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March 12, 2012 - 1:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.
David King Michael King

The search for the bodies of two missing Oakfield men who presumably mistakenly jumped into the Genesee River will continue this week, according to the lead investigator on the case.

Senior Investigator James J. Newell of Rochester, Troop E, said with the water temperature still low, it's harder to locate the bodies of the two men, but as it warms up later this week, the State Police helicopter will conduct an air reconnaissance.

David King, 54, and Michael King, 46, have been missing since Feb. 19.

Newell said investigators do not suspect foul play and there has been no activities on the cell phones, debit cards or bank accounts for either brother since then and nobody has reported seeing them.

The brothers went missing after David left Strong Memorial Hospital following an a minor accident on the I-390.

David was charged with reckless driving after his car hit a guard rail.

He was transported to the hospital where he was treated and released for minor injuries. David's brothers Michael and Daniel picked him up and drove him back to his car on the I-390.

Newell said Daniel has been interviewed numerous times and his story has remained consistent. He dropped off his brothers and watched them run and jump over the jersey barrier. He didn't see them after that and tried calling their mobile phones several times.

"They checked out of the hospital at 9:03 (p.m.) and there was cell phone activity shortly after that and then none," Newell said. "That would be consistant with their phones going dead."

Newell said the evidence available so far is consistent with the theory that the brothers jumped the barrier without being aware of the river below.

"If you go to that spot at night and there's no street lights, you might think you can jump the jersey barrier and take five or six steps and make it to the other side," Newell said. "You wouldn't realize there's a 70- to 100-foot drop to the river."

Troopers have deployed the helicopter, sonar and divers in an effort to locate the King brothers, including a two-day search with divers, and all search results have been negative, Newell said.

March 12, 2012 - 8:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Announcements, Sheriff's Office.

Press release:

 

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute will begin its annual Honorary Membership drive in Genesee County within the next ten days according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

The New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute was established in 1979. It is a not-for-profit corporation, tax exempt organization, and contributions to the Institute are tax deductible.

While the Sheriff’s Office is a unit of county government, many of the concerns of Sheriffs and other law enforcement agencies are best addressed on a statewide level. The Sheriffs’ Institute provides centralized training programs and services for all Sheriffs’ Offices, where those programs and services would be unavailable or impractical on a single county basis.

The flagship program of the Sheriffs’ Institute is the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp for economically challenged children. The Sheriffs’ Camp, in its 35th year of operation, is located on Keuka Lake and 840 children from across New York State attend each summer. The Sheriffs’ Institute pays the entire cost of the camp stay and transportation.  Most children attending wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity for vacation travel or a summer camp experience.

The Sheriffs’ Camp program combines summer recreation with activities designed to teach an understanding of, and respect for, our laws and the men and women who enforce them. The strong camper to counselor ratio allows for individual attention with an emphasis on the development of self esteem.

“In these difficult economic times we cannot forget our youth who will not have the opportunity for a summer camp experience or a summer vacation,” Sheriff Gary Maha said. “By becoming an honorary member you are supporting the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp for economically disadvantaged children.”

In addition, the Sheriffs’ Institute operates a scholarship program that provides one scholarship to each of New York State’s Community College’s Criminal Justice Programs. This program is designed to help attract the best and the brightest to the criminal justice vocation.

For more information about the Sheriffs’ Summer Camp and other Sheriffs’ Institute Programs, visit our website, www.sheriffsinstitute.orgor simply google  “Sheriffs’ Institute kids” and it will be your first option.

Financial support for many of the Sheriffs’ Institute programs comes from Honorary Membership dues. Invitations for Honorary Membership are extended on a non-partisan basis, and the invitees are selected at random. Any persons interested in supporting the efforts of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute by becoming an Honorary Member should contact the Sheriff if they do not receive an invitation in the mail, or visit our web site at: www.sheriffsinstitute.orgto download an application.

All donations made to the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute are tax deductible. In addition, Sheriffs’ Institute is registered with the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau.

March 12, 2012 - 7:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, thruway.

A fully involved car fire is reported in the eastbound lane of the Thruway at mile marker 391.2.

It's unknown if there are any injuries, so Mercy EMS dispatched as a precaution.

Town of Batavia Fire Department dispatched.

UPDATE 7:52 a.m.: The location is just behind the Home Depot off Veterans Memorial Drive. Image Source, New York State Thruway.

UPDATE 8:37 a.m.: Town of Batavia back in service.

March 11, 2012 - 1:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, elba.

The plan against Clymer, Elba Head Coach Tom Nowak said, was to play a fast-paced game and wear down the Clymer girls.

"We felt with them not having a lot of depth -- they didn't use a lot of depth during the season -- that we thought we would just try to up-tempo the game a little bit," Nowak said. "We thought that might create some turnovers and down the stretch maybe not be as effective on offense."

The strategy paid off and Clymer was just 3-14 from the floor in the final quarter, allowing the Lady Lancers to pull away with a 53-37 victory and a slot in the state Class D championship final four.

Clymer features some height and athleticism down front, and center Meg Stucko said the Lancers prepared well for what they were going to face.

"We practiced a lot all week for their forwards," Stucko said. "We kind of knew what they were going to do and what we were going to do, so we were ready for it."

Forced turnovers kind of told the story of the game, with Elba's defense taking the ball away a number of times, especially on transitions.

Nowak said, "that's kind of our bread and butter."

Elba is now 23-0 on the season and will face South Kortright (22-0), the state's top-ranked Class D team at 9 a.m. March 17 at Hudson Valley Community College.

"We’re all really excited because we all really want to go to state so bad," Stucko said. "That’s what we’re most excited about, just the chance to be in the state final four is really awesome."

Prints of photos from the game can be purchase by clicking here.

If you can't view the slide show below, click here.

March 11, 2012 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Notre Dame.

Sparked by Tim McCulley, who scored 21 points, and Doane McCulley, who added 16, the Fighting Irish advanced to the state semi-finals Saturday with a win over Panama in a Western Regional Championship match in Buffalo.

Notre Dame won 62-51.

On Friday, the Irish will face Sackets Harbor in a state semi-finals match at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Photos from the game by Bare Antolos.

Top photo is of Doane McCulley.

Tim McCulley

Jared Thornton

Jared Midwick

Zach Hotze

March 10, 2012 - 1:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame beat the Section VI champion, Panama, on Saturday by a score of 62-51 and will now advance to the state championship semi-final round.

Doane McCulley was named player of the game.

We anticipate having some pictures from the game to publish later.

March 10, 2012 - 9:51am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Oakfield, Allens Inc..

Allens Inc., a food-processing company based in Arkansas, has sold four of its six frozen vegetable processing plants, including its Oakfield and Bergen plants, to Bonduelle Group, a privately held firm based in France.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale is expected to close by the end of the month.

The four plants employ 400 people. The number employed in just Bergen and Oakfield were not released.

Allens is reportedly using the funds generated by the sale to invest in new technology and expand its canned-food operations in Arkansas, Wisconsin and North Carolina.

"We're excited to put a renewed focus on the core of our business and the market segments we are most passionate about," said Rick Allen, president and CEO of Allens. "With this renewed concentration, we anticipate greater growth, more innovation and even better customer service and product quality. We're excited about what this will mean to the marketplace and to our customers and partners, overall."

The purchase includes the Chill Ripe brand and the frozen Garden Classics brand, as well as a license to use certain brand names owned by Allens in the frozen business for a limited transitional period.

The two Genesee County plants were acquired by Allens in 2006 from Birds Eye.

Sources: Rochester Business Journal and a press release.

March 9, 2012 - 7:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, District Attorney's Office, David Gann.

In retirement, David Gann still worries about how technology will change law enforcement.

"When I started, an IBM Selectric (typewriter) was state-of-the-art technology and copy machines were still brand-new," Gann said. "Now, pretty soon, we won't have paper files any more. It's interesting to see the transformation going on, but we don't know if we will be able to access these files in 50 years. We still have files in MS-DOS and we don't know how much longer we can access those."

Former colleague Bob Zickl said in a letter recommending Gann for a major award that Gann could always talk "matter of factly about the next great technical or financial catastrophe."

The predilection to fret about looming technical difficulties is only one of the qualities of the former first assistant district attorney that enamored Gann to his colleagues.

He retired from the District Attorney's Office at the end of 2011, voluntarily giving up his position so that nobody else in the office would lose a job to satisfy the county's budget ax.

With his retirement came a statewide award from District Attorney's Association, the Robert M. Morgenthau Award, given to an assistant of the highest professional standards.

It's the first time an attorney from Genesee County received the fairly new honor.

"The greatest honor was just being nominated," Gann said. "To have my professional colleagues recommend me for such an award means a lot to me."

Besides ADA Zickl, backing Gann's nomination was District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, Genesee County Court Judge (and former District Attorney) Robert Noonan, Sheriff Gary Maha, Batavia Det. Charles Dudek and Le Roy Police Det. John Condidorio.

Gann's supporters praised his work ethic, his encyclopedic knowledge of criminal statutes and case law, his even temper (Zickl said he never once heard Gann utter a profanity in 27 years of working together), his ethics and adherence to the law and his desire to see justice done.

Besides handling all felony drug cases, Gann was the DNA expert in the office and handled the DNA portion of all murder trials from January 1997 through March 2010.

The drug work, Gann said was particularly important.

"I don't think we will ever totally eliminate drugs from the community," Gann said. "What we tried to do was make sure the guys who came out here to deal to think twice before doing it. We wanted to chase them inside so they would only deal with people they knew, so they wouldn't feel comfortable with people outside and stay off of street corners."

Condidorio praised Gann's work in helping investigators make cases against drug dealers.

"(Gann has) made a tremendous impact on Genesee County, taking significant drug dealers off the street and making it more difficult for them to spread their poisons to our youth and underprivileged," Condidorio wrote.

Noonan wrote a mock "help wanted" ad as part of his recommendation that demonstrated what big shoes the DA's office will need to fill if there's ever money in the budget to replace Gann.

Among the qualifications -- more than 30 years experience in New York's criminal justice system, scores of grand jury presentations and hundreds of briefs responding to appeals.

The candidate must also have the personal strength to deal with strong-willed police officers dealing with stressful searches in order to guide them toward the proper procedures.

"It is essential that this individual have the personal self-confidence to never gloat about an intellect that exceeds coworkers, lawyers and judges," Noonan wrote.

With the award won and no cases on the court docket, Gann's days and nights are no longer spent fretting over the proper wording of a search warrant application.

He's busy helping out with Friday fish fries at St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia, or reading, or getting out to community events with his wife, Marcia.

The Ganns have no plans to leave Genesee County.

"In Batavia, a small town, everything is smaller scale," Gann said. "You tend to know everybody and that makes it more rewarding to get involved. It's part of what makes Batavia, Batavia."

Gann's biggest plan for retirement is to do more things with Marcia.

"I have a wonderful wife and I enjoy being around her," Gann said. "That's my number-one priority."

March 9, 2012 - 5:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Middle School, schools, education.

Batavia City School District officials are trying to use the posting of a video on Facebook of two middle school girls fighting as a "teachable moment," according to Deputy Superintendent Christopher Dailey.

He met with reporters from area TV stations Friday afternoon to answer questions.

Dailey admitted there were things he would rather do on his Friday afternoon than meet with the media over a little dust-up involving student conduct, but was hopeful that lessons can be learned from the incident.

"It's a teachable moment about what not to do on Facebook," Dailey said. "Unfortunately, in this day and age when something is out there online, it doesn't go away, even though we acted very quickly to get it removed.

"There is the potential for ongoing (problems). We don't want anything out there to come back and harm kids later on."

Getting the "Batavia Fights" page removed from Facebook was a combined effort involving the school district, Batavia PD, along with the cooperation of the parents of the child who created the page and the staff at Facebook, Dailey said.

"In this case, somebody let us know last night (about the video)," Dailey said. "Even if we hadn't learned about it last night, we would have found out about it today. We have wonderful kids in Batavia. We have kids who really care about their community."

There is a constant effort in the schools, Dailey said, to educate children about the pitfalls of online behavior.

"It's a new media and we try to teach them the right way to handle it," Dailey said.

The district is still investigating the incident and officials have yet to determine if the fight was staged for the benefit of a video camera or if it was a spontaneous fight.

Two middle school girls were involved in the fight and they suffered minor bumps and scrapes, according to Dailey.

At this time, officials don't believe the fight was related to any specific ongoing bullying issue, but officials were concerned that if the video stayed on Facebook, it might lead to harassment and bullying.

The fight occurred just after dismissal at the middle school, Dailey said, and in the 26th second of the video, a teacher at the school is seen arriving and intervening.

"Facebook is a blessing and a curse," Dailey said. "I used it for the reunion of my high school class and it was wonderful. When not used correctly, it can be hard for kids to handle."

The video was captured by WBTA's Geoff Redick before it was removed. The version below was altered by Redick to obscure the faces of the youngsters involved.

March 9, 2012 - 2:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, agriculture, Empire Tractor.

Last October, Empire Tractor moved to a new location at 5072 E. Main St. Road and has taken the past few months to get settled into the new, larger facility.  Today and tomorrow, Empire Tractor is holding a grand opening and open house.

Among the items on display is a newly released Oxbo Model 4334 self-propelled merger. The merger -- pictured below -- is made by Oxbo in Byron and is the only piece of equipment in its class in the world. Several aspects of the technology behind it are patented. The merger can gather hay on 250 to 400 acres in a day. It moves across a field at 8 to 12 mph.

Standing in front of the 4334, above, are Tim Call, president of Empire Tractor, Ken Krokowski, of Oxbo, Steve Werner, Dan Athoe, John Bannister and Bill Friese.

The open house continues tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

March 9, 2012 - 12:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, Facebook.

UPDATED 1:39 p.m.

For a brief time overnight and this morning, a page appeared on Facebook called "Batavia Fights," which promoted itself as a place for students to post videos of their friends and classmates fighting.

One video was posted of two girls reportedly at Batavia Middle School involved in a fight as classmates cheered them on.

Christopher Daily, assistant superintendent of the school district, said the district was aware of the page and video and were investigating possible student involvement.

"Obviously, we don't condone it," Daily told WBTA. "We will work with the authorities as well to make sure that our students' safety is of utmost concern."

The school district contacted Batavia PD this morning and according to Det. Todd Crossett, the PD used a special law enforcement phone number to contact Facebook and alert the social network to the page.

Crossett he didn't have information on whether Facebook removed the page or if the original poster removed it.

There's nothing criminal, Crossett said, about shooting or posting the video and the actual fight itself is a school disciplinary matter and at this point law enforcement isn't involved.

Comments on the video were mostly approving, calling it "cool" and "funny."

At the end of the video an adult appears to enter the shot and break up the fight.

The video appears to have been posted around 5 p.m., Thursday.

By 11:40 p.m., the page was no longer available on Facebook.

A screen shot and the video were saved by WBTA's Geoff Redick before the page disappeared. Redick blurred the video to make it harder to identify individuals in the shots.

March 9, 2012 - 12:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, Le Roy, Pavilion, Stein Farms.

Even two new Greek yogurt plants in Batavia won't be of much help to small dairy farmers, which are finding it harder to survive in a globalized market and stringent regulatory environment.

Dale Stein, who operates a large dairy farm in Le Roy, said his heart is with the small dairy farmer, but knows they need to make some tough choices to stay in business.

"I have great sympathy for the small dairy farmer," Stein said. "We were a small dairy farm once. My brothers and I did the milking while my father worked in the fields. He went 20 years without a day of vacation."

The Batavian spoke with Stein Thursday and asked him about a New York Times story that said small dairy farms throughout the state are struggling.

How could Robert and Fred — who produce so much more milk than their dad — end up making less money? There are a number of reasons, some obvious, others less so. Milk went from a local industry to a national one, and then it became international. The technological advances that made the Fulpers more productive also helped every other dairy farm, too, which led to ever more intense competition. But perhaps most of all, in the last decade, dairy products and cow feed became globally traded commodities. Consequently, modern farmers have effectively been forced to become fast-paced financial derivatives traders.

In other words, if a dairy farmer doesn't hedge -- buying options to bet against an increase in prices -- they can't make money. (In hedging, if prices increase, the farmer profits; if prices decline, the farmer offsets losses on product with gains on the options.)

Stein said his farm is big enough to manage the fluctuations in commodity prices, but small farmers simply can't do it.

"Margins are tiny and getting smaller each year," Stein said. "The only way to survive is to sell more product, and if the size of your herd is limited, the less you have to sell."

EPA regulations define a small dairy as 199 head of cattle or less. If a farmer wants to milk a 200th cow, the amount of equipment, technology and infrastructure required to comply with government regulations would cost at least $250,000, Stein said.

Few small farmers want to take that chance.

Especially in today's labor market with fewer qualified migrant workers available.

"It's very difficult for them to compete for labor and for land," Stein said. "We started small. My dad started with two cows. We've slowly grown our business so we can employ more people and give everybody a middle-class wage. It's not that we wanted to be big, but we had to grow to survive."

John Gould, owner of Har Go farms in Pavilion, decided to go a different direction in his effort to keep a farm going that his father bought in 1956.

It's a decision many small farmers have made to survive, according to the Times article.

As tough as it might be to grow from a small dairy farm to a large dairy farm, Gould made the equally daunting decision to switch his farm to certified organic.

Making the switch, which he began in 2005, took three years. It involved building fences (because cows would graze rather than be confined to feed lots), put in water lines and pave drive ways. It takes time for the herd to adjust to a different diet -- corn and soy raised without pesticides or herbicides -- so milk production can drop to nothing for a time. Fields that once relied on chemicals to be productive must be slowly turned back into fields that are mechanically tilled for weeds and can tolerate a few bugs.

"You've got to think those things through and plan how you're going to handle all of that," Gould said.

But Gould said he got what he wanted out of the switch to organic: A profitable and viable small dairy farm.

"It seems to have been a good decision for us," Gould said. "It's certainly a different lifestyle from the type of farming we had been accustomed to, but we continue to make very high quality milk, which is very important to us and important to our customers."

Gould is philosophical about the choice for small dairy farmers -- spend the money to comply with environmental regulations or take a loss for three years and switch to organic.

"Nothing in this business is simple or automatic," Gould said. "That's the life we chose. If we're going to be in the business, we have to make those kinds of decisions."

Small dairy farms that decide to grow would indeed help New York meet the anticipated demand for milk created by two new Greek yogurt plants in Batavia. But Stein said obstacles to growth for small dairy farmers will hold back the industry.

Even now, before Alpina and Pepsi open their plants, the local supply of milk is limited.

"Chobani (operating a Greek yogurt plant near Albany) already uses so much milk that we don't have any extra milk now in our market," Stein said.

It would help the New York dairy industry tremendously, Stein said, if it were easier for the small dairy farms to grow and help meet increased demand.

"We all want to protect the environment, but current environmental regulations are stopping growth of the dairy industry in New York," Stein said. "Pepsi's milk may well have to come out of Michigan because they have enough milk and we don't, which is a shame, because we could use the jobs."

March 8, 2012 - 10:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Darien.

Firefighters did their best Thursday to try and save dozens of pigs caught in a barn that burst into flames at about 1:30 p.m., but some piglets were killed, according to officials.

A quick response by Darien and Corfu firefighters along with a State Trooper helped keep the fire from spreading north in the barn and destroying more animals.

Willow Ridge Pig Farm, owned by Charlie Miller, housed at least 1,000 pigs, but the number killed is not yet available.

The fire apparently started in the nursery, but the cause has not yet been determined.

Some pigs from the burned structure were moved to other barns on the property, and some pigs were relocated to climate-controlled facilities at other barns.

After the fire was largely knocked down, more than two dozen piglets were carried out of the nursery by firefighters. They were covered with soot and Indian Falls Chief Ed Mileham feared some were overheated, so he sprayed them with water.

Miller's staff then put the piglets in another barn.

One firefighter familiar with hog farming and Miller's facility said normally people not wearing protective garb would not have access to the young pigs. The animals who survived the fire may yet be susceptible to disease.

Besides Darien, Corfu and Indian Falls, responding to the scene were Pembroke, East Pembroke, the Town of Batavia, Attica, Alexander, Bennington, Oakfield, Akron, Alden, and Crittenden, and the city's Fast Team.

Darien Fire went back in service at 5:26 p.m.

(Initial report, with more pictures)

March 8, 2012 - 8:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC.

Today, students and staff gathered at the college's pool for the annual Duck Derby.

Here is a press release from Genesee Community College:

Genesee Community College students in the Business Forum Club made a big splash for a local charity. The fourth annual Ducky Derby raised $2,523 for the United Way – $293 more than collected last year, and the most money ever for the event.

Students sold 1,080 numbered rubber ducks, which were then set free in the Olympic-sized pool at the Batavia campus. With the help of a "current" created by members of the college’s Swim Team, the first duck that made it to the end of the pool won the race to the hooting, hollering and cheers of a captive fan base of staff, students and faculty. 

The winner of this year’s race was a duck purchased by student Taylor Schmieder who won $504.60. The remainder of the money, $2,018.40, will benefit the Genesee County United Way, which is also higher than last year’s donation of $1,561.

Here's a video from GCC:

March 8, 2012 - 10:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Darien.

Joseph Henry Schenk, 20, of Overlok Drive, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, 5th. Schenk is accused of possessing a watch and refusing to give it back to its owner.

Martin Robert Maye, 36, of Johnson Mill Road, Berkeley Springs, W. Va., is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd, and endangering the welfare of a child. Maye allegedly had contact with a child he is barred from visiting unless a supervisor is present.

Jordan James Bennett, 18, of Tinkham Drive, Darien, is charged with unlawful possession of alcohol by a person under age 21.

March 8, 2012 - 9:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, byron.

A 26-year-old Batavia resident suffered a head injury in an overnight rollover accident on Townline Road in Byron and was taken by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital.

Michelle T. Crawford, of 7963 Batavia Stafford Townline Road, is listed in guarded condition.

Charges are pending against Crawford, according to the accident report prepared by Deputy Frank Bordonaro.

Crawford was reportedly westbound on Townline Road at 12:55 a.m. when her vehicle spun counterclockwise and traveled off the south shoulder near Ivison Road. Her 1999 Ford sedan went into a ditch and continued into a field, overturning and coming to rest on its wheels.

Crawford reportedly was bleeding from her head and was in shock when transported to Strong.

March 7, 2012 - 10:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, Tonawanda Creek.

Taken this evening on the Tonawanda Creek behind the Kiwanis Park on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

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