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May 18, 2013 - 1:56pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, liberty pumps, bergen.

Friday, May 17, marked the end of an era for Liberty Pumps with the final model 101 pedestal sump pump being produced in its Bergen facility. The Model 101 is the last remaining pump from the company’s original product offering dating back to 1965.

“It’s pretty amazing that this product sustained a 48-year production life given the advancements and popularity of submersible pump technology” said Randall Waldron, vice president of Sales and Marketing.

“It is not often a product can sustain four decades of sales with very little changes to it. Sales volume for this model has simply dropped to the point where it is not viable as a production model any longer.”

As part of the ceremony commemorating the final production unit being built, Liberty staged a pump “funeral” complete with flowers, a few words from the President Charlie Cook and a procession through the manufacturing area where the last pump will eventually found its resting place in the Liberty Wall of Fame.

“We’re not shedding too many tears however,” Waldron said, “our aggressive product development and new innovative designs have helped put us on track for another record sales year.”

May 18, 2013 - 1:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, Milestones.

Bryant University held its Graduate School Commencement on Thursday, May 17. Among the graduates is Sarah-Elizabeth Rindo, of Batavia, who earned a Master of Professional Accountancy degree.

Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., is a leading private university offering an innovative and uniquely integrated business and liberal arts education. Founded in 1863 and recognizing its 150th anniversary in 2013.

On the Web: http://readabout.me/achievements/Sarah-Elizabeth-Rindo-Graduates-from-Br....

May 18, 2013 - 1:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in pembroke, accidents, indian falls.

A two-car accident is reported at Akron and Alleghany roads. It is blocking traffic. Pembroke and Indian Falls fire departments and medics are responding. Fire Police are at the scene handling traffic. One person has a minor chest injury.

May 18, 2013 - 1:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in muckdogs, sports.

Press release:

The Dwyer Stadium Box Office opens for the 2013 season at 9 a.m. Monday, May 20. Tickets for Opening Day and ALL regular season games for the 2013 season will be on sale. The box office will be open until 5 p.m.

Normal box office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Fans interested in season tickets can also stop by the stadium and pick out their seat for the 2013 season.

The Muckdogs open their 2013 home schedule on Tuesday, June 18th vs. the Auburn Doubledays at 7:05 p.m.

The Batavia Muckdogs, Genesee County’s only professional sports franchise, have also released their 2013 slogan of "Muckdogs Magic." Part of this magic is the new and improved promotional schedule featuring fireworks, giveaways, special events, and daily promotions.

The Muckdogs will again offer fans a daily menu of money-saving promotions available throughout the season.

Each week the magic begins with Muckdog Mondays sponsored by The Daily News. Every Monday home game, fans can magically get a free ticket to the game. All they need to do is purchase one General Admission ticket, grab a coupon out of the Saturday edition of The Daily News; and viola! A FREE TICKET!

The magic only gets better when Tuesday’s roll around with Kids’ Tuesday Night Tickets courtesy of New York’s 529 College Savings Program. Every Tuesday home game, the first 50 kids accompanied by an adult will receive a free General Admission ticket.

On Wednesday, the magic expands to the entire family with our Family Four Packs presented by MVP Healthcare. Fans can purchase four general admission tickets, four hot dogs, four 12 oz. sodas and a 2013 program for only $30, a savings of $14.

On Thursday nights, Bob Evans Restaurant helps spread the magic when they will sponsor our Kids Eat Free promotion. At every Thursday home game, the first 100 kids 12 & under will receive a voucher for a free hot dog, soda and snack item.

Friday nights will once again bring magic to the stadium as fireworks will again light up the sky after every Friday night game at Dwyer Stadium, as well as on the annual Independence Day celebration on July 3rd.

Every Saturday will feature some magical pre-game concerts in the concourse. These “Rock the Ballpark” events are presented by Tim Horton’s of Batavia and New Buffalo Impact with Papa and Mama Root, an oldies rock and roll tribute band, and original music recording artists. All performances begin at 6 p.m. and are weather permitting.

A new addition to the lineup this year is Sudsy Saturday presented by Eastown Beverage and Redemption Center. Every Saturday home game, 12-oz. Genny Light drafts will be just $1 from 6 to 7 p.m.

At Sunday home games, kids can run the bases with Homer after the game, courtesy of Bob Evans Restaurant, helping to create some magical memories. Also on Sundays, the first 100 seniors will magically receive a voucher for a free hot dog, soda/coffee, and a bag of pretzels courtesy of The Williams Law Firm.

Other games of note on the Muckdog Magic schedule include:

Opening Day/Magnet Schedule Giveaway                            Tuesday, June 18th 
Irish Night                                                                               Thursday, June 20th
Muckdogs Car Decal Giveaway                                             Saturday, June 22nd
Personal First Aid Kit Giveaway                                            Friday, June 28th       
Independence Day Celebration Fireworks                            Wednesday, July 3rd  
Prostate Cancer Awareness Day                                           Sunday, July 14th
1960 Cy Young Winner Vern Law Autograph Appearance     Monday, July 15th
1970 Cy Young Winner Jim Perry Autograph Appearance     Tuesday, July 23rd

Bark in the Park                                                                     Sunday, July 28th       
Team Photo Giveaway                                                           Saturday, Aug. 10th   
Post-Game Candy Drop from a Helicopter                              Sunday, Aug. 11th  
'80s & '90s Rack Pack Card Giveaway                                    Saturday, Aug. 17th
Genesee Valley Penny Saver Giveaway                                Wednesday, Aug. 21st                                                                                
Fireworks Nights will be as follows: June 21st, June 28th, July 3rd, July 12th, Aug. 9th, and Aug. 16th.

Location: Dwyer Stadium, 299 Bank St., Batavia

Phone: 585-343-5454 / Fax: 585-343-5620

Web site: www.muckdogs.com <http://www.muckdogs.com

The Batavia Muckdogs are the short-season, Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins and are the last remaining founding member of the New York-Penn League, dating back to 1939. The Batavia Muckdogs are operated by the neighboring Rochester Red Wings.

May 18, 2013 - 8:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, high school sports, Notre Dame, softball.

The Notre Dame girls softball team closed out the season Friday with a come-from-behind victory over Lyndonville in game played at GCC.

As the defending state champions, the Fighting Irish finish out the season with a 10-8 record, which is good enough to make it to the first round of sectional play, but Head Coach Rick Mancuso said the team still needs to eliminate some mistakes to advance further.

"We're getting better," Mancuso said. "The girls are working really hard. We're not probably where we want to be, but we'll see what happens. We'll throw our hat out there and see how it goes."

Friday's game was a seesaw battle, with Notre Dame and Lyndonville exchange the lead just about every inning.

Going into the bottom of the seventh, down 10-9, the Irish needed to string some hits together and plate two runs to pull out a victory.

The team was loose and confident at the start of the inning and got the job done to notch an 11-10 victory.

"The girls did a great job of rallying back any time we got down," Mancuso said. "They showed a lot of character today."

In the slide show is the sequence of shots from Maddie Mancuso's slide into home in the 4th inning. She was called out. You make the call.

To purchase prints, click here.

May 17, 2013 - 7:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in football, sports, pembroke, Lyndonville Tigers.

The Lyndonville Tigers, a semi-pro football team that plays all of its home games at Pembroke Town Park, will hold a scrimmage at 3 p.m. tomorrow and is inviting local football fans out to the park to see the team.

The event is free.

Players 18 and older are also encouraged to come out and learn more about the team.

The Tigers are entering their third season playing in Pembroke and the team is 10 years old. The NFA has 16 teams.

"We have a great returning roster but are always looking for new players and I think our pre-season scrimmage is a great way for interested parties to come feel out the team," said Taylor McCabe, president of football operations for the Tigers.

May 17, 2013 - 6:57pm

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) recently voiced his support for the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and its successful efforts to attract a Dick’s Sporting Goods store to Towne Centre Mall in Batavia. The group was able to secure the store’s move through pro-business tax incentives, which will create local employment opportunities and increase sales tax revenue to support local programs and services. Hawley defended GCEDC against attacks from Buffalo-area Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who has publicly criticized the local economic development effort.

“Here in Batavia and across Genesee County, we deserve access to both consumer choice and employment opportunities. By attracting Dick’s to Towne Centre Mall, GCEDC has helped bolster both,” Hawley said. “Assemblyman Ryan’s attacks on our local economy are completely uncalled for. While he purports to be concerned with the use of state tax dollars, surely he would agree that one of the highest-taxed states in the nation has bigger fish to fry than Genesee County’s legal ability to strengthen its own economy. I believe it is in the best interests of all involved that assembly members focus on their own constituents and that he focuses on revitalizing Buffalo’s economy.”

“The GCEDC was created to help increase the tax base, create new jobs as well as bring new investment and revenues into our community. This project fulfills all of these criteria and without our assistance, these benefits would not be realized,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “The project will create jobs, increase sales tax revenue, bring new goods and services into the community, and reinvigorate what is currently a large, vacant space located at the gateway of our community off of I-90.”

Hawley noted the crucial role the GCEDC has played in attracting job creators to Genesee County and keeping them here long-term.

“Between the Genesee Valley Agri-business Park, Oakta Hills and countless other projects, GCEDC has long been at the forefront of job creation and economic development in our community,” Hawley said. “Throughout my time in the Assembly, we have worked diligently to revitalize our local economy, and GCEDC has my full support in its effort to bring jobs to our community.”

May 17, 2013 - 6:49pm
posted by Billie Owens in Pavilion, accidents, Texaco Town.

A car and tractor-trailer accident is reported at routes 63 and 20, Texaco Town. The driver of the semi reportedly suffered "seizure-like activity" but is now "up and walking." The accident is blocking traffic. Pavilion Fire Department is responding for traffic control, along with Mercy medics. Law enforcement is on scene. The driver of the car is OK.

UPDATE 6:53 p.m.: The semi is a "heavy wrecker" partially in the ditch. It can probably be driven away once it's pulled out of the ditch, but the current driver will not likely be able to do that. The turning lane is blocked and traffic is backing up.

UPDATE 7:22 p.m.: Pavilion assignment is back in service.

UPDATE 8:27 p.m.: The roads are reopened.

May 17, 2013 - 4:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in pembroke, accidents.

A 6-year-old girl has been hit by a car in Pembroke on Galloway Road, near Slusher. Mercy Flight out of Batavia is responding, along with Mercy medics and East Pembroke Fire Department.

UPDATE 4:33 p.m.: Mercy Flight has landed.

UPDATE 4:41 p.m.: Mercy Flight is airborne and headed to Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo.

UPDATE 4:54 p.m.: All responders are back in service.

May 17, 2013 - 4:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Batavia Towne Center, COR Development.

Press release:

“The Genesee County Economic Development Center requested and received a legal opinion regarding the approval of tax incentives for the COR Development project in the Town of Batavia as well as whether the project is legally exempt from new retail provisions recently passed into state law.

“We are pleased to announce that this opinion supports the recent vote by our board to approve these incentives as well as the exemption to the new law.

“The GCEDC strongly believes that this project will bring goods into the community that are not currently available to area residents. It should be noted that other tenants also will be opening in near future providing residents with other goods and services in what is currently a large vacant space located at the gateway of our community off of the I-90.”

“More importantly, the sales tax revenues that will be generated in just one year will be more than the incentives provided to the developer. The GCEDC was created to help create new jobs as well as bring new investment and revenues into our community. This project fulfills all of these criteria and without our assistance these benefits would not be realized.”

Downoad: PDF of Attorney's Letter.

May 17, 2013 - 4:00pm

Press release:

The Oct. 23-31 trip to China will be the last the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting.

This is the last opportunity to take advantage of the exceptional value this trip offers. Walking across the Great Wall, standing in Tian Am Men Square, and viewing the gardens where the leaning Yanyan Pagoda that pre-dates the leaning tower of Pisa are just a few of the stops on the tour.

There is also an opportunity to see “up close and personal” the terracotta army in Xian. Dating from the third century B.C., the terracotta warriors were discovered in 1974 and are still being unearthed today.

Similar to the successful yearly trips since 2007, the Chamber is offering the community the unique opportunity to travel to China for the low price of $2,299. Price includes air fare (from JFK), bus to/from JFK, 4-5 star hotels, three meals a day, bus tours (with guides), admission to tourist spots, and airport taxes throughout the trip.

Of professional interest, this trip will present opportunities to learn a great deal about how the Chinese business system operates.

An information meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 5 at the Chamber Office in Downtown Batavia. To sign up or for more details call Melissa at the Chamber at (585) 343-7440, ext. 27.
Details on the trip can also be found at www.geneseeny.com/trips

May 17, 2013 - 3:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in corfu, Milestones.

SUNY Geneseo student Alaina Chapman, from Corfu, was recently inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society during an induction ceremony on campus. Juniors or seniors with a grade-point average that places them in the top 15 percent of their class are eligible for membership.

Golden Key International Honour Society provides academic recognition to top-performing college and university students as well as scholarships and awards, career and internship opportunities, networking, service and leadership development opportunities. The society has more than 400 chapters at colleges and universities around the world.

On the Web: http://readabout.me/achievements/SUNY-Geneseo-Student-Alaina-Chapman-fro....

May 17, 2013 - 1:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Batavia PD is looking for the public's assistance in identifying a hit-and-run driver who struck a parked car in front of 19 Vine St., Batavia, at 8:24 a.m., Thursday.

Both vehicles were damaged in the accident.

The suspect vehicle is described as a dark colored compact. It is missing its right side view mirror. It was last seen heading southbound on Vine Street.

Anybody with information to share can reach out to Officer Thad Mart, (585) 345-6450.

May 17, 2013 - 12:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, byron, Genesee County Farms, mucklands.

This is the second in a series of profiles of Genesee County's farms and farmers.

Working the muck has never been easy.

When third-generation muck farmer Joe Bezon was a boy, he would work alongside his mother, each on their hands and knees, pulling weeds.

Seeds were planted by hand and it took manual labor to bring in the crop. When muck is wet, it's deep and muddy ground. When it's dry, the fine dust gets in your eyes and nose and the sun's rays radiate heat off the black soil.

Today, machinery and chemicals make sowing, harvesting and weeding easier, but no machine can control Mother Nature, or the government.

Winds damage crops and workers are harder to find as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) rounds up all the farm labor.

Still, Bezon, in his 75th year, toils on, and is quite happy doing it.

"I enjoy it and I got this (highland in Byron, where we were standing talking) and that (muckland in Orleans County) down there and I've got a son who helps me all the time," Bezon said. "If I had to do it all myself, it would be a different story."

Today, Bezon & Sons Farm is 383 acres, with 110 acres of muckland, and is run by Joe, his wife Edith, son Joey and son-in-law Jim.

The Bezons, along with the Mortellaros and the Halats, are the last of the original muckland farmers in Genesee County.

Before the 1950s, there were as many as 160 families working the muck, each with plots of three to 10 acres of land.

As machinery was invented to make farming muck easier, and more and more farmers figured there has got to be an easier way to make a living, the families of the muck thinned out.

The Bezons were among the first to start consolidating their holdings.

Joey Bezon, who like his father has been working the muck his whole life, is perhaps the last Bezon who will farm the muck, unless his son, who now works for CY Farms, decides to work the Bezon land some day.

"I have a little bit of pride in it because we're one of the only ones who stuck with it," Joey said. "There was something like 160 some 40 or 50 years ago and everybody just kind of threw in the towel except for only a handful who are left and could stay with it. We used to be big or medium size and now we're one of the smallest ones. How long we can stay in the game with everybody else getting bigger, that's the challenge."

Muckland is reclaimed swampland. Over hundreds of years, trees and vegetation rotted in standing water to create a rich black soil that is full of tiny wood chips, making it both porous and a good medium for retaining moisture. It's about 80 percent organic matter.

Early muckers grew carrots, lettuce, spinach, potatoes and onions. Today, onions are the big muck crop locally, with some potatoes, and some of the more played-out muck west of Route 98 is used to grow turf.

Onions need deep, loose well-drained soil that retains moisture. There's big onion production in the desert soil of California, but the black muck of Genesee and Orleans counties has more organic matter and retains moisture better.

"Muck is special because unlike sandy soils or clay soils, the roots grow aggressively in it and they get enough moisture to form the onion," said Paul Mortellaro who has also been working mucklands his entire life with his family.

We call it the Elba Muck, but a majority of the 6,000 acres of muck still being farmed is in Orleans County. There's a lot in Byron, and just a corner of the southwest part of the fields are in Elba. 

Elba may host the Onion Festival, but there hasn't been an onion grown in Elba for years, as far as anybody knows.

There was once more farmable muck in Elba, but to be useful, the mucklands need to be several feet deep. Much of the muck farms in Elba have been lost to oxidation and wind. What little of it left is used to grown corn and turf.

The local muckland was once part of the Alabama Swamp, which once covered 25,000 acres. 

After the turn of the 20th Century, local residents were increasingly concerned about odor, mosquitoes and disease associated with the swamplands in Elba and Byron. (source for historical background)

Perhaps the entire Alabama Swamp would have been drained at the time, but much of the area has rocks and stone much closer to the surface than the Elba Muck. To be tillable, muck must be several feet deep.

And even to this day, farmers still pull out rotting tree stumps that work their way to the surface of the muck every spring.

It took the invention of the steam shovel to make draining the swamps possible.

Western New York Farms Company, based in New York City, owned 9,000 acres of muckland, and at the urging of state officials, drainage work started in 1913. By 1914, there were eight miles of canals 20 feet deep in place and lumberjacks started removing trees.

Farming started in 1915.

While muck farming was immediately successful, Farms Co. always intended to lease the land to tenant farmers, and the first leases were signed in 1916. The first year, Farms Co. leased land for $50 an acre and made machinery and assistance available to farmers. The next year, prices dropped to $35 an acre, but no more help came from Farms Co.

In 1927, Farms Co. decided to sell off its land, offering plots on favorable terms to farmers.

Edith Bezon isn't sure when Joe's father and mother first bought into the mucklands. It was before 1936.

The elder Bezon was the son of a muck farmer 17 miles to the west. Joe Bezon said when his grandfather died he had a chance to take over that farm, but he couldn't see farming Elba Muck and muck 17 miles away.

The Bezon's started out with a couple of 10-acre plots that they worked by hand.

When Joe's mother was weeding, she used onion crates as cribs for her boys.

"I can picture that," Joe said. "I can take you down where the shade was. There was a lean-to. They'd put us in a crate and put another one on top of it. There was a ditch right along the muck. I filled it all in and put tile in it. She would put us in the lean-to and she'd take straps and tie two crates together and set us there."

It was the only way to keep the rambunctious boys safe while she worked.

"We would say we wouldn't, don't worry we won't, we won't go out there," Joe said. "But as soon as they got down to the second plot and they'd have their backs to us, we'd run down the road with a wheelbarrow that they carried the weeds with. We would run up and down the road with it. Of course, in those days, there was traffic going, but heck, today, there's no traffic down there."

As time went on, Joe's father diversified his holdings. He bought other land, including ranch land on Oak Orchard Road in Elba where he started raising Angus. Today, that land is a dairy farm owned by Joe's younger brother, Eugene.

Joe's older brother left the muck for good when he went off to fight in World War II.

When he returned, he helped his father run his two motels -- the Sunset Motel on West Main Street Road, Batavia, and the Park Oak Motel, once just off Route 98 and the Thruway exit in Batavia.

Joe and Edith grew up together. Both went to Elba Central School.

When they were first married, they had a place on Pekin Road, but in 1966 bought a farm and farmhouse on Searls Road, Byron.

There they raised their two sons -- Joey and Rick -- and two daughters -- Laurie and Amanda.

Laurie now lives just down the road. She married Jim, who works with Bezon & Sons and Amanda went to work in pharmaceuticals and lives in Philadelphia.

"She enjoys the city life," Edith said. "She always said, 'I only showed 4-H because my dad made me.' "

Rick works at Genesee Community College.

Joe and Edith have five grandchildren.

"The family is growing, but I don't know about being farmers," Edith said.

"We don't have any of the grandchildren working here because it's such a hard life and most years there isn't a lot of money in it," Edith said. "The past few years, we've been doing good, but in 2010, we had no crop at all on the muck. We got flooded out and it was so late, we couldn't put seed in. We had to go to crop insurance, but that's the first time we ever had to do it."

Besides onions on the muck -- the only crop the Bezons have ever grown on the muck -- the family grows on its upland farm cabbage, corn and soy beans.

For years, the Bezons would put in 20 acres of cabbage, which can be a pretty lucrative crop in good years, but the short supply of farm labor has them cutting back to 12 acres this year.

"It's all gone back to the family doing all of the work," Edith said. "I wish they would come up with a program for us where we could hire workers and not worry about the INS coming in and getting them all."

She said when there are immigration raids, officials round up all the workers -- here legally or not -- and take all of them back to Batavia to sort out, which is a major disruption the farm work.

On the farm, Joe also raises beef cattle. Edith calls it his hobby. Joe says it's the favorite part of farming.

All of the Bezon cattle is slaughtered and butchered right on the farm by Joey. The meat is sold to local residents -- the ones who pay their bills, Joe said.

By this time of year, the Bezons have finished planting their onion seeds.

While the Torreys and some other muck farms plant seedlings, the Bezons prefer seeds. 

Onion seeds are very, very tiny. They are rolled in clay, which helps make it easier to plant the seeds using machines.

Rows of barley are planted between the rows of onions to help prevent wind erosion of the muck and protect the tender baby onion leaves from wind damage.

There are little wood chips in the muck that can tear an onion leaf to shreds.

"The wind moves those little chips around like buzz saws and they will cut the tops right off," Edith said.

In the early part of the growing season, onions are in a precarious state. Paul Mortellaro said it isn't unusual to lose one in four acres of new plants to wind.

The Mortellaros typically plant seedlings, but whether seedlings or seeds, when you account for the plants, the fertilizer, the labor, the land costs, taxes and the water, expenses for an acre of onions is from $2,500 to $5,000.

The good years -- which don't happen often, Mortellaro said -- can generate about $12,000 per acre in revenue.

Some years, there's no profit, and perhaps even a loss on the onion fields of the mucklands.

The muck is like its own little microclimate, Mortellaro said. The black soil radiates the heat and makes the flatlands much like a desert in the midst of lush Western New York.

"I've seen it," Mortellaro said, "since the time I was 10 out there weeding -- clouds coming in from Buffalo and they totally disappear by the time they get to the Elba Muck. My brother and I used to speculate that there was a column of warm air rising up from the muck. It is a mini desert during the summertime. It can be really really dry."

If you have good eyes, on a dry, windy day, you can see spirals of dust rising 500 feet into the air, looking like a tornado, Mortellaro said.

The Torreys have added their own above-ground, automated irrigation system to their muck property, but the Bezons largely irrigate by hand.

There were years, Edith said, when she and Joe would sleep in their truck all night, waking at regular intervals to move the irrigation lines.

The Bezons put down about a ton of nitrogen fertilizer per acre of muck, Edith said.

You might think muck, being such an organically rich soil, wouldn't need fertilizer, but new plants in the spring need a lot of nitrogen to get started. After that, the wonders of the muck do the job, but the nitrogen once trapped by the swamp was long ago depleted.

"When they first broke up the muck, all this compost was giving up its nitrogen and it got to the point where it was all leached out," Mortellaro said. "After about five years, you couldn't grow a decent crop without putting those inputs into the muck, so going back as far as anybody can remember, you've had to put in quite a bit of fertilizer."

The onion harvest for the Bezons will be in late August or early September. Edith helps drive the harvest truck when the time comes.

The onions are first pulled out of the ground and left to sit in the sun for three days. The tops need to dry so they will fall off and not get caught up in the machinery.  Without that proper topping off, the onions are more susceptible to disease.

If there isn't three days of warm sun, it jeopardizes the harvest.

The onions are scooped up by a self-propelled onion harvester that was invented and built in Elba by Lee Shuknecht and Sons.

Throughout the growing season, the Bezons battle two of nature's persistent elements: Wind and weeds.

To Joe, some of his neighbors aren't very good muckers. They let weeds grow around their plots and don't do a very good job of maintaining their hedgerows.

Hedges, only about four-feet tall, separate plots in the mucklands. They act as wind breaks and catch some of the muck that might otherwise blow away.

Edith estimates that wind carries away about an inch of muck a year. She figures by the time her grandson is ready to retire -- if he becomes a mucker -- there won't be any muck left to farm.

It's not just wind, but also oxidation that depletes the muck, Mortellaro said.

The little particles of wood that make up muck dry out in the summer heat or during a winter drought just like old barn wood, Mortellaro said.

Even with wind and oxidation, Mortellaro isn't sure the muck is declining at the rate of an inch a year -- the process probably isn't that linear, but certainly, a lot of muck has disappeared over the past 90 years.

He's excavated enough around the the gravel roadways -- built on top of muck -- to see what the original level of the muck used to be, he said. He estimates that areas that were once 12-feet deep in muck are now nine-feet deep.

"It is discouraging," Mortelloro said. "You see the gravel road out there. The road doesn't go away and the fields keep getting lower."

The Bezons own 110 acres of muckland, but only 98 acres are tillable. There are swaths of former muckland that are now just rocks.

As for weeds, Joe is obsessive about weeds, Edith said.

You don't get good onions when weeds are growing in the fields, Joe said. Onions don't do well when competing for nutrients. At harvest, the weeds get all tangled up in the machinery and have to be picked out during grading.

"Joe has always really taken care of the land, because that's what he lives for, being down there mucking," Edith said. "He's been down there since he was born."

It used to be that weeds had to be removed by hand and carried off in bags or buckets. Now Joe uses mostly chemicals, he said.

"Weeding is not like it used to be," Joe said. "You were out there on your hands and knees. I've got pictures of my mother out on her hands and knees weeding in the muck. We didn't have chemicals in those days. Now, heck, you can put it out there and keep it clean."

Sure there are some hardships with farming muck, Joe said, but it's nothing like the old days.  The worst part of machine farming is maintaining the equipment. When it breaks, it is a lot more expensive to fix. 

So long as he's got help, though, Joe said he can handle the work.

All the machinery in the world can't change the weather or the wind or the nature of muck, Edith said.

"You've always got to be one step ahead of Mother Nature," Edith said. "Out here, some days, she can be very cruel."

Joe and Edith on one of their upland plots. Joe was plowing that day, preparing the field for planting.

Joey Bezon in a field that will soon be growing corn. The tractor is a loaner because one of the Bezon's tractors was in the shop being repaired. As farm machinery has gotten more complex, it's more expensive to fix and harder for the farmer to do it himself.

Muck -- sifted a bit by the wind so that the wood chips are a little more visible.

Onions and barley growing in a muck field. If you look at the picture in the slide show below at full-screen resolution, the little onion sprouts will be easier to see. In the distance, rocks that were once buried by muck. Wind and oxidation are reducing the amount of muck in the mucklands every year.

May 17, 2013 - 8:08am
posted by Billie Owens in Pavilion, Bethany, accidents.

A one-vehicle rollover accident with injuries is reported at 5491 Broadway Road. Bethany Fire Department and Mercy medics are responding. The driver has "head and neck pain." The pickup truck's fuel spilled. One lane of traffic is blocked. The accident occurred "on the east side of the hill," near a "dip in the road where the viaduct is." Pavilion Fire Police are also called. A responder says it may be possible to have the other lane remain open.

UPDATE 8:16 a.m.: The vehicle involved is a four-wheel drive Ford F-250 with ag plates.

UPDATE 8:25 a.m.: They are alternating the traffic flow. A flatbed tow is called.

UPDATE 8:52 a.m.: Bethany assignment back in service.

May 17, 2013 - 7:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Landmark Society of Genesee County.

Press release:

The Landmark Society of Genesee County announces the winners of the Society’s 2013 4th Grade Architectural Drawing Contest.

The 2013 Awards Ceremony held on May 9 at the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia. Fourth-grade students from Elba Central School and Byron-Bergen Central School participated. The following awards were given:

First Place -- Mason Singer; Byron Bergen; drawing. He received $50, a framed certificate and a copy of the book "The Architectural Heritage of Genesee County."

Second Place -- Zachary Howard; Elba; watercolor

Third Place -- Lilliana Thompson; Elba; cardboard bas relief

The second- and third-place winners each received $25, a framed certificate, and a copy of "The Architectural Heritage of Genesee County."

Honorable Mentions from Byron-Bergen included: Eden Goft, Jonah Clare, Sara Goodman, Ricky Denson, Joshua Swapceinski, and John Mercovich.

Honorable Mentions from Elba included: Kiah Rosendale, Brynn Walczak, Jessica Andrade, Anthony Zambito, and Madison Meuhlig.

The judges for this year’s contest were Laurie and Felipe Oltramari.  Mrs. Oltramari is employed at the City of Batavia Business Improvement District. Mr. Oltramari is director of planning for Genesee County.  Both are members of the Landmark Society of Genesee County and Mrs. Oltramari has previously served as president of the organization. Stephanie Rudman from Elba Central School coordinated the contest and Melissa Coniglio from Byron-Bergen Central School assisted.

May 17, 2013 - 6:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A one-vehicle rollover accident with injuries is reported on Ellicott Street Road, near Shepard Road, Town of Batavia.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

A chief on scene reports the vehicle is on the shoulder and on its wheels.

UPDATE 7:08 a.m.: Town of Batavia back in service.

May 16, 2013 - 11:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Batavia Towne Center, COR Development.

Was the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board of Directors' decision to provide $1.7 million in tax abatements to COR Development legal?

That depends on who you ask.

A Buffalo assemblyman thinks the GCEDC board violated provisions of the 2013-14 budget act, which attempts to curtail state sales tax abatments for retail projects.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan is asking for an investigation by the state's tax commissioner, but when The Batavian contacted Taxation and Finance Department last week, it took awhile to get a response and when we did, the agency passed the buck to the state's Budget Office.

So far, no state agency has expressed much interest in taking a closer look at GCEDC's actions.

At issue is a resolution passed by the GCEDC board that found COR's proposal to redevelop the former Lowe's location in Batavia Towne Center meets the necessary legal requirements to receive state aid.

Specifically, under terms of the law, an IDA cannot provide relief on state sales tax without making certain findings. Among the possible findings are that the project will serve as a tourist destination or that it's in a highly distressed area.

The finding for the COR project by the GCEDC board was that the project provides goods and services that are not readily available to local residents from current retail stores.

At the time the board passed the resolution, the only publicly announced tenant for COR's project was Dick's Sporting Goods.

Last week, at a Town of Batavia Planning Board meeting, it came out that Kohl's is a likely tenant.

There may be at least one other, and possibly a fourth, tenant, but there's no reliable indication of who those tenants might be.

Today, GCEDC Chairman Charlie Cook said at the time of the vote, the board had been given two other names, but acknowledged negotiations were still under way between the retailers and COR at the time of the vote. There is no guarantee that those retailers will be the ones to eventually occupy the space.

The big question is whether Dick's meets the requirement under the law for providing goods and services not readily available in the local market.

Ryan has pointed out -- as most Genesee County residents know -- there are four sporting goods stores in Batavia. There are also three department stores that sell sporting goods.

Cook said he's not much of a sporting goods shopper and is largely unaware of the type of merchandise carried by Dick's or what local retailers might offer that is similar or different.

"I feel the input that I had from the people in the community was that having Dick's here would be a huge draw for the surrounding area, and I guess that's something people will always have a differing opinion about," Cook said.

Prior to approving the COR abatements, the GCEDC conducted a public hearing on the project, as required by law.

COR VP Joseph B. Gerardi made a presentation about the project at the hearing, but no GCEDC staff covered the agency's position on the project. 

The pending resolution, with its key finding about the uniqueness of the project, was not made available by GCEDC staff at the meeting or prior to the vote by the board the following Thursday.

In other words, the public had no opportunity to review specifically what the board would vote on and comment on it.

State law enacted in 2012 requires "to the extent practicable" that resolutions to be voted on be made available to the public prior to the meeting.

We requested an interview with GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde this afternoon, but he was tied up in meetings and unavailable.

After the May 2 vote approving package of incentives, The Batavian began making inquiries trying to find out who, if anyone, would enforce the IDA law if there was any question about its application for a retail project.

We found press offices with state agencies willing to provide information "on background," but nobody willing to provide on-the-record information about the law and how it's enforced, if at all.

One exception was the Comptroller's Office, where spokesman Bruce Butry was willing to be as helpful as he could be.

The Comptroller's Office could conceivably audit the GCEDC and even focus on this specific project, but an audit would merely result in a written report, leaving it up to the County Legislature to act, or not, on any findings.

"At the end of the day, it's up to the people in the local community," Butry said. "Some of these IDAs operate with very little accountability other than the pressure put on the boards by the public regarding the types of projects they're going to approve."

The Governor's Office had no on-the-record comment about the law or the local situation.

Butry suggested we try Taxation and Finance. Once we reached the right person, he was very friendly, but he said it was up to the state's Budget Office to answer any questions about the law.

In response to a long list of e-mailed questions, Morris Peters, spokesman for New York State Division of Budget, provided some information "on background," and this statement for publication:

“Under these reforms, grocery stores will no longer be given tax breaks to move across the street. Tax dollars will be focused on those industries that create jobs and companies who will move to New York to help build our economy.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who represents Genesee County, isn't surprised that Albany is keeping this issue at arm's length. He believes the decisions to provide abatements is a local issue and should be considered beyond interference from state agencies.

"I try not to meddle in local decision-making because there are too many people who do, like Mr. Ryan," Hawley said.

In response to Ryan's making public statements about the COR abatements, Hawley and Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer, who also represents Genesee County, were trying to organize a press conference for tomorrow to highlight the successes of GCEDC and invite Ryan to take a closer look at the agency, with an eye toward how he might better help his own constituents in the City of Buffalo achieve greater economic prosperity.

Scheduling conflicts may prevent that press conference from taking place.

Earlier today, Ryan and Hawley had a brief phone conversation in which Hawley said he asked Ryan, "Have you moved to Genesee County?"

When Ryan returned a call to The Batavian, he said, "I understand some people there are upset with me."

But Ryan said it was legitimate for him to call into question the GCEDC giveaway of state tax money because it affects his constituents, too, as it does all taxpayers in the State of New York.

"It all goes back to this: whose tax dollars are they handing out?" Ryan said. "Those tax dollars belong to every taxpayer in the State of New York."

A cynic might think that Ryan's real motive is to keep Dick's Sporting Goods out of Batavia so that Genesee County residents continue to drive to Erie County to shop.

Ryan said, "You could say that, but you should say he wants high wage jobs so that people can raise families and that we should use our scarce revenue to bring in those high wage jobs, not low-paying retail jobs that require people to draw on Medicare and food stamps because the wages are so low. That's not good for our economy and that's not good economic development."

To Ryan's point, the Comptroller's Office has a long history of taking a critical look at IDAs, even before Thomas DiNapoli held the office, particularly in the area of tax abatements for retail projects.

The current law attempting to curtail tax breaks for retail projects is based on a similar law that the state Legislature allowed to expire in 2008.

In 2006, the Comptroller's Office issued a report looking at implementation of the law and found that IDAs found creative ways to skirt it.

(The) exceptions, all of which are applied at the discretion of local IDA boards, can make the retail prohibition ineffective.

Since the application of these exceptions is determined at the discretion of each IDA, these criteria are sometimes subject to expansive interpretations.

The examples given were out of Erie County and included "tourism destination" designation for projects because they were located near an airport or Thruway exit.

Last week, the office again issued a report on IDAs and included a discussion of why it's important to curtail tax breaks for retail projects.

Retail projects generally do not increase the level of jobs available in a region or economic activity, as project-related gains often come at the expense of other retail enterprises in the area, and the jobs associated with retail trade tend to pay significantly less than manufacturing or other professional jobs. The restriction on retail projects was reinstated in the 2013-14 State Fiscal Year Budget, indicating that State policymakers understand the limited usefulness of these projects for economic development.

And ...

Very few of the IDAs sponsoring retail projects reported the estimated salaries of the jobs to be created, but data from the New York State Department of Labor shows that the average starting salary for a retail salesperson is $17,250, while the average for first line retail supervisors is $28,720.

IDAs, Ryan said, have become "subsidy machines."

"COR gets these subsidies from Buffalo to Syracuse," Ryan said. "They've figured it out. They know they can come to these IDAs and have their project viewed favorably because they say, 'see what a great thing we're doing for the community,' and everybody can say they're a part of it. The politicians run for election and stand in front of the place and say, 'look at what we brought here.' "

Ryan doesn't even believe it's about the commission check GCEDC will get for the project, which could total $100,000. It's about looking good, he said.

Even if Ryan is successful -- and Hawley doubts anybody in Albany will take serious an out-of-district assembly member calling for an investigation -- in getting the tax commissioner to look at the project, it's unclear from the IDA law what power, if any, the commissioner has to overturn a local decision.

Here's the relevant section of the law:

The commissioner is hereby authorized to audit the records, actions, and proceedings of an IDA and of its agents and project operators to ensure that the IDA and its agents and project operators comply with all the requirements of this section. Any information the commissioner finds in the course of such audit may be used by the commissioner to assess and determine state and local taxes of the IDA's agent or project operator.

And even if the commissioner can recapture the tax revenue, Butry, from the Comptroller's Office, said it only applies to the state sales tax incentive.

COR received a tax break on state and local sales tax for the purchase of building material, as well as a revised PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) on the increased assessment and mortgage tax relief.

Ryan agrees that there is no provision in the law for anybody in Albany to overturn the PILOT, the local sales tax or mortgage tax abatement. Those are entirely local decisions.

At the public hearing, Gerardi said the local share of sales tax revenue from the project would be $1 million.

Using that as a base for calculation, that puts projected annual gross revenue at build out at about $26 million.

Gerardi said the retailers coming into the project would invest $11 million.

Those don't sound like numbers, Ryan said, of companies that need tax incentives to build retail projects and create a playing field that isn't level for existing retailers.

Charlie Cook said he truly believes that in a small market like Batavia, big retailers won't come here without a reduction in their operating costs.

"You hate to see that big empty building just sitting there," Cook said. "They are offering an opportuinty to fill it with something that is vibrant and exciting and has the potential to draw in outside people."

Mike Barrett of Batavia Marine and Kurt Fisher of Fisher Sports have said they believe they can compete with Dick's on quality and service and Cook said he is hoping that is true.

"As you pointed out, these businesses have proven to be resilient and able to find niches and services that continue to make them very successful," Cook said. "That's my hope, that everyone is going to be a winner in the long run."

Cook said he and the GCEDC board are just trying to do the best they can for the community and there's no intent to subvert the law.

"We're a board of volunteers and the one thing we're interested in is promoting business development in Genesee County," Cook said. "That's our only motivation to sit on the board and when those opportunities come up, we embrace them."

As to any legal concerns raised by Ryan, Cook said that GCEDC has asked its attorneys to review Ryan's assertions, but Cook also said that prior to the board's vote, legal counsel assured the board that the action it was about to take was legal and proper.

"We're not out to push anything through that is improper," Cook said. All the information we had said it was perfectly proper and I guess at this point, we'll defend that. If it turns out that it wasn't, we'll review our policies and not do that anymore."

May 16, 2013 - 9:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, Genesee ARC, Stardust Ball.

Tonight Genesee ARC hosted its annual Stardust Ball at the Byron Fire Hall.

Some 65 people, including ARC clients and family members, attended the event.

Couples were encouraged to wear the best gowns or suits and each received a handmade -- by volunteers -- corsage or boutonnière. Attendees could also get a formal portrait taken as a keepsake.

Top photo, Josh Derick (a big fan of The Batavian) and Jennifer Pavlick.

Steven Jenney and Joanne Ladd

Collin Wickings and Nicole Hirtzel

Justin Shaw and Colleen Fisher

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