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January 29, 2014 - 6:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, bergen.

A car vs. pole accident is reported in the area of 6520 N. Lake Road, Bergen.

Unknown injuries.

Power is out in the area.

Bergen fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 6:34 p.m.: Responders advised to use caution upon approach. Possible pole and wires down.

UPDATE 6:35 p.m.: Chief on scene. One vehicle off the road.

UPDATE 6:37 p.m.: The car missed the pole, but hit the guy wire. Power is out in the area. No injuries. The chief says the assignment can be held to just him. No need for fire or EMS.

UPDATE 6:39 p.m.: The pole is the responsibility of Bergen Electric.

UPDATE 6:45 p.m.: Bergen chief back in service. Scene turned over to law enforcement.

January 29, 2014 - 4:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire.

Investigators are still trying determine what caused a fire that started in the bedding department of Bed, Bath & Beyond late Monday afternoon.

The fire caused extensive damage to the fixtures and inventory in the northeast corner of the store.

Flames reached floor to ceiling.

The Sheriff's Office is in charge of the investigation.

Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster said investigators have interviewed employees and customers.

Physical material in the store has also been examined for any clues as to the cause of the fire.

Previously: Firefighters battle flames and cold during fire at Bed, Bath & Beyond

January 29, 2014 - 3:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in accidents, bergen.

A two-car, head-on collision with injuries is reported at Route 262 and South Lake Avenue, Bergen. Bergen fire is responding along with medics.

January 29, 2014 - 3:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, alexander, accidents.

Two accidents (possibly even one and the same) are reported in the area of 9600 Alexander Road. A vehicle is well off the road into a field. A gold van is parked at the side of the road to try and point responders to the damaged vehicle. Alexander fire is responding along with medics.

UPDATE 3:07 p.m.: It's on Route 98 north of Pike Road. A responder on scene says the driver is out of the vehicle and appears not to be injured. They are checking the vicinity to make sure there are no other accidents.

January 29, 2014 - 2:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, bergen.

The snow was really blowing out in Bergen and Byron this afternoon.

Top photo is from Route 262 looking south down Batavia Byron Road. Bottom photo is a little further east on Route 262.

January 29, 2014 - 1:43pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom.

Songs of the South will be performed by local musicians at the Holland Land Office Museum at a fundraiser Friday entitled "Rebel Music Night." Can I get a hell yeah, y'all?

Come enjoy traditional Confederate Civil War songs and Southern Rock classics made famous by artists such as ZZ Top, The Outlaws, The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Charlie Daniels, Creedence Clearwater Revivial and Lynryd Skynryd.

Callin' all the loud and proud who cotton to music from below the Mason-Dixon line, the long-haired country boys, those Georgia peaches, Tar Heels, and their ilk. Or just people who want to support the museum and listen to some good tunes.

Cost is $7. Time is 7 to 10 p.m. The museum is located in the City of Batavia at 131 W. Main St.

The Charlie Daniels Band

Lynyrd Skynyrd

"I'm a Good 'Ol Rebel"

"The Bonnie Blue Flag"

January 29, 2014 - 12:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather, Vine Street.

Alex Roberts was walking with her son Taariq, 3, this morning down Vine Street after dropping her daughter off at school.

Today is our eighth-straight day of lows in single digits, but a warming trend starts tomorrow with a predicted low of 23 degrees. Highs in the low 30s are predicted for Friday and Saturday.

There's also snow in the forecast.

A wind chill advisory remains in effect until 3 p.m.

January 29, 2014 - 7:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, Oakfield, Pavilion, weather, Alabama.

Oakfield-Alabama schools are closed this morning, due to weather.

Pavilion school is closed, due to plumbing issues.

Pavilion students scheduled to take a regents exam at Pavilion High School are to report to the elementary building at their scheduled test time.

The National Weather Service has a wind chill advisory in effect until 10 a.m. with wind chills expected to be 15 to 25 degrees below zero.

January 28, 2014 - 10:19pm
posted by Nick Sabato in sports.

This season has been a different one for the Elba girl’s basketball squad. Prior to this season, they had not lost a regular season game since Feb. 8, 2010.

This season they already have two losses within the Genesee Region League, but it looks like things are back to usual as the Lancers won their fifth-straight game, topping Northstar Christian, 69-51.

The Lancers lost four starters from a season ago, forcing players into roles that they have never had to fill. But, it appears as if they are finally settling in.

“It has taken some time,” said first year Head Coach Tom Redband. “All of these girls are in different roles than they ever have been before, but they have worked hard all season.”

One player in a different role is senior point guard Kelsey Bezon, who has taken on a do-it-all role.

Bezon filled the stat sheet again tonight, scoring a game-high 22 points, grabbing seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

“Kelsey has never been asked to be a full-time scorer,” Redband said. “She could score more if she wanted to, but she is a pass-first player. She loves making the pass and getting her teammates involved.”

Elba jumped out fast on the Knights, scoring 23 points in the first quarter and forcing nine turnovers in the opening frame.

Northstar boasted two players who average nearly 22 points per game each in Mary Roberts and Taylor Harris, and the Lancers got after them early.

“We knew we had to stop Roberts and Harris,” Redband said. “We made it a point of emphasis in practice to stop those two.”

The Lancers took a 17-point lead into halftime, due to Haley Brown, who scored 11 of her 14 points in the opening half.

Halfway through the fourth quarter Northstar freshman Madison Motsay hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to nine, but Elba rattled off five straight to put the game away.

Junior Alyssa Bogue was solid all night for the Lancers (11-2), scoring 18 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and five steals. Brown also added eight rebounds and five steals.

The two star Knights still managed to put up impressive numbers, with Roberts scoring 19 points to go along with 14 rebounds and four steals.

Harris may have had the highlight of the night, notching her 1,000th career point in the third quarter. She finished with a team-high 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.

Motsay also added 10 points for Northstar Christian (10-2).

January 28, 2014 - 9:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in education, NY-27, chris collins.

It's one of the lost gems of GOP talking points -- eliminate the federal Department of Education.

There was a time it was a common theme on the GOP campaign trail, but it hasn't been heard much in recent years.

Until today.

Rep. Chris Collins made that very point during a telephone press conference with local and regional media (per capita, Genesee County had the best representation with the Daily News, WBTA and The Batavian all on the line).

"I would wipe out the Department of Education tomorrow," Collins said. "That's money that's being squandered and washed away in Washington, D.C. That money should be moved back to the states, where the 10th Amendment says it should be."

What has Collins particularly riled about the Department of Education are the federal mandates flowing from the bureaucracy and piling up on local school districts, particularly Common Core.

Collins offered some advise to President Obama while making his point about the burdensome federal agency.

"I'd like to hear the president admit that Common Core is an abject failure," Collins said. "It's causing stress, strain and angst with our third- and fourth-graders. It's time to admit that the federal government should not have a role to play in the education of our kids under the 10th Amendment. That should be at the local level, letting parents and teachers decide how we educate our kids."

UPDATE: Here's a video response from Collins to the president's State of the Union speech.

January 28, 2014 - 9:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, NY-27, chris collins, farm bill.

It's a compromise that many thought a contemporary version of Congress could never pass, but Rep. Chris Collins said that even if he wishes some things were different, he plans to vote on a new farm bill that's ready for consideration by the full House.

The compromise bill was announced today and Collins held a telephone press conference to discuss his support of the measure.

"It's a very good bill, but there's something in it that pretty much everyone doesn't like," said Collins, who sits on the Agriculture Committee.

The 1,000-page bill ends decades of direct subsidies to farmers that paid out roughly $5 billion annually and replaces it with a crop insurance program designed to provide the same measure of financial management against disastrous weather or substantial price fluctuations. 

Several "outdated and ineffective dairy programs," according to an ag committee statement, are eliminated. Dairy producers will be able to voluntarily enter into a margin protection program that will not have government mandated supply controls.

Speaker John Boehner opposed the former programs as "Soviet-style" market manipulation.

The other major reforms in the farm bill deal with SNAP, better known as food stamps. The reforms are expected to eliminate $9 billion in fraud and abuse.

In all, supporters of the bill are claiming it will save taxpayers $23 billion.

Collins said it will particularly provide local dairy farmers a range of certainty around which they can plan production.

"Now they can plan farm activity around a new crop insurance program and they know what it's going to look like for the next five years," Collins said. "It's a big relief to have this move forward and come to a vote."

Those who wanted the regulation of catfish to be handled by the FDA instead of the USDA won't be happy with the bill, Collins said, which is an example of how the legislation won't make everybody happy.

There were some provisions that dairy farmer associations initially opposed.

But even the industry groups eventually came around and supported the bill.

A statement from Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation:

"That process is now complete. Despite its limitations, we believe the revised program will help address the volatility in farmers’ milk prices, as well as feed costs, and provide appropriate signals to help address supply and demand.

"The program that we have worked to develop establishes a reasonable and responsible national risk management tool that will give farmers the opportunity to insure against catastrophic economic conditions, when milk prices drop, feed prices soar, or the combination. By limiting how much future milk production growth can be insured, the measure creates a disincentive to produce excess milk. The mechanism used is not what we would have preferred, but it will be better than just a stand-alone margin insurance program that lacks any means to disincentivize more milk production during periods of over-supply.

Also unhappy, Collins said, will be those who think food stamps should never be touched.

"Let's be clear, no one who deserves food stamps is getting cuts," Collins said.

As an example, Collins noted that under the old regime anybody who received federal heating assistance, even if it was just $1 per month, was eligible to receive food stamps, even without any income or asset test. That ends with the new program, Collins said.

"It was a backdoor way for people to get food stamps who didn't deserve them," Collins said. "It's good government in this day of deficit spending that the money is going to go to the people who truly deserve it."

Asked if Democrats might to used the changes to SNAP as a campaign issue against those "heartless Republicans," Collins said, his message to them is go ahead and try.

"One thing for sure is that distortion of truth is what politics and commercials are all about more than substance," Collins said. "I'm sure there are those who will try to claim that this is a cut in food stamps for those who deserve it and if they do make that claim, it's a lie.

"Anyone who is opposed to this bill is somebody who is very partisan in nature and not interested in saving taxpayers money," Collins added. "I'd turn that back on anyone who wanted that debate and I'd turn it back in about two seconds."

January 28, 2014 - 8:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire.

A small fire, possibly caused by a cigarette, is reported on the porch of a residence on South Main Street.

Batavia fire is responding.

UPDATE 8:25 p.m.: The fire is out. Light smoke in the house.

January 28, 2014 - 7:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in economy, jobs.

For the third month in a row, Genesee County's unemployment rate remained steady at 6.1 percent, according to state officals, who released December figures today.

That's better than the 8.2 percent of a year ago.

The Upstate's rate of 6.4 percent, down from 8.4 percent a year ago, brought a bit of jubilation to the governor's office. Cuomo's office released this statement:

“The local unemployment rates released today by the State Department of Labor are great news for Upstate New York. The numbers speak for themselves – the unemployment rate for Upstate New York dropped from 8.4 percent in December 2012 to 6.4 percent by the end of 2013. These figures prove Upstate New York’s economy is heading in the right direction and that our focus on revitalizing the region is delivering results. More needs to be done. This year, we will build on that work to deliver another on-time budget that creates jobs in every region, connects New Yorkers with new economic opportunities, and continues to make our communities more prosperous.”

Livingston County's rate dropped from November to December, 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent.  Orleans' rate is 8.4 percent and Wyoming is 7.3.

January 28, 2014 - 6:58pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, fire.

A water flow alarm has sounded at Bed Bath & Beyond on Veterans Memorial Drive in the Town of Batavia. In addition, the smoke detector and "fire pump alarm" are also reported to be going off. Town of Batavia Fire Department is responding. Yesterday a blaze tore through the store's bedding department.

January 28, 2014 - 6:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, pembroke, corfu, Tonawanda Indian Reservation.

Geraldine Horsefall
(photo from NYSP)

A Pembroke grandmother is the focal point of a multi-agency investigation into drug dealing in WNY, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in Buffalo today.

Geraldine Horsefall is accused of obtaining hydrocodone pills from various individuals -- many of whom were arrested as part of the drug sweep -- and selling them to residents on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation and in Erie and Niagara counties.

She's also accused of buying and selling cocaine as part of an organization that moved a large quantity of the narcotic.

The arrests were announced as part of the conclusion of an 18-month investigation called Operation Lockport, which led to 160 combined criminal counts against 25 people. The exact list of charges were not released.

At the press conference today, Schneiderman described Horsefall as a linchpin in the operation who allegedly enlisted the aid of her children and brought her grandchildren along while allegedly selling drugs.

“You know when someone brings small children along with them to make themselves a more effective drug dealer, that’s about as low as you can get," Schneiderman said.

The arrest of Horsefall, 59, and her alleged accomplices were announced along with several other arrests in a second cocaine dealing investigation in Erie and Niagara counties

The other investigation also led to the discovery of bi-monthly cockfights on an Indian reservation in Niagara County.

“Drug trafficking rings like these infect our neighborhoods and tear apart our communities,” Schneiderman said. “Today’s arrests strike a significant blow to the drug trade across Western New York. My office, with our strong collaboration with law enforcement partners, will fight to make our communities safer by rooting out large-scale narcotics trafficking networks.”

Local law enforcement agents from Erie, Niagara and Genesee counties -- along with members of the Genesee County Local Drug Enforcement Task Force, State Police and DEA -- all participated in the investigation, which included undercover operations, GPS tracking devices and hundreds of hours of covert surveillance.

“It is through the combined efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement that these dangerous individuals are now off our streets and out of our communities,” NYSP Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said. “We worked together identifying these dealers, pinpointing their drug activity and shutting down their enterprises.

Other Genesee County residents charged with crimes as a result of the investigation are: Rylyn Horsefall, 33, of Pembroke; Lori Schwab, 33, of Corfu; and Eric Parker, 38, of Pembroke.

Also arrested was 42-year-old Michelle King, of Akron, reportedly a nurse in a doctor's office who allegedly helped supply controlled substances to Horsefall.

Operation Lockport led to the seizure of approximately two kilograms of cocaine and more than $60,000 in cash, officials said.

Members of the alleged narcotics ring would transport cocaine from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to WNY, authorities said.

Investigators believe that the suspects would pack cocaine into the soles and heels of doctored pairs of shoes and then cut up the shoes once in Buffalo. The shoes, along with box cutters, razor blades and utility knives, were allegedly found in a vehicle belonging to Vincent Mundy, of Fort Lauderdale, who was arrested this morning.

DEA Special Agent in Charge James Hunt said Operation Lockport totally dismantled a complete drug-dealing operation.

"Today's arrests have put an end to their drug network, arresting crew members at all levels -- those who sold crack cocaine and cocaine on the streets, to the resellers, to the suppliers who transported the drugs from Florida to Buffalo concealed in soles of shoes," Hunt said. "I commend the dedication and teamwork of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners throughout this investigation."

January 28, 2014 - 4:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, accidents.

A four-car accident is reported at Main Street and Porter Avenue. There are believed to be two minor injuries. City fire and Mercy medics are responding along with police.

UPDATE 4:59 p.m.: Damages are minor and the people involved may be sign-offs.

UPDATE 5:02 p.m.: The accident is not blocking traffic.

January 28, 2014 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Budget.

Free Wi-Fi and free electricity for electric cars were all but shot down Monday night during a budget work session at City Hall.

Meanwhile, Council members remain divided on whether to hire a new assistant city manager.

The argument for: There are too many tasks on City Manager Jason Molino's plate and after years of budget cuts, the rest of the city staff is overloaded as well.

The argument against: The money shouldn't be spent. If something is worth doing, current staff can handle it or it can be outsourced.

An assistant city manager would take on numerous tasks in the city, but one of the primary focuses of the job would be handling the complex array of tasks and regulations associated with lower flood insurance premiums for local residents in floodplain areas.

"If we're going to get any of these things done, we have to put forward the effort and we have to put forward the focus to get these things done," Councilman Pierluigi Cipollone said. "We can't ask the other departments to pick up the slack. We've already cut back to get out of the financial hole we were in. We cut back personnel and I think we've cut back as far as we can. We've gotten out of the financial issues we were in. Now we need to build the quality of life we all want."

Councilmembers Patti Pacino and John Canale both expressed support for the assistant city manager position.

"We really, really need this extra person," Pacino said.

Council members Rosemary Christian, Kathy Briggs and Eugene Jankowski spoke against the position.

"We can't do everything at once," Briggs said. "Prioritize and contract out the rest."

Christian said she thought Molino was budgeting too high a salary for the position.

Molino was originally hired as assistant city manager eight years ago at $59,000 a year.

"I'm opposed unless we can come up with the position for less than $60,000 a year," Christian said.

Molino said if the position had existed for all of the last eight years, the regular pay increases granted to non-union staff would have brought that salary up to $63,000, which is at the low end of the range proposed for the potential new hire. The top end is $77,000.

Jankowski said he doesn't think it was communicated clearly when the new position was first proposed exactly why a new assistant city manager is needed. The opportunity to clearly communicate the need has been lost, he said.

"There is a misunderstanding (in the community) for some reason," Jankowski said. "I've gotten numerous complaints about the proposal. Even though it may be justified, that ship has sailed. The public has made up its mind. We don't have time to correct that in a reasonable budget period this year."

While the assistant city manager position may be up in the air, there is not likely to be any extra free Wi-Fi signals floating through Batavia's ether any time soon.

And if you own an electric car, forget about stopping in Batavia for free juice.

Christian was ready to kill both proposals flat out last night and tried to drum support for a vote. Only Canale spoke in favor of the electric car charging stations and there was no support for free Wi-Fi.

"I'm in marketing," Canale said. "The attention we could get, the publicity we could get would be good for Downtown at a very minimal cost."

Briggs said taxpayers shouldn't subsidize free electricity for electric car drivers.

"The electric companies are looking to do this sort of stuff," Briggs said. "Let them do it on their own and see if they can make a dime on it. I don't think the taxpayers should pick up the tab."

Added Christian, "I think BID should handle it. I don't see why taxpayers should handle it."

The opposition to free Wi-Fi included the notion that most people who want always-on Internet have smartphones and tablets now, and that if businesses think free Wi-Fi will bring in customers, then businesses should pay for it (the city's proposal, to be clear, doesn't include putting free Wi-Fi in business locations, but in public spaces such as Jackson Square).

Pacino said, and Council President Brooks Hawley agreed, that the council shouldn't rush into any decision on either item, so council members decided to hold any vote on scrapping the proposals for another day.

In another part of the budget discussion, Christian said she would like to see at least half of any VLT money that comes in this year used to lower taxes next year.

VLT funds are sporadically distributed by the state and comes from profits generated by the video lottery machines at Batavia Downs.

Molino said that really wouldn't be a very good idea.

"I would not recommend using that money to offset your taxes, because while you may use $150,000 of it to offset your tax rate next year, what happens when you don't get that money in a future year?" Molino said. "Now you've got a $150,000 hole in your budget. So now you're increasing taxes or cutting services to make up for it.

"That is the exact reason, in a different format, why the city's financial position worsened over time. It was using things like the sale of property, assuming you were going to sell property and make $200,000 a year off of that. That's a lot of property to sell and you budgeted that year after year after year. In order to do something like that, you need to ensure you're going to have a steady stream of revenue."

January 28, 2014 - 10:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council, lt. eugene jankowski.

A request by newly elected City Councilman Eugene Jankowski to amend council rules clarifying how and when council members can contact city staff received little support from the rest of the council Monday night.

And when City Manager Jason Molino said the current rules already allow a council member to do what Jankowski was asking, Jankowski said he was satisfied with Molino putting that on record and let the matter drop.

"I guess I'm happy with it," Jankowski said. "If the rules already say that, then I guess there was some misunderstanding because I was told that when I e-mailed department heads and requested a meeting, instead of being provided a date and a time, I was told I must go through your office."

Jankowski's position is that just because he's been elected to council, he shouldn't lose the right of any citizen of the city to go to a member of city staff, particularly department heads, and ask questions.

What Jankowski said he doesn't want to see happen is give council members the leeway to give orders to city staff or intefer with the conduct of their jobs or get involved in union issues, but he does believe council members have the right and obligation to gather information.

Molino said the rules are in place to ensure proper supervision of employees.

"There's one person responsible for their work, and that's me," Molino said. "That's what you hold me accountable to."

Jankowski is a former lieutenant in Batavia PD, served a time as interim chief and was forced to retire when Molino and Chief Shawn Heubusch decided to restructure the department last year and eliminate all lieutenant positions.

The former cop and city manager have a long history of being at odds with each other and Jankowski wasn't happy about being forced out of his job.

Jankowski received the most votes in November's council member at large election.

He said he did go through Molino to schedule a meeting with Heubusch to discuss, among other things, the proposed "neighborhood sweep" proposal. Jankowski, who initially proposed the idea, said he came away from the meeting believing it's a good idea, though perhaps inappropriately named.

"There may be complaints we should look into, maybe complaints of a sensitive nature, maybe it's a complaint about him," Jankowski said. "If we ran right to him and told him or had to go through him it might cause some sort of problems. It might not be appropriate."

Only Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian spoke up in favor of Jankowski's proposal, but she also said she's never had an issue going to any department head and asking questions. She just does it and nobody has ever told her to stop, she said.

"If you have a question you should be able to talk to any department head," Christian said. "We represent the people of Batavia. We don't represent Jason. Sorry Jason."

Molino said there's never been an issue with council members going to department heads and asking questions.

"There's nothing in the rules that prohibits you from contacting department heads and asking questions," Molino said. "When you ask questions, sure I find out about it, but I usually follow up with, 'did you get your answer, can I do anything more?' "

Christian said that's exactly what happens.

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