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July 27, 2011 - 11:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, baseball, sports.

A good number of the fans who packed into Dwyer Stadium on Wednesday got what they paid for, and some of them went home disappointed.

The Staten Island Yankees, behind the slugging of #1 draft pick Cito Culver, slammed the Batavia Muckdogs 10-1.

Culver, a Rochester-area native, playing his first game before a sort-of-hometown crowd, didn't take long to give friends, fans and family in the stands something to cheer about, driving a first-inning home run over the right field wall on the third pitch he saw (picture below).

In his third at bat, Culver hit another shot over the right field wall (pictured above) with two runners on base.

The home runs were Culver's HRs of 2011. He's now hitting .295 on the season.

The Muckdogs' (20-19, two games out of first) lone run came on a solo home run from German Medina in the sixth inning.

For the Muckdogs, Joey Bergman had two hits, raising his average to .327. Roberto Reyes also had two hits.

Starter Jose Almarante (2-2) lasted only 3.2 innings getting tagged for seven earned runs and raising his ERA to 4.26.

Culver and the Staten Island Yankees (29-9) return to Dwyer on Thursday. Game time is 11 a.m. The teams meet again on Friday at 7 p.m. (fireworks after the game).

July 27, 2011 - 4:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC.

Press release from the Genesee County Economic Development Center:

For the second year in a row Genesee County has been recognized in the top five of the rankings for Metro Food Processing Industry Growth by the National Site Selection publication, Business Facilities Magazine (July/August Edition). Genesee County has New York State's highest percentage of classified farmland, three of the top 100 vegetable farms nationwide and is first in agriculture sales statewide. More than two-thirds of Genesee County's acreage is used for agriculture and employs more than 1,500 workers.

Agri-Business is the number one industry in Genesee County and naturally where the crop is grown and the cows are plenty, food processing plants spring up. Genesee County is home to O-AT-KA Milk, Yancey’s Fancy, Allan’s Canning, and the new home of Alpina Foods, LLC. 

“The completion of the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and the announcement of Colombia-based Alpina Foods, LLC’s decision to build its first U.S. manufacturing plant at the park underscores the strength of our region’s food and beverage manufacturing sector,” stated Steve Hyde, president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “We have strategically invested in building an infrastructure to attract food and dairy processing companies."

Alpina, one of the most recognized dairy companies in the world and a leading dairy producing company in Colombia and South America, has decided to open its first specialty yogurt manufacturing plant in the United States by mid-August and will be the first occupant of the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. 

The GCEDC has developed the largest agri-business park in the nation.  The Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, a public-private partnership between GCEDC and Farm Credit East, encompasses 202 shovel-ready, pre-permitted acres in the center of Western New York.

The park was designed with food-processing companies in mind, and on site there is access to low cost process water via a local aquifer – that produces more than 6+ million gallons per day and a pretreatment facility (Ecolab). A robust utility infrastructure throughout includes rail access. In 2010 municipal water lines were brought into the park as well as gas and electric and the main roadway was constructed. Recently the GCEDC was awarded a $3.9 million New York State grant to bring rail and a cross dock into the park. 

Supporting the agri-business industry of Genesee County are world-class Universities including Cornell and Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Cornell University is the leader in food science research and transfers research-based information and technology for the food systems of New York State. Within the department of Food Science, six organizations specifically provide direct support to the dairy industry.

RIT’s Packaging Science Department works closely with a variety of companies in Genesee County and across the U.S. to create sustainable environmentally friendly packaging. The university also explores cooperative global opportunities for students to work in manufacturing facilities.

The university resources, skilled workforce and available facilities, combined with the area’s steep agri-business and manufacturing heritage give rise to unbridled growth in Genesee County’s food processing capabilities.

July 27, 2011 - 12:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, baseball, Baseball Muckdogs, sports, YMCA.

The Staten Island Yankees arrived in Batavia this morning and climbing off the bus for a workout at the YMCA was the Yankees #1 draft pick in 2010, Cito Culver.

He's a Rochester native and this will be his first game played close to home.

Between the Yankee's connection and Culver's WNY roots, big crowds are expected at Dwyer over the next three days. Game times are 7:05 tonight, 11:05 a.m. tomorrow and 7:05 p.m. on Friday (with fireworks afterward).

Culver, who some predict is the future starting shortstop, replacing Derek Jeter for the Yankees, comes to town swinging a hot bat. He's hitting .350 over the past 10 games, including two three-hit games last week.

As for the young player, he's ignoring the Rochester-area media hoopla around his sort-of-homecoming and concentrating on getting ready to play his game.

"I try to stay away from looking at all that," Culver said. "I'm just happy that my mom and my sisters and my close friends can come watch me play. It's been a long time since my grandma and my grandpa came to see me play, so I'm really excited for that."

Meanwhile, the Muckdogs (20-18) are wrapped up in a tight pennant race, tied for second with Williamsport, one game behind three times tied for first (Jamestown, Auburn and Mohoning Valley, all at 21-17).

Staten Island comes into the series with a 28-9 record, seven games ahead of Brooklyn (21-16) in the McNamara division.

July 27, 2011 - 9:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office during “The Edge’s Summer BBQ” concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Tuesday:

Bruce W. Tweedie, 54, of Homewood Avenue, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, is charged with criminal possession, of a controlled substance, 7th, after allegedly being found in possession of Adderall pills. Tweedie was released on $500 bail.

Sarah C. Kowalczyk, 25, of 69th Street, Niagara Falls, is charged with trespass after allegedly reentering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.

Michael J. Kwiatowski, 35, of Davey Street, Buffalo, is charged with harassment, 2nd, after allegedly pushing a security guard while being ejected from the concert venue.

Chad M. Patterson, 32, of County Road 4, Filmore, is charged with trespass after allegedly being found backstage without permission.

Rick C. Bush, 35, of Seneca Street, Savannah, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief, 4th, after allegedly entering the venue to strike another patron who was being ejected. During the altercation, Bush broke a CSC security guard's radio headset. He also refused to be taken into custody and allegedly fought with security and Sheriff’s deputies.

Fred W. Phillips, 19, of North Creek Road, Lakeview, is charged with disorderly conduct and possession of alcohol with the intent to consume under age 21 after allegedly causing a disturbance while at the concert.

The following people received citations for allegedly consuming alcohol under age 21.

Christian D. Allen, 18, of Ridge Road, Albion
Haley R. Zilka, 19, of Boncroft Drive, West Seneca
Alexandria C. Smith, 18, of Cottage Road, South Dayton
A 17-year-old of Cottage Road, South Dayton
Edward D. Barnes, 18, of Danker Road, South Dayton
Gavin C. Doran, 20, of Big Tree Road, East Aurora
Lyndsey E. Feidt, 20, of West Cherbourg Drive, Cheektowaga
Michael A. Rauth, 19, of Chapel Glen, Hamburg
A 17-year-old of Lincoln Park Drive, Syracuse
Corey R. Crowe, 18, of Bonnie Drive, Syracuse
Timothy J. Scott, 18, of Regatta Row, Syracuse
Brandon M. Morales, 18, of Edgewood Drive, Buffalo

July 26, 2011 - 8:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Basom, Alabama.

Bryan W. Phelps, 57, died suddenly on Monday.

Phelps was a former Town of Alabama Planning Board member and a leader in the local agricultural community.

Recently, Phelps had been active and outspoken on the issue of the STAMP project in Alabama.

(Full obituary)

July 26, 2011 - 4:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

The Batavia Youth Center at 12 McArthur Drive was broken into over Friday and Saturday, with burglars stealing a pair of 37-inch flat screen TVs and video games.

The forceable break-ins occurred between Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3:15 p.m.

Besides the TVs, the thieves stole a Wii console and several Wii games.

The TVs and games are used by children who attend the youth center.

The Batavia Police Department is asking for the public’s help in solving this crime. If anyone has any information about the burglary, they are asked to call the Batavia Police confidential tip line at 345-6370.

A reward is being offered for anyone who will provide information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible.

July 26, 2011 - 4:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia PD.

Two of Batavia's young officers recently attended their formal graduation from the Monroe County Basic Police Academy, according to Chief Randy Baker.

Officers Eric Dibble and Jason Ivison graduated together on Friday.

In order to graduate, the recruits completed classroom instruction, firearms training, defensive tactics and on-the-road field training for 16 weeks.

The academy, founded in September, 2010, trains officers for Batavia, Rochester, Greece, Gates, Monroe County and East Rochester.

Both officers received awards for their performance in the academy, Baker said.

Officer Dibble received the class Marksmanship Award for maintaining the highest average score during handgun firearms qualification. Officer Ivison received a Leadership Award for serving as a platoon leader during the academy.

Both officers are currently assigned to different shifts and working on their own.

July 26, 2011 - 4:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, photos.

A sunflower has popped up among the lillies at Jackson and Main streets, Downtown Batavia.

July 26, 2011 - 3:51pm

Independent Living of Genesee Region hosted a picnic for more than 60 people today at Dewitt Recreation Area celebrating the 21st anniversary of passage of the American with Disabilities Act.

After a lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, some of the guests enjoyed the park, chatted in the pavilion or played Frisbee.

July 26, 2011 - 3:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Dewitt Park.

A boy at Dewitt Park seemed to have found some playmates for a game of duck-duck-goose this afternoon.

July 26, 2011 - 3:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire.

A caller reports smoke coming from a wall at 100 Pearl St., Batavia, Paris Repairs.

City Fire Department is responding.

The first unit on scene reports nothing showing.

UPDATE 3:33 p.m.: A firefighter on the roof reports nothing showing. The breaker has been shut off and the smoked stopped. "It appears to be an electrical problem," says a captain.

UPDATE 4:11 p.m.: City fire back in service.


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July 26, 2011 - 2:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Basom, crime, Alabama.

Jamie Scott Schlonski, 39, of Vine Street, Batavia, is charged with grand larceny 4th, criminal mischief, 3rd, possession of burglar tools and trespass. Also charged, Joseph Allen Hogan, 42, of Bank Street, Batavia. Schlonski and Hogan are accused of breaking into a location on Clinton Street Road, Bergen, at 2:05 a.m., and stealing the windows of the residence. The pair was arrested at 2:40 a.m. Schlonski and Hogan were issued appearance tickets. The case was investigated by Deputy John Weis and Deputy Jason Saile.

Grant A. Sundown, 47, of Skye Road, Basom, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st, reckless endangerment, 2nd, and criminal mischief, 4th. On July 3 at approximately 3:18 p.m., Sundown allegedly drove a vehicle into a set of stairs at a residence on Skye Road, Basom, while a person was standing on the stairs. There was allegedly an order of protection in place barring Sundown from having contact with that person. Sundown was jailed without bail.

July 26, 2011 - 1:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, byron, methamphetamine.

A 29-year-old meth cook from South Byron accepted a plea bargain today that could lead to a three- to five-year prison sentence, rather than the maximum 10-year sentence he was facing.

Matthew Zon pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a controlled substance, 2nd, for his part in the meth lab operation at 6319 E. Main St., South Byron (inset photo from the search).

His accomplice, Tricia Tundo, 24, of Byron, also entered a guilty plea, admitting to a lesser felony count of unlawful disposal of methamphetamine lab material.

Tundo faces a passible one and a half years in prison and a year of supervised release.

Zon and Tundo were were arrested April 14 during a traffic stop that was the culmination of a months long investigation by the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Lead investigator Sgt. Steve Mullen said at the time of the arrest that the trail that led to Zon and Tundo weaved its way back through a series of related meth lab busts starting with one -- the first one in Genesee County -- Nov. 12, 2009, in Alabama.

The South Byron raid uncovered a working meth lab and an amount of completed product.

Today, Zon satisfied multiple counts pending against him with his guilty plea. He is being held without bail and will remain in jail until his sentencing Aug. 24.

Tundo's guilty plea also satisfies a number of pending charges against her as well as charges that Asst. District Attorney David Gann said could have been filed against her. Gann indicated the Sheriff's Office has sufficient evidence to charge Tundo with all of the counts laid against Zon.

Tundo remains on release under supervision pending her sentencing Sept. 27.

Both Zon and Tundo face a possible $5,000 fine each as well as the suspension of their drivers' licenses.

July 26, 2011 - 10:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A 52-year-old Batavia man barricaded himself in his residence, claimed to have a hostage and tried attacking deputies with knives and a sword during a standoff on Pine Hollow Drive on Monday.

The incident started at 8:30 p.m. when law enforcement was dispatched to 8 Pine Hollow Drive to deal with a subject who had allegedly threatened to stab two occupants of the residence.

When State Police and Sheriff's Office deputies arrived the suspect barricaded himself in the home and, according to a State Police press release, "threatened police with various cutleries, including a sword."

During the standoff, the suspect, Jody Blaine Gillett, claimed to have a hostage.

At one point, Gillett allegedly lunged at a deputy through a window attempting to stab the deputy.

After about two hours of negotiations, the State Police press release says, Gillett was "forcibly taken into custody."

Gillett was charged with menacing a police officer, criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, and two count of menacing.

He was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and jailed on bail of $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond.

There were no reported injuries related to the incident.

Earlier this month, Gillett was arrested on a DWI charge stemming from a rollover accident on Clinton Street Road in February. Gillett was also arrested for alleged DWI in Le Roy in January.

July 26, 2011 - 9:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Monday, Batavia Downs opened its 2011 harness racing season. Like last year, I spent some time in the stables and the grandstands taking a few pictures of the big day.

July 26, 2011 - 7:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, fire.

A vehicle is reportedly on fire in the area 3271 Lockport Road, Oakfield.

The vehicle is said to be next to a barn.

Oakfield Fire Department dispatched.

A chief is in the area and says smoke is showing.

Elba fire is being put on standby in their hall.

UPDATE 7:18 a.m.: Fire under control.

UPDATE 7:24 a.m.: Fire is out. Elba put back in service with Oakfield's thanks.

UPDATE 8:26 a.m.: Oakfield back in service.


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July 25, 2011 - 8:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Pavilion, Starr Farm.

Out on Starr Road in Pavilion, on 125 acres of farmland with a view, Randy Starr farms his way.

He's not making a political statement, riding an organic trend -- Starr Farm is not organic -- or trying to reach for some idyllic, romanticized agrarian lifestyle. He just farms according to his own idea of how farming should be.

It's a little bit old school, a little bit high tech, and without the headaches that go with larger operations, but still all the frustrations of a two-person farm using older equipment.

“Once in a while I’ll have somebody say, ‘hey, if I was ever going to be a farmer, I’d be a farmer like you,’' Starr said. "And I think, 'Yeah, but you ain’t doing it, are you?'"

Starr was born to be a farmer. It's all he's even known and what he went to college to study. He's never given a second thought to doing something else.

As the fifth generation to plow and plant the hills along Starr Road, Randy is just pursuing the family tradition.

The farm was started by Noah Starr, Randy's great-great-great grandfather, a Dutch immigrant who bought 270 acres in what's now Pavilion from the Holland Land Office in 1818.

Noah built a log cabin high atop a ridge, married four women during the course of his life (three divorces, one death) and fathered 10 sons.

One of Noah's sons built the first version of the house (about 1890) that Randy and his wife Cindy live in, and it's been added on to and taken away from so many times over the years that now "it's just an old house," according to Randy.

Randy and Cindy both attended Pavilion High School (Cindy was four grades back from Randy) and met when Randy's older brother married Cindy's older sister.

Starr graduated from Alfred College with an agricultural degree in the late 1960s. He said of the couple hundred ag students in his class, only a handful became farmers.

"For some foolish reason I wanted to be a farmer all my life and now here I am. I’m 61 years old. Was that the right move or not? Who knows?"

The Starrs married in the early 1970s and moved into the farmhouse in 1974.

Son Chris, 37, and daughter Sarah, 33, are also farmers. Chris and his wife own a farm on West Middlebury Road, Wyoming County, and Sarah and her husband own a farm off Route 63 in Pavilion. Both Chris and Sarah also work other jobs, and both have children who might some day become farmers.

The Starr Farm sits on rolling hills above Pavilion with a clear view far into Wyoming County. The farm's white house, red barns, glistening silos and well used farm equipment could fit on a picture postcard depicting agricultural life in Upstate New York.

Starr said his son Chris has an even more picturesque farm, but like Chris told him one time, he said, "You can't pay your bills with a view."

No doubt about it, the Starr Farm is a working farm. Cindy helps out as do Chris and Sarah, but Randy does most the work.

On the 125 acres, Randy grows wheat, barley, hay, oats and black beans. They also run about 80 head of cattle -- mostly steers bought as calves from a neighboring dairy, and sold for meat after 18 to 22 months of raising.

Cindy takes care of the hogs, which also go to market.

“Divide that into 125 acres -- we don’t have a lot of anything."

Irrigation is rainwater, so when it was too wet in May, it was hard for Starr to plant, but for the past few weeks, he's been praying for rain.

Life on the Starr Farm certainly has its frustrations.

Just about all of the farm equipment Starr runs is decades old, some of it he bought decades ago (or his dad bought), some of it he finds at auction.

Starr's father, who died 22 years ago, taught him that equipment may become obsolete, but if well maintained, it will run forever.

What Starr needs to buy, he said, he can get at a pretty good price. The equipment he needs is too big for the hobbyist looking to tinker with old farm machinary and too small for the mega-operations.

“It’s an area where you can find things sometimes that nobody else wants. My combine is a good example. It's got a 12-foot grain head and 3-row corn head. It’s a good little combine. I picked it up for $1,400. Sometimes if you’re at the right place at the right time you can get the equipment I need at a reasonable price."

The big operations, of course, are spending $150,000 to $200,000 on a single piece of farm equipment. The plowers and planters are guided by GPS to make perfectly straight rows over dozens of rows.  

Big or small equipment breaks down and it's just a different kind of headache.

"My tractor breaks down and their tractor breaks down, theirs is maybe a $50,000 fix and mine is a piece of baling wire and something I can keep it going with."

Why does he farm the way he does? Can't really say. His operation just kind of evolved that way.

When he was young, he said, it seemed like any time he bought a bigger truck or bigger piece of equipment, something would go wrong.

"I can’t be real specific, but it just seemed liked any time I’d jump ahead, I’d got slammed against a wall. It was like, ‘OK, slow down and do it my way.'"

He also watched some of his fellow farmers try to take on too much and it often didn't work out well for the farmer or their suppliers.

He's never going to get rich farming his way, Starr admits, but he'll also be able to keep farming.

"Nothing ventured nothing gained, perhaps, but that’s the way I’ve always been," Starr said. "I’ve seen people go too big too fast and the people they did business with got hurt financially. They file for bankruptcy and these people who put their trust in these farms, building, equipment, whatever it would be, and they lose it all."

Starr's way isn't a complete rejection of technology. He owns a new hay baler because they're now easier to get supplies and parts for, and he grows, for example, genetically modified corn to help control pests and disease (which keeps the farm from being certified as organic).

The reason Starr doesn't spray his crops with a lot of chemicals, has nothing to do with trying to be organic, he usually doesn't see much of a need.

If there was a need, he says he would spray.

He doesn't spray for weeds in his wheat, for example, because the wheat grows so fast, it smothers out the weeds.

As for insects, he tells a couple of stories about what he's learned about using pesticides.

First, there is the story of the army worm.

"A few years ago the alert went out, look out for army worms, and the guys, they had their sprayers and were just flying, but we didn’t spray," Starr said. "I went out looking to see if I could find army worms. I went through all my fields – I had a grand total of I think 40 acres of wheat that year – and I found one little army worm about a quarter of an inch long. It didn’t do any sort of damage at all. We didn’t need to spray."

The second story goes further back and is about a salesman visiting the Starr Farm.

"I had a guy come in years ago and say, ‘I went through your field’ – and I didn’t even know he’d done that -- and he said, ‘Oh, man, have you got insects. We’ve got to spray.’  

"Now this was years ago," Starr said, "and I said, 'How much will that cost?' and he said, 'How many acres do you have?' I told him. He said that will probably cost you $3,000 to $4,000. I said, 'Oh my gosh, I haven’t got that kind of money.' I said, 'What would happen if I don’t spray?' He said, ‘Oh, by the time the frost comes, it will kill them all and it won’t be a problem.'”

Starr laughs and adds "He almost got me."

Typical of Starr's demeanor, he's quick to add that he's not criticizing the salesman for trying to make a living or the farmers who think spraying for insects is necessary. He just does it his way for his own reasons.

"I always thought the old-timers knew what they were doing. Work hard, keep your nose clean and you’ll be all right. This is just the way we go. It’s the way we do it. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody else in the world, but it seems to work for us all right.”

July 25, 2011 - 4:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in traffic, Pavilion.

One light is staying red at Route 63 and Route 19, while the other light changes from red to green and back, according to a report to dispatchers.

Traffic is backing up.

Law enforcement is dispatched.

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

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