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May 3, 2012 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, Announcements, sports.

Press release:

The staff of Western Regional Off-Track Betting & Batavia Downs Casino are going through final preparations for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby festivities at each OTB and EZ Bet Location in the Western New York Area.  Batavia Downs Casino will host a radio remote and enjoy a visit from their Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas.  Locations of OTB Branches and EZ Bets can be found at www.westernotb.com.

“Staff members will be in each branch to help those unfamiliar with horse betting pick their horses for a chance to hit a big payday, “said OTB Director of Branch Operations, Sean Schiano.  “Prize drawings for Derby shirts and glasses will go on at every OTB Branch.  We’ll also be drawing a winner for a trip to the Belmont Stakes.”

Batavia Downs Casino will host its own Derby Party with a live radio remote from WGR Sports Radio 550 AM.  “We’re thrilled to have a sports talk show live on site as we count down the minutes to the Derby” said Ryan Hasenauer, Director of Marketing. “With the added presence of our ambassador Thurman Thomas, the atmosphere here will surely be one of excitement.”

Batavia Downs in owned and operated by Western Regional Off-Track Betting, a public benefit corporation. Municipalities that own Batavia Downs Casino include: City of Buffalo, Cattaraugus County, Cayuga County, Chautauqua County, Erie County, Genesee County, Livingston County, Monroe County, Niagara County, Orleans County, Oswego County, City of Rochester, Schuyler County, Seneca County, Steuben County, Wayne County, and Wyoming County. The track is also home to Batavia Downs Casino, featuring over 600 video slot machines. Batavia Downs Casino is located less than one mile from Thruway Exit 48 and is open daily from 8AM-4AM.

May 3, 2012 - 11:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, art.

Press release:

Congresswoman Kathy Hochul today announced that Siena Pullinzi, a 10th-grader at Batavia High School, has won the New York 26th Congressional District Art Competition with her work entitled “What’s on the Inside.” The work is a self-portrait consisting of pencil, watercolor and ink.

“I want to congratulate Siena for a job well done, as well as all the students who took part in this competition,” Congresswoman Hochul said. “The arts play an essential part of education and I am proud that so many Western New York students exercised their creativity. While I would have loved to have displayed all these pieces of art in the halls of the Capitol for the next year, we could only have one.”

Pullinzi added, “I’m so surprised I won because some of my friends submitted pieces that were really good. I’m so excited. Yay!”

Over 800 residents of the 26th District voted in this year’s competition, choosing Pullinzi’s artwork to be displayed in the halls of the Capitol for the next year. Pullinzi will also now have the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., to participate in a ceremony for Congressional Art Competition winners. A photo of Pullinzi’s work can be seen here.

The Congressional Art Competition, now in its 30th year, was created to recognize and encourage artistic talent in each congressional district across the nation. High school students in each district are encouraged to submit original artwork – photographs, oil, watercolor, and mixed-media works are all permitted.

May 3, 2012 - 8:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Darien, Le Roy.

Michael Timothy Van Houter, 21, of East Main Road, Le Roy, is DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to reduce speed, driving left of pavement markings in a no-passing zone and failure to stop at stop sign. Van Houter was charged following the investigation into a motor-vehicle accident at 11:24 p.m., Tuesday, on Perry Road, Le Roy. The investigation was conducted by Deputy Jason Saile.

Rea Anne Leaha Wimmer, 19, of Broadway Road, Darien, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs and moving from lane unsafely. Wimmer was stopped at 12:40 p.m., Tuesday, on Clinton Street Road, Batavia, by Sgt. Thomas Sanfratello.

Austin L. Wester, 17, of 3373 Pratt Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd, and criminal possession of stolen property, 4th. Wester is accused of violating an order of protection. During the investigation, Wester allegedly admitted to possessing property he knew was stolen. Wester was jailed without bail pending an appearance in Batavia City Court today.

Latoya D. Jackson, 26, of Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Jackson is accused of screaming profanities in Batavia City Court and then struggling with deputies in the lobby of the Genesee County Courthouse. Jackson was jailed on $2,000 bail.

May 2, 2012 - 10:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, David Bellavia.

"House to House: an Epic Memoir of War," a book cowritten by Batavia resident David Bellavia and released in 2007, will get the Hollywood treatment.

Deadline Hollywood reports that Rich Middlemas, who won an Oscar this year for the  documentary Undefeated will produce the film.

Bellavia won a Bronze Star and Silver Star and the book is based on his experiences in 2004 in the second battle for Fallujah.

Currently, Bellavia is running for Congress and is locked in a GOP primary battle with Chris Collins for the NY-27 District.

May 2, 2012 - 9:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, baseball, sports.

Yankees ace Andy Pettitte, rehabbing from an injury, is going to make one more start for one of the Yankees' minor league teams before returning to the big club, probably on Saturday or Sunday.

Which team Pettitte will start for hasn't been announced, but one possibility is the Empire Yankees.

The Triple A farm club is playing three games at Dwyer Stadium this weekend against Pawtucket, the farm team of the Boston Red Sox.

So ... there is some chance, perhaps a good chance, that one of the premier pitchers in baseball and a likely Hall of Famer, will be pitching in Batavia on Saturday or Sunday.

Yankees -- Red Sox, maybe Pettitte, warmer weather ... it could be a very good weekend for baseball in Batavia.

May 2, 2012 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, education, health, UMMC.

The auditorium at UMMC's Cary Hall (next to the YMCA) is all set up for important patient care -- with all of the care stations, instruments and devices of good medical care ready to help heal any teddy bears or dolls that are brought in today.

The event is UMMC's annual Teddy Bear and Doll Clinic, designed to give pre-schoolers, kindergarteners and first-graders an understanding of what is involved in medical care in case they or anybody else they know needs significant medical care.

The clinic is sponsored by Healthy Living Department and is open until 5 p.m.

May 2, 2012 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, law day.

U.S. Attorney for WNY William Hochul spoke to a room of mostly college students this morning at Genesee Community College's Law Day lecture series.

Among the topics covered by Hochul were rules of evidence and what it takes for a prosecutor's conviction to survive a successful appeal.

Earlier in the morning, Genesee County Court Judge Robert C. Noonan spoke.

May 2, 2012 - 12:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, religion, art.

A group of Tibetan monks are at Genesee Community College this week creating a sand mandala as part of the inauguration ceremony celebration week for new college President Jim Sunser.

Sand mandalas are created using colored sand and the art form goes back at least 2,500 years.

Once created, mandalas are destroyed in a ceremony and the sand dispersed in the nearest body of flowing water.

On Friday, at 10 a.m., the monks will sweep away the sand of their painstakingly created work of art, take the sand in bags to the Tonawanda Creek and dump it into the flowing water.

Spokesman Tanzin Nawang said the process reminds us that life is just temporary.

The monks are members of the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Tibet.

Besides the mandala being painted by the monks, students and members of the GCC community are also working on mandalas in order to learn about the art form.

Every mandala has symbols with various means. Nawang said the mandala being created by the monks visiting GCC is about love and compassion.

"Everybody by nature wants to be happy and live in peace and harmony," Nawang said. "They do not want to suffer, so it is important to devote love and compassion, and when you devote your life to love and compassion, you will receive love and compassion.

If you're unable to view the slide show below, click here.

The video below of Monday's opening ceremony was posted to YouTube by Karen Reisdorf.

May 2, 2012 - 12:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, alexander.

What started as a Pepsi Challenge award for a new playground has evolved into something much more ambitious at Alexander Elementary School.

Rather than build just another set of swings, slides and monkey bars, faculty at the school have started an ambitious project to build an outdoor classroom.

"There's a lot of the research out there no indicates that kids don’t get enough time outside," said Ellie Jinks, the teacher behind the push for the $50,000 Pepsi grant, but after doing more research, realized the money would be better spent starting an outdoor classroom.

Jinks noted that research shows that children who don't play and learn outside are more susceptible to obesity and later in life, substance abuse.

Principal Matt Stroud also thinks it's important to get children outside more often.

"I know with my own kids at home we try to push them outside as much as possible, but in a school setting it sometimes gets pushed to the wayside," Stroud said. "This is just a great opportunity to get them back to what kids used to do."

Phase one of the project -- which must be completed to specification for the area to be certified as an outdoor classroom -- has 10 stations, with each having a different learning focus.

The goal of the outdoor classroom is to offering learning experiences in not just nature and science, but math, music, art, reading and physical education.

"The focus really is on learning," Stroud said, "but there will also be unstructured play time."

The Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation are helping with the planning of the outdoor classroom, but once construction is complete, Dimensions will also provide teacher training and professional development to help Alexander's educators get the most out of the four-acre classroom for the kids.

While the elementary school has pushed the initial effort for the classroom, it's not intended to be just a young-child learning and play area. Once the focus shifted from a playground to an outdoor classroom, teachers from the high school were also brought into the planning process and the classroom is designed to meet the needs of students all the way through 12th grade.

Jinks, who teaches pre-school, hopes the classroom will give students a chance to explore, to learn cooperation, but also develop an appreciation for nature.

"When my pre-schoolers go out now they just want to step on all the bees and kill all the ants," Jinks said. "We talk about protecting nature and why we want to protect it, so we hope that will be an outcome of the classroom."

To complete all three phases, it will take more community support, Jinks said. The school is actively looking for volunteers to help with the project, as well as donations of money and material.

At 6 p.m., May 9, the school will host a community open house, when residents can see first hand what the outdoor classroom is all about and learn how they can contribute. The school is located at 3314 Buffalo St. in Alexander.

For more information about the Alexander outdoor classroom, click here.

Top photo: Pre-school students Deacon, Catrina and Rachael check out some of the animal prints pressed into the concrete walk way at the entrance of the outdoor classroom.

Jinks and Stroud

Deacon on the wheel toy path.

It was Deacon's birthday Tuesday, and when asked how hold he was, he happily showed us. He's 5.

May 1, 2012 - 11:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, City Schools.

Voters in the Batavia City School District will be asked to approve a 1.99-percent increase in the tax levy May 15, Superintendent Margaret Puzio said Tuesday following a public hearing on the proposed 2012-13 school district budget.

The budget -- at least on paper -- increases spending to $40,086,732, up $720,687 over the previous year.

But Puzio said the increase can really be attributed to changes in accounting rules.

In fact, district spending will decrease, according to Gary Stich (top photo), who made part of the budget presentation.

The 1.99-percent increase in the levy is still well under -- according to state formulas -- the property tax cap. The district could have increased the levy by 2.59 percent and still been below the cap, Puzio said.

The budget will include an allocation of $330,000 in anticipated state aid to cash reserves, which have beed depleted in recent years because of increased mandated costs and less state aid.

At one time, the reserve was $1.5 million. This year it dropped to $55,000.

The reserve is necessary to help cover expenses when there's no revenue coming in during the summer months, or to deal with budget-breaking, unannounced cuts in state aid, which has happened at least once in recent years.

One of the biggest mandated expenses for the district is payment into the state's teacher retirement fund, which in recent years has gone from a $916,000 contribution to a $1.9 million contribution.

"That's almost $2 million in expense and it has a huge impact on the district," Stich said. "Again, we have no control over it."

About 45 percent of the district's funding comes from state aid, and another 45 percent from local taxes. 

Last year, a big part of the difference was made up by dipping into reserves.

The district will realize cost savings this year from school consolidation, Puzio said.

At the same time, the distirct is restoring some programs cut in the past year, include the Accelerated College Enrollment (ACE) program and some music programs.

To help students compete in the fast-evolving job market where written communication skills are more critical than ever, the district will focus more education resources on core state standards, which means more text study in all classrooms.

New teacher and principal accountability standards are also being implemented, by state mandate, including a requirement that principals spend 70 percent of their time with teachers in classrooms.

Also on the ballot May 15 is a measure to change student transportation rules, putting all middle-school students on the same transportation eligibility standard.

This will mean an additional 120 students will be eligible for bus transportation, but only about half of the current eligible students use school transportation, so the district doesn't know yet how many new riders will use the bus.

The change is necessary because of the school consolidation plan.

There are also five candidates in the election for three school board positions. The candidates are Gretchen DiFante, Phill Ricci, Gail Stevens, Gary Stich and Dennis Warner.

Polls on May 15 are open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and locations are John Kennedy Elementary School and Batavia High School.

May 1, 2012 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Suzanne E. L. Dizak, 39, of Windmill Road, Pittsford, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, 4th, a felony. Dizak was initially arrested for allegedly stealing $800 in jewelry from Target on April 1 and charged with petit larceny. During a search of her vehicle, proceeds from an alleged larceny the day before uncovered another $300 worth of allegedly stolen jewelry from Target. Dizak was arraigned and jailed on $2,000 bail.

Jayson Michael Connolly, 38, no current address, is charged with falsifying business records, 1st. Connolly is an inmate in the Genesee County Jail and is accused of using another inmate's personal identification number to place a phone call to a person protected from contact by Connolly by court order. Connolly is being held on the charge without bail.

Lawrence T. Zielinski, 38, of Davey Street, Buffalo, is charged with petit larceny. Zielinski was arrested after he reportedly fled the parking lot of Kmart when he was spotted allegedly stealing a television, valued at $500. Following his arrest, Zielinski was turned over to the Cheektowaga PD on an outstanding bench warrant.

May 1, 2012 - 5:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire.

Mercy medics and Batavia firefighters are responding to 18 1/2 Ellicott St. for a pizza box fire that is believed to be out; however, the resident reportedly suffered burns to her hands while dealing with the fire.

The pizza box was in the oven.

UPDATE 6:08 p.m.: Engine 12 back in service.

May 1, 2012 - 5:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien.

A deputy is in pursuit of a motorcycle rider speeding southbound on Route 77 from Darien into Wyoming County.

The rider, on a small "crotch rocket" style bike, is allegedly going in excess of 100 mph, and the pursuit has just turned onto eastbound on Church Road.

The male rider is wearing a black jacket.

UPDATE 5:41 p.m.: The deputy backed off the pursuit and eventually lost sight of the motorcycle, but an Attica PD patrol is now behind the motorcycle southbound on Route 98.

May 1, 2012 - 1:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee ARC, Meals on Wheels.

It's one of those situations where everybody wins -- people dependent on Meals on Wheels will once again get five days of meal delivery, Genesee ARC is able to expand the services it provides the county, and the county's budget won't be severely impacted.

On Monday, the Public Service Committee approved a contract with Genesee ARC to handle the Meals on Wheels program for the Office of Aging.

The cost to the county will be about the same -- $186,425 annually -- as the current program, which delivers meals only three days a week.

The new program will also deliver hot meals, instead of cold dishes.

"We think it will be a nice service for people, with the personal check for people and they get a nice hot meal," said Pam Whitmore, director of Office for the Aging.

The previous meal provider was the American Red Cross out of Rochester.

The cost works out to about the same because it was costing nearly a $1 per meal just for delivery of meals from Rochester. That $1 will now go toward increased service and improved meals.

The meals will be prepared by Genesee ARC staff and clients at its renovated facility at 38 Woodrow Road, Batavia.

Whitmore said one reason Genesee ARC won the contract is the organization's emphasis on customer service.

"Being part of Genesee County, they really wanted to do what was best for the people in the program," Whitmore said.

WBTA's Dan Fischer contributed to this story.

May 1, 2012 - 11:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Mercy Flight.

It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while Mercy Flight can't fly a lifesaving mission because of bad weather.

More of those missions could be flown if hospitals installed devices to assist pilots flying instrument-only.

Jeff Mendola, an external affairs director for Mercy Flight, met with the Public Service Committee on Monday and provided an annual review of Mercy Flight operations to the county, including information on plans to move toward greater IFR (instrument flying rules) capability.

In 2011, first responders issued 122 requests for Mercy Flight, and 70 missions were completed. UMMC made 34 requests and 29 missions were completed.

The majority of cancelled missions were ground or in-air standbys where it was determined that the patient did not require air transport, but about one third of the scrubbed missions were cancelled because of weather conditions.

Developing greater IFR capability is a matter have deploying helicopters with IFR technology, training pilots and ensuring point-to-point IFR devices.

A ground device costs about $30,000. And while all airports have them, there haven't been hospitals in the region with instrument flight equipment, including Strong Memorial Hospital and Erie County Medical Center.

Now nearly all of Mercy's helicopters -- including the new Bell 429, known as Mercy Flight 5, pictured above -- have controls for instrument flying.

Getting hospitals upgraded and pilots trained go hand-in-hand so that's the process Mercy Flight is engaged in now.

In 2011, 20 percent of Mercy's missions went to Strong and 43 percent to ECMC.

While Mercy Flight doesn't transport to United Memorial Medical Center, it does pick up patients at the Batavia hospital two or three dozen times per year. But the facility is close enough to the Genesee County Airport that UMMC doesn't need instrument capability, Mendola said.

The airport is within seven minutes for the Bell from any part of Genesee County. If the helicopter could fly to a property equipped Strong or ECMC, the decision for medical responders would simply be what's fastest -- ground transport to a trauma center, or transport to the airport then instrument flying for the Bell from Genesee County to the appropriate hospital.

As it stands, in medical emergency situations where Mercy Flight is grounded, ambulance transportation is the only option.

Last year, Mercy forgave $700,000 in care provided to uninsured and under-insured patients, which worked out to $842 per patient. To help cover those costs, Mercy is running a program where individuals or groups can sponsor a mission.  Donations can be sent to: Mercy Flight, Inc., 100 Amherst Villa Road, Buffalo, NY 14225.

Mendola said Mercy Flight may be the last purely nonprofit medical emergency transport operation in the United States.

April 30, 2012 - 7:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, David Bellavia, NY-27.

Republican congressional candidate and Batavia resident David Bellavia made his tax returns available today for review by journalists and he's calling on his primary opponent, Chris Collins, to do the same.

"This is part of our narrative of being completely transparent," Bellavia said. "If you're going to ask for somebody for a vote, you've got to earn their trust."

On Friday, the Buffalo News ran a story about Bellavia falling behind falling behind on some tax payments and city fees (with all payments being current now), but Bellavia said the decision to release his tax returns is coincidental.

"We always planned on releasing the returns, but (that story) may have pushed it up a week," Bellavia said.

Collins is a businessman who is reportedly wealthy. His press agent, Michael Kracker, has not yet responded to a phone message, nor has the Collins campaign responded to a message on Twitter asking if he will release his returns.

Bellavia betrayed a little frustration with the focus on his finances while Collins, he thinks, has ducked any substantial discussion of issues important to the district.

"When I decided to run for the seat, some Republicans pulled me aside as said I needed to be careful as a Republican not to make the campaign about class warfare. They said Collins is not a bad guy just because he has a lot of money and I agree with that, but now the class warfare is pointed at me. Just as he shouldn't be disqualified for this race because he's wealthy, I shouldn't be because I'm not."

And Bellavia isn't.

While he and his wife, Rochester TV reporter Deanna King, own a house in Ward 1 assessed at $209,000, the family income has only once exceeded $100,000 (in 2007), and in 2009 the Bellavias' gross adjusted income dropped to $29,719. In each of the other three years of tax returns provided by the Bellavia campaign the family income never exceeded $70,000.

In 2007, the Bellavias owed more than $10,000 in taxes at the end of the year, but in each of the other four years the family received refunds.

Bellavia's primary income, according to the returns, comes as an author, and that income has fluctuated widely over the years -- in excess of $100,000 in 2007 (when the family's gross income was nearly $114,000) and as low as $2,400 in 2010).

In 2007, a book Bellavia co-wrote, "House to House: An Epic Memoir of War"  was released. Bellavia has said he also co-wrote and sold the screenplay for the movie "Tie That Binds."

In 2009, Bellavia took time off from writing and speaking to help start and run a nonprofit group for returning veterans called the Warrior Legacy Foundation.

On Friday, Bellevia told the Buffalo News he is "no country club Republican," and he repeated the phrase today.

"It was a fair story," Bellavia said. "It's a story. I'm running for congress and there has got to be transparency, but at the end of the day, it clears the narrative that I'm not a country club Republican.

"You can't elect a person to congress whom it doesn't bother to put $4.05 in their tank," Bellavia added. "It hurts me every day."

Bellavia has repeatedly asked the well-financed Collins to meet in a debate and Bellavia said the lack of substance will hurt either Republican candidate, which ever one wins the primary, when it comes time to face Kathy Hochul in the general election.

"Hochul is a very gifted, talented and competent politician," Bellavia said. "She knows the issues. I disagree with her on the issues, but we can't just wait until after the primary to find out where a candidate stands on the issues, but that's exactly what he (Collins) told the Buffalo News."

April 30, 2012 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county treasurer, Scott German.

Press release:

Genesee County Treasurer Scott D. German announced today that he will be seeking a third term as Genesee County Treasurer in this November’s election. German is in his 19th year in the office, the last eight of which have been as treasurer.

Among the many accomplishments of the Treasurer’s Office, the one that comes to mind first is the extremely successful 2010 refinancing of county debt, which saved Genesee taxpayers over $1,000,000 in interest expense over the next six years. Another highlight of German’s tenure is the successful office merger with Real Property.  Merging operations with the Real Property Department has allowed for the sharing of resources, which in turn has saved county taxpayers money.

As treasurer, German is the chief fiscal officer and tax enforcement officer for the county. Among a wide range of responsibilities as county treasurer, German is responsible for the safeguarding of all county monies, the processing of county payroll, the processing of vendor payments, collection of delinquent taxes, tax foreclosures, maintaining the accounting records, overseeing of the independent audit and working with state and federal auditors.

German hopes the voters of Genesee County return him to office this November so he can continue serving the people of this fine county.

In addition to German’s busy workload, he is also currently the president of the New York State County Treasurers and Finance Officers Association.

German holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration in Finance from the State University of New York, College at Brockport. He is also a member of 2004 class of Leadership Genesee.  German is a lifelong resident of Genesee County.

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