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November 24, 2011 - 8:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, Sponsored Post, advertisement, contests.

Both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Hasselback rushed for 17 yards on Sunday, so the Week 11 contest winner was randomly drawn from among the 25 people who picked either QB as the quarterbacks with the most rushing yards for the week.

The winner for Week 11 is Bob Bartz, who picked Fitzpatrick. Bob wins one small cheese pizza, one topping, one order of wings and a two-liter bottle of soda pop.   He has one week to pick up his prize.

November 24, 2011 - 1:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, kathy hochul.

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul will be in Genesee County on Saturday as part of "Small Business Saturday," a national effort to encourage consumers to shop locally this holiday season.

Small businesses are the backbone of any community and Hochul made supporting locally owned businesses part of her campaign platform.

On Saturday, Hochul will be at Adam Miller Toy and Bicycles on Center Street at 1:15 p.m. Hochul will also stop at Vintage and Vogue in Le Roy at 2:15 p.m.

November 24, 2011 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in State Police.

Press release:

Major Christopher L. Cummings, Troop “A” commander, today announced that during the Thanksgiving Holiday, the New York State Police will continue with a specialized traffic enforcement campaign called OPERATION HANG UP, targeting motorists who use their cell phone and other electronic devices while driving in the Troop “A” area.

Cell phone use and texting while driving continue to proliferate despite widespread public concern and acknowledgement that the behaviors are dangerous. They support widespread increased enforcement.

Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that drivers who use hand-held devices (phones, Blackberries, etc.) are four times more likely to be involved in crashes that are serious enough to cause injuries. At average highway speeds, in three seconds you will travel the length of a football field. The State Police will be utilizing a new resource to enforce these types of violations.

A Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) vehicle will be deployed throughout this holiday weekend and the near future. This unmarked police vehicle is fully equipped with emergency lighting and other traffic enforcement resources. The primary mission of this vehicle is to easily blend in with traffic and to cite dangerous behaviors such as distracted driving. Major Cummings encourages all motorists to “Keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.”

Thanksgiving signifies the start of the holiday travel season and traffic volumes are expected to be heavy during this holiday weekend. This increases the risk of highway crashes for everyone. Major Cummings noted that State Troopers in Western New York will be stepping up traffic enforcement during this holiday period to prevent needless highway tragedies.

Troopers throughout the Western New York region will be deployed in various enforcement capacities such as DWI saturations, roving patrols and stationary checkpoints. Troopers will be cognizant for drivers using cell phones as well as other electronic devices. Of course, speeders, impaired drivers, vehicle occupants who are not properly buckled up, and other traffic violators will also be cited, where appropriate.

Violators who are ticketed for distracted driving violations face a maximum fine of $100, along with a mandatory $60 surcharge and possibly points on their driver's record depending on the violation.

November 24, 2011 - 10:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, genesee county, thebatavian.

I've had a couple of conversations recently that reminded me how fortunate we are to live in Genesee County.

The first was with a gentlemen who came into Delavan's on Friday night. He's from Ohio but visits Batavia regularly for business. He's decided to buy a small home here rather than always packing for a hotel stay.

"I love Batavia," he said. "It's a great little city. The people are friendly, the crime rate is low, there's a lot beautiful old homes around and it's a nice area."

The other conversation was with Jeff Stephen, the dairy industry expert. Stephen had no idea I was from California when we started to talk, but he began to compare Batavia to the so-called Golden State. Batavia, he said, was a great place for a company to set up business compared to California. We have good schools, the cost of living is so much lower, it's less crowded and people in Western New York, unlike California, he said, really appreciate their jobs.

San Diego, my hometown, can call itself America's Finest City, but I think where I live right now has it beat hands down.

There's a lot of advantages to living in Genesee County that are easy to forget as we go about our day-to-day business. Every community has its problems, and it's easy as we struggle to solve them to let them become bigger in our minds than they actually are, or to forget about all of the good things around us.

All of us in Genesee County have a lot to be thankful for, from the place we live, to the neighbors who are always ready to help, to the friends we stand by and who stand by us, to the families we cherish.

On behalf of myself, Billie, Lisa Ace and our correspondents, we want to thank both our readers and our advertisers for making it possible for us to live and work in America's Finest Little City. We wish you and yours the very best. Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2011 - 2:32pm

Project Wave -- which we now know is being pursued by PepsiCo -- will be the largest yogurt plant in North America, according to an industry expert with more than 15 years in the field.

Jeff Stephen, a consultant with Productive Partners, said in an interview today that what Pepsi is planning is impressive and will be a huge benefit to the community and the local dairy industry.

"Pepsi isn't the kind of company that is going to go anywhere," Stephen said. "They're not going to cut back because of any shortage of money. This is everything you could ask for in a local community. They are going to be successful. Not everything will go to plan, but they will succeed. This is a major global commitment."

Based on industry reports, Pepsi wants to get into the yogurt business. The multinational firm is planning a merger of sorts with Theo Muller Group, a German company that makes seven different yogurt products.

Stephen said companies for years have been trying to crack the U.S. yogurt market in the belief that American consumers don't buy as much yogurt as they should. Europeans consume five or six times as much yogurt as Americans, Stephen said.

The key to the U.S. yogurt market, Stephen said, is to make yogurt with more body and texture, a yogurt that can be consumed as a meal or a key ingredient in a meal. Growth in the U.S. yogurt market has been thwarted, Stephen said, because too much of the product available in the U.S. is what Stephen called "crappy dessert yogurt."

The key to the U.S. market is Greek yogurt, which has more flavor, is more filling and has greater nutritional value.

That's the kind of yogurt that will be the basis of Alpina's product line. Alpina was the first big signing for Genesee County Economic Development Center in the new ag park. Alpina is building an initially 10,000-square-foot facility that will employ 50 people.

Pepsi's plans begin with a 300,000-square-foot facility that will employ 180 people, with a build out by 2033 of 16 production lines and 600 employees.

There is no yogurt plant in North America that's close to that size, Stephen said.

When Stephen saw what was being planned for Project Wave, as first reported on The Batavian, he figured Pepsi, whose plans with Theo Muller had already been reported by the Wall Street Journal, was a likely prospect for the property. A project of that size would almost certainly be a plant for a large corporation moving into a new product line. 

The deal bringing Pepsi to Batavia hasn't been signed yet, but construction has begun on the facility and Pepsi is clearly eager to get its new product to market by 2013.

Stephen just hopes Pepsi is planning a yogurt line based on Greek yogurt and not "crappy dessert yogurt," which he doesn't think will help Pepsi or other yogurt makers expand the U.S. market.

Whatever Pepsi does, he doesn't see the Pepsi products competing directly with Alpina, which will be producing a slightly higher end yogurt and going after niche markets.

Pepsi's main competitors will be Dannon and Yoplait.

Dannon, based in White Planes, is a pure dairy company and between its two main brands, controls about 38 percent of the yogurt market. Yoplait, owned by General Mills, has another 6 percent. The rest of the market is shared by regional players and store brands, some of which, Stephen said, are very good.

Another potential local player in the yogurt market is O-AT-KA Milk Products, which is owned by Upstate Niagara Cooperative. 

The rumor is that a current expansion at O-AT-KA is for the local plant to start making yogurt ingredients.

It's unknown who the ingredients will be sold to, but Upstate purchased a 100-year-old, one-line yogurt plant in Watertown about a year ago.

Charitably, Stephen said, the Watertown plant is "historic," but it shows Upstate's intention to move into the yogurt business.

Whatever product Pepsi brings to market, Stephen said, will be thoroughly researched and well marketed.

"I have very high respect for Pepsi," Stephen said. "They are efficient in manufacturing and production and very good marketers. They are not the kind of company that gives up."

It's unknown whether Pepsi will purchase its dairy products through O-AT-KA or directly from farmers (those are discussions that probably haven't even taken place yet, Stephen said), but as for farmers, Stephen said they will be happy working with Pepsi.

Pepsi, he said, takes an approach that being easy to work with helps lower costs.

"I think the farmers will want to do business with them," he said.

As for milk supply, the market will probably be shaken up for awhile initially, but the big farmers have little trouble adding capacity (more cows) and there should be an ample milk supply in Western New York to meet the needs of Pepsi, Alpina and O-AT-KA, and any other players that enter the market at the ag park.

Perhaps the worst news for other dairy businesses, Stephen said, is that if Pepsi wants to hire an employee, they will hire that employee. They will spend what it takes, he said, to get the best employees, especially in key positions.

But it's a great pool of employees that is attracting Pepsi to Batavia, Stephen said.

For years, he's been telling dairy companies to stop manufacturing in places like Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia because the standard of living is so much better in smaller communities.

Employees can actually afford to buy a house in a place like Batavia. That isn't true in larger population centers. And, Stephen said, the schools are good, and that's attractive to a major employer.

"You have a pretty high quality of life," Stephen said. "It's a pretty attractive place to put people who are going to work for you for a long time."

November 23, 2011 - 9:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A 22-year-old Medina man accused of shoplifting Tuesday at Kmart allegedly resisted arrest and fled from a deputy, leading to a 17-minute manhunt that ended with his arrest on Batavia Downs property.

Jailed on $2,500 bail was Shawn Richard Wisniewski, of West Avenue Street, Medina.

Wisniewski was accused of trying to steal doe and buck urine.

Deputy Patrick Reeves responded to the store at 3:25 p.m. after the alleged attempted theft was reported and Reeves interviewed Wisniewski. When Reeves tried to arrest Wisiewski, Wisiewski allegedly resisted arrest and fled the store.

Assisting in the manhunt were Batavia PD and State Police.

Wisniewski was charged with petit larceny, escape, 3rd, resisting arrest and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th.

No information available on what the alleged controlled substance may have been.

November 23, 2011 - 8:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A driver pulling out of the Walmart parking lot at 4:03 p.m., Tuesday, on Veterans Memorial Drive apparently didn't see an oncoming car before pulling out in front of the other vehicle.

The two-car collision sent four people to UMMC for evaluation and treatment of minor injuries.

Cited for alleged failure to yield the right-of-way was Patricia A. Derleth, 72, of Clinton Street Road, Batavia.

Besides Derleth, injured in the crash were the driver and two passengers in the other vehicle: Kara L. Diltz, 18, of Kent Road, Kent, and Steven T. Peckenpaugh, 19, and Derquile R. Qualcen, 22.

The accident was investigated by Sgt. Greg Walker.

(Initial report)

November 22, 2011 - 8:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Youth Center.

The staff and volunteers at the Batavia Youth Center served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner Tuesday night to about two dozen youngsters who are participants in youth center programs. Most of the meal, turkey and fixings, was prepared by Gail Stevens.

November 22, 2011 - 8:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Le Roy.

An accident with injuries has been reported on West Main Road, Le Roy.

One person reportedly has a head injury.

At least two ambulances have been requested to the scene.

Traffic is being shut down at Gilbert and at Le Roy Bethany Townline Road.

Le Roy Fire Department, Le Roy Ambulance Service and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 8:46 p.m.: One patient is a sign-off. Mercy EMS put back in service.

November 22, 2011 - 8:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Le Roy, UMMC.

Press release:

On Monday, members of the Le Roy Moose Lodge donated a dozen plush stuffed moose toys to United Memorial Medical Center’s Emergency Department. The Tommy Moose program is a national initiative started by the nonprofit Moose International. The toys are distributed to children in crisis by police officers, firefighters, emergency responders and hospitals. The friendly looking toys comfort and distract children in traumatic situations.

The toys donated to United Memorial were purchased by Moose members Judy Mills, Catherine Campbell, Shirley Schutt, Malinda Dykstra and an anonymous donor to the lodge. More information on the Tommy Moose program can be found at

Pictured in the photo from right to left are Catherine Campbell, UMMC registrar, Bonnie Bezon, Emergency Room nurse manager, and Judy Mills.

November 22, 2011 - 4:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Bernadette Smart sent in this photo of her son Brandon and his friend Jeryll Cherry at Tops Market on Monday where they were bell ringers for the Salvation Army. Bernadette said their video game character masks were a big hit with shoppers.

If you would like to volunteer to ring the bell for Salvation Army, contact Major Robert at 343-6284.

November 22, 2011 - 4:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A two-car accident with injuries is reported on Veterans Memorial Drive in the area of Office Max and Walmart.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 4:10 p.m.: Three minor injuries reported. One person with chest pain from airbag deployment and two with facial injuries.

November 22, 2011 - 3:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID.

Press release:

Join in the holiday spirit at the first “Taste of the Holidays” on Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3 in the Holiday Tent at Jackson and Main streets.

Friday, Dec. 2 (5:30 - 9 p.m.):
5:30 p.m. - Lighting of the community Christmas tree and singing of carols. Tree is next to Bank of America on Main Street.

In the Holiday Tent (6 to 9 p.m.): More than 10 great area restaurants will be providing a tasting of their menu specialties. They will be handing out coupons and selling gift certificates for the holidays. For entertainment, the OHMS Band will be performing. The cost is $5 per person and children are free.

Community bonfire on Center Street (across from Adam Miller Toy)

Saturday, Dec. 3 (11 a.m. - 3 p.m.):
In the Holiday Tent: Free holiday activities for the children, i.e. decorating ornaments and other holiday crafts). Holiday gift items for sale by local organizations. Entertainment: Bart Dentino & Kevin Huber and the McMahon Irish School of Dance.

Horse & Wagon Rides on Center Street (12 - 3 p.m.): Rides cost $1 per person with proceeds going to the Donny Carroll Toys for Kids fund.

Hosted by the Batavia Business Improvement District.

For more information visit: or Facebook: downtown Batavia Business Improvement District.

November 22, 2011 - 3:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county.

The Sheriff's Office is looking for the owner of a pair of compound bows and some accessories that go with the bows.

A Good Samaritan turned in the bows after finding the items on a roadway in Genesee County.

The bows were in carrying cases.

The items apparently fell from a moving vehicle.

Also found were three water containers and a gas can.

If anyone lost this type of property, contact Deputy Frank Bordonaro, 345-3000, ext. 3229.

UPDATE 8:34 a.m., Wednesday: The owner of the bows has recovered the lost items from the Sheriff's Office.

November 22, 2011 - 1:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

The driver of a minivan allegedly ran a red light this morning, according to Officer Dan Coffey, causing a three-car accident that sent all three drivers to UMMC by ambulance for treatment and evaluation.

Coffey was in his patrol vehicle, westbound on Ellicott Street, waiting to make a left-hand turn when he saw the van go through the intersection.

His view was obstructed at the point of impact, but the southbound van hit one northbound car, causing it to spin around and strike another northbound car not once, but twice.

Coffey said the driver of the minivan will likely be cited for an infraction, but had not yet completed his accident report.

None of the injuries are believed to be serious.

November 21, 2011 - 8:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba, Oakfield, byron, alexander, Genesee County Jail.

Kurt Hamilton Hawkins Jr., 18, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with assault, 2nd. Hawkins, an inmate at the Genesee County Jail, is accused of assaulting another inmate at 4:26 p.m., Thursday. The alleged victim was treated at ECMC where he was held overnight for observation.

Sandra Louis Chilano, 51, of Dodgeson Road, Alexander, is charged with petit larceny. Chilano is accused of stealing $100 while employed at Alexander Deli as a clerk.

Ryan Christopher Riggi, 16, of Ridge Road, Lyndonville, was arrested on a warrant issued by Batavia City Drug Court. Riggi was jailed on $100,000 bail.

Samual Christopher Dilcher, 28, of Lewiston Road, Oakfield, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Dilcher was arrested following a complaint of harassment at 2:10 a.m., Sunday on Park Road in Batavia.

Samual Christopher Dilcher, 28, of Lewiston Road, Oakfield, is charged with criminal mischief 4th. Dilcher is accused of smashing the driver-side window out of a pickup truck during an argument at a location on Park Road, Batavia. He is is also charged with trespass. Dilcher was allegedly involved in an incident Nov. 20 in the Batavia Downs parking lot. Upon further investigation Deputy Joseph Graff came to believe that Dilcher had been previously banned from Batavia Downs property.

Christopher Jordan Rhodes, 41, of Transit Road, Wyoming, is charged with DWI, aggravated DWI and failure to keep right. Rhodes was stopped at 2:01 a.m., Sunday, on Lewiston Road, Batavia, by Sgt. Brian Frieday.

Zachary Michael Rebert, 20, of South Pearl Street, Oakfield, is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, 2nd, and harassment, 2nd. Rebert is accused of getting into a domestic dispute with a woman, pushing her several times and then taking her car without her consent. Rebert was jailed on $5,000 bail.

John Edward Bird, 70, of Barrville Road, Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to stop at a stop sign, moving from lane unsafely and driving left of pavement markings. Bird was stopped at 9:43 P.M., Saturday, on Chapel Road, Byron, by Deputy Jason Saile.

November 21, 2011 - 7:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education.

UPDATED 10:45 p.m.

If you caught Channel 8 (the Fox affiliate in Rochester) newscast tonight, you might think Batavia City Schools have just declared war on Christmas.

The on-air report explicitly accused the district of "canceling Christmas."

That's not quite accurate.

The report was based on a memo provided to district personnel last week reminding them of school policy on religious expression.

The district has had such a policy for more than 20 years, according to senior district Board Member Patrick Burk.

Superintendent Margaret Puzio said the memo was nothing out of the ordinary and is something that goes out to district staff about this time every year.

The memo is based on a policy last drafted in 2001. The policy is crafted to strike a balance between the No Child Left Behind Act (ensuring a nondiscrimination policy regarding prayer in schools), and previous legal cases based on the First Amendment.

The district's board adopted a policy prohibiting sectarian religious observance, but also ensured that individual teacher and student expressions of faith are protected.

“If I want to wear a shirt that says ‘Merry Christmas,’ I can do that," said Puzio following a district board meeting Monday night.

News 8 reported on its six o'clock broadcast:

A local school district is banning the phrase "Merry Christmas." Parents in Batavia are outraged about the new policy, which also prohibits Christmas and Hanukkah decoration in the classroom.

Parents were not notified about the new policy. 

The story quotes one parent, Lucy Hudson, and claims several teachers were upset about the policy.

When The Batavian spoke to teachers Monday evening, the teachers waiting for the school board meeting to start said they were previously aware of the policy, but thought the recent memo was meant to reinforce the religiously neutral requirements.

Prior to Monday night's school board meeting, Puzio provided The Batavian with the 10-year-old policy, and said she would speak with The Batavian after the meeting (the original version of this story was posted prior to that interview).

The policy states any school activity should neither advance nor inhibit religion, and that students should be afforded the opportunity to learn about cultural and religious traditions, respecting the beliefs of all students.

Music at a school or public event, for example, should teach musical concepts, to convey historical and cultural content or to create aesthetic experience in a setting that emphasizes artistic expression and educational value, not to promote or celebrate a religious faith.

The policy requires that the district "vigorously publicize and disseminate" the policy.

An attached, undated memo, provides further clarification on teaching religion in schools.

It reads:

"Religious symbols, such as Christmas trees, angels, menorahs, etc., should only be used as part of a unit of instruction on various world religions, not as decoration in the classroom or school. Remember, students have the right to wear religious symbols as an expression of their faith, but should not be obligated to do so."

In a section dealing with schoolwide or public events, the memo reads:

"Expressions related to specific religions, e.g., 'Merry Christmas,' should not be included in any spoken or written remarks."

Puzio explained that doesn't prevent a teacher in a private conversation with a student whom the teacher knows celebrates Christmas from saying, "Merry Christmas."

A teacher can also wear, for example, a cross on his or her lapel. 

Personal expressions of faith are protected, but the district wants to be careful from appearing, as a government entity, to be endorsing any particular religion, Puzio explained.

“For me to stand up in front of the whole group and say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ is almost like the school district putting Christmas before everything else," Puzio said.

News 8's Deanna King, a current Town of Batavia resident who mentioned in the report that she attended Batavia schools, said she sat outside Puzio's office for nearly two hours trying to get a comment from the superintendent.

Asked about making a reporter wait outside of her office, Puzio said, "It was a heck of a day.

"We had several very, very serious student issues today," Puzio said. "I was dealing with those issues, and I had to prepare for a board meeting."

After a little conversation with a board member, Puzio added, "I just really didn’t have time today. It isn’t always a matter of saying, ‘I can see the press.’ I have to prioritize, especially as it relates to students and families who have serious issues. You just can’t say, ‘Gee, I’m going to set aside this mom who really needs to talk with me about a serious issue because I want to talk to Channel 8.”

By 10:45 p.m., Monday, News 8 had modified some portions of its online report, but was sticking to the essence of its story.

UPDATE 7:12 a.m., Tuesday: News 8 reporter Deanna King sent over the following statement:

I would like to clarify a few points to my story you may have missed. Ms. Puzio confirmed that her memo was sent to each school principal and was meant to be "talking points" during a faculty meeting. I can assure you she did in fact say it "wasn't meant for public viewing" during our phone conversation. As a journalist, I would never report something that was not true. I have been in this business for over 10 years. I'm sure you have seen her memo and recognized that it differs from the actual policy. I quoted directly from the memo. Also, although the policy is not new how the district is enforcing it seems to be. I recall being at my son's Christmas concert last year and hearing the director say "Merry Christmas!" Ms. Puzio told me teachers can say "Merry Christmas" if they "are sure everybody in the room celebrates." There is also a change in the room decoration policy. Over the past 5 years I  have volunteered at several holiday parties in the district where teachers displayed decorations and it wasn't an issue.

I was notified of this controversy after several schools held meetings to address frustrations of staff members. I understand you often give your opinion on the site. I do not. I was attempting to give a fair report, but was denied by the superintendent after several requests. We offered to wait for her to finish her important business. I would not expect anyone to put an interview before the needs of a child. My photographer made a final attempt before the board meeting, but was told she wouldn't comment.

News 8 has high standards and I can assure you we confirm everything before we report it. Keep up the good work covering the news in this neck of the woods! Thank you.




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Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

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