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September 6, 2012 - 8:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, history, Bontrager Real Estate & Auction Service.

A bit of Batavia's history will be up for auction next Wednesday at Bontrager's Auction house on Wortendyke Road, Batavia: A cross that once adorned the old St. Joe's Church.

A fire on Aug. 18, 1970, destroyed the church and the Gilhooly family in Attica acquired the cross. The family has decided it's time to let somebody else care for the historic relic.

Pictured with the cross are Todd Jantzi, right, owner of Bontrager's, and one of his employees, Dave Harms, who was a young volunteer firefighter with East Pembroke in 1970.

Harms said he remembers the fire well. He and Gail Seamans were among the first on scene and manning a hose line.

Flames, he said, were jumping out of the bell tower and church windows. It's one of the most involved structure fires he's ever seen.

Along with East Pembroke, assisting Batavia City Fire Department, were Stafford, Oakfield, Elba and Bethany fire departments.

At the time of the fire, the church, built in 1864, was scheduled for demolition. The cause of the fire was never determined.

September 6, 2012 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, byron.

A teenager who drove a black golf cart without lights on a darkened public highway before it was rear-ended by a car, killing her boyfriend, will serve six months in jail and be placed on probation for five years.

Judge Robert C. Noonan called the case a tragedy -- the actions of Cortney L. Greene, 19, of Bryon, "stupid," -- but also noted the support Greene has received from friends, family, teachers, and the parents of her victim, Zachary J. Rusin, 18, of Holley, figured into his sentencing decision.

Greene was also granted youthful offender status by Noonan, meaning if she stays out of trouble over the next five years, she won't have a felony conviction on her record.

Rusin's mother, Tracy, told Noonan she wanted to see Greene have a chance to teach other teenagers about the dangers of drinking and driving.

"He loved and cherished Cortney," Tracy Rusin said. "He always got a big smile on his face when he heard her name.

"I lost my son," she added, "and I love Cortney and I respect her. She knows what happened was wrong and I would like to help her educate people. I'm going to stand beside her every step of the way. It's hard for a parent to go through this, and I know she's going through the same thing."

While Rusin spoke, a couple of times, Cortney, standing beside her attorney Thomas Burns, wiped tears from her cheeks with the sleeves of her gray sweater.

Greene's sentence could have been just probation, or maybe intermittent jail time, instead of a straight six months, Noonan indicated, but he said it wasn't clear Greene has really learned her lesson. Twice, Noonan said, Greene violated the terms of her release under supervision contract with Genesee Justice since pleading guilty June 11 to negligent homicide and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

District Attorney Kevin Finnell said he's never seen such an outpouring of support for a defendant. He said people he knows and respects would stop him on the street and express support of Greene.

"It would be very easy for me to request incarceration based on the nature of the offense," Finnell said. "Out of respect for Mrs. Rusin and James Rusin, the father of Zach Rusin, I won't do that. Neither of them are asking for state prison."

Finnell made no sentencing recommendation, though he questioned whether Greene has reached the point in her life where she's making correct decisions.

Noonan received 24 letters of support for Greene from people in the community and more than two dozens supporters sat in the courtroom today.

Many sobbed after Noonan informed Greene she was going to jail for six months, starting today.

When Noonan told Greene the sentence was imposed because of her "misconduct" while awaiting sentencing, and that the sentence might give her time "to think long and hard about her conduct," Greene said softly, "I understand."

Burns requested Greene be granted probation and youthful offender status -- she was 18 at the time of the accident, making her eligible for YO -- because, he said, Greene has dreamed of, and has been working toward, becoming an elementary school teacher. A felony conviction would keep her from obtaining teaching credentials.

Greene loves working with children and looks forward to "teaching her own children and the children of other mothers some day."

He described a client who has tried not to show how upset she is by the events of Nov. 26, but said Greene is an emotional wreck who still hasn't truly come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy.

"It isn't just the use of substance that night," Burns said. "Even without the use of those substances, what she did when she drove that vehicle on that dark road created criminal recklessness."

Later, he added, "There was no malice in her, but there was certainly negligence in her action, and criminal negligance."

When Noonan asked Greene if she had anything to say, she responded with a terse, "Nothing, sir."

Noonan said he has thought long and hard about this case and read every letter and every document associated with it.

He said the Probation Department report recommended treating her as an adult and sending her to state prison.

"If we were to do that on either of these counts, I feel quite confident it would not be disturbed by any other court," Noonan said.

However, Noonan said, he did not intend to hinder Greene's ambition to become a teacher.

"I would agree that the levels of drugs and alcohol in your system were not as great as some of the cases I see every day," Noonan said. "Your levels were very nominal. You were not somebody out there blasted beyond the ability to know what's going on around you.

"But," Noonan added, "Your decision to go out in a black golf cart on a darkened public highway and put yourself and your boyfriend in harm's way had to have something to do with the drugs and alcohol in your system to make you make such a stupid decision."

He said by all indications, Greene's behavior that night was out of character for her.

"Lord knows your decision on that night was stupid and resulted in a terrible, terrible tragedy," Noonan said. "It is just heartbreaking to everybody in this courtroom."

September 6, 2012 - 9:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A server and bartender at Center Street Smoke House has been arrested and accused of stealing more than $3,000 from his employer.

Charged with grand larceny, 3rd, is Adam J.Hoag, 36, of 162 Ross St., Batavia.

Hoag, who was employed at the restaurant from May 2010 until May of this year, allegedly voided transactions and falsely documented receipt of discount coupons and gift certificates.

Following arraignment in city court, Hoag was released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

Third-degree grand larceny is a Class D felony.

September 5, 2012 - 5:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Elections, Conservative Party.

A political fight among Conservative Party members in Erie and Niagara counties is going to cost Genesee County taxpayers $28,000.

How's that?

According to Art Munger, Conservative Party chairman and Genesee County resident, Erie County Conservatives won't support State Sen. Mark Grisanti (inset photo) because of his vote in support of gay marriage. A group of conservatives in Niagara County continue to support Grisanti.

Rather than back the slate of committee candidates chosen by the other seven counties in the 27th Congressional District, Niagara is running its own slate of candidates who side with Grisanti, Munger said.

Grisanti's state senate district encompasses parts of both Erie and Niagara counties, but none of Genesee County.

"Niagara forced (the primary) on the eight counties involved in the congressional district," Munger said. "That's their right. They have a right to the ballot, but it's not us local people that are causing this cost. We had a slate. They choose not to cooperate and work with us and instead filed their own slate."

Munger isn't 100-percent certain, but he said as far as he can tell, all 12 members of the Niagara slate are Niagara County residents.

Richard Siebert, the Republican election commissioner for Genesee County, informed the Ways and Means Committee today about the anticipated expense.

While there are only 845 registered conservatives in Genesee County, the election commission must set up 29 polling places throughout the county for the primary.

Each of the 29 polling places must be staffed by four elections inspectors, two Democrats and two Republicans, plus there is the cost of moving and setting up the machines. 

The only other primary Sept. 13 is for Batavia Town Board, which requires three polling places.

Siebert told legislators that a 100-voter turnout for the conservative primary would be a good turn out.

"You can do the math," Seibert said. "That would be $280 per voter."

Outside, Siebert said the last time there was a conservative primary in Genesee County, for treasurer, turnout was very low.

"Personally, I think we'll be lucky to have 100 come out," Siebert said.

Even so, Siebert said, the Conservatives have every right to go to the polling place and decide who should represent them.

"This is the American way," Siebert said. "They represent people in their districts as committeemen and they have a right to be on the ballot. We could have the same thing in our own parties (Republican and Democrat). If somebody wanted to challenge a committeeman, we could have a primary."

Munger said he regrets the expense for county taxpayers.

"I wish we didn’t have the primary," Munger said. "We in Genesee County don't want one, but it appears we're going to have one. We have our slate and we're expecting to go out and win."

September 5, 2012 - 11:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, pembroke.

Following a multi-agency, months-long investigation, a 53-year-old woman in Pembroke has been arrested and charged with possession of a sexual performance of a child.

Beverly Hensel, of Allegheny Road, is accused of possessing child pornography from January 2008 until December 2009.

Hensel was arraigned in Town of Pembroke Court today.

Det. Kevin Czora said Batavia PD became the lead agency because the investigation originated with a different suspect in the city, but as the investigation progressed detectives connected the case to Hansel.

The pornography allegedly possessed by Hansel was obtained over the Internet, Czora said, and Hansel did not know any of the subjects in the material.

During the execution of a search warrant at the Hansel residence Aug. 15, weapons were reportedly found and Frederick Hensel Jr. is being charged with four counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Batavia PD detectives led the investigation with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service, Tonawanda PD, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office and the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force.

September 5, 2012 - 10:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, bdc, Chad Zambito.

Chad Zambito, an appointed Town of Batavia board member and candidate for the GOP nomination for that seat, expected the assets of his former laundromat to sell for somewhere close to $30,000.

The actual highest bid on Tuesday, in an auction conducted by the Bank of Castile, was $3,500.

That's enough to cover Zambito's debt to the bank, but he still owes more than $14,000 to the Batavia Development Corporation, which provided Zambito with a low-interest loan in 2010 to finance upgrades to the laundromat.

This morning, Zambito issued the following statement:

I continue to work towards resolving the issues related to the closing of my business and intend to meet with the BDC board to resolve any outstanding issues. I have started the Chapter 13 process which in the short term will provide me 60-90 days to get my finances in order. If I complete the process, the result would be a court ordered and monitored five-year repayment plan. 

Grammy's Laundry closed earlier this year and Zambito said much of the business's difficulties stemmed from a plumbing problem in the mall where Grammy's was located. He said the business never recovered from the set back.

A former laundromat owner who observed Tuesday's auction said just one of the high capacity dryers at Grammy's retails new for about $3,500. There was some 40 or so washers and dryers, some in apparent disrepair, in the facility. The buyer is an out-of-county laundry owner who reportedly plans to remove all the machines and take them to another of his laundromats.

Zambito's GOP primary opponent is John Gerace, who held the office for nearly a decade before resigning in April after a Town of Batavia Fire Department awards and installation dinner where Gerace reportedly had some sort of confrontation with Supervisor Greg Post.

September 5, 2012 - 9:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Announcements, UMMC.

Press release:

The Jerome Foundation and United Memorial Medical Center Foundation are seeking nominations for the 28th annual Health and Humanitarian Award of Genesee County. 

The award recognizes outstanding men and women whose volunteer efforts have improved the physical, emotional or spiritual well-being of the greater Genesee County area.   “We are fortunate to have many caring and committed volunteers devoted to the sick or to those in need, and helping build a stronger, healthier community for all of us”, said Justin Calarco-Smith, president of The Jerome Foundation.  He noted the accomplishments of Dorothy Baker, the 2011 Health and Humanitarian recipient, whose volunteer efforts and leadership with The Jerome Center Gift Shop have raised funds to support improvements at UMMC.

Nomination forms are available from UMMC Foundation Office at 127 North Street, calling 585-344-5300, or online at www.ummc.org. Organizations or individuals may nominate candidates.  Consideration will be given to actual accomplishments achieved through volunteer service and subsequent improvements to quality of life.  Nominations should be submitted on or before September 28.

The 2012 award winner will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, December 7 at Terry Hills Restaurant.

September 5, 2012 - 9:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Labor Days, Labor Day Parade.

Here are the winners from Monday's Labor Day parade in Oakfield.

Fire Department Trucks
1st Place – Oakfield Tanker 73
2nd Place – Byron Grass & Brush 37
3rd Place – East Pembroke Grass & Brush 60

Performance Groups
1st Place – Alexander Fire Department Marching Band
2nd Place – Akron Tigers Marching Band
3rd Place – Oakfield-Alabama Central School Marching Band

Floats
1st Place – Oakfield Historical Society
2nd Place – Haxton Memorial Library
3rd Place – GAHA – Batavia Ramparts Hockey
Honorable Mention – Bennett Avenue Preschool
Honorable Mention – Oakfield Boy Scouts Troop #19

Judges Choice Grand Prize Award – B&J School of Dance

September 5, 2012 - 9:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy.

Jason W. Spencer, 26, last known address, 4 Lincoln Ave., Le Roy, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd. Spencer was arrested following an investigation by the Le Roy PD that started in February. He is accused of stealing more than $3,000 from an acquaintance from Nov. 30 to Feb. 29.

Jason Anthony Ostune, 20, of Scott Avenue, Syracuse, is charged with criminal trespass, 2nd, and harassment, 2nd. Ostune was arrested by the DeWitt PD on a warrant out of Town of Batavia Court on the listed charges. He was turned over to the Sheriff's Office, arraigned and jailed on $500 bail.

September 4, 2012 - 9:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pembroke, Veterans Cemetery.

There may be some opposition in Pembroke to placing a veterans cemetery on one of two parcels in the town, according to Bill Joyce, the new veterans services administrator for the county.

Joyce raised the issue with the Public Service Committee today during his first departmental review with the Genesee County Legislature.

He said the Town of Pembroke Planning Board may have some members concerned about taking farm land off the tax roles.

Pembroke Town Supervisor Ed Mileham confirmed this evening that he thinks there may be some opposition to converting farmland to a veterans cemetery, but said the issue hasn't come before the planning board yet.

"There's no doubt in my mind there could be some opposition because Pembroke is a farming community and they like their farm atmosphere here," Mileham said.

There's also likely to be support for the project because it will benefit the community, Mileham said.

"It would be something no other community got and we would be fortunate to get it," Mileham said. "Would we have to give something up, would we give up some tax dollars for it? Sure, but it's something a lot of communities would want to have and we've got good spots right here."

The advantages for Pembroke, Mileham said is attractive properties, close proximity to Buffalo and Rochester and easy access to the Thruway.

These are points in Pembroke's favor that Joyce, a Pembroke resident, also made and said the two locations in Pembroke under consideration make more sense than the location on the short list in Erie County, which is an industrial area.

"To me, not just because it's Genesee County, a veterans cemetary should be peaceful and serene," Joyce said.

Added Legislator Mary Pat Hancock, "and the locations I've seen are just gorgeous."

Mileham said the two locations in Pembroke under consideration by the Veterans Administration are at Indian Falls Road and Route 77, about 135 acres, and a similar-sized location at the end of Cleveland Road. 

About 50 or 60 acres of farmland would be taken out of production for the project, Mileham said.

The supervisor said the indications he's received from officials with the VA working out of Bath -- currently the closest vets cemetery to Buffalo and Rochester -- are that Indian Falls and Route 77 is a favored location.

County Manager Jay Gsell told legislators that the short list of sites has changed a couple of times as the VA came across unwilling sellers, inappropriate locations or environmental issues. Site planning experts with the VA have reduced the list now to these three possible locations.

It will take willing sellers at any one of the three locations to move the project forward.

As it is, construction is at least two-and-a-half years away.

September 4, 2012 - 12:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Fire Department will be flushing fire hydrants on Thursday, Sept. 6, at approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the general area south of East Main Street and east of Jackson Street. Homes and businesses nearby will be affected. These tests may result in a temporary discoloration of water in that area. As in the past, please do not attempt to wash any clothing if your water appears discolored.

September 4, 2012 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Darien.

Larry J. Jones, 35, of Hamlin Street, Buffalo, is charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, 1st, a Class C felony, and tampering with physical evidence, a Class E felony. Jones allegedly tried to buy French fries at Darien Lake Amusement Park using a fake $50 bill. An employee suspected the bill of being counterfeit and notified security. Jones allegedly produced a large number of $50 bills also believed to be counterfeit. While being transported to the security trailer, Jones allegedly tried stuffing additional fake $50 bills he possessed in his mouth and eating them. Security officers were able to prevent consumption of the bills and, though damaged, they were also determined to be allegedly counterfeit. Jones was jailed without bail. The case was investigated by Deputy Patrick Reeves and Investigator Kris Kautz.

Shawn Anthony Suarez, 23, of Bernhardt Drive, Snyder, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Suarez is accused of possessing marijuana at a concert at Darien Lake on Aug. 29. Also charged was Samantha Lee Jindra, 18, of Westminster Road, West Seneca.

Antonio Velazquez-Hernandez, 25, of Oak Orchard Road, Albion, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, reckless driving, driving left of pavement markings, failure to keep right, no signal, unlicensed operator. Velazquez-Hernandez was stopped at 2:50 a.m., Sunday, on Route 98 in Batavia by Deputy Howard Carlson. Velazquez-Hernandez was also allegedly in the United States illegally and was turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.

September 4, 2012 - 11:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Alabama.

An Alabama man indicted on 28 counts of sexual abuse with alleged acts going back 13 years entered a not guilty plea and had his bail reduced in county court this morning.

Earl Francis Sprague, 42, of Church Street, Alabama, can get of jail pending further court proceedings if he can come up with $25,000 cash or secure a $50,000 bond.

He was being held on $50,000 cash or $500,000 bond.

Under a review system developed by attorneys and judges that helps determine a defendant's suitability for release under supervision or some level of bail, Sprague scored 11 points out of 20 possible.

Normally, 11 points would make Sprague eligible for supervised release. But given the possible lengthy prison term for Sprague if convicted of more than one count of the lengthy indictment, and a prior offense when Sprague was a youth, Noonan said some level of bail was appropriate to help assure Sprague's appearance at future court dates.

Attorney William Harper argued that his client had no adult criminal convictions, though he did have a probation violation in 2009 (his last previous contact with law enforcement).

Harper also said Sprague had some "dim hope" of retaining his current job if he were able to make bail, though Harper acknowledged the current accusations against Sprague diminished his chances of keeping that job.

He said, however, Sprague was considered a good employee.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said that while the person who conducted the bail evaluation scored Sprague at 11 points, she wouldn't have had access to Sprague's youthful offender status records. As a youthful offender, Sprague was accused of what Friedman said was charged under the former sodomy statute at the time and convicted of sexual abuse. That was in 1986.

"That is a relevant factor," Friedman said. "He also expressed a use of alcohol and marijuana."

Friedman requested no modification in the bail status for Sprague.

Noonan noted that if Sprague is convicted of multiple counts of the indictment, he would face possible consecutive prison terms on each count.

Sprague is accused of sexually abusing a single child victim over a period of years starting in 1999.

September 4, 2012 - 8:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion.

A work crew has reportedly hit a gas line in the area of Black Street Road and Asbury Road, Pavilion.

Pavilion Fire Department is dispatched.

National Fuel has been notified. No ETA on a crew's arrival.

UPDATE 9:04 a.m.: It's a three-inch line, completely severed.

UPDATE 9:13 a.m.: Le Roy fire asked to have an engine stand by in quarters.

September 3, 2012 - 10:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, parade.

The members of the Oakfield Betterment Committee couldn't have asked for better parade weather today.

Hundreds of people lined the parade route, which began at Oakfield-Alabama Central School and stretched a village mile to Elroy Parkins Memorial Town Park.

The hour-long parade featured all the floats, bands, fire trucks and other small-town hoopla any true parade fan would appreciate.

If you're unable to view the slide show below, click here. To purchase prints of these photos, click here.

September 3, 2012 - 10:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy, Pavilion.

Four people have been charged with burglary following a three-and-a-half month investigation by the Sheriff's Office into a pair of break-ins at a residence on Telephone Road, Pavilion.

The burglaries occurred at 2:18 a.m., May 18, and 2:45 a.m., May 21.

In the first break-in, cash was stolen from a wallet and a purse on the kitchen table.

In the second case, three people reportedly entered the home and took a safe containing cash and savings bonds.

Arrested where:

  • John H. O'Shea, 20, of Wolcott Street, Le Roy. He is charged with two counts of burglary, 2nd, and one count of grand larceny, 2nd. He is accused of being involved in the May 21 burglary. He was arrested June 1 and has been held in jail on $25,000 bail since.
  • Dylan J. Hawkins, 20, of Morrow Road, Pavilion, is charged with burglary, 2nd, grand larceny, 4th, and grand larceny, 2nd. Hawkins is accused of partaking in both burglaries. He was jailed on June 7 on $25,000 bail.
  • Anthony J. Gonzales, 20, of Myrtle Street, Le Roy, is charged with burglary, 2nd, and grand larceny, 2nd. He allegedly participated in the May 21 break-in. Gonzales was released under supervision of Genesee Justice.
  • Joshua M. Bratcher, 22, of Lake Street, Le Roy, is charged with burglary, 2nd, and grand larceny, 4th. Bratcher was allegedly involved in the May 18 break-in. Bratcher was arrested Friday and jailed on $20,000 bail.

O'Shea was accused in July of falsely reporting a theft of jewelry and marijuana in Le Roy.

The burglaries were investigated by Deputies John Baiocco, Frank Bordonaro, Matthew Butler and Investigator Roger Stone. The Sheriff's Office was assisted by Det. John Condidorio, Officer Darryle Rob and Officer Emily Clark, of the Le Roy PD.

The investigation is ongoing, according to the Sheriff's Office.

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

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