By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The tentative 2013 Orleans County budget will be presented to legislators next month, but several agencies that receive county funding are making the case for further investment before the spending plan is finalized.
Representatives from both the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension told legislators Wednesday that the programs they provide a beneficial return on the county’s investment.
S&WCD Manager Dan Schuth updated legislators on the district’s 2012 projects, which he said added 54 miles of tile and 7.7 miles of ditches to improve soil quality on farmland and other properties.
“(The tile) pays for itself in two years and it’s all profit after that,” Schuth said.
Schuth also worked with the Canal Corporation to identify points where water is withdrawn from the canal for agricultural use, which helped manage water levels when a section of the canal had to be drained in August.
The county invested $57,500 into the district this year, which Schuth said returned more than $1.25 million in grant funds and project work this year. He’s requesting $60,250 this year.
“We return $21.68 for every dollar invested,” Schuth said. “I’d do that every day if I could.”
OCCCE Operating Manager Larry Riegel, Cornell Vegetable Team onion specialist Christy Hoepting and Guy Smith of Triple G Farms all spoke to legislators about the benefits of the county’s $219,000 investment in 2012.
In addition to providing 4-H experiences for more than 1,000 students; the representatives said the county’s 2012 funding went towards funding regional teams of dairy, fruit and vegetable specialists that greatly assist agricultural efforts.
“The advantage of Orleans County buying in (to the specialist teams) is that local farms get expertise and knowledge,” Hoepting said.
At one point, six counties funded 70 percent of the cost of three specialist teams. Now, ten counties fund less than half of the cost for five specialist teams; which Hoepting said has the programs “at their max”
Smith said his participation in a trial program studying using less nitrogen in onion production resulted in a process that uses fewer pesticide spraying in the muck and increased population of beneficial insects.
“I receive unbiased decisions so I can make educated decisions,” Smith said.
Riegel said he is asking for $243,000 this year, which the OCCCE received in 2010. The increased funding would allow the extension to promote program assistant Kerri McKenna, who received her master’s degree from Cornell after graduating from Albion, to a full-time position.
The county receives requests for funding from a half-dozen agencies and groups, County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt said.
In addition to the S&WCD and the OCCCE, the group includes the County Economic/Industrial Development Agency, the local sportsman’s association, county libraries and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council. Nesbitt said those requests totaled more than $400,000 in 2012.
The county’s tentative budget is due by Nov. 15. Nesbitt said he will present his budget message to legislators at their Nov. 14 meeting.
Management compensation and health insurance adjusted
The Legislature unanimously approved an updated management compensation plan for 2013 and 2014 Wednesday. The new plan reflects the implementation of a high deductible health insurance plan, with the added revenues from the plan being used to compensate the more than 60 affected management employees.
Legislators said the plan would have little or no cost to county taxpayers. Nesbitt said the move to high deductible insurance plans would save the county approximately 22 percent from those employees’ current plans.
• The legislature approved creating three part-time certified nursing assistant positions at The Village of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center. Legislator George Bower said the move would reduce overtime and staffing costs at the county-owned nursing home and increase “local care from local people.”
• Meeting attendees and county officials were both ill-tempered in their conversations during the public comment period at the start of Wednesday’s meeting. Legislature Chairman David Callard used his gavel repeatedly to cut off comments from local tea party members voicing displeasure with the county’s yet-to-arrive budget.
• Legislators authorized County Treasurer Susan Heard to re-levy unpaid school, solid waste/recycling and village taxes to delinquent taxpayers’ 2013 county/town tax bills.
• A resolution calling for the state government to pass legislation criminalizing the manufacture, distribution, sale and possession of synthetic drugs, including bath salts, was passed.