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January 27, 2012 - 11:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Fickel Murder, Steven Rebert.

As a jury deliberates the fate of former Oakfield resident Steven Rebert -- life in prison or the death penalty for killing a Pennsylvania couple -- Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster is hoping one more piece of evidence will emerge to help authorities convict Rebert of killing Bill Fickel in August 2005.

"If in fact there were people out there who were afraid of him, they now know that he's either going to spend life in prison or get the death penalty," Brewster said. "He's no longer a threat to them."

Brewster has believed throughout the investigation that there was a passenger in the truck being driven by the man who shot Fickel.

If Rebert is the killer, that person may be the key to solving the case.

A cigarette butt gathered as evidence at the scene of the shooting, Brewster said, was found to have Rebert's DNA on it.

"We've been about where we have been with the case," Brewster said. "We were sort of waiting to see if the trial (in Pennsylvannia) might yield us anything else on Mr. Rebert, and at this point it doesn't look like it will. We're proceeding with what we have and we'll be meeting with the DA in the near future to see if we can get going with what we have."

Investigators are always hoping for new evidence to make a case stronger, Brewster said, and eyewitness testimony would certainly help formulate a case against Fickel's killer.

"We're hoping somebody will come forward in the next couple of weeks who decides to cooperate and then our case will be much stronger," Brewster said.

He added, "and, of course, there's still that $100,000 reward out there."

Meanwhile, the jury that convicted Rebert of killing Wayne and Vicky Shugar on April 10 is hearing testimony from people affected by the case, from members of the Shugar family to Rebert's mother and father.

January 27, 2012 - 1:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Alabama, STAMP.

The next phase in seeking approval for a 1,200-acre high-tech industrial complex in the Town of Alabama is to sell it to the town board.

And by sell, we mean, offer incentives attractive enough to please residents and for the board to approve a change in zoning for the land that Genesee Economic Devlopment Center officials hope to turn into a lucrative and bustling complex employing 9,300 people.

Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, said negotiations are starting on the incentive package with the town and they will include financial assistance with the needs of the town to accommodate the project as well as possible cash grants for a "community chest" (money that can be spent on whatever the town board decides to spend it on).

Information on the final Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement for the project known as STAMP (Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park) was presented Thursday night to about 100 area residents at the Alabama Fire Hall.

With the GEIS done, the town board will be given an opportunity wthin the next month or so to either green light the project or not.

Prior to the vote, GCEDC officials will try to come up with a package of incentives that might help sway town residents and the board to support the project.

Once the incentives are hammered out, there will be a public meeting where the package will be presented and the public will be given a chance to comment on the proposal.

Attorney Adam S. Walters (top inset photo), representing GCEDC, said if the town board doesn't approve the zoning change for STAMP, the project is dead.

One audience member pressed Walters on whether GCEDC or anybody else could sue the town if it doesn't change the zoning to GCEDC's liking. Walters said he knew of no legal grounds to support such a suit and the town's attorney, Mark Boylan, nodded in agreement.

The time is ripe, according to Masse for the town to approve the project. He indicated there is a company that is looking to build a million-square-foot high-tech manufacturing facility. The company will be ready to start its site selection process in 2014.

Asked if it was a foreign company, Masse said, "It's American."

No company, especially one looking at building a million-square-foot facility, will even consider a site that doesn't already have zoning approval, Masse said, since such approvals take so long to get. 

Earlier, town Planning Board Member Lorna Klotzbach (inset photo below) expressed concern that, the way the plan is written out, the entire 1,200 acres could just fill up with a lot of small companies.

"If this site is allowed to be gobbled up by a database company here, a retail store there, a warehouse over here -- what's the chance that a big anchor company is going to want to come in if all of these other uses take up all the space?" Klotzbach asked.

Walters said that, as a practical matter, that isn't going to happen.

The big anchor tenant is needed first so the infrastructure can be built to support all of the smaller tenants that will help fill out the park and provide support services to the large tenants.

"The concept is to form the park around high tech manufacturing," Walters said. "That's the goal of this project and to do it in a way that makes sense. What keeps a Tim Horton's or a couple of warehouses from coming in first is the dollars necessary for the infrastructure. The smaller projects can't afford it.

"The plan calls for a million-square-feet high-tech manufacturer in phase one," Walters added. "If you don't have that, you don't have the money to put in the infrastructure to make any of the other stuff happen."

Until then, Masse and Walters explained, the arable land within the park's proposed footprint will still be farmed and the people living in houses will still live in their houses.

In fact, soon-to-be-former Village of Oakfield resident Joseph Bradt (bottom inset photo) expressed a unique concern about what will happen to residents living within the STAMP area.

Bradt said he recently bought a home in Alabama in order to move his family out of the village.

Pointing at the site plan on the projector screen, Bradt said, "My house is off the map and I haven’t even moved in yet."

Masse said that until a portion of the park is needed for a new tenant, no offers to buy out residential homes will be made, and when they are made, the offers will be at fair market value or or just above assessed value.

Ask if eminent domain would be used to remove people from their homes if they didn't want to sell, Masse said, "no."

"If you don't want to sell you're property, we'll figure out how design around it or if we can move the project to another part of the park," Masse said.

As for Brandt, Masse said it could be up to 20 years before it's time to try and buy him out of his house.

The final GEIS addresses at least some of the concerns raised by residents over the past couple of years.

Regarding the John White Wildlife Management Area, that's been completely removed from the site plan and won't be developed.

Regarding lost agricultural land, the crop land that will displaced represents only .65 percent of the 148,584 acres of farmland in Genesee County and only .23 percent of the total prime farmland.

There are also at least 17 possible farm-protection strategies for the town board to consider to protect the remaining farmland. Some of them, according to Walters, are very expensive. Some, such as rezoning, cost nothing.

On wetlands mitigation, the footprint of the building space was reconfigured to protect more of the wetlands within the park. One of the early plans would have destroyed 69 of 106 acres of wetlands within the park area. The new plan protects all but 10 acres of the land.

The acres protected will be enhanced and restored.

"Many of those wetlands are not in great shape today, and without this project, they would be subject to further degradation," said Roger Person, the consultant heading up the environmental review process.

The report also deals with impacts on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation and traffic flow.

Officials are working with representatives of Tonawanda to minimize impacts and while traffic will increase in areas, some of the proposed improvements to roadways and intersections will bring relief to some traffic flow problems already present in Alabama, Person said.

When a member of the public expressed concern that if the zoning change were approved, what would stop developers from doing something different than what residents are being told now would happen?

Walters explained that the way the process works, the final GEIS acts as a box.  The box contains everything that is currently permissible within the STAMP project area.

"If a proposal comes along that doesn’t fit inside that box, it requires a supplemental analysis and perhaps a supplemental environmental impact study," Walters said. "Everything has to fit within the box."

January 27, 2012 - 12:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in nys.

A proposed redistricting plan was released by the New York State Legislature on Thursday and judging by an Associated Press story, nobody is happy.

Senate Democrats are unhappy, Assembly Republicans are unhappy, bi-partisan observers complain about gerrymandering and Gov. Andrew Cuomo may yet veto the whole thing.

For Assemblyman Steve Hawley, it looks like he can continue representing Genesee County, minus Pembroke but is picking up Darien, Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion. Hawley's district would also include York and Leister in Livingston County, all of Orleans County and three towns in Monroe County.

The primary geography of State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer's district would be Genesee County, with only Amherst, Clarence and Newstead in Erie County and Riga and Chili in Monroe County.

At least those are the lines for a proposed redrawing of the AD 139 and SD 61.

Maps for revised congressional districts were not released.

January 26, 2012 - 6:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Two pharmaceutical companies that make HPV vaccine have hired Dr. Laszlo Mechtler in the past as a speaker, paying him more than $150,000 in fees in 2009 through 2011, according to a ProPublica database.

Mechtler is the neurologist who reportedly diagnosed 11 teenage girls in Le Roy who have been displaying tics and verbal outbursts with "conversion disorder."

State public health officials relied, at least in part, on Mechtler's diagnosis to rule out vaccines for the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus as a cause.

The HPV vaccines are known as Gardasil and Cervarix, manufactured by Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline.

While tics and verbal outbursts are not listed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website as a possible side effect of either drug, the drugs have been known to cause serious health issues. According to WebMD, the vaccines have been tied to rare cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurological disoder that causes weakness.

Several observers of the Le Roy situation have suggested HPV vaccine as a possible cause, but at a public meeting in Le Roy Jan. 11, Dr. Gregory Young said HPV had been ruled out as a cause.

In a search of Google for "tics gardasil cervarix," pretty much all the results tie the outbreak in Le Roy to the drugs, but actual evidence of the drugs being tied to such an outcome is hard to find.

Mechtler was later interviewed by NBC and identified himself as the doctor who examined 11 of the girls and diagnosed them with conversion disorder, even going so far in another interview to blame 9/11 terror alerts for causing stress in the girls.

According to Propublica -- a nonprofit investigative journalism organization -- Mechtler received the following payments from Glaxo and Merck:

  • $62,400 in speaking fees in 2009 from Merck
  • $75,200 in speaking fees in 2010 from Glaxo
  • $19,819 for research from Glaxo in 2010
  • Another $10,000 from Glaxo in 2011
January 26, 2012 - 9:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, pets.

Brendan Curry found a brown and white beagle-pitbull mix in his yard this morning and is hoping the owner will come forward.

He said the dog showed up on his porch after he let his own dogs in.

He lives on Batavia Elba Townline Road between State and Bank.

Brendan can be reached at (585) 219-4861.

January 26, 2012 - 9:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A convicted sex offender who was charged with new crimes a year ago was found guilty by a jury Wednesday of four counts of sexual abuse in the first degree.

The jury found that in two separate incidents, Anthony P. Dioguardi, 28, a resident of Wyoming Correctional Facility, used force to have sex with a child age under age 11.

Following jury selection Monday, the trial took place Tuesday. The jury deliberated for 90 minutes Wednesday before finding Dioguardi guilty on all four counts.

Statement from District Attorney Lawrence Friedman:

Needless to say, these terrible crimes involving the sexual abuse of children are usually committed outside the presence of any other witnesses and, more often than not, there isn't any medical, physical or scientific evidence. Therefore, it is reassuring to see that convictions can be obtained when a brave child, like the victim in this case, comes forward and credibly testifies before a jury and sees that justice can be achieved.

UPDATE: Dioguardi is facing up to 14 years in prison, though his sentence could be concurrent with the time he is currently serving. Sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., March 21.

 

January 26, 2012 - 9:27am

We've heard for some time that while PepsiCo is paying for grading for a possible construction of a food processing plant in Batavia, the same work is "being done in three other locations."

One of those locations is in Avon, and as WHAM13's Sean Carroll discovered yesterday, no site work is taking place in Avon at all.

At the same time, however, the economic development directer in Livingston County says the site is much closer to being "shovel ready" than the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park. His park, he said, doesn't need a USDA grant for sewer and water because it already has all the infrastructure in place.

"If they chose this site, and we made it very clear, literally they could plug in and all the utilities are in the ground and there's no infrastructure needed here or at the sewage treatment plant," Rountree explained

While Genesee County clearly has the lead in the race to land the project, Livingstone County isn't giving up.

The support of a U.S. Senator and the fact that dirt is actually being moved at the Batavia site appears to indicate Project Wave’s final destination may only be a formality at this point in the process. Yet Rountree and his team are staying optimistic after an aggressive pitch that included top representatives from Barilla.

Either way, regional dairy farmers will be pleased with either outcome.

"I think for the dairy industry in this area specifically it spells a good feeling about long-term stability," Coyne explained. "To have end-product manufacturing this close, it just adds to the confidence that we can invest in our own farms long-term and be able to be in business."

The other two supposedly competitive sites are in Pennsylvania. A contractor familiar with the project told me some time ago that those sites are graded and have infrastructure in place, but we currently have no way to confirm that assertion.

January 25, 2012 - 1:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, thruway, Le Roy.

A one-vehicle accident is reported on the Thruway with one occupant entrapped and possibly unconscious.

Mercy Flight is on standby.

The accident is in the area of mile marker 383.6 in the eastbound lane.

Le Roy fire and ambulance dispatched.

UPDATE 1:09 p.m.: A dispatcher informed the Le Roy chief that he spoke with somebody in the toll booth center who said the Thruway Authority did not want Mercy Flight dispatched. The dispatcher said he informed the person that it was the fire chief's call.

UPDATE 1:14 p.m.: The victim is out of the car and with State Troopers on scene. The car is well off the road and on its side. Mercy Flight can stand down.

UPDATE 1:39 p.m.: Le Roy Ambulance Service is headed to Strong Memorial Hospital with two patients on board. Le Roy fire crews are back in service.

January 25, 2012 - 10:05am

Press release:

Today, Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide several hundred thousand dollars in federal funds for sewer and water infrastructure work to prepare a Genesee County site to host a massive food processing plant.

Build out of the new plant will occur in two phases and could bring hundreds of jobs to Genesee County over the next several years. The Genesee County Economic Development Center is currently preparing a site to host a 363,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, capable of hosting 300 to 400 jobs just three years after it is completed.

The GCEDC is currently finalizing a contract with a food producer for the site, and is seeking federal funding to cover part of the costs of infrastructure improvements to ensure that the site is compatible with the needs of the food company. Today, Schumer called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to provide $300,000 to $500,000 in USDA funds for several projects that will ensure the site is ready to serve as a major job creator in Western New York.

“This massive plant could be a game-changer for Genesee County and Western New York,” Schumer said. “We can’t let inadequate sewer systems and wastewater lines, stand in the way of jobs. The USDA should realize the massive potential this project has and provide the seed funding that will help grow jobs and economic prosperity in the county.

"The funds are there to spur development and USDA would be hard-pressed to find a better return on their investment than this new plant. Secretary Vilsack should do the right thing and help us make these infrastructure improvements as quickly as possible to ensure that we don’t miss out on a chance to bring hundreds of good-paying jobs to Upstate New York.”

To ensure the site is ready to host the manufacturing plant, GCEDC must complete $1.8 million in infrastructure upgrades to the site. These upgrades include the construction of a second access road into the park, the addition of a new turning lane and road re-striping at the site’s main entrance as well as up to $500,000 for wastewater and sewer pump station upgrades. The GCEDC is seeking $300,000 to $500,000 in USDA rural development funds to complete these upgrades.

With Schumer’s encouragement and support, GCEDC plans to apply for funding through the USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program. The application is due to USDA in April and funding would be awarded in June. Schumer noted that in 2010, Genesee County applied for and won over $200,000 under this program to build out sewer infrastructure to land the Alpina Yogurt Plant, which will serve as another major job creator for the county.

Schumer is pushing the USDA to help Genesee County build on this success by providing funding that will help the county ensure that the site is prepared to host a major food manufacturer in the months ahead.

In his letter, Schumer wrote, “Simply stated, securing USDA funding to complete these new upgrades will bring this $247 million project and its associated 300 jobs to Batavia, NY. As such, and with my full support and encouragement, GCEDC is submitting an application for Rural Development funding by the April 2012 application deadline.

“Funding this upgrade will create an enormous return on investment. Already New York’s rural and agricultural regions are quickly becoming centers of tremendous job growth due to the rise in yogurt and other food processing. This new food processor will join the ranks of the 900-employee Chobani Greek Yogurt manufacturing facility in New Berlin, NY, the 240-employee Fage plant in Jamestown, NY, and the 50-employee Alpina yogurt facility in Batavia, NY.”

CLARIFICATION: Rachael J. Tabelski, with GCEDC, said the USDA grant is intended to fund sewer improvements. Needed upgrades at the site include a secondary roadway and aquifer water.

Previously:

January 25, 2012 - 9:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Tesla R. Greck, 20, of 134 Liberty St., Batavia, is charged with falsely reporting an incident, 3rd, and offering a false instrument, 2nd. Greck is accused of falsely reporting that her ex-boyfriend violated an order of protection.

Gregory Seppe, 53, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, 5th. Seppe was arrested at 8:44 p.m., Tuesday, for allegedly possessing several prescription medications that were reported stolen by the owner of the prescriptions.

January 25, 2012 - 8:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in advertisement, Shop Batavia, sponsoredd post.

In the six weeks since we launched Shop Batavia, the response has been great.  People around town ask me about the site and tell me what a great idea they think it is and so far 135 local businesses have created accounts.

More than 100 items are listed in the site's marketplace.

A dozen businesses are selling gift certificates.

There are currently 10 money-saving coupons available.

More than 100 reviews have been posted.

And if you check the news feed daily on the home page, you can see the site is bustling with activity.

Thanks to all who have supported the site so far. We're excited about the good start and eager to see Shop Batavia grow, giving local businesses and local shoppers a great way to connect, do business and help the local economy.

January 25, 2012 - 8:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

WGRZ, Buffalo, is reporting that there are now 15 cases in Le Roy of teens with tic symptoms, including a boy. Also, the station interviews a doctor who treated a similar case in North Carolina a decade ago. His diagnosis: conversion disorder.

January 24, 2012 - 11:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Barack Obama, politics, kathy hochul.

Press release:

“Tonight, President Obama reported on the state of the nation and laid out his plan to move our economy forward. While we’ve seen some progress, we need to continue to invest in America, ensuring Americans have good jobs to go to every day.

“The President’s proposal to revitalize our manufacturing community, invest in American infrastructure, and focus on job training at community colleges, like ECC, NCCC, GCC, and MCC, will keep America competitive and bring jobs back to the United States. It’s time we stop rewarding those companies that ship jobs overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.

“I, however, would have liked to hear more about the President’s plan to cut the deficit and reduce our national debt. This is why I supported the Balanced Budget Amendment that requires Congress to balance its finances in the same way Western New York families do every day; and why I support efforts to streamline government, eliminate waste, and be more responsive to the needs of American businesses.

“Right now is the time for us to come together and work with one another to strengthen our nation and give Americans the chance to get back to work. We have the best ideas, the finest universities, and the hardest working people in the world – now we must create an economy that benefits the working families of America.

“Like the President said, every American just wants a fair shot at achieving the basic American promise; having a good paying job, buying a home, and raising a family. Our country is strongest when every American is contributing their fair share, but this can only happen when we’re all given that fair shot.”

January 24, 2012 - 7:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Oakfield.

Two Pennsylvania papers, including the Bradford Era, are reporting that Steven Rebert has been found guilty of murder.

The 48-year-old Rebert is originally from Oakfield and has been a person of interest in the November 2005 homicide of Bill Fickel.

While investigators have been unable to gather sufficient evidence to substantiate a charge in the local homicide, Bill's widow, Lisa Fickel, has offered a $100,000 reward to anybody providing evidence that leads to a conviction of Bill's killer.

Rebert, according to reports, was found guilty of murdering Wayne and Victoria Shugar in April 2010 in Jefferson County.

UPDATE: Brittany Boyer with WJAC reports, "Rebert was found guilty of the following: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, aggravated assault, theft, robbery and burglary." The jury deliberated for one hour and 50 minutes. On Thursday, the jury will begin the penalty phase. Rebert could get the "death penalty," which in Pennsylvania means spending the rest of his life in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.

January 24, 2012 - 5:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs.

The year-over-year job and employment picture for Genesee County brightened in December, according to Department of Labor statistics.

The county's unemployment rate for December was 7.4 percent, a slight improvement over December 2010 when it was 7.9 percent, but not as good as last November when unemployment stood at 6.7 percent.

Overall, non-farm jobs increased from 22,600 in December 2010 to 23,800 last December. However, that's still below the November job figure of 24,100.

Historically, Genesee County sees a decline in jobs from November to December.

According to the latest report, there are 30,200 people in Genesee County with jobs, compared to 29,400 people with jobs in December 2010.

Year-over-year, goods producing jobs increased from 3,900 to 4,000.

Total service jobs increased from 18,700 to 19,800, including those in education. Health service jobs increased from 3,000 to 3,300, and leisure and hospitality jobs increased from 2,200 to 2,500

Government jobs increased from 6,100 to 6,200.

January 24, 2012 - 12:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

An Albany television station is reporting that two girls have developed tics and verbal outbursts and linking the report to the 12 girls in Le Roy who have suffered similar symptoms.

As for a possible connection to the cases in Western, NY, both girls did eat at a restaurant in Le Roy this summer.

"Maybe she had been carrying something that she brought with her to Le Roy," says Nicholson.

The piece on the girls describes joint pain along with the tics and verbal outbursts. One girl was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, though her mother doesn't seem to accept the diagnosis.

Meanwhile, The Week, a British publication quotes Dr. Lazlo Mechtler, the neurologist who has reportedly examined 11 of the 12 girls from Le Roy, as blaming the outbreak locally on terror alerts.

“Ever since 9/11, Americans have been subjected to warnings of orange alert and red alert, and, unlike Israelis for instance, they are not culturally used to it,” says Mechtler. “What has happened to these girls is the result of Americans being made to live in fear. We are going to see more of these outbreaks.”

According to the article, Mechtler has not examined Thera Sanchez, whom the article says was the first Le Roy girl to exhibit symptoms. But in her Today Show appearance, Sanchez said she was in treatment.

At the community meeting Jan. 11 in Le Roy, the mother of the reported 12th girl said she hadn't been to treatment yet because she was the last of the girls to develop symptoms.

In the past couple of weeks, we've received emails from people all over the United States with their own theories and suggestions. It would be a time-consuming task to chase down every theory and get response from officials, and, as we know, there's only so much officials can, or are willing, to say.

After the jump (click the headline to read the whole thing) are three of the emails we've received.

January 24, 2012 - 9:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, pembroke, Alabama.

Jonathan Donnie Laverne, 47, of Council House Road, Alabama, is charged with assault, 3rd, unlawful imprisonment, 2nd, and criminal mischief, 4th. Laverne is accused of biting the face of another person during a domestic incident Jan. 17. Laverne allegedly took the mobile phone of the person and prevented the person from leaving or calling for help. Laverne was jailed on $5,000 bail.

Gregory Seppe, 53, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with five counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th. Seppe was arrested following a report at 10:22 p.m., Monday, of a man causing a disturbance at the Arrow Mart store on Clinton Street Road, Batavia.

Andrea Linda Kempisty, 23, of Lovers Lane Road, Pembroke, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, failure to stop at stop sign, failure to yield right of way at stop sign and moving from lane unsafely. Kempisty was stopped at 2:17 a.m. Monday on Route 5, Batavia, by Deputy James Diehl.

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