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August 19, 2015 - 7:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in Darien, accident, corfu.

A motor-vehicle accident with minor injuries is reported at 8834 Alleghany Road. Corfu fire and Mercy medic #4 are responding. The traffic is heavy in the area due to the Chris Brown concert at Darien Lake Performing Art Center. There are "multiple more vehicle accidents" in the queue, says a dispatcher.

August 19, 2015 - 7:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in SunEdison, SolarCity, solar engery, NY-Sun, batavia, land use, agriculture.

Members of the Town of Batavia Planning Board responded coolly to a proposed solar farm off of Bank Street Road at its monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Buffalo-based attorney Gregory P. Scholand, representing SunEdison, outlined the company's plan for 15 acres that are currently cultivated for peas.

The farm would produce two megawatts of electricity, which is enough energy for about 20 300 homes. (CORRECTION)

Scholand told board members he had to be honest -- the solar farm won't create jobs and any increase in assessed value, which means more tax revenue, will be delayed by state-backed incentives for solar installations.

"In other words," said Board Member Lou Paganello, "the only people who will benefit are the landowner, National Grid and SunEdison."

Paganello was one of the most vocal members of the board expressing concerns about the proposal, but he also said he was intrigued by it and doesn't want to just kill the idea without learning more.

He also suggested the town needs to develop a plan for dealing with solar farms since this is unlikely to be the last proposal the town is asked to consider.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to push New York toward a stronger solar future. He's committed $1 billion to NY-Sun with the goal of eventually generating three gigawatts of electricity from sunlight across the state. That would be the equivalent of taking 23,000 cars off the road. According to the project's Web site, that much installed capacity will make the solar industry self-sufficient in New York and subsidies will no longer be needed.

The initiative is the reason SolarCity, a company owned primarily by technology multi-billionaire Elon Musk, is building a manufacturing plant in Buffalo that is expected to create 1,460 jobs. 

Solar is coming on strong nationally, both because of the investments of Musk -- a hard-charging entrepreneur who made his initial fortune with two Internet startups, including PayPal, and who is also responsible for the all-electric Tesla luxury sports car and the Space X program -- and because China flooded the market a couple of years ago with inexpensive solar panels.

That, and greater efficiencies in installation and substantial tax breaks and government subsidies have helped reduce costs for power companies, businesses and homeowners.

It doesn't matter, though, to local planning boards that are being asked to back projects that potentially divert productive land to massive complexes of metal and glass.

In Genesee County, of course, that other productive use is farming, the kind of farming that produces grains, vegetables and milk. How much soil does the local area want to convert to solar panels?

"You open the door for one farm to do this then everyone is going to want to do it," said Board Member Jonathan Long.

Board members seemed unanimous in sharing this concern.

The proposition, put forward by Scholand, that solar farms help reduce an area's carbon footprint, was countered by Long.

"Peas are already taking a lot of carbon out of the air," he said.

The town needs a plan for dealing with solar and Scholand agreed. He said SunEdison fully supports local jurisdictions developing local ordinances to govern solar installations. 

SunEdison hasn't made a formal application yet, but when it does, the Planning Board will be asked to become the lead agency for the environmental review process.

Chairwoman Kathy Jasinski expressed some doubt about the board's willingness to take on that role when its members still know too little about solar energy, the impacts of such farms, how they might affect neighboring property owners and what the benefits might be for local residents. The board needs a quick education in these subjects, Jasinski suggested.

If the Town of Batavia was to reject the proposal, it would be the second time this year that a local government body turned down a solar farm in the county.

In January, SolarCity approached the County about building a solar farm next to County Building #2, but concerns about the viability of SolarCity, whether the subsidies that would help the county save $500,000 and what might eventually become of the infrastructure, led the Ways and Means Committee to reject the proposal.

Meanwhile, solar companies have started pitching subsidized solar installations to local residents. One company had a booth at Summer in the City.

August 19, 2015 - 6:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in accidents, pembroke, indian falls, Darien.

A motor-vehicle accident is reported in front of Pembroke High School at 8750 Alleghany Road. Law enforcement on scene says one person may have a concussion. Pembroke and Indian Falls fire departments are responding, along with Darien ambulance.

August 19, 2015 - 5:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, Darien, pembroke.

Terrance M. Schramm, Terrence D. Johnson, and Leonard A. Johnson III are indicted for the crime of first-degree gang assault, a Class B violent felony. On April 29 in the area of 27 Holland Ave., it is alleged that these three men, with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, and when aided by two or more other persons actually present, caused serious physical injury to a third person. In count two, the defendants are accused of the same crime, by means of a dangerous instrument -- footwear and/or brass knuckles or some other handheld hard object.

Kerri Lynn Forsberg is indicted for the crime of second-degree attempted assault, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on July 6 at United Memorial Medical Center in the City of Batavia, Forsberg, with intent to cause physical injury to a registered nurse, attempted to cause such injury while the nurse was performing an assigned duty.

Eric R. Westermeier is indicted for the crime of driving while intoxicated as a Class D felony. He is accused of operating a 2004 Dodge on March 8 on Erie Street in the Town of Darien while intoxicated. In count two, he is accused of having a BAC of .08 or more at the time as shown by a breath analysis. In count three, he is accused of driving while his ability to do so was impaired by the combined influence of any drug or drugs and alcohol, as a Class D felony. In counts four and five, he is accused of first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation for knowing or having reason to know that his driver's license was suspended, revoked or otherwise withdrawn by authorities, and yet he was driving a motor vehicle and doing so under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

Brock T. Barry is indicted for the crime of driving while intoxicated, as a misdemeanor. He is accused of operating a 2013 Jeep on March 22 on Route 77 in the Town of Pembroke while intoxicated. In count two, he is accused of driving while intoxicated, per se, as a misdemeanor, for having a BAC of .08 or more at the time. In count three, Barry is accused of aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree, a Class E felony, for knowing or having reason to know that at the time his driver's license was suspended, revoked or otherwise withdrawn by authorities, and yet he was driving a motor vehicle and doing so under the influence of alcohol.

August 19, 2015 - 4:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, Wiener Dog Races.

Press release:

Representatives from Batavia Downs announced today that there's a dearth of dachshunds to race in Sunday’s Family Fun Day Wiener Dog Race.

Each year 80 wiener dogs vie for glory after live racing is completed on Family Fun Day. Pony rides, face painting, sand art and other family activities take place from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23rd with Wiener Dog Races beginning a little after 4 o'clock.

“With Family Fun Day being a little earlier than last year we’re hoping that last year’s racers and anyone new hoping to get in this year didn’t forget about it,“ said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing at Batavia Downs.

“All entered dogs receive a Doggie Gift Bag courtesy of Genesee Feeds and the owners of all race winners, and the top three in the final race, receive free play for the gaming floor.

Dachshund owners wishing to participate should call Batavia Downs’ Wiener Dog Headquarters at 585-343-3750, ext. 437, and leave a message. Staff will call back to confirm.

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia, NY. WROTB owns and operates 28 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility.

August 19, 2015 - 2:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia.

Press release from City fire Lt. Jeff Whitcombe:

The City of Batavia Fire Department will be flushing fire hydrants on Thursday, Aug. 20, and Friday, Aug. 21, from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the general area South of West Main Street and West Jackson Street, including Walnut Street, Pearl Street and South Main Street. Homes and businesses nearby will be affected.

These tests may result in a temporary discoloration of water in that area. As in the past, please do not attempt to wash any clothing if your water appears discolored. If you do experience a discoloration of your water, run cold water for about five minutes or until clear.

August 19, 2015 - 1:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, SCOPE.

Press release:

“On behalf of the Shooter’s Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) and Second Amendment rights activists statewide, I am proud to announce that the New York State Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Cuomo and state officials have illegally withheld records relating to a Freedom of Information Request (FOIL) into illegal seizures during a gun rally in Albany last April. During the rally, state troopers unlawfully seized replica guns from several participants under orders from the executive branch.

“This is a positive step in ensuring that our Constitutional rights are not completely compromised by Gov. Cuomo’s illegal tactics. The SAFE Act was passed under the cover of darkness without any public input or vetting process and remains one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen during my time in the Assembly. I will continue to fight for repeal of this illegal law and support gun owners in my district and statewide.”

August 19, 2015 - 9:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, football, le roy hs, sports.

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This truism is too apropos not to use: There are changes afoot in Le Roy.

The departure of legendary Head Coach Brian Moran after 26 years at the helm is well documented. This year, longtime assistant Brian Herdlein takes over the program. Gone also is Anthony Paladino, after 30 years. The new defensive coordinator is Peter Greene, who served for eight years as an assistant with the JV squad. And despite 16 returning seniors, Le Roy is turning to new talent at skilled positions, including QB, where junior Josh Laurie takes over for Mike McMullen.

The big surprise, though, comes with blue fingernail polish and a ponytail. Mary Purdy will become the school's first girl to play varsity football.

Purdy decided to forego soccer this year and so she was encouraged by football staff and players to try out for kicker.

"We're not trying ot make history," Herdlein said. "It was a situation where she was playing a different sport before. She didn't want to do that this year and she approached us about playing football and kicking for us. We had her come out. We had her kicking some footballs. The first day I show up, I see her kicking 35-yard field goals no problem. So of course, for me, I think that's a weapon, so to me I don't look at her differently than anything. She comes out, she does everything everyone one else is doing on the field. She'll go through the drills with us and then she'll do her kicking."

Purdy would also like to downplay any talk of her blazing a new trail. She's more focused on helping her team win and having fun playing football.

"I was hoping no one would draw so much attention to it," Purdy said. "I'm just happy to present my skill set wherever it's needed, but I guess it's kind of cool to be the first female to come through the area and play football."

Mostly, Herdlein is preaching continuity. He's not concentrating on the changes, just on the same values that has made Oatkan Knight football successful for decades: hard work, discipline and preparation.

"For me, it's just a title change," Herdlein said. "The rest of the staff has been here a long time. They know what they're doing. The kids know all of us. It's not that big of a change."

Herdlein will continue as offensive coordinator, a role he held in recent years under Moran, so the schemes won't change much.

"I'm not reinventing the wheel," Herdlein said. "They've been very successful here, so it's not like I'm the person who is going to come in and say, 'you haven't done it right before.' "

Laurie does bring a different skill set to the offense than McMullen. Herdlein described him as more mobile, so look for him to scramble more, run more.

"He's a kid who's very mature," Herdlein said. "He plays a lot of travel baseball on an elite team, so he's had that pressure situation before. He's ready to take the job."

Offensive linemen Ben Carmichael and Dave Englerth say they like what they see so far out of their new coach and their teammates.

"I'm very excited," Carmichael said. "I think we have a good team. I think we have a lot of new guys coming up who have a lot of talent. Our line especially is stacked and I think we're going to do very well this year."

Herdlein has put an additional emphasis on conditioning, which Englerth said will payoff for the team.

"I think we can make it to sectionals," Englerth said. "I think we have the ability."

With only 29 players, Herdlein said conditioning is critical for his team.

"We need to make sure the guys we have can last for four quarters of a football game," Herdlein said.

Among the players he looking to provide leadership are Nick Egling and Ryan Boyce.

Egling moves into the fullback position and Boyce, the son of a former Knight's QB, David Boyce, will be a receiver, free safety and long snapper.

"Nick will definitely be a force for us this year," Herdlein said. "We're going to be giving him the ball a lot. And Ryan has been around since he was a small boy. He knows the program. He is definitely going to step into a leadership role."

A year of changes, yes, but the expectations remain the same: Work hard, be tough, play to win.

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August 19, 2015 - 9:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. Joe's, schools, education.

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Press release:

St. Joseph School (SJS) has been working toward financial self-sustainability for several years. Tuition, fundraising and other income sources can no longer be the sole funding source for Catholic schools. Due to the current economic climate, the need for long-term and strategic budget forecasting is imperative.

Lauren Humphrey, Advancement coordinator at St. Joseph School, is proud to announce that the St. Joseph School of Batavia Endowment Fund has been established and that it has been given a fantastic kick-off with two anonymous donations totaling $105,000! These wonderful donors have left a permanent mark on the school and have created a long-lasting legacy that will benefit St. Joseph School’s students for years to come.

At SJS, a team of committed volunteers, staff members, and board members have worked tirelessly to establish enhanced and relevant financial and operational plans. The All Apostles Society (AAS), an annual giving recognition program, was put into place several years ago. AAS membership continues to grow; however, the need for something with even greater effect was necessary. About three years ago the team began looking into long-term strategies, including an endowment.

Because a permanent endowment is an invested pool of money that provides a reliable source of income in perpetuity, the organization now has the ability to rely on annual distributions from the endowment for its charitable work. The endowment will also relieve some of the pressure on smaller fundraising projects and events while creating economic stability for the future.

Bryan Winters, SJS parent, board member and Advancement Committee chairperson, weighs in on what this means for our school: “The creation of the SJS endowment is our most important step in designing a self-sustaining financial model for the school. Over the long-term, this will create a steady flow of income for the school without being quite so dependent on local parishes or the diocese. The immediate impact will actually be beneficial for our donors.

"We will now have the ability to provide more complex and deferred gift arrangements such as charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and other life income types of agreements. Until now, many of our most generous donors have never considered gifting assets from various securities such as, IRAs, 401(k) plans, pensions, stocks, bonds, even old life insurance policies.

"The SJS endowment is going to have a tremendous positive impact for our community. As SJS continues to grow both the endowment and our annual giving society, the All Apostles Society, our financial outlook is the best it has ever been. Most importantly, current and future students of SJS will reap the benefits of this strategic project.”

Principal, Karen Green notes that, “The ability to find financially prudent ways to support the operation of the school is becoming more and more challenging every year. In combination with our annual giving society (The All Apostles Society), this endowment will provide school leadership with the ability to offset the annual expenses of the school and move closer to our goal of complete self-sustainability.”

Photo:

Top row: Rick Suchan, executive director of Development, Diocese of Buffalo; Marcia Huber, Resurrection Parrish business manager; Lynne Houseknecht, St. Joseph School Advisory Committee president; Roger Bohn, Resurrection Parrish Council president; Seana Logsdon, St. Joseph School Advisory Council vice president; Robert Zickl, St. Joseph School Advisory Council secretary; Bryan Winters, St. Joseph School Advisory Council member, SJS parent, Advancement Committee member.

Bottom row: Norman Argulsky, Resurrection Parrish trustee and St. Joseph School Advisory Council member; Fr. Ivan Trujillo, pastor of Resurrection Parrish; Karen Green, principal, St. Joseph School; John Dwyer, Resurrection Parrish trustee.

August 19, 2015 - 8:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, corfu, Darien, bergen.

Gerald John Wiesmore, 47, of Herkimer Road, Darien, is charged with insurance fraud, 3rd, attempted grand larceny, 3rd, and falsely reporting an incident. Wiesmore allegedly reported his 2009 Ford F-150 as stolen and then attempted to file an insurance claim well in excess of $3,000.

Kayla Wethington, 26, of Batavia, is charged with grand larceny, 4th. Wethington allegedly stole more than $1,000 from a family member’s purse at a residence in the Town of Bethany.

Ryan A. Ballard, 23, of Dundee, is charged with DWI, speeding, failing to keep right and improper turn. Ballard was stopped on Harper Road, Darien, by State Police. Ballard allegedly failed the standardized field sobriety test.

Matthew S. Martin, 31, of Canandaigua, is charged with DWI, failure to keep right and excessive window tint. He was stopped on Colby Road, Darien, by State Police. Martin allegedly had a BAC of 0.08. 

Joseph A. Andrese, 28, of Rochester, is charged with DWI, speeding, moved from lane unsafely and driver-no seatbelt. Andrese was stopped on State Route 77,  Corfu, by State Police. Andrese allegedly failed a standardized field sobriety test. He was allegedly found to have a BAC of .15.

Jorge Cortes, 25, with no permanent address, is charged with assault, 3rd, strangulation, 2nd, intimidating a witness, 3rd, criminal possession of a weapon, 4th (non-citizen), and criminal mischief, 4th (preventing emergency assistance). Cortes is allegedly an undocumented person from Oaxaca, Mexico. He is accused of being involved in a domestic incident. He was jailed without bail.

Alex J. Ianita, 21, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, unlawful imprisonment, assault, 3rd, petit larceny and robbery, 2nd. Ianita was allegedly involved in a domestic incident. He was jailed without bail.

Jimpce J. Etienne, 39, of Warren Street, Batavia, is charged with DWI and open container. Etienne was stopped at 4:16 p.m. Saturday on Jackson Street by Officer Marc Lawrence.

A 17-year-old resident of Walnut Street, Batavia, is charged with resisting arrest. The youth was taken into custody on three separate City Court warrants. He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol vehicle. He allegedly attempted to break free from police, pushing past them. He was subdued and transported to police headquarters where he allegedly caused an ongoing disturbance, kicking walls, doors and other furnishings in the holding room.

Johnnie M Waston, 32, of Dodge Street, Batavia, is charged with attempted assault, 2nd, and endangering the welfare of a child. Waston is accused of grabbing a youth by the legs causing the youth to fall to the ground. The mother of the youth confronted Waston and Waston allegedly threw a glass bottle at her, hitting her with it.

Jacy William Lennon, 39, of Empire Boulevard, Rochester, is charged with issuing a bad check. Lennon was arrested on a warrant and posted $500 bail.

A 16-year-old resident of Vine Street is charged with petit larceny. The youth is accused of stealing food from Dollar General.

John A. Thomas, 50, of State Street, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to abide by release conditions. 

Kimberly A. Brodsky, 23, of Bank Street, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on a petit larceny charge.

A 17-year-old resident of South Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. The youth is accused of stealing a drink from Dollar General (name withheld by Batavia PD).

Willie A. Saab Jr., 41, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with menacing, 2nd, harassment, 2nd, criminal mischief, 4th, and endangering the welfare of a child. Saab was arrested on a warrant. He was also arrested on charges stemming from an alleged domestic incident on Prune Street on Aug. 11. He was jailed without bail.

Matthew D. Derrick, 30, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st. Derrick allegedly violated a stay away order of protection. He reportedly has a prior criminal contempt conviction in the past five years, making the new charge a felony. He was jailed without bail.

Chad Daniel Crawford, 37, of McKenzie Street, Bergen, is charged with assault, 3rd. Crawford was allegedly involved in a domestic incident. Crawford allegedly grabbed another person and pushed the person's head into a sink.

August 19, 2015 - 5:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather.

A flash flood watch has been issued for the area for Thursday and Thursday night with a storm system moving in capable of dropping copious amounts of rain.

The weather service calls it an unusually strong storm that will produce numerous showers and thunderstorms. Torrential downpours are possible resulting in significant localized rainfalls.

A slow-moving cold front within a subtropical airmass is crossing Western New York tomorrow, creating the conditions for downpours throughout the area.

Excessive runoff from the rain could flood small streams and creeks and pour drainage in areas could cause flooding. The weather service advises people to get to higher ground should there be prolonged heavy rain in areas with flooding potential.

August 18, 2015 - 10:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

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Four Batavia PD patrols responded to the Columbia and East Avenue area of the city for report of a disturbance involving multiple individuals around 10 p.m.

There was a search for a subject, who was found and detained in the back of a patrol car, but subsequently let go after the person identified as the victim declined to pursue a criminal complaint.

Also, a witness provided a suspect description that differed from the alleged victim, said Sgt. Chris Camp.

Camp said there may be a history, though unconfirmed at this time, of the "victim" and the other individuals involved and an alleged petit larceny of property from a front porch.

A witness told The Batavian there were racial slurs thrown about and there may have been a verbal confrontation that precipitated the larger melee. 

Camp said there were no injuries as a result of the conflict.

Officers were clearing the scene at 10:45 p.m.

August 18, 2015 - 9:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, pembroke.

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Pembroke and Indian Falls firefighters are on scene of a motor-vehicle accident at 678 Main Road, between South Lake Road and Back Street.

Minor injuries reported.

Mercy EMS is responding.

A passenger with minor injuries was reportedly entrapped, but a firefighter there said all occupants are out of the SUV.

UPDATE: Reader submitted photos.

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August 18, 2015 - 7:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Le Roy Fire, crime.
    Dennis Snow

In most embezzlement cases, said Judge Robert C. Noonan during the sentencing of Dennis Snow, the victim is "out for blood."

That wasn't the case with Snow, who was accused of stealing at least $16,000 from the Le Roy Fire Department. In this case, some members of the department sent in letters asking for some degree of leniency with Snow, even those who thought Snow should spend some time in jail.

Even Det. John Condidorio, whom Noonan characterized as "strong willed," wrote a letter in support of Snow.

However, an element of sentencing, said Noonan, is that a sentence should not "cause the public to lose confidence in the justice system."

"People ask why a woman can steal a scarf from Walmart and go to jail but a person who steals tens of thousands of dollars doesn't," Noonan said.

Those in the judicial system understand all the factors that go into sentencing an individual, but that doesn't satisfy the public's confusion over the disparity.

For that reason, Noonan sentenced Snow to a 30-day intermittent jail term. From 6 p.m. on Fridays until 6 p.m. on Sundays, Snow will serve time in the Genesee County Jail. His sentence starts this Friday.

Snow's attorney, Clark Zimmerman, tried to argue that any jail time could jeopardize Snow's job, which occasionally requires travel and weekend work.

"I don't think anybody wants that to happen given the amount of restitution required," Zimmerman said.

He also noted that Snow's wife has significant health issues.

At one time, Snow was accused of stealing $60,000 from the fire department, a figure first uncovered by the state's Office of Comptroller. The firefighters' benevolence association had an independent audit completed and arrived at a figure unpaid of just over $16,000.  

Snow was apparently taking money and returning some of it over a period of time. Zimmerman said he always made sure the department had enough money to cover critical expenses. He didn't disclose what Snow was doing with the money. He said his client had already reimbursed the department at least $8,000, but as a term of the plea deal, Snow could not dispute the restitution claim.

Upon completion of his jail term, Snow will be on probation for five years.

When asked to speak, Snow sobbed throughout his short statement to Noonan.

"I want to apologize in public to the Le Roy Fire Department and all the members, past and present, whose trust I violated," Snow said.

He apologized to his family for embrassing them and to the community that he said he has loved for 30 years.

August 18, 2015 - 5:47pm

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Crista Boldt

Pop quiz: You're a code enforcement officer and your job is to measure a fence to see if it is less than six feet high and therefore conforms to the local building code. Do you measure from the side of the fence of the property owner who built the fence, or do you measure from the other side?

In Stafford, Code Enforcement Officer Lester Mullen measured from the non-owner side. That was his solution to a question that apparently has no correct answer under existing town law, but has unleashed a protracted legal battle that has consumed at least $10,000 of taxpayer money and caused James Pontillo to shell out nearly $10,000 in attorneys fees.

The two adjoining properties are different grades, accounting for a variance in fence height from one side to the other.

The issue of the fence has morphed into a soap opera of sorts and still has no resolution; though, it was hashed out at great length at a public hearing before the zoning board of appeals on Monday night.

Peter J. Sorgi, the attorney for Pontillo, explained it this way: His client decided to build a fence two years ago between his property, the ancient and former Odd Fellows Hall on Stafford's historic four corners at Main Road and Morganville Road, and the property to the west, where Tom Englerth erected a steel-roofed building that is currently leased by the Stafford Trading Post and a hair salon.

The feud between Pontillo and Englerth is well documented. It's genesis seems to be Pontillo's successful bid to buy the property at 6177 Main Road in 2010 for $40,700. His purchase of the building was applauded by members of the Stafford Historical Society and Pontillo promised to clean it up, restore it and return it to a useful commercial and residential property. There was concern at the time that Englerth wanted to move or raze the building and open a gas station at the location.

Over the years, there have been numerous police calls to the location as Pontillo and Englerth have scrapped over access to Englerth's property for high lifts for roof workers, snow removal, garbage dumping and property lines.

The fence issue wound up in court, and a Stafford judge ordered the fence removed. On appeal, Robert C. Noonan, in his capacity as Superior Court judge, upheld the ruling that the fence was out of compliance with local ordinance -- supporting Mullen's measurements -- but reversed the lower court's order that the fence be removed.

Pontillo was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine, but the fence still stands and Pontillo is seeking an area variance for an eight-foot-tall fence, though he unofficially contends the fence, measured on his side of the property line, is only six feet tall.

The meeting Monday night can only be described as contentious, with Pontillo already seeming to have scored some demerits with Crista Boldt, chairwoman of the ZBA, for blaming the town at last week's County Planning Board meeting for his application lacking surveys, plans and photos. Pontillo claimed to have provided those items to the town and was surprised the town hadn't passed along those exhibits.

"I don't want untrue things getting said when you go to other boards," Boldt said. "It reflects poorly on the town."

Sorgi explained Pontillo's remarks to the county as a misunderstanding. The Town of Stafford doesn't require those exhibits, but the county board wanted to review those details. Pontillo, he said, had at one time or another provided the town with all of those materials, but not part of this specific application, because the town didn't require those items be attached to the application.

Sorgi then provided a brief history lesson on the local planning process, which only began in New York about 100 years ago.

There are court cases that outline the role of a zoning board, he said, which is to act as a safety valve to help interpret zoning ordinances. It's role in considering a variance was to balance the benefits to the property owner against the health, safety and welfare of the local community.

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James Pontillo

He provided, from NYS code, the five criteria the board must consider and explained how all five criteria weigh in favor of his client.

The benefits Pontillo seeks, Sorgi said, is to hide what he described as an unsightly mess next door, from exposed dumpsters to an unkempt back lawn and junk strewn about (when we look at the property after the meeting, the lawn had been cut within the past two weeks and there were only a few loose items in the yard).

Town Attorney Kevin Earl said a six-foot fence accomplishes the same goal, but Sorgi said not if Pontillo does as planned and builds a back deck on the property, which will be used for dining and drinking.

The fence also prevents snow from being piled up against the old building and makes use of the westside fire escape safer.

The board must consider, Sorgi said, whether the change hurts the character of the neighborhood or is a detriment to nearby properties. He said the fence does no harm and with the 80-foot flower box Pontillo has installed, actually enhances the neighborhood.

The board must consider whether the applicant has a feasible alternative, and Sorgi said there is none.

The request for a variance must be substantial, according to state law, and since a court has ruled the fence is too high, the variance is necessary to achieve Pontillo's desired benefits.

The board must consider whether the variance, if granted, will adversely impact the physical or environmental conditions of the neighborhood.

The answer, Sorgi, said is no.

Finally, the board must consider whether the need for the variance is the result of an issue self-created by the applicant. It wasn't, Sorgi said, because the town doesn't require any sort of permit for a six-foot-high fence and since his client thought, by his own measurements, he was building a six-foot-high fence, there was no official method to confirm with the town that the fence was within the required height. The town didn't object to the fence, Sorgi said, until it was nearly completed.

The only speakers at the public hearing, five altogether and all local residents, each supported Pontillo's variance request.

During the course of the presentation, there were tense moments.

Sorgi took issue with Mullen declining to speak on the record, in front of the press and public, about his position on the variance request. Mullen specifically cited the presence of news media as his reason for not speaking.

When Sorgi left out "physical" to go with "environmental" on the criteria for the board to consider, Boldt called him on it.

Sorgi raised the issue of a fence on the other side of Englerth's property, built by Englerth, that exceeds the six-foot height limit, but Englerth is apparently not facing the same level of scrutiny over that fence, Sorgi said, as his client.

Pontillo accused Englerth of trying to fudge the property line before his fence was built by moving a surveyor's stake at the back of the property by as much as six feet. That dispute led to an accusation of trespassing by Englerth and one of the multiple visits by troopers to mitigate tensions over the past couple of years.

Sorgi tossed a couple of barbs Attorney Earl's way, expressing disdain that Earl threatened to have Pontillo arrested if he didn't take the fence down. Earl argued that isn't exactly what he said, that he merely mentioned that a consequence of failure to abide by zoning law could result in a jail sentence, which he has sought before in other jurisdictions, where he has also served as a municipal attorney, for similar violations. It's not an abnormal response to zoning violations by municipal attorneys.

Sorgi also peppered Earl, whom he accused of chasing billable hours, with questions about why he was even at the meeting: Was he there as a private citizen or as the town's attorney? Earl said Town Supervisor Robert Clement asked him to be there, and Sorgi said that Clement, under state law, didn't have the authority to ask Earl to represent the town board at the meeting, that it took a vote of the board for such an action.

As a result of the meeting, both attorneys are now on record on two key points:

  • Earl said "nobody is trying to get the fence taken down." The town officially has no position on how the ZBA should vote on the variance request.
  • Sorgi said his client is willing to stipulate for the sake of the variance application that the fence is eight feet tall.

In the midst of this rancor, Sorgi reminded the ZBA that its job was to weigh the evidence without consideration for personalities or past history.

"This isn't about James Pontillo or whether you like him or whether you like this neighbor more than that neighbor," Sorgi said. "This is about whether the request benefits the applicant without doing harm to the health, safety and welfare of the community. That's it. Whether you like somebody isn't the question. It's a simple test."

The ZBA is scheduled to vote on the application for a variance at its September meeting.

Previously:

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Attorney Peter Sorgi

August 18, 2015 - 2:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in accident, Oakfield.

A motor-vehicle accident with possible minor injuries is reported in the Village of Oakfield at North Main Street and Cary Avenue. An elderly male is said to be shaken up by the incident. Oakfield fire and Mercy medics are responding.

August 18, 2015 - 1:53pm
posted by Billie Owens in corfu, yard sale.

Press release:

New event in Corfu: the debut of Yard Sale Daze and Vendor Fair!

Planned in the Village of Corfu Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22 and 23 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The flier says they are "calling all musicians, animals, yard sales, crafters, clowns, artists, retailers, fundraisers, service providers, cooks, car washes and bakers" to participant.

The community event is free to join. Set-up for nonresidents or outside the village is in the parking lots, such as the American Market parking lot (the old IGA). You are welcome -- "Just find a spot."

"The Village Board and I are hosting the event," said organizer "Debbie," "to draw people into the community."

Check out Facebook or call (716) 262-7869 for more information.

August 18, 2015 - 1:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in batabia, Lost Dog.

This female chihuahua was found this morning at the corner of Summit Street and North Street in the City of Batavia. She is extremely friendly, has a pink Aztec-design collar, but no dog tags. She is currently at the old Robert Morris School in the Building and Grounds Office, phone number (585) 343-3480, ext. 1013; or you can contact Jim Jacobs at (716)474-0491.

August 18, 2015 - 1:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, sports, football.

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There's a fine line between arrogance and cockiness. Confidence can breed complacency. Desire can succumb to expectations that lead to a catacomb of missed opportunities. A season can unravel in the difference between resolve, determination and grit versus just showing up and settling for an "I tried" shrug and a "pass the Gatorade." 

It's that difference Batavia Blue Devils Head Coach Brennan Briggs must negotiate as he heads into the 2015 season leading a team that a year ago, by all accounts, shouldn't have won a sectional title but did, and now is stocked with talented, seasoned seniors who are talking about a repeat on the first day of practice.

"That's going to be biggest battle I'm going to be fighting this season is telling these guys the 2015 football team hasn't won a single game yet together," Briggs said. "Last year, yes, we won a championship, but we were fortunate. We had 24 kids. We stayed healthy. We had zero injuries. We caught quite a few breaks and we made some big plays when we needed to. Nothing is guaranteed. It's very, very difficult to win a back-to-back championship, so honestly I don't like that they're talking about championships or anything like that."

The Blue Devils start pre-season camp with 31 players, and 18 of them are seniors. Some of them are stars if not solid contributors. Greg Mruczek is back at QB. He'll be joined offensively by Trevor Sherwood, Malachi Chenault, Adonis Davis, Anthony Gallo, Dominick Mogavero and Noah Dobbertin.

The depth and versatility is noticeable to the players and they can't help but talk of a repeat.

"We're ready to step back up," Mogavero said. "I feel like the whole team is ready to step up its game."

Gallo agrees.

"We're definitely after another championship," Gallo said. "I feel like we're all ready for it. I feel like that's everybody's goal. We want to win and we just want to get back where we were last year."

Briggs wants to see his players focus on getting better every day. Every day, they play against a faceless opponent on their own internal clock and only they know the score, but the outcome of those matches will determine what happens on Friday nights.

While Briggs wants to tap down the championship talk, he also gets that he's dealing with a group of confident kids, and it was confidence that carried this team from a tough opening loss in 2014 against Livonia through big wins to close out the season and bring Batavia its first sectional title in football since 1991.

Briggs calls it "swag," a characteristic the coach talked about as the wins began to pile up last season.

"I do appreciate that they do have a little bit of swag to them, I guess you could call it that, and it is good, because as we found out last year, we were in some tight games toward the end and that kind of pushed us though," Briggs said. "They had confidence that they could get the job done. I think with all of their off-season work and the commitment they've put into the program, and the buy-in, that does help with every single game, day-in-and-day-out, to know that we have what it takes to win a championship, but saying it and feeling it is a little bit different than going out and doing it."

At the end of Monday's workout, Briggs had a straightforward message for his team: "You have a target on your backs."

If the 2014 team was one that came into the season just hunting for a few extra wins, it's now the team to beat for every local gridiron warrior in helmets and pads.

"Nobody is going to give you anything - nobody," Briggs said. "Nobody is going to say, 'Ah, we're playing Batavia, we're going to back down.' Everybody who plays us is going to want to beat us because it might make their season. That might be it. On their calendars, there might be a star, 'We've got a shot to prove something. We've got a shot to beat Batavia. They think they're on top right now. We're going to go out and show everybody else that we're better than them.' "

But the players do think they're better, maybe not yet better than University Prep, better than Wilson, better than Penn Yan and better than Geneva, but they believe they're better than last year, and that's the team that marched through that championship season with a lot of swag.

"Really, I expect to win another championship," Wilson said. 

His job, as he sees it, is to help keep his teammates focused on that goal and fired up for every minute of every practice, because that's what wins games.

"The seniors want to make it happen again, so there's a lot of pressure to do it again," Davis said.

There's peer pressure, then there are community expectations, something Mruczek acknowledges. 

"This community has a lot of expectations," Mruczek said. "With me being the senior quarter people think I need to step up as a leader and I've been trying to do that more; lead this team in the right direction to win another championship. My goal is to put in another solid season, do my 1/11th on the offensive side of the ball and lead this team to another championship."

Briggs thinks Mruczek is ready for the challenge. He isn't a player, the coach said, who worries about his own stats. He gets ready for each game, each play, and knows what his role his.

"He knows how to keep a level head on his shoulders," Briggs said. "I've never questioned his competitive edge or how hard he works, so I'm not too worried about anything like that. He knows what his job is -- go out there and manage the game and be a leader, and hopefully make some big plays when he needs to."

If all eyes are on him as the senior QB, Mruczek is fine with that role, he said.

"I like the pressure," Mruczek said. "I'm confident in this team. We've got a lot of guys with a lot of confidence. I don't really feel any pressure right now. I'm out here having fun my senior year."

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August 18, 2015 - 12:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in weather.

A hazardous weather outlook for portions of Western New York, including Genesee County, has been issued by the National Weather Service in Buffalo.

An "upper-level disturbance" is moving across the region today and will generate some showers and thunderstorms, some of which will include slow-moving downpours.

Since there will be the risk for multiple slow-moving downpours over the same area ("training storms"), there will be an increased risk for localized flash flooding.

By Thursday, a slow-moving cold front will cross Western New York and numerous showers and thunderstorms will occur along and ahead of this cold front, which will likely produce significant rain.

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