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Howard B. Owens's blog

March 1, 2011 - 10:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, elba, pembroke.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to cap the annual salaries of school district superintendents and if his proposal goes through, one Genesee County superintendent could see a nearly $90,000 cut in pay.

Under the cap plan, all of the other county superintendents are earning less than what Gov. Cuomo's plan says they could earn.

Currently, the highest paid school superintendent in the county is Pembroke's Gary Mix. He earns $232,307 per year.

For a school district the size of Pembroke's, according to Cuomo, Mix's pay should be capped at $145,000.

WBTA's Geoff Redick spoke with Mix.

"I understand that the governor is politically ambitious," says Mix. "He's picked a group of people -- the 700 superintendents in New York -- that in many communities, particularly in small communities, they can often be among the more highly compensated people in the community."

Mix says he grew up the oldest of eight children. His father was a postal worker who also took many odd jobs to support his large family.

So, "I understand the feelings about other people's compensation and benefits," says Mix. "(But) education is crucial, it's important. I hope we truly value it."

On the other end of the spectrum, Elba's Jerome Piwko might want to ask for a raise. He's making only $81,120. While Elba's student population is a rather small 494, Cuomo's plan says Piwko could have his pay capped at $135,000. 

That puts Piwko's pay nearly $55,000 under Cuomo's proposed pay scale. That's the largest disparity between Cuomo's cap proposal and what a current Genesee county superintendent is earning.

For the rest of Geoff's story, click here.

March 1, 2011 - 3:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, tax auction.

Twelve foreclosed properties, assessed at more than $637,000 total, will be auctioned off Saturday as Genesee County attempts to recover unpaid taxes on them.

In all, the county would need to yield at least $102,830 from the auction to recover all of the unpaid taxes.

The properties include six single-family residences and range in lot size from .12  up to nearly 20 acres.

Here's a complete list of available properties:

  • 7016 Macumber Road, Alabama, mobile home, .46 acres; Assessed, $48,200; Taxes owed, $3,778.70.
  • 10 Edgewood Drive, Batavia, single-family residence, .61 acres (and neighboring parcel); Assessed, $185,000; Taxes owed,$33,938.61.
  • Pearl Street Road, Batavia, vacant lot, .28 acres; Assessed $1,300; Taxes owed $694.41.
  • 7521 Mechanic St., Byron, single-family residence, .53 acres; Assessed $30,000; Taxes owed, $5,508.57.
  • 11036 South St. Road, Pavilion, single-family residence and out buildings, .06 acres; Assessed $56,800; Taxes owed $1,150.60.
  • 8562 Lake Road, Pembroke, residence with small improvements; Assessed $20,000; Taxes owed $2,019.39.
  • Alleghany Road, corner of Cohocton, Pembroke, 10 acres, rural vacant lot; Assessed $6,300; Taxes owed $994.97.
  • 6128 Sweetland Road, Stafford, 19.77 acres with buildings;  Assessed $37,300; Taxes owed $8,101.81.
  • 103 Lake St., Le Roy, single-family residence, 2.3 acres; Assessed $72,400; Taxes owed $12,820.58.
  • 21 Lake St., Le Roy, single-family residence, 5.6 acres; Assessed $88,900; Taxes owed $14,343.02.
  • 5 Pleasant Ave., two-family residence, .12 acres; Assessed $31,000; Taxes owed $11,124.13.
  • 34 N. Pearl St., Oakfield, single-family residence, .15 acres; Assessed $60,300; Taxes owed $8,358.20.

The auction begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, March 5, at Bontrager's Auction Center, 8975 Wortendyke Road in the Town of Batavia.

March 1, 2011 - 12:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

We've heard from several residents of Le Roy and parents that Wolcott Street Elementary School has been evacuated.

We do know some time ago, the Le Roy Fire Department was asked to assemble at its fire hall for an "incident."

We don't know if the two items are related.

Attempts to reach the Le Roy Police or school district officials have been unsuccessful.

We have no further information at this time.

UPDATE 1:20 p.m.: "The situation is resolved. Units are released." That's the scene as it stands. After receiving a threat in the form of a written note, the school was evacuated, according to district employee Brian Fuller. State police arrived and other emergency responders and nothing was found after a thorough search. A canine was used in the process.

UPDATE 1:27 p.m.: The children are being escorted back into their classrooms.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.: The school principal declined to comment.

UPDATE 1:52 p.m.: Fuller said at around noon graffiti was found in a bathroom claiming a bomb was in the building. The 630 students were evacuated and parents were notified via an automated districtwide phone call. The bomb-sniffing canine found nothing and now the students have resumed what's left of their school day.

March 1, 2011 - 12:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, tax auction.

Jeremy Yasses has plans to make 507 Ellicott St. beautiful again, but first he needs the Batavia City Council to approve his purchase of the property.

In the city's annual tax lien auction, Yasses bid on the property and won it for $5,000 under the corporate name Trine Properties, Inc.

But last year the council set a precedent by denying Michael Pullinzi the ability to buy 9 Willow St.,saying Pullinzi was a landlord with too many alleged code violations against his properties.

Once again, council members are receiving a memo from city staff on the number and types of alleged violations against this year's auction winners, and Yasses tops the list with 11 alleged violations.

All of the violations have been corrected, according to the report.

The violations are on properties Yasses or his wife own and are rental properties.

Today, Yasses noted that it was Trine Properties, Inc. that bought 507 Ellicott St., not Jeremy Yasses. Yasses said he's just an officer in the company and there are investors that back Trine.

Trine does not want to buy the Ellicott Street residence in order to turn it into a rental. The intention, Yasses said, is to rehabilitate it and sell it.

To help make his case, Yasses sent a letter to the city -- included in the council agenda package -- outlining his plans for the property and including before and after pictures of properties his company has previously rehabilitated.

Yasses says he wants to get out of the rental business -- if only he could sell his current properties -- and just deal in rehab projects.

He has been involved in rehabilitating about a dozen properties in Genesee and Orleans counties over the past two years. He's just about to sell a place in Alabama that after rehab has increased in assessed value by $20,000.

"I want to make the house beautiful and improve the neighborhood," Yasses said. "I think that's what the council is after. It would be a positive for the city."


February 28, 2011 - 8:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

WHAM13's Sean Carroll picked up the story The Batavian broke last week on a former area resident who is in a Wisconsin jail accused of assuming the identity of an attorney. Carroll also learned that Lyon's next court date has been pushed back to March 11.

February 28, 2011 - 6:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy, Chris Charvella, Jay Grasso.

Chris Charvella can start attending Genesee County Legislature meetings again.

Town of Batavia Justice Mike Cleveland today adjusted the order of protection barring him from showing up at the place of business of Legislator Jay Grasso.

Grasso has accused Charvella of harassing him for leaving a message on his home phone that said, "Thanks for reading my blog."

Charvella is charged with harassment, 2nd. Under the statute, he is accused of making a phone call with no legitimate purpose.

Along with attorney E. Robert Fussell, Charvella, a Democratic committee member, appeared in Town of Batavia Court today for a status hearing.

Fussell indicated he is preparing motions to challenge the constitutionality of the charge, but the only request today was to change the order of protection issued in Town of Le Roy Court when Charvella was first arrested. The order prohibits Charvella from having any contact with Grasso.

"It's certainly has been my practice to attend meetings of the legislature," said Charvella, who ran for a seat on the county board in 2009. "That's a practice I would like to continue."

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini object to the change in the order, saying that Charvella was offered a plea deal that would have altered the court order and given Charvella a conditional discharge of the case.* Since Charvella turned down that offer and the case may go to trial, Cianfrini said, Charvella should be kept away in all circumstances from Grasso, since Grasso is both the alleged vicitm and a potential witness in any trial.

(UPDATE: Cianfrini called to clarify: Charvella was offered an adjournament in contemplation of dismissal, meaning the case would be dismissed with no record (all court records would be sealed) if Charvella stayed out of trouble for six months).

Grasso, a Republican, is Le Roy's elected representative on the legislature.

Outside of court, Fussell wouldn't confirm that he and his client intend to take the case to trial. He would only say, "I'm preparing motions." He said the motions would be based on constitutional issues.

During the hearing today, Fussell gave some indication of what those arguments will be, telling Cleveland, "If a politician doesn't like what a constituent has to say, it would be very, very chilling (to block meeting attendance). He (Charvella) should be allowed to attend these things."

Those motions must be filed by April 15 and Charvella's next court appearance was set for 4:30 p.m., May 23.

For previous coverage of the Chris Charvella and Jay Grasso case, click here.

February 28, 2011 - 1:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, pembroke, Pavilion, Bethany.

LeeAnna M. Kiefer, 18, of Transit Road, East Bethany, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Kiefer is accused of being involved in an incident on Big Tree Road in Pavilion where she allegedly punched another person in the head and face.

Stephanie Marie Macchia, 33, of Munzel Road, Medina, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Macchia was involved in a traffic stop by Deputy Patrick Reeves at 11:57 p.m., Friday, on Route 77 in Pembroke, and found to allegedly be in possession of marijuana.

February 28, 2011 - 11:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather.

The National Weather Service has canceled the flood watch for Genesee County.

The threat of significant rainfall in the region has ended, according to the weather service.

February 28, 2011 - 8:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

Billie and I wish to thank the Genesee County community for embracing us and embracing The Batavian.

It's been two years since we took over ownership of this news Web site. We've come a long way in two years and continue to love what we're doing and we love living in Genesee County.

Thank you to the readers and the businesses who support us.

For sake of comparison, when we took over, The Batavian had three sponsors. Today we have 96. In February 2009, the site was visited nearly 78,000 times and served 198,000 page views (at the time, both record numbers). In February 2011, we will have 260,000 visits and close to 470,000 page views.

And we continue to grow, and that's all thanks to you.

February 27, 2011 - 3:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather.

Heavy snow melt and rain could lead to minor flooding in parts of Genesee County, according to the National Weather Service.

There is a flood watch in effect for late tonight through Monday evening.

Minor flooding is possible along creeks and rivers as well as low-lying, poorly drained areas.

Thunderstorms may produce localized heavier rainfall and pose a risk for more significant flooding in those areas, according to the NWS.

Though rainfall will cease around midday Monday, some streams will not crest until Monday night or predawn Tuesday.

February 27, 2011 - 2:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, fire.

A coal stove reportedly caught on fire and the fire may have gotten into the mantle, but the callers report they think they got the fire out.

Oakfield Fire along with Alabama and Batavia fire departments responding to 3319 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Oakfield.

First on scene reports driveway is snow covered. He's requesting a thermal camera and requests a line be laid as a precaution.

The location is between Downey Road and Lewiston Road.

UPDATE 2:07 p.m.: There is smoke coming from the residence.

UPDATE 2:29 p.m.: "The fire is extinguished."

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February 26, 2011 - 4:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pembroke.

A fuel spill has been reported at the Flying J on Route 77 by the Thruway exit.

At the time of the call, the fuel had not been shut off.

A first responder reported "significant saturation."

Pembroke and Indian Falls fire departments are responding.

February 26, 2011 - 4:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, weather.

Weather: Overcast all day. There's an 80-percent chance of snow tonight, but no prediction of significant accumulation.

Photos, an abandoned farmhouse on Route 262, Bergen.

February 26, 2011 - 4:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, Byron-Bergen Central Schools.

Today was "Winterfest" at Byron-Bergen school. It is a fundraiser for the middle school and high school featuring vendors from throughout the region.

Seated above, Kari Pardun, from Brockport, explains her business, Tastefully Simple, to Pavilion residents Cheryll Ferneays, left, and Roberta Graney.

Below, Katrina Wilkins, of Byron, drops by Reggy Pollizi's Tupperware booth.

February 26, 2011 - 4:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city centre, Genesee Cancer Assistance.

The City Centre was packed with Zumba dancers this afternoon as part of a "Party of Hope" to raise money for Genesee Cancer Assistance.

Zumba is a fusion of Latin beats, international music and fitness dance moves.

Dancers donated money to participate.

February 25, 2011 - 7:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, Vine Street.

For the second time in less than 13 months, the Ricigliano family is looking for a place to live and trying to figure how how to replace all of their belongings.

On Wednesday night, they were burned out of their apartment at 20 Vine St., Batavia.

The suspected cause and origin of the fire has yet to be released by the Batavia Fire Department.

A year ago, Nick and Melissa were living 132 State St., where a woman died after reportedly starting a fire by smoking too close to her oxygen tank.

"My son’s birthday is Feb. 7," Melissa Ricigliano said. "Last year, two days after his birthday, he lost everything. This year, two weeks after his birthday, he loses everything."

Both Melissa and Nick work (at Sunny's restaurant and McDonald's), but after spending the past year replacing all of their belongings, money is tight and they can't afford the expense of a new rental.

After the State Street fire, they knew they needed to get renters' insurance and started the process but hadn't yet signed the paperwork.

Meanwhile, they lost all of their clothes, a new couch, TV and Xbox.

"It took almost a whole year to buy all of our stuff back and now it’s all gone again," Melissa said.

Melissa said she's been disappointed in the response she's gotten from the American Red Cross. On Wednesday, Ricigliano was given $300 and told to come back the next day.

The next day, the woman she talked to said, "What are you doing here?" The woman said there was no more assistance available. When Melissa said, "I'm homeless and we need food," she was told she should have used the $300 for food.

The $300, Melissa said, went for two sets of clothes for each member of the family, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Judy Nagel at the Genesee Region Red Cross said the available money for fire victims is tightly regulated by the national headquarters. Each victim, she said, is given a debit card and a form that says, "spend X amount on clothing and X amount on food."

"It's all put into a computer and there's a formula based on policies set by headquarters," Nagel said. "The computer creates the debit card. We're not able to do more than that. We don't have any control over the amount (of assistance)."

Nick and Melissa are currently staying with friends. Their children, Dominic, 6, and Martha, 3, are with family in Chili. Melissa also said the people at John Kennedy School and New Hope Church have been trying to help, as well as several others in the community.

Her sister is working on organizing a fundraiser at a town fire hall, but no date has been set yet.

Melissa said she has a message for any potential landlords: "You might want to put out there that I am a good tenant and I don’t have a curse.”

February 25, 2011 - 7:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Lee, NY-26.

"New to area. Very fit classy, successful guy. 39, 6ft 190lbs, blond/blue. Smooth hard body. Looking for a sexy ts/cd that i can spoil. I promise not to disappoint."

In a shocking new post, this is the ad suggests  ex-Congressman Chris Lee posted on Craigslist in January.

However, almost by writer Remy Stern's own admission, holes could be poked into the "evidence" that Lee was seeking transgender and transvestite hook-ups through the free classified site. Yet, there's enough to the story that makes it hard to ignore.

Hardest to disregard is the new photo published by Gawker that seems to show a shirtless Lee posing in front of a mirror. It's very similar to an image Gawker published with the initial story about the married Lee allegedly trolling Craigslist for dates. Still, it's different enough in key ways, making makes it hard to believe it's a PhotoShop counterfeit.

Stern reports that the photo was submitted by a transvestite prostitute, whom Gawker calls "Holly."

"The first thing Holly sent us was a never-before-seen picture of Chris Lee's now-familiar torso and red Blackberry. She edited the picture to obscure the Congressman's face, however, and printed her e-mail address over his chest. (We have covered up the address in the photo above.)" If we wanted to publish the unedited image, Holly explained, we'd have to pay her for it."

As for the ad above, Stern claims that it came from a transgender woman who said she found the ad posted on Craigslist and later figured out that the person who posted it was allegedly Lee.

Read the whole thing and see what you think about the claims.

February 25, 2011 - 4:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, weather, Stafford.

The storm that passed through Genesee County this morning has passed to the east and the National Weather Service has canceled the storm warning for our area.

Some light snow, with as much as an inch accumulation, is expected this evening and tonight.

The picture above was taken during some of the heaviest of the snowfall out on Prole Road, Stafford.




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

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