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Monday, April 22, 2013 at 10:19 pm

The former Sheriff's Office building owes some of its grandure to Medina sandstone

post by Howard Owens in history, Sheriff's Office

Tom Rivers is publishing a series of stories for OrleansHub.com about grand buildings in Western New York that were built with Medina sandstone.

Today: The beautiful building at 14 West Main Street that was once the Sheriff's Office and is now home to Genesee Justice and connected to the jail.

Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

Grants and bond will pay for $10.8 million upgrade to emergency communications system

post by Howard Owens in Sheriff's Office

The county's 22-year-old emergency communication system is antiquated and flawed, according to Sheriff Gary Maha, which is why the county receiving more than $7 million in grants to help pay for a new system is a welcome turn of events.

The county has wanted to upgrade the system for a few years, but the project is expensive.

In all, between the grants and a $4.2 million county bond, more than $10.8 million will be spent on the new system.

"The low-band paging system is antiquated," Maha said. "I don't know if you ever listen to some of these monitors that the firemen are carrying, but you can hardly hear them at times, especially on the outskirts of the county. We've been working on it for years and finally we got a revenue source through the state and NextTel to put toward this project."

The state grant of more than $5 million is coming through the Department of Homeland Security and the FCC is requiring NexTel to help pay for rebanding of 800 MHz systems where their communication system conflicts with emergency communication systems.

Still, the county will need to borrow $4.2 million to pay for the entire system.

"We've been working with a system for the last 22 years where we have limited coverage," said Steve Sharpe, director of emergency communications. "What we're trying to do is capitalize on the reconfiguration and the grant, combining all these funding resources together to build out a system that meets our public safety needs for our responders in the field.

"That's the end goal because this isn't just about the 800 MHz; it's also about VHF high band paging. We're trying to build a more reliable paging network for our responders, especially our fire and EMS folks. At the end of the day it's about life safety."

On Wednesday, the Ways and Means Committee passed a series of resolutions that authorize the county to proceed with the upgrades, from accepting the grants, to issuing the bands and approving a contract with Harris Corporation, out of Rochester, to build the new system.

A key factor behind the availability of Homeland Security funds for the project is the push to build a nationwide 800 Mhz channel that all responders can share regardless of jurisdiction or agency in an emergency.

Use of the inter-operable channel in Western New York is being held up, at least in part, by Genesee County, because the county is using the 800 MHz band specified for the channel.

This project will move that portion of the county's emergency communication off that band to another band.

Part of the upgrade project is to build three new radio antenna towers in the county.

There are three now: Cedar Street (pictured), Pavilion and Pembroke. 

The Sheriff's Office is looking at potential new locations in Darien, Bergen and Alabama.

All of these changes of course, will effect the hundreds of county residents who regularly monitor scanner channels.

Residents with analog scanners will need to buy new scanners and have them programmed to the correct channels. 

Public use of scanners is a benefit to local law enforcement, Maha said, and the new system's ability to encrypt transmissions will be used only when necessary.

"We will have encryption available, but it's not our intent to be on encryption all the time," Maha said. "There may be times when we need to go on encryption, but people out there who have scanners will be able to continue listening to the day-to-day activities."

People with scanners, Maha said, help solve crimes.

"We're few and far between out there," Maha said. "We need all the eyes we can possibly have. If we have a bank robbery, we put that information out over the air so some citizen down the road may see the vehicle we want and can call 9-1-1. It's a benefit to us to have the people out there watching. They're our eyes and ears out there."

Monday, April 15, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Deputies handle more felony cases in first quarter of 2013, Sheriff reports

post by Howard Owens in crime, Sheriff's Office

In the first quarter of 2013, felony investigations in Genesee County have increased 71 percent over the same period in 2012, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Maha delivered a report today to the Legislature's Public Service Committee.

The increase (52 cases up to 89) seems to be the result of more burglary and grand larceny reports.

There have also been more sex-related criminal reports.

For the office of investigations, there's also been a significant increase in pistol license background checks.

For the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force, the most prevalent drugs seen locally are cocaine and marijuana, but there has also been an ongoing increase in the possession and sale of prescription medications, particular hydrocodone and OxyContin.

For road patrol, deputies responded to 7,032 incidents during the quarter. That's a 10-percent hike over 2012.

However, 9-1-1 calls dropped 11 percent year-over-year to 6,033.

Non-9-1-1 calls are up 10 percent to 30,472.

At the same time, the jail population has dropped from an average of 76 inmates to 72, though the female population has increased from 12 to 15.

The Sheriff expects the Commission of Correction to recommend adding seven corrections officers (which includes two supervisor positions).

More female inmates, since they must be housed at facilities in neighboring counties, could add $150,000 in expenses.

Genesee Justice currently has a caseload of 594. There were 203 new case files opened in the first quarter, compared to 214 a year ago.

The Child Advocacy Center handled 65 new cases, compared to 57 a year ago.

For Sheriff's Office administration, the Sheriff continues to work on fundraising for a new K-9. The villages of Bergen and Oakfield renewed their patrol contracts.

Maha anticipates a need for more seasonal deptuties to handle the Darien Lake concert series.  Last year, there were 10 positions. He's requesting 15. Darien Lake reimburses the county for the cost of these positions.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 11:30 am

Sheriff's Office receives $5.4 million grant for radio system upgrade

post by Howard Owens in Sheriff's Office

Press Release:

Genesee County will receive $5,435,095 in grant funding from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Interoperable Communications to upgrade the county’s 800 MHz Public Safety Radio System. Legislature Chair Mary Pat Hancock was notified of the grant award in a letter dated Feb. 4, 2013, from the New York State Division of Homeland Security.

The funding will be used to upgrade the County’s Public Safety Radio System from an analog system to an interoperable digital system. Sheriff Gary T. Maha stated, “The upgrade is necessary to accommodate public safety radio coverage needs, radio tower sites, radio infrastructure, first responder notifications and subscriber radios. There have been some deficiencies in our current radio system which must be corrected.”

The grant funding is part of the $102 million recently awarded to counties through the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant Program.  Genesee County’s application for this grant funding was submitted by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

The Genesee County Legislature Ways and Means Committee, during its meeting on Feb. 20, 2013, recommended establishing a capital project for the radio system upgrade.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Deputy Thompson and Pharoah retiring, Sheriff announces fundraising campaign for new K-9

post by Howard Owens in K-9 Pharoah, Sheriff's Office

Press release:

Sheriff Gary T. Maha announces that K-9 Pharoah will be retiring at the end of 2013. K-9 Pharoah is 11 years of age and has been working with Deputy Brian Thompson since November 2010. Deputy Thompson will be relinquishing his K-9 duties at the end of the year as well. Deputy Thompson has been the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer for the past 13 years.

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office has been able to maintain a K-9 team for the past 13 years with support and donations from the public along with county funding. Public support and donations are vital to the continuation of this worthwhile program and are used to pay for food, veterinary services, training, equipment, and other K-9 related expenses.

The K-9 team is used for search and suspect apprehension, locating missing persons including missing children and Alzheimer patients, contraband and drug searches, tactical tracking, evidence recovery, building searches, patrol, and public presentations.

The Sheriff’s Office will be selecting a new K-9 officer and will be searching for a new K-9. The cost for a police dog ranges from between $5,000 - $8,000 and a 15-week K-9 training course costs approximately $5,000.

The Sheriff’s Office is initiating a public fundraiser for a sustainable K-9 fund for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office. We need your support to continue with our K-9 program and are asking businesses, community organizations and individuals to make a tax-deductible donation to the “Genesee County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Fund”, 165 Park Road, Batavia, New York 14020.

Photo submitted by Sheriff's Office.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Sheriff's Office purchasing five 'bigger' and 'safer' utility vehicles for road patrol

post by Howard Owens in Sheriff's Office

The Sheriff's Office will get five new patrol vehicles in 2013 and according to Deputy Chief Gordon Dibble the new vehicles will be bigger and safer than previous patrol vehicles.

For years, Ford's Crown Victoria has been the reigning queen of police patrol vehicles, but Ford has discontinued the Crown Vic. Last year the Sheriff's Office, like Batavia PD, acquired a souped-up Ford Taurus.

This year the Sheriff's Office is opting for an all-wheel-drive utility vehicle from Ford.

"We got the sedans last year and had some issues, so we think we might be better off with the utilities this year," Dibble said. "They sit up a little higher. They're easier for the guys to get in and out of. There's more space, more room in the back, obviously more cargo space. They do better on ice, and they'll have a longer life and higher trade-in value."

The $111,480 purchase price is accounted for in the county budget and the remainder of the $13,000 budgeted will be used to equip the vehicles for patrol work. The County Highway Department will mark the vehicles, which saves the county money.

The five utility vehicles are replacing five Crown Vics, one from 2008, two from 2009 and two from 2010.

On average, the vehicles have 130,000 miles on them, but miles driven doesn't account for all the wear on the engine from hours and hours of idling (police vehicles are rarely turned off).

The new patrol units are being purchased from the lowest bidder, Delacy Ford, 3061 Transit Road, Elma.

The old vehicles generated a total of $18,300 trade-in allowance.

Friday, January 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm

New deputy joins Sheriff's Office

post by Howard Owens in Sheriff's Office

Press release:

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office recently hired Joseph A. Corona to fill the position of Deputy Sheriff; a position that was left vacant by a Deputy Sheriff who retired on May 5, 2012.

Deputy Corona is a 2004 high school regents graduate from Brockport High School and completed a BOCES Outdoor Power and Marine Technology program. He has participated in several volunteer programs with the Brockport and Rochester Police Departments and also participated in an internship with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Corona was previously employed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and graduated in 2009 from the Detention and Removal Operations Basic Law Enforcement and the Detention and Removal Spanish Language Training Programs. 

He was designated as an Expert Marksman in the firearms course, received the Driver Training Award, and was recognized as an Outstanding Distinguished Graduate and an Outstanding Physical Fitness Graduate for his performances while in the Academy. Deputy Corona recently graduated from the Niagara University Law Enforcement Academy on December 21, 2012 and, again, received the academy’s Physical Fitness award. Joe is also a nationally certified Personal Trainer.

Sheriff Maha stated, “Deputy Corona has been participating in our 14-week field training program and is performing exceptionally well. He will be a great addition to our road patrol.”

Friday, December 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Sheriff's Office presents annual awards to deputies and support staff

post by Howard Owens in Sheriff's Office

Sgt. Thomas Sanfratello, a 20-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was named Officer of the Year today in a ceremony at the Park Road headquarters. Sanfratello, center above, with Undersheriff William Sheron and Sheriff Gary Maha, was honored for his work reorganizing and streamlining many of the operations associated with the records and civil office, road patrol and Darien Lake concert details.

Principal Financial Clerk Mary L. Hecht was honored with the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award in the department for non-sworn members. Hecht received the award for her many years of diligent attention to the financial needs of the jail bureau. According to the award statement, Hecht frequently assists jail staff and the administration with tasks that go well beyond her listed duties to ensure the smooth running of the facility.

Deputy Matthew Butler and Le Roy Police Officer Emily Clark were honored for their handling of a situation in the spring when an attempt by Butler to arrest a member of a family living on Maple Street led to other relatives allegedly intervening. Allegedly, a knife was held to the chest of Butler by one member of the family and Clark sustain a cut on her hand during the altercation. All suspects were subsequently taken into custody without any further injury to suspects or officers. Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble presents the award to Butler and Clark.

Below is a slide show of more pictures from the awards ceremony. To purchase prints of the pictures, click the "view gallery" link in the slide show. After the jump (click on the headline), is the press release from the Sheriff's Office followed by a copy of the text from each award presented today.

Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Sheriff's Office announces pair of promotions, including new head of local drug task force

post by Howard Owens in Sheriff's Office

Press release:

Sheriff Gary T. Maha announces that effective Saturday, Nov. 24, Sergeant Gregory Walker, a 25-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, will be assigned as Criminal Investigation Sergeant and will oversee the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Sergeant Walker started his career with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office in October 1987 as a deputy sheriff. He was promoted to investigator in 1994 and gained experience in drug enforcement. In 1997, he was promoted to sergeant and was assigned as a road patrol supervisor. Sergeant Walker is a 2006 graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy. 

Sheriff Maha also announces the promotion of Deputy Ronald Meides to sergeant, effective Nov. 24. Sergeant Meides will be assigned as a road patrol supervisor.

Deputy Meides started his career with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office in March 1991 as a correction officer. In 1993, he was appointed a deputy sheriff and assigned to road patrol. Deputy Meides was the Sheriff’s Office “Officer of the Year” in 2009 and was recognized by the Kiwanis Club of Batavia in 2011 for his law enforcement service. Deputy Meides has vast experience in road patrol operations and D.W.I. enforcement.

Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 8:50 pm

The last deputy in the jail finishes out 35-year career

post by Howard Owens in Genesee County Jail, Sheriff's Office

For 35 years Bob Zehler has enjoyed his work and his coworkers, but the time has come to hang up his badge, he said.

"I'm not quite ready, but now is the time to get out while I still like the place," Zahler said.

Today, in the basement of the jail, coworkers, colleagues and friends gathered for lunch and cake to celebrate Zahler's career.

Many years ago, the Sheriff's Office switched from hiring deputies to work in the jail to hiring corrections officers. Zahler, a supervisor, is the last deputy sheriff to work in the jail.

As for retirement, the Bethany native said he'll spend more time with his 87-year-old mother, complete remodeling his home -- a project he started 20 years ago -- and take care of some neglected work around the family farm.

With Zahler, left in the photo, is the current director of the jail, Ed Minardo.

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