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September 15, 2011 - 4:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba, byron, alexander.

Jeffrey J. Cervone, 43, no permanent address, is charged with petit larceny. Cervone is accused of stealing a bottle of Bacardi from Mr. Wine and Liquor at 5 p.m., Wednesday. Cervone reportedly left the scene in a pickup truck, which was later stopped on Lewiston Road by a Sheriff's deputy. Cervone was a passenger in the truck and was placed in Batavia Police custody. He was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Scott G. Tooley, 26, of 199 S. Main St., Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Tooley is accused of pushing a woman to the ground while she was holding a child. Neither the woman nor the child were injured. The incident was reported at 10 a.m., Tuesday.

Rebecca Nicole Bethune, 22, of Hundredmark Road, Elba, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Bethune is accused of hitting another person in the head with her fist. The incident was reported at 2:10 a.m., Tuesday.

Jeffrey David Whitmore, 21, of Sandpit Road, Alexander, is charged with menacing. Whitmore is accused of pointing a shotgun at a person during a car repossession. The incident was reported at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday.

Michael Abdullah Jamil, 27, of School Road, Byron, is charged with unlawful imprisonment, 2nd, criminal mischief, endangering the welfare of a child, petit larceny and harassment, 2nd. Jamil was arrested following an alleged domestic incident at 5 a.m., Wednesday. Among the accusations are that he disabled a phone in an attempt to prevent a call to police.

September 15, 2011 - 3:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield, Le Roy.

A former Batavia resident who has had a few run-ins with the law the past couple of years is back in jail, this time with bail set at $15,000.

Robert J. Eppolito Jr., 29, of 61 Church St., Apt. #2, Le Roy, is being charged with one count of assault, 2nd.

Last night, Le Roy Police responded to multiple calls about a disturbance in the area of Bacon and Lake streets.

Eppolito is accused of striking another person several times on the head and face with his fists, knocking the victim to the ground and then kicking the victim in the face with his foot.

The victim reportedly suffered a possible eye socket fracture.

In September, 2009, Eppolito was accused of having sex in public with a woman and in a separate incident of slamming another woman against a wall.

Eppolito lived in Oakfield at the time.

In June, 2010, Eppolito was accused of endangering the welfare of a child and harassment, 2nd, while a resident on Maple Street, Batavia.

This past Monday, law enforcement officials were heard on the scanner chatting about Eppolito being released from jail that day.

September 15, 2011 - 3:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, darien lake, Darien.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the Chris Brown concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Wednesday.

Deparis C. Banks, 19, Pelham Road, New Rochelle, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly causing a disturbance after being ejected from the venue.  Banks was jailed on $100 bail.

Candise J. McKeiver, 21, Parkway Drive, North Chili, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly causing a disturbance after being ejected from the concert.

Passion V. Madlock, 22, Kerns Street, Buffalo, is charged with disorderly conduct after allegedly causing a disturbance while being ejected from the concert.

Nicholas J. Macaluso, 19, Oak Street, Bellmore, is charged with harassment, 2nd, and possession of alcohol with intent to consume after allegedly punching a security guard in the head and being under age 21 in possession of alcohol.

The following people were issued citations for allegedly possessing alcohol under age 21:

Kathryn E. Ziolo, 19, Amsdel Road, Hamburg
Kayleigh J. Forger, 19, Lorric Lane, Spencerport
Paul F. Grabowski, 19, Eaglesfield Way, Fairport
Lauren E. Milione, 19, Wedgewood Road, Newton, Mass.
Michelle A. Kay, 19, Pratt Street, Reading, Mass.
Brandon M. Angelo, 18, Red Hickory Drive, Rochester
Jamie M. Szafranski, 20, Frederick Road, North Tonawanda
Shelby M. Visniesky, 19, Kelvin Drive, Tonawanda
Sarah S. Signorelli, 18, 17th Street, Niagara Falls
Tyler M. Pulli, 18, Upper Mountain Road, Lewiston
Morgan A. R. Chrysler, 18, Mount Hope Road, Lewiston
Crystal L. Jensen, 20, Maple Road, Williamsville
Sean P. Talty, 18, Londonderry Lane, Getzville
Ashley L. Dipietro, 17, Misty Lane, East Amherst
Courtney A. Davis, 18, High Manor Drive, Henrietta
Briana M. Julian, 20, Bronson Hill Road, Avon
Matti M. Kwietniewski, 18, Aldrich Place, Buffalo
Cameron J. Cirincione, 17, Licia Lane, Webster

September 15, 2011 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Middle School, schools, education.

Earlier this week, Batavia City Schools sent a letter to parents of students at Batavia Middle School notifying them that school has been placed on a "School in Need of Improvement" list by U.S. Department of Education.

This morning, Superintendent Margeret Puzio explained to The Batavian what the letter meant.

As part of "No Child Left Behind," passed in 2001, schools that receive federal aid must ensure certain "subgroups" perform adequately on standardized tests.

Subgroups are groups of students considered disadvantaged, such as students with disabilities, minority students, students who speak English as a second language. 

If a school has 30 or more students qualifying for a subgroup, then the school must meet the standardized test requirements for that subgroup in order to receive continued federal aid.

None of the elementary schools, with only about 300 students each, are large enough that any of the so-called disadvantaged groups have 30 or more students, but the middle school, with 500 students, does.

One such subgroup is students with disabilities.

Within the past year, the state stopped giving schools 34 bonus points on standardized tests for students with disabilities, also the raw score to pass the test has been raised, and the test has been made longer.

Puzio called this a "Bermuda Triangle" for school districts and Batavia isn't alone in falling into the trap.

Because the middle school's students with disabilities subgroup didn't meet the requirements of the standardized tests the last two rounds, the district was required to notify all parents of middle school students that the school is now considered a "School in Need of Improvement."

Also, in order to continue receiving federal aid, called Title I funds, the district must divert some of its Title I money into a program to help disadvantaged students, and in this case help students who are economically disadvantaged.

The district will be required to hire a contractor -- perhaps Sylvan Learning Centers -- to come in and offer tutoring and other help to economically disadvantaged students.

Participation by economically disadvantaged students is optional and entirely up to the parents of the students as to whether their children will participate.

September 15, 2011 - 10:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in corfu, Corfu Fire District.

At the end of a sometimes tense meeting, the Corfu Fire District Board of Trustees voted to appoint an ethics panel to look into alleged financial improprities by the district's treasurer and a former fire chief.

The panel will make a recommendation to the district board on how to handle the matter.

The alleged improprieties were disclosed publicly by the NYS Comptroller's Office on Monday in a report that accused the district board of not keeping proper financial records and not reviewing them properly, which led to the board not catching alleged unauthorized use of district credit cards.

The ethics panel will include David Saleh, a volunteer firefighter who often helps the district and the Corfu Fire Department (a separate entity from the district) on legal matters. Saleh is past president of the Genesee County Bar Association.

Pushing hard for the board to take action on the matter was Greg Lang, president of the Corfu Fire Department.

While Lang (in the background of the bottom photo) never explicitly called for the district to fire its treasurer, Shari Salim, he did talk about the fact he has been contacted by the Genesee County Sheriff's Office regarding a possible criminal investigation. He said he was expected to call the Sheriff's Office today and report the results of the board meeting. What happened, he said, could determine whether the Sheriff's Office would open an investigation, or whether he would ask for such an investigation.

"I'm going to have to do what I have to do," Lang said several times.

“I’m telling you right now, if this thing doesn’t go right, we’re going to lose members," Lang said at one point. "There’s no question about it. You guys up there ain't good for nothin' if you ain't got members back here. ...I've had members call me, I've had members come up to me and say, 'I'm not going to be in a fire department where this is going on.”

Salim (in the second photo, far end of the table) is the daughter of district board Chairman Bob Ammon and the brother of Jeff Ammon, the former Corfu chief also named in the comptroller's report for allegedly using a district credit card for personal purchases.

She is a paid staff member of the district, drawing a stipend to serve as treasurer and secretary.

Ammon, a former chief, has also twice been named firefighter of the year for Corfu.

Salim reportedly admitted to the state auditor that she used the credit card for personal purchases. What wasn't clear from the report -- and came out at the meeting -- was that Salim and Ammon paid back the district prior to the audit. However, the board never found out about the purchases or the payback until after the auditor started going through the books.

The district board, while including volunteers for the department, is elected by Corfu residents. The board collects taxes and manages some of the revenue used to help fund the fire department.

At one point during the meeting, Bob Ammon (sitting in the foreground, second photo) became visibly distraught and made an impassioned speech about the toll the finance matter has taken on him. He said it was "tearing him up" over what it meant for his kids, the department and said he'd received threats.

"I thought we were a sisterhood or a brotherhood, but the crap I hear – my phone rings constantly," said Ammon, who's been with the department for 52 years. "'What’s this I read on Facebook?' they say. 'What’s this text message about?' It's terrible.

"I was told I was going to be friggin’ arrested the other night," saying later that if the board failed in its oversight, "we screwed up."

"We do the things we can do and I’m sorry," Ammon added. "I’ll apologize if I’m the guy who is going to get arrested and go to jail. I just turned 70 years old and they’re going to come, with my broken knee, and lock me up? I’m just sick about it."

It was that kind of talk -- the rumors of arrests and threats of arrest -- that drove Saleh (foreground, bottom photo) to get involved in Thursday's meeting, the attorney said.

"There are a couple of things that really crawled under my skin," Saleh said. "For months we've been hearing about allegations of criminal conduct and people are going to get arrested, but I read the audit report and I see nothing in there that indicates any criminal conduct."

Lang wondered how it could not be a criminal matter, saying it seemed to him that using somebody else's credit card without permission would be stealing.

"There's been talk of a credit card policy," Lang said. "Do you really need somebody to tell you not to use a credit card?"

One of the recommendations by the auditor was that the board write a credit card policy, which the board said it would do in its written response authored by Ammon.

As for whether there is criminal conduct, Saleh said in order for the use to be considered criminal there would need to be proof of intent and he said from reading the audit report, he didn't see the intent.

After some more back-and-forth over whether there was criminal conduct, Bruce Fauth basically said, "enough."

"There is a direct implication on the fire district and therefore the fire department," said Fauth (inset photo). "Therefore, I don't care about the criminality of it. I care about whether it's right or wrong and how it reflects on the fire department."

There was a lot of discussion over how much interest and fees was accrued on the credit cards -- the report said $1,600 -- and how much interest has been paid -- the report said $380 has been paid.

It's unclear how the rest of the balance was paid. The report states that Shari Salim and Jeff Ammon repaid the amounts they allegedly charged on the cards.

An examination of interest accrued and payments made will be part of the investigation by the ethics panel, which will require it to examine all of the credit card statements.

The panel will also look at the purchases, whether the district's sales-tax exemption was used, whether the personal use as a "mistake," what documents may have been altered and why the board wasn't made aware of the personal use.

After the public meeting, the district board went into closed session, permissible to discuss personnel issues, and after the closed session announced the formation of the ethics panel with Saleh heading up the investigation.

Lang questioned whether Saleh -- whom he said is friends with Ammon family -- could be impartial.

Saleh said it was his goal to be impartial and he promised an objective examination of the district records.

"I want to do this as a member, not as a lawyer," Saleh said. "I want us as a group to do this right so we set a precedent as to how we're going to handle this if it comes up again in the future. This is too painful for everybody involved for it to be done the way it's been done."

September 14, 2011 - 1:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, entertainment, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground.

If you've never thought of Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy as a great place to see live music, it might be time to change your perception.

Last summer, one of several live shows in the open-air music venue was Confederate Railroad.

On Sept. 23, country music superstar Marty Stuart -- a multi-talented, five-time Grammy Award winner -- and his Fabulous Superlatives will stop at Frost Ridge for a show that already has people from all over the Northeast requesting tickets.

"Each year we do this it just seems to get bigger and now we're really trying to grow it," said David Luetticke, who bought the campground in 2008 with his brother Greg.

Live music shows started with local bands a few years ago, which helped the brothers meet Brian Chase, who was able to bring in several regionally popular bands and he was also able to help them book W.C. Edgar, a former sideman for Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson.

The Edgar connection led to the hit-making country band Confederate Railroad getting booked at Frost Ridge last June.

The booking agent for Confederate Railroad also represents Marty Stuart, so when it turned out that Stuart would be passing through Western New York, the agent called David and Greg to check on the availability of a tour date.

After the show was booked, word spread fast among Stuart's fans. VIP seating was sold out before the tickets were even printed and there's only six premium seats left. The first ticket sold went to a fan from Germany.

The brothers -- fellow refugees from Southern California -- have been slowly making improvements to Frost Ridge, adding more recreation programs and reconfiguring the park. They're pretty proud of this music venue -- they call it "Jam at Frost Ridge" -- that's coming to fruition on their secluded and rustic property.

"It has amazing acoustics," Greg said. "Every sound engineer that comes through here says the acoustics are amazing. Anywhere you go on the hill, it doesn't lose the sound at all."

Aaron Tippin has already been booked for next June and the brothers' hope to add more big name acts to the lineup.

Opening for Stuart will be Bush Hogs and Closing Times. Gates will open at 3 p.m. and the music starts at 4:30. Frost Ridge is located at 8101 Conlon Road.

Ruby Shooz will play Frost Ridge on Sept. 17.

Tickets can be purchased online with no service charge at frostridge.com.

September 14, 2011 - 12:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

There's a new thrift store in the city.

Volunteers of America has opened a resale shop in East Town Plaza, next to Aldi's.

The 13,600-square-foot store employs nine people and offers up the usual variety of thrift store items, from clothing and used books to furniture and housewares.

Store manager Jamie Reece said VoA offers a variety of services to help people who need a restart in life -- from work experience programs and new wardrobes to victims of domestic violence.

VoA is also interested in working with and assisting other charities in Genesee County.

"We're still reaching out to the other non-profits," Reece said. "We're trying to work with the other non-profits in the area, anyway we can help."

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.

THE FAMILY OF AMBER DOBIESZ IS BEING CARED FOR BY THE MICHAEL S. TOMASZEWSKI FUNERAL & CREMATION CHAPEL, LLC AT 4120 WEST MAIN STREET ROAD BATAVIA, NEW YORK 14020.

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.

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