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Friday, February 21, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Mary Pat Hancock, Humphrey Award winner, loved serving Genesee County

post by Howard Owens in Chamber Awards, Mary Pat Hancock

All of the most important legislative accomplishments of the past 20 years -- the period Mary Pat Hancock served the 4th District -- are of "a piece," Hancock says.

In that time the Legislature paved the way for countywide water, created a comprehensive plan, a smart-growth plan, instituted farmland protection measures, turned the Industrial Development Agency into the Genesee County Economic Development Center and set the county on a path toward greater prosperity and stability.

None of those initiatives can really be considered separately from the others, Hancock said.

"You weave a fabric," Hancock said. "The different kind of things that go in and out and then you have a piece. But without that one strand or without those different threads, it just doesn't make anything. It falls apart."

Hancock was skeptical about running for the Legislature in 1992 when friends first approached her to fill the vacancy left by Steve Hawley's departure for the state Assembly.

She wasn't sure if she would have the time and if she was up to the task, but they persuaded, noting her with her school board experience, her study of governmental administration (school administration, specifically) and the fact that she would need to attend only one meeting a week. So she decided to give it a try.

It turned out she had to beat a primary challenger, and her election led to 20 years serving the people of Genesee County, the last decade as chairwoman of the Legislature.

All that service -- service that stretches back in Genesee County more than a decade prior to her election to the Legislature -- is why the Chamber of Commerce selected her to receive the Wolcott “Jay” Humphrey III Excellence in Community Leadership Award.

Hancock said she is humbled by the award because she knew Humphrey and how dedicated he was to Genesee County and how enthusiastic he was about improving the quality of life locally.

"When we were looking for somebody to be in charge of the IDA, he just found that task so important. I was one of the people on the committee to select the person and he came to me about it and I said we we were doing our best, and he said, 'no you don't understand.' "

Later, Hancock was on one of the annual agricultural tours, but she had taken her own car because she had to leave early. As she was leaving, Humphrey jumped into the passenger seat of the car and asked how the search was going for a new head of the IDA, what would become the GCEDC.

"He said, 'you're not taking this seriously enough,' He said, 'this is so important.' Then he gave me this whole thing about how it could impact our county and how we could have all of these industrial parks. He had it all right there in his mind and I thought, 'Oh, my, I hope I don't screw this up.' "

Genesee County has always been important to Hancock, as it was to her parents, who always maintained a home here even as her father's job -- a VP with the railroad -- took the family to Pittsburgh and Chicago.

"It's just such an extraordinary place. The people are extraordinary. The physical beauty of the county is just bar none."

Hancock was born in Pittsburgh, went to elementary school in Batavia. In middle school her family moved to Chicago. She got her degree in education from Northwestern University and then taught English and Art at a school Lake Forest, Ill.

After a couple of years of teaching, Hancock decided she wanted to get her master's degree and become a school counselor.

Her parents weren't too keen on the idea.

"My parent were very proud that I graduated from college, but they really didn't think it was necessary for me to go on and get a master's degree."

Even so, she managed a fellowship for the University of Buffalo, so neither she nor her parents had to pay for her graduate degree.

It was at UB that Mary Pat met Bill, whom she married in 1957. They would have four children: Billy, an educational counselor, Ann Marie, a nurse with a school district, Tom, a school psychologist, and Katherine, who works in early childhood education.

Bill received his dental degree the same day Hancock received her master's and the couple had their first child.

Hancock essentially took 20 years off from her career in education to raise her family.

Bill worked in public health service and the family moved to Chicago, New York City and Buffalo.  Bill had plans to become an orthodontist, but then decided maybe it would be better to open a private practice in Oakfield, so the family returned to Genesee County.

While raising her family in Batavia, Hancock got involved in the community. She ran for the library board. She served on the school district board and on the BOCES board.

Once the kids were grown, Hancock decided she wanted to do what she once trained to do, become a school counselor.

She had to be recertified, which turned out to be a lot more work than she expected, and she took classes at UB, RIT and Rochester so she could get up to speed as quickly as possible.

When there was an opening at Batavia Middle School for a counselor, she applied for the job, but when she showed up for the interview, she found that instead they were interviewing her for a counselor's job at the high school.

Hancock was a counselor at BHS for 20 years, a job, she said, that she loved.

"It was a great job. It was super. The children, the kids, the fact that you never had a dull day. If you were feeling kind of down, the people at the school, my gosh, they were such fun."

In the midst of her 20-year career at BHS, she was elected to the County Legislature, which worked out because even the Legislature's committee meetings are after the school day is done.

There was a sense in those early days on the Legislature, Hancock said, that the county wasn't as well organized as it could be. Issues were dealt with in a piecemeal manner. There was no plan.

That was exemplified by the County Airport.

"When I first got up there, there were some things we just constantly, constantly, constantly talked about meeting after meeting after meeting. One of them was the cost of the airport and (the) insignificant contribution it was making to our county. Some said just get rid of it because it was causing problems and losing money. More than that, it was just a wrangle and I thought this is no fun. It was just a wrangle."

Eventually, the airport went from money loser to money maker, but only after the county began to get organized, first under Chairman Roger Triftshauser, then under Hancock.

"We needed to take a deep breath and focus. I was not the only one who felt that way. It was just such a muddle."

The first big item to focus on was bringing countywide water here in cooperation with the Monroe County Water Authority.

Asked if that wasn't just a big political mess, Hancock said, well, yes, it was political, but you've got to understand ...

"There were a lot of people, a lot of entities, a lot of towns, villages and the city, involved. The people were doing the work representing their particular spots, their towns, their villages, their city, so of course there were politics because all politics are local. Those individual areas wanted to make sure they were well represented. They wanted to make sure the deal wasn't going to be lethal for them."

While the water deal was still being hammered out, Triftshauser retired and Hancock was elected chair.

That was quite a turbulent time to take over such a big job, Hancock said.

"That was an exciting period of time. When Roger left, it was scary to take over because there was so much going on, but it was also exciting."

It was at this time that the county was tackling a comprehensive plan -- which also involved all the towns and villages and city -- a smart-growth plan, which goes along with countywide water, farm protection and the creation of industrial parks, and transforming the IDA into the GCEDC.

Again, all pieces of the same cloth.

"It really works when you are short of resources if you're long on planning so you can protect yourself from some big mistakes."

Among the accomplishments during Hancock's tenure that she says she's proud of is the county taking over the Office for the Aging from the city, merging the public health departments of Orleans and Genesee counties and renovations to the nursing home.

Hancock's had a pretty busy 10 years. She became chair around the same time Bill died. She's thrown herself into her work.

"This honor (the Humphrey Award) is just something above and beyond anything I ever expected," Hancock said. "I I don't think I deserve it. I went to work every day because I wanted to go. I was in a hurry every morning to get to work because there was so much to do. That was a treat and it was a reward to do that."

Now, Hancock said, it is time to take care of herself. She's enrolled in Tai Chi and Yoga at the Y. She's looking forward to riding her horse some more. She's painting her basement. She's watching the Winter Olympics (something she wouldn't necessarily have had time for in the past). She plans to travel. She plans to visit her grandchildren more. There's a lot she wants to do.

"I would like to live a thoughtful life. Before my retirement, it was getting to where I was just doing one thing right after another. So many plans were put on hold. There were so many things I had to cancel. I would like to make sure the time I have is productively spent."

Which means a plan. Mary Pat Hancock would never be without a plan. It's how you weave the fabric of life.

"I'm a great planner," Hancock said. "I like to plan. It's time for my own comprehensive plan."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Hancock responds to questions about her endorsement of COR Development subsidies

When we e-mailed a series of questions to Steve Hyde seeking more details on the process by which tax subsidies were approved for COR Development to redevelop a portion of Batavia Towne Center, we also e-mailed five questions to Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature.

Under state law, in order for state sales tax abatements to be awarded to a retail development project, a finding must be made that meets a specified requirement. The finding must be made by the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board and confirmed by the chief executive -- in this case, Hancock -- of the government agency overseeing the IDA. 

For the COR project, the GCEDC board passed a resolution finding that the proposed retail project would provide goods and services not readily available to Genesee County residents.  The only confirmed tenant for the space at the time was -- and still is -- Dick's Sporting Goods.

Hancock said she was not available to respond within the deadline set by The Batavian. We received her answer today. Below are the questions we e-mailed and her e-mailed response.

Questons:

1. Did you conduct any independent research to substantiate the board's decision?

2. At the time you wrote the letter, what did you know about the proposed tenants for the retail space? Were the names of all the businesses communicated to you, and if so, was it your understanding that contracts had been signed or whether these businesses were just proposals?

3. On what factual basis did you base your decision to confirm the finding? What is it about the proposed businesses that caused you to reach the conclusion that they would provide goods and services not readily available in Genesee County?

4. What do you say to a comment such as Mike Barrett's, that tax incentives for retail are like "using your own tax money to put yourself out of business"?

5. Should the existing businesses in Genesee County that must now compete against subsidized national chains receive any tax breaks or other mitigation to level the playing field for them?

Hancock's Response:

Dear Howard;

I do appreciate your forthright and direct manner. It is refreshing. Howard, I am going to frame my reply by indicating how I proceeded to educate myself regarding the proposed project. I hope it covers the intent of your request.

The Legislature does appoint the GCEDC Board. We believe they are a group of outstanding citizens with very strong business sense…as demonstrated by their own careers. They are also committed to the economic health of our community, or they wouldn’t be spending hours of their valuable time volunteering on the GCEDC Board.  Because they have a strong business sense, they also have a very strong respect for the law and carefully follow the latest and most accurate legislature and regulations guiding IDAs. I attended the meeting where they discussed the issue thoroughly. At a subsequent meeting they voted in favor of proceeding with the project.

The Legislature has an attorney. It would be foolhardy for me to sign an official letter without checking the legality of the document with our attorney. He is a careful attorney and checks out his information on many levels. He researched the law and provided me with a copy of the statute as recently amended. He also gave me his written opinion as to the requirements of the law and its application to this project. I was assured that we were acting within our legal rights.

The Genesee Economic Development Council (sic) was required to hold a public hearing and make specific findings of fact before awarding incentives, and did so on this matter.   I did attend the hearing and heard a positive presentation and only six persons spoke against the development.

Howard, I remember how that area looked before the development. It was sad. The lack of development in that area did not result in a healthy Batavia downtown. It looks, and is, more vibrant now, not only in that Town of Batavia area, but downtown as well. We hope to keep it that way…and better. I am most hopeful and confident that each step we take to attract new and suitable businesses to our area…will benefit all of us. Howard, I know you and I share the same desire for a successful, livable, and economically healthy community. We may not agree on everything, but our goals are surely the same.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Photo: Mary Pat Hancock recognized for service to local government

post by Howard Owens in Mary Pat Hancock, michael ranzenhofer

County Legislature Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock was honored Wednesday night by Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, through his aide Jay Grasso, for her service to local government during her term as president of the New York State Association of Counties. Grasso read a resolution from Ranzenhofer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 10:43 pm

The 2012 State of the County address

post by Howard Owens in genesee county, Mary Pat Hancock

Mary Pat Hancock's State of the County address:

Good evening friends and family of Genesee County.  I especially recognize and welcome our three new legislators…Marianne Clattenberg, Frank Ferrando, and Shelley Stein. Thankfully, they hit the ground running and brought with them the enthusiasm, energy and knowledge that is essential to their new roles. And let me thank all of you…those present and those of you who were not able to attend this evening, for your continued efforts, cooperation and support during this most challenging time. This year has sped by, our challenges sprang up like dandelions on a spring day, but the good grass also flourished thanks to the good work of our employees, renewed energy of our constituents and the climate of possible change at the state level.

Tonight, let’s focus on us -- on Genesee County and how we managed during the year 2011 when the state’s Property Tax Cap had not yet taken effect, but the mandated service expenses were at an all-time high and continued to whittle away at funds previously available for local and essential programs. 

How did we manage? It was a year of enlightenment. Having emerged from a difficult budget process, we responded to the lethargic economy by holding the line on taxes and trimming already lean programs. Strong efforts were also made to rethink how services were delivered and which programs might be combined for mutual benefit. We looked within and beyond our county for collaborative opportunities. This was not just one lean year, with relief around the corner. The only thing that we could count on was that things would be tighter in 2012, with the Property Tax Cap, the end of the stimulus fund, and no significant Mandate Relief. It was a new reality for the local governments and for their constituents.  And neither of us liked it. Anger is one of the first stages of grief, and we were angry that fine programs, good employees, and needed services were impacted.  We were angry that bloated mandated programs continued to expand and feed on our dwindling resources. We were angry that our continued message of Mandate Relief now fell on deaf ears. In order to survive, we had to temporarily put our anger aside and reached for temporary acceptance. We picked up the increasingly heavy burdens and did our best to carry them.  

We are a resilient lot. Positive goals were accomplished, new ventures succeeded, and we did not collapse. For this evening, I needed help to look a bit deeper into the accomplishment specifics, yet also respect the fact that good as you are, there is a limit to anyone’s tolerance for sitting and listening, so I asked our department chairs to please send a paragraph to me with their selection of the most significant items to cover in their departments during 2011. Were they thrilled? NO. It is nearly impossible to put all your good efforts into a single book, or chapter….a paragraph, impossible. But impossible things are happening every day. I received the necessary information in the abbreviated form and for this I am most grateful. I take full responsibility for cutting department responses to the quick, but the full information is available in the annual reports on file. 

Something of enormous import took place this year at our Community College. Dr. Steiner retired after being associated with the college since its inception in the 1960s and its president since 1975. The perfect selection and smooth transition to a new college president was crucial to all of us and was handled with tremendous skill by the College Board. A thorough nationwide search, and an equally thorough screening process, and final interview process identified the best possible candidate. A local boy, regionally local, with just the right experience and skill sets was hired.  We welcomed James Sunser to our midst fall of 2011 and look forward to the formal inauguration ceremonies on May 5th of this year. 

Within the Office for the Aging, the fastest growing program is Health Insurance Counseling, which in 2011 served 719 Medicare beneficiaries, resulting in over $1,000,000 in savings for those using this valuable service. Support services such as home-delivered meals, transportation to medical appointments, in-home care, personal emergency response units, home safety checks, and support for caretakers can enable those who want to “Age in Place” to do so. In the past decade the number of our older adults has grown by 16%, causing increased demands on OFA services. Encouraging healthy active aging through programs like the RSVP, Living Healthy courses, exercise classes, fall prevention programs, recreation and social events are ways that OFA promotes this goal. To fill the niche for those qualifying programs not covered by any other funding, which add so much to our seniors’ quality of life, Genesee County is fortunate enough to have the Muriel H. Marshall Fund.      

The procurement card program was organized and implemented by the Purchasing Department and the Treasurer’s Office. Procedures and training materials were revised and training was provided. This program replaces a variety of processes, including petty cash and advance checks. Its purpose is to establish an efficient, cost-effective, easily monitored method of purchasing and payment for small dollar transactions. In an additional effort to lower the cost of products and services, Purchasing joined the Western New York Online Bid System. A section of this department, the Mail room processed over 177,000 outgoing pieces of U.S. Mail and by using a pre-sort discount they saved the County approximately $4,000 on first-class mail.

Cornell Cooperative Extension continued its tradition of putting the latest scientific knowledge to practical use. In this county agriculture is our economic engine, and attending to that business is the Extension’s business. Last year there was a new course at GCC…Western New York Agriculture, its success suggests that it is the first course in a targeted curriculum. An Extension outreach brought a new business to this area…goat cheese production, with its many special requirements and the provider was guided to a happy landing as a successful Ag business by Extension staff. Another venture in the works is the development of a Broccoli Industry in the East, which includes our area. Staff members: James Kingston, Jan Beglinger, and Christie Hoepting are to be especially congratulated. A collaborative effort by the Rotary Club, YMCA, UMMC, and CCE and Dr. Jain, initiated a GET FIT program for families in this area to begin to address the national concern of Childhood Obesity. The health of our young people cannot be overemphasized and this program shows great promise.

We had plenty of elections in 2011. In addition to four primary contests in September, and the General Election in November, an unanticipated countywide Special Election was held in April. Our frugal Board of Elections was able to absorb the additional costs by cost-saving adjustments in other areas. They presently have well-founded concerns that 2012 will force three to four primary dates…with the resulting extra expenses. The State Legislature must iron out their disagreements and coordinate their primary dates to avoid this wasteful extra expense...

The Office of Emergency Management Services insures that the County develops and maintains multiple emergency plans. They see that the County has the equipment, manpower and resources to respond to disasters or emergency situations. The 2011 State Homeland Security Grant Program ($101,948) will alone provide Fire Investigator Protective Clothing, Law Enforcement Equipment (ERT); provide Critical Infrastructure and security enhancements to the County emergency operations center and the County Highway Departments. It will also provide upgrades to the interoperable communications equipment and provide the funding for the Fire and EMS Reporting Management Systems. This year a Countywide Recruitment and Retention program for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel was made possible through the Federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant of $388,000.

Under the Highway Department’s banner, please include the actual Highway crews who maintain our roads and bridges and are concerned about the effects of deferred maintenance as a result of flat funding and escalating material prices.  The Parks Department, under this banner, continues to find new grants and outside funding opportunities to keep the Parks open for residents during difficult financial times. Several improvements were made to the DeWitt Recreation Area in 2011 expanding opportunities to explore this urban park. Airport fuel sales increased nearly 8% this year and the GC Airport again turned a profit…as it has done for the past nine years. We continue to explore options to replace its aging terminal facility…to meet federal safety requirements without a financial burden on our residents. Our Highway Superintendent/Water Project Director continues to investigate the future financing of the Countywide Water Project as well…so that Phase II may be implemented as planned within the next five years.

The History Department and Records Management completed two long-term projects this year. The first was the digitizing of the department’s photograph collection which includes 10,570 photographs. The second was the Archival Cataloging Project which included 742 cubic feet with a total of 1,672 items cataloged. In addition, they provided assistance to thousands of people interested in local history…generating income for the County. They were assisted by volunteers who helped them accomplish numerous additional projects. They all still had the time and strength to help us commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War….beginning with the bell ring observance of April 12th; we were helped to realize the impact of this war on Genesee County by an original display board and power point presentation. 

In 2011 Human Resources partnered with the County’s Employee Assistance Plan to provide the required countywide workplace violence training for employees. Kudos are given to all County employees covered by the County’s Self-funded Health Plan for their cooperation in providing the necessary documentation for the Health Plan Eligibility Audit that was conducted in 2011.

During 2011 Information Technology focused on updating an aging infrastructure to ensure the reliability and availability of systems that support all county departments. They also introduced a new County Website, put IPADs to use by the Public Defenders and District Attorney’s offices and addressed several compliance issues.

This past year the Genesee County Career Center assisted 4,514 job seekers, a 30% increase from 2010 with a 77% placement rate. They also served 267 area businesses by posting employer job openings and hosting businesses for on-site recruitments, as well as screening and assessing the skills of all of their job applicants. Workshops (147) were conducted on high-demand topics.

The County’s Comprehensive Planning Process continued with the Steering Committee, representing the 10 Focus Groups, making its Annual Monitoring Report to the County Legislature in September. The Planning Department continues to support other County agencies and local municipalities as they strive to create a more livable community for our residents. Agriculture remains a cornerstone of our County’s economy. The County Legislature remains committed to continued support of the Agricultural District Program and the long-term protection of the County’s agricultural base including the preservation of prime farmland. The Household Hazardous Waste Collection and an ongoing program supporting recycling are going strong and continue to attract strong participation throughout the GLOW region.

Probation supervision remains as the most cost effective form of an alternative to incarceration for the nearly 700 adults and juveniles in Genesee County. As a mandated function with strong NYS oversight, funding remains critical at the state and local level to support this vital function of the criminal and juvenile justice system. Presently the NYS reimbursement to Probation Departments continues at 12-13%, which is far short of the 48.5% required by statute. 

Quiet times are the fruit of a successful Public Health Program, 2011 was such a year. Mandates and deliverables were accomplished on time and on budget overall. Program reviews and NYS Audits proved favorable. On the flip side, it was retirement time for key personnel in the department and their departure represented a loss of valuable experience. The demands of an increasingly tight budget are being felt at every level.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office continues to provide excellent public safety and correctional services to the residents of Genesee County. The Sheriff’s Office took a zero tolerance position with regard to underage drinking and the deputies made over 500 unlawful possessions of alcohol arrests at Darien Lake. In addition deputies took 175 drunk drivers off the roads. The jail saw an increase in population of male inmates during 2011, averaging 71 per day and Genesee Justice monitored almost 1,600 offenders. The Sheriff’s Office partnered with GCC offering the facilities at the Animal Shelter for Vet Tech Students.  Emergency Dispatch Center handled over 175,000 phone calls, including over 28,000 9-1-1 calls, leading to over 50,000 calls for service. The Sheriff’s Office was fortunate to receive over $149,000 in grant funding.

In difficult economic times, more of our citizens turn to the Department of Social Services for assistance. Caseloads in public assistance, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and HEAP continue to grow. Families are stressed and also require more help with their children...Our DSS has been doing the best possible job to deliver services while controlling costs.

During 2011 the Veterans Service Agency moved and became co-located with the Department of Social Services.  The move allowed for increased administrative support for processing all of our veterans’ claims for compensation, pensions, education, etc. at a cost saving. With the end of the Iraq War and the reduction in the military, there are more veterans returning.  Presently, there is a huge backlog of claims at the federal level and this trickles down to the local level and is causing an increased number of claims pending.  When the backlog is combined with the high rate of unemployment for our veterans, it produces a less than ideal homecoming for the individuals who earned and deserve the best.

The Weights and Measures Department had a good and productive year in spite of budget constraints. Scales and liquid measuring devices were checked, devices were inspected, milk tanks were calibrated, store packages were checked and price comparisons were performed. Consumers are paying higher prices for nearly everything, the least we can do is to insure they are receiving their money’s worth.

A long-awaited partnership with the City of Batavia was formalized in 2011. The youth bureaus entered into contract for the County to provide administrative oversight assigning 20% of the Executive Directors time for the City Youth Bureau. This collaboration reduces expenses and is mutually beneficial to both agencies. Sadly, 2011 was also the year when Debbie Kerr Rosenbach retired.  She had been the Director of the County Youth Bureau for many years and initiated many innovative programs which directly impacted the young people in this region in a most positive way. All this was accomplished during a time of shrinking resources. 

The District Attorney’s Office prosecuted a charge of predatory sexual assault against a child. It was the first time the office prosecuted such a charge. It was remarkable because of the degree of interagency cooperation which came together for the trial of this offense. The trial resulted in a guilty verdict, with a sentence of 15 years to life. A former member of the District Attorney’s Office received a high honor at the NYS District Attorney’s Winter Conference. The prestigious Robert M. Morgenthau Award recognizes those whose professional accomplishments, honesty, integrity and commitment to justice exemplify an extra ordinary high standard…congratulations to David Gann!

We are still having a difficult time even approaching a break-even financial status, or manageable fiscal support with the Nursing Home. We have made, and continue to make, positive changes based on recommendations to increase efficiency and lower costs. But for every step forward, we seem to be forced back two steps. There are additional requirements to meet new standards, frozen reimbursement levels, a changing system of payment, and increasing costs for care…all combining to add to increasing the financial burden on the County.  Presently we contribute over two and one half million dollars every year to just meet expenses. And this amount grows each year. How long can we afford this?  With the tax cap and our already high tax rate, not long. The Legislature continues to take a proactive approach as we deal with this crucial issue.

Genesee County should be very proud of the achievements of our GCEDC. The recent ground breaking by Alpina in our newly opened Agricultural Park, and even more recently the announcement of the Wave Project in the same Park promises an investment of $206 million dollars in the economic health of our area and a resulting 186 jobs. The GCEDC was able to participate in 30 project “wins” and enabled $51.3 million of investment over the 2011 fiscal year. There were additional achievements, new cooperative workforce-training programs, businesses expanding, jobs retained….do not think that all this would have happened without the inspired and dedicated work of the GCEDC and their team. Their success is our success. Great work!

The County Clerk’s Office has been busy with the implementation of several new programs made possible by contract enhancements with their computer company. They are now able to issue plastic permits for pistols, as well as image, index, and merge 210 years of mapping into the system, issue veteran’s ID cards for the popular “Return the Favor” discount program for veterans, to be announced soon. This new technology has allowed for the scanning of criminal and civil court records to allow for direct access and paper-free transmission to the Court system of these records. And, in spite of economic fluctuations and a recession in the motor vehicle industry, the Motor Vehicle Office was able to maintain sufficient revenue to operate their office with a net profit of over $600,000. Many out of county clientele use our MVO for registration, license renewals, and an increasing number of dealers who use the Genesee County MVO for all their transactions. Much of the credit for this goes to a staff that emphasizes friendly, thorough service.

In January of 2011, we sent prescription discount cards out to all of our citizens.  These were at no cost to the county. The program was introduced by the New York State Association of Counties, and during the course of this year has saved the 4,874 participants 52% on their prescription costs. As you might suspect, the program continues to grow.

I hope you can tell from this brief synopsis that our county is working hard to maintain a positive direction. And we are succeeding. The legislators are working hard to reach out to their constituents with information, petitions, meetings, and resolutions about the need for immediate mandate reform. There is legislation ready to pass…but it hasn’t happened yet. Legislator Lawrence has headed up the (Mandate) Medicaid Reform outreach and through her efforts, the other eight legislators, and the cooperation of our constituents we are turning in over 1,500 signatures from NYS citizens demanding Medicaid Reform.

Yes, we are keeping our heads above the water, but we can’t tread water forever.  I remain hopeful that 2012 is the year for State leaders to step up and work with their partners in County government to enact real reforms that will enable us to maintain and enhance the local safety and quality of life programs that will attract and keep families and businesses here in New York. You can help. This is not a political issue…it is a survival issue. In every case, when there has been a real change at the state level…it was because the people back home insisted. Let your voices be heard.

The pressures evidenced in the New York State Association of Counties state wide “9 for 90” mandate relief initiative coupled with the new state imposed property tax cap have given county governments across New York State a focused rallying cry and platform to demand change and real long-term mandate relief. These reforms and solutions must originate in Albany. The state Legislature and Executive in the past have made passing reference and lukewarm commitment to such relief. Now is the time for them, with our help, to pass real reform measures, provide real property tax relief by changing and decreasing the nine mandates…most especially Medicaid, presently consuming 40% of our tax dollars each and every year. 

In 2004-2005 our message was “Don’t Come Home without it (the Medicaid Growth Cap)." In 2012, the message to our elected State delegation and Governor Cuomo has to be “Don’t Adopt a Budget without Medicaid Reform and Local Medicaid Share Relief.”

Now that’s a plan we could live with. Right?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Mary Pat Hancock elected president of the New York State Association of Counties

post by Howard Owens in genesee county, legislature, Mary Pat Hancock

Press release:

County delegates from across the state recently elected the Chair of the Genesee County Legislature Mary Pat Hancock to serve as president of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) during their annual meeting.

“Chairwoman Hancock has proven to be a wise voice on the NYSAC board and a committed advocate for counties. We are pleased our members have elected her to serve in this leadership capacity,” said NYSAC Immediate Past President William Ryan, a Westchester County legislator.

“I am honored to serve as president and to continue the work which is necessary to address the serious challenges we face,” said the Honorable Hancock. “Implementing an effective property tax cap, redesigning Medicaid and improving the process for State reimbursement to counties for delivering state services locally will be our top priorities.”

Hancock has served on the Governor’s Task Force on Local Government Reform, and is a 2002 recipient of the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Award. She currently serves on the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council and is chair of the Genesee Transportation Council.

“New York county leaders are facing unprecedented challenges in governing and we are fortunate to have Mary Pat Hancock of Genesee County to dedicate her talent, passion and commitment in a leadership position,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State, including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm

It wasn't an easy year in 2009, but the county got through it, Hancock says in annual address

hancock_speech.jpg

County officials knew at the start of the journey that 2009 would be a rocky road, and there were many valleys to pass through, but the county managed to ride it out without raising taxes or severely cutting services.

That's the state of the county, according to Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature.

Hancock reviewed 2009 and looked ahead some during her annual address in the Legislature chambers Wednesday night.

"In addition to the known and announced reduction in state aid, we had many fiscal surprises, none of them good," said Hanckock. "They ranged from delayed payment for mandated and already provided services, to lower sales-tax revenues and to retroactive cuts in reimbursements. These continue to plague us. I am not an alarmist, this county has good and varied resources and will survive, but not by hiding its head in the sand -- the fiscal crisis is far from over."

Key points from tonight's address:

  • The rising cost of operating the Genesee County Nursing Home. General Fund contributions to its operation are expected to exceed $4.4 million by 2014.
  • GCEDC participated in 23 projects with an investment in the county of $50 million.
  • The number of Genesee County families turning to the Department of Social Services for Medicaid, Food Stamps and Home Energy Assistance continues to grow. Also up are reports to Child Protective Services for investigation. "It’s not an easy task to raise children in the best of circumstances, and the job becomes even harder when so many of our residents are struggling with their financial difficulties," Hancock said.
  • More than 6,000 residents have received seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines.
  • The downturn in the county has contributed to an ever-increasing caseload for the Office of the Public Defender.
  • Federal stimulus money has meant the Job Development Bureau has seen its budget double. The number of clients in job training has increased 93 percent.
  • Genesee Community College’s enrollment hit an all-time record during the fall 2009 semester with 7,208 credit students.

After listing these and other departmental challenges and accomplishments, Hancock said:

"It is impossible for me to end this address without acknowledging the impact of this difficult year on our constituents. We relate to the high level of frustration and fear experienced as jobs were lost, retirement funds shrank and healthcare costs soared. Change was promised in good faith, but no one anticipated the type of change. It is said that the economy is back on track. Genesee County’s unemployment is the lowest in the area, but it is still too high. Small and large businesses are still struggling. Folks are having a hard time meeting their financial obligations. We hear you and will continue to do everything possible to contain the costs and support and attract and retain 'economy builders.'"

mary_pat_hancock.jpgHancock then called on the State Legislature to clean up its act and start governing with greater fiscal responsibility.

"It is all about jobs," Hancock said. "All efforts should focus on a new and improved economic development plan for New York State. Is it impossible? No. Empower local governments, regional governments like counties, individually or acting in groups, to attract and maintain jobs to turn the state around. Counties should have a say about what industries contribute to their communities."

Hancock closed with a call for all county residents to participate in the 2010 Census.

"It is crucial to return your form," Hancock said. "Take the 10 minutes to be counted. So much depends on the data received from this one effort. Do what you can to make this an accurate count."

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