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September 14, 2011 - 6:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Elections, Darien, bergen.

Kathryn Balbick-Bellamy won the Democratic primary for the Third Ward City Council seat Tuesday.

She beat Dan Jones 46-19.

Balbick-Bellamy was the party-backed candidate, with Jones deciding to run after party leaders made their nomination choice.

In Darien, winning the Republican primary for town board were Kathryn Phelps and Michael Fix. Phelps had 74 votes, Fix 70, with David Riker picking up 13.

In Bergen, Michael Johnson won the Republican primary for highway superintendent with 108 votes over Chad Roggow, 52.

In Alexander, William Schmieder picked up 108 votes while Roy Haller had 111, giving them both wins in the town board Republican primary over Eric Wagner, who had 93 votes.

September 13, 2011 - 11:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, City Schools.

To whatever degree a proposal to reduce city elementery schools from three to two is a trial balloon, in a meeting with parents at Robert Morris School on Tuesday night, it went down like a lead Zeppelin.

If Batavia City Schools Superintendent Margeret Puzio (top photo) hoped to woo some of the 70 parents in attendance, she would have been hard-pressed to find one fan of the idea by the end of the meeting.

Even parents who saw the need -- such as Phil Ricci, a budget ambassador for the school district -- said they hated the idea.

A consolidation of school districts -- one proposal shutters the current administration building and converts Robert Morris into new district headquarters -- would save as much as $1 million annually.

In an era of declining state aid combined with a property tax cap, the district board is forced to find ways to reduce spending that is "thinking outside the box," Puzio said.

She said if the 2-percent property tax cap had passed a year earlier, it would have led to a budget shortfall of $426,064. The cap would have limited the recent property tax increase to $280,106, instead of the $706,170 actually raised.

Plus, the district relied on a one-time federal grant of $567,584 to help balance the budget in 2011-12.

But on Monday night, there were times when parents seemed to simply oppose consolidation of the district's elementary schools regardless of budgetary constraints.

"It doesn’t seem we have a chance for honest input," Caroline Richardson said (first insert photo). "It seems like the decision is already made. It seems like there are no other options other than cutting down our programs again."

The consolidation proposals all involve the district selling its current administration building and then locating those offices to one of the elementary schools.

In each case, students are shuffled in a way that all grades would be at one school or another, such as all K-2 students at John Kennedy or all fifth-grade students at Batavia Middle School.

Cost savings would be achieved primarily through the elimination of some school-level administration and possibily some teaching positions.

The plans all end the idea of community schools serving K-5 students in their own neighborhood.

And that seemed to be the biggest sticking point for parents.

Some parents noted that under the proposals, instead of having their three children at one school, such as Robert Morris, they would end up with a kindergartner at one school, a third-grader at another school and their fifth-grader in the middle school.

Bonnie Vickery pointed out that schools rely on a lot of parent involvement both for educational support and fund raising.

If students are at more distant schools, and in some cases students will only be at a particular school for a couple of years, parents will be less likely to get involved, Lisa Macdonough (second inset photo).

"It's going to hurt schools way more than you realize," Vickery said. "I know the board is doing the best that it can and I know you want to do the best for the students, but there is a sense of community that is going to be lost."

While Puzio pointed to educational advantages of putting, say, all the second graders in one school instead of three, many parents weren't buying it.

A couple of parents cited reports they said showed that students who attended community schools achieved higher test scores, and students who made fewer transfers from school to school are more likely to graduate from high school.

"There are other options you need to be looking at that don't effect the children," Richardson said. "This is a community that has a lot of children in it who are disadvantaged to begin with and now we're going to disadvantage them again by taking them out of their neighborhoods."

Another person said many parents bought their homes where they did to be close to a community-based school, which brought a round of applause from other parents.

Puzio explained that part of the school district's goal was to preserve class size, which in Batavia is traditionally 20 students per class.

But when Macdonough said she would accept more students per class if it meant preserving community schools, nearly every parent applauded.

Another parent picked up the theme.

"Studies have shown that with a quality teacher who wants to be there, class size has little effect," Janelle Marble said. "We need to cultivate good teachers who want to be in their classrooms, who love teaching."

Near the end of the meeting, Ricci spoke up and said when he heard the consolidation plan, he became frustrated. He likes having his children attend Robert Morris, but he also knows the school district is facing a difficult budget situation and the board is doing the best it can on behalf of the children.

"I know all of these guys and know they are not trying to screw over the kids," Ricci said. "If this doesn't work, and it might not work, we as a community need to come together and come up with other options."

A group of parents are organizing a communitywide meeting to discuss consolidation at 7 p.m., Sept. 26, at Richmond Memorial Library. (Location TBD)

September 13, 2011 - 10:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, College Village.

There is a fire alarm at Oak Hall in College Village with "light smoke" reported.

As far as we know, this is the first fire alarm at College Village of the 2011-12 school year.

Town of Batavia Fire Department is responding.

UPDATE: A source more aware of previous calls says that prior to this call, there were at least three, and maybe five, calls so far this academic year.

September 13, 2011 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Basom, crime, Bethany, Alabama.

Benjamin W. Muntz, 22, of 6966 Knowlesville Road, Basom, is charged with burglary, 3rd. Muntz is accused of entering a barn on a residential property on Judge Road, Alabama, and stealing a small-sized, child's dirt bike.

Janet Rae Langer, 33, South Street, Pavilion, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Langer is accused of striking another woman in the head and pulling her hair. The alleged incident was reported at 7:20 p.m., Saturday.

Spencer J. Hilderbrant, 17, of South Street Road, Pavilion, and Jamie L. Gutowski, 18, of Alleghany Road, Corfu, are charged with trespass. Hilderbrandt and Gutowski are accused of being on the property of Rolling Hills Asylum, Bethany Center Road, Bethany, without permission of the owner.

Roy K. Way, 31, of 32 Brooklyn Ave., Batavia, is charged with felony DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle, speeding and no seat belt. Way was stopped at 12:06 p.m., Monday, on Brooklyn Avenue after allegedly being observed speeding on Pearl Street by Officer Marc Lawrence.

Jared L. Diehl, 23, of 4563 Chapel St., Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and operating without headlights. Diehl was stopped at 12:02 a.m., Tuesday, on Gateway Drive, by Officer Darryl Streeter.

September 13, 2011 - 4:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Town of Batavia's volunteer firefighters got some live-fire training Monday night as vacant rooms at the condemned former Batavia Motel were set ablaze.

The fire department will be using the dilapidated motel on West Main Street Road for live-fire training in increments over the next several weeks. There's no current plan to burn it to the ground in one session.

Chief Randy Randy McIntire said such live-fire training is invaluable and gives volunteers a chance to work under conditions that are even a little more intense than what they face at the fire-training center.

"For some of these guys, it's the first time they've gotten into a room with fire rolling near their heads," McIntire said. "Some departments just get training that is hot and smoky. I want these guys to get experience with fire rolling over their heads."

September 13, 2011 - 3:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council.

At Monday's Batavia City Council meeting, council members Bill Cox and Bob Bialkowski welcomed recently appointed Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte to her new job by presenting her with a "Treasures of Batavia" picture collection. It was purchased from St. James Episcopal Church, which is selling collections of pictures to raise money to help restore the church's bell tower. Cox said he saw the pictures and thought they would be a nice way to welcome Pacatte to her new position.

September 13, 2011 - 3:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

The Batavia City Council presented its annual community awards at the start of its Monday night meeting.

Above, Toni Funke, accompanied by her husband, accepts the City Employee of the Year award. Funke, who works for the Youth Bureau, has been employed by the city since 1987.

David and Rachel Fasano were named Homeowners of the Year. The Otis Street residents were honored for the upkeep of their residence showing "exceptional pride of ownership."

Gail Steven was named Community Volunteer of the Year. She was nominated because of her involvement with the Batavia City School Board, 12 years on the Youth Board and she's a current member of the Consolidation Charter Task Force.

Target was named the Business of the Year.

September 13, 2011 - 2:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in obituary.

AMBER LYN DOBIESZ, 64, of Batavia, passed suddenly Thursday Sept. 1, 2011 at her home.

She was born May 2, 1947 to the late Edward & Amy (Butters) Dobiesz, also preceded in death by her brothers Robert and William. Amber was previously employed by Kodak and the US Postal Service.

A 1965 graduate of Attica High School, Amber left this world with no regret, a global traveler, soulful friend and selfless visionist. Her passing has fulfilled her efforts to emblazon the diversity of our existence on all she touched. Pioneering an understanding that we all are worthy investments, she stood as a pillar for the misunderstood. Amber is survived by her children, loving family and loving friends.

Family and friends are invited to a Celebration of Life Service for Amber 2PM Saturday September 24, 2011 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, Rt. 5 Stafford, NY 14143.

Memorials in Amber’s memory are suggested to a charity of the donor’s choice and to leave a message of condolence please visit Face book “In Loving memory of Amber Dobiesz” For more information please contact Michael at (585)343-7500.


September 13, 2011 - 11:08am

For the Week 1 contest, 17 people correctly picked Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders as the week's leader in rushing yards. After a random drawing from among those 17 people, Mark Potwora wins the sheet pizza.

September 13, 2011 - 9:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, byron, pembroke, soccer, bergen.

Byron-Bergen beat Pembroke 7-0 on Monday in soccer.

Above, Pembroke's Justin Sformo makes save on kick by Nick Prospero. Below, Pembroke's Max Fisher and Prospero.

Photos submitted by Destin Danser.

September 12, 2011 - 10:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in corfu, Corfu Fire District.

A NYS audit of the Corfu Fire District released today (pdf) says that fire district board members have not completed proper annual audits and that such audits would have found unauthorized personal use of district credit cards.

The fire district collects taxes to help fund the Corfu Fire Department, but is a separate entity from the fire department.

Its annual budget is more than $112,000.

The NYS Office of the Comptroller examined the district's financial records for 2008 through 2011.

Among the findings was that allegedly the district treasurer and a former fire chief made personal purchases with district credit cards totalling $2,045.

The report states that the treasurer confirmed $601 in purchases made in June and July of 2009 were for personal items.

The former chief allegedly made purchases reportedly for $779 from July through December 2008. His January 2008 bill also included a balance due of $665, according to the report.

Neither the former chief nor the treasurer are named in the report, but the report states these charges were reimbursed to the district, though it's unclear when the reimbursements took place.

According to the comptroller's office, district credit card balances included $1,600 in interest and late fees.

The district paid $380 in fees and interest, but only authorized $142 of these payments, according to the report.

"If the board had properly reviewed the actual credit card monthly billing statement," the report reads, "it would have seen that the amount on the abstract was greater than the amount due for legitimate district purchases."

The report, issued to the district on Sept. 2, offers four recommendations, including that the board: formerly adopt a credit card policy; audit every claim before approving payment; require annual financial reports issued to the comptroller's office; and that the treasurer make payments directly to vendors as authorized by the board.

In a response letter, Board Chairman Robert Ammon says that the district will adopt a former credit card policy and that it adopted internal financial controls in 2009. He also says the district has sought and received assistance from the controller's office on filing proper reports, and that the board will document concerns and require further back up for any questionable expenditures.

The response letter states that reports were not filed with the state previously because of technical difficulties involved in meeting new requirements by the state.

The letter does not directly address the issue of unauthorized use of district credit cards for personal purchases.

September 12, 2011 - 10:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A car was reportedly egged within the past hour to 90 minutes on Allen Street, Batavia.

City PD responding to take a criminal mischief complaint.

UPDATE: City PD received a report earlier on Jackson Street of a similar incident.

UPDATE: A reader on Cherry Street also reports having his car egged, but he didn't call police.

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September 12, 2011 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, pembroke, Route 77.

An alleged drunken driver reportedly started a four-car accident at 2:04 p.m., Saturday, on Route 77 near Route 5 in Pembroke after she rear-ended a car in front of her.

The driver's car then continued forward -- after the first car it hit was pushed out of the way -- and struck a third car in the rear, which hit the car in front of it.

Charged with DWI was Heidi J. Berkes, 27, of North Madison Street, Rome.

Berkes was driving a 2005 Ford SUV when she came upon two cars stopped at the intersection of Route 77 and Route 5 and third car immediately in front of her slowing.

She reportedly struck a car driven by Justin C. Mahar, 19, of Rebecca Street, North Syracuse. Mahar's car was pushed off the road and then Berkes' SUV struck a car driven by Matthew F. Endres, 19, of Carrie Marie Lane, Hllton, which then struck a car driven by Michele Lillie, 39, of Buffalo Road, Erie.

Injured in the accident were Cory Delahunt, 26, a passenger in Berkes' SUV, Endres and Lillie. 

Berkes and Mahar were not injured, and the seven other passengers in the four vehicles were not injured.

Mahar was cited for alleged unlicensed operation.

The accident was investigated by Sgt. Greg Walker.

September 12, 2011 - 3:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Press release from the Batavia PD:

The Batavia Police Department is investigating an incident of attempted fraud. A Tracy Avenue resident has reported being contacted by telephone by a male subject who identified himself as a lottery official. The local resident was informed that he or she had won a lottery and needed to forward an amount of cash in order to collect the winnings.

The male caller provided some legitimate lottery information, however, identified himself by different names during separate conversations.

The resident did not forward cash as requested and has been advised to cease any contact with the suspect.

Residents need to be on guard for this and similar incidents of fraud that are continuing and ongoing.

September 12, 2011 - 2:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Darien, Le Roy.

Linda Jean Desnatis, 42, Main Street, Batavia, is charged with two counts of DWI with a child passenger under age 16, DWI, driving with a BAC of .10 or greater and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Following a complaint of a possible drunken driver, Desnatis's car was stopped at 7:45 p.m., Saturday, on West Main Street Road, Batavia, by Deputy Joseph Graff.

Francis T. Lacko, 29, of Johnstown, Pa., is accused of being a fugitive from justice. Lacko was arrested in Le Roy on Friday. Lacko was stopped in the Village of Le Roy after police received reports of a suspicious person going door-to-door selling magazines without a permit. Upon investigation, police found outstanding warrants for Lacko from three different states, including Pennsylvania. Among the charges faced by Lacko is fraud. Lacko was jailed without bail.

Paul Konieczny, 47, of 144 Harvester Ave., Batavia, is charged with DWI and three counts of failure to keep right. Konieczny was involved in a motor-vehicle accident at 9:20 p.m., Friday. He is accused of striking a street sign and two parked cars. The vehicles reportedly sustained significant damage. Konieczny reportedly suffered cuts on his face and was transported to UMMC by Mercy EMS.

Thomas Tyrone Gantt, 54, of Mount Hope Avenue, Rochester, was arrested at 8:04 p.m., Friday, on Clinton Street Road, Batavia, on a bench warrant out of Town of Gates Court. Gantt is accused of petit larceny.

Kerry Michael Simpson, 49, of Getman Road, Alden, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, driving left of pavement markings in a no-passing zone and speeding. Simpson was stopped at 1:33 a.m., Saturday, on Erie Street, Darien, by Deputy Jason Saile.

Thomas Z. Wilson, 19, Michael A. Albini, 19, and Patrick W. Moran, 18, all of 113 S. Swan St., Batavia, are all charged with criminal nuisance and unlawful possession of alcohol under age 21. Wilson, Albini and Moran were arrested after allegedly hosting an underage drinking party at 12:22 a.m., Saturday.

Edward M. Davis Jr., 46, of 23 Oak St., lower, Batavia, is charged with criminal trespass. Davis is accused of remaining unlawfully in the apartment of a female acquaintance.

Latoya D. Jackson, 25, of 112 State St., lower, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Jackson is accused of shoplifting $12.50 in merchandise from the Dollar Store on East Main Street.

A 17-year-old resident of State Street is charged with disorderly conduct. The youth is accused of shouting obscenities while attending a football game at Vendetta Stadium at 9:45 p.m., Friday.

September 12, 2011 - 10:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 9/11, City Church.

In a service that recalled in detail the tragedy, fears and horror of Sept. 11, 2001, Pastor Marty Macdonald's Sunday morning message was really about hope.

"We have the power to hope," he said, "in something greater than ourselves."

Sept. 11, Macdonald said, wasn't something that God "allowed" to happen, nor was it, as some have said, God's revenge on a nation gone astray.

"God didn't have anything to do with it," Macdonald said. "It was the work of the enemy."

The Sunday service at City Church opened with the usual praise worship, but then shifted gears to vignettes related to 9/11 -- first, community residents recalling what that day was like, then a scene of a daughter at breakfast with her mother, unable to comprehend why 9/11 is important, so her mother opens her computer to show her newsreels from that tragic day.

On the projection screens, scenes of 9/11 played out as they did in 2001, followed by the Oval Office speech from President George W. Bush.

After the videotapes from Sept. 11, 2001, three church members portrayed different people effected by 9/11: the daughter who lost her father; the firefighter who contracted cancer from working in the rubble of the Twin Towers; and the wife of Todd Beamer, the passenger on Flight 93 who famously uttered "Let's Roll" before passengers attempted to retake the hijacked airplane.

Macdonald said that at a time when people are losing confidence in our government, it's important to remember where to place our hope.

"When you place your confidence in human beings, you will always be disappointed," Macdonald said. "But when you place your hope in a living God, you will never be disappointed."

September 12, 2011 - 10:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 9/11, St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Our world changed on Sept. 11, 2001, said Pastor Allen Werk. Things that we disagreed about on Monday, seemed unimportant on Tuesday. Things that annoyed us one day could be seen as a sign of God's grace the next day. As a nation, we came to see how important God is to our lives.

"We saw what life really meant and how fragile life could be," Werk said.

Werk delivered his sermon as part of a special 9/11 service at St. Paul Lutheran Church, which mixed patriot songs and prayer and a chance to honor first responders and military veterans (top picture).

"What we witnessed on that day of terror on our shores, when we saw people dying right in front of us, we recognized that we needed somebody who was bigger than us, more powerful than even the most powerful nation on Earth, who was on our side," Werk said.

September 12, 2011 - 10:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Le Roy, Stafford, 9/11, south byron.

Volunteers from at least four fire companies -- I saw Le Roy, Batavia, Stafford and South Byron while I was there -- were on hand Sunday at The Home Depot to raise a flag in honor of the 9/11 victims and give community members a chance to meet with local volunteers and learn about fire safety. Children could tour the firetrucks and receive hats and coloring books.





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