said, where marijuana dispensaries "get a license, do it right.“

Steuben County Sheriff James Allard said, “The original and intentional crafting of legislation, which promoted and provided the unregulated transfer of edibles, marijuana and concentrates through gifting, is both reckless and unconscionable. The vast amount of unreported cash collected and distributed in this illicit business model makes it ripe for corruption by criminal organizations. None of the currently trafficked edibles, concentrates or marijuana are tested, certified or verified as safe. All that the current legislation has achieved is to create an entire new class of addicted persons in our communities with unknown future healthcare concerns, all of which makes our communities less safe.”

Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella (pictured at right) said, “The legalization of marijuana was a decision by the State of New York. However, at the time of legalization the State had not yet created a licensing body or sufficient regulations to allow for the commercial sale of marijuana. This created a market and a demand for a product that was met by unlicensed and unregulated businesses and individuals selling or gifting marihuana across the state. The State also neglected to provide laws that would permit law enforcement to stop the sale of marijuana without a license, leading to millions of dollars in sales and zero sales tax collected. In the wake of this legislation and the unregulated market have come a steady stream of complaints from citizens, and there appears to be no effort by the State to curtail these operations. Law enforcement has very limited tools to do anything. This legislation is a step in the right direction to take control of this market, provide law enforcement the necessary tools to stop the unlicensed commercial sale of marijuana, and to help the State realize one of the stated legislative intents in legalizing marijuana, the generation of substantial sales tax revenues.”

New York State legalized adult-use recreational marijuana in 2021. Since then, officials have explained, commercial establishments, commonly known as "sticker stores," have used their businesses as a front to sell or gift cannabis without the requisite lawful authority or permission from the state. Sticker stores, the officials have said, have taken advantage of a "loophole" in the state cannabis law -- whereby the law's language does not expressly prohibit the "gifting" of cannabis products to individuals. Sticker stores have accordingly, officials have noted, sold a number of inexpensive items, such as stickers, at a substantially inflated price and then provided marijuana as a "free gift" along with the purchase.

In February 2022, the newly established state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) deemed the practice of gifting “illegal under the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA).” At that time, OCM identified more than two dozen alleged violators statewide and sent cease and desist letters to the owners of illegal operations.

OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander said at that time, “We want to make sure these operators fully understand the law and the consequences they face and now that these letters have been sent, we fully expect them to cease and desist their activities. If they don’t, we will take action. We encourage New Yorkers to not partake in illicit sales where products may not be safe and we will continue to work to ensure that New Yorkers have a pathway to sell legally in the new industry.”

Despite OCM’s enforcement actions and warnings, numerous stores locally and throughout New York continue to violate the law with minimal consequences, said O’Mara and Palmesano, noting that the OCM’s warnings have been ignored and illegal stores have proliferated statewide, including locally in Watkins Glen, Corning, Elmira, and Owego, where local police agencies have raided several stores and attempted to shut them down.

O’Mara, Palmesano, Friend and the regional law enforcement officers have said they are concerned that the number of illegal businesses will continue to rise across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes if the Governor and Legislature do not take action to stop them from operating.

Photos in text: From top: State Senator Tom O'Mara speaks at the press conference, with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano in the background; Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey; Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard; Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella; and a comparison of a candy bag with one containing THC edibles.

O'Mara, Palmesano react to Hochul speech

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Jan. 10, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano reacted Tuesday to Governor Kathy Hochul's State of the State address that precedes the presentation of her proposed budget.

O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) warned that the state’s Democrat leaders are eyeing long-term commitments for higher state spending that sooner or later will require tax increases, more state borrowing, and an unsustainable debt burden for taxpayers.

He cautioned that the vision Hochul and legislative leaders are laying out for the future of New York could spell even harder times ahead for state and local taxpayers, small businesses and manufacturers, and already hard-pressed upstate communities, economies, and workers.

Said O’Mara: “Governor Hochul gave a very low-key, safe speech. She highlighted the affordability crisis we have in New York State, but every agenda item she spoke of will only make New York a more expensive place to live and do business. She appears intent on spending every last taxpayer dime, and then some. It’s going to demand more and more revenue, including higher taxes and increased borrowing.

"New York State remains one of America’s highest-taxed, least affordable, most debt-ridden and overregulated states, and we’re leading the nation in population loss to top it off. It’s mind-boggling how Governor Hochul and top legislative Democrats can keep boasting about higher and higher state government spending. One-party control of New York government has already produced billions of dollars of short- and long-term spending requiring billions of dollars in new taxes, fees, and borrowing for future generations of state and local taxpayers. Their relentless pursuit of a hard-left, extreme-liberal political agenda remains the priority over a long-term, sustainable future for upstate, middle-class communities, families, employers, workers, and taxpayers.”

The next key benchmark arrives later this month when Hochul begins rolling out her 2023-2024 state budget proposal.

From Palmesano:

“Gov. Hochul delivered the annual State of the State address outlining her priorities for the upcoming session. I hope for, and expect, more specific details about her agenda when she presents her Executive Budget Proposal later this month. One thing is for certain, the governor and Legislature must address the challenging affordability and public-safety crisis facing our state. Violent crime in our communities, out-of-control spending, over-taxation, record inflation, one-party rule and costly, burdensome regulations on our small-business owners are devastating hardworking New Yorkers and contributing to the alarming exodus of residents and businesses that continue to leave our state.

“Gov. Hochul knows that we have a serious out-migration problem; in fact, we have lost more than 500,000 New Yorkers over the past two years. If she is truly serious about reversing the costly trend, she will present the Legislature with a budget proposal that is fiscally responsible and reflects the concerns and financial struggles New Yorkers are facing around our state.

“I will continue to advocate for common-sense policies that prioritize public safety and crime victims over criminals; lowers taxes and regulations to help spur job creation and economic development; an energy policy that prioritizes affordability and reliability, and not just green, for our seniors, families and businesses; a transportation infrastructure plan that invests in our local roads and bridges, and not just the MTA; and to ensure we are prioritizing the care of our most vulnerable New Yorkers -- individuals with developmental disabilities. Their care, services, quality of life, and the direct-support professionals who care for them, will continue to be a top priority for me and should be a major focus of the Legislature this session.

“I implore the governor and legislative leaders to work with us in a bipartisan manner during the upcoming year to address these critical issues. The taxpayer is owed nothing less.”

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

Legislature hears good news on sales tax

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 9, 2023 -- The Schuyler County Legislature -- in a brief session Monday evening -- approved several housekeeping resolutions and heard from County Administrator Fonda Chronis that sales tax revenue from 2022 will end up about 5% above the previous year.

Chronis said the $14.8 million estimated as the final sales-tax total is "good news overall" despite a drop in December that was expected as a "correction" to previous payments. He said $14.1 million is anticipated in 2023.

Chronis also reported that the new Schuyler Emergency Medical Service (EMS) operated by Cayuga Health Transport completed its first week with 53 calls, reaching destinations within eight minutes 71% of the time, above the contractual goal of 65%. "They had very positive first-week statistics," he noted.

He also announced a press conference at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Performing Arts Center regarding sticker shops. State Senator Tom O'Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano are expected to be present.

An open house, he added, is being planned for 4 p.m. January 30th at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls to introduce the new ambulance service. The gathering will take place in Room 120.

Photo in text: From left, legislators Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro and Laurence Jaynes at Monday's session.

O'Mara reappointed as top Republican member on the Senate Finance Committee

ALBANY, Jan. 5, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) has been reappointed as the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee by Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.

On the first day of the 2023 legislative session Wednesday at the Capitol, Ortt announced a series of key leadership posts within the Republican Conference, including O’Mara’s.

“The Senate Republican Conference is heading into the new legislative session with an impressive class of freshman senators, as well as veteran members who are ready to continue the great work they have done on behalf of all New Yorkers," Ortt said. "Our agenda will continue to prioritize the issues that matter most to hardworking New Yorkers -- we are focused and energized to get to work and help make New York safer, stronger, and more affordable for all.”

O’Mara has served as the top Republican on the Finance Committee since 2021. He welcomed the ongoing assignment and said he looks forward to having a direct voice on the legislative committee most responsible for overseeing the adoption of the state’s annual budget and setting the course for New York’s short- and long-term fiscal practices and responsibilities.

“I appreciate Leader Ortt’s continued confidence in my commitment to representing our Republican Conference on the Finance Committee," O'Mara said. "Senate Republicans will continue to be a voice for lower taxes, less regulation, greater accountability, economic growth, job creation, and more common sense on state fiscal practices. The Finance Committee directly impacts so many of the key issues facing our localities, from the future of farming and manufacturing to tax relief, regulatory reform, and overall Upstate job creation.

"I welcome the opportunity, at this critical time, for direct input on a range of policy areas that will decide the short- and long-term future and strength of our local communities and economies.”

Throughout his Senate service, O’Mara -- who represents the 58th Senate District comprised of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, and Yates counties, and a part of Allegany County -- has advocated for more responsible and effective state fiscal practices. He has consistently pointed to high taxes, unrestrained spending, unfunded mandates, and overregulation as key obstacles to sustained economic growth and job creation throughout the Upstate region.

Photo: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara will continue Elmira, Bath offices

Elmira, Jan. 3, 2023 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C-Big Flats) has announced that he will continue operating district offices in Elmira and Bath throughout 2023, in addition to his office in Albany.

Following last year’s legislative redistricting process, O’Mara represents the newly redesignated 58th Senate District comprised of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Tioga, and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County (the towns of Alfred, Almond, Amity, Andover, Birdsall, Burns, Grove, Independence, Scio, Ward, Wellsville, and Willing).

O’Mara encouraged 58th district residents to contact any of his offices for state government assistance and information.

"I encourage area residents to contact our offices for assistance, to address concerns, help facilitate access to state programs and services, or even just as a sounding board for suggestions and ideas,” said O’Mara.

He provided the following office contact information:

Elmira District Office -- The office has moved from its previous location at 333 East Water Street to 100 West Church Street (Suite 103). Mailing address: NYS Senator Thomas F. O’Mara, 100 West Church Street, Suite 103, Elmira, New York 14901. Telephone: 607-735-9671;

Bath Satellite Office -- The office is located at 105 East Steuben Street. Mailing address: NYS Senator Thomas F. O’Mara, 105 E. Steuben Street, Bath, New York 14810. Telephone: 607-776-3201; and

Albany Office -- The office is in Room 711-B in the Legislative Office Building. Mailing address: NYS Senator Thomas F. O’Mara, Legislative Office Building, Room 711-B, Albany, New York 12247. Telephone: 518-455-2091.

O’Mara’s Senate website address is www.omara.nysenate.gov.

He can be e-mailed at: omara@nysenate.gov.

Photo: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara, Palmesano rip pay-hike vote

ALBANY, Dec. 22 -- Republican State Senator Tom O’Mara and Republican Assemblyman Phil Palmesano voted Thursday against legislation (S9617/A10730) approved by the Democrat majorities in the Senate and Assembly to make New York the highest paid Legislature in the nation.

If signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul, as expected, the legislation will take effect on January 1 and increase legislators’ base pay from the current $110,000 to $142,000.

O’Mara released the following statement:

“New York’s taxpayers live under the highest state and local tax burden in the nation. Families are struggling to make ends meet. Too many small businesses and family farms are barely surviving. Crime is rampant and New Yorkers don’t feel safe where they live and work. Local economies, especially upstate, are stagnant. There’s a fentanyl crisis, an unemployment insurance crisis, an affordability crisis, a public safety crisis, an unfunded mandate crisis, and the list goes on. Yet the Albany Democrats call a special session to make New York the highest-paid Legislature in the nation. One-party, all-Democrat rule has been a disaster for everyday New Yorkers. It’s out of control and it’s about to go from bad to worse in the new year.”

Assemblyman Palmesano's statement:

"For over a year, residents throughout the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and all across New York have continued to voice their strong desire for the Legislature to act to address the rising violence and crime in our communities, record high inflation, higher gas prices, rising energy costs and grocery bills and to provide much-needed relief to small businesses. However, just days before Christmas, in the hope that the public won’t be paying close attention, the Assembly and Senate Democrat leadership called the Legislature back into session Thursday not to address these important issues, but instead to vote to increase their pay.

"Not only is this the wrong policy at the wrong time, this sends a very clear and terrible message that they are completely out of touch and certainly not listening to the people they work for. This comes at a time when New York families and businesses are still suffering from an affordability and crime crisis. Paired with the highest taxes and worst business climate in the country along with burdensome and costly regulations, New Yorkers across the state are facing agonizing financial decisions this holiday season. Financial decisions that will only become tougher in the future as they move forward with advancing a radical energy/climate plan, released earlier this week, that will result in higher electricity rates and staggering upfront conversion costs of more than $35,000 to comply with the mandate for homeowners to retrofit their homes to full electrification.

“The priorities of the Assembly and Senate Democrat majorities and one-party rule in Albany continue to be misaligned and completely tone deaf to the needs of New Yorkers. I certainly hope as we turn into the New Year, we get serious about the issues everyday New Yorkers are facing.”

Photos: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photos)

Montour Falls names new clerk, treasurer

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, Nov. 15, 2022 -- Mayor James Ryan has announced the appointment of a new Village Clerk and a new Village Treasurer in Montour Falls.

Accoarding to a press release: "Mayor Ryan has made a historic change in his administration by separating the Village Clerk-Treasurer title into two positions. Working closely with Schuyler County Civil Service, the Village now has solidified these into two separate functions."

Ryan has appointed Emily Byers as Village Clerk. Emily has worked for the Village as Deputy Clerk for the past decade and in that time "has proven herself many times over to meet the challenges of Village Clerk. While serving as Deputy Clerk she has worked with every aspect of the Village operations and has been a solid first point of contact with Village residents. Her depth of knowledge about our community is a valuable asset that we call upon daily."

Ryan has appointed Laurie Thompson as Village Treasurer. "Laurie has over 17 years experience in a wide range of financial realms," the press release added. "She has demonstrated success with both financial and operational management. She has surpassed the Civil Service Educational requirements, as she has an AAS in Accounting from Corning Community College, completed additional course work in accounting from Elmira College, and course work in Business Management from SUNY Empire State College."

Ryan said he and the Board of Trustees "thank outgoing Clerk-Treasurer Alyssa Hammond for her dedication to Montour Falls. Alyssa served our community for 19 years, working her way to Village Clerk-Treasurer. Alyssa and her family have relocated out of state to pursue a new job opportunity "

Photo in text: Village Clerk Emily Byers, Mayor James Ryan, and Village Treasurer Laurie Thompson. (Photo provided)

Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers (left, District 5) and Legislator Phil Barnes (District 6) -- both unopposed for re-election -- were among the candidates present.

Candidates take stage to meet the public

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 24, 2022 -- Candidates ranging from the national (seeking a seat in Congress) to the local (town council and supervisor races) appeared Monday night on the Watkins Glen Elementary School's auditorium stage to talk about themselves and answer questions from the audience.

The event, sponsored by the Watkins Review & Express, did not generate much interest, the audience numbering only a few dozen. And none of those spectators submitted written questions, a staple of such gatherings in the past.

Democrat candidate for Congress Max Della Pia was on hand, as was current Congressman Joe Sempolinski, who was representing the Republican candidate in the upcoming election, Nick Langworthy.

Della Pia and Sempolinski shared the stage, each introducing himself (and in Sempolinski's case, talking mostly about Langworthy), each answering three questions from moderator Judy Phillips, and then each offering a summation.

That was the pattern with each subsequent pairing:

--Sara Lattin, Chief of Staff to the absent State Senator Tom O'Mara, alongside Assemblyman Phil Palmesano. O'Mara and Palmesano are running unopposed for re-election for two years.

--Schuyler County Legislature Chairman Carl Blowers and Legislator Phil Barnes, each running unopposed for re-election to four-year terms, Blowers from District 5 and Barnes from District 6.

--Town of Hector Council candidates Paul Bursic (a Democrat) and Ben Dickens (a Republican). They are contending to fill the final year of an unexpired council term.

--Town of Hector Supervisor candidates Justin Boyette (a Democrat) and John White (a Republican). They are contending to fill the final year of an unexpired term.

Other candidates running unopposed were mentioned from the podium: Republican Holley Sokolowski for four years as County Treasurer; Republican Kyle Reed for the final year of a Town of Cayuta unexpired term; Liberty Party candidate Brian Ervay for the final year of a Town of Dix unexpired term; Republican Joshua Navone for four years as Town of Hector Justice; Republican Timothy Povoski for a two-year Town of Orange Council post, and Jason Switzer for four years as Town of Reading Highway Superintendent.

Where there were contests, there were differing viewpoints on issues of the day. For instance, Sempolinski and Della Pia differed to varying degrees on inflation, immigration and support for Ukraine. The Hector candidates, on the other hand, focused on zoning, budgets and short-term rentals.

Both Lattin and Palmesano attacked the Democrats' bail reform program, with Palmesano also focusing on the move by the state to cut the overtime threshold on farms from 60 hours down to 40. And Blowers and Barnes discussed internet access and the move being undertaken to bolster ambulance service in the county.

Election Day is November 8th.

Photos in text:

Top: Max Della Pia, a Democrat running for Congress, on stage at the Meet the Candidates night.
Bottom: Republican Joe Sempolinski, the current Congressman, on hand to represent GOP candidate Nick Langworthy.

From left: Town of Hector Council candidates Ben Dickens and Paul Bursic, and State Senator Tom O'Mara's Chief of Staff, Sara Lattin.

From left: Town of Hector Supervisor candidates John White and Justin Boyette, and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

Area public libraries awarded state grants

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Oct. 13, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) have announced that public libraries in Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties have been awarded state library construction grants.

O’Mara and Palmesano said the grants are awarded through the state’s Library Construction Grant Program, which is distributing $14 million in capital funds from the 2020-21 state budget for this year’s awards to libraries throughout New York.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “A public library is a fundamental resource for area families, seniors, and countless other community residents. That point has been driven home like never before throughout the COVID-19 response when our public libraries have been centers of public outreach and information. We are always hopeful that these grants will help local libraries better afford and address their renovation needs. Public libraries, especially in many rural, upstate communities and regions, are New York’s leading digital literacy educators, just one of many vital community roles our libraries fulfill. This role is likely to expand in future years. These ongoing investments will help more and more of our public libraries stay ahead of the curve to continue meeting the increasing demand. It’s an investment in education, economic growth and quality communities.”

According to the New York State Library, which administers the grants, surveys have estimated that the cost of public library construction and renovation needs statewide totals more than $1.5 billion. More than 50% of the over 1,000 public library buildings across New York are over 60 years old. Another 33% are more than three decades old. Many of the state’s local public libraries are unable to accommodate users with disabilities, and cannot provide Internet, computer, and other electronic technologies to users because of outdated and inadequate electrical wiring. They also do not have sufficient space to house the library's collection and lack sufficient space for public access computers.

The construction grants help libraries and library systems make renovations and upgrades, including broadband infrastructure, update electrical wiring to accommodate computer technology, renovate facilities to provide wheelchair accessible entrances and become fully accessible to persons with disabilities, and provide community meeting rooms.

O’Mara and Palmesano announced the following grants to area libraries:

> Arkport Public Library (Steuben County), $63,792 for exterior work to gain energy efficiencies, and interior work to improve accessibility and gain energy efficiencies, including the renovation of public spaces;

> Cohocton Public Library (Steuben County), $37,469 for Community Room renovations to improve overall space availability and accessibility as well as increase energy efficiencies;

> Dormann Library (Bath, Steuben County), $48,750 to complete the library’s roof replacement;

> Southeast Steuben County Library (Corning, Steuben County), $95,925 for the installation of Solar Shades, window replacements, and a cargo elevator upgrade;

> Wimodaughsian Free Library (Canisteo, Steuben County), $9,862 to renovate a storage room and install a public space kitchen to support programs, and to install an ADA accessible bathroom;

> Watkins Glen School District Free Public Library (Schuyler County), $212,348 for the removal and replacement of all existing roof materials, replacement of two roof exhaust penetrations, and supervision and project management;

> Dundee Library (Yates County), $59,958 to upgrade the library’s HVAC system, original (1920) storm and wood-sash windows (1977), and lighting, and rebuild exterior concrete stairs.

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

O'Mara blasts state's decision to lower overtime threshold for NY farm workers

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Oct. 1, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara on Saturday blasted a decision by state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon to approve a controversial recommendation lowering the overtime threshold for farm workers in New York State from 60 to 40 hours.

Reardon handed down her decision to approve the recommendation late Friday.

A three-member Farm Wage Board, by a vote of 2-1, handed down its final recommendation to lower the threshold during a virtual meeting on September 6.

Board member David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau, voted against it.

Governor Kathy Hochul, together with Reardon, had 45 days to either approve or reject the board’s recommendation.

O’Mara has been a strong opponent of the Farm Wage Board since voting against the legislation creating it in 2019, when it was enacted by then-Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-led majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

Said O’Mara: “Governor Hochul and her Cuomo-appointed labor commissioner had the opportunity to choose the future of farming over the so-called ‘progressive’ ideology that is driving this state into the ground. They have rejected thousands of farmers, farm workers, farm advocates, agricultural representatives, community leaders, and legislators, including me, who have spoken in near-unanimous opposition to this move. They have rejected the industry’s top advocates, including the New York Farm Bureau, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Grow NY Farms, and numerous others. They have decided to undermine an industry and a way of life that has defined the regions we represent.

"It will change the face of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations. It will risk the future of high quality, local food production. It will spark the loss of more family farms and the livelihoods these farms support across the industry and throughout hundreds of local economies. At the worst possible time, Governor Hochul is mandating an even more uncertain future for family farmers, farm workers, farm communities, and New York’s agricultural industry overall. Add it to the long and growing list of terrible, politically motivated decisions by this governor.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

Bergen Farms, Glenview Dairy sign on for renewable natural gas project in Schuyler

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Sept. 12, 2022 -- UGI Corp. has announced that Cayuga RNG has entered into an agreement to develop its fourth project to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) in upstate New York. Cayuga RNG is a joint venture of UGI Energy Services LLC, a subsidiary of UGI, and Global Common Ventures LLC.

Cayuga RNG’s fourth project will be constructed at Bergen Farms and Glenview Dairy, both located in Schuyler County in upstate New York. The project will include the construction of a manure digester and gas upgrading equipment at each location. Once completed in the second half of calendar year 2024, the project is expected to produce approximately 150 million cubic feet of RNG annually that will be delivered to a local natural gas pipeline serving the regional distribution system. UGIES’ subsidiary, GHI Energy, will be the exclusive marketer for Cayuga RNG.

“We are excited to increase our portfolio of sustainable energy solutions that will deliver environmental benefits to farmers, communities and customers,” said Robert F. Beard, executive vice president - natural gas, UGI. “Renewables is a platform for growth at UGI and, with this investment, we have committed nearly $250 million to RNG projects across multiple states that will further expand our geographic footprint and earnings capability.”

“Bergen Farms and Glenview Dairy are excited to be involved with UGI in a renewable energy project on our farm,” said Jim Bergen of Bergen Farms and Glenview Dairy. “We expect this to benefit the farm, the local community and the environment. This project will help to reduce odors from the manure generated onsite. The anaerobic digesters that are planned will reduce the amount of methane that is emitted into the atmosphere from storing the manure as well as using the methane to replace fossil fuels.”

O'Mara urges Hochul to reject decision by Farm Wage Board on overtime threshold

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Sept. 7, 2022 -- The state’s Farm Laborers Wage Board Tuesday approved its final recommendation to roll back the current 60-hour-per-week overtime threshold for farm workers to 40 hours in a move strongly criticized by State Senator Tom O’Mara.

The three-member Wage Board, by a vote of 2-1, handed down its final recommendation during a virtual meeting. Board member David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau, voted against it. Governor Kathy Hochul now has 45 days to either approve or reject the board’s recommendation.

O’Mara, who over the past three years has been a strong critic of the Wage Board and its move to lower the overtime threshold, again urged Hochul to put a stop to the "misguided action."

“The Wage Board," he said, "has been moving in this direction from the start and now Governor Hochul has the opportunity to finally reject it. She should listen to the thousands of farmers, farm workers, farm advocates, agricultural representatives, community leaders, and legislators, including me, in near-unanimous opposition.

"The message has been delivered from the industry’s top advocates, including the New York Farm Bureau, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Grow NY Farms, and numerous others. Local, federal, and state representatives have made it known that we fear the undermining of an industry and, equally important, a way of life that has defined the regions we represent.

"If left to stand, it will change the face of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations. It will risk the future of high quality, local food production. It will spark the loss of more family farms and the livelihoods these farms support across the industry and throughout hundreds of local economies.

"Now is no time to risk regulating and mandating an even more uncertain future for family farmers, farm workers, farm communities, and New York’s agricultural industry overall.”

Photo: State Senator Tom O'Mara

--Assemblyman Phil Palmesano weighs in. Column.

Legislators turn to Cayuga Health in move toward new ambulance service in Schuyler

Vote expected to lead to contract; puts aside idea for county-run operation

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 30, 2022 -- The Schuyler County Legislature took a large step toward restructuring ambulance service in the county Tuesday when it voted 6-2 in a legislative committee session to move in the direction of an agreement that would see Cayuga Health Systems provide the service under an initial three-year contract.

Ambulance service has been offered for decades by the Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Association, Inc. (SCVAA), a not-for-profit operation headquartered on South Decatur Street in Watkins Glen. The land on which the Association-owned HQ sits is county-owned, leased to it for $1 a year. County Administrator Fonda Chronis has said in the past that the long-term land lease was adopted "because they're supposedly providing service to our residents." The Association-- which owns the headquarters building -- consists mostly of paid personnel, despite its "volunteer" label.

Since early this year, plans were being developed to change that status -- prompted by the county's averred dissatisfaction with the response times and availability of Schuyler Ambulance, a situation that Chronis and Legislator Phil Barnes on Tuesday termed a "crisis."

The vote -- with the two "no" votes coming from Legislator Michael Lausell, who was pointedly opposed, and Mark Rondinaro, absent and thus recorded in the negative -- came near the end of a 105-minute session featuring the various principals involved: Emergency Services Director Kirk Smith, Schuyler Hospital President and CFO Rebecca Gould, and Steve Williams, vice president of the Schuyler Ambulance board and present to speak on that organization's behalf.

The decision by the legislators to move in the direction of Cayuga Health Systems, which oversees Schuyler Hospital, was an evolution in a process in which county leaders, led by Chronis and Emergency Management's Smith, had until recently been leaning toward establishment of a county-run ambulance service.

Chronis said the decision to move toward a Cayuga Health ambulance service came about through general discussions with Schuyler Hospital on a host of subjects. When talks in June with the Ambulance Service for a possible restructuring (including county oversight) fell through, the die seemed cast that something else would happen.

A sticking point with a county-run service was the cost, and a predictable increase in taxes. But the county surged ahead with that idea in early summer, with such a service seemingly the most likely solution -- until the talks with the hospital evolved into a proposed Cayuga Health Systems ambulance service under a proposed three-year contract with the county. The new service would be provided by a new non-profit entity.

By the time of Tuesday's meeting, Chronis had sent a memo to the legislators saying he and the Emergency Services team were recommending the Cayuga Health proposal because it "offers the best chance at long-term sustainability in the most fiscally responsible way, and it allows for plenty of county input to ensure that our goals are met."

The SCVAA proposal was for five years, with the operator being the Association alone; the county would have run the county service "in perpetuity"; and the Cayuga proposal called for the new non-profit contracting with the county. County costs varied over three years, depending on the proposal, with the county-run plan highest and the Cayuga Health plan lowest.

What the move means initially

Legislature Carl Blowers, who directed Tuesday's meeting, calling for comments and questions from each legislator and keeping the discussion moving toward a concrete solution, made it clear the goal was a resolution to "move forward" with one of the three options on the table: written proposals for the county-run service, the Cayuga Health service (referred to as a "collaboration" with the county), or the Schuyler Ambulance service.

And Blowers made clear that whichever option was selected -- it seemed (correctly) that sentiment was heavily in favor of the Cayuga option -- would lead to a "deep" inspection of the details of such a service and a study of its financial aspects on the way to a contract to be presented to the Legislature for a vote at an upcoming monthly full-board session.

When asked when the expected contract would be submitted to the Legislature, Chronis only smiled and said: "Soon."

When asked if Tuesday's move was definitive, or whether an agreement with Cayuga Health might be derailed, Blowers said "I wouldn't say derailed. More like what might be added."

The entire process has been evolutionary, he said, and continues to be -- although Tuesday's decision seems to make the "collaboration" a foregone conclusion.

The legislators:

Each legislator voiced his opinion, with the most personal response coming from Phil Barnes, who attributed poor ambulance response time to the recent loss of a mentor, and who outlined his own recent experience when ambulance service was tied up on a transport when he suffered what was a potentially fatal bee sting.

Laurence Jaynes expressed concern about the contract length, saying he was bothered about what might happen after the three years, suggesting that Cayuga Health, a sizable corporation headquartered outside of Schuyler County, might find the service an ultimately poor business decision and decide to pull out.

Gould responded that Cayuga, while large, is a community-based operation just as Schuyler Hospital is, and that "our intention is to do this for a long time. We see this as needed," and that it will benefit not only the county residents, but the health-care business itself.

Legislator Lausell said he didn't know why just three options were being considered, when there was clearly a fourth: to help Schuyler Ambulance shore up its deficiencies, and to take the time to see if that could be effected. He, along with a couple of speakers in the audience, Paul Bartow and Alice Conklin, said they thought the Legislature was moving too quickly.

Legislator David Reed presented the most cogent argument against a county-run service, saying that any time government enters the picture, "you get twice the cost and half the service."

The decision:

Despite a presentation by Schuyler Ambulance's V.P. Williams that outlined the longstanding service the organization has provided, its willingness to work with the county, its need to "make money" (through such things as transport contracts) "in order to survive," and the ability of the service's operations director, Patti Miller, to stretch out available dollars efficiently, there was little talk from legislators throughout the meeting demonstrating support.

Discussion generally conceded the challenge facing any service when it comes to finding (and keeping) qualified emergency personnel, a problem that runs "both statewide and nationwide," said Chronis and other speakers.

Chronis said Schuyler Ambulance had been less than responsive in the recent past, with the county "always reaching out to them." Barnes pointed out the absence of the board's president and operations director at the meeting, and said the organization's latest proposal to the county came only "at the 11th hour."

Barnes said that problems of response and availability involving Schuyler Ambulance "are not new. This is an old problem." By continuing on that old course, he added, "we're setting ourselves up with a false sense of security. We can't wait" to act.

"It's too late" for the county and Schuyler Ambulance "to work together," he added. "We need to make a decision to get going on this."

About the Cayuga plan

According to the Cayuga Health Systems (CHS) proposal to the Legislature, there would be Ambulance Stations in at least three strategically placed locations in the county, offering coverage over a wide area.

CHS and the county, it said, "desire to have a well-run and sustainable ambulance service" with response times aligned "with national benchmarks for rural areas." It added: "Our involvement in pre-hospital care coordination is squarely within our mission," and "CHS values creating solutions for key constitutents, including Schuyler residents and government."

It also said it is "well positioned to take over operations" based on such things as "Medical Directorship/Leadership Experience, Commitment to Quality & Efficiency, Sustainability and Innovation."

What happens to Schuyler Ambulance?

If Tuesday's move indeed results in a county contract with Cayuga Health Systems, there was one question hanging over the proceeding: "What will happen to Schuyler Ambulance."

In the course of discussion, there was talk that the service would continue with existing contracts for their duration, including with the Fire Academy. Transports would continue in the short term, but as the hospital-run service gained traction and contracts expired, what then?

There was no clearcut analysis, although Blowers alluded in an aside to the hope that Schuyler Ambulance might still be utilized within the new system. That organization will remain in its headquarters on South Decatur Street in Watkins Glen, where expansion and renovations have improved the facility in recent years. And Gould suggested the possibility of utilizing the service as a backup.

Before the vote, Williams said that "Schuyler Ambulance is not going out of business," even if "things don't work out here. ... We're looking at other options to keep it alive."

That was in line with comments several weeks ago by the organization's Board President, Matthew Chapman, who said that Schuyler Ambulance has reserves and the ability to shift its services to outlying  areas (such as Yates County) that are in need of them.

Photos in text:

From top: Schuyler Hospital President and CFO Rebecca Gould talks after the meeting with Legislator Phil Barnes; County Administrator Fonda Chronis, Emergency Services Director Kirk Smith, Legislators Phil Barnes, Michael Lausell and David Reed; and Schuyler Ambulance's Steve Williams.

From left: Legialators Gary Gray, Laurence Jaynes and Jim Howell at the meeting.

Drive sober or get pulled over, say the Schuyler Sheriff's Office, Watkins police

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Aug. 19, 2022 -- During the end of summertime and the busy Labor Day weekend, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is working alongside the law enforcement community in Schuyler County to decrease impaired driving.

From August 19 through September 5, the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office and Watkins Glen Police Department will be participating in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement period. You'll see officers working together during this time to take drunk drivers off the roads. No matter how you plan to celebrate the end of the season this year, make sure you plan it safely.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 11,654 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020 that involved an alcohol-impaired driver. On average, more than 10,000 people were killed each year from 2016 to 2020, and one person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 45 minutes in 2020. So the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office and the Watkins Glen Police Department are working together with NHTSA to remind drivers that drunk driving is not only illegal, it is a matter of life and death. As you head out to festivities during the end of summer and Labor Day weekend, they caution that you remember: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

"We want our community members to understand that it's our first priority to keep people safe, so we're asking everyone to plan ahead if they know they'll be out drinking," said Sheriff Kevin Rumsey. "We need commitment from our community members that they'll keep the streets free of drunk drivers so that everyone can have a safe summertime and Labor Day holiday. This is an awareness effort to get the message out that drunk driving is illegal and it takes lives. Let's make this a partnership between law enforcement and drivers: Help us protect the community and put an end to this senseless behavior."

During the 2020 Labor Day holiday period (6 p.m. September 4 to 5:59 a.m. September 8), there were 530 crash fatalities nationwide. Forty-six percent of those fatalities involved drivers who had been drinking (.01+ BAC). More than one-third (38%) of the fatalities involved drivers who were drunk (.08+ BAC), and one-fourth (25%) involved drivers who were driving with a BAC almost twice the legal limit (.15+ BAC). Age is a particularly risky factor: Among drivers between the ages of 21 and 34 who were killed in crashes over the Labor Day holiday period in 2020, 44% of those drivers were drunk, with BACs of .08 or higher.

The Schuyler County Sheriff's Office, Watkins Glen Police Department and NHTSA are reminding citizens of the many resources available to get them home safely. "Drunk driving is not acceptable behavior, especially when there are so many safe alternatives to get you home safely," said Sgt. Ethan Mosher of the Watkins Glen Police Department.

The Sheriff's Office and WGPD recommend these safe alternatives to drinking and driving:

--Remember that it is never okay to drink and drive. Even if you've had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or plan to use public transportation or a ride service to get home safely.

--If you see a drunk driver on the road, call the Schuyler County Dispatch Center at 607-535-8222.

--Do you have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get him or her home safely.

For more information on impaired driving, visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving.

Palmesano warns of consequences if state lowers farm overtime threshold to 40 hours

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Aug. 15, 2022 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) has joined his Republican colleagues, members of the Farm Bureau, farm workers and farmers in calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to keep the farm overtime threshold at 60 hours.

Members of the Farm Laborers Wage Board are expected to deliver a final recommendation on Sept. 6; however, 70% of public testimony delivered in front of the board was in support of keeping the current threshold at 60 hours.

Palmesano points out:

--The numbers show a devastating picture for New York farmers if Governor Hochul agrees to lower the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours.

--A Farm Credit East study predicts that annual costs to farmers statewide will increase by $129 million, farm labor costs will increase by 42%, and net farm income will decrease by 20%.

--A Cornell University study showed that 70% of migrant workers would seek opportunities in other states to increase their earning potential if the threshold is lowered.

“Farmers have faced historic headwinds and one of the most unfriendly business environments in the country,” said Palmesano. “The Wage Laborer Board has failed to consider that before the Farm Labor Act was passed in 2019, farm labor costs in New York as a percentage of net farm income were already 63%, compared to just 36% nationally. Our farmers have been at a competitive disadvantage for years.”

Palmesano added that more than 98% of farms in New York State are considered family farms -- operations run by the same families for generations. With a decrease of the overtime threshold, he said, "we are in danger of losing them forever in our various communities."

“I have said it before," Palmesano said, "and I will continue to remind Governor Hochul: if there are no farms, there are no farmworkers. If there are no farms, there is no food. Let’s be clear, the fate of the family farm in New York rests squarely in the hands of Governor Hochul.”

Palmesano said he wants residents to call the governor’s office at 518-474-8390 and Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon’s office at 518-457-9000 to ask them to preserve the family farm in New York State and not reduce the overtime threshold.

'It is important to remind them," he said. "No farms, no farmworkers. No farms, no food."

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (File photo)

Odessa takes bond step on water system; sets block party; mayor rips county officials

Legislator Howell updates board, says proposed ambulance service is not only option

ODESSA, Aug. 1, 2022 -- The Odessa Village Board passed a resolution Monday night that approves $9.9 million in serial bonds to cover the cost -- 51% of it to be repaid by USDA grant funds -- of a new, improved water system in the village.

At a meeting marked by a notably vocal reaction to a Schuyler County Legislature refusal to grant $50,000 toward the cost of the fire station planned for construction behind the new village office on Church Street, the board also:

-- Approved annexation of that village office property, at 1928 County Road 15, into the village, after the town of Catharine -- where the property has been -- agreed to the change from one municipality to the other.

-- Heard Mayor Gerry Messmer say the village share of the planned Cotton Hanlon bridge project will be paid for with state CHIPs funds. An agreement has been signed for design services.

-- Heard the mayor say a letter to the Sheriff's Department outlining issues in the village -- including speeding, vandalism and theft-- has elicited no response. "Somebody is going to get killed," said one trustee about the speeding on Main Street, which clerk Pam Kelly said "is worse then ever" now that the road has been newly repaved.

-- Discussed the new sewage treatment facility on the west end of town -- and how the hookups in the village have been completed with no reported problems. The only notable issue, Messmer said, was theft on the treatment site during construction.

-- Discussed an upcoming grant application under the NY Forward program, a sort of mini-DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) whereby the village could, if selected, receive up to $4.5 million to revitalize the business district. This could take the form of storefront rehabilitation or the removal of the old DPW building and a park replacement. Messmer said he thought that with the arrival of sewage treatment and the planned water improvement project, the village stands a reasonable chance of securing the funds.

-- Approved a block party proposed by Erich Thorpe of The Bucket Bar & Grill on Church Street from Main to First on August 15 from 3 to 7 p.m. That portion of Church will be blocked off.

The water project has been on the drawing board for a long time, awaiting the grant approval from the United States Department of Agriculture -- in the amout of $4,959,000 out of a total price tag of $9,900,000. The bond is for the entire amount, for as Messmer explained, the village will be responsible each year for payment up front, with USDA paying back the annual portion of that $4,959,000. The village share of $4,490,000 will be secured on a low-interest loan over 38 years.

The project will include a new water treatment plant on the site of the existing one at the end of Merchant Avenue, and replacement of water mains throughout the village. "Hopefully," Messmer explained, the design will begin in the fall, with bids around February and construction in the spring. The resolution followed an action by the board two months ago at which it named itself the lead agency, and another last month where it declared that the project did not pose any negative environmental impact. The move will now be followed by a waiting period for publication about it, and an estoppel period.

******

The session devolved into criticism of the Schuyler County Legislature after Legislator Jim Howell, a visitor at the meeting, updated the board on several issues -- including the rejection by the county of a request by the board for $50,000 to be used for radiant-heat flooring at the new fire station being planned off Church Street. Howell had introduced a resolution seeking the funds at a meeting of the Legislature's Community Development and Natural Resources Committee last week. There was no second of the resolution -- which was viewed as lacking the economic impact required under the pertinent funding program -- and so it stalled there.

Mayor Messmer -- who has a history of contentious disagreement with the county -- was upset, saying "I can't wrap my head around" such an action when the Legislature saw fit to provide that much money to the recent CLASH Triathlon held in and near Watkins Glen. He said he couldn't see how the Legislature could embrace the one event -- which he noted had no impact on the life or economy of Odessa -- and fail to act on behalf of firefighters who protect a wide area of the county.

"We can't get help from the county administration, we can't get help for the fire department, we can't get help from the police, and here's what bothers me: This board sitting right here, these five people (Messmer, Tom Letteer, Kristine Gardner, Alijia Bailey and Pam Cicconi) have brought $18 million worth of economic development to Odessa with zero help. Zero. You would think that a county administrator and a county legislature would have some interest in five people who brought $18 million into this village to improve it; would see something of value, and want to help out. Are they that short-sighted and narrow minded and ignorant? They don't want to help their own citizens? ... Your peers (he said to Howell) need to know that we don't think much of them ... It's clearly seven other people don't care about Odessa. The shame of it is, if you don't like me, I don't care. It's not about Gerry; it's about the residents and what's right for the people. "

Messmer, a retired Army Lietenant Colonel, said that "in the Army, you can get past tha personal thing." There, "it's about the group and the mission and the betterment of people's lives. They (the county) can't get past that. I understand I might have the personality of a gnat. I got it. But it's about people, and we brought in $18 million. Think what we could do if they'd stand by our side and help us."

And an ambulance update:

Legislator Howell told the Village Board that the county had "pulled the plug" on the Performing Arts Center that had been proposed for the former Watkins Glen Middle School. That money, $400,000, has instead been earmarked for a proposed county-run ambulance service. But Howell said Monday that such a plan is "only one option," that it would cost "seven figures" and that there are "a lot of unknowns" -- including the outcome, which "no one knows."

One possibility, he said, is an improvement in the performance of the existing Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Association, Inc. That, he insisted, would need to include a reduction of its "response time" from a "totally unacceptable" 36 minutes to about 14. (However, Schuyler Ambulance says its average response time is actually 10 minutes and 36 seconds.) When asked by a board member who owns the Schuyler Ambulance building, Howell said the county does, leasing it to the the Association for a dollar a year. (When it was pointed out to Howell by a reporter that Schuyler Ambulance says the land is leased for $1 a year and that the Association owns the building -- spending a significant amount in recent years on its upkeep and expansion -- the legislator said he would look into the matter.)

He also noted that a plan -- a new, county-owned ambulance service has been the centerpiece of discussion by legislators -- had been hoped-for by October, but concluded: "That's not going to happen."

"There's a lot of unknowns," he said. "There's a lot of dissension out there, a lot of rumors going around. ... Any opportunity that's a possibility, we're looking at, including Schuyler Ambulance providing more efficiency."

Photo in text: Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer makes a point at the meeting.

School threat response lauded; lack of
police at O-M graduation draws rebuke

WATKINS GLEN, June 27, 2022 -- The response of law enforcement to Thursday's threatened shooting on the Watkins Glen school grounds was lauded Monday at a meeting of the Schuyler County Legislature's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee.

At the same session, the divergent responses at the Odessa-Montour High School and Watkins Glen High School graduations was raised -- with the absence of law enforcement personnel at the O-M service drawing criticism from Legislator Jim Howell.

Legislature Chair Carl Blowers called the police action on Thursday "a textbook case on how these things should happen" -- a reference to the rapid deployment of law officers to the Watkins school campus after receipt there of a call threatening to "shoot up" the school. The campus was put in lockdown, with those students still present -- most of the classes had been released earlier -- secured in rooms and a gym with staff in the building.

The fact that no shooting ensued was a great relief, but there was thought given to postponing the WGHS graduation, set for that Saturday on the school athletic field. But the Village and Schuyler Sheriff's departments promised protection, and in fact placed 12 representatives on and near the graduation site -- including two on the school roof.

Odessa-Montour, by contrast, had no police presence at its ceremony Friday evening, which prompted Legislator Howell, present at that service, to say he was "appalled" at that decision.

Sheriff Kevin Rumsey, present at the committee meeting, said of the police response on Thursday that he was pleased with the multi-agency cooperation, but that he and other participants would be studying the situation to see where operations might be improved.

He said O-M did not request any police presence at its graduation, although in retrospect he wishes he had reached out to them. Howell said that wasn't his fault; that the onus rested with Odessa-Montour.

That in turn raised the issue of a School Resource Officer, long a staple at WGHS but not part of the O-M operation. The two districts shared an SRO years ago, but County Administrator Fonda Chronis said Monday that O-M now "has no interest" in one. A Watkins High School SRO, Jamie Coleman, was involved in both the Thursday response and in protection at the graduation Saturday.

Sheriff Rumsey said he would be reaching out to the superintendents of the Watkins, Odessa and Bradford districts (Bradford had no police presence at its graduation, he noted) to discuss future protection measures. "I want to take a proactive approach, rather than reactive," he noted.

Photos in text:

Top: Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey addresses legislators.
Bottom: Legislator Jim Howell at Monday's committee meeting.

Emergency Management Director Kirk Smith speaks at the Legislature committee meeting.

Schuyler takes step toward establishing
a new, county-run ambulance service

WATKINS GLEN, June 27, 2022 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee on Monday took the first move toward establishing a new county-operated General Ambulance Service after talks with the existing Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Association, Inc. broke down.

Those talks -- highlighted by a meeting last week -- were held, said County Administrator Fonda Chronis, to try to reach an operating partnership with Schuyler Ambulance, a not-for-profit operation based in a county-owned building on Decatur Street in Watkins Glen that is provided to the Ambulance Association for $1 a year "because they're supposedly providing service to our residents." The Association consists mostly of paid personnel, despite its "volunteer" label.

The basic problem, Chronis said, has been inadequate emergency coverage. "It largely comes down to response time," he said. Kirk Smith, director of Schuyler County Emergency Management, also said the Association has shown a reluctance to cooperate with his department.

At that meeting last week, Chronis said, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a county proposal for a cost-sharing partnership that would see emergency personnel at the Association become employees of the county, under a union umbrella and with benefits. But the meeting, he added, ended when Schuyler Ambulance "chose not to take" the county offer after "trying to leverage ... hundreds of thousands of dollars from us." The experience, he said, was "disheartening."

"They were not willing to be reasonable and have proper oversight," Chronis said. "We were willing to have a partnership ... but they walked away."

While Legislator Mark Rondinaro questioned rather pointedly whether a serious effort was made by the county to reach an accord, or if it was a matter of "two opposing sides" at a meeting designed by rancor to fail, Chronis said every effort to reach a partnership amenable to both sides was attempted.

The bottom line Monday was approval by the committee of a resolution calling for application to the state for a Certificate of Need -- a precursor to a new service -- which Smith said he has been assured the county should acquire in fairly short order. The resolution passed by the committee -- and thus sent to the full Legislature for enactment at its next meeting -- also called for the use of $400,000 in American Rescue Plan money "to provide initial start-up funding for the creation of said ambulance service."

That money had been earmarked for the operation of a Performing Arts Center in the old Middle School -- a venture from which, Chronis says, the Legislature has "decided to move ... without pursuing it."

Meanwhile, Smith said Schuyler Hospital has been forthcoming in offering its support in a partnership of sorts. It would, for instance, provide a billing service.

The entire plan, said Smith, has been developing since January. "We've done the planning," he said, "and now we're into the decision making." The end goal? "To be up and running."

The General Ambulance Service will need to purchase ambulances -- Smith said his department has its eye on some used vehicles -- as well as supplies such as cardiac monitors and other medical supplies that are, in the wake of the pandemic, difficult to obtain with disruptions in the supply chain. Qualified personnel will also be sought, with the goal of providing emergency service on a 24-hour basis, with a response time cut in half from that provided by the Schuyler Ambulance Association. He said the current response time averages 36 minutes, while the new service envisions a reduction to 18 minutes within its first four months.

When it was suggested that the start-up cost might be significant, given the need for a facility from which to operate, and the current absence of ambulances and their accompanying equipment, Chronis seemed undeterred, saying only, in regard to a headquarters, that he wasn't prepared to comment yet. "The seeds are in place, but they haven't broken through the ground yet."

When asked if any of the cost of the venture will be bonded, Chronis said no, that it will be financed "from our own resources." One source expanded on that by suggesting that Sales Tax revenue might be "reprioritized" toward the ambulance service, and that money saved by the county in recent years might be utilized for a "one-time investment." And Smith said that more American Rescue Plan money is available for a service start-up.

The service as envisioned would provide union employment for its emergency personnel, as well as benefits and retirement -- all of which would, in one legislator's words, provide "powerful incentive."

When asked what the odds were on the planned General Ambulance Service coming to fruition, Chronis said only that "Schuyler County residents will have good service at a date to be determined. But it will be sooner rather than later."

If the plan does move forward, the future of the existing Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Association, Inc. is unknown. While Smith suggested the new service might lead to the Association's "demise," others said that might not be the case -- although the Association wouldn't likely be receiving dispatch calls, and the new service would eat into its patient transports, which are key to its revenues.

Photos in text: County Administrator Fonda Chronis and an ambulance parked next to the Schuyler County Volunteer Ambulance Association building on Decatur Street.

Sheriff's Office will take back unwanted prescription drugs at Pancake Breakfast

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, June 1, 2022 --The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office and the Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD) are encouraging community members to participate in a Drug Take Back event on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Community members can drop off their expired, unused, or unwanted medications between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Valois Logan Hector Fire Station, located at 5736 Rte. 414 in Hector. While there you can also enjoy a pancake breakfast.

According to SCCUDD, Drug Take Back events "address a vital public safety and public health issue. Pills that sit unused in homes can easily end up being abused by someone or taken accidentally by a child. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.

"Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health," SCCUDD adds, "shows year after year that the majority of misused and abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including someone else’s medication being stolen from the home medicine cabinet. Additionally, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines -- flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash -- both pose potential safety and health hazards.

Community members can also dispose of unwanted, expired, and unused prescription drugs year-round by using the 24/7 confidential drop boxes available at the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office (607-535-8222) in Watkins Glen or in the foyer at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.

SCCUDD is a group of community members, businesses, and agencies that work to prevent, reduce, and delay the onset of substance use among Schuyler County youth by collaborating with community partners, promoting prevention education and substance-free activities, and implementing environmental strategies.

For more information, or to become involved with SCCUDD, visit it online at www.schuylercounty.us/sccudd, or follow it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Former Odessa Village Clerk charged with falsifying timesheets; faces two felony counts

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, May 20, 2022 -- New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, Chemung County District Attorney Weeden A. Wetmore and the New York State Police announced in a press release Friday that former Odessa Village Clerk Kristi Pierce has been charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor for allegedly padding timesheets to boost her pay.

She is charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a Class D Felony); Defrauding the Government (an E Felony); and Official Misconduct (A Misdemeanor). The alleged thefts occurred from 2012 to 2019 and netted Pierce more than $11,000 in pay she was not entitled to, authorities said.

"For seven years, Ms. Pierce allegedly falsified records to make it look like she worked more hours than she actually did and effectively stole from local taxpayers,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “I thank DA Wetmore and the State Police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation for working with my office to fight fraud and protect the public trust.”

Pierce, 47, allegedly falsified timesheets to make it appear she worked more than 25 hours per week, which was the minimum needed to accrue vacation time. This scheme, authorities said, made it appear she had qualified for vacation time when she actually hadn’t. They said she then put in for time off "and collected more than $11,000 for days that she was never entitled to." She was employed as village clerk from 2005 to 2019.

Pierce was arraigned before Judge Scott A. Miller in Schuyler County Court.

Law enforcement personnel march into the memorial service. In the front, Sheriff Kevin Rumsey, right, and Undersheriff Andrew Zeigler.

Sheriff's Department Memorial Service honors fallen police from around region

WATKINS GLEN, May 13, 2022 -- Dozens of law enforcement personnel, along with various Schuyler County officials, gathered Friday morning outside the county Sheriff’s Office for a memorial service honoring those police in the area who have died over the years while in service.

The ceremony started and ended with a march to and from the service site by those uniformed officers on hand for the ceremony. Featured during the service were the National Anthem, performed by Emily Peckham, daughter of New York State Police Investigator Retired John Grimmke; a welcome by Undersheriff Andrew Zeigler, an invocation by Sheriff’s Chaplain Michael J. Kelly; keynote addresses by Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey and county District Attorney Joe Fazzary; the laying of a memorial wreath, and the placement of flowers, one at a time, into vases at the base of a monument to fallen police.

The names of the fallen read during the service included members of the Chemung County Sheriff’s Department, the Elmira Police Department, New York State Police, the Yates County Sheriff’s Department, and the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department who died in the line of duty. Also honored: members of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Department who died while serving, and K-9 members of the department over the years.

As noted in the service program, there was no Rifle Salute by an Honor Guard. “With compassion and understanding of the recent shooting events in our country, we will not be firing a commemorative volley today," it read. Taps were played by Bernie Riley.

The keynote addresses by Sheriff Rumsey and DA Fazzary dealt in part with the changing landscape of law enforcement brought about by technological advancements such as the Internet and social media.

Photos in text:

Top: Flowers representing fallen police were placed in vases.
Bottom: Bernie Riley performed Taps.

Left: Among those on hand for the service were Schuyler County Judge Matt Hayden, left, and retired Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman. Right: This bell rang with the reading of each name of fallen police.

Sheriff Rumsey weighs in on the negative changes brought forth by Internet, media

WATKINS GLEN, May 13, 2022 -- Schuyler County Sheriff Kevin Rumsey focused Friday in his memorial service keynote address on the changing nature of law enforcement in the Internet Age -- bemoaning the accompanying loss of respect for law enforcement personnel.

And District Attorney Joe Fazzary backed him up, saying that when he was growing up "nobody argued with police, and no one disrespected them."

In his speech, Rumsey said in part:

"In preparing for this event today I asked several of my colleagues why they got into law enforcement, and what it means to them to be a cop. The answers ... are pretty unanimous: to help people. To help the community. To help rid our community of dangerous drugs and crime."

Nobody, he said, alluded to going on a power trip or a path of abuse, "and I never once got the answer of 'So I can be killed in the line of duty ... or witness all sorts of bad things, slip into a depresson and decide to take my own life.'

"Yet it seems that is what our media and our society want to focus on. The blood and gore, the war-torn streets where crime is ramped and out of control. Our society wants to focus on the bad actions of a few law enforcement agents across the country who strap on a vest and duty belt every day.

"When I asked my colleagues ... what it means to be a cop in today's society, the answers were common, with the same theme. They told me, 'We're the bad guys. According to the media it's us versus the public.' I also heard: 'It's a greater risk to be a cop nowadays. When you go to a call for help you never know how you are going to be received, even when your reason for being there is to help someone.'

"I asked one veteran who has a little more than 30 years in law enforcement, and he said, 'When I first started on the job, we were called Sir or Ma'am. Not out of fear but out of respect. It was a job that was respected and held in high regard. When you made an arrest it was the criminal's fault for breaking the law. Now it's everyone else's fault they broke the law, and we're the bad guys for making the arrest. It's time for me to go.'

"I believe," the Sheriff continued, "that the impact negative coverage has on our law enforcement is damaging our communities. Like making this 30-year veteran want to leave his life of service to others and take all that knowledge with him because of the publicity a few bad officers get. I personally can remember a time when the civil service test was given for this job and there were over 50 people signed up to take the exam. This last recent test that was given for our Sheriff's Office, we had around 17 names on that list. What happens when no one wants to join law enforcement anymore? I hate to even imagine."

The sheriff took exception to how video is used in this charged atmosphere.

"A video can be captured, edited and posted in a matter of minutes to many various media sites, and it's always of the two to maybe five minutes of a situation where everything goes wrong. The aggressor is the victim, the victim is the aggressor and the peacemaker is the overzealous bully. What happened to the other part of the situation? The part that wasn't captured on video? Or maybe it was, but it was cut out. Because it didn't show enough violence or perhaps it showed how the law enforcement agent was trying so hard to get that person to comply and have their day in court, not on the street. But that wouldn't get enough likes if they kept it in the video ... "

The Sheriff went over a number of changes in police procedure, handwritten reports of yore yielding to "downloading everything to a digital file and sending everything to the court electronically" and the advent of "automation, computer data, online reporting in patrol vehicles, tag readers, tasers.

"When I started in 1986, my statement was taken and accepted by the court. Nowadays, if it's not recorded, then it did not happen. Credibility and integrity are constantly called into question."

Fazzary, who said that in his quarter century in office he’s worked with three sheriffs, five undersheriffs, five officers in charge of the Elmira Police Department “and countless other” law enforcement personnel, noted that times have indeed changed from his childhood, when officers were respected. “Kids don’t fear consequences,” he said, “because, well, there are no consequences” in many cases. “In recent years, police and prosecutors have been targeted by criminals and politicians in the media.”

With bail reform and lawsuits and other offshoots of the changing landscape, “officers are in greater danger every day," he said. "But they keep doing their job.”

And to the gathered assemblage of law enforcement at the service, he said: “I don’t care what they say on TV. You guys are awesome.”

Photos in text: Sheriff Kevin Rumsey (top) and DA Joe Fazzary at the memorial service.

County commemorates May 1 as 'Law Day'

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, April 29, 2022 -- Law Day is Sunday (May 1) and the Schuyler County Legislature has recognized as the Law Day 2022 theme “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change.”

The legislature passed a resolution at its April 11, 2022 meeting, recognizing “Law Day” as an occasion of public acknowledgement of our Nation’s heritage of justice, liberty, and equality under the law.

The resolution was submitted to the legislature by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman.

“The Preamble to the United States Constitution mentions forming ‘a more perfect Union’ first in its list of purposes of the Constitution,” Getman wrote.

According to Getman, “the Preamble serves as an introduction to the highest law of the land. It sets the stage for the Constitution and communicates the intentions of the framers and the purpose of the document.”

In passing the resolution, the legislature found that “promoting public understanding of the roots of our freedom are an important component in the civic education of the citizens of the United States, the State of New York and the County of Schuyler.”

Legislator Jim Howell (R-District IV) moved the motion to floor. It was second by Legislator Mark Rondinaro (R-District VII) and supported unanimously by the members present.

The American Bar Association selects an annual theme for each Law Day. Law Day is an annual commemoration first held in 1957 when the American Bar Association envisioned a special national day to mark our nation’s commitment to the rule of law. The following year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Law Day Proclamation. Law Day was made official in 1961 when Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.

A copy of Schuyler County’s resolution “Recognizing and Commemorating May 1, 2022 as ‘Law Day’ in Schuyler County” is available here: https://tinyurl.com/schuylerlawday2022

O'Mara: 'Drug Take-Back Day' is important

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, April 29, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara has reminded area residents that Saturday, April 30, 2022 is the 22nd Annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Law enforcement agencies across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions will operate drop-off centers to allow for the safe and responsible disposal of unused prescription drugs.

“It’s incredibly important that our local law enforcement leaders continue to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Their ongoing leadership in this overall effort to combat prescription drug abuse has made all the difference,” said O’Mara, noting that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in partnership with local police agencies and other community organizations coordinates the annual events across the nation.

On Saturday, Sheriff’s offices throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions have established drop-off centers to allow people to anonymously dispose of unwanted prescription drugs between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Following is a listing of local collection sites being offered throughout O’Mara’s 58th Senate District covering Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates:

> Chemung County: The Chemung County Sheriff's Office will accept unwanted prescription drugs at the following two locations: Southport Volunteer Fire Department (1001 Carl Street, Elmira) and West Elmira Fire Department (1299 W. Water Street, Elmira).

> Schuyler County: The Schuyler County Sheriff's Office will accept unwanted prescription drugs at the following two locations: Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department at 3600 State Route 226, and the Odessa Volunteer Fire Department at 300 E. Main Street.

> Steuben County: Steuben County Sheriff’s Office will participate at the Steuben County Public Safety Building, 7007 Rumsey Street Ext., Bath.

> Tompkins County: Tompkins County Sheriff's Office will participate at the Kinney Drugs location at 2100 Triphammer Road in Ithaca, and the Kinney Drugs location on Route 96 in Trumansburg.

> Yates County: The Yates County Sheriff's Office will conduct an event at the Yates County Courthouse, 415 Liberty Street, Penn Yan.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara: Make voices heard on energy plan

Says public will be ‘shocked’ when they find out where NY’s energy future is heading

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 5, 2022 -- New York State’s Climate Action Council (CAC) Tuesday began a series of 10 public hearings over the next several weeks on a plan that State Senator Tom O’Mara says will “shock” New Yorkers when they begin to find out more about it.

O’Mara and his colleagues in the state Senate Republican Conference have called on all New Yorkers to get involved and submit official public comment on the CAC’s draft scoping plan for implementing New York’s energy future.

The CAC is beginning a schedule of eight in-person and two virtual hearings to receive public input on the plan. Tuesday’s hearing was in New York City. The final, virtual hearing is slated for Wednesday, May 11. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required, for the in-person hearings. Written comments can also be submitted. Find out more on the CAC website: climate.ny.gov.

O’Mara has encouraged New York's efforts to increase cleaner and renewable power but has been outspoken over the past few years that New York’s push to achieve aggressive renewable energy goals through the “Climate Leadership and Climate Protection Act” (CLCPA), signed into law in 2019, will come at great cost and consequences for local communities, economies, and residents. It’s been estimated that implementing the plan will cost taxpayers upwards of at least $300 billion.

O’Mara said, “New York State is traveling at breakneck speed to radically remake New York’s energy future. It will be enormously expensive for state and local taxpayers, to mention nothing of residential and business utility ratepayers. It holds far-reaching consequences for the state and local economies. People are going to be shocked when they’re hit in the pocketbook. We need a fuller discussion of what these actions potentially mean in the important context of feasibility, affordability, and reliability.”

The CLCPA created the CAC to develop a draft plan for implementing the law. The Senate GOP is highlighting what it calls the plan’s "radical efforts to eliminate reliable, affordable sources of energy. Natural gas hookups and services, as well as those from propane and heating oil, are vital for New Yorkers -- especially in rural communities and during harsh winters -- and cutting off these dependable sources of energy would be costly to residents and businesses and ineffective on a global scale."

Among many other provisions, the GOP says, the CAC blueprint calls for:

--No new gas service to existing buildings, beginning in 2024;

--No natural gas within newly constructed buildings, beginning in 2024;

--No new natural gas appliances for home heating, cooking, water heating, clothes drying beginning in 2030; and

--No gasoline-automobile sales by 2035;

--Installing onsite solar or joining a community renewables program by 2040; and

--Installing geothermal heating by 2040.

New Yorkers have until June 10 to submit formal public comments. They can be made at any of the hearings as well as in writing. New Yorkers can use this link to submit public comments: https://climate.ny.gov/Our-Climate-Act/Draft-Scoping-Plan.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara, Republican colleagues urge Hochul, Dem majority to reverse 'pro-criminal' actions

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, March 29, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) on Monday joined members of the Senate and Assembly Republican conferences, and law enforcement, to renew their calls for a comprehensive package of public safety priorities aimed at protecting crime victims, law enforcement and correctional officers, and communities across the region and state from what they called dangerous "pro-criminal," anti-police actions being enacted in Albany.

At a Capitol news conference, Senate and Assembly Republican legislators urged Governor Kathy Hochul and the Legislature’s Democrat majorities to reverse "pro-criminal" policies like bail reform and strengthen New York’s response to violent crime in the upcoming 2022-2023 state budget.

O'Mara, a member on the Senate Codes and Judiciary committees, said, “We again stand with law enforcement, speak out, and fight against the pro-criminal mentality and anti-police policies that keep going too far in New York State. The Democrat supermajorities in control of the State Legislature show no signs of letting up in their push for a so-called progressive agenda that only stands to embolden criminals and keep making this state, our communities, and our neighborhoods less safe. It has been alarming to district attorneys, law enforcement officers, and criminal justice experts alike. We need to enact legislation that puts crime victims, law enforcement, and safe communities first and begins restoring responsibility, sanity, and common sense to criminal justice and public safety in New York State.”

The rise of violent crimes in cities and communities throughout New York follows an overall pro-criminal, anti-police climate fostered under all-Democrat rule, the Republican lawmakers said.

The GOP agenda continues a push throughout the past two years to strengthen protections for crime victims and their families, law enforcement and first responders, correctional officers, and safe communities.

Photo in text: Republican lawmakers at press conference, with Senator Tom O'Mara standing in the front row, far left. (Photo provided)

Schuyler County participating in statewide move to crack down on impaired driving

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, March 16, 2022 -- Schuyler County police agencies and STOP-DWI Coordinators are participating in special efforts to bring awareness to the dangers of impaired driving.

The statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown efforts started on March 16 and will end on March 20. St. Patrick’s Day Weekend is a notoriously deadly period for impaired driving due to the number of celebrations and drivers on the road. New York State Police, County Sheriffs, municipal law enforcement agencies and STOP-DWI Programs across the state will be participating in special engagement efforts to reduce the number of alcohol related injuries and deaths.

Schuyler County Administrator Fonda Chronis explained: “These crackdown efforts combat impaired driving that too often lead to tragic accidents and death. I want to express my appreciation to Sheriff Kevin Rumsey, his team, and the Schuyler County Legislature for committing resources towards this important deterrent, and I urge our residents to celebrate safely this St. Patrick’s Day.”

The STOP-DWI St. Patrick’s Day High Visibility Engagement Campaign is one of many statewide initiatives promoted by STOP-DWI NY and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. The Statewide STOP-DWI High Visibility Engagement Campaign also targets Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day/End of Summer, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Holiday Season and Super Bowl.

"Local Roads Are Essential" coalition gathers in Albany Capitol. State Senator Tom O'Mara is in the front row, third from left; Assemblyman Phil Palmesano is second from right.

'Local Roads' coalition urges bigger state investment in New York roads and bridges

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, March 8, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning), and more than 60 state Senators and members of the Assembly Tuesday joined the call from county and town highway superintendents and other local leaders from throughout New York for increased state support for local roads, bridges, and culverts.

The group held a news conference at the Capitol Tuesday morning and were joined by Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt (R,C,I-North Tonawanda) and Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski).

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep hundreds of local highway superintendents and highway department employees from gathering in Albany to lobby state lawmakers like they did every year for most of the past decade. Nevertheless, the local transportation leaders are still pushing ahead with their annual “Local Roads Are Essential” advocacy campaign sponsored by the New York State Association of County Highway Superintendents (NYSCHSA) and the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH).

They are once again fighting for greater state investment in local transportation infrastructure.

Since 2013, O’Mara and Palmesano have organized legislative colleagues to get behind the effort and raise awareness of the need.

The coalition notes that for the past ten years, largely through a series of “Extreme Winter Recovery” (EWR) allocations distributed through the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding formula, and together with the PAVE-NY and BRIDGE-NY programs established in 2016, important increased state support has been provided for New York’s counties, cities, towns, and villages.

In her 2022-2023 Executive budget, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a $32.8 billion, five-year DOT Capital Plan. The proposed Executive Budget holds baseline funding for CHIPS, EWR, and PAVE-NY at current year levels. The governor’s plan increases BRIDGE-NY funding by $100 million and creates a new “Operation Pave Our Potholes” (POP) program that will provide an additional $100 million in 2022-2023.

While welcoming the governor’s commitment to infrastructure investment in the new state budget, the Local Roads Are Essential advocates are calling on New York to strengthen its commitment to local transportation beyond Hochul’s proposals by the following four actions:

1.) increasing the base funding level for the CHIPS program by $250 million to a total of $788 million;

2.) increasing EWR funding by $50 million to $150 million;

3.) distributing the $100 million proposed for the new “Pave Our Potholes” program utilizing the existing CHIPS/EWR aid formula to ensure equity and fairness; and

4.) increasing the five-year, DOT Capital Plan to $44.1 billion, an $11.3 billion increase.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said: “We have always stood together with New York’s county and town highway superintendents, and local leaders, and we will continue to do everything we can to raise awareness and call for legislative support. Local roads are essential to New York’s future. We have an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen this state’s commitment. State investment in local transportation infrastructure is a fundamental responsibility and critical to the strength and success of local communities, economies, environments, governments, and taxpayers.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano speaks at the "Local Roads Are Essential" gathering Tuesday at the Capitol in Albany. (Photos provided)

Home test kits, N-95 mask distribution set

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Feb. 17, 2022 -- Schuyler County in in receipt of an additional allotment of home (rapid) test kits and N-95 masks, which will be distributed to residents at the below locations starting Tuesday, February 22 until supplies are exhausted:

--Watkins Glen Post Office during business hours.
--Burdett Post Office during business hours.
--Montour Falls Post Office during business hours.
--Hector Post Office during business hours.
--Odessa Post Office during business hours.
--Beaver Dams Post Office during business hours.
--Public Libraries during regular business hours.
--Schuyler County Transit buses.
--Schuyler County Chamber of Commerce during business hours.
--Security Desk at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls during business hours.

Additionally, the State COVID test site at the Watkins Glen State Park remains open.

'Women of Distinction' nominations sought

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 17, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) is seeking nominations for the Senate's 25th annual "Women of Distinction" program to honor local women making outstanding contributions to area communities.

The Senate's annual "Women of Distinction" program coincides with upcoming Women's History Month celebrations in New York State in March. In addition to the local nominating process, the Senate will also unveil an historical exhibit in the Legislative Office Building in Albany paying tribute to "Women of Distinction" from throughout New York’s history.

O’Mara and his Senate colleagues select one new “Woman of Distinction” honoree from their respective legislative districts annually. This year’s honorees will once again be honored through a virtual awards ceremony later this year.

In 2021, O’Mara paid tribute to Natasha Thompson, President and CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, as his district’s "Woman of Distinction.”

"The ‘Woman of Distinction’ tribute is a meaningful recognition. I look forward to this annual opportunity to recognize an outstanding area citizen," said O’Mara, whose 58th Senate District encompasses all of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben and Yates counties, and part of Tompkins County (the city and town of Ithaca, and the towns of Enfield, Newfield and Ulysses). "We all know someone who makes an enormous difference to the community at large. Whether she is a service provider, a teacher going above and beyond the call of duty, a businesswoman, or simply a community resident known for her good deeds, I'd like to see her recognized."

The deadline for submitting a nomination is Friday, March 25, 2022.

Nominations can be submitted online on O’Mara’s Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara and Natasha Thompson, honored in 2021 as a "Woman of Distinction." (Photo provided)

Schuyler County creates business grant fund

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Feb. 15, 2022 -- The Schuyler County Legislature has approved a new local grant program that will support business and building owners looking to improve the front face of their buildings.

The Schuyler County Downtown and Business Improvement ARPA program sets aside a pool of $350,000 to assist with facade and other external building enhancements to improve the pedestrian environment and promote continued investment in Schuyler downtown business districts.

Carl H. Blowers, Chair of the Legislature, remarked, “The Legislature has, once again, come up with an innovative approach to support our business community. Making this funding available will result in highly visible and transformative changes to our downtowns.”

County Administrator Fonda Chronis summarized the program: “This grant will match private investment in facade and building exterior improvements dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000. The state has a similar program, but the reporting and regulations around it are demanding, so many businesses don’t take advantage of it. We’ve worked hard to make this as painless as possible but still be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We believe this will have significant impact on our village downtowns, and I encourage businesses and building owners to apply.”

Added Chronis: “The Legislature has set aside a portion of its American Rescue Plan (ARPA) allocation to help our business community as we near the end of the pandemic. And we worked collaboratively with each village to determine a project radius that would be most impactful. This is another way Schuyler County works with its municipalities to spur economic growth, and after these funds are spent, I believe we will look back at this program as being successful and very impactful.”

To learn more about this Business Improvement grant program, click HERE.

Photo in text: County Administrator Fonda Chronis

Finger Lakes residents await court decision on Bitcoin mining expansion in Yates

Special to The Odessa File

Note: In an Article 78 case heard Tuesday, members of the Finger Lakes community hope to stop Greenidge Generation LLC's construction on new buildings that will house a planned expansion to 32,500 Bitcoin mining machines -- which pose, they say, "drastic ramifications for the environment." The following was published by readMedia.

YATES COUNTY, Feb. 15, 2022 -- Today in Yates County Supreme Court, Judge Daniel J. Doyle heard oral arguments in Sierra Club et al. v. Town of Torrey et al., filed by 33 petitioners including Seneca Lake Guardian against the Town of Torrey.

Petitioners are suing the Town of Torrey for failure to properly follow State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) requirements when it approved Greenidge Generation LLC's application for site plan approval for construction of new buildings for its expanded Bitcoin mining operation.

Permitted to generate electricity for the grid during peak power usage periods, Greenidge has been converted by the private equity firm that owns it to a 24/7 operation producing its own power to mine Bitcoin. Greenidge plans to house its expanded Bitcoin mining operation in these new buildings, leading to 1,000,000 tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions each year, equal to that of 100,000 homes.

The oral arguments today focused on Petitioners' motion for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of the expanded Bitcoin mining operation, because the Town of Torrey failed to assess the adverse environmental impacts of Greenidge's Bitcoin mining machines. This, Petitioners say, includes the increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased water withdrawal for power generation, the discharge of heated water to Seneca Lake, and the potential increase of Harmful Algal Blooms. Judge Doyle did not indicate a timeframe for his decision regarding the preliminary injunction.

Bitcoin mining is a fast-growing issue. After China banned it, citing the environmental threats the practice poses to meeting emissions reduction goals, outside speculators are flocking to upstate New York to take advantage of what opponents say are nonexistent environmental regulations. New York now hosts 20% of the U.S.'s Bitcoin mining.

"We hope that Judge Doyle will rule in our favor to stop Greenidge Generation LLC from filling the Finger Lakes with 32,500 climate-killing Bitcoin machines," said Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian. "Mining is a cancer on our communities that's destroying our natural resources, kneecapping local businesses, and keeping New York from meeting the crucial climate goals outlined by the CLCPA. That's why we're also calling on the DEC to deny Greenidge's air permit renewal and Governor Hochul to impose a moratorium on Bitcoin mining until we can properly assess the environmental, economic, and public health impact. New York cannot be the wild west for this dangerous industry."

Photo in text: Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian (File photo)

O'Mara, Palmesano rip Hochul on move
to keep mask mandates in effect in schools

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, Feb. 9, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano released the following critical statements Wednesday concerning the announcement by Governor Kathy Hochul that New York’s mask mandate on businesses is being lifted statewide

From O'Mara came the following:

“New York State governors, first ex-Governor Cuomo, and now Governor Hochul, have been running this state into the ground by executive order and endless mandates.

“Unfortunately, it continues. This move to finally remove the mask mandate on businesses has taken far too long and its delay has taken an enormous toll on local communities, economies, and workers across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.

“New York State already ranks near the bottom in too many categories of affordability and quality of life. Governor Hochul is leading us toward the bottom again as neighboring states, and many places across the nation and around the world, are taking bold steps into a post-COVID return to common sense.

“The continuation of an irrational and unscientific mask mandate for school children, without a definitive end in sight, continues to define New York as a state under the control of extreme executive order, without legislative checks and balances, and ignoring the dire need for local decision-making.”

And from Palmesano:

“The governor’s decision today to end her indoor mask mandate is welcome news and long overdue, but does not go nearly far enough. Continuing to mask our school children makes little-to-no sense as our businesses are allowed to unmask. Just as our neighboring states (PA, NJ, CT, MA & DE) have announced they are ending the mask mandate on kids in their schools, we, too, should be eliminating the mask mandate on our kids in New York schools.

“Gov. Hochul, just like her predecessor, has continued a pattern of failing to provide parents, local governments and school officials with important metrics and guidance justifying her mandates. We cannot continue this executive overreach of power and arbitrary day-by-day policy making from the executive mansion. The executive emergency powers ended. We are no longer in a state of emergency, but this administration continues to govern like we are.

“It is time to return to normalcy for our children and local communities. It is time to restore local control and decision making. It is time to return to responsible governing by working with the Legislature on important issues instead of using an improper overreach of executive power, mandates and regulations as the state Supreme Court has clearly ruled.”

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

County to distribute masks, more test kits

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Feb. 4, 2022 -- Schuyler County in in receipt of an additional allotment of home (rapid) test kits and N-95 masks, which will be distributed to residents at the below dates and locations until supplies are exhausted.

Monterey Fire Department: Tuesday Feb. 8, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Human Services Complex, Montour Falls: Wednesday, Feb. 9, drive-through site, 12 noon to 4 p.m.
Burdett Fire Department: Wednesday, Feb. 9, drive through-site, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Hector Presbyterian Church: Thursday Feb. 10, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Odessa Fire Department: Friday February 11, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

In addition:

--Public libraries will have kits starting Wednesday, Feb. 9 during regular business hours.
--Schuyler County transit buses will carry limited supplies for riders.
--Schuyler County Office for the Aging will distribute to clients in need.
--The Security Desk at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls will have kits during regular business hours.

According to County Administrator Fonda Chronis, “The state continues to push out COVID test kits to us, and we are working hard to get them to our residents as quickly as possible.”

Local fire and Emergency Management staff will be on hand to distribute these tests and masks. Adds Chronis: “Testing and masking are critical mitigation steps to slow the spread of the virus. We also are fortunate to have a state rapid testing site right in Watkins Glen. I urge residents who are not able to obtain test kits to utilize this resource.”

Photo in text: County Administrator Fonda Chronis

Montour Falls qualifies for $35,000 in grants

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, Feb. 2, 2022 -- The Village of Montour Falls has completed the required number of NYSERDA Clean Energy Community (CEC) high-impact actions to receive a $20,000 grant.

In addition to the $20,000 grant, Montour Falls will also receive a $10,000 disadvantaged community grant and a $5,000 grant for completing a Community Solar Campaign. In total, the Village receives $35,000 in grant funding. Officials say the village intends to use this money to purchase an electric vehicle for the Department of Codes. This will be the Village’s first major step in transitioning to an electric fleet.

The NYSERDA’s CEC program is aimed at encouraging municipalities to undertake sustainability upgrades, projects, education, and outreach. Different sustainability actions are associated with CEC points. By accumulating points, municipalities can qualify for and receive grants that can be used for additional sustainability development projects. The most recent actions that the village has completed to surpass the $20,000 grant point threshold included an Energy Code Enforcement Training and the Community Solar Campaign.

“Our Village is making great strides in joining other communities around our state in powering their government operations and community with clean energy," said Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan. "As we take a holistic approach on actions to achieve these goals, our village will become a stronger, healthier, and more sustainable place to call home.”

O'Mara blasts Farm Wage Board decision

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, January 29, 2022 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) Friday blasted the decision by the state’s Farm Laborers Wage Board to recommend rolling back the current 60-hour-per-week overtime threshold for farm workers beginning in 2024.

The three-member Board, by a vote of 2-1, handed down its decision just hours after closing the last of four virtual hearings on the issue earlier in the day. Board member David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau, voted against the recommendation.

O’Mara released the following statement:

“It’s clear that this was a preordained decision by this Wage Board. The hours of testimony from farmers, farm workers, farm advocates, agricultural representatives and community leaders were still echoing across this state in near-unanimous opposition to lowering the overtime threshold, and the Board took no time at all before coming out with a disastrous decision.

“It was a charade all along. I and many others warned that this is where the Wage Board was headed from day one. It was put in place only to keep paving the way for the far-left, so-called progressive political agenda that dominates Albany Democrat decision-making. It had no meaningful or serious concern for the future of family farms and agriculture in New York State.

“The Board heard from countless individual farmers and the leaders of local farm communities. It heard from the industry’s top advocates, including the New York Farm Bureau, the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, Grow NY Farms, and numerous others. It heard from local, federal, and state representatives, like myself, who fear the undermining and ongoing collapse of an industry and, equally important, a way of life that has defined the regions we represent for generations.

“The Board ignored us all. They ignored common sense and caution in favor of continuing this relentless pursuit of an extreme political agenda and philosophy that will drive this state over the edge of a fiscal and economic cliff.

“In fact, Governor Hochul signaled the Wage Board decision in her proposed state budget not long ago by proposing a tax credit for overtime costs. She has clearly been determined to finish what former Governor Cuomo set in motion two years ago.

“If left to stand, it will change the face of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations. It will produce a nightmare of a ripple effect across local communities and economies in every region of this state -- but especially upstate in regions like I represent throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. It will profoundly diminish the future of high quality, local food production. It will spark the loss of family farms and the loss of the livelihoods these farms support across the industry and throughout hundreds of local economies.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (File photo)

County to distribute more Home Tests

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 24, 2022 -- Schuyler County in in receipt of an additional allotment of home (rapid) test kits, which will be distributed to residents at the below locations this Wednesday evening (January 26th) from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., or until supplies are exhausted:

--Beaver Dams Fire Department
--Mecklenburg Fire Department
--Monterey Fire Department
--Odessa Fire Department
--Tyrone Fire Department
--Valois Logan Hector Fire Department

According to County Administrator Fonda Chronis, “This is the second, and likely final, batch of COVID test kits sent to us from the state for general distribution. The state allocated Schuyler County a limited number of test kits, and we will get them out as quickly and fairly as we can.”

Local fire department staff will be on hand to distribute these tests. Adds Chronis, “Testing is one way to help mitigate the spread of the virus. We also are fortunate to have a state rapid testing sight right in Watkins Glen. I urge residents who are not able to obtain test kits to utilize this resource instead.”

County to distribute Covid Home Tests

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Jan. 6, 2022 -- Schuyler County in in receipt of home (rapid) test kits and will distribute them throughout the community next week.

According to County Administrator Fonda Chronis, “The state has sent Covid test kits to all counties so that we can get them out to residents. Schuyler’s Office of Emergency Management has coordinated with community stakeholders to distribute these tests as widely as possible. They’ve worked hard to make sure these tests are conveniently available to as many of our residents as possible. I only wish we had more to give out.”

Tests are free to the public and will be distributed at the below locations/dates/times listed. Distribution is subject to test kit availability as supplies are limited.

--Mecklenburg Fire Department, Monday, January 10, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
--Monterey Fire Department, Tuesday, January 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
--Mecklenburg Fire Department, Tuesday, January 11, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
--Tyrone Methodist Church, Wednesday, January 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
--Hector Presbyterian Church, Thursday, January 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
--Human Services Complex, Montour Falls, Friday, January 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Additional points of distribution include:

--Local libraries (Hector, Watkins Glen, Odessa, Montour Falls) -- limited number of tests available starting Monday, January 10.
--Test kits will be available at county-sponsored vaccination clinics that take place every Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Community Center in Watkins Glen.
--Test kits will be distributed to various Office for the Aging clients at services touchpoints.
--Test kits will be available on county transit system buses starting Monday, January 10.

Regional bridge repair funding announced

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Dec. 16, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I- Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) welcomed Wednesday’s announcement that local bridge and culvert improvement projects in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates counties are being awarded state aid through the latest round of funding through the state’s BRIDGE-NY program.

The funding was announced in Albany as part of $216.2 million in assistance going to 109 projects statewide.

O’Mara and Palmesano played an instrumental role in creating the BRIDGE-NY program as part of the 2016-2017 state budget, which has since awarded nearly $500 million to localities. The aid helps localities across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide, undertake bridge and culvert rehabilitation and replacement projects.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “BRIDGE-NY has been an important addition to the increased state support for local transportation infrastructure. We must continue to take important steps to establish stronger state support for local roads, bridges and culverts in critical need of rehabilitation and replacement."

O’Mara and Palmesano said that the following regional projects are included under the BRIDGE-NY funding announced today:

  • $2.299 million to Chemung County for the replacement of the Latta Brook (CR51) bridge over Latta Brook;
  • $1.958 million to the Village of Odessa (Schuyler County) for the replacement of the Cotton Hanlon Road bridge over Deckertown Creek;

  • $4.566 million to Steuben County for the replacement of the Smith Road bridge over the Cohocton River;

  • $3.675 million to Tompkins County for the replacement of the County Road 146 bridge over Taughannock Creek; and

  • $1.462 million to Yates County for the replacement of the Haley Road bridge over Big Stream.

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

State mandates masking or vaccines for all indoor public places, effective on Dec. 13

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Dec. 10, 2021 -- Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday that she is instituting a “mask or vaccinate” mandate for all indoor public places in the state, effective on Monday, December 13 and running through January 15, 2022.

This determinatin, Hochul said, is based on the state's weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations. "As Governor, my two top priorities are to protect the health of New Yorkers and to protect the health of our economy," she said. "The temporary measures I am taking today will help accomplish this through the holiday season."

In general, says Schuyler County Deputy Administrator Fonda Chronis, the state is defining an indoor public space as anywhere that is not a private residence. "Each indoor public place must choose between either mandating mask wearing for all employees and the public or requiring vaccines for all," he said in a press release.

This will require, the release added, that "all indoor public facilities in Schuyler County (and throughout the state) choose between mandating masks for all employees and visitors or requiring vaccinations for all. Beginning Monday, December 13, Schuyler County will require all employees and members of the public to wear masks in county facilities and buildings."

New York State will re-evaluate this temporary mandate in mid-January and decide whether to extend it or not.

In the past six weeks, Chronis's press release noted, "Schuyler County COVID-related statistics have increased significantly. Since November 1st, five county residents have died, and we have registered 569 new COVID infections -- 93% of those reported as symptomatic positive cases. The County urges residents to seek vaccination as the best protection against the virus.".

Click here to view more information on this mask or vaccination requirement.

Photo in text: Governor Kathy Hochul (File photo)

Schuyler County officials warn: Be aware of unsolicited property offers; know your rights

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 24, 2021 -- Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman are warning property owners to be aware of unsolicited offers to buy land in Schuyler County, often at a deep discount from the actual value.

“Reports have surfaced this month of a company soliciting property owners in the area offering to buy vacant land for cash,” Philbin said. “The offers include a Purchase and Sale Agreement, asking the owner to sign and send back within a short period of time. The quick cash offer they make is always below the assessed value, and sometimes by as much as 15 to 25 percent. That could cost you thousands of dollars, depending the price and your property’s actual value.”

“Many of these buyers are, basically, throwing out nets to see if they can find an owner who doesn't understand the real value of their property or an owner that wants to sell quickly at (almost) any cost. They may be senior citizens, facing a personal situation that is forcing them to consider selling their real estate. These buyers are often hoping to find sellers willing to sell at 85% or less of the true market value.”

Since the offer may be perfectly legal, signing and sending back the agreement, Getman pointed out, would create a binding contract. That contract, Getman said, may obligate the owners to conditions or expenses they did not understand before signing.

“For example, the offer may state the buyer will pay all closing costs, but also require the seller to clear up any liens or encumbrances on the property at the seller’s own expense before the sale,” Getman explained. “That could include mortgages, property taxes or even electric, water and sewer bills. If the sale price does not cover those expenses, the sellers could be left paying out more than they are getting for the property.”

Therefore, property owners should review any documents very carefully and consult an experienced attorney before signing any type of agreement, Getman said.

Philbin and Getman offered several tips to property owners who receive unsolicited offers to buy their land:

  • Never sign anything until you are sure you want to move forward.
  • Have your own attorney review the documents before you sign them. If you do not have an attorney, the New York State Bar Association may be able to refer you to an appropriate attorney via the NYSBA Lawyer Referral and Information Service: https://www.findalawyernys.org.
  • Check out the would-be buyer online. If someone is legitimately interested in buying your home, you should be able to retrieve information about them. Look for any red flags such as bad reviews or lawsuits.
  • Ask for references. If the buyer will not offer any, something is wrong. If their references are sketchy and cannot be verified, you need to rethink doing business with that person.
  • Find out the fair market value of your home before you agree to a price.
  • Consider bringing in a real estate professional to represent you and give you a fair opinion of your land’s value. If the buyer is legitimate they should be willing to discuss terms with your agent.
  • If selling your property seems like a good idea, do not jump at the first offer made (especially if it represents just a small fraction of the land’s worth).

Finally, if you receive anything in the mail about your property that seems questionable, Philbin and Getman said that you can contact the County Clerk or, in the event of possible criminal activity, local law enforcement.

“Keep in mind that this is often totally legitimate,” Getman said. “The goal here is to understand what you may sacrifice for convenience.”

“Know your rights before you sign,” Philbin said.

The Schuyler County Clerk is responsible for all books, files and other necessary equipment for the filing, recording and depositing of deeds, maps, papers in actions and special proceedings of both civil and criminal nature, judgment and lien dockets and books for the indexing of the same as directed or authorized by law.

The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor for county government and its various officials. The County Attorney prosecutes and defends civil actions on behalf of the county and county employees acting pursuant to their official duties.

Photos in text: County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman.

Watkins Glen Parks Manager Craig Bond shows the Planning Board and Code Enforcement Officer Darrin Stocum (left) preliminary plans for the Clute Park campground expansion.

Planning Board handles Lucky Hare Brewing, Clute Park campground-expansion proposals

WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 18, 2021 -- The Watkins Glen Planning Board gave preliminary site plan approval Wednesday night to external changes on the former Orient Hibachi Buffet at 513 North Franklin Street, next door to Maria's Tavern.

The changes were requested by Lucky Hare Brewing co-owner Richard Thiel, who said his company is planning to open a tap room and restaurant on the ground floor of the site, with a target start date of Memorial Day 2022. The site has been vacant in recent years.

The Planning Board approval was granted with the proviso that the building owner, Yong Quin Liu, give his permission in writing. A public hearing on the exterior changes -- which include what Code Enforcement Officer Darrin Stocum called an "accessible entry" -- will be held at the board's Dec. 22 meeting, after which final approval is expected.

Approval of interior work will be run through Stocum's office. He said he has not received specific plans yet, but that it appears the renovation will be significant -- "more than just painting." The owner, he added, has indicated an interest in renovating the second floor for apartment usage.

Thiel said the tap room and restaurant will "give people what they want." What's that? he was asked. He laughed, answering: "more beer." Part of the project is being funded by the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) -- with a mid-year deadline for attainment of a Certificate of Occupancy.

Thiel said that Lucky Hare had tried to secure use of the ground floor of the former Li'l Joe's service station on Franklin Street near the lakefront, but without success. That building, part of the DRI, broke ground in August for a renovation that will result in commercial space and a three-bedroom apartment in the primary building and three commercial spaces in the old repair and service structure adjacent to it.

Lucky Hare has a craft beer and kitchen facility in Hector, a tap room in Ithaca, and a production facility in the Business Park off Route 414 above Watkins Glen.

Clute Park Campground

The Planning Board gave concept approval to Watkins Glen Parks Manager Craig Bond to move ahead in securing a surveyor for a proposed expansion of the number of campground sites at Clute Park.

Bond will move forward with the first of three possible phases that would eliminate under-utilized tenting sites in favor of motor home sites -- both weekend and seasonal. Bond said the expansion could result in dozens of additional sites, revenue from which will help pay for the infrastructure costs entailed in the project.

He said the current, little-used tennis court behind the community center in Clute Park might be eliminated and replaced by some of the new sites. He said the courts are in poor shape, and might be succeeded by courts on the lakeside portion of the park constructed with the use of grant money currently being sought.

Photos in text: The vacant Orient Hibachi Buffet building, and Lucky Hare co-owner Richard Thiel.

Legislators oppose plan to close prisons, debate Constitutional County movement

WATKINS GLEN, Nov. 15, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Legislature, meeting in special session Monday morning, unanimously approved a resolution opposing Governor Kathy Hochul's "abrupt, secretive and unsafe prison closures on public safety, economic and environmental grounds."

The closures included six facilities, among them the Southport Correctional Facility in Chemung County and the Willard Drug Treatment Campus in Seneca County.

The resolution was an offshoot of a proposal by Legislator Phil Barnes at the last Legislature session a week ago in which he took exception to Hochul's move. County Attorney Steven Getman at that time suggested coordinating with the other affected counties before moving forward. That having been accomplished, Monday's session had the single resolution on its agenda.

The Legislature, however, did discuss another brewing issue: the call for a Constitutional County in Schuyler -- a matter that drew mixed reactions from the legislators heading into a Management and Finance Committee meeting next Monday at which proponents will state their case for its creation. If the committee deems it worth further action, a resolution will be forwarded to the full Legislature for a vote.

The Prison Closures:

The resolution was accompanied by a verbal description by Legislator David Reed, a former Corrections Officer, regarding the Southport prison.

That facility was designed for "the worst of the worst," he said -- for "assaultive inmates" who "would kill you for a pack of cigarettes." To call them "animals," he said, "would be an insult to animals."

He said that breed of inmates shouldn't be returned to the general prison population. If they are, "you're going to get people hurt or maybe killed."

The resolution said in part:

"WHEREAS, Governor Kathy Hochul has abruptly announced that six prisons across the state will close by March of next year, consisting of: Ogdensburg Correctional Facility; Moriah Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility; Willard Drug Treatment Campus; Southport Correctional Facility; Downstate Correctional Facility and Rochester Correctional Facility, and

"WHEREAS, Governor Hochul's announcement arrived with no advance warning and no meaningful local input or outreach to corrections unions or local officials, and

"WHEREAS, local officials at the state and county levels have stated that they only learned of these closures from media reports, and

"WHEREAS, such secrecy goes against the promises of transparency and collaboration made by the governor upon taking office, and

"WHEREAS, this announcement appears to disregard a 2005 state law that requires 12 months' notice for a prison closure, and

"WHEREAS, recent reforms that release violent offenders to the streets and close correctional facilities do nothing to protect our state from violent crime, and

"WHEREAS, in the wake of more than 20 facility closures in the last ten years, despite housing fewer inmates, assaults and incidents of dangerous violence within our correctional facilities have continued to rise, inmate-on-inmate violence has increased and attacks on our corrections officers have doubled, and

"WHEREAS, placing more inmates into fewer facilities leads to a rise in assaults, a decrease in social distancing and elevated health dangers to staff and inmates caused by COVID-19, and

"WHEREAS, the closing of these facilities will negatively affect over 1,300 correctional officers who are projected to be displaced, in addition to the negative impact these closures will have on local communities, and

"WHEREAS, two of these facilities, Southport Correctional Facility and Willard Drug Treatment Campus are located in counties adjoining Schuyler County, respectively, Chemung County and Seneca County, and

"WHEREAS, each facility provides employment opportunities to residents of Schuyler County ...

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Schuyler County Legislature hereby opposes and condemns the Governor's abrupt, secretive and unsafe plan to close these six prisons."

Constitutional County:

The move toward Constitutional County status in New Yok State originated in Cattaraugus County, where lawmakers voted unanimously last summer, according to a news report, "to become a 'constitutional sanctuary' where the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights will be protected."

In doing so, the article went on, the county "vowed to use 'all legal means at its disposal' to oppose unconstitutional efforts to infringe on the rights of citizens, whether those attacks come from the federal or state level. Gun rights in particular received special treatment.

"Among other elements," it continued, "the measure declares that no county employees, public money, resources, or buildings would be used to infringe on the rights of citizens or to help other levels of government enforce such unconstitutional restrictions.

"Even the county's mission statement was updated to pay homage to the Constitution and declare the legislature's vision of protecting its constituents from 'excessive and oppressive' governmental mandates."

There appeared to be no such unanimity among Schuyler legislators Monday.

When Chair Carl Blowers said he understood that proponents of the Constitutional County had accumulated an estimated 600 signatures of support on a petition, Legislator Gary Gray said they would have to go much farther -- gain many more signatures -- to obtain his support. The 600 signatures constitute about 8% of the county population.

Legislator Phil Barnes said he thought the Legislature was "obliged to listen to the folks" circulating the petitions, who he described as "very heartfelt" in their stated goal.

Clerk of the Legislature Stacy Husted said there seemed to be some confusion in social media regarding how such legislation might or might not be adopted, and pointed out the need to make it clear there was a protocol to such things: presentation by supporters to the county's Management and Finance Committee (set for next Monday), consideration by the committee of a possible resolution, subsequent consideration of such a resolution (if approved by the committee) by the full Legislature, and either passage or rejection.

Husted also said the only county in the state to adopt such a resolution has been Cattaraugus -- that despite proposals in several other counties, none had reached a vote.

Legislator Michael Lausell said that legislators had already taken an oath to defend the Constitution as part of taking office, and "we can't just jump around" to support another oath.

Legislator Mark Rondinaro said he could see supporting such a sentiment in one overriding county mission statement that superceded varying statements in different sections of the county structure, while Legislator David Reed said that "we already have a Constitutional County in my mind" without moving forward with any ongoing proposal.

Reed also said such county-based legislation would be "a little bit of a feel-good resolution, but one way to fight back, maybe." But he expressed his frustration with oppressive state mandates by wondering if they "will ever stop," and said that government on the state level had "swung so far left, to stupidity."

County Attorney Steven Getman said afterward that the issue is a complex one considering the fact that counties exist as sub-units of state government, created by the state. To try and sue the state over perceived unconstitutional mandates, he said, is "like the hand suing the arm" -- not to mention that reasonable people can have disagreement over what is constitutional and what is not.

But it is those perceived unconstitutionalities -- based primarily in the executive actions by the Cuomo administration after the pandemic struck -- that are fueling the movement. As Legislator Barnes put it, the people pursuing a Constitutional County are "frustrated. Every morning they don't know what their rights will be." Of the state mandates, he added: "When is enough enough?"

Photos in text: From top, legislators Mark Rondinaro, right, and Michael Lausell discuss the prison resolution before the meeting; Legislator David Reed discusses the Southport prison; County Attorney Steven Getman; and Legislator Phil Barnes, right, discusses the Constitutional County movement, with Legislature Chair Carl Blowers in the background.

O'Mara rips Hochul on prison closing plan

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Nov. 8 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) on Monday strongly criticized an announcement by Governor Kathy Hochul that the Southport Correctional Facility is scheduled to close on March 10, 2022.

In a statement, O’Mara said, “Governor Hochul’s abruptly announced decision to close the Southport Correctional Facility comes as a great shock to this community and region. It arrived with no advance warning and, obviously, no meaningful local input or outreach to local officials or the correctional officers union. The surprising decision impacts hundreds of local correctional officers and prison staff, which means hundreds of local families and a devastating toll on already hard-hit local economies. It shows a disregard for Upstate New York’s communities and simply turns a blind eye to an increasingly violent crime wave throughout this state, as well as a currently explosive and dangerous prison environment that threatens correctional officers and prison staff.

"Governor Hochul needs to be transparent about the decision to close Southport. What factors justify closing a ‘supermax’ facility like Southport? What will it mean for public safety across this state? What measures are being considered for the future of the facility itself, but most importantly for the employees and their families, and the community at large? There are plenty of unanswered questions and we will immediately be reaching out to the Hochul administration to get answers. The bottom line is that Governor Hochul should be focused on spreading out the inmate population, decreasing inmate density, and protecting the men and women working in our prisons.

“Despite the recent trend of lowering prison population, we have not seen a correlating reduction of violence within the prisons. We read weekly of violent assaults by inmates on staff and other inmates occurring at Elmira Correctional Facility. We need to focus on safer prisons. The lower prison population should be capitalized on to spread inmates out for greater safety within the system as a whole.”

O’Mara noted that the state has recently invested $20 million into operations at the Southport facility implementing a step-down program to work with the most violent inmates in the state’s prison system to get them ready for reintegration into the general prison population.

O’Mara and many other lawmakers have been critical of former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s Democrat supermajorities for actions over the past several years that they believe have focused on emptying state prisons for political gain.

That criticism has continued into the new Hochul administration.

“Governor Hochul has, so far, surprisingly and wrongly continued the radical and politically motivated actions of the former Cuomo administration and the Legislature’s one-party-control, downstate Democrat supermajorities to empty state prisons at any cost, especially the cost of public safety and security," said O'Mara. "Over the past several years up to now, we have seen action after action, from the disastrous bail reform to a radically lenient Parole Board, advancing a pro-criminal mentality over public safety and security and victims’ rights. It has emboldened this society’s criminal element.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

And from Assemblyman Phil Palmesano comes this related statement:

“Gov. Hochul announced the closure of six additional state Correctional Facilities, including Southport Correctional Facility in Chemung County and the Willard Drug Treatment Campus in Seneca County, by March 10, 2022. Two of the six facilities are considered maximum security, which harbor the most dangerous criminals in New York state. The closing of Downstate, Ogdensburg, Moriah Shock and Rochester, along with Southport and Willard, will negatively affect over 1,300 correctional officers and sergeants who are projected to be displaced, in addition to the negative impact these closures will have on local communities.

"This is a continuation of the administration’s fast-track state prison closures with only 90-days’ notice. This is in blatant disregard to a 2005 state law that requires 12-months’ notice for a prison closure. The fast-track prison closure process just adds insult to injury to the employees, families and local communities impacted by these closures. Unfortunately, Gov. Hochul has chosen to follow in the footsteps of former Gov. Cuomo, whose dangerous policies and prison closures put correctional officers in harm’s way for years.

“Prison closures are already devastating to the employees, families and local communities, but fast-tracking these closures is simply cruel and shows a complete lack of respect for the brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to work a very dangerous job to keep us safe. Although the administration always likes to claim employees will not lose their jobs, 90 days is clearly not enough time for families to uproot their lives, travel hours away for work and find new homes and new schools for their kids. These personal hardships are just compounded many times over by the destructive impact these closures have on the economic well-being of local communities.

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Hearing set on proposed county budget

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Nov. 4, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Legislature will hold a public hearing to receive comments on the proposed 2022 budget on Monday, November 8. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Human Services Complex in Montour Falls.

According to County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, the proposed budget represents a significant decrease in both the tax rate and the tax levy. The $55.2 million spending plan calls for a tax rate decrease of 3.63%, from a 2021 rate of $7.13 per $1,000 of assessed valuaation to $6.87. The tax levy is going down 2.5%, from $11,323,706 to $11,040,870. And it is being done without cuts to services or staff.

“While we still face much uncertainty in the realm of public health," said O'Hearn, "we have much more clarity about the county’s financial picture than we did during last year’s budget process that resulted in dramatic reductions in spending and revenue projections. As it turned out, drastic threatened cuts from NYS did not materialize, and the tourism economy rebounded much quicker than projected, resulting in a year-end surplus.

"This new-found financial strength will allow the county to invest in areas previously deemed unaffordable -- items such as basic county infrastructure, buildings, machinery, equipment, fleet, and people. After these investments, continued favorable fiscal outcomes, which we believe will occur over the next few years, should allow the county to fund reserve accounts as the way to plan and pay for future infrastructure costs.”

Legislative Chairman Carl Blowers added this: “While we are starting to see signs of a healthy recovery from the pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the fact that many of our residents are still facing financial hardships. I am pleased to be able to support a spending plan that helps ease that burden for our taxpayers.”

Photo in text: County Administrator Tim O'Hearn (File photo)

A view of the future Village Hall on outer Church Street on the edge of Odessa.

Frustrations boil over at board meeting

ODESSA, Nov. 2, 2021 -- The changing face of a pandemic-era village brought concern from one resident and resultant anger from the mayor at a meeting Monday night of the Odessa Village Board.

The meeting was followed by a tour by the mayor, board and other village personnel at the site, recently purchased, that will become the next Village Hall and home of the Fire Department.

The concern at the meeting was voiced by Peggy Tomassi, a longtime village resident who said she was bothered that Odessa's quaint nature has been altered with a change in the face of business -- the closing in years past of a card shop and the emergence of a a different kind of shop featuring "bong selling," as she put it, and whose owner openly is lobbying to run a dispensary under the state's new marijuana laws

"'I'm concerned what Main Street is starting to look like," she said, leaving unsaid the vacancy in what for decades had been a bank.

Mrs. Tomassi -- mother of Odessa Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tomassi -- said she was also concerned about the cost of various ongoing projects in the village, largely water and sewer related, along with the purchase by the village a week ago of 7.5 acres of land containing several buildings that will serve as the new village nerve center. The cost on that: $398,500 for the property, plus a $990,000 bond to cover various improvements and additions on the property, chief among them new fire department bays.

She said she also wishes "we could focus on drugs in the community," apart from the liberalized marijuana laws in the state. She said she can see that some people walking the village streets are "drugged out," and that she feels compelled to lock her doors. "It's sad," she added.

"I miss my bedroom community," she said. "I miss the closeness we had with neighboring towns."

That led to a long discussion led by Mayor Gerry Messmer, who said many of the projects -- funded through bonds and grants -- can pay for themselves through such things as water and sewer charges, and will not affect taxes. He also said the village had to tackle many things itself because such entities as the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development have not been forthcoming with help.

"SCOPED," he said, "has basically turned its back on municipalities," while the county has not been helpful, either. He noted two meetings with the County Administrator that were particularly unsatisfying to him. As for interaction with other muncipalities, he said forging shared services has been unsuccessful, noting that the village would have been charged so much to join the regional wastewater treatment plant between Montour Falls and Watkins Glen that to do so was not feasible. The village has instead embarked on a sewage treatment system of its own, which the Odessa-Montour school has tied into, and which will extend next year along the village's Main Street.

Messmer's criticism extended to the county legislator representing residents of the village -- David Reed of Cayuta -- who Messmer said "has never set foot in this building."

The issue of zoning opened with the mayor saying that without a Planning Board willing to work on it, there was no way to develop that zoning to block from opening in the village any business that might not be welcome by all of its residents. He said that he had tried for three-and-a-half years to get people to commit to working on such a board, without success. The Village Board recently jettisoned the Planning Board, deciding to handle all related issues itself.

When Mrs. Tomassi -- who works in the office of County Administrator Tim O'Hearn but said she was speaking as a resident of Odessa -- returned to the issue of zoning, wondering why existing restrictions were not being enforced, Messmer said such regulations were difficult to enforce because to do so required employing an attorney at $175 an hour on any case taken to court. That, he said, is something not contained in the village's limited budget.

When Mrs. Tomassi suggested that the mayor was saying that despite zoning, it was not going to be enforced, the mayor became visibly angry, shouting at her -- saying "Don't sit there and tell me we're going to ignore zoning." She told him not to shout at her, and he suggested she could run for mayor.

She responded: "We have zoning. Why have it if we're not going to enforce it?"

The mayor, his voice still raised, said "You're not hearing what I'm saying."

Mrs. Tomassi responded in kind: "You're not hearing what I'm saying."

The argument ended with the mayor saying that "you want to be hypocritical and condescending, then you can leave."

She did not, and the mayor then terminated the discussion, turning back to the agenda. The meeting concluded without further confrontation.

After the session, one village employee said "it maybe isn't a good idea to yell at one of your constituents," while another observer said the pressures of the pandemic era, changing state regulations regarding crime and other issues, and strained county-village relations had perhaps left nerves raw.

******

The tour of the soon-to-be Village Hall was on property for which the village closed the week before. The 7.5 acres on the edge of the village on Church Street -- most of it is actually just outside the village limit, in the Town of Catharine -- belonged to the Bentley family. It has a house with attached garage, and other outbuildings: two garages and a storage shed.

The house will serve as headquarters for the Village Clerk. It has various rooms for meetings, a couple of rest rooms, and a large basement that will provide the village with ample storage space. The attached garage might one day become home to a village history museum.

A large garage to the southeast will become the new Community Room once bathrooms are installed and the interior is renovated. The garage to the rear of the others -- which still holds a number of cars belonging to the Bentley family -- will become administrative offices and meeting space for the village fire department. Another attached building, yet to be constructed from that $990,000 bond, will serve as the fire bays, complete with heated floor.

The Village Clerk’s office will, as the plan now stands, be opening after legally required ramps are installed. The other parts of the project will follow as weather permits.

The $398,500 purchase price will, Mayor Messmer said, be recouped by sale of the current Municipal Building, which the village long ago outgrew. That building, which has some structural issues, has already attracted a couple of potential buyers, he said.

The Village Board is also considering -- with discussion in its early phases -- construction of a Youth Sports Facility on the newly purchased property. It would be a roofed building, usable year-around and -- as the board envisions it -- able to pay for itself through rental to organizations around the area.

After the Village Clerk is working at the new locale, the mayor said, he hopes -- perhaps by Christmas -- to hold an open house for village residents to tour the facility.

Photos in text:

Top: Odessa Mayor Gerry Messmer on a video call with Robert Tuttle, who resigned from the board at its last meeting because he is moving out of state. The village is giving the Tuttles an embroidered towel set as held by the mayor. In the background is Deputy Mayor Aubrey Tomassi.

Second: Village resident Peggy Tomassi, who expressed concern about Odessa's future.

Third: Mayor Messmer in the newly purchased property along Church Street that will become the next Village Hall.

Fourth: This garage area on the newly purchased property will become the next Community Room for the village.

Bottom: The kitchen in the new Village Hall building, which was formerly a residence.

Candidates for the Hector Town Council were on hand to answer questions. From left, Democrats Katie O'Connor, Elizabeth Martin and Jessica Rodgers, and Republican Robert Mahaney. Three council seats are available.

Hector, Sheriff candidates featured at forum

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 25, 2021 -- Candidates in the upcoming general election appeared Monday night at the Watkins Glen Performing Arts Center (former Middle School auditorium) to speak on their own behalf before scores of interested area residents at a Meet the Candidates Night.

The event was advertised as "organized by a committee of non-partisan community volunteers" and sponsored by the Review & Express.

A couple of the candidates were unopposed, and spoke briefly: Jim Howell, running for re-election to the Schuyler County Legislature from Distrrict 4, and Theresa Philbin, the County Clerk.

A couple are opposed, but spoke alone since their opponents were not present: incumbent Harold Russell running against Dominick Smith for Town of Dix Supervisor, and David Reed, running for re-election to the County Legislature from District 1 against Howard Cabezas.

Each of the four candidates vying for three seats on the Hector Town Council were present -- Robert Mahaney, Jessica Rodgers, Elizabeth Martin and Katie O'Connor -- and answered questions related to the chief challenge facing Hector (zoning is key, they agreed) and what makes them proudest of Hector (its diversity, friendly people working together). Mahaney is the lone Republican in the group; the others are Democrats.

The major attraction of the night was the appearance of the two candidates for Schuyler County Sheriff: Undersheriff Breck Spaulding and Sheriff's Investigator Keven Rumsey. Rumsey, who defeated Spaulding in the Republican primary, is running on the Republican, Conservative and Community First lines on the ballot. Spaulding is running on the Safe Schuyler line.

Each introduced himself and answered questions posed by moderator Judy Phillips.

On the most pressing area of crime needing addressing: both said drugs, with Rumsey adding that meth is a specific "big problem."

On whether they are for or against large-scale events in the county: Both are in favor -- if they can be done safely.

On what changes need to be made in the operation of the Sheriff's Office: Spaulding said transparency and community outreach, but pointed out that "some changes are being made now"; and Rumsey said "training, training, training," frequently and with other agencies, with an eye toward "scenario-based training."

On the impact of marijuana dispensaries being opened in communities under the state's liberalized marijuana laws, and how they would handle it: Spaulding said it will be "like dropping another bar in the community," requiring greater attention and manpower; and Rumsey saying he was going "to react according to the law," and that existing manpower should be sufficient. "I think we'll be just fine," he added.

In closing, Spaulding said he was like a co-pilot trained to take over a plane. "I've been the co-pilot" to Sheriff William Yessman "for 16 years," he said, "and I'm ready to be the pilot."

Rumsey said he's "not looking to reinvent the wheel. We have a really good" Sheriff's Department. He added: "I'm focused and ready for the responsibility."

****

Photos in text:

Top: Undersheriff Breck Spaulding at the forum.
Middle: Sheriff's Investigator Kevin Rumsey.
Bottom: Moderator Judy Phillips.

Schuyler traffic stop leads to fugitive arrest

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, Oct. 21, 2021 -- A Dryden man wanted on an extradtion warrant from South Carolina was taken into custody by a Schuyler County Sheriff's Deputy after a traffic stop Wednesday morning.

According to a press release from the Sheriff's Office, the deputy made the stop at about 10:35 a.m. "on a Black Chevrolet pickup truck on State Route 13 in the Town of Cayuta after a Vehicle and Traffic Law violation was observed. During the course of the stop, the operator, Brent A Gillie Jr., 37, Freeville, NY, was found to have a suspended driver’s license and was charged with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation in the Third Degree.

"The Deputy," the release went on, "attempted to identify other occupants in the vehicle and a male passenger stated he had no identification and provided a name which returned with no person found. Other means of identifying the occupant were used and it was discovered the occupant was giving false information as to his identity. The occupant was positively identified as Jeremiah M Recor, 21, Dryden, NY, and had an active full United States extradition warrant from the South Carolina Department of Corrections as a Parole Absconder.

"Recor was taken into custody and transported to the Sheriff’s Office, where he was charged locally with Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree, a Class A Misdemeanor, as well as Fugitive from Justice. Recor was arraigned in front of the Schuyler County CAP (Centralized Arraignment Program) Court and remanded to the Schuyler County Jail without bail."

O'Mara calls for suspension of New York's gas tax, rejection of possible 55-cent hike

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Oct. 19, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) on Tuesday joined other members of the Senate Republican Conference in calling for the immediate suspension of the state’s gas tax, one of the nation’s highest, and in continuing to voice opposition to legislation under consideration by the state Legislature’s Democrat majorities that he said could raise the gas tax by 55 cents and increase home heating costs by upwards of 25%.

The Senate GOP action comes as gas prices continue to climb sharply across the state and when home heating costs are projected to increase by more than 20 percent this winter, even higher in some places. According to the AAA, New York’s latest average gas price is $3.46 per gallon, compared to an average of $2.25 per gallon one year ago.

“New York’s out-of-control Democrat supermajorities enacted a state budget this year raising taxes by nearly five billion dollars and they’ll just keep looking for more. It will be an unending search for more tax dollars to afford more spending and every taxpayer will pay the price at the pump, to heat homes, and in a lot of other places. The ink on the new state budget was barely dry and the Democrats were already eyeing their next tax-hike opportunities, including a potential fifty-five-cents-per-gallon gas tax to help generate revenue to implement an unsustainable, impractical climate change agenda,” said O’Mara, who also joined the Senate GOP in calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to suspend the current gas tax. “The ongoing implementation of these regressive taxes would leave lower- and middle-income families and workers, motorists, truckers, manufacturers and other industries, and seniors among the hardest hit.”

The legislation (S4264/A6967), known as the “Climate and Community Investment Act,” calls for accelerated state-level actions to achieve broad and far-reaching climate change policies. It includes a new 55-cents-per-gallon gas tax and increased taxes on heating oil, propane, and natural gas, which is estimated to increase home heating fuel costs by 26%.

New Yorkers already pay the ninth-highest gas tax in America at 46.19-cents-per-gallon, according to the Tax Foundation. If the proposed gas tax of 55 cents were added, New York would have the highest overall gas tax in America.

New York’s business tax climate has long been noted by the Tax Foundation as one of the nation’s worst.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

3 opioid distributors to pay up to $546,000 in settlement with Schuyler County

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 13, 2021 -- Three major drug distributors will pay Schuyler County up to $546,000 to settle claims they contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis in that county, under a resolution approved by the Schuyler County Legislature at its October monthly meeting.

Meeting on Tuesday, October 12, the county legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents.

According to the resolution, distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation all agreed to the settlement with the county in exchange for being released from a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office.

The agreement calls for the three distributors to pay the county over 18 annual installments, with payments expected to begin in 2022, Getman said.

According to Getman, the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.

“Potential uses include supporting police and first responders, treating opioid addiction, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.

The settlement also requires the distributors to implement a process for collecting and analyzing data about opioid sales, Getman noted. It will involve the creation by the companies of a data clearinghouse to establish pharmacy-specific opioid shipment limits that each distributor must follow to properly monitor opioid data.

The motion authorizing Getman to accept the settlement was made by County Legislator Phil Barnes (R, District VI) and seconded by Legislator Mark Rondinaro (R, District VII).

It is the second opioid settlement Schuyler County has been a part of in the past two months. In September, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., through a court settlement with the opioid maker. The money will be used to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use.

The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately 30 defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.

After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In July, Attorney General Letitia James announced a tentative deal with the three drug distributors that will deliver up to $1.1 billion to New York state to combat the opioid epidemic. Since then, James has begun a statewide “HealNY” tour related to highlight the settlements, with stops throughout the state, including New York City, Utica and Syracuse.

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come. Along with the three distributors and Johnson & Johnson, the defendants named in the county’s lawsuit include: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. and Insys Therapeutics, Inc.

The three companies named in Tuesday’s resolution have issued a joint statement "strongly disputing" any wrongdoing. They described the settlements as "an important step toward finalizing a broad settlement" with states, counties, and local municipalities.

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s lawsuit can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/5auyrmdc

A copy of the county’s resolution approving the settlement can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/yrfprewm

Photo in text: Steven Getman (File photo)

Review & Express backs Candidates Night

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 8, 2021 -- A non-partisan, community committee is organizing a Meet the Candidates Night, sponsored by the Watkins Review & Express, for candidates running for county and town offices in Schuyler County.

The event will be Monday, Oct. 25, at the Watkins Performing Arts Center, the former Watkins Glen Middle School auditorium. It will begin at 6:30 p.m., and all are welcome.

“An informed citizenry is a central part of a good democracy,” said Brandon Lawson, Review & Express publisher. “Information about candidates is key to that, and this is why we are sponsoring a Meet the Candidates Night for Schuyler County voters this year. We want people to be informed.”

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 2. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Early voting in Schuyler County begins Saturday, Oct. 23. Early voting details are available from the county Board of Elections.

Candidates for Schuyler County Sheriff and Legislative District 1 have been invited to the Meet the Candidates Night to give timed presentations and answer questions from the audience. Also invited to speak and answer questions are candidates for contested offices in the towns of Dix and Hector.

Candidates for uncontested county positions have been invited to speak, but not take questions. Candidates for uncontested town positions have been invited to be introduced in the audience.

Parking lot projects set at county facilities

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 7, 2021 -- Schuyler County parking lots will undergo repair, maintenance and paving over the next two weeks. The schedule below outlines the anticipated closures and/or reduced parking option at the different county facilities.

County services will remain open and available during these projects, although the public is encouraged to plan accordingly as parking could be difficult at times.

This schedule is subject to modification given weather conditions or unanticipated work.

County Court House Complex & Sheriff’s Office (105 9th Street, Watkins Glen):
Parking lot closed on October 12 and 18. Utilize on-street parking on 9th and Franklin Streets. County operations remain open.

Human Services Complex (323 Owego Street, Montour Falls):
Parking is available but limited on October 13, 14, 19, and 20. Entrances and exits may be modified. County operations remain open.

Mill Street Center (106 South Perry Street, Watkins Glen):
Parking lot closed October 15 and 21. Public is allowed to park at Watkins Glen Central School on those days. County operations remain open.

County representatives will be on hand at each project to assist the public while work is conducted.

Elections Board adds hours for absentee voters

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 5, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Board of Elections will be open extra hours the weeks of October 18th and October 25th for the purpose of absentee voting for the November 2nd, 2021 General Election.

Staff will have applications and ballots available at the County Office Building Board of Elections, which is located at Room B104 on the following dates and times:

Tuesday, October 19 until 7:00 pm
Wednesday, October 20 until 7:00 pm
Saturday, October 23 from 9:00 am to 12 noon

Tuesday, October 26 until 7:00 pm
Wednesday, October 27 until 7:00 pm
Saturday, October 30 from 9:00 am to 12 noon

Absentee voting is available to registered voters who will be absent from Schuyler County on Election Day for the following reasons: business, education, vacation, illness or confinement.

Early voting to take place at County Building

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Oct. 5, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Board of Elections will have a polling site set up from October 23rd through October 31st for the purpose of Early Voting for the November 2nd General Election.

Early Voting will take place at the County Office Building at 105 9th St., Watkins Glen, in the Legislative Chambers, which is located on the 1st Floor.

The building will be open for voting during following dates and times:

--9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 30 and Oct. 31.
--8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 25, Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
--12 noon to 8 p.m. on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27.

Early Voting is available for all registered voters in Schuyler County. You do not need an excuse or an appointment. If you have any questions, please call the Board of Elections at 607-535-8195.

Legislature approves 'Social Host' law

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 13, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Legislature Monday night unanimously approved a "Social Host" Local Law proposed by local law enforcement personnel and by the Schuyler County Coalition Against Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD).

The law, which will take effect in about two months, after it is filed with the state, will hold "Social Hosts" criminally liable for providing alcohol and drugs to children under 21 years of age or for hosting a gathering where children are permitted to drink or use drugs. The law does not target parents who legally permit their own child to drink alcohol, and provides an exception for medical marijuana.

The law was pitched by District Attorney Joe Fazzary and members of SCCUDD to the Public Safety Committee of Schuyler County, which approved it and sent it to the Legislative Review Committee of the Legislature. The LRC approved it and passed it to the Legislature, which held a public hearing on it Monday night before approving it.

Fazzary, who spoke briefly Monday night, explained earlier that "the intent of the law is not to condemn the consumption of alcohol, but to deter adults from providing children (not their own) with alcohol and drugs or a place to use them."

The law was sponsored by the District Attorney's Office, the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department, the Schuyler County Probation Department, the Schuyler County Attorney's Office, and SCCUDD.

SCCUDD member Aidan Thurston, a senior at Odessa-Montour High School, was the primary speaker at Monday night's hearing, providing data for legislators from SCCUDD surveys that show a significant availability of drugs and alcohol among the county's youth. And alcohol and drug use likely increased with the pandemic, he added, expressing concern about the decriminalization of marijuana in the state.

"The Social Host law is now more important than ever," he told legislators before they voted to approve it.

If found guilty of violating this law, a social host could be fined $250 and spend 15 days in jail. Subsequent violations by the same host would result in more significant sanctions.

Also:

The subject of the Schuyler County Hall of Fame was raised by Legislator Mark Rondinaro, who said some of his constituents have questioned the fairness of the selection process

County Administrator Tim O'Hearn said the selections are made by a committee of the Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, and that those selections are not made annually but rather "as deemed appropriate."

Legislator Jim Howell said he is a member of the committee and that "there is no event planned this year" -- no election or induction. Beyond that, he said, the committee's "entire process is confidential," with not even committee membership publicly known.

Rondinaro responded that the biggest concern expressed to him is why there is no community involvement in the matter. Legislator Phil Barnes added that "people want to know how to nominate."

Photos in text:

Top: Student Aidan Thurston addresses the Legislature.
Bottom: Legislator Jim Howell listens during discussion regarding the Hall of Fame.

Schuyler County to receive up to $121,000 from opioid suit against Johnson & Johnson

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, Sept. 8, 2021 -- Schuyler County will receive up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker.

Meeting in special session on Wednesday, September 8, the County Legislature voted unanimously to accept the settlement and authorized Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman to execute the necessary legal documents on the county’s behalf.

According to Getman, the funds can be used for a variety of restricted and unrestricted purposes.

“Possible uses include supporting law enforcement and first responders, treating opioid addiction, funding social services and similar efforts,” Getman explained.

The drug maker also agreed to permanently end the manufacture and distribution of opioids across the nation, Getman said.

The funding is part of a $260 million settlement that Johnson & Johnson reached in New York State to finalize lawsuits brought by Schuyler County, the State of New York and others, pertaining to the company’s alleged role in the increase of use and abuse of opioids.

In 2018, Getman, working with law firm Napoli Shkolnik, PLLC as special counsel, filed a lawsuit against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. Along with Johnson and Johnson/Janssen, the defendants included: Purdue Pharma L.P.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Actavis Pharma, Inc. and Insys Therapeutics, Inc.

The lawsuit alleged the defendants knew -- and had known for years -- that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.

Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for what the counties claimed were deceptive marketing practices.

After the counties filed suit, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office filed its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In June, Attorney General Letitia James announced the tentative deal with Johnson and Johnson, calling it the largest monetary settlement ever secured by her office.

Schuyler County’s lawsuit against other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come.

“Over the past few years, despite its small population, Schuyler County has seen an uptick in opioid and heroin use and overdose,” Getman said. “To date, County officials have expended public resources to help its residents battle opioid addiction and prevent further deaths. This settlement is just one step to reimburse the County for its expenses related to the opioid crisis as well as provide the County with financial assistance to continue this battle.”

Johnson and Johnson has stated the settlement was not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by them and the company “remains committed to providing certainty for involved parties and critical assistance for communities in need.”

The lawsuits by Schuyler County and others are part of a tide of litigation over an epidemic linked to nearly 500,000 deaths over the last twenty years. The cases have drawn comparisons to the multistate litigation against tobacco companies in the 1990s. Those lawsuits were resolved as part of the landmark $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement announced in November 1998 between the tobacco industry and the states’ attorney generals.

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s lawsuit can be found here: https://www.scribd.com/document/378949245/Summons-and-Complaint-The-County-of-Schuyler-v-Purdue-Pharma-L-P

Photo in text: Steven Getman (File photo)

Investigators, family seek community input in probe of 2020 Richard Seeley homicide

MONTOUR FALLS, Aug. 17, 2021 -- Law enforcement officials and the family of a man murdered just over a year ago in the Town of Orange pleaded at a news conference Tuesday for information that might lead to a suspect and to justice in the case.

Richard Seeley, 43, was killed in August 2020 in his remote home off Templar Road by an assailant that authorities have not been able to identify. The death had until recently been deemed of "suspicious" nature, but a medical examiner who conducted an autopsy has declared it a homicide.

“There is no suspect at the present time,” said Schuyler County District Attorney Joe Fazzary at the news conference, attended by representatives of the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police and Seeley family members.

The victim’s mother, Deborah Seeley -- who found the body on Friday, August 7 last year after having last seen her son the previous Sunday -- said “We really need help” in finding the killer, adding: “The family needs closure.” Her son “did not deserve to die this way” -- his body left alone for days in his remote home.

Richard Seeley, who Fazzary said was described by family and acquaintances as either “a recluse” or “a hermit,” died of a puncture wound to the chest and lung. State police forensic experts canvassed the homicide scene, gathering evidence. When asked if a murder weapon was found, Fazzary said he couldn’t discuss the evidence.

The investigation, he said, has included “30 leads we’ve run down,” and that while little ground has been gained in finding a suspect, “this is not a cold case.” In the interest of moving forward in the probe, he added, “we’re here today to issue a plea to the media to help spread the word to the community. If anyone has any information, no matter how trivial it seems, please step forward.”

Available phone lines for reporting such information include the Sheriff’s Office at (607) 535-8222, the DA’s office at (607) 535-8383 or an anonymous tip line at (607) 535-8224. There is also an email, tips@co.schuyler.ny.us.

“Somebody heard something,” said Deborah Seeley. “Somebody might have seen something.” If so, “please let us know.”

The investigation, said Fazzary, “has been an ongoing, slow” one, but “not without effort. We’re not going to just let this go.”

The murder marks just one of “five or six” Fazzary has seen in Schuyler County in his 24 years as District Attorney and 29 years with the DA’s office. The last one -- involving the murder of Daniel Bennett and ultimate conviction of Alice Trappler -- occurred in 2012.

“We’re a peaceful, small community, with no gangs,” Fazzary noted, adding that the ongoing uncertainty is “very difficult for the family, which just wants answers -- like law enforcement does.”

Photo in text: Flyer being distributed by law enforcement.

O'Mara: It is important to move forward

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Aug. 10, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) today released the following statement on the resignation of Governor Andrew Cuomo:

“I think we have all been tired of hearing this governor desperately and pitifully trying to hold on to power over the past several months and so it is important for the start of a new era in New York State government. It is critical that a new governor and the Legislature immediately get refocused on governing, on addressing the critical challenges facing local communities here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions and throughout this state, on rebuilding New York’s economic and fiscal future, and on restoring public safety and trust.

“It is important to move forward. It is also important that all of the investigations into the misconduct and misdeeds of the Cuomo administration be carried out to their fullest extent for the sake of justice. Too many lives have been shattered and everyone responsible for the cover-ups and illegal actions that have come to define this administration must be held accountable.”

And from Assemblyman Phil Palmesano:

"In light of the numerous scandals and investigations surrounding Gov. Cuomo, the governor announcing his resignation today was inevitable and long overdue.

"This will be remembered as a dark period in New York state history. His resignation is clearly in the best interest of all New Yorkers. However, it is critically important that the numerous investigations taking place continue to completion so answers and accountability can be provided, particularly for the families of those who lost loved ones in nursing homes, the brave women who came forward to share their experiences and for all New Yorkers for having to endure the dark period of cover-ups, illegal activity and total lack of transparency and honesty.

"We have important business and challenges to address on behalf of the residents of the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and all of New York state.

"It is my hope Lt. Gov. Hochul will work in a more collaborative and bipartisan manner in order to put our focus and energy on addressing the needs of New Yorkers who are looking for honest and transparent leadership. I look forward to working with her during this challenging transition as she becomes the first female governor of New York state."

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top); Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

O'Mara, Palmesano: Cuomo must go

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, Aug. 3—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Ranking Member on the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee, released the following statement on the findings by NYS Attorney General Letitia James that Governor Andrew Cuomo has violated state and federal sexual harassment laws:

“The Attorney General’s investigation should mark the end of the Cuomo administration and a disgusting chapter in New York State government.

"This thorough, independent investigation makes it clear that Andrew Cuomo is not fit to hold public office. It leaves him standing, no matter how he will try to lie about it now, without a shred of credibility, honesty, integrity, or trust. Governor Cuomo needs to resign. He and his inner circle, who have been complicit in Cuomo’s lies and covering up his unlawful behavior, need to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

"As Governor Cuomo continues desperately trying to remain in office, he clearly is living in an alternate universe fabricated upon his sociopathic lying that only he believes to be reality. If Cuomo were CEO of a public company, he would have been removed long ago for far less egregious conduct.The state Assembly Democrat super-majority must immediately move articles of impeachment on to the Senate.”

And from Assemblyman Phil Palmesano:

“The attorney general made it clear that Gov. Cuomo’s behavior fostered a toxic work environment that violated multiple state and federal laws in his repeated sexual harassment of women. These brave women should be commended for their courage in coming forward to share their experiences in the face of intimidation and retaliation from the governor and his staff.

“The governor’s behavior is offensive and unacceptable and he needs to resign immediately. If he does not do so, then it is imperative that the Legislature act now to impeach him and remove him from office.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

D.A., SCCUDD pitch law to legislators that would hold "Social Hosts" accountable

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, July 26, 2021 -- Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph G. Fazzary and several members of the Schuyler County Coalition Against Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD) went before the Public Safety Committee of Schuyler County Monday seeking approval of a new local law which would hold "Social Hosts" criminally liable for providing alcohol and drugs to children under 21 years of age or for hosting a gathering where children are permitted to drink or use drugs.

The proposed law does not target parents who legally permit their own child to drink alcohol, and provides an exception for medical marijuana.

The Public Safety Committee approved the legislation after hearing from D.A. Fazzary, Ward Brower (Director of SCCUDD), Maisie Robertson (a sophomore at Watkins Glen High School), Melanie Wysocki (a senior at Watkins Glen High School), and Aidan Thurston (a senior at Odessa-Montour High School who was unable to attend) in a statement read on his behalf.

The next step in the process is for the proposed legislation to go before the Legislative Review Committee of the Schuyler County Legislature. If it passes the LRC, it will then be put on the agenda for a public hearing in September 2021.

According to Fazzary, "The intent of the law is not to condemn the consumption of alcohol, but to deter adults from providing children (not their own) with alcohol and drugs or a place to use them."

The proposed Social Host law is being sponsored by the District Attorney's Office, the Schuyler County Sheriff's Department, the Schuyler County Probation Department, the Schuyler County Attorney's Office, and SCCUDD.

If found guilty of violating this law, a social host could be fined $250 and spend 15 days in jail. Subsequent violations by the same host would result in more significant sanctions.

Photo in text: WGHS senior Melanie Wysocki explains to legislators how similar legislation was adopted in Steuben County in 2015. (Photo provided)

Sheriff's Office, Public Health planning thank-you event on the Courthouse lawn

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, July 21, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office is holding a community thank-you event on Wednesday, July 28 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the Schuyler County Courthouse Lawn (918 N. Franklin St. Watkins Glen) in partnership with Schuyler County Public Health.

Free hot dogs, cookies, and bottled water will be given out as a thank-you for the community's support. Community members can also meet Sheriff’s Office and Public Health personnel at the event. COVID-19 vaccine will also be available for those who are interested.

“This is just a small way to thank our community for their support of the Sheriff’s Office,” said Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman.

“This past year has brought unprecedented challenges to government and our ability to provide essential services,” said Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn. “Through leadership demonstrated by our first response agencies such as the Sheriff’s Office and Public Health, our community rallied to support their efforts to combat the pandemic. As we reflect on the success of those efforts, this event is one small way we can recognize and thank our citizens. A big thanks to Sheriff Yessman for organizing this!”

“We are so thankful for the community’s support throughout the pandemic and we are excited to be a part of the Sheriff’s Office’s event,” said Schuyler County Public Health Director Annmarie Flanagan, DNP, FNP-C. “We encourage everyone to stop by to say hello, meet our staff, and get a free lunch.”

Community members can stop by anytime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Schuyler County, others file generic drug price lawsuit; case targets price fixing

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, July 16, 2021 -- Schuyler County has joined with over two dozen municipal governments, and others, in suing the makers of generic drugs over alleged price-fixing.

The county, along with local governments in New York and elsewhere, filed an over 1000-page Summons and Complaint on June 30 against more than fifty companies, seeking injunctive relief, damages, and relief from harms that the complaint alleges resulted from an unlawful agreement among the defendants to allocate customers, rig bids, and fix, raise, maintain, and/or stabilize the prices of all of their generic pharmaceutical products,

The lawsuit follows a vote by the County Legislature in 2020, authorizing County Attorney Steven Getman (right) to join forces with Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, a New York City law firm “in the investigation and/or prosecution of any legal claim against manufactures of generic pharmaceuticals and/or their executives based upon their actions in fixing prices, allocating markets, and engaging in other antitrust violations or other wrongdoing with respect to generic pharmaceuticals.”

According to Getman, the lawsuit is pursuing claims in several areas. These include increased health insurance premiums for county employees, additional workers’ compensation costs and higher costs of pharmaceuticals purchased for use by the county jail, all based upon artificially inflated generic drug prices.

Various government agencies have already commenced suit, Getman said, alleging violations of state and Federal antitrust laws and consumer protection statutes.

“In 2014, the Department of Justice began an investigation into the pricing of various generic pharmaceuticals,” Getman explained. “In the wake of the Federal investigation, in 2017, the state attorneys general of 48 states brought a civil action alleging price fixing, market division, and other antitrust violations by 16 defendant pharmaceutical companies related to fifteen (15) generic prescription drugs.”

“As alleged, the defendants' anticompetitive conduct falls principally into two categories. First, the defendants allegedly communicated with each other to determine and agree on how much market share each would control and which customers each competitor was entitled to. Second, competitors allegedly communicated -- either in person, by telephone, or by text message -- and agreed to collectively raise and/or maintain prices for a particular generic drug.”

The lawsuits, Getman said, now involve over 100 generic drugs and more than fifty pharmaceutical defendants, including Teva, Sandoz, Mylan, Pfizer, Actavis, Amneal, Apotex, Aurobindo, Breckenridge, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Glenmark, Greenstone, Lannett, Lupin, Par, Taro USA, Upsher-Smith, Wockhardt USA and Zydus.

“As noted, hundreds of generic drugs have been implicated nationwide. Each affected county or municipality can bring an action asserting overpayments for each applicable generic drug,” Getman explained. “The key question in formulating a lawsuit was determining for which generic drug(s) each county has overpaid, and whether each was a direct or indirect purchaser of same.”

According to County Administrator Tim O’Hearn, the lawsuit was filed at no risk to the county, as Napoli Shkolnik is working on contingency basis that covers all costs associated with the lawsuit.

“By going forward with the litigation, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers and seeks to hold manufacturers responsible for any unlawful role in the high cost of generic drugs,” O’Hearn said.

Locally, along with Schuyler County, Chemung, Yates and Livingston Counties are acting as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Other municipalities in New York and elsewhere are part of the case as well. The case is currently scheduled to be heard in Federal District Court in eastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to the generics case, Schuyler County has been working with Napoli Shkolnik to prosecute a pending action against the manufacturers and distributers of prescription opiates for damages to the county arising out of the fraudulent and negligent marketing and distribution of opiates in and to the county. That case remains pending in state court.

A related trial, involving Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the New York State Attorney General’s Office, is now underway on Long Island against several companies accused of fueling the opioid crisis. The trial on Long Island will be used as a test for the claims made by Schuyler County and other municipalities in New York, as well as an indicator of what may lie ahead for the drug makers, distributors and pharmacies in other states.

A copy of the June 30 complaint is available here: https://tinyurl.com/schuylergeneric2021PA

Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman

O'Mara urges constituents to participate in once-every-decade redistricting process

ELMIRA, July 14, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) is urging constituents to make their voices heard in the redrawing of state legislative and congressional districts to help ensure fair representation in state and federal government for the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide.

“Millions of New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly in 2014 to take the politics out of the once-every-decade legislative redistricting process and put it in the hands of an Independent Redistricting Commission.," said O'Mara. "The 2014 constitutional amendment creating the Commission seeks to ensure that no region of the state, special interest or political party gains an unfair advantage in the process. We’ll see how that plays out in the weeks and months ahead but here at the start, there is clearly an opportunity for the public to provide input for balanced government."

Every 10 years, New York State is required to draw new district lines that reflect population and demographic changes reported in the most recent Census. Unlike in previous years when state legislative leaders fully controlled the process, more than 2 million New Yorkers voted in a 2014 referendum to give that responsibility to a new “Independent Redistricting Commission” (IRC).

The IRC announced a new website and a hearings schedule earlier this week to collect input from citizens and devise the best possible redistricting plan.

As part of its charge to revise district lines for the State Senate, Assembly and Congress, the IRC must consider impacts on existing neighborhoods and communities, based on information it gathers from its virtual hearings and written testimony.

O’Mara said, “This Commission, overwhelmingly approved by the voters, holds out hope for a redistricting process that is more open and transparent. It will only be effective if local citizens across this state participate to make their voices heard. We can all play our part to learn more, and join with community leaders, neighborhood groups and others to speak up for the issues that matter most to our communities.”

The new IRC website allows citizen interaction. It allows you to sign up to participate in the hearings or to submit written testimony. According to the IRC, you must sign up through the web portal for the regional hearing encompassing your specific community. The hearing for the Southern Tier/Central NY region is scheduled for Monday, August 9, beginning at 2:00 p.m. The Finger Lakes/Western NY hearing is scheduled for Thursday, August 12 at 2:00 p.m.

For more information, including how to participate and/or submit testimony, go to: www.nyirc.gov/meetings.

Following this first round of virtual hearings, the IRC is required to release its first statewide redistricting proposal to the public on September 15th. The IRC will then schedule additional, constitutionally required hearings in the fall before releasing final maps for legislative approval in early 2022.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Rumsey the winner? Well, yes, sort of

A week after this was written, the official tabulation, including absentee ballots, gave Investigator Rumsey a 213-vote victory and the Republican line on the November ballot.

By Charlie Haeffner
Editor/Publisher


ODESSA, June 23, 2021 -- So ... when is a win not exactly a win (at least not yet, officially or unofficially), but really is?

Convoluted?

Welcome to the world of elections.

Schuyler County Sheriff’s Investigator Kevin Rumsey (right) amassed a 207-vote advantage over Undersheriff Breck Spaulding in the June 22 Republican Primary for Sheriff. Both men want the job being relinquished at year’s end by longtime incumbent Bill Yessman upon his retirement.

The 788-581 vote advantage by Rumsey would seem rock solid -- a clearcut victory to secure the GOP nomination going into the November general election.

But the Board of Elections, which says it can’t distinguish a winner until all absentee ballots are counted and affidavits validated or rejected, won’t say yes, Rumsey is the winner. Not exactly.

The absentees on hand only total about 42, according to Republican Election Commissioner Joe Fazzary, but others can arrive until next week. They won’t be counted until Wednesday, June 30. In the meantime, affidavits will be gone over; the number of which Fazzary was not yet certain.

Those affidavits were coming in from the various election districts. They derived from voters who showed up to vote claiming to be registered as a Republican even if the GOP rolls didn’t list them, or perhaps showed otherwise. None were allowed to vote, but rather to file an affidavit that the Board of Elections must research to determine validity or a lack thereof.

Is there any way that the absentee ballots plus acceptable affidavits would total the 207 votes now separating the two candidates? Or even if there were 207, is there any way they would all go for Spaulding?

Well, no.

“It’s pretty much settled,” said Fazzary. “At this point, I don’t see anything that can change that.” It’s a Rumsey victory, in other words, “unless something totally out of the picture” occurs.

But Fazzary just can’t up and say Rumsey has won; not until all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.

That comes June 30th.

After that, he said, Rumsey will not only have the GOP nod, but likely an independent endorsement on the November ballot, as well, while Spaulding will have an independent line.

So ... to be clear: Rumsey is the winner?

“Essentially he is,” said Fazzary, barring the unforeseen.

He just can’t say so officially or with finality.

Not yet.

Property owners warned of deed 'scam'

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, June 22, 2021 -- Schuyler County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman are warning homeowners to be aware of a property deed "scam" that may be taking place in Schuyler County.

“Reports have surfaced this month of a company soliciting homeowners in the area who recently have completed real estate transactions, asking them to pay $89.00 for records which contain public information about their own property,” Getman said.

However, according to Philbin, deeds for every parcel of land in Schuyler County are already recorded and kept on permanent record at the Schuyler County Clerk's Office.

“After a real estate closing, the original deed is returned to the property owner or their attorney at no additional charge and if you ever need another copy, you can request one from the county clerk for as little 65 cents per page and often less than five dollars,” Philbin explained.

“All public records can be searched in the county clerk’s office through its indexes Monday- Friday 8:30 AM- 4:30 PM.”

Philbin and Getman also warned that the assessment profile the company is trying to sell includes information that the homeowner does not need, and that could be obtained for free from the County’s Real Property Tax Division or other municipalities.

Currently there is no law against companies selling you your own information, or a limit on what they can charge.

Getman says the best way to protect yourself is to stay vigilant and informed.

"We want the residents of Schuyler County to be aware that the entities marketing such requests are not related to the County Clerk's Office or any other department inside Schuyler County government," Getman said.

If you receive anything in the mail about your property records that seems questionable, Philbin and Getman said that you can contact the county clerk or, in the event of possible criminal activity, local law enforcement.

The Schuyler County Clerk is responsible for all books, files and other necessary equipment for the filing, recording and depositing of documents, maps, papers in actions and special proceedings of both civil and criminal nature, judgment and lien dockets and books for the indexing of the same as directed or authorized by law

The Schuyler County Attorney is the legal advisor for county government and its various officials. The County Attorney prosecutes and defends civil actions on behalf of the county and county employees acting pursuant to their official duties.

Photo in text: County Attorney Steven Getman.

O'Mara: The work of rebuilding can begin

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, June 15, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) released the following statement today on the ending of most COVID-related restrictions across New York State:

“We have said throughout the past fifteen months, and it bears repeating, that communities throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and throughout New York State, could not have kept moving forward without the compassion, perseverance, sacrifice, and undeniable strength of frontline workers, essential employees and volunteers in health care, agriculture, businesses large and small, law enforcement and public safety, education, community and social services, and so many other fields. Our gratitude to all of you cannot be measured and your example will continue to show the way to a better and stronger future.

“We have demonstrated that by working together, pulling for each other, and staying informed, our communities will be resilient and never lose hope in recovering.

“The work of rebuilding and restoring the lives of our communities should begin in earnest now and it needs to be delivered through local decision-making. We have reached the point of being able to fully declare an end to the state of emergency that has ruled our lives since last March. We have reached the point of fully rescinding Governor Cuomo’s unilateral emergency powers.

“It is time to restore legislative checks and balances, and local input."

Schuyler County OKs Youth Hunting Law

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, June 14, 2021 -- Schuyler County has become the latest county in New York State to allow the hunting of deer by 12-and 13-year-olds with a firearm or crossbow for the coming fall season.

Meeting in regular session on Monday, June 14, the county legislature voted unanimously to enact a Local Law that approves a pilot program allowing 12- and 13-year old youths to do so through 2023 under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter.

Prior to its passage, Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman, Undersheriff Breck Spaulding, County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman all endorsed the law. In addition, members of the community, including a retired New York State Conservation officer, spoke in favor of the law at Monday’s meeting. No one spoke in opposition to the legislation.

The law as passed states that “deer hunting is a valued tradition for many Schuyler County families, providing quality food to county residents and reducing the negative impacts of overabundant deer populations on our agriculture, forests, and communities.”

As of June 6, the number of counties statewide that had opted into youth hunting totaled 18, according to the state Department of Conservation website. Other counties in the region that have opted in, the website shows, include Yates, Steuben, Chemung and Livingston.

These counties will be listed in the DEC’s upcoming hunting/trapping guide, which will be released soon. As more counties pass resolutions, they will be added to a regularly updated map on the DEC’s Junior Big Game Hunting website.

A complete copy of Schuyler County’s local law can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/schuyleryouthhunting2021A

Photo in text: Sheriff William Yessman (File photo)

Early Voting polling site open in Schuyler

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, June 12, 2021 -- The Schuyler County Board of Elections has a polling site set up from June 12th through June 20th for the purpose of Early Voting for the June 22nd, 2021 Republican Primary Election.

Early Voting takes place at the County Office Building at 105 9th St., Watkins Glen, NY, in the Legislative Chambers, which is located on the 1st Floor.

The building will be open for voting during the following dates and times:

--Saturday, June 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
--Sunday, June 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
--Monday, June 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
--Tuesday, June 15, from 12 noon to 8 p.m.
--Wednesday, June 16, from 12 noon to 8 p.m.
--Thursday, June 17, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
--Friday, June 18, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
--Saturday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
--Sunday, June 20, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Early Voting is available for all registered voters in Schuyler County. You do not need an excuse or an appointment. If you have any questions, please call the Board of Elections at 607-535-8195.

O'Mara: New York heading in too many wrong directions after legislative session

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, June 11, 2021 -- Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) says that the close of this year’s regular session of the State Legislature will leave New York “heading in the wrong direction on too many of the fundamental responsibilities of government to protect taxpayers, build local economies, create jobs, and keep communities and citizens safe.”

Thursday marked the end of the Legislature’s 2021 legislative session, one that O’Mara said has failed to put the state on course for a fiscally responsible and strong future -- and will leave New York government under the control of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s unilateral, COVID-19 emergency executive powers indefinitely.

O’Mara, who throughout the past year has been one of the Legislature’s most vocal critics of extending Cuomo’s emergency powers, said, “Endless executive orders have failed and keep failing New York’s local communities, families, economies, and workers. It’s unthinkable that the Albany Democrats will continue to let Governor Cuomo sit in Albany, exert total control, and issue directive after directive without any regard for legislative checks and balances, or local input. They are leaving town without declaring an end to the COVID-19 state of emergency in New York State and without bringing an end to Governor Cuomo’s one-man rule.

"At a time when our local communities and economies should be facing an optimistic turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic and fully making their own reopening decisions, they are faced with continuing to be at the arbitrary, non-scientific, non-sensible whims of this governor. The continued mask mandate for children in schools is just the latest outrageous example.”

O’Mara was also critical of the 2021-2022 state budget enacted by Cuomo and the Democrat supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly in April, which he said “went far beyond any reasonable sense of fairness, responsibility, or sustainability for hard-working, taxpaying citizens.”

O’Mara added, “We had an opportunity and a responsibility to utilize a one-time windfall of roughly $13 billion in federal stimulus aid under a fiscally responsible, short- and long-term strategy for the post-COVID rebuilding, restoring, and resetting of local communities, economies, environments, and governments. Equally important, we needed to recognize the fiscal cliffs New York could face for the foreseeable future, steer clear of any massive new taxing and spending, and bolster the state’s emergency reserve funds. That’s not what this budget did. It sets up an economic and fiscal disaster.”

Finally, O’Mara stressed that a growing “pro-criminal mentality” within the Legislature continues to produce careless actions on criminal justice and corrections, and law and order, that pose risks to public safety and security throughout New York.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Watkins man charged in Reed incidents

CORNING, June 11, 2021 -- A Watkins Glen man, Jack L. Kahabka, 21, was arrested by Corning Police Thursday and charged with making terroristic threats and third-degree criminal mischief, both felonies, for alleged threats and vandalism aimed at Congressman Tom Reed.

Kahabka allegedly left threatening messages and a dead animal at Reed's private residence in Corning, and is accused of breaking a window at Reed's campaign office last year.

The accused was arrested without incident, and was expected to be released following his arraignment.

Said Reed in response to the arrest: "We are incredibly thankful that our family can rest easier. ... We continue to be grateful for the remarkable efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement officers. ...We also want to thank the people of our community for their support throughout this ordeal."

Palmesano backs 'Restore Order' plan

Assembly Republicans hope to combat record violence statewide

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, June 1, 2021 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) joined his Republican Conference colleagues Tuesday in the rollout of the "Restore Order Anti-Crime Initiative."

Assembly Republicans are presenting the plan at a time when violence has risen across New York state. Major cities across the state -- such as New York City, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo -- have seen a rise in crime in the first four months of 2021 compared to 2020. New York City has seen a 17% increase in murders along with an 83% increase in shooting incidents. Homicides are up 50% in Syracuse and a staggering 100% in Rochester. In the state capital, Albany, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies are all up over 15%.

Said Palmesano: "The 2019 dangerous bail and discovery laws advanced by the Assembly and Senate Democrat majorities and the Cuomo administration started a dangerous trend and rise in violence. Our local communities were flooded with criminals violating the law and being released back into the community over and over again. Policies like these were advanced and continue to be advanced without engaging important stakeholders like our law enforcement, district attorneys, crime victims and their families.

“Alarmingly," he added, "the state parole board continues to irresponsibly release dangerous individuals from prison and back into our communities, including murderers and rapists. The majorities continue to advocate for reckless parole reform bills while criminals are being released daily. They are now advocating for ‘elder parole,’ which would allow automatic parole hearings if an individual served 15 years of their sentence and reached age 55, regardless of the crime and sentence they received."

The "Restore Order Anti-Crime Initiative" will have the following components:

• Restore Judicial Discretion (A.5265, Reilly) -- Restores judicial discretion to allow judges the ability to determine whether a violent criminal poses a dangerous threat to the community and can be held without bail.

• Bail for Gun Crimes (A.7066, Barclay) -- Removes all gun crimes from the no-bail list of offenses Democrats established in 2019.

• Parole Reform (A.5737, Barclay) -- Requires a unanimous vote of at least three parole commissioners to grant a prisoner early release. Also allows a majority vote of the Legislature to remove a commissioner from the Parole Board.

• Three Strikes & You’re In (A.5334, Brabenec) -- Authorizes life in prison without parole for persistent violent felony offenders.

• Shooting Into Crowds (A.4259, Jensen) -- Makes it a Class B violent felony to fire into a crowded space with the intent to harm.

• Additional 5 Years for Possession (A.4762, Mikulin) -- Provides for an additional 5-year term of imprisonment for committing a felony while possessing a loaded firearm.

• Bail for Hate Crimes (A.3986, M. Miller) -- Makes a “hate crime” a qualified offense for purposes of bail issuance and denying pre-trial.

“With these common-sense, but important reforms, we can help to rein in the dangerous increase in violence that we are experiencing in our cities and communities across our state," said Palmesano. "Many of my colleagues in the majority have publicly expressed the need to address bail reform. It is my hope that they take the time now to address this with our Conference so violent offenders aren’t allowed back out on the streets to recommit crimes.

"We need to re-instill confidence in our law enforcement officers, rather than undermine them with dangerous and misplaced policy priorities out of Albany. We need to restore order and public safety back into our local communities to protect our families from dangerous and violent crime.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

O'Mara denounces planned parole reform

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, June 1, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C-I, Big Flats) is denouncing any upcoming moves by the Democrat supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly to enact two pieces of pending legislation that would continue to radically reform New York’s parole system and make it easier for more violent criminals to be released from prison.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, in an interview on Capital Tonight last week, said that the two measures currently awaiting action in the Legislature -- and strongly supported by criminal justice reform advocates in Albany -- could be prioritized by the Legislature as it winds down its session over the next few weeks.

O’Mara, a member on the Senate Codes and Judiciary Committees, said, “What in the name of justice is going on? Over the past two years, this Parole Board has shown a dangerous and disturbing habit of favoring cop killers and other violent criminals over crime victims and their families and loved ones. It has been alarming to district attorneys, law enforcement officers, and criminal justice experts. Now the Democrat supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly are eyeing legislation that would make it even easier to release cop killers, child murderers, serial killers, and other violent criminals. It’s disgusting and disturbing. It’s a pro-criminal mentality that has gone too far and keeps going too far in New York State. We need to stand up, speak out, and work against it.”

One piece of legislation under consideration, the Elder Parole Act (S.15A/A.3475), would allow 55-year-old inmates who have served 15 years of their sentences to automatically be entitled to a parole hearing for consideration of release. If enacted, incarcerated felons would not have to even serve their minimum sentences, irregardless of the conviction or type of crime that was committed. The convicted felon could be paroled if the Parole Board simply determines that there is a reasonable probability that upon release he or she will not violate the law again and that the release is not incompatible with the welfare of society.

The second measure, the Fair and Timely Parole Act (S.1415/A.4231), if enacted, would shift the current standard for discretionary parole toward a presumption of release. Under the legislation, incarcerated offenders, including those who have received indeterminate life sentences, could be granted discretionary release to parole unless the record shows a current and unreasonable risk that the person will violate the law if released that cannot be mitigated by parole supervision. Crimes committed would no longer be a factor in the Parole Board’s consideration of release. In fact, the measure mandates that a criminal’s rehabilitation be prioritized over the impact on crime victims or their families, the seriousness of the crimes committed, the length of sentence, and prior criminal history.

The state Parole Board has come under fire over the past two years by O’Mara and other state legislators for its leniency in releasing convicted cop killers and other violent criminals.

Violent crimes in numerous cities across New York have jumped over the past few years. The homicide rate in the city of Syracuse, for example, increased by 55% between 2019 and 2020, while aggravated assaults were up 15%. According to reports, violent crime has surged in the city of Rochester. And in New York City, according to recent statistics from the NYPD, overall index crime rose by more than 30% since April 2020, including a nearly 20% jump in murders and a 35.6% increase in felony assaults.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

O'Mara, colleagues call for an end to Cuomo's mask mandate for young children

Joined in opposition by regional and statewide parents and child care providers

Special to The Odessa File

ELMIRA, May 24, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara and other members of the Senate Republican Conference Monday joined parents and child care providers from the Southern Tier and throughout New York State to hold a virtual “Unmask Our Kids” rally in opposition to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new mandate requiring children as young as two years old to wear a face covering at day care centers and summer camps.

The new Cuomo executive order was handed down last week and has drawn strong criticism and opposition from providers and parents locally and statewide.

Opponents note that throughout the pandemic, young children at child care facilities were not required to wear masks.

O’Mara said, “Why now, Governor Cuomo? The parents and child care providers we heard from today made it clear that this mask mandate for toddlers is absurd, impractical and, worst of all, endangers the development, health, safety, security, and well-being of our children.

"It’s another outrageous example of the damage being done by an out-of-touch governor, fixated on control, and blatantly ignoring science and medical facts. At a time when we are clearly turning the corner on this pandemic, Governor Cuomo decides to put our children right back in the middle of the fear and uncertainty that we have spent more than a year fighting to overcome. It is an abuse of power and if Cuomo won’t rescind it on his own, the Albany Democrats in control of the Legislature need to act immediately to end it.”

O’Mara said that he and his colleagues would be advancing a legislation amendment calling on the Senate Democratic Majority to repeal the Cuomo mask mandate.

At O’Mara’s request, Adam Donegan, a Corning parent whose 3-year-old daughter attends the Corning Children’s Center, and Amber Thompson, owner of the Country Kids Childcare Center in Big Flats, Chemung County, participated in Monday’s Senate GOP rally.

Both urged the governor to repeal the mask mandate.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County SCOPE, county attorney partner to make free gun locks available

Special to The Odessa File

MONTOUR FALLS, May 24, 2021 -- In recognition of June being National Safety Month, the Schuyler County Chapter of Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE), in conjunction with the Office of Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman, is again giving away free cable-style gun locks to Schuyler County families.

The locks can be obtained from the County Attorney’s Office by calling (607) 535-8121 during normal business hours and scheduling a pickup time. One lock will be available per household and will be provided on a “first come, first served” basis. Supplies are limited.

“We are pleased to have the Schuyler County Attorney’s Office as a partner in this National Safety Month program,” said Daneen Phillips, Schuyler County SCOPE Secretary. “The mission of SCOPE is to educate the public on the importance of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, as well as to make every effort to educate anti-gun politicians. We can help accomplish this by promoting responsible voluntary gun safety measures for gun owners that do not conflict with the Second Amendment.”

“Partnering with County Attorney Getman," Phillips added, "allows SCOPE to participate in a countywide effort to promote gun safety as a critical part of home safety and increase awareness of just one of Governor Cuomo’s many gun laws. We are 100% membership funded and made up of concerned gun owners and conservation clubs across New York State.”

“In particular, this year, we want to focus on getting the message out to women gun owners and their families,” Phillips said. “Female gun ownership has been on a firm ascent and women are considered the fastest-growing segment in the gun-ownership population.”

According to Getman, the giveaway will help ensure that gun owners are in compliance with New York’s strict firearms storage laws, which require them to lock up their firearms while living in a home with someone under the age of 16.

“We encourage county residents to pick up a free lock so that they can securely store their firearm,” said Getman. “The locks fit on most types of handguns, rifles and shotguns. The cable is threaded through the weapon and blocks the barrel or the use of ammunition. It’s secured by a padlock and key.”

“We want to help minimize demands on health care workers and first respondents by emphasizing home safety, and firearm safety in particular, so together we can prevent accidents,” Getman said. “The goal is to prevent a young child or any other unauthorized person from accessing a firearm in the home.”

Phillips and Getman noted that the locks have been donated by SCOPE and, therefore, there is no county charge to the taxpayers for this service.

Photo in text: Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman

Proposed Local Law OKs hunting program

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, May 6, 2021 -- Sheriff William Yessman, Undersheriff Breck Spaulding, County Clerk Theresa Philbin and County Attorney Steven Getman have all endorsed a Local Law that approves a pilot program in Schuyler County allowing 12- and 13-year-old youths to hunt deer through 2023.

The Resolution and Local Law are on the agenda for introduction at the Schuyler County Legislative Meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday. May 10, 2021 in Montour Falls.

The proposed local law finds that “deer hunting is a valued tradition for many Schuyler County families, providing quality food to county residents and reducing the negative impacts of overabundant deer populations on our agriculture, forests, and communities.”

Under the proposed law, youth hunters aged 12-13 will now be allowed to hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow under the supervision of an experienced adult hunter. Currently, young hunters who are 12 or 13 years old can already hunt big game using archery equipment and can hunt small game with a firearm; however, until now, New York had been the only state to not allow these young hunters to hunt big game.

O'Mara, colleagues call for income tax break for unemployed New Yorkers

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, May 5, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) is calling for the approval of legislation he co-sponsors to exclude unemployment benefits from state taxable income.

O’Mara said the measure (S5125) would keep New York State consistent with an action already taken by the federal government to exclude the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits from 2020 taxable income. In the last COVID stimulus package, the federal government waived federal tax on up to $10,200 of 2020 unemployment benefits for households earning up to $150,000. Although states were afforded the same option to exclude unemployment benefits from taxable income, New York has so far declined that move and is one of only 11 states to not take advantage of this significant tax break as the May 17 filing date fast approaches.

O’Mara, the Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee, said, “The COVID-19 economic shutdown has already taken an enormous toll on thousands upon thousands of hard-hit unemployed New Yorkers and their families and communities. New York State needs to follow the federal government’s lead and provide a badly needed exemption from state taxes.  We can’t keep piling financial burden upon financial burden and expect workers to ever get back on solid ground again.”

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Reed's district director takes Albany job

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, May 3, 2021 -- Alison M. Hunt, longtime staff member and current District Director for Congressman Tom Reed, has been named the new Chief of Staff for New York State Senator George Borrello.

Reed recently announced he would not be seeking re-election.

“Alison brings a wealth of governmental experience to the Chief of Staff role after serving for the past 10 years on the district staff of Congressman Tom Reed,” said Senator Borrello, whose 57th Senate District office is in Jamestown. "Her combination of management experience, policy expertise and engagement in the issues of our communities make her a natural fit for this new role."

Hunt held several positions on the Congressman’s staff, including Field Representative, Director of Constituent Services and Deputy District Director. She was named District Director in 2015, where her responsibilities have included overseeing all state operations and district staff, facilitating policy events and roundtables, spearheading local projects and interfacing with state and local leaders on federal policy and appropriations issues.

Since 2016, she has served as a member of the City Council in Corning, where she serves as Chair of the Capital Project Financing Committee.

“I am grateful for Senator Borrello’s trust in my ability to lead his dedicated staff and help guide his legislative vision,” said Hunt. "In just a year and a half, he has established himself as one of the hardest working members of the Senate and a fierce champion for his district."

Hunt is succeeding Michael Ellison, who has served as Chief of Staff since Senator Borrello won a special election for the seat in 2019.

Photo in text: Alison Hunt

Former Montour Falls Mayor John King at the foot bridge ceremony, next to the sign that named the crossing in his honor.

Montour foot bridge is dedicated, named "King's Crossing" in honor of former mayor

MONTOUR FALLS, April 30, 2021 -- The new foot bridge alongside Route 14 connecting the Catharine Valley Trail extension and Marina Park was dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning and with speeches from state and local officials.

The event also marked Arbor Day, with four students from the Odessa-Montour school district helping nurture a newly planted fir tree near the foot bridge by adding compost to the tree's base. The students were Sophie Dupay, Dalton Smith, Zuri Jones and Nolan Bailey.

Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan emceed the dual ceremony, which featured speeches by State Senator Tom O'Mara, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, Schuyler County Legislature Chair Carl Blowers, New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton, New York State Office of Parks and Recreation Regional Director Fred Bonn, and former Montour Falls Mayor John King.

King, credited with envisioning the bridge, managed after some obstacles to start the process that resulted in grants and donations -- and help on the private and public levels -- and led to completion of the project and Friday's ceremony. The event was capped by the unveiling of a sign next to the eastern bridge entrance proclaiming it "King's Crossing."

"What an honor," said King. "I've never had anything named after me before." He said he was inspired to seek the bridge for safety's sake -- to eliminate the need for walkers and bikers to go out onto Route 14 to get from one side of the canal to the other. The bridge sits at the southern end of the canal between Watkins Glen and Montour Falls, and is considered the southernmost point of the Erie Canal waterway.

O'Mara called the bridge "a great project, a long time in the making" and "just a great addition to the Catharine Valley Trail."

Palmesano touted the private-public collaboration that led to the bridge completion. "Private-public partnership works," he said, "and this is one of those projects."

Blowers praised King for his "tenacity and persistence" in pursuing the bridge project, while Bonn said "this trail capitalizes on the magic between trails and water." Stratton described the project as "very special."

The Arbor Day tree ceremony was overseen by Marissa Nolan, Cornell Cooperative Extension Schuyler Environmental Educator, while the compost was provided by Heather Gilbert of Finger Lakes Composting.

Photos in text:

Top: Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan emceed Friday's ceremony at the eastern end of the new foot bridge.

Bottom: Helping out at the Arbor Day tree ceremony were, from left, Odessa-Montour school district students Sophie Dupay, Dalton Smith, Zuri Jones and Nolan Bailey. Montour Falls Mayor Jim Ryan is at right. (Photo by Stephanie Specchio)

Among the speakers were State Senator Tom O'Mara, left, and Schuyler County Legislature Chair Carl Blowers.

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano walks on the new foot bridge after the ceremony.

Saturday is Law Day, reaffirming our roots

Special to The Odessa File

WATKINS GLEN, April 29, 2021 -- Law Day is Saturday, May 1, and the Schuyler County Legislature has recognized as the Law Day 2021 theme “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.”

The legislature passed a resolution at its April 12, 2021 meeting, recognizing “Law Day” as an occasion of public acknowledgement of our Nation’s heritage of justice, liberty, and equality under the law. The resolution was submitted to the legislature by Schuyler County Attorney Steven Getman.

“The Rule of Law rests upon the idea that no one is so important as to be above the law and conversely no one is so insignificant to be beneath the law,” Getman wrote. “The United States was founded on the principle that adherence to the Rule of Law expands, rather than limits, the opportunities for freedom.”

In passing the resolution, the legislature found that “promoting public understanding of the roots of our freedom are an important component in the civic education of the citizens of the United States, the State of New York and the County of Schuyler.”

The American Bar Association selects an annual theme for each Law Day, an annual commemoration first held in 1957 when the American Bar Association envisioned a special national day to mark our nation’s commitment to the rule of law. The following year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Law Day Proclamation. Law Day was made official in 1961 when Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating it.

A copy of Schuyler County’s resolution “Recognizing and Commemorating May 1, 2021 as ‘Law Day’ in Schuyler County” is available here: https://tinyurl.com/SCHUYLERLAWDAY21

Photo in text: County Attorney Steven Getman (File photo)

O'Mara, Palmesano: Increased funding for roads, bridges in budget is long overdue

Highlight agreement to provide additional state transportation aid

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 29, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) say that the recently enacted 2021-2022 New York State budget provides significantly increased state support for local roads, bridges, and culverts.

In a joint statement, O’Mara and Palmesano said, “Local roads are essential. This year’s state budget includes critical steps and increased funding to move forward on this priority. State investment in our local transportation infrastructure is vital to the post-COVID future of local communities, economies, environments, governments, and taxpayers. We have long stood together with New York’s county and town highway superintendents, and local leaders, to do everything we can to raise awareness and call for legislative support. Unmet needs and challenges will remain in the future, and we look forward to continue working together to prioritize the state’s commitment to the effective maintenance and improvement of local roads, bridges, and culverts in every region of New York.”

O’Mara and Palmesano said the new budget increases base level funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) by $100 million to a total of $538 million, the first baseline increase since 2013. The budget increases funding for Extreme Winter Recovery to $100 million and for the PAVE-NY program to $150 million. It also creates a new, $100 million City Touring Roads program to provide an additional source of funding dedicated to cities, towns, and villages.

O’Mara and Palmesano said that area counties will receive the following 2021-2022 CHIPS, Extreme Winter Recovery (EWR), PAVE-NY funding (in each category of aid, funding amounts are followed by percentage increases from the 2020-2021 allocations):

County.........2021-22 CHIPS....................21-22 EWR.........................21-22 PAVE-NY

Chemung__$1,993,316.27 (+21.33%)___$348,997.41 (+53.85%)___$562,998.22 (+50.13%)

Schuyler___$1,039,027.93 (+20.67%)___$177,998.85 (+53.85%)___$294,807.68 (+50%)

Steuben___$5,418,385.61 (+22.32%)___$988,567,50 (+53.85%)___$1,516.725.10 (+50%)

Tompkins__$2,466,047.30 (+22.31%)__$450,966.78 (+53.85%)___$689,933.00 (+49.91%)

Yates_____$1,430,430.24 (+22.53%)___$262,998.33 (+53.85%)___$399,716.93 (+50%)

Palmesano, who also represents a part of Seneca County, said that the allocations for Seneca County are: CHIPS, $1,246,310.96 (+22.03%); EWR, $225,998.19 (+53.85%); and PAVE-NY, $349,344.82 (+49.85%).

[NOTE: See the following link for a full breakdown of CHIPS, Extreme Weather Recovery, and PAVE-NY allocations for cities, towns, and villages: https://www.dot.ny.gov/programs/chips/chips-budget]

At the beginning of March, like they have throughout the past decade, O'Mara and Palmesano rallied the support of more than 60 state Senators and members of the Assembly to get behind the call from county and town highway superintendents and other local leaders from throughout New York for increased state support for local roads, bridges and culverts.

The annual advocacy campaign, renamed this year as "Local Roads Are Essential," is sponsored by the New York State Association of County Highway Superintendents (NYSCHSA) and the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH).

Since 2013, O'Mara and Palmesano have organized legislative colleagues to get behind the effort and raise awareness of the need.

Among other studies, an October 2017 report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated that locally owned bridges alone need at least $27.4 billion in repairs. An earlier report from the comptroller called 32% of New York's local bridges deficient and 40% of local roads fair or poor, and getting worse.

TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation research nonprofit, has found that 10 percent of bridges across the state are in poor/structurally deficient condition -- the 12th highest rate in America. According to TRIP, nearly 12 million vehicles cross a poor/structurally deficient bridge in New York State every day.

In a March 1, 2021 letter to Cuomo and legislative leaders, O'Mara, Palmesano and their Senate and Assembly colleagues wrote, "We once again stress that New York State's direct investment in local roads and bridges through the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) remains fundamental to the mission highlighted above. It deserves priority consideration in the final allocation of state infrastructure investment the Executive proposes for the 2021-22 fiscal year. CHIPS is the key difference for local communities, economies, governments, motorists and taxpayers throughout the Empire State, including New York City and surrounding metro areas, and we should no longer ignore this fact. This legislative session we believe the opportunity exists to strengthen our investment to address the tremendous, still unmet needs and challenges facing the effective maintenance and improvement of local roads, bridges and culverts in every region of New York State."

According to a recently updated analysis by the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, the local highway system outside of New York City faces an annual funding gap of $1.7 billion.

Photos in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara (top) and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

Dundee man arrested after high-speed chase

From news reports

WATKINS GLEN, April 28, 2021 -- A man wanted for burglary led police on a high-speed chase Tuesday through and out of Watkins Glen before he was apprehended.

Village Police said the incident led to a lockdown of Watkins Glen Schools, near where the man was spotted before fleeing authorities just before noon.

Police said the man, Jonathan F. Shearin of Dundee -- a person of interest in a residential burglary -- was spotted walking along South Decatur Street near the school. When approached by police, he fled on foot to a school parking lot, and drove away in a dark SUV.

They said he nearly struck a police vehicle, drove through a yard, ran a stop sign and turned onto Route 414 South, reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph heading out of town. He eventually stopped and fled on foot, but was apprehended with the help of a Schuyler County K-9 dog.

Shearin, who police said was on parole out of Yates County, was treated by emergency personnel and transported to Schuyler Hospital with minor injuries. He was then released to the custody of the Schuyler County Sheriff's Office.

Police said he is charged with burglary, grand larceny, Obstructing Governmental Administration, trespass, Unlawful Fleeing a Police Officer, reckless endagerment, reckless driving, speeding, and several other traffic violations.

Village Police and the Sheriff's Office were assisted by State Police.

O'Mara: 'Take-Back Day' is important
in the fight against abuse and addiction

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 21, 2021 -- State Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) on Wednesday reminded area residents that Saturday, April 24 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Law enforcement agencies across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions will operate drop-off centers to allow for the safe and responsible disposal of unused prescription drugs.

“It’s incredibly important that our local law enforcement leaders continue to participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Their ongoing leadership in this overall effort to combat prescription drug abuse makes all the difference,” said O’Mara, noting that the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in partnership with local police agencies and other community organizations coordinates the annual events across the nation.

On Saturday, Sheriff’s offices throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions have established drop-off centers to allow people to anonymously dispose of unwanted prescription drugs between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Following is a listing of local collection sites being offered throughout O’Mara’s 58th Senate District covering Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates:

> Chemung County: The Chemung County Sheriff's Office will accepted unwanted prescription drugs at the following two locations: Southport Volunteer Fire Department (1001 Carl Street, Elmira) and West Elmira Fire Department (1299 W. Water Street, Elmira).

> Schuyler County: The Schuyler County Sheriff's Office will accept unwanted prescription drugs at the following two locations: Tyrone Volunteer Fire Department at 3600 State Route 226, and the Odessa Volunteer Fire Department at 300 E. Main Street.

> Steuben County: The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office will participate at the Steuben County Public Safety Building, 7007 Rumsey Street Ext., Bath.

> Tompkins County: The Tompkins County Sheriff's Office will participate at the Kinney Drugs location at t 2100 Triphammer Road in Ithaca, and the Kinney Drugs location on Route 96 in Trumansburg.

> Yates County: The Yates County Sheriff's Office will conduct an event at the Yates County Courthouse, 415 Liberty Street, Penn Yan.

In 2018, O’Mara sponsored a new law, the “Drug Take Back Act” (S9100/A9576, Chapter 120 of the Laws of 2018), that established an industry-funded, statewide pharmaceutical drug take-back program. It advanced a “product stewardship” approach to the challenge of disposing of unwanted medications. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are responsible for all of the costs of the initiative, including public education and awareness, as well as the collection, transport and proper disposal of unwanted drugs. The Act further requires chain pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies to provide consumers with on-site collection, prepaid mail-back envelopes, or other federally approved methods to encourage safe drug disposal.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Palmesano: State budget is 'irresponsible'

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 7 -- Assemblyman Phil Palmesano reacted to the New York State budget deal critically, saying it significantly and irresponsibly increases taxes, spending and the state debt.

His full statement follows:

“The final budget deal represents a fiscally irresponsible document that significantly increases taxes, spending and state debt and will have a negative ripple impact on our economy and all New Yorkers for years to come. Workers, families and small businesses have continued to make sacrifices and difficult decisions because of state-mandated COVID-19 closures, lockdowns and restrictions.

“Unfortunately, the governor and the Senate and Assembly Democratic majorities did not and recklessly passed a budget that increases taxes by more than $4 billion, spending more than $18 billion to result in a record setting $212 billion budget. The state debt was increased by $8 billion to add up to more than $67 billion. This budget, with their misplaced priorities, will just further stifle private sector investment, job creation and economic growth for our small businesses, farmers, manufacturers and the hardworking men and women of our state.

“New York was already one of the highest-taxed states in the country. This year’s budget just adds to this dubious distinction. This is an irresponsible increase in taxes, spending and state debt, creating a dangerous fiscal policy that will continue the mass exodus of taxpayers to other states. New York has lost more than 1.4 million residents since 2010 and we continue to see a growing out-migration of New York taxpayers and businesses. New Yorkers are moving to places like Florida, North Carolina and Texas to escape our state's costly, burdensome and overbearing taxes and regulatory system.

“Not only did the governor and Democratic majorities vote to significantly increase taxes, spending and debt but they also continue to advance misplaced priorities that are out of touch with families and small businesses across our state. They continue to support a $420 million film tax credit for Hollywood and the entertainment industry, even as they continue to move forward with implementing a $200 million taxpayer funded campaign system. In addition, they created a $2.1 billion “Excluded Workers Fund” that will send one-time state payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented immigrants. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have been absolutely crushed by state-mandated closures, lockdowns and costly restrictions and we should be prioritizing helping our small business community to ensure they get the help and resources they need to survive and continue to provide jobs for families in their local communities.

“New York’s adopted $212 billion budget is bigger than those of Texas and Florida combined. I am deeply concerned about this irresponsible budget and worry we are heading down an unsustainable path towards a fiscal cliff that will have a devastating impact on our tax base, economy and quality of life for our families, seniors, farmers, small businesses, manufacturers, workers and, especially, our children and grandchildren, who will someday be handed a bill to pay they had no voice in creating. They simply deserve better. Much, much better.”

Photo in text: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano

O'Mara: New York State budget is reckless

Special to The Odessa File

ALBANY, April 7 -- State Senator Tom O'Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, warned that the 2021-2022 state budget that increases state taxes by more than $4 billion and hikes state government spending by a whopping $18 billion could bring New York State to the edge of the fiscal cliff in the near future.

O'Mara called the state’s new $212 billion fiscal plan, which increases state spending by over 8%, roughly four times the CPI, "reckless and irresponsible." The state Senate approved the budget Tuesday night, with the state Assembly expected to follow suit Wednesday. It will be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

O'Mara said, "This Albany Democrat giveaway goes far beyond any reasonable sense of fairness, responsibility, or sustainability for hard-working, taxpaying citizens. Governor Cuomo and the legislative Democrat supermajorities are enacting an outrageous tax-and-spend plan that will force future generations of taxpayers to foot an enormous bill because the far-left, extremely liberal, largely New York City-based wing of the Democratic party is in control of the agenda and pushing for a wish list that leads to a fiscal and economic train wreck.

"This budget sets New York loose on an irresponsible, radical, out-of-control state government spending spree by blowing through a one-time federal windfall and then hoping to pay for a future of unsustainable spending with higher and higher taxes. In a state long known as one of the highest-taxed, highest-spending states in America, this Albany Democrat vision for New York sets a new standard of recklessness. A new taxpayer-financed fund to deliver lump-sum payments to illegal immigrants is the latest example of just how out of touch it's become."

O'Mara was especially critical of the new, first-in-the-nation, $2.1-billion fund in this year's budget to provide payments to undocumented immigrants who were excluded from receiving federal stimulus checks or unemployment benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new fund, being called the "Excluded Workers Fund," could mean that some recipients would be in line to receive one-time state payments of up to $15,600.

Over the past several weeks, O'Mara and members of the Senate Republican Conference have highlighted key priorities for utilizing the nearly $13 billion in federal funding that New York received through the recently enacted American Rescue Plan. The GOP priorities included the rejection of new tax hikes, across-the-board tax relief, and bolstering state reserve funds.

O'Mara said, "We had an opportunity and a responsibility to utilize this one-time federal stimulus aid under a fiscally responsible, short- and long-term strategy for the post-COVID rebuilding, restoring, and resetting of local communities, economies, environments, and governments for the long term. Equally important, we needed to recognize the fiscal challenges New York will face for the foreseeable future, steer clear of any massive new taxing and spending, and bolster the state’s emergency reserve funds. That’s not what this budget represents. It sets up an economic and fiscal disaster."

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Sheriffs' Institute -- which backs Keuka summer camp -- starts membership drive

Special to The Odessa File

SCHUYLER COUNTY, April 2, 2021 -- The New York State Sheriffs’ Institute -- whose flagship program is a Summer Camp for econmically challenged children each summer at Keuka Lake -- has begun its annual Honorary Membership drive in Schuyler County.

The New York State Sheriffs’ Institute was established in 1979. It is a not-for-profit, tax exempt organization, and contributions to it are tax deductible.

While the Sheriff’s Office is a unit of county government, many of the concerns of Sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies are best addressed on a statewide level. The Sheriffs’ Institute provides centralized training programs and services for all Sheriffs’ Offices, where those programs and services would be unavailable or impractical on a single county basis.

The Sheriffs’ Summer Camp, in its 45th year of operation, serves 840 children from across New York State each summer. The Sheriffs’ Institute pays the entire cost of the camp stay and transportation. Most children attending wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity for vacation travel or a summer camp experience.

The Sheriffs’ Camp program combines summer recreation with activities designed to teach an understanding of, and respect for, our laws and the men and women who enforce them. The strong camper to counselor ratio allows for individual attention with an emphasis on the development of self esteem.

“In these difficult economic times we cannot forget our youth who will not have the opportunity for a summer camp experience or a summer vacation,” Schuyler County Sheriff William Yessman said. “By becoming an honorary member you are supporting the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp for economically disadvantaged children.”

In addition, the Sheriffs’ Institute operates a scholarship program that provides one scholarship to each of New York State’s Community College’s Criminal Justice Programs. This program is designed to help attract the best and the brightest to the criminal justice vocation.

For more information about the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp and other Sheriffs’ Institute Programs, visit www.sheriffsinstitute.org or simply google “Sheriffs’ Institute kids” and it will be your first option.

Financial support for many of the Sheriffs’ Institute programs comes from Honorary Membership dues. Invitations for Honorary Membership are extended on a non-partisan basis, and the invitees are selected at random. Any persons interested in supporting the efforts of the New York State Sheriffs’ Institute by becoming an Honorary Member should contact the Sheriff if they do not receive an invitation in the mail, or visit www.sheriffsinstitute.org to download an application.

All donations made to the New York State Sheriffs’ Institute are tax deductible. In addition, the Sheriffs’ Institute is registered with the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

Photo in text: The Sheriffs' Institute-financed Summer Camp at Keuka Lake. (Provided)

Reed, in the wake of misconduct allegation, says he will not run for any office in 2022

Special to The Odessa File

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 21, 2021 -- Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning) said Sunday that he will not seek any elected office in 2022 -- either in Congress or for Governor.

Reed, the subject of an allegation this past week of sexual misconduct four years ago -- an allegation issued by a former lobbyist, Nicolette Davis, who is now in the Army (see story below) -- issued a statement through his press office that was both apologetic to Davis and explanatory. He said he was at the time in the grip of an alcohol addiction from which he has been recovering for almost four years.

A paragraph at the end of the statement read:

"Tom Reed further announced Sunday he will not be running for any elected office in 2022. When Reed was first elected to Congress in 2010, he pledged to voters to only serve six terms (12 years) and therefore will be retiring from public service on January 2nd, 2023."

Reed had floated the possibility recently of running for Governor against the incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, who is himself accused by several women of sexual harassment. Reed had been highly critical of Cuomo, and had called for his resignation.

The apologetic and explanatory statement, "in response to recent allegations regarding misconduct on a political trip to Minnesota in 2017," was as follows:

“First, I apologize to Nicolette Davis. Even though I am only hearing of this matter as stated by Ms. Davis in the article now, I hear her voice and will not dismiss her. In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant. Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility. I further apologize to my wife and kids, my family, the people of the 23rd District, my colleagues, and those who have supported me for the harm this caused them.

“Second, I want to share that this occurred at a time in my life in which I was struggling. Upon entering treatment in 2017, I recognized that I am powerless over alcohol. I am now approaching four years of that personal lifelong journey of recovery. With the support of my wife, kids and loved ones, professional help, and trust in a higher power, I continue that journey day-by-day. This is in no way an excuse for anything I’ve done. Consistent with my recovery, I publicly take ownership of my past actions, offer this amends and humbly apologize again to Ms. Davis, my wife and kids, loved ones, and to all of you.

“Third, I plan to dedicate my time and attention to making amends for my past actions. In addition to apologizing to those I have impacted, including Ms. Davis, I will be seeking to help those wrestling with addiction in any way I can. To others who may be struggling the way I have, please know that by seeking help your life will be forever changed in an extremely positive way. Though the journey is hard please know the rewards are amazing and you are worth it.

“As I go forward, I will strive to be a better human being, continue to fight for what I believe in, and to make people’s lives better in any way I can. I hope this formal apology is just the start.”

Photo in text: Congressman Tom Reed

Former lobbyist accuses Reed of sexual misconduct; he says account 'is not accurate'

Special to The Odessa File

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 20, 2021 -- New York Republican Congressman Tom Reed has been accused by a former lobbyist of inappropriately touching her at a bar in Minneapolis four years ago while he was intoxicated.

Reed says the accusation is not true. "This account of my actions," he responded in a statement issued by his office, "is not accurate."

According to The Washington Post, Nicolette Davis said the incident occurred in an Irish Pub where she and some fellow lobbyists -- she was a junior lobbyist for an insurance firm -- had adjourned after a day of ice fishing. Reed had been with the group on the ice, she said.

She says Reed -- a 49-year-old, 6-term Congressman from Corning who was seated to her left at a table -- rubbed her back outside her shirt and then, through the fabric, unfastened her bra. She said that when his hand wandered to her thigh, she sought help from a man seated to her right. The account says the incident ended when that man "pulled the Congressman away from the table and out" of the establishment.

The Post said Davis, now 29 and a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, made contact with the newspaper through a newsroom tip line on Feb. 11, just prior to Reed floating his interest in running for Governor of New York -- a post held by Andrew Cuomo, himself now under pressure to resign for underreporting nursing home deaths during the pandemic, and for the alleged sexual harassment of several women.

Reed is among those who has called for Cuomo to step down, calling sexual harassment "disturbing and unacceptable." When pressed by the Post to reconcile his support of women's rights in the workplace with the allegation by Davis, Reed responded in the statement from his office: "I stand by my record."

Another person at that table in 2017, the Post said, claims to have witnessed Reed with his hand on Davis's back. Davis later reported the incident to a supervisor at her company, but declined to file a complaint with the House Ethics Committee -- a decision she says she now regrets.

The Post said the Minneapolis Police Department declined to comment. But a Republican New York State Senator, George Borrello of the 57th District in Western New York near Reed's congressional district, called for a probe of the allegation.

"The accusation made against Congressman Tom Reed, like all sexual harassment allegations, should be taken seriously," Borrello said. "All parties involved deserve to have these claims independently and thoroughly investigated, without political interference."

Photo in text: Congressman Tom Reed


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Chairman

Carl Blowers, 535-6174 or 237-5469

Legislature Members:

Gary Gray, 292-9922

Laurence Jaynes

Jim Howell, 535-7266 or 227-1141

David M. Reed, 796-9558

Michael Lausell, 227- 9226

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro, 398-0648

Sheriff: Kevin Rumsey, 535-8222

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383Palmesano