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June 2, 2016 - 4:41pm

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A roomful of business and community leaders heard today from Vincent Esposito, director of Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes regional office, as he talked about the economic development opportunity and effort both regionally and in Batavia.

The gathering comes prior to meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall were officials will discuss Batavia's application for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, which is a regional competiton with a $10 million prize. CORRECTION: It's at 5:30 p.m., Monday, at the Generation Center.

Batavia has a good shot at the prize because of all the work already put into improving Downtown, most notably the Batavia Opportunity Area, which has 10 brownfield revitalization projects already in the pipeline.

The Finger Lakes Region has already been a big winner in a statewide competition fro regional economic development areas, receiving a grant of $500 million from the state for projects in the region.

There are three main areas of focus for those funds, Esposito said:

  • Eastman Park in Rochester;
  • Downtown Rochester; and,
  • The STAMP project in Genesee County.

About 50 percent of the $500 million are going to projects in Monroe County, Esposito said, and the rest is spread out in the other county's in the region; however, about two-thirds of that 50 percent is going to Genesee County, he said.

The primary goals of the Finger Lakes regional office is job creation, regional wealth creation, increase private investment and reduce poverty.

In the past five years, economic development activity has created 20,000 new jobs, he said.

The projects expected over the next five years, he said, will result in $6.4 billion in private investments and a conservative estimate of 8,200 new jobs.

"We want to keep that commitment low and then over deliver," he said.

The main economic engines in growth for the region he said are optics/photonics, agriculture and food processing and high-tech wafer and chip manufacturing.

The third area is where GCEDC's STAMP project comes in and why it's attracting a big chunk of the funds from the Finger Lakes Region.

"If ever there was a time to be optimistic about your future, this is it," Esposito said.

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June 2, 2016 - 2:23pm

Press release:

Over the next four weekends (until July 3) Genesee County will host more than 10,000 baseball and softball players, coaches, families and fans at the “Sixth Annual Darien Lake Tournament Series.”

The tournament, which began on May 27, is produced by Pitch ‘n' Hit Events and Darien Lake Amusement Park, will take place at numerous ballfields throughout Genesee County.

The tournament will feature 300 teams from numerous states and Western New York. The ages of the players range from 10 years old to 18 years old, and include both baseball and fast-pitch softball.

The influx of visitors is expected to create more than a $1,005,000 economic impact during the span of both tournaments through staying in hotels and visiting local restaurants and shops. The tournament will generate over 2,160 room nights at our area hotels.

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce will assist visitors in finding local destinations by providing the new dining guide, maps, visitors guide and area coupons.

June 2, 2016 - 1:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in Tencar, business, news.

Press release:

TenCar, a woman-owned medical devices and equipment company founded by Genesee County resident Georgann Carrubba, RN, has launched a crowdfunding campaign as the company looks to start the evaluation and initial manufacturing phase of its Choice Cap product.

Funds generated will be used to build initial evaluation units for further customer feedback prior to pilot production in 2017.

TenCar’s Choice Cap is prosthetic appliance for active-lifestyle colostomy and ileostomy patients. It provides patients with a simple but secure attachment method, which includes a lightweight, airtight, molded waterproof cap to be worn with or without the traditional soft inner pouch. This added protective barrier offers greater resilience to motion and activity, giving the wearer protection against leakage and escaped odors that are common in everyday activities.

TenCar is the first start-up company to come out of the Genesee County Economic Development Center’s Innovation Zone which was launched in 2015. The company is interested inkeeping manufacturing in Batavia.

“We feel a strong obligation to the local community as a result of the great support we have received in getting our company off the ground,” Carrubba said. “We are confident that a crowdfunding initiative will receive similar support as we look to advance the company to next level of growth, which in turn will create new jobs.”

Crowdfunding is commonly used to generate funds and often involves a number of people making donations to a venture or business initiative. Crowdfunding presents the opportunity for individuals to support a company in its early stages of startup to bring their products and/or services into the marketplace. In this instance, those who support TenCar’s crowdfunding will be recognized and acknowledged by the company as well as receive gifts for their support, but will not receive shares in the company.

“While we are a small community we love when one of our own has a great success story to tell and in this instance it’s about someone who has developed an innovative medical product that could lead to the creation of new jobs,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC.

Carrubba is a Batavia native and graduate of the Genesee Community College School of Nursing. She has been working with various groups and organizations, including the GCEDC, High Tech Rochester, Launch NY, and the University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS), as well as many other partners at the Innovation Zone at MedTech Center for the past year.

Below are links to the Indiegogo crowdfunding website and a video from TenCardescribing its revolutionary new medical device the Choice Cap System:

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9k6MRnvWpww

Learn more about TenCar’s crowdfunding campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/choice-cap-system-a-better-ostomy-device

June 1, 2016 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Movies in Motion, batavia, business, news.

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 Movies in Motion, owned by Jeff and Lynda Edenholm, has survived a crosstown move, a couple of recessions, the arrival of red boxes and red envelopes, and even the age of streaming entertainment, for 20 years and that has a lot to do with the kind of customer service you can only get from a mom-and-pop shop, Lynda said.

"We know all of our customers by name," Lynda said. "We don't even have cards."

Movies in Motion opened on Clinton Street Road and Seven Springs Road on May 31, 1996. They moved a little over eight years ago when R&D Outlet acquired the building for its own retail location. The Edenholms picked a small storefront at 511 E. Main St., Batavia.

Some people still like the physical CD, others don't have Internet access and there's no contracts or long-term commitments, and that has kept a core of customers loyal to the store, Lynda said.

The 24/7 dropbox helps, too.

Like any true entreprenuer in a competitive environment, the Edenholms have never been afraid to try new things. They've sold skateboard and video games, pizza and ice cream, and a year ago they started selling handcrafted wooden furniture and handpainted wooden signs. Both new sidelines have been a boost to the business, they said.

"There's no place else in town where you can get handpainted, custom signs," Lynda said.

Jeff builds all the furniture and the Edenholms are pleased with the progress that business venture is making.

Last March, Jeff and Lynda also celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.  

"It's been hard," Lynda said. "When we get home, there's nothing to talk about because we've enjoyed each other all day, so we watch movies."

Jeff and Lynda have two adult children and a grandchild.

While the furniture and signs have been a great addition to the business, DVD rentals are still Movies in Motion's bread and butter.

Lynda said they enjoy providing family entertainment and serving the residents of Genesee County.

"We don't think of it as work, as a job," Lynda said. "We get to do what we love to do."

Movies in Motion is open from noon to 9 p.m. Sundays thru Thursdays, and noon to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The Edenholms now take holidays off to spend more time with their grandchild. For more information, call (585) 343-0971.

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May 31, 2016 - 3:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in St. Anthony’s School, City Church, batavia, business, news.

City Church is expanding, but it's not moving. The popular Downtown evangelical church recently closed escrow on its purchase of the St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church on Liberty Street on the city's Southside, which was owned by the Diocese of Buffalo.

The purchase also includes St. Anthony’s School, with a full gymnasium, a full kitchen and adjoining dining area, the rectory and a house.

But it's keeping the old movie Mancuso Theater that is now City Church, as well as its meeting facility off Center Street called The Generation Center. 

"We're 100-percent owners -- singed, sealed and delivered. We're very thankful for the property," said City Church Pastor Marty Macdonald this afternoon. "We're excited about the future. We felt this was a God-honoring opportunity."

"We're very interested in the gymnasium, and in helping preserve the heritage of the building," Macdonald said.

There are repairs to be done and plans for things to come, but the pastor said those are not yet finalized. But the name will remain the same, he said.

Meanwhile, City Church is planning a blockbuster block party this summer.

"We love being Downtown, on Main Street in Batavia," he said. "That is our home and will always be our home. We want to continue to help and brighten the city."

St. Anthony's Chruch closed more than three years ago. The school closed in 2006.

May 31, 2016 - 2:13pm

Press release:

Come out and support the animals of the Genesee County Animal Shelter by donating scrap metal.

Volunteers for Animals are collecting scrap metal to raise money for the animals from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 4th and Sunday, June 5th in the parking lot at the shelter, located at 3841 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

Metal of any kind will be accepted: railings, doors, garbage cans, file cabinets, bicycle frames, gutters, pipes, poles, fencing, window frames, lawn furniture, tools, shelving, washing machines, dryers, stoves, wheel barrows, wagons, etc.

We CANNOT take propane tanks, air-conditioning units, or refrigerators.

Scrap service provided by Ed Arnold EAS Scrap Processors of Corfu.

UPDATE 12:58 p.m., June 1: Due to the overwhelming response from donors wishing to have their scrap metal items picked up, the Volunteers for Animals are going to be extra busy doing just that between now and the weekend. So people are encouraged to find a way to bring their own scrap metal donations to the site, if arrangements have not already been made.

May 28, 2016 - 3:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, elba, soil health.

Press release:

Orleans and Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation districts have been awarded grant funds to support the formation of the farmer-led Western New York Soil Health Alliance (WNY SHA). The goal of this funding is to help create a sustainable alliance to continue on in the future for farmers, led by farmers.

The WNY SHA is planning a Soil Health and Cover Crop workshop to take place on June 30 at the Elba Fireman’s Recreation Hall (7143 Oak Orchard Road, Elba) at 9 a.m.

This free event will allow farmers to get acquainted with the Alliance and to learn the basics of soil health and how cover cropping works to enhance your soil and profits. A keynote speaker will explain what makes a healthy soil. Also, a panel of local farmers will share success stories on planting cover crops, how to get started using them, and the results they see on their farms.

Darcy Telenko will present information on the new Cornell Climate Smart Farming website and describe the tools that will be available there to help with your farm management.

Coffee, donuts, cider and yogurt will be available. Please register by contacting Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District at 585-589-5959, ext. 5, or e-mail [email protected]com

More information on the WNY SHA is available at www.wnysoilhealth.com Look under the Events tab for a downloadable PDF Flyer to see more detailed information on the workshop.

May 28, 2016 - 8:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, kati's place.

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Most people, perhaps, in Kati Mancuso's position wouldn't choose the circumstances of her life as a time to open a new business, especially one as emotionally and physically demanding as a restaurant.

But this week, that's what Mancuso did, opening Kati's Place at 40 Oak St., Batavia.

Even though Mancuso now lives in Rochester, she came back to Batavia because this is where her friends and customers are. She started in the restaurant business at 16 at Scooter's in Batavia, moved on to Scooter's in Le Roy, and eventually opened Kati's Place in Le Roy.

She had to close that restaurant after a drunken driver slammed into her car and she suffered a broken back.

She wanted to get back in the business, but took time off for the birth of her son.

"I could have opened a restaurant in Rochester and started over, but I’m so close to so many people and so many customers and they’ve been like my family over all these years so I wanted a place they could come to, so that’s why I came out to Batavia to do it," she said.

After her son was born, she found a pencil-size lump on her arm. It turned out to be a rare form of melanoma. She had a 9.7-millimeter tumor removed. She's had all the lymph nodes on her right side removed. She went through six weeks of chemo, five days a week, and then five weeks of chemo for three days a week. She's had five major surgeries and two minor surgeries.

The original prognosis was a 16-percent chance of surviving past a year.

She's not giving up.

"I felt like I was either going to lay there and die or do something that I love," Mancuso said. "This keeps me busy and keeps me moving and I think I just have to keep a positive attitude and know that I’ll be all right. I know the diagnoses isn’t good, but it’s OK."

Mancuso said every day is hard, but she has her seven employees to help her out and her customers to keep her spirits up.

"These people have been like my family and it gives them someplace to go and enjoy good food that is homemade, that’s not fast food," Mancuso said.

Kati's Place is open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and to 3 p.m. on Sunday. It's a diner with about a dozen tables and take-outs are available. The phone number is (585) 250-4483.

May 27, 2016 - 2:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tompkins Bank of Castile, batavia, business.

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Mark Williams, with the Tompkins Bank of Castile, holds one of the baskets available in a charity raffle at the Batavia branch on East Main Street.

Funds from the raffle of the two baskets of wine and other gifts will benefit Relay for Life in Wyoming County.  

Raffle tickets are available through the drive-up or when you walk into the branch.

May 26, 2016 - 12:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, news, business.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation has announced changes in the leadership of the organization, including the retirement of current President & Chief Executive Officer Michael D. Kane. Kane has been with WROTB for 20 years, the past six in his current position. He will be replaced as president & general counsel by Henry F. Wojtaszek, who current serves as General Counsel for WROTB.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work for an amazing organization that had a vision for Western Region OTB, and had the strength and fortitude to see that vision through,” Kane said. “We’ve seen unprecedented growth in recent years, and I am very pleased with the direction of Western Region Off-Track Betting Corporation.”

In replacing Kane, Wojtaszek aims to continue the growth of the organization, while continuing to be an economic catalyst for the region. He will be responsible for the overall supervision and administration of the Corporation, and for the review and implementation of all matters of a legal nature affecting the Corporation.

“It truly is an honor to replace Mike Kane, someone who has done so much for this organization and for this community,” Wojtaszek said. “I’m very excited at the opportunity to work with all of the excellent employees at WROTB to make this organization even stronger.”

In addition, Michael P. Nolan, who currently serves as executive vice president/COO, will become chief operation officer. Nolan’s responsibilities will include determining and implementing the direction and coordination of WROTBC and Batavia Downs Gaming, as well as supervision of the departments of Security, Food & Beverage, Video Gaming and Buildings & Grounds.

“With our recently completed multi-million dollar renovation and a brand new hotel soon to be open, great things are happening at WROTB,” said Nolan, who previously served as the supervisor for the Town of Elma. “Our team is going to continue strive to capitalize on the success we have achieved, and to be the premier gaming facility in the region.”

Scott P. Kiedrowski, who currently serves as the chief of staff for New York State Senator Robert G. Ortt, will be leaving that position to become vice-president of Operations for WROTB. Kiedrowski, who has served on the WROTB Board of Directors for seven years, will be responsible for the direction and supervision of Batavia Downs Gaming Marketing activities, the Purchasing Department and Communications Department.

“Scott has been an integral member of our team and our office,” Ortt said. “We served as fellow elected officials in North Tonawanda where he worked tirelessly on behalf of the City and its taxpayers. That partnership continued with our service to the 62nd Senate District. His leadership and hard work took what could have been a challenging transition for a new Senator – for staff and constituents – and managed it superbly. His day to day presence will be missed, but I know we will continue to possess an excellent relationship – on a professional and personal level – for years to come. I wish Scott and his family well in their next endeavor. He will be an incredible asset for Western New York OTB.”

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 27 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility. Since its inception, Western OTB has generated over $225 million in operating and surcharge revenues to the taxpayers of those participating municipalities.

May 25, 2016 - 4:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in frostridge, Le Roy, news, business.

After the alleged name calling, a key issue in the latest legal filing from the attorney representing the Cleere and Collins families against Frost Ridge is the alleged violation of the state's open meeting law by Le Roy's Zoning Board of Appeals.

The plaintiffs allege:

  • Neighbors within 250 feet of the Frost Ridge property were not mailed notice of the Dec. 17 public hearing held by the ZBA on the interpretation of the zoning law and prior, non-conforming use at Frost Ridge;
  • That the ZBA did not deliberate its decision in public;
  • That no noticed public meetings were held between Dec. 17 and Feb. 17; 
  • That a decision was reached without the public present sometime between Dec. 17 and Feb. 17.

These complaints are mirrored by the filing for the Feb. 17 meeting where the ZBA announced its decision; the meeting wasn't even four minutes long.

James Wujcik represents the ZBA in these proceedings and he filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the plaintiffs' complaint.

He also submitted an affidavit by Debbi Jackett, chairwoman at the time of the ZBA, which has since been disbanded by the Town of Le Roy.

She states the hearing of Dec. 17, at the order of Judge Mark Grisanti, was held after a legal notice was published. She does not address the complaint, nor does Wujcik in his memorandum, whether notice was sent to neighbors by postal mail.  

A source familiar with the case told The Batavian today that notice was mailed.

Jackett argues that proper notice was clearly given because all of the interested parties were at the hearing.

"It is common sense that one's attendance at the public hearing acknowledges notice of that very hearing," Jackett wrote. "Any insinuation that plaintiffs could not be in attendance is another attempt to delay the ZBA from acting pursuant to the order of Judge Grisanti."

Jackett also accused the Town of Le Roy of trying to obstruct the ZBA from holding the hearing. She said the code enforcement officer was informed in October that the ZBA would no longer be able to conduct meetings at the Town Hall.

As for the hearing itself, Jackett said the ZBA board took a short break and then resumed its meeting in the regular board meeting room "regarding the merits of the case."

This was apparently considered a continuation of the prior noticed meeting, though it's not clear if any members of the public were invited into that meeting.

Mindy Zoghlin, attorney for the plaintiffs, clearly did not know about this meeting continuance based on the statements in her filing.

The Batavian's reporter at the meeting that night was Ray Coniglio and he said today that he wasn't informed that the meeting would be continuing in another room. He left the Town Hall and wrote a story published the next day that said the meeting concluded without any discussion by the ZBA and that no vote was taken that night. Nobody from the ZBA ever contacted The Batavian following this news report to inform us that this information was incorrect and ask for a correction.

Jackett further argues that the Town's ongoing obstruction of the ZBA, such as not filling vacant positions, contributed to any confusion about compliance with the open meeting law.

"Even if a skeptic held merit with any claim against the ZBA for violations of the Open Meetings Law, the behavior can be traced directly to the Town's illegal, obstructionist behavior with the ZBA," Jackett wrote. 

In his memo, Wujcik argues that it is certainly within the ZBA's right to continue its meeting upon closing the public hearing, but he doesn't address the fact that the meeting was moved to another room without notification of the public in attendance.

"The ZBA correctly deliberated during its Dec. 17 meeting," Wujcik states, adding, "It should be duly noted the ZBA rendered its decision at an open public meeting on Feb. 17."

He also accused the Town of deliberating trying to disrupt ZBA proceedings and called on the court to find the Town of Le Roy in contempt of court, pursuit to the order of Grisanti.

It's unclear what will happen if Acting Superior Court Judge Emilio Colaiacovo rules in favor of the plaintiffs on the open meetings law issue. The ZBA that has been at the center of this issue for the past several years not longer exists. It was a ZBA comprised of representatives from the town and the village, and now the town and the village each have their own ZBA.

One last note about the open meeting law: The law also requires public bodies to notify all local media of its public meetings, and with the exception of the City, County and GCEDC, this practice is largely ignored by every other local public agency and government.

May 25, 2016 - 4:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, news, Milestones, Steve Hyde, GCEDC.

Press release:

Steve Hyde, president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), has been named chairman of the New York State Economic Development Council (NYSEDC). It is the state's largest economic development organization.

Hyde was elected to a two-year term during NYSEDC’s annual meeting in Cooperstown today (May 25). Hyde and the GCEDC have been members of the NYSEDC since 2004. 

The New York State Economic Development Council (NYSEDC) is the state’s principal organization representing economic development professionals, businesses and colleges and universities for more than 40 years. NYSEDC promotes the economic development of the state and its communities and encourages sound practices in the conduct of local, regional and statewide development programs, as well as develops education programs that enhance the professional development skills of NYSEDC members.

“Steve Hyde has outstanding private and public sector experience and leadership and his record of success in Genesee County will serve NYSEDC well during his term as Chair,” said Brian McMahon, executive director of NYSEDC.      

As president and CEO of GCEDC, Hyde has played a critical role in generating more than $1 billion in new investment in Genesee County through the years, resulting in thousands of new jobs and unprecedented economic development growth.

One of the most notable economic development accomplishments to date is the 1,250-acre Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in the town of Alabama, which is expected to generate thousands of jobs in the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in October 2015 the first tenant at STAMP – 1366 Technologies, which plans to build a state-of-the art solar wafer manufacturing facility creating approximately 1,000 new jobs over the next few years. 

“I have been very fortunate to work with some great public and private sector organizations in Genesee County which has resulted in me having the opportunity to serve as Chairman of NYSEDC,” Hyde said. “This opportunity will allow me to collaborate closely with various economic development leaders across New York State to create a more favorable climate for business growth and the retention and creation of jobs and private sector investment.”

Hyde holds a B.S. from Cornell University and an M.B.A. in finance, sales and marketing from Rochester Institute of Technology. He resides in the City of Batavia with his wife, Joann.

May 25, 2016 - 2:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Vibrant Batavia, batavia, business, news.

A proposal by City Councilman Adam Tabelski to spend $92,000 in funds set aside for community development on community development failed to win much support from the rest of the City Council at its Monday conference meeting.

Tabelski proposed taking the money originally intended for Vibrant Batavia, which the council scuttled two weeks ago, on a recent joint city, county, school district and Genesee County Economic Development Center initiative called Pathway to Prosperity. 

BP2, as it's known, will take a portion of fees paid in PILOT programs (payment in lieu of taxes) by property owners with economic development projects and use it to help mitigate environment issues at brownfield properties in the city. The chicken-and-egg problem is BP2 has no money until the first new PILOT is approved, and the city's brownfield area properties need to clean up as projects come on line. 

Tabelski thought $92,000 might best be used to jump start some brownfield redevelopment.

Council members had other thoughts about what to do with the money, from building a spray park on the Southside, to payment toward the new police station, to just letting it sit in the general fund.

"We need to start thinking of the kids on the south side of the city," said Councilwoman Rosemary Christian. "We need something for the child. We're always thinking of things other than the children in our community. They're our future leaders who will up her someday making these decisions."

Tabelski countered that today's children will need tomorrow's jobs.

Some council members said they thought Tabelski's timing is off, that it was only a meeting ago that Vibrant Batavia was killed off and perhaps there should be more time taken before deciding what to do with the money.

"As for timing, the reason to bring this up now is that as time goes by, the default action is that nothing happens," Tabelski said. "I'm trying to address this in a timely manner."

Molino said a spray park on the Southside would likely cost more than $92,000, with planning, engineering, possible land acquisition and the purchase of equipment. Briggs and Christian promised to push for a spray park in the 2017 budget.

May 25, 2016 - 1:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, downtown, batavia, business, news.

After a City Council meeting where City Manager Jason Molino outlined his recommendations for city oversight of the Business Improvement District, the BID's Executive Director Laurie Oltramari told reporters that the BID is almost out of money because the city hasn't turned over the funds it is contractually obligated to release by May 1.

"Even though we're trying to be friendly, we feel like our funds are being held hostage," Oltramari said.

Reached later in the night, Molino said the only hold up with releasing the funds is a lack of a properly amended budget from BID that complies with the state's General Municipal Law.

"The city fully understands they need those funds to operate and will release those funds once the BID budget can be amended," Molino said. "Once compliance is achieved with the law and the budget is properly amended, then we will release those funds."

Oltramari said the BID can operate for about one more month with current reserves. If funds from the city aren't received by then, it would need to suspend operations until the money is released.

Earlier this year, Molino notified the BID that over the past several years the city's assessment of downtown properties to provide funding to the BID has not been in compliance with the law. Molino said he had previously brought this issue to the attention of the BID before Oltramari became director, and it was never addressed. This year, he's holding up the funds until the budget reflects the law's restrictions.

The law limits the BID assessment from exceeding 20 percent of the total levy for the properties in the district, plus an additional amount for repayment of bonds secured to pay for public improvements in the BID zone.  

There was a bond issued in 1999 for public improvements, such as new street lighting, and as those bonds have been paid off, the annual debt expense for the BID has decreased, but through all that time, the assessment hasn't been reduced to reflect the lower debt payments.

As a result, the BID has a capital improvement account with $216,000.

It would be logistically difficult to return those funds to downtown property owners since the amounts vary annually and many properties have changed hands over the years.

Molino is proposing that the $216,000 be held until the BID's next capital improvement project, which raises another point of contention for Oltramari.

Molino is proposing such a plan be developed with consultants and city officials. Oltramari said the BID should lead any effort to identify and plan for capital improvements using those funds since they were raised on behalf of the BID.

Since 2005, the BID has been receiving a flat $120,000 from the city for debt repayment and operational costs, which Oltramari admits she always found strange because it was always the same without any variance for a cost of living adjustments.

"We have gone above it (the GML limit) in order to continue operations because property values are so low in Batavia," Oltramari said.

Under the terms of the GML, the BID's budget for this year is being reduced to $55,000 for operations and $15,000 for debt service, which is the last debt payment from the 1999 bonds. 

That's a severe cut in operational expenses, Oltramari said. In addition to canceling Summer in the City, Oltramari doubts she will be able to keep her assistant on payroll and the BID is looking for new, lower-cost office space downtown.

The current office is on the second floor of the Masonic Temple building at Main and Center streets.

Molino's recommendations provided to the City Council last night include:

  • Ensuring the BID amends its budget to comply with the General Municipal Law;
  • Identify commingled funds that need to be separated from the BID account, which includes capital improvement funds, operational funds and money generated by BID events;
  • Ensure the City Council adopts the proper local laws each year for governance of the BID;
  • As part of the local law amendments, require that the BID's board of directors comply with the state's open meetings law and freedom of information law;
  • Require the BID to update its district plan in cooperation with residents, businesses within the BID and the city to ensure future budgets and excess capital funds are used in a manner that best represent the business and property owners needs to achieve the organizational mission.

Oltramari thinks there is some overreach by the city in these recommendations.

First, BID board meetings are open to the public, though they're not announced on the BID's Web site, Oltramari said, and approved budgets are available to the public.

The district plan is essentially a business plan and Oltramari contends that's entirely the purview of the BID's board.

"The role of the city is to figure out the assessment and what the BID gets and to assign people to our board, that's about it," Oltramari said. "From there, it is our money to spend, and if we spend it wrong, then it's up to the state comptroller say, 'slap on the hand to you.' "

May 24, 2016 - 5:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Frostridge Campground, Le Roy, business, news, steve barbeau.

The fight over live music and other alleged zoning code violations at Frost Ridge Campground is far from over and court documents indicate the fight has recently involved some name calling and an accusation of anti-gay bias driving the attempts to shut down the park.

Attorneys for David and Marney Cleere and Scott and Betsy Collins, neighbors of Frost Ridge, have filed motions seeking a permanent ban on live, amplified music and long-term camping at the facility.

Their court papers alleged that a ZBA hearing in February that led to a finding in favor of David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell, owners of Frost Ridge, violated the state's opening meeting law and therefore the ZBA's decision should be voided.

The Luetticke-Archbell's position is that the meeting was given proper public notice, a position backed by sworn statements from the ZBA's then-chairwoman Debbie Jackett and answer filed by the ZBA's attorney, James M. Wujcik.

Any appearance of inconsistencies in the ZBA's actions, before being disbanded by the town board, is purely the result of the anti-gay bias, David Luetticke-Archbell claims in a sworn statement, of Town Supervisor Steve Barbeau.

It's a charge that Barbeau vehemently denies in his own sworn affidavit, but Luetticke-Archbell accuses Barbeau of calling his husband a "faggot" after a "contentious" Nov. 12 meeting. To support his charge of an anti-gay agenda, Luetticke-Archbell also points to several actions by Barbeau throughout the legal and civic process over the past couple of years, including a statement in a court filing approved by Barbeau that Frost Ridge is a "malignancy which cannot be allowed to metastasize."

"Mr. Barbeau, with the Town Board in tow, has unabashedly trampled on the due process rights my husband Greg and I would have been afforded but for our sexual orientation," Luetticke-Archbell wrote in his statement.

Barbeau said that Luetticke-Archbell didn't tell the whole story of the events of Nov. 12.  First, he denies using the word "faggot," but he also accused Greg of calling him a couple of choice names while following him into his office after the meeting, including a "piece of shit."

In his statement, Barbeau states he holds no bias against the owners of Frost Ridge.

"The Luetticke-Archbells have a place in the Town of Le Roy, one they have earned through their commercial and charitable efforts," Barbeau states. "The Town of Le Roy is merely trying to enforce its zoning ordinance so as to not render it irrelevant."

Barbeau said that the actions he and the town board have taken have been supported by a majority of town residents. The evidence is in the election results, he said, given that he and other incumbents handily won reelection despite opposition focused on the Frost Ridge issue.

David Luetticke-Archbell is equally convinced that Barbeau is driven by an anti-gay agenda.

Besides the slurs, Luetticke-Archbell says Barbeau's pattern of actions is further evidence of his anti-gay position.

He accused Barbeau, rather than code enforcement officer Jeff Steinbrenner, of drafting an e-mail denying Frost Ridge prior, non-conforming use status; of purposefully mucking up the application process on a couple of occasions; of usurping the independence of the Zoning Board of Appeals by filing court documents on its behalf without properly notifying the ZBA of the proceedings; of then wrongly admitting to adverse allegations of improper conduct by the ZBA; and, of illegally firing the previous ZBA attorney and then appointing an attorney who works in the same law office as the town attorney's son.

"Mr. Barbeau's motivations and actions here have always been and remain malicious," Luetticke-Archbell wrote in his statement. "His allegations, if considered at all, should be weighed accordingly."

Barbeau called Luetticke-Archbell's affidavit an ad hominem attack and asked that it be stricken from the record.

The attorney Barbeau appointed is James Wujcik, who continues to represent the ZBA and filed documents in the current court battle defending the ZBA against allegations leveled by the attorneys for the Cleeres and Collins.

As for the motion for injunction filed by Mindy L. Zoghlin, attorneys for Cleere and Collins, it's long (32 pages) and legal, and the responses from David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge, are also detailed.

Whereas in the first round of lawsuits, it was Cleere and Collins along with the Town of Le Roy against Frost Ridge, Luetticke-Archbell and the ZBA, the new motion names the Town of Le Roy as a defendant.

The Town of Le Roy is accused of not upholding its own zoning laws.

It accuses Frost Ridge of violating town ordinances by allowing permanent RV camping, of violating the noise ordinance, of relying on a defective ZBA interpretation of the law, and of violating Judge Robert C. Noonan's preliminary injunction against amplified live music that he issued in September 2014 by allowing live amplified music before 4 p.m.

It accused the ZBA of violating the open meeting law after the case was remanded back to the ZBA for a determination on whether live, amplified music is a prior, non-conforming use. The suit accuses of the ZBA of not providing proper public notice and of not deliberating its decision in public. 

In his response, Roach denies all the substantial allegations.

Acting Superior Court Judge Emilio Colaiacovo is expected to make a ruling on the current set of motions at a later date.

May 24, 2016 - 9:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, Vibrant Batavia, deer management, BID, business.

Rather than a typical Monday night meeting, the Batavia City Council is holding its conference meeting tonight, Tuesday night, and discussions are expected to include what to do about deer, what to do with funds previously earmarked for Vibrant Batavia, what happened with funding for the Business Improvement District.

The city's deer population has been a point of discussion with the council before, and after researching the issue, City Manager Jason Molino is asking the council for direction on what to do next, how much city staff time should be spent on the issue and what approach might the city take on the topic. Council members received, as part of their agenda packet, a 50-page pamphlet on community-based deer management. There are several approaches the city could take, Molino said in his memo to council, and the best approach depends on the situation in the community and what community members will accept as an appropriate response. "There is no right answer," the memo says, based on the recommendations of the pamphlet authors.

Councilman Adam Tabelski requested an item on tonight's agenda regarding the disposition of funds previously earmarked for Vibrant Batavia, which the council decided to defund at its last meeting.  That creates a pool of $97,000 in unallocated funds. Tabelski is suggesting the money be used for the as-yet unfunded Batavia Pathway to Prosperity Capital and Reinvestment Fund. New PILOT agreements with property developers is supposed to generate funds for that program, which is intended to help mitigate clean-up of brownfield sites in the city. That creates a bit of a chicken and egg problem, because funds are needed to clean up brownfields and there's no money in the fund. "Kickstarting the BP2 fund with a significant amount of seed money will help turn an innovative approach to target economic development into reality," Tabelski wrote in his memo.

The council will also discuss changes in the funding formula for the Business Improvement District. The reduction in funding for the BID prompted its board of directors to cancel Summer in the City.

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

May 22, 2016 - 1:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Foxprowl, professional wrestling, batavia, business.

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James "Jim" Fullington, better known by his professional wrestling ring name, "The Sandman," hams it up with Bill Hume, owner of Foxprowl on Ellicott Street, Batavia, during a visit to the store, where he met with fans yesterday.

May 21, 2016 - 3:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in steve, hawley, farmworkers rights, agriculture, business, news.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) joined Assemblyman Bill Nojay (R,C) and a coalition of lawmakers speaking out against the governor’s decision to not fight a lawsuit relating to the unionization of farmers. The governor’s decision to not defend the complaint, filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union in the State Supreme Court, effectively endorses unionization of farmworkers in New York State, a policy that those in the agriculture community say is not wanted or necessary. In fact, due to the individual climate and environmental concerns of each state affecting their growing season, the federal government specifically excluded farmworkers from the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

“As the former owner of our family-owned farm, former Genesee County Farm Bureau President and having served on the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee since I was elected in 2006, I can attest to the daily struggles of our farm community. The governor’s decision to support unionized farm labor, coupled with a $15 an hour minimum wage, will be absolutely devastating to Western New York’s agriculture industry,” Hawley said.

“For decades our communities have been crushed by the state’s economic policies and the unionization of farmers will only push our family farms closer to the brink,” said Nojay. “Throughout his tenure Gov. Cuomo has demonstrated a total lack of respect for Upstate’s economy by repeatedly pushing policies, from GMO labeling to the $15 minimum wage, that have had a disastrous effect on our family farms and agricultural communities. The efforts by these wealthy labor unions will not only kill businesses and family farms but continue the exodus of Upstate families to less economically oppressed regions of the country. Agriculture is the foundation of our state’s entire economy and we must give our farming families and communities the attention and support they deserve.”

“Here in Western New York, farmers work extremely hard to develop positive and long-lasting relationships with their farm hands and seasonal workers. Unionization would only add another level of bureaucracy to a system that is not broken, and further complicate the ability of our state’s small family farms to succeed,” said Assemblywoman and Minority Leader Pro Tempore Jane Corwin (R,I,C-Clarence).

Assemblyman Marc Butler (R,C-Newport) said, “Leave it to New York City politicians to get it all wrong about agriculture and family farmers. Gov. Cuomo and others like him have done much to vilify the family farmer. Not only have he and the Assembly Majority increased the minimum wage and operating costs for these important rural job providers, now the governor is joining special interest groups that are trying to force family farms into unionized shops. I will work diligently to block any efforts from the governor or anyone else who tries to impose a New York City progressive agenda on our upstate family farmers.”

Assemblyman and Chairman of the Assembly Minority Conference Clifford W. Crouch (R-Bainbridge), a former dairy farmer, said, “To say that this would be devastating to our farming industry would be an understatement. Over the years it has become very clear that advocates of unionizing farm workers, who predominantly have downstate interests, neither understand the relationship farmers have with their employees nor the negative repercussions this would have on our small family farmers. I have visited and spoke to many farm employees across the state – from Buffalo to the North Country, to the Southern Tier and Long Island.

"In those travels and to date, not one employee or farmer I have spoken to has expressed the need or desire for what is offered by unionizing their employees. With already tremendous expenses - including grain, feed, seed, equipment, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, property taxes, energy expenses, and transportation – compounded with the recent minimum wage increase, how are family farmers expected to survive?

"Unionized farm employees may make sense for states like California that have a year-round growing season, but not in New York. Let’s call it what it is: a money grab by organized labor and their political counterparts in state government to gain an extra 35,000-40,000 new members paying union dues. The government should not be telling family farmers how to operate, especially when its policies will lead to closures of those farms. When there are no farms left, what will be the cost of food and where will it come from?”

“Gov. Cuomo’s next chapter in his war on upstate seems to be financially crippling our family-owned farms. Farmers have just recently begun learning how to absorb a $12.50 minimum wage hike upstate and a cut to agriculture local assistance that New York City politicians slammed down their throats, and now they want to force union mandates on them,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R,C,I-Troy).

May 21, 2016 - 2:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, business.

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Turning onto Simonds Road in Darien yesterday, I saw big flag waving from a building that said, "OPEN," and a smaller sign that said "old tractor parts for sale."  

That looked interesting. It had never caught my eye before, so thinking it was a new business, stopped.

Turns out, Ron and Margie Rupp are now in their third year of business. Only the flag is new.

And it's not just old tractor parts they sell. They can get new and old parts for every make and model of tractor as well as all other farm equipment.

"It doesn't matter if it's green, blue or yellow," Ron said.

Ron Rupp said he represents five different parts dealers.

"If it's available, we can get it," he said.

He started the business in part to keep him busy in retirement, but over the last year or so, it has really started to pick up, he said.

Besides selling parts out of a trailer on their property, or ordering whatever a customer needs, they also travel around to tractor and steam shows. That keeps them busy during the summer months.

May 20, 2016 - 4:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in darien lake theme park, Darien, business.

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Darien Lake Theme Park unveiled its newest water ride today, RipCurl Racer, a 24-second roaring slide through curling tubs before splashing down in the pool at the bottom of the ride.

The Neid Marcucci family of Batavia was officially the first riders of RipCurl.

The ride is part of a $1.5-million capital investment in the park and was previewed today for the season.

“Bringing in RipCurl Racer, the third new thrill ride to join the park’s lineup over the past year, is really exciting for us,” said Chris Thorpe, general manager at Darien Lake. “The continued growth and expansion at Darien Lake is a testament to our dedication to providing guests with the best entertainment value in the region.”

The growth of the state's largest seasonal employer is a continued benefit to the local economy, said GC Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull.

“With the addition of RipCurl Racer, Darien Lake continues to invest in Genesee County and solidify its position as one of the top family entertainment destinations in Western New York and the entire Northeast,” Turnbull said. “Not only does Darien Lake provide a premier entertainment venue, but they also are the leading provider of seasonal jobs that are vital to our local economy.”

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