By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The Orleans County Legislature unanimously approved the county’s annual appropriation for the Orleans County Soil and Water Conservation District Wednesday after hearing a presentation on one of the area’s where the district works to preserve a cherished county resource.
As in past years, the county will contribute $57,750 to Soil and Water in 2013, an investment that Soil and Water District Manager Dan Schuth said would once again lead to a return of approximately $20 for each $1 in funding.
According to Soil and Water’s January newsletter, the district added more than 370,000 feet of drainage tile in 2012, along with 42,000 feet of new ditches and 4,320 feet of grassed waterways. In 2012, the OCSWCD was the agency that both provided assistance to farms experiencing early budding and again when the canal needed to be drained for maintenance.
The district also administers an annual tree and shrub seedling sale in the spring and organizes a shoreline cleanup in the fall.
Schuth and Oak Orchard Watershed Protection Alliance President David Drake detailed for legislators the work that OOWPA has provided to the local area since 2004. They said the alliance brings together many of the interest groups that focus on segments of a watershed that stretches from northern Genesee county and wide swaths of Orleans County before reaching Lake Ontario.
”The Oak Orchard River breathes life into Orleans County,” said Drake, who noted the waterways impact on agricultural, energy production, tourism, business and residential interests.
The alliance has succeeded in publishing, in partnership with SUNY Brockport, a State of the Basin report on the geology, water quality and other factors in the watershed. It has also won grant funding for agricultural projects aimed at reducing nutrient run off to the waterway, which leads to a number of unwanted results, chiefly algae blooms.
Schuth said the alliance is now working towards creating a watershed management plan, an expensive project but one needed to determine the future of the river.
”The watershed is in our backyards,” Schuth said. “We will see it meets sustainability goals for the present and the future.”
• A proposal to look into the benefits of a share rural regional industrial/economic development agency was questioned by Shelby Town Councilman Kenneth Schaal after being mentioned by Legislator George Bower.
Bower, citing discussions between Wyoming and Genesee counties about the potential benefits of joining their economic development efforts, said it would be worth it hear them out.
”We should bring in people from Genesee and Wyoming (to talk about the benefits),” Bower said.
Schaal noted that the county’s other efforts at sharing services are appreciated, but cast doubt on whether such an idea would benefit Orleans.
”It’s a competitive organizations, we’re competing with other counties,” said Schaal, who noted the recent loss of Trek to Lockport. “By regionalizating, a small county would have very little influence ... the only way we benefit is if we win. I don’t believe it can be done regionally.”
Bower replied that his idea would only be to talk with officials from the other two counties.
• A public hearing was held on Local Law No. 1 of 2013, which would raise the salaries of management employees covered under a management compensation plan.
The proposal increases the salaries for the county attorney, county clerk, director of personnel, highway superintendent, public defender, real property tax director, sheriff and social services commissioner; all by between $700 and $800 dollars.
County Chief Administrative Officer Chuck Nesbitt said the law would be budget neural, as the management compensation plan included an equivalent increase in those employee’s health insurance contributions.
• The County authorized the purchase and outfitting of a new truck for the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office. Both the truck, a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe, and $20,000 in mobile computers for the truck are funded by Operation Stonegarden, a federal Homeland Security program.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.