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November 29, 2016 - 6:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Elba Volunteer Fire Department, elba, news.

An open letter from the Elba Volunteer Fire Department:

On behalf of the Elba Fire Department and Elba Joint Fire District, we would like to thank all the fire departments in Genesee County and all the fire companies that came from other counties to help us with the fire on Thanksgiving Day. We also would like to thank all the businesses, organizations, and community people who brought food and beverages. There were a lot of firefighters, EMS, personnel and fire police as well as the Power Company and fuel company. Because of the great cooperation we got from all of these people, the fire went smoothly. With it being a holiday, we also say thank you to all the volunteers who gave up their time with family members and for the understanding family members who supported them. The cooperation and community spirit and support of the people of Elba and surrounding areas was phenomenal. Thank you again. 

November 28, 2016 - 9:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, elba, alexander.

Kayleigh Jean Allen, 24, of North Byron Road, Elba, is charged with felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and moving from lane unsafely. Allen was charged following an investigation into an accident reported at 2:36 a.m. Saturday on Route 98 in Alexander. The accident was investigated by Sgt. Jason Saile.

Maria Luisa Martinez, 21, of Chestnut Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Martinez is accused of stealing $70.18 in merchandise from Kohl's.

November 25, 2016 - 3:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Torrey Farms, elba, fire, news, agriculture.

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In farming, there's little time to dwell on losses and already the Torreys are moving on after a fire caused more than $3 million in losses to their Big O Farms onion packing and storage facility in Elba yesterday.

They're still shipping onions from two other facilities they own and making plans to replace the equipment lost in yesterday's fire.

"That’s what we’ve got to do," said Mark Torrey, who stopped by the scene of the fire at 5520 N. Byron Road this afternoon to meet an insurance adjuster. "That’s what keeps you going today. We got up this morning and had to figure it out. We had loads we had to get out today. We had to figure out how to get them out. We actually started working on that yesterday afternoon."

There were three lines of onion-packing equipment in the building, Torrey said. Some of the equipment was installed within the past year. The property is assessed at more than $400,000 and each line costs more than a half-million-dollars each.

"It's not something you can just buy off the shelf," Torrey said.

Most of the equipment is manufactured in Europe, so even if suppliers have already assembled the parts, it will take some time to get everything to Elba and get it installed.

Meanwhile, the Torreys still have onions from this season's crop to get to market and some 70 employees to keep working.

A few employees posted on Facebook about how sad they were about the fire and praised the Torreys as good people to work for.

"A lot of these people have worked for us for a long time," Torrey said. "They’re working in the other places (today), but yeah, we’ve got a lot of good employees and you try to treat them right."

The fire may have started with a tractor that was stored on the southeast corner of the building and had its engine block plugged into an electric socket to keep it from freezing. Nearly every fire department in the county, along with companies from Monroe and Orleans counties, responded to the Thanksgiving Day fire. There is reportedly a community effort underway to organize an event to recognize the volunteers.

Local contractor Vito J. Gautieri also was at the facility today. He built the plant in 1958 for the Ognibene family. He came with a model of a truss used in the main arched barn. The county's online property database doesn't list the size of the facility. Gautieri said it was greatly expanded from what he originally built, but he estimated the entire space to be about 25,000 square feet.

"It's the first building I ever built that burned down," Gautieri said.

Torrey acknowledged it's a difficult loss, but that the business will continue as usual.

"This is a big set back, but we’ve still got people, we’ve got product we’ve got to pack," Torrey said. "You’ve just got to get doing it and that sort of keeps your mind off of this today."

Previously:

November 24, 2016 - 8:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire, Torrey Farms, agriculture, news.

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It's been more than 12 hours since the first alarm sounded for a barn fire at  5520 N. Byron Road in Elba and volunteer firefighters are still on scene.

On Thanksgiving Day.

It was a massive fire. It consumed the entire onion packing and storage facility owned by the Torrey family. It's a facility that 15 years ago was owned by the Ognibene family, hence the name of the business location, "Big O Farms."

The facility is just a mile or so north on Transit Road from the Elba Mucklands, where the Torreys are one of the largest onion growers in the county.

Family members told firefighters that most of the recent season's crop was stored at other locations, so while about 1,000 crates of onions were lost, most of this season's harvest was not in the building.

What was in the building was all of the company's sorting and packing machines, all of which were destroyed in the fire.

"Obviously, these agriculture-design buildings have no built-in protection systems, so that’s a game changer for us," said Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator. "Then not having the adequate water supply for us initially, we were playing catch-up the entire time."

Clearly, the fire started in the southeast corner of the building. The cause, however, is unknown. Yaeger said investigators will look at electrical and equipment as the potential spark that lit the inferno. 

Elba crews were first on scene and started an exterior attack. Yaeger said that it's possible even by that time, given the wide-open spaces inside the building, the fire could have spread extensively.

It didn't take long for flames to reach the west end of the building, and a short time later, five- and six-foot high flames could be seen flitting through the roof.

Heavy equipment was brought in to knock down walls and open holes in the roof to help firefighters get water onto the fire.

But all morning, the water supply was a major obstacle to fighting the fire.

There was only one low-volume fire hydrant in the area, so as many as 20 tankers were called in from four counties to help shuttle water from fill sites (ponds, generally) and to porta-ponds set up on North Byron Road.

"Some of the primary fill sites weren’t adequate because of the drought we had this past summer so they had to establish and look for other fill sites, which unfortunately were further away," Yaeger said. "Some points were four, five, six miles away."

While nobody wants to be dragged away from friends, family, parades and football to fight a fire on Thanksgiving Day, the timing of the fire had one benefit: plenty of manpower. Many volunteers were home today instead of at work on a typical Thursday.

"I was fearful on the way here when the alarm came in, you know, people go away, go to visit family, a lot people go out of town, so I was concerned about what our manpower situation was going to be," Yaeger said. "Surprisingly, it may have worked in our favor. We had more than adequate manpower."

Every fire company in Genesee County was mobilized in some way for the fire. If the department wasn't on scene, and most of them were, they were acting as standby or fill-in for the departments who did respond.

Responding from the county included Elba, Byron, South Byron, Bergen, Oakfield, Stafford, Alabama, Alexander, Le Roy, East Pembroke, Bethany, Pembroke and Indian Falls, with Darien and Pavilion placed on standby or fill-in.

Departments from Orleans County, including Albion and Barre, responded, as well as Brockport from Monroe County and inmates from Wyoming Correctional Facility.

All volunteers, all giving up all or a portion of their Thanksgiving to fight a fire.

But Yaeger suggested we not concentrate on the sacrifice of the volunteers.

"It’s difficult, but our hearts and thoughts go out to the business owner," Yaeger said. "That’s the primary concern. We don’t ever want to see this kind of destruction. It’s a total loss. That’s our real thought. For the firefighters, to be away from their families is difficult, but that’s what we do. In times of need, the fire services have got to be there and we were. It’s unfortunate it was today."

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November 24, 2016 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, elba, news, agriculture, Torrey Farms.

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Photos from the fire that broke out about 7:30 a.m., today, at Big O Farms, a property of Torrey Farms, where onions are processed.

We'll have more coverage later. Initial coverage, here.

Give thanks for our volunteer firefighters.

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November 24, 2016 - 7:33am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, news, elba.

A barn fire is reported at 5520 N. Byron Road. Elba and Byron fire departments are responding. "It is believed to be 'The Big O', which is the onion growing company's name. Smoke is seen coming from the structure.

UPDATE 7:35 a.m.: This is a confirmed, working barn fire. Town of Batavia Fire Department is called to stand by in Elba's fire hall. Bergen, Oakfield and Stafford are also called to the scene.

UPDATE 7:39 a.m.: This has gone to a third alarm. Alabama, Alexander, Bethany and East Pembroke fire departments are also called to the scene, along with the Town of Batavia's ladder truck.

UPDATE 8:05 a.m.: South Byron Fire Police are called to shut down traffic at North Byron and Transit roads. Churchville is asked to fill in at Bergen's fire hall.

UPDATE 8:17 a.m.: Alexander, Darien, Pembroke and Indian Falls are asked to have crews stand by in their respective fire halls in case needed. Two tankers out of Brockport are requested to the fire.

UPDATE 8:48 a.m.: National Grid is on scene. Barre is responding. Attica is asked to fill in at Alexander.

UPDATE 9:12 a.m.: "We have rolling flames," says a firefighter.

UPDATE(S) 10:49 a.m. (by Howard): When I left the scene 20 minutes ago, the fire was still burning. Fire crews are likely to be on scene all day.  I'm going to start working on my pictures and head out later for follow up.

UPDATE 11:14 a.m.: This story from 2013 contains some shots of onion processing in this building.

UPDATE 12:23 p.m.: Le Roy's rescue engine is requested to the scene.

UPDATE 12:32 p.m.: Pavilion being requested to fill in at Le Roy's hall. (CORRECTION: Pavilion asked to stage in their own hall to cover Stafford and Le Roy)

UPDATE 1:36 p.m.: A man just showed up with "a bunch of Thanksgiving dinners" for the firefighters.

UPDATE 1:42 p.m.: Le Roy returning.

UPDATE 2:23 p.m.: Alexander is returning.

UPDATE 2:36 p.m.: Several other departments have been released, including all of the out-of-county departments

UPDATE: More coverage here.

UPDATE 4:59 p.m.: Town of Batavia's Ladder 25 is back in service.

November 23, 2016 - 9:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Grand Jury, batavia, elba, news.

James D. Pontillo is indicted on four counts of falsifying business records, 1st, and one count of grand larceny, 4th. Pontillo is accused of filing false business records with Pathstone related to Section 8 housing by filing a false information sheet, a request for tenancy approval, owner responsibility form and lead paint disclosure form. In the course of these filings, he's accused of defrauding the agency of more than $1,000.

Michael J. Jarmuz II, is indicted on a count of driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, aggravated unlicensed operation, criminal impersonation, 2nd, four counts of forgery, 2nd, forgery, 3rd, and two counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Jamuz is accused of driving while under the influence in the Town of Elba on Aug. 13. He was allegedly driving while his privilege was suspended. He allegedly provided a false identity when stopped and provided a false identity when submitting to a blood sample, a fingerprint record and a patient record at UMMC.

November 22, 2016 - 9:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, elba.

A car vs. deer accident is reported in the area of 7373 Pekin Road, Elba.

Injuries are reported. 

Elba fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 9:19 p.m.: A Mercy medic first on scene reports minor injuries. All responders can come in non-emergency.

November 10, 2016 - 3:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Boy Scouts, elba, Troop 6017, news.

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The Boy Scouts of Troop 6017 in Elba hosted a dinner Sunday honoring veterans and first responders.

This was the third year the scouts served up spaghetti at the Fire Hall.

Submitted by Aidan McClurg.

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October 27, 2016 - 8:53am
posted by Billie Owens in politics, crime, news, elba.

A resident at 21 Main St. in the Village of Elba reports the larceny of political signs from his front lawn. Sheriff's deputies are responding to the complaint.

October 23, 2016 - 5:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba, news.

A car in the area of 5117 N. Byron Road, Elba, has rolled over after reportedly striking a deer, but the caller reports no injuries.

Elba fire dispatched, and as a precaution, Mercy EMS dispatched.

October 19, 2016 - 4:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, elba, news.

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Investigators have spent the day trying to track down new leads that might help them discover who was involved in yesterday's robbery of the M&T Bank branch in Elba.

The robbery was reported at 2:35 p.m. yesterday and seems to have involved two men dressed in masks, gloves and hoodies who fled in a stolen car before switching cars about a block away from the bank.

Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster said a team of investigators spent the day canvassing the area looking for witnesses or images from surveillance cameras that might assist in developing leads.

Investigator Joseph Graff told our news partner 13WHAM that investigators are also checking with costume shops to see if any connection can be made between the masks and gloves the suspects were wearing and a recent purchase.

Brewster said the Sheriff's Office is conferring with the FBI and law enforcement in Monroe County.

The initial getaway car was stolen from a car dealership in Rochester and had a stolen plate on the rear of the car.

Anybody who might have information that can assist in the investigation can call the Sheriff's Office at (585) 343-5000.

Photo released this afternoon of the second suspect.

October 18, 2016 - 7:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, elba.

Submitted photos and press release from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office:

At approximately 2:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center (9-1-1) received a report from a teller at Elba M&T Bank, 7133 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98), Elba, that the bank had been robbed.

A description of a vehicle involved in the robbery was given to dispatchers and patrols from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police responded.

The bank teller observed the get-away car and license plate number and reported it to dispatch, along with a discription of the two robbers. The car was described as a silver Dodge Stratus, which traveled northbound on Route 98 upon leaving the bank.

The two suspects were wearing face masks, gloves and dark-colored hoodies. The get-away car was located approximately 1/10th of a mile north of the bank and it looked like the suspects got into another vehicle and fled.

Investigation revealed that the silver Dodge Stratus was stolen from the Spencerport area and the license plates were stolen from the City of Rochester.

The amount of money stolen is unknown, but it is believed to be not substantial.

Investigation is continuing by the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, New York State Police and FBI.

For more information, contact Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster, (585) 345-3000, ext. 3503.

October 18, 2016 - 2:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, elba, news.

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A bank robbery is reported at the M&T Bank on Route 98 in Elba. Elba High School is on lockdown. The suspect vehicle left heading northbound on Route 98. Sheriff's deputies are responding.

UPDATE 3:13 p.m.: In a field north of the bank, money is strewn about. The area is cordoned off. Some of the currency is bunched in a packet, streaked with dye.

UPDATE 3:17 p.m.: No one is injured. The bank is located at 7133 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98).

UPDATE 3:23 p.m.: There are at least two suspects, both of whom were completely covered up and wearing ski masks and gloves. One person matching an eyewitness's description has been spotted walking along a road in Bergen -- a male wearing a gray sweatshirt and dark pants.

UPDATE 3:43 p.m.: The school is no longer on lockdown.

UPDATE 3:56 p.m.: The man spotted walking in Bergen was found to have no connection to this crime.

UPDATE 3:59 p.m.: According to Sheriff's Gary Maha, the call came into dispatch at 2:35 this afternoon of a robbery at M&T Bank. State Police and Sherifffs deputies responded and spoke with the tellers, who "were very good" at providing law enforcement with details about the suspect vehicle, including the plate, and a description of the two suspects at the scene. The vehicle was reported stolen in Rochester. The men both wore hooded sweatshirts, gloves and carried black handguns. They "appeared very nervous" and verbally demanded money and handed tellers bags for them to put it in. One suspect is described as black and the race of the other is uncertain. They left with some money, some of which was ruined by the dye packets, and some was left scattered on the ground. They fled north on Route 98 a short distance, then ditched the vehicle. Whether they were picked up by someone else or had another vehicle parked in the vicinity is unknown at this time. Maha said they ought to have photos to release later today. Investigators are poring over the bank's video and still pictures. They are going to process the abandoned vehicle for clues. Maha said this was the same bank that was robbed in 2009 and the tellers handled it as well as can be expected. "They are shook up, as you would be if someone pointed a gun at you, I'm sure," Maha said. "Fortunately, nobody got hurt. That's the main thing."

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October 18, 2016 - 2:30pm

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced $55,000 in state funding to establish a new joint agriculture education program for Oakfield-Alabama Central and Elba Central School districts.

The mission of the new program is to encourage more high school students to explore agriculture and consider a career in the industry.

“This important program will serve as another tool for educators to cultivate student development and success, and I am proud to have been able to jump start this new program," Ranzenhofer said. "Now, our students will have better opportunities to learn more about agriculture and be inspired to start a career in the industry."

The start-up funding will cover equipment, field trip expenses, instructional resources and materials, and instructional salaries. Enrolled students, in grades nine through 12, will experience classroom instruction, hands-on projects and opportunities to visit local businesses with a connection to the agriculture industry. The program will be administered by and located at the Oakfield-Alabama School District.

“We appreciate the support of Senator Ranzenhofer in this new program. Our students are surrounded by agriculture and now have the opportunity to learn about the careers of the industry. We hope the program will motivate some of our graduates to remain in the area as well,” said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent Mark A. Alexander.

Agriculture and its related industries are the number one economic driver for Genesee County and New York State, and industry demand for a properly trained workforce is greater than ever. According to the Land O' Lakes Foundation, food production in the next 50 years will need to be higher than the prior 500 years.

Senator Ranzenhofer’s office received letters of support from the local agriculture industry, including: Cornell University Cooperative Extension Genesee County; Lamb Farms Inc.; CY Farms LLC; East Pembroke Grange; Wayne E. Phelps Ent. Inc.; Offhaus Farms Inc.; and Z&M Ag and Turf.

The Oakfield-Alabama Board of Education will publicly recognize Senator Ranzenhofer for his efforts to establish the new program during tonight’s board meeting.

October 17, 2016 - 1:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in elba, Announcements, news, music, genesee valley wind ensemble.

The Genesee Valley Wind Ensemble will perform its Autumn Concert "First & Final Steps" beginning at 4 p.m. in the Elba Central School Auditorium on Sunday, Nov. 13.

The school is located at 57 S. Main St.

The purpose of the ensemble is to serve and provide the Greater Genesee Valley audience with new and familiar live music, to serve its membership with the opportunity to perform challenging wind ensemble literature and to create the opportunity for the conductor and musicians to grow their collective musical talents.

Admission is:

  • $25 -- Family Deal -- for immediate family and children defined a mother and/or father and up to four children
  • $10 -- Adult
  • $8 -- Senior (55+) & Veteran
  • $5 -- Student with ID
  • Free -- Children age 5 and younger

Also, printed on the back of the tickets will be a coupon for Chap's Elba Diner, which can only be used immediately following the concert for 10 percent off their bill.

To contact the ensemble, email    [email protected] 

The concert will feature these works:

"A Movement for Rosa" by Mark Camphouse

"Music for a Darkened Theatre" by Danny Elfman

"Over the Rainbow" by E.Y. Harburg & Harold Arlen

"Commando March" by Samuel Barber

"A Fifties Time Capsule" -- arrangements by Paul Jennings

"Chorale and Shaker Dance" by John Zdechlik

"Library of Congress March" by John Philip Sousa

"Star Trek: Into Darkness" -- arrangements by Michael Brown

October 15, 2016 - 11:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in football, sports, oakfield-alabama, elba.

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Oakfield-Alabama/Elba ruined an otherwise perfect homecoming night for Notre Dame to end the season by scoring 16 fourth quarter points to seal a 22-6 win.

It was the first win of the season for OA/Elba, so both teams finish the year at 1-6.

QB Reice Woodward was only 1-7 passing for one yard, but he gained 149 yards on the ground on 14 carries and scored twice. Tucker Bezon rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries.

For the Irish, Brendan Klotzbach was 10-16 passing for 107 yards.

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To purchase prints, click here.

October 15, 2016 - 3:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, elba, news.

A caller to dispatch reports three girls about 8 years old are walking westbound on West Avenue in Elba and they are allegedly taking other people's mail and carrying it with them.

UPDATE 3:12 p.m.: The caller "is concerned that they are going to be injured," perhaps due to their proximity to oncoming traffic.

UPDATED 5:25 p.m., Oct. 16: Here's the email we received from a parent; we withheld the name.

Please post an update on news of the trio of Elba girls stealing mail.  

I'm one of the fathers of the three girls that were delivering the mail in Elba on Saturday. I just wanted to leave a note saying that my daughter and I went door to door and apologized for the action. I realize the person who called it in to the sheriff thought they were stealing the mail but they were delivering it to the front door of each home trying to be helpful. I have discussed it with my daughter and she knows the consequences of her actions.
October 10, 2016 - 1:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in Milestones, Oakfield, byron, elba.

On Oct. 1-2, Barry Flansburg, Albion Future Farmers of America Alumni president, joined others throughout the region to help determine how they could better support agricultural education and their local FFA chapters. Flansburg is an assessor for the communities of Oakfield/Byron/Elba.

The National FFA Alumni Organization recently hosted a regional development conference in Rochester, which delivered professional, personal and alumni program development to local and state members. In addition, the conference was a time for alumni members to network and share local visions of innovation with other alumni chapters and state associations.

"As alumni, it is our responsibility to serve as a source of relief for our agriculture educators as well as attract new volunteers and supporters to help our FFA programs," said National FFA Alumni Executive Director Josh Rusk. "Our hope is that the regional development conferences will give alumni the tools and support they need to be successful in that endeavor."

This conference was one of six to be held this year. The other locations for the conferences include Oklahoma City, Okla., Burbank, Wash., Ankeny, Iowa, Oxford, Ohio, and Atlanta.

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 629,367 student members who belong to one of 7,757 local FFA chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

October 3, 2016 - 4:30pm
The annual Roast Beef Supper to benefit the Historical Society of Elba will be held this Thursday, Oct. 6, at the Elba Firemen's Rec Hall on Route 98 at the corner of Route 262 (7143 Oak Orchard Road, Elba).
 
Takeouts available starting at 4:30; serving begins at 5. Basket raffles starts at 6.
 
Cost is $9.50 adults, ages 5 to 12, $4.50, and 5 and under FREE.
 
Call for reservations -- June R. at 585-757-2791.

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