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August 12, 2011 - 1:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Art and culture clashed with reality Thursday night at the Genesee County Planning Board meeting when two projects dealing with a bit of Batavia's past and a bit of its present were considered.

First up was a permit for demolition of the former Elks Lodge at 213 E. Main St. The board recommended approval of the permit with only one dissenting vote, from Lucine Kauffman.

Later in the meeting, the board was asked to consider a permit for sign painted on the back of a building on East Main Street.

While some might dispute that the sign is a work of art, it was painted by Batavia's renowned muralist Vinny DelPlato.

Main St. Pizza Company Owner Vic Marchese commissioned the work to provide DelPlato some extra work while the artist was in town this summer and he thought it would be a cool use of some blank space on the back of his building.

Only after the mural/sign was painted -- it depicts the top of Main St.'s pizza box -- did city officials let him know the painting constituted a sign for his business and he would need a sign permit.

The sign also allegedly violated city ordinances for size and location.

Last month, the county planning board recommended disapproval of an application for a variance to allow the sign. 

The board's votes are not binding. They're recommendations to the municipal planning and zoning boards.  

In the case of the Main St. sign, the application was resubmitted, according to board discussion, because the Batavia planning board agreed to consider it if a sign for Batavia Computer was added to the back of the building.

The Main St. painting isn't actually behind Main St. Pizza. It's behind Batavia Computer, and the owner of Batavia Computer said he thinks the location of the painting will confuse people about the location of his business, according to board discussion.

"It seems like this is a neighbor issue, but we're being asked to straighten it out," Kauffman said.

The revised plan leaves the painting in place, but ads door signs for both Main St. Pizza and Batavia Computer. The board seemed willing to consider a sign variance for Batavia Computer, but only as a separate application.

"We don't even know if the owner of Batavia Computer wants the sign," said board member Bob Bennett. "We have nothing with his signature on it."

Felipe Oltramari, senior planner for the county, said that part of the reason for the staff's recommendation to disapprove the application was that allowing such a large sign would set a precedent.

"How would the city say no to the next application?" Oltramari asked.

Kauffman noted that the point of a variance is to make an exception, not set a precedent.

The board held no discussion of the proposed demolition of the former Elks Lodge. A representative of UMMC and of the demolition company appeared at the meeting and were ready to answer questions, but no questions were asked.

In briefing Oltramari said there is no documented historical significance of the building.

County planning staff recommended approval of the demolition permit.

After the meeting, Oltramari shared a draft of a modification to the building that was approved in 1950. The modification added the current facade of the building. In our earlier report, we said that Frank Homelius designed the facade -- information that comes from a book about Frank and his father Henry Homelius. However, Frank died in 1941.

Photo: Taken the day DelPlato was finishing the Main St. painting.

August 12, 2011 - 12:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC.

A group of people who either hold the purse strings or are in a position to influence business owners who might be willing to relocate to Genesee County received a tour Thursday of the shovel-ready business parks in Genesee County.

The group included representatives of commercial lending institutions in Rochester and Buffalo, real estate agents and staff from the Small Business Forum and the USDA Rural Development office.

Also on the bus were representatives from Sen. Kristen Gillibrand's office and the office of Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer.

After lunch and a briefing at Batavia Downs, the group stopped first at the planned site of Alpina Products in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. From there they headed out to Bergen, then to the Med-Tech Park, then Town of Batavia's Gateway project, then Pembroke and Buffalo East, followed by the location of the proposed STAMP project in Alabama.

August 12, 2011 - 12:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien.

Two people were arrested and two people received citations in connection with the Journey/Foreigner concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Wednesday.

Arrested were:

Carl A. Dreschsel III, 34, of Wildwood Drive, Lancaster, was charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly knocking another patron down during the concert.

Kyle B. Kelly, 22, of McKinley Street, Rochester, was charged with trespass after allegedly reentering the concert venue after leaving and being told he could not reenter. 

Two 17-year-olds, both from Ontario, Canada, where charged with underage drinking.

August 11, 2011 - 4:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, history, hlom.

The Holland Land Office Museum has acquired a painting by Richard Wright Ware that depicts a bit of West Main Street and the Tonawanda Creek that no longer exists.

Sometime in the late 1950s or '60s, the Batavia native painted the picture showing a view from the Walnut Street Bridge -- which was a traffic bridge then -- looking west down the Tonawanda with the former commercial buildings of West Main Street depicted on the right.

Those buildings would eventually be demolished, and the Walnut Street bridge converted for pedestrian use. That stretch of Main Street is now a grassy, tree-lined area.

County Clerk Don Read, at right, who serves on the HLOM board, acquired the picture at an auction and paid $600 for it.

Ware, known for his landscapes around Batavia and Naples, gained some regional acclaim and held shows locally in Rochester and the Finger Lakes.

"We like to have representative works of local artists," Read said.

The work, Read said, can be combined with photos HLOM has of that section of Batavia, to give museum visitors an idea of what the area was once like.

Executive Director Jeff Donahue said HLOM is always looking for artifacts that help tell the story of Genesee County and he said he would welcome tips from local residents on anything that might become available. It's important, he said, to ensure items of local historical importance are preserved.

The painting is already on display at HLOM.

August 11, 2011 - 3:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, history, UMMC.

Batavia, with its legacy of demolishing its own history, is about to lose another landmark building.

The former Batavia Elks Lodge at 213 E. Main St. was purchased in December by United Memorial Medical Center for $143,500.

Workers have already removed windows and completed asbestos abatement.

Colleen Flynn, spokeswoman for UMMC, said the hospital regularly tries to acquire property adjacent to its own facilities when possible.

"We're sort of landlocked," Flynn said. "When certain buildings come up for sale we buy them for future growth."

Her own office on North Street is in a house the hospital acquired to create more space for staff, she noted.

The building housed the Elks in Batavia for nearly 100 years. The current Art Deco facade was added in the 1920s and designed by Frank Homelius, a Batavia resident and one of the premier architects of Western New York in the early 20th Century. His father, Henry Homelius designed many of Batavia's grander homes of the 19th Century. (*see update below)

Flynn noted that the building does not have any historical designation.

Laurie Oltramari, president of the Genesee County Landmark Society, said given the current state of the north side of East Main Street, she doesn't thinking losing the building is going to detract too much from the character of the city.

"You've got to pick your battles, I guess, and this isn't one I would pick," she said.

Though, Oltramari, added, she hates to see such a building destroyed without a plan.

UMMC will landscape the property once the building is removed and has no immediate plans to construct another building at the location.

Jeffery Donahue, director of the Holland Land Office Museum, was saddened to hear the news the building would be torn down.

"It's always a shame to lose one of the landmark buildings of Batavia," Donahue said. "We lose a little bit of history every time."

UMMC won an award from the Landmark Society earlier this year for its restoration of the former St. Jerome's Hospital, turning it into senior housing.

"The building (Elks Lodge) was not in good condition for renovation," Flynn said. "We do everything we can to protect and preserve Batavia's history."

Later in the day, Flynn issued a press release with the following quote:

The former Elk’s Club required extensive updates and renovations for reuse and was not handicap accessible. Coupled with the costs associated with making it handicap accessible and meeting NYS Department of Health regulations for healthcare use, it was decided that the building should be razed and the site would be improved with appropriate landscaping.

Over the years, Batavia has seen the north side of his downtown district demolished and replaced by a characterless mall and lost such grand structures as the Trumbull Cary Mansion and the Dean Richmond Mansion (the location is now a parking lot).

Local author Bill Kauffman, who has lamented previous losses to Batavia's cultural heritage, most notably in his book Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette, was upset this morning to hear about the Elks Lodge demolition.

"It's a shame," Kauffman said. "The Elks Lodge is a landmark of working-class Batavia, designed by Batavia's great architectual family."

UPDATE: County documents show an application was made in 1950 to add the current facade to the building. Frank Homelius died in 1941.  The information we use in the story above comes from a book on Frank and his father.

August 11, 2011 - 2:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 9/11.

The State Museum is setting up 30 displays of 9/11 artifacts around the state and one of them will be at Batavia City Hall from Aug. 29 through the end of September.

The display will be open on Sunday, Sept. 11.

"It's memorializing a tragedy, but I think it's good for the city to be able to host something like this," said City Manager Jason Molino. "It will give the community a chance to reflect on the events of 9/11."

While details are still being worked out, Molino said, there will likely be some sort of city-hosted ceremony on 9/11.

County Clerk Don Read said he was glad to see Batavia picked as one of the 30 host cities.

"I think it is an excellent opportunity for the public to put themselves in a frame of mind to reflect on tragedy," Read said. 

Read called 9/11 "one of those legacy events" -- such as the Kennedy assassination -- when everybody remembers what they were doing and where they were when they heard about it.

"It's a chance to learn more about 9/11 and pay tribute to those who lost their lives on that day," Read said.

The State Museum has acquired more than 2,000 objects from Ground Zero and many of the artifacts that will be on display throughout the state, many of which will be viewed by the public for the first time.

August 10, 2011 - 8:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

The management of Blue Heron Construction, out of Jordan, is a little baffled about why they didn't get the contract for the sewer project at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Genesee County Economic Development Center awarded the contract to Sergi Construction out of East Aurora even though Blue Heron's bid was $200,000 lower than Sergi's.

"It just seemed quite strange to award the contract to the second bidder," said C.W. Gregory, chief of operations for Blue Heron.

Blue Heron bid $2,024,101.50. Sergi bid $2,227,810.

Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, listed three main reasons the agency went with Sergi over Blue Heron.

First, according to Masse, Blue Heron officials admitted that they didn't have time to fully review the specs for the job. Clark Patterson Lee, the architect of the project, raised a concern that Blue Heron's bid didn't fully account for all the possible variables in the project.

Second, Clark Patterson's staff expressed concern that Blue Heron underestimated the amount of epoxy that would be needed to complete the project. The difference could mean from $20,000 to $60,000 in additional cost, while, according to Masse, Sergi overestimated the amount of epoxy needed by $60,000.

Third, Blue Heron, Masse said, has more projects in the pipeline than Sergi.

"Blue Heron has a sizable backlog of work," Masse said. "We were concerned that they would not be able to meet the aggressive time line that we needed them to meet in order to complete the project on time."

The first project in the agri-business park, Alpina products, is scheduled to break ground before the end of summer and GCEDC is contractually obligated to deliver a sewer system up to spec and on time.

Matt Rodenhizer, V.P. of Blue Heron, said he doesn't think GCEDC can legally bypass the low bidder based on the amount of work the low bidder has under contract. He also said that even if more epoxy was need, the Blue Heron bid would still be more than $70,000 lower than Sergi's.

The company is considering legal action and is also waiting on a letter of explanation from Clark Patterson that Rodenhizer said he isn't sure they will get, even though they've requested one.

Gregory said when it came to specifications for epoxy, the bid document and the spec document weren't necessarily aligned and even Clark Patterson's reps seemed confused on the point when Blue Heron interviewed for the job.

Gregory and Rodenhizer disputed Masse's claim that Blue Heron hadn't thoroughly reviewed the documents.

They also said the company has more than enough manpower to complete the project on time.

"They don't know how big of a company we are," Gregory said. "We could have put two or three crews on the project to get it done on time."

Currently, Blue Heron has four contracts totaling more than $5 million on other projects through Clark Patterson that are closing out or well under way, said Rodenhizer.

"We've never had a problem with Clark Patterson before," Gregory said. "We've worked well with them and it was a shock after the fact not to get the contract."

August 10, 2011 - 7:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Eric Dibble dabbled in a couple of different careers, but in the end decided what he would be best at was the one career he grew up learning about -- law enforcement.

"I'd always been interested in police work with my father being in it while I was growing up," Dibble said. "I worked a few other jobs outside of college, but I just didn't feel any kind of satisfaction in the careers I had chosen. At one point, I stopped and started thinking again about law enforcement. I decided that working at a career I was interested in was probably the most important thing."

While Dibble is now an officer with the Batavia Police Department, his father remains in a senior position with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, and he had only one question about his son's career choice.

"To be honest, the biggest thing I said to him was are you sure you want to work shift work and have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off," said Deputy Chief Gordon Dibble. "That’s the first thing I said. I think everything I said to him was all about working holidays and working shift work and how that affects your family."

Dibble said being the son of a well-known cop in the community has its benefits, but the Dibble name in law enforcement also carries weight.

"I think some people give me the benefit of doubt because of it and they think I can do a good job, but I also have to live up to any kind of expectations," Eric said.

While some fathers in law enforcement might warn their sons away from such a career, Gordon said that never entered his mind.

"I've known police officers who have told their kids not to go into this career, but I think Eric is capable of doing a great job," said Gordon.

He also couldn't have picked a better community for a career in law enforcement, the chief said.

"I think the Batavia Police Department is a great department and I think the fact that he’s working there is great," Gordon said. "We all think it’s a nice area or we wouldn’t live here. I think it’s a good area to be a police officer in. I don’t know that I’d want him to be a police officer in an urban setting, but I think around here, I think it’s a great place to live and a great place to be a police officer."

WBTA's Geoff Redick conducted an in-depth interview with Gordon and Eric Dibble. Segments will air Thursday at 6, 7 and 8 a.m. The entire interview will air during Friday's Main and Center.

Photo below submitted by Gordon Dibble, taken at Eric's graduation from the police academy in Monroe County.

August 10, 2011 - 4:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

A wire is in a tree and arcing in the area of Route 19 and Parmelee Road, Le Roy.

Le Roy Fire Department responding.

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August 10, 2011 - 3:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Pok-A-Dot, John Gardner.

When you drive past the Pok-A-Dot today, you may notice a purple bench you've not seen before. It was installed today in honor of John Gardner, the world-famous novelist, poet and literary critic who grew up in Batavia and once considered the Pok-A-Dot his favorite eatery.

The bench, which cost a little less than $2,000, was bought and paid for by the John Gardner Society and installed by a city work crew.

"We wanted the bench to be in the spirit of both the Pok-A-Dot and John Gardner," said local author and Gardner Society member Bill Kauffman. "So, it is, ah, colorful (purple and yellow). Who knows -- maybe we'll paint polka dots on it later. Gardner once said,  'I think a writer who leaves his roots leaves any hope of writing importantly.' Well, his roots haven't forgotten him."

Kauffman said the group has talked for years about sponsoring a memorial for Gardner. Since the group holds its annual Gardner reading each October at the Pok-A-Dot and he included "the Dot" in one of his novels, it seemed like an appropriate spot for a memorial.

"We figured why not put a Gardner bench in front of this literary-culinary capital of Batavia?" Kauffman said.

Leona Pastore, whose family owns the Pok-A-Dot, was enthusiastic and helpful, Kauffman said. He also thanks City Manager Jason Molino for supporting the project and Ray Tourt and his staff for their assistance.

The plaque reads: JOHN C. GARDNER / Author, Teacher / 1933-1982 / Born in Batavia and raised on the family farm on Putnam Settlement Road, Gardner published more than 30 books of fiction, literary criticism, and advice for writers. The novel that brought him national recognition, The Sunlight Dialogues (1972), is set in Batavia and environs, including the Pok-a-Dot restaurant.

August 10, 2011 - 2:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Bethany.

A home on Creek Road in Bethany was burglarized during the day Monday and thieves got away with jewelry, a flat-screen TV and liquor, according to Deputy Chief Jerome Brewster.

It's the first daylight burglary reported to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office in some time, Brewster said, but there have been some recent daylight burglaries in Wyoming County.

"This one is possibly related," Brewster said. "We've been in regular contact with Wyoming County (Sheriff's Office).

A check in the neighborhood did not turn up any witnesses.

Deputy Chad Mower took the initial call and Investigator Roger Stone is now heading up the investigation.

Anybody with information that may help in the case can call 345-5000.

August 10, 2011 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy.

John P. Wittkopp, 28, of 24 Columbia Ave., Batavia, is charged with harassment, 2nd, and strangulation, 2nd. Wittkopp turned himself in at police headquarters Monday following an investigation into an alleged incident on Sunday. Wittkopp is accused of striking a woman in the head and pinning her to the ground with a shower curtain, obstructing her breathing.

A 16-year-old of East Main Road, Le Roy, is charged with harassment, 2nd. The youth is accused of shoving another person during an argument.

Christina M. Maynard, 30, 501 Third Ave., Dayton, Ky., is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and failure to keep right. Maynard was stopped at 8 p.m., Tuesday, on Jefferson Avenue by Officer Matthew Fleming. Maynard was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Paul M. Paradise, 31, of 9 W. Main St., Waterloo, is charged with criminal contempt, 1st, and harassment, 2nd. Paradise is accused of sending numerous text messages to his estranged wife in violation of an order of protection.

August 10, 2011 - 10:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, darien lake, Darien.

There were no arrests and only two citations issued in conjunction with the Selena Gomez concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Tuesday.

Issued citations for alleged underage drinking were:

Kyle R. Hejmanowski, 19, of Weaver Street, Buffalo

Marissa L. Bogdan, 18, of Shirley Road, Cheektowaga

August 9, 2011 - 5:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, alexander.

There is reportedly smoke coming from the roof of a residence on Route 20 in Alexander.

There is the smell of smoke in the house.

The residence is being evacuated.

Alexander Fire Department and Town of Batavia's ladder truck being dispatched.

The location is 3076 Broadway Road, Alexander.

UPDATE 6:01 p.m.: The smoke appears NOT to be coming from the residence, but another location. Alexander units being held in quarters and Town of Batavia can return to its hall.

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August 9, 2011 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, baseball, Batavia Muckdogs, sports.

Press release: 

BATAVIA, NY – Tonight’s game between the Batavia Muckdogs and Brooklyn Cyclones has been postponed due to rain and wet field conditions. This game will be made up as part of a double-header on Wednesday, Aug. 10. We will play two seven-inning games, with the first game starting at 5:05 p.m. Gates will open at 4 p.m. Any person with tickets to tonight’s game can exchange their tickets for any other regular season game, subject to availability.

The Rob Ray autograph appearance will be rescheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27. 

August 9, 2011 - 2:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien, darien lake theme park.

The Sheriff's Office and Darien Lake security are investigating a series of thefts from vehicles parked at the theme park, including four over the weekend, according to Deputy Chief Gordon Dibble.

There have been a number of thefts in the day-use parking lot park, Dibble said.

In some cases, women's purses have been taken from one car and later found in another car.

Many of the larcenies have involved forceable entry with the cars being damaged in the process.

Items taken include purses, electronics, money and other valuables. 

At this time, no witnesses have come forward and the Sheriff's Office has no suspects.

Anybody with information that may aid the case can call (585) 343-5000.

(Initial report)

August 9, 2011 - 2:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans.

United Memorial Medical Center is contributing $50,000 toward the construction of a new veterans' memorial at the corner of Bank Street and Washington Avenue.

The total price of the project is about $500,000 and local veterans groups have been working diligently to raise the funds.

The former memorial was removed to make way for the new surgical wing at UMMC.

Pictured are Ron Konieczny, left, Dan Waterman, Beth Lapp, Hall Kreter, Marc Schoell, Paul Gaylord, Steve Hawley, Paul Sullivan, Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Clayton Fry.




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