LYNDONVILLE – On Friday, members of Orleans County were engaged, appreciated and working to make a difference.
The Orleans County Chamber of Commerce held its 2023 Legislative Dinner at the White Birch Restaurant in Lyndonville where local, state and federal representatives spoke to the community about Orleans County and the concerns residents had.
After eight years, Orleans County is getting closer to its goal of providing affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet to everyone in Orleans County. Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, said RTO Wireless has completed testing in five locations in Lyndonville, Kendall, Medina and Clarendon for customer network availability. The Albion-based site shows customers experiencing up to 99 megabits per second including streaming video through services such as Netflix.
RTO Wireless is now busy preparing additional sites in Pine Hill, Ridgeway, Barre, Holley, Shelby, Knowlesville, Carlton and Kent.
“In July of last year, the RTO was accepted into the Affordable Connection Program which provides a $30 subsidy to qualified customers,” said Johnson. “This program restricts ISPs from marketing directly to subscribers, so the RTO is partnering with Orleans County’s United Way to organize several networking events to market the RTO’s Broadband services.”
Last year, Orleans County launched its own war on drug addiction that has fueled the opioid epidemic. Johnson said the increase in opioid prescriptions led to the abuse of opioids before it became clear that these drugs can be highly addictive.
“More than 932,000 people have died since 1999 due to drug overdose,” he said. “Nearly 75 percent of drug overdose deaths in 2020 involve opioids.”
Other great vacation rentals in Orleans County:
n Johnson talked about the district making smart decisions with federal dollars that not only save the district money, but also provide important services to the community where and when they need it most. All this without the tax increase in the 2023 budget.
n A New York City Economic Stabilization and Development Grant has made the ports of Orleans County obsolete. This effort continues to move forward with the creation of the Lake Ontario and Orleans County Dining and Conservation District Council which is the lead agency for a group of six counties along the southern shore of the lake.
n Johnson said Orleans County is investing more than $19 million by 2023 in infrastructure.
n Andrew Cook, deputy regional director for the Finger Lakes region of Senator Chuck Schumer’s office, said Senator Schumer was able to help Baxter International with its microchip shortage.
n Cook said The Great Lakes Authority has been established to make $33 million in grants available to Lake Ontario communities, including Orleans County.
However, not all is well in Orleans County. There are concerns that people in Orleans County have, most of which are bail changes.
Nathan Pace, a lawyer in Orleans County and the president of this event, said that in the past few years to overcome the need for many people to be arrested, and because of the bail they will be kept in custody for a while until it is resolved, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has enacted sweeping bailout reforms across the country.
Pace said that in the past, if someone was arrested and sent to prison, the case was resolved quickly. Others would remain in prison because they could not be rescued or because their crime was too dangerous, so they were kept in order to protect the public.
“Since bail reform has changed, almost everyone who is arrested for almost any crime is released immediately with an appearance ticket,” Pace said. “Most of the time, Gov. Kathy Hochul is right. They appeared in court again. But there was a big impact that changed after that because they were off the streets while their crimes continued.”
Pace said these examples are anecdotal but are being repeated by different attorneys across the state.
State Sen. Rob Ortt said he has talked about the lack of cash bail and the crimes that have been seen every day for the past three years. He said the bail was created and is there to ensure that the defendants return to court. Ortt said he spoke to the sheriffs of Erie, Orleans and Niagara counties, asking if there are people sitting in jail for weeks or months at the end waiting for court.
“Where most of this happened was in New York City because of the volume of cases,” Ortt said. “They have a huge backlog of cases – obviously there are too many people, too many crimes, too many cases, not enough judges. That’s really what it came down to. They couldn’t clear their booths.”
Ortt said in some cases a public defender or attorney will contribute to the delay, and the person will remain at Rikers Island for months on end.
Because of this the answer was to reform the bailout. Ortt said it has ruled out any legal options. As a result, it has caused many victims.
Joe Cardone, the Orleans County district attorney, added not only the bail reform but also the adoption rules.
“In changing those discovery rules, they extended what we have to give the defense council 15 days when someone is indicted,” Cardone said. “As a result, we will have informants regarding drug issues, different criminal cases, burglary, that kind of thing, we must advise the defendant on where to find that within 15 days of arresting someone. “
There were also concerns about how to alleviate the employment problems facing Orleans County and New York state as a whole.
Johnson said that in Orleans County they have increased the budget for career development, so they are actually sending qualified and certified students. He said that one thing they should be aware of is encouraging people to go to BOCES.
“It is very important that BOCES are recommended at the school level because they come out trained in the field,” he said.
Darlene Hartway, executive director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, said when people talk about unemployment, they’re talking about the lack of low-wage jobs. What businesses are talking about is how much people can make a year without working and without losing their benefits.
“One of the benefits of health insurance,” he said. “Are there any plans or something we can do so that the poor can work but not lose all their benefits? Because what happens is they don’t work because it doesn’t pay them to work. Taking a low-wage job when they’re going to lose, number one, health insurance. “
Hartway said most of the working poor have children and don’t want to lose their health insurance, because that’s important, as well as any other county services.
Ortt said the model came to make it more economically profitable to not work than to work.
“It’s not that they’re living big, but they can’t make a lot of money and lose an important benefit,” he said. If you have a child, health insurance will be a priority in your life.
Ortt said he knows there is a service that other companies have taken advantage of to help their employees navigate some of these things, so they can work without losing benefits. But the real answer is to re-examine the problem from the government’s perspective to see what lawmakers can do legislatively that will allow people to work while keeping benefits.
Some things that have been highlighted in the area of concern are:
n Ortt said a bill that lowered the overtime limit for farm workers would have a negative impact on farms and farm workers.
n Member of Parliament Steve Hawley said they do not have a federal budget, which is strange because they usually have it now.
n Fuel costs are always a concern.
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