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August 2, 2016 - 4:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, Batavia's List, sponsored posts, advertisement.

We've found many people like using Batavia's List since we launched it more than a year ago, especially for housing and jobs, but I'm among those who found the pricing scheme overly complicated.

So we've simplified it.

If you're placing an ad in jobs offered, housing or autos, there is a single, flat-fee of $5 for 14 days. No more tiered pricing or pricing for different categories. $5, one time, 14 days, that's it.

Garage sale posting remain free. And we've FIXED the software that controls it. So if you've tried posting a yard or garage sale and didn't see it appear, it will now appear on the map properly.

Private party ads for items for sale or wanted were free before and they are free now.

We're doing away with the business directory on the site -- for now, because I've got something else coming (speaking of that, look in the next few days for a whole new setup for Deal of the Day).

Finally: A CONTEST: Place a listing, any listing, on Batavia's List, between now and Aug. 31 and become eligible to win in a drawing a $100 gift card for Alex's Restaurant. No purchase necessary. If you need to post in one of the $5 categories, e-mail [email protected] and I'll send you back a coupon code for a free post.

August 2, 2016 - 1:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education, news.

Press release:

The NYS Office of the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government and School Accountability recently completed a routine audit of the District’s finances to review efficiency and accountability. Looking at the period of July 1, 2012, through March 10, 2016, we are pleased to report that the audit revealed no weaknesses in internal controls, policies, practices, procedures and operations.

As a result, there no findings of fraud, waste, abuse, misconduct, or negligence.

The audit did cite one area of concern: a claim that the District did not effectively manage fund balance, which is the residual money accumulated from prior fiscal years that can be reserved for future expenditures or emergencies. When fund balances are accumulated for a targeted and specific purpose, such as saving for a capital project or an anticipated increase in retirement costs, the law specifies that the amount in these restricted funds must be “reasonable” as opposed to excessive. When a fund balance is categorized as unrestricted (containing monies not targeted for a specific upcoming expense), it must be used to lower property taxes if the amount exceeds 4 percent of the proposed budget for the coming year.

The Comptroller’s Office concluded in its most recent report that the District has too much money reserved in fund balance and debt service reserves.

Ironically, this speaks to one of the practices that the Board of Education and administration feel has been one of its greatest strengths – planning and preparing for the future, whether that be enhancing programming or facing unforeseen expenditures as we have seen in recent years with the pullback of New York State funding and the unstable financial picture.

Our philosophy has enabled the District to weather numerous constraints placed by State and federal laws, regulations, and mandates, as well as the significant unpredictability and fluctuations in both expenses and aid. While weathering these financial storms, the District has continued to deliver exceptional educational programs to our students at a per-pupil cost significantly lower than the State average, maintained a stable tax levy history for over 10 years that frequently has decreased or remained flat (with a 10-year average increase of 0.68 percent), consistently remained under the Tax Cap permissible by New York State, and, by prudent planning, earned State tax rebates for our residents for the three years that has been enacted.

Interestingly, our tax rates have decreased over the years (from 2006-07 at $24.22 per thousand of assessed valuation to $23.02 per thousand of assessed valuation in 2015-16). To analyze taxpayer impact, we conducted a study of an individual taxpayer in the District currently (in 2015-16) assessed at $106,000. The study revealed that, since the 2004-05 fiscal year (base year), the school taxes paid increased a total of $129.95, or 8.49 percent, which is an average of $11.81 or 0.77 percent a year -- amounting to less than $1 a month.

Outside of the District’s control, the taxpayer’s assessed valuation increased from $98,000 to $106,000 in 2008-09 (or an 8.16 percent change). In essence, the increase in school taxes is attributable to the increase in assessed value. Also noteworthy is that this overall increase in school taxes does not include the two rebate checks that the taxpayer received directly from NYS in 2014-15 and 2015-16 as a result of the District compliance with the Tax Cap and with efficiency established since July 1, 2012.

The Comptroller’s Office has recommended several strategies, and the District is in the process of evaluating these recommendations while remaining mindful that changes in practice must not result in significant fluctuations that will potentially harm the community in the long run nor leave taxpayers unprotected from fluctuations in the tax levy due to factors outside its control.

The report noted the belief that, from 2012-13 to 2014-15, the District had overestimated appropriations in budget projections and recommended that the District be more “realistic” as well as use more of the fund balance and reserves for the budget. First, we would clarify that this year’s pre-audited surplus is only $189,600 above the 4-percent maximum, and regarded by the Comptroller’s Office standards as a "good" budgeting process with realistic estimates.

In addition, we would like to highlight that the first couple years of the audit were the years immediately following the consolidation. Not knowing the full impact on major budgetary expenditures, such as transportation, resulted in conservative budgets in these areas. The budgeting practices have been modified, implemented, and are reflected in the 2015-16 budget results.

The District also points out that, in addition to utilizing internal staff’s expertise in analysis and projections, they also rely each year on the input from community budget ambassadors who review the budget proposals line-by-line and provide valuable feedback on the educational programs and potential modifications to the proposed budget for the Board to consider.

Regarding fluctuations in State aid, it is important to note that NYS has a history of reducing its aid to school districts. Most recently this resulted six years of reductions and, in essence, shifted the burden funding the budget to the local taxpayer if a district chose not to make changes and maintained the status quo. The District made tough decisions and changes, most markedly consolidation, and complied with the NYS Tax Cap (well before it was implemented) while receiving a cuts in State aid during these years.

Likewise, the Comptroller’s recommendation to review all reserves to determine if the amounts reserved are necessary and reasonable has been a regular part of the District’s annual budget process. In fact, one such fund, the Tax Certiorari reserve, is slated to be eliminated pending Board approval at its next summer meeting, and the Unemployment Insurance reserve is being significantly reduced. On the other hand, based on factors previously mentioned, the District’s practice is to budget conservatively for a worst-case scenario in order to protect the educational program for our students and to avoid crisis tax increases for our residents.

While there is no concrete regulation on funding amounts or limits (other than “reasonable”) on some restricted reserves, the District plans to continue its practice of periodically evaluating the reserves according to what is believed to be reasonable by District officials.

As for the Debt Service fund, which has operated as such for twenty-plus years without raising any concerns in audits, the District has reduced the balances by nearly $3 million since 2009 and has accounted for all current obligations in this Fund. In 2015, the citizens authorized a $7.5 million capital reserve fund to offset the local share of future projects beginning with the 2013 capital project.

The District will also research the current accounting method for the financing of prior capital projects. It is also important to note that Note 3 in the Comptroller’s response is incorrect. The District has always recorded transactions related to capital projects in the Capital Project fund. The accounting for long-term financing of the projects (Serial Bond principal and interest payments), along with annual revenue received (State aid, transfer from General Fund and interest earning) are the concerns cited in the audit raising the question of whether they should be recorded in General Fund or Debt Service Fund. The District will evaluate the law regarding these concerns during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

In addition, the District felt that the audit did not capture several positive initiatives, which are worthy of mention:

1. The District consolidated and restructured its educational plan in July 2012. One building was later sold and the other building is being used for some district offices along with being leased to generate additional annual revenue which results in tax levy savings. District vacant land was also sold.

2. The District partnered with the City of Batavia to approve three exemptions (Home Improvement Exemption; Mixed-Use Exemption and Inhibited Property Exemption).

3. After receiving community input, the Board approved the Alternative Veterans’ Tax Exemption.

4. The District refunded Serial Bonds in 2012 which resulted in $764,814 net present value savings.

5. Debt as a percent of the General Fund budget has been reduced from 101.87 percent as of June 30, 2008, to 39.19 percent as of June 30, 2016.

6. Taxpayers this year will be receiving their third (out of three opportunities) rebate check directly from New York State as a result of District compliance with the New York State Tax Cap law and efficiencies undertaken since July 2012.

7. In the five years since the New York State Tax Cap, the District tax levy has increased an average of 0.80 percent, while the allowable increase was 3.15 percent. In dollars, this amounted to a $2,146,484 total tax levy less than allowed. Also, three of the last four years (through 2016-17), have had no increase of the tax levy and the average increase is less than 0.50 percent. As previously mentioned, the 10-year average tax levy (five years prior to the 2012 Tax Cap law) is 0.68 percent.

8. From  fiscal years 2007-2008 to 2014-15, General Fund Payroll decreased 2.2 percent, from $20,701,103 to $20,248,248. In 2015-16, payroll was $20,324,816 --an increase of only 0.38 percent over the previous year. Each year since 2007-08, payroll was less than the 2007-08 base year. Savings in payroll have been achieved via strong negotiation strategies and District consolidation.

9. Contracts with all of our bargaining units (Administration, Teacher, Clerical, Custodial, Food Service and individual contracts) were negotiated two different times during the period audited resulting in significant cost savings to the District on employee healthcare contributions.

10. The Batavia City School District survived the 2010-11 to 2015-16 Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) which resulted in a loss of $8,649,980 of New York State aid during those six years. The single highest year of reduction was $2,570,826 and the average State aid cut was $1,441,663. It is also important to note that, from 1990-91 to 1992-93 (three years), New York State also reduced funding to school districts, the first being a mid-year cut. In this 26 year time span, New York State has cut its aid for public schools nine years, or 34 percent of the time. New York State must look into and fix the politics of the New York State public school funding.

11. Since 2010-11, the District has also absorbed $1,704,152 in corrections (current year reduction in State aid) to New York State building aid. These reductions, which were in addition to the GEA previously mentioned, were a result of New York State overpayment of building aid over many years.

12. Since June 30, 2003, all Independent External audits and New York State Comptroller audits are available to our public on the District website in an attempt to enhance transparency.

13. Moody’s has the District rated as A1 which is slightly lower than the median rating of Aa3 for school districts nationwide. According to Moody’s, the financial position of the District is strong and is a notable strength with respect to the assigned rating of A1; the economy and tax base of the District are solid overall and positive operating margins are a component of strong financial management (surplus being generated and the tax base expanded modestly).

While the opinions of the Comptroller’s Office and recommendations of the audit are valued, appreciated, and will be utilized to further enhance District budgeting practices, the Batavia City School District and the Board of Education will not abandon our philosophy and belief that our residents expect and prefer a stable, consistent, and predictable tax rate while incorporating an effective long-range financial plan.

We will use this report and incorporate recommendations that align with our philosophy and long-range planning strategy. It is also important to note that the Comptroller recently released an analysis of State spending that shows the potential for budget gaps in future years - shortfalls that could reach nearly $5 billion beginning in the State fiscal year 2017-18. This could invariably directly impact schools again just as the Gap Elimination Adjustment did when the State had significant budget deficits only a few years ago.

The Board will be careful regarding the choices that are made today to ensure that they don’t put the District in a bad financial position in future years.

August 2, 2016 - 11:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Barry Miller, bergen, news.

Press release:

U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Chris Collins today announced President Obama has signed into law legislation to rename the Bergen Post Office located at 15 Rochester St. in Genesee County as the “Barry G. Miller Post Office.” Earlier this year, both the Senate and House unanimously passed the legislation introduced by Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Collins.

“Barry Miller was deeply involved in the Bergen community and his passion showed in his dedication to service and answering the call of those in danger for the past 30 years,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We collectively remember and honor this extraordinary and generous New Yorker. This designation is a fitting tribute for a hometown hero in the community he held near and dear. I am pleased this legislation passed Congress unanimously and was signed into law by President Obama.” 

“While nobody can fill the void left by Barry Miller, all those who enter the newly renamed ‘Barry G. Miller Post Office’ will be reminded of the incredible sacrifice and courage displayed by a man who was so much a part of this community and who embodied the true spirit of selflessness through his 30 years of service,” Senator Schumer said. “Naming the Bergen Post Office on Rochester Street after him is a truly fitting tribute to his bravery, and allow the legacy of this hometown hero to live on in an enduring way.” 

“Barry Miller is a hero in the Bergen community,” Congressman Collins said. “The Barry G. Miller Post Office is a fitting way to honor Mr. Miller’s legacy of community service and selfless sacrifice for others. I was proud to introduce this legislation and glad to see it signed into law.”

“This recognition is an important tribute to Barry's service to our community. He dedicated his life to serving others and this will be a permanent reminder of his service to Bergen. We appreciate New York's lawmakers for working together to make this a reality,” Tracy Miller said. 

August 2, 2016 - 11:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, batavia, news.

The driver in yesterday's fatal accident on Route 63 has been identified as Robert L. Williams, 67, of Pavilion.

Williams was northbound on Route 63 just south of Shepard Road in a Chevy sedan when a 1989 Mac bix truck made a left-hand turn in front of his vehicle, according to State Police.

The driver of the truck is identified as Arnold D. Duck, 83, of Attica.

State Police say this is an ongoing and active investigation. No further information was released.

August 1, 2016 - 10:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kyle Johnson, crime, Le Roy, news.

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NOTE: This story is a complete version of the breaking news item we posted earlier today.

The Le Roy resident charged with murder in the shooting death of Norman "Don" Ball during the early morning of Dec. 1 entered a plea in Genesee County Court this afternoon of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman told Interim Judge Micheal Pietruszka that two psychologists examined the 53-year-old defendant, Kyle G. Johnson, and both found that Johnson is dangerously mentally ill. One expert was hired by the defense and one by the prosecution. If the case had gone to trial, both would have testified about Johnson's mental condition.

Defense Attorney Jerry Ader told Pietruszka that at trial he would mount what is called an "affirmative defense" that his client was affected by mental illness that time the crime was committed. With the prosecution's own expert witness agreeing with the diagnoses, Friedman said the people would accept the plea.

Johnson was facing an eight-count indictment that included charges of murder, burglary, arson and attempted murder. Johnson the suspect in the shooting death of Ball, accused of entering his Selden Road neighbor's home and shooting him in the head while he slept, and then returning to his own residence and setting it on fire and then firing a Le Roy fire chief and a Le Roy police officer when they responded to the fire alarm.

There was then an hours-long stand-off with Johnson while he wandered around the area of his burning home, reportedly asking officers to shoot him, and a couple of moving times toward officers with his rifle cradled in his arms.  Emergency response teams, with armored vehicles,  from Genesee County and Monroe County swarmed the scene and Johnson, surrounded, eventually agreed to peacefully surrender to authorities.

After accepting Johnson's plea, Pietruszka ordered Johnson transferred to a state-run, secure mental health facility where he must undergo further evaluation to confirm the diagnoses. He will be evaluated either by two psychologists or a psychologist and a psychiatrist. The results of those exams will determine whether Johnson remains in a secure mental health facility or is moved to an in-patient facility or released. That decision will be based on whether he is found dangerously mentally ill, mentally ill or not mentally ill.

"We fully expect they will find him dangerously mentally ill," Friedman said.

In court, Friedman said that Johnson's mental health history, stretching back 11 years, was 400 pages long. He did not reveal what sort of mental health issues that Johnson may have been treated for, or if any of that record indicated anything about being a threat to himself or others.

Today's plea ends all further criminal prosecution of Johnson these charges, Friedman said, even if at some later date -- next week, next month, next year, or years from now -- he is deemed mentally healthy enough to return to society.

Pietruszka asked Johnson during the hearing if he understood that his plea could mean he would spend the rest of his life in a mental institution, and Johnson said yes.

Throughout all of Pietruszka's questions, Johnson made no statement beyond answering yes or no.

Friedman said with the plea, it's quite possible that Johnson will spend more time in confinement than if he had gone to trial, been found guilty and sentenced to prison.

Johnson will be taken to the Rochester Psychiatric Center and held there while undergoing exams. The staff has 30 days to complete a report, but a 30-day extension could be requested. Pietruszka did not want to schedule Johnson's next court appearance until the report is completed.

If the case had gone to trial, Johnson would face multiple ranges of potential prison terms, including a max of 40 years to life.

Outside of court, the children of Don Ball were not entirely happy with Johnson's plea and the fact that he will avoid prison, as well as a belief that the system failed by allowing Johnson to be free, and own a weapon, even before Dec. 1.

"We're not very happy that he's not going to be incarcerated, but we will all work very hard to ensure things like this don't happen again, where somebody like this is let out of a secure facility and then be able to be unsupervised in society," said Ryan Ball, standing with his sister Cherie Wesser, Shawan Gell. Jeanette Keating,

Ball also said he saw some benefit to Johnson receiving mental health treatment. He just doesn't trust that Johnson won't be released at some point.

"He needs help like that," Ball said. "He needs to be in a secure place. He's a dangerous person and he has been in and out for the past 11 years. Even though that has happened, he was let out by those people. Now he's in another secure facility. What are the chances that he will be let out again? It's as if they waited for something to happen. Now that something did happen, they're saying, 'well, maybe, he will be in for the rest of his life.' That's very upsetting."

Keating questioned whether the government is really doing a good enough job protecting the public from dangerously mentally ill people. 

"If there were better policies and procedures in place for the mentally ill, then maybe our dad would still be here," Keating said. "The revolving door is upsetting -- to see somebody released, still having a mental defect, with just the hope that they will continue with their medication when there is no supervision."

Asked if they were concerned that Johnson had been able to obtain a firearm, Keating said, "absolutely."

"That was one of our first questions," she said. "How is it that he had a firearm?"

Ask if he felt the judicial system had let the Ball family down, Ryan didn't go that far.

"It's a failure at some point," Ball said. "I'm not sure what that point is, but I'm going to work hard to find out exactly where this failed. This guy has been known to be a dangerous and mentally ill person for a long time."

Friedman also seems to express some doubts about how Johnson obtained a firearm and was not better supervised.

"This (Johnson obtaining a firearm) is a very big concern, obviously," Friedman said. "Unfortunately, that is something that was not prevented in this case. We can talk about the possible failings of the system in the past that this happened, but this is just a tragedy."

August 1, 2016 - 8:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Diana Kastenbaum, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Mr. Collins’ appearance today on MSNBC was insensitive to the Khan family and self-serving. As the representative of the people of NY-27 and a so-called advocate for Veterans it was even more thoughtless and uncaring.

Diana Kastenbaum said, “Collins continued to be Trump’s surrogate by reiterating the insults to the Khan family in his interview. To have a talking point, which he used not once but twice, saying that it happened 12 years ago made it seem somehow irrelevant. My response to Mr. Collins is - the loss of a child has no expiration date for one’s grief. Collins also stated that Mr. Khan is not immune from anything as he has entered the political fray; therefore he leaves himself open to condemnation and criticism. I would ask Mr. Collins, is that how we treat the memory of our heroes and Gold Star Mothers among us?”

Mr. Collin’s defense of the Trump attacks on the Khan family was another opportunity for him to stand by the Republican nominee and the divisiveness that he is inflicting on our country. 

UPDATE: Democratic leaders from the 27th District have also put out a statement:

The Democratic chairs of the eight counties that comprise New York's 27th District condemn in the strongest terms Rep. Chris Collin's outrageous statement on MSNBC this afternoon. As he desperately attempted to defend his chosen candidate's criticism of the Kahns, the Gold Star family who criticized Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigrants since it would have prevented their son who died heroically in the service of our nation from even entering the United States, Rep. Collins went way over the line.

Incredibly, he accused Mr. Kahn of using his dead son as a "shield" from criticism and suggested he deserved anything he got, since he had dared to enter the fray.

Veterans and their families make up a proud part of this congressional district. All of them understand better than Mr. Trump or Rep. Collins what sacrifice actually means. Capt. Khan died defending his men and our nation. His family deserves our thanks and our compassion.

Rep. Collins brags about his role as a surrogate for Mr. Trump, even saying a few weeks ago that he had appeared on cable television for Mr. Trump's campaign over 100 times. We have to wonder how much he is even concerned with New York's 27th district, in the midst of this whirlwind of activity. We understand that Rep. Collins desperately wants his candidate to become president, since, as he admits, he hopes to be named

Secretary of Commerce. Today's comments prove there are no depths to which Mr. Trump can sink that he will not gladly follow. The voters of NY 27 deserve a representative who has as his priority the people of the district, not his own advancement. The many veterans and service families of NY 27 also deserve someone who understands and appreciates the sacrifices they made and continue to make. Rep. Collins clearly does not. 

Jeremy Zellner, Erie County Democratic Chair
Nick Forster, Niagara County Democratic Chair
Jeanne Crane, Orleans County Chair
Lorie Longhany, Genesee County Democratic Chair
Harold Bush, Wyoming County Democratic Chair
Judith Hunter, Livingston County Democratic Chair
Jamie Romeo, Monroe County Democratic Chair
John Hurley, Ontario County Democratic Chair

Lorie Longhany, the Genesee County chair, when sending over the press release, also included two relevant links:

August 1, 2016 - 5:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news.

Daniel Dioguardi was sentenced in Genesee County Court today to a prison term of two to four years on his conviction for third-degree burglary.

The Le Roy resident was arrested in May, 2015, in connection with a break-in on Columbia Avenue that resulted in the theft of some PlayStation4 games, which were traded in at a local game store. That helped police identify Dioguardi, Det. Eric Hill said, and Dioguardi was also known to the victim.

Dioguardi apologized to the people he hurt, his family, and the court "for taking up everybody's time."

He thanked Interim Judge Michael Pietruszka for giving him a shot a substance-abuse rehabilitation, which his attorney Jamie Welch said had gone well for Dioguardi.

Dioguardi said getting clean allowed him to reconnect with his family, especially his 4-year-old son, whom he called his "little angel."

The sentence was enhanced because Dioguardi has a prior felony conviction. He was on probation at the time of this arrest, and under terms of the plea deal, Pietruszka gave Dioguardi one-and-a-third to four years in prison, to be served concurrently with the prison term for burglary.

August 1, 2016 - 1:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy, news.

The Le Roy resident charged with murder in the shooting death of Norman Ball during the early morning of Dec. 1 has entered a not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman told Interim Judge Micheal Pietruszka that two psychologists examined defendant Kyle Johnson and both found that Johnson was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. One expert was hired by the defense and one by the prosecution, and if the case had gone to trial, both would have testified about Johnson's mental condition.

Johnson was facing an eight-count indictment that included charges of murder, burglary, arson and attempted murder.

After accepting Johnson's plea, Pietruszka ordered Johnson transferred to a state-run, secure mental health facility where he must undergo further evaluation to confirm the diagnoses.

If the case had gone to trial, Johnson would face multiple ranges of potential prison terms, including a max of 40 years to life.

UPDATE: The final version of the story can be found by clicking here.

August 1, 2016 - 12:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, byron, news.

A 55-year-old Byron resident can expect to spend 12 and a half years in state prison after entering a guilty plea to attempted murder today in Genesee County Court.

David O'Connor entered his plea on an Alford basis, which means he isn't admitting to the factual claim underlying the attempted murder charge, but that he would likely have been found guilty at trial.

According to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, O'Connor denies that he was firing his rifle from the second floor of the Byron Hotel at Deputy Andrew Hale, attempting to kill him, on March 7. O'Connor maintains that he was aiming at the tires of the deputy's patrol vehicle.

The shot blew out the back windows of Hale's SUV.

The plea was part of an agreement that will cap O'Connor's prison term to 12 and a half years and avoids a trial.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 30.

O'Connor made no statements in court today.

Previously:

August 1, 2016 - 10:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in pets, animals, batavia, news.

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A reader found this dog wandering in the area of College Road near Bank Street at 10:30 p.m., Friday. They've looked for info on lost dogs and seen none reported in the area and there's been no such dog reported missing to the Animal Shelter, they said. "He's the sweetest dog." They will be giving the dog a temporary home hoping the owner will be found soon. If you think this dog is yours, please call 585-409-3383.

August 1, 2016 - 9:53am

The National Federation of Republican Women are about to embark on a voter registration drive in swing states and the bus tour will stop in Batavia today.

Federation President Carrie Almond is expected at the stop along with federation officers, local elected officials and members of the Genesee County Women's Republican Club.

The purpose of the tour is to convince women in 11 swing states to register Republican and support the Republican's nominee for president, Donald Trump.

The event is at the Old Courthouse from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the public is invited.

August 1, 2016 - 9:19am
posted by Howard B. Owens in theater, arts, GO ART!, Darien, Darien Lakes State Park, news.

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Shake on the Lake, Genesee Valley’s Shakespeare Festival, now in its fifth season, performed Saturday at Darien Lakes State Park, entertaining an audience with "Twelfth Night," co-produced by Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.

The evening, which opened with plein air artists painting Darien Lakes landscapes, was sponsored by GO ART!

If you missed the performance, there are opportunities this week to see it in Attica and Silver Lake. For more information, visit the theater company's website.

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July 30, 2016 - 4:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Alabama, Basom, news.

A single-car accident with an individual complaining of neck pain is reported in the area of the Totem Pole on Ledge Road, Basom.

Alabama fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 4:06 p.m.: Law enforcement requested to the scene. Alabama's responding units can stage in quarters.

UPDATE 4:10 p.m.: Mercy can go back in service. Patient is a sign-off.

July 30, 2016 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in employment, economy, business, news.

Genesee County's unemployment rate remains at pre-recession levels, hitting 3.8 percent for the second month in a row, but there are still fewer people working locally than there were the last time it hit 3.8, in August 2007.

Then, according to NYS labor department statistics, there were 32,600 people with jobs in the county. In June 2016, the most current employment numbers, there were 29,700 people with jobs, a drop of more than 3,000 employed residents.

The labor force participation number has dropped over the same span from 33,900 to 30,800. The number in June 2015 was 31,200.

The labor force participation number reflects the total number of people either working or actively looking for employment. It does not include people who have stopped looking for work, nor does it include people who have voluntarily decided to retire (which as Baby Boomer age does account for at least some of decrease in workforce participation) or people who dropped out of the labor force because of disability.

From 2007 to 2015, Genesee County's population rose from 58,159 to 58,937.

The lowest number of employed local residents over the past 10 years was in January 2015, when 27,300 residents had jobs. The unemployment rate then was 6.8 percent.

Since 1990, the number of employed locally has hovered the range 27,000 and 31,000, and the labor force participation number has remained within a similar range.

These numbers reflect the job market for residents, as for the jobs currently filled within Genesee County, the June 2015 number is 24,000, which is exactly where it was a year ago for non-farm jobs.

July 30, 2016 - 12:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Coffee Corner, business, Stafford, news.

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It's been months and months of planning and work, but Jeff Price and Dawn Van Nostrand are ready to open their new coffee shop Monday morning at the corner of Seven Springs Road and Clinton Street Road.

Appropriately, it's called Corner Coffee.

Patrons will be able to enjoy coffee, smoothies and baked goods either to go or during a break in the sitting room, where they can connect to free Wi-Fi.

"We look forward to serving the public and enjoying the coffee," Price said.

As much as possible, what's served is from local sources, Price said. The baked goods come from Sweet Pea's and Harrington's. Sweet Peas is also making pints of homemade ice cream that will be available at Coffee Corner.

The location is next to Batavia Sign, a business owned by Price's brother-in-law.

Price and Van Nostrand said they liked the location because it's a good neighborhood, with good neighbors, close to Genesee Community College and on the route of many commuters heading to work in the Byron and Bergen area or to Rochester and Buffalo.

July 30, 2016 - 12:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in darien lake, darien lake performing arts center, Darien, crime, news.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office during the G-Eazy concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Friday:

Colt D. Agnew, 19 of Potter Hill Road, Cattaraugus, is charged with criminal trespass 3rd and criminal possession of a forged Instrument, 2nd. Agnew allegedly entered Darien Lake after being told to leave and was found in possession of a fraudulent Maryland license. Agnew was arraigned in Darien Court and put in jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Jamie J. Burczynski, 20, of Old Goodrich Road, Clarence, is charged with second-degree harassment and resisting arrest. Burczynski allegedly swung his fist at a deputy and then resisted arrest. Burcyzynski was arraigned in Darien Court and put in jail in lieu of $1,000 bail.

A 17-year-old of Thorn Berry Way, Conyers, Ga., is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly urinating on a vehicle.

Bryce R. Tarbox, 20, of Route 417, Alleghany, is charged with third-degree criminal trespass and criminal possession of stolen property, 5th, after allegedly possessing a stolen Live Nation cleaning shirt and entering the concert venue without a ticket.

A 16-year-old of Ridge Meadows Drive, Spencerport, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, after allegedly entering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.

Evan J. Vershay, 21, is charged with forcible touching after allegedly grabbing a female's private parts.

The following subjects were charged with unlawful possession of marijuana:

A 17-year-old of Main Street, Williamsville

Joshua P. Butry, 24, of 81st Street, Niagara Falls

Shane N. Barrett, 25, of Hickory Street, Whitney
Casey R. George, 19, of Hagen Avenue, North Tonawanda
Alexis N. Malta, 18, of Tinker Tavern Road, Webster
Luke G. Simons, 18, of Country Meadow, Hilton
Melanie M. O’Malley, 20, of Foxwood Lane, Williamsville
Andrew J. Stone, 21, of Evans Street, Lockport
Zachary T. Fronckowiak, 18, of Westover Street, Yorkshire

July 30, 2016 - 12:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Stafford, news.

Two people were seriously hurt early this morning in an accident on Route 5 in Stafford.

Steven N. Cook, 33, was taken by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital with extensive injuries, according the Sheriff's Office. 

Shannon M. McGill, 28, was taken to Strong by Mercy EMS with upper body injuries.

The accident was reported at 2:07 a.m.

The cause or circumstances of the accident were not released. Only one vehicle was reportedly involved.

Assisting at the scene were volunteers from the Stafford and Town of Batavia fire departments.

Charges are pending. 

The investigation is being conducted by Deputy Eric Meyer.

July 29, 2016 - 10:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Le Roy, news.

There's a report of a car hitting a pole on West Main Street, Le Roy, in front of Scooter's Restuarant.

Wires are down and there's a report of power out in the area.

The occupants are out of the vehicle, but there are wires on the vehicle.

Le Roy fire and Le Roy ambulance responding.

July 29, 2016 - 10:18am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Calling All Dogs, Tori Ganino, batavia, pets, animals, news.

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Because choke, pinch and prong dog collars really don't help improve a dog's behavior, and can actually make bad behavior worse, Tori Ganino, owner of Calling All Dogs, 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia, is offering a discount on training to owners who leave those collars with her so they can be destroyed.

Leave one of those types of collars and get $12 off a group class or $12 off an in-home training visit, or leave an electric collar and get $15 off.

"These collars create all kinds of negative associations and don't help build a relationship with your dog," Ganino said. "They create bad associations, so if a person is walking by and a dog is already a little bit nervous and then they see the person and they get pinched or they get choked, that just validated the feelings that the person is bad because they got hurt when they saw the person. It can make behaviors worse."

If a dog learns that pain will be associated with pre-bite warnings, such as barking or lunging, the dogs will learn to suppress those warnings and instead just bite, Ganino said, which makes them very hard to work with later when tryng to unlearn that behavior. 

And even in a good-natured dog, the pain hurts the dog's relationship with its owner, she said, because they see the owner as the one inflicting the pain. 

Ganino wants owner to bring punishment collars in and learn the kind of behavioral techniques, build around rewards and learning alternative behaviors, for the sake of the dogs, the owners and anyone they might encounter.

"I want to be able to show people is that they can change their dog's emotional response so things are not nearly so scary," Ganino said.

The phone number for Calling All Dogs is (585) 455-5387.

NOTE: Rocky update: Tori helped us a lot with Rocky and we continue to work with him.  His behavior has improved; he's lost a lot of his fear and demonstrates a lot more happy and loving behavior. 

July 29, 2016 - 9:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in arts, theater, alexander, news, Naomi LaDuke.

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Last night, a homegrown youth theater troupe in Alexander performed a special production of the "Wizard of Oz" before dozens of invited guests.

This 25-page adaptation of the famous story was based on a script by 13-year-old Naomi LaDuke, who based her version on a musical performed at Shea's, on silent films, the movie and the book.

These pictures are from the rehearsal Wednesday at the treehouse on Church Street where the actual performance took place.

Naomi also cast the players, designed and sewed Dorothy's costume and created the scenery and props. The musical accompaniment was played by David Lange, the organist at St. James Episcopal Church, which Naomi recorded using Apple's software, Garage Band.

This is the fourth annual production by the kids, under the name of their theater, Open Door Productions.  

There was no admission fee for guests last night, but they were asked to make a donation at the door benefiting Brittany's Hope, a nonprofit in Pennsylvania that assists in international adoptions. The evening's theme was "There's no place like home."

"The kids are hoping to raise money and awareness to bring another child home to their forever family," said Naomi's mother, Karen Laduke. "Two of the actresses are internationally adopted themselves, so this is a theme that hits close to home."

Leigh LeFevre, pictured above, played Dorothy.

Naomi, besides being the writer, director, set and costume designer, also played the Wizard.

The rest of the cast: Lillian McClellan, Sally LaDuke, Jennmarie Schiller, Mya Hardie, Margarite LaDuke, Samual LaFevre, Kylee McClellan, Kathryn McClellan, Katelyn Hardie and Lucy LeFevre.

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