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January 27, 2011 - 5:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Wiss Hotel.

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Demolishing the vacant and ramshackle Wiss Hotel in Le Roy Village could cost at least twice as much as the Genesee County Legislature discussed Wednesday night before voting to forgive tax liens on the property.

A local real estate investor -- who asked not to be identified -- said he looked at the property one time and had a Rochester-based demolition company give an estimate on taking down the building. The low-end best guess was $175,000.

The investor said that's the price for tearing it down without an asbestos inspection and hauling the material to a dump that would accept potentially contaminated material.

If it could be confirmed before demolition that there's no asbestos present, tearing the structure down and disposing of the material could be cheaper. But an asbestos inspection costs $35,000.

If an inspection was done, he said, and asbestos was found, then the demolition price would climb beyond $175,000, perhaps beyond $225,000.

And that's before dealing with any potential contamination from the former NAPA location next door on Route 19.

It's a great location, he said, but realistically, any investor would need both properties to make it a suitable space for modern retail. The potential expense of buying and leveling both properties so a new business could be built, would eat up most potential profits -- even if the hotel parcel was bought for the price of the tax liens.

With the county washing its hands of the property, it becomes the problem of either the village or property owner.

Gene Sinclair, Le Roy code enforcement officer, said he isn't sure what the village will do. In early 2010, the village started down the path of declaring it an unsafe building, but backed off when it became clear what the potential demolition costs would be.

The investor said the interior of the building is in pretty bad shape and gives anybody who looks at it a pretty clear idea that the building needs to come down.

"I'd hate to wake up some morning and read that the building has fallen down with a couple of people buried under it," he said.

January 27, 2011 - 11:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC.

After the initial two stories about the Authorities Budget Office report on the Genesee County Economic Development Center's compensation practices, some readers wanted to know what local legislators thought of the issue.

In the second story, we had comments from Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock and Legislator Hollis Upson, who also sits on the GCEDC board. Below are responses from the other seven members of the Genesee County Legislature.

Raymond F. Cianfrini
District No. 1
Towns of Alabama and Oakfield

Legislator Cianfrini said he was disturbed by the ABO report.

"In terms of oversight, I was not aware until I read the report of the way in which they allocate resources for salaries and bonuses," Cianfrini said.

He said he doesn't believe public employees should receive bonuses, but acknowledged there is some question as to whether GCEDC employees are truly public employees.

"As for the size of the pay, should Genesee County have the highest paid director of an EDC -- should we be 'leader of the pack'? I'm not sure I have a full handle on how the GCEDC board has justified paying these kind of salaries."

In terms of oversight, he said he would like to see the legislature review the GCEDC's budget to ensure the county portion of its revenue is being spent appropriately.

"I wonder if our portion of the budget is being used wisely and whether any portion is funding bonuses," Cianfrini added.

He does believe GCEDC has done some good projects for the county and he's a big supporter of GCEDC's efforts to move the STAMP project forward in Alabama, which is part of his district.

"It's an important project that needs to be developed," Cianfrini said. "GCEDC took the initiative to keep the ball rolling and for that. I'm grateful and want to see it continue."

Robert J. Bausch
District No. 2
Towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen

Legislator Bausch said he's supportive of the GCEDC and believes the agency has helped improve Genesee County's economy and wants to see its work continue.

"Having been a lifelong resident of Genesee County, I know one of the major complaints over years and years and years, is that we weren't doing enough to support industrial development, bringing jobs into the county and so forth," Bausch said.

"When John Dwyer took over as head (of economic development) and really got that organization going, we finally started to see some results and I think Steve (Hyde, current CEO) has done an excellent job of following his lead."

As for the compensation issue, Bausch said that's a matter for the GCEDC board to decide.

"I know most of the members," Bausch said. "They are hard-nosed businessmen, so I've got to trust their judgment."

He said that a recent state report on the Genesee County Animal Shelter, knocking the conditions there, and the ABO report knocking the GCEDC board, "tell you about all you need to know about the state of New York State."

"Here's one place getting a negative audit because it is trying to be successful and here's another about a place trying to keep costs down by using volunteers, but they get complaints because it isn't exactly perfect," Bausch said.

As for legislature oversight, Bausch said the legislature has a liaison on the GCEDC board and he doesn't see any need for more oversight than that.

Annie M. Lawrence
District No. 3
Towns of Pembroke and Darien

Legislator Lawrence said she's satisfied with the current level of oversight the legislature provides the GCEDC board. How they compensate staff is really up to the board, she said.

"That goes back to micromanaging," Lawrence said. "I think we have qualified individuals who sit on that board. They know better than we do the day-to-day goings on. I trust these individuals to do their job."

As for the ABO report, she said it was long and involved and it's possible that the bonuses should have been handled differently, but ...

"The thing is, in Genesee County we have had a lot of wins with GCEDC and a lot of positive things have happened as a result," Lawrence said. "We’ve had those jobs created. We’ve helped existing businesses and we’ve helped new businesses.

"Through this downturn, yes, our unemployment has been high, but it could have been higher if we didn't have the projects we had."

Jerome J. Grasso
District No. 5
Town of LeRoy

Legislator Grasso said when he first read the ABO report, he found it pretty stunning.

"You read it and the language it uses kind of takes your breath away in the fact that it's so negative," Grasso said. "But then you look at what Harris Beech (GCEDC's law firm) put out and realize it's all just opinion."

Before the legislature takes a position on the report, however, Grasso said members should wait for things to settle down and then try to get more information and see what's really going on.

"I think we should have the full truth," Grasso said. "We need transparency. I'd like to wait and get the full picture."

However, he does believe GCEDC fully cooperated the the ABO investigators and maybe not all of the information has been released.

"I don't think the GCEDC has attempted to hide anything," Grasso said. "When the ABO people came in, whenever they asked for anything, they got it. I don't think there was an attempt to not be transparent with the auditors."

As for legislative oversight, Grasso thinks the legislature does have the power to make changes if they don't like what they see going on with the GCEDC. He said either board appointments could be changed or the county's portion of the budget could be withheld.

Esther Leadley
District No. 6
Towns of Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion

The GCEDC has Legislator Leadley's full support.

She called the ABO report one-sided and singled out the Batavia Daily News and The Batavian for providing only one-sided coverage of the issue.

"I think the GCEDC has done an excellent job in bringing companies here to Genesee County," Leadley said. "The bonus money was not taxpayer money. I'm convinced of that."

As for oversight, she said the legislature provides a good deal of oversight -- between Upson's position on the board, Hyde regularly appearing before the Ways and Means Committee and the various other reports the legislature gets from GCEDC throughout the year.

Robert J. Radley
District No. 7, Wards 1 and 6
City of Batavia

Legislator Radley, an engineer and planner by trade, said he approaches GCEDC as a business issue.

"I have five business development people working for me from Maine to North Carolina and I look at this from a business development perspective," Radley said. "First, it's typical in business development to pay salary plus bonuses. But putting that aside, I don't see how a report can look at someone's salary without looking at the results.

"If our director has a salary that is twice, say, of Erie County, but he's bringing in four times the revenue, then he's worth the money. To me, to do this right, somebody has to say we're going to compare salaries and we're going to compare results. Then you have a meaningful comparison."

As for legislative oversight, Radley said it pretty much ends at appointing the right people to the GCEDC board.

"It's incumbent upon us to appoint a board with the right qualifications, the experience and the expertise to direct that agency," Radley said. "I don't think it's incumbent upon us to get down into the nitty-gritty."

Edward DeJaneiro Jr., 2nd Vice Chair
District No. 9, Wards 4 and 5
City of Batavia

According to Legislator DeJaneiro, the GCEDC could maybe use some additional legislative oversight, but it's important to remember how vital economic development is to the county.

"We want to keep in mind that GCEDC is one of the few tools we have to concentrate on bringing in new business and making it easy for new business to come into the county," DeJaneiro said. "I don't think we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to make sure that their bonuses and compensation are in line with what we expect for our community, though."

While the legislature has only limited oversight of the GCEDC, he said he would like to keep a close eye on them.

He said he was rather surprised by the level of compensation staff was getting.

"I want to know what they’re doing, because I think it’s out of the ordinary to give those kinds of wages and bonuses that are so out of line with the rest of the community."

January 27, 2011 - 10:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

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Police, Fire and Mercy EMS are on scene of a two-car accident at the corner of Main and Bank streets, downtown Batavia.

Traffic is backing up in the westbound lanes of Main Street.

January 26, 2011 - 11:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county.

hancock_2010stateofcounty01.jpgIn a 40-minute long State of the County address, Genesee County Legislature Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock made sure she had something good to say about every department in county government, but saved the true crux of the problems facing local government until the end of her speech.

In a nutshell, the county is being crushed by mandates.

"It is a fact that these nine state mandates consume 90 percent of the statewide county property tax levy," Handock said. "No amount of public outcry can impact a local budget that is already 'spent by Albany.' Action and change must come before they spend all of your money."

Medicaid, Hancock noted, costs counties across the state only $115 million in 1966. Now, the local share is $7 billion and the total NYS bill is $53 billion.

"That's more than $1 billion a week and it is certainly a good part of the reason the state's budget is broken," Hancock said.

Other state mandates mentioned by Hancock: public assistance/safety net program; child welfare protection/prevention; special education pre-K; indigent defense; probation; early intervention; youth detention; and the pension system.

"Each of these basically good programs could be improved and become more efficient and cost effective by making some obvious changes," Hancock said. "Refocusing upon the initial intent of the program, redesigning the delivery of services, following the recommendations of statewide task forces who have studied the concerns, and eliminating the trend to simply pass on excessive costs of state programs to the counties instead of reforming those programs."

Hancock said that calls to cap property taxes don't go far enough.

"Slowing and capping the growth of property taxes only insures that New York State retains its position as the state with the highest property taxes in the country," Hancock said.

For the complete text of Hancock's State of the County speech, click here.

January 26, 2011 - 10:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

The owner of the former Wiss Hotel at 80 Main St., Village of Le Roy, will get to keep the property, despite owing thousands of dollars in back taxes.

The property was headed for the county's March foreclosure auction, but the Genesee County Legislature cast a unanimous vote Wednesday night saying essentially, "we don't want it."

The building, owned by New Jersey resident Emily Pangrazio, is in such a state of disrepair, county officials said, the only thing to do with it is tear it down, which would cost more than $100,000.

The county could not take title without taking responsibility for the building's disrepair, even just to auction it off later.

There's also concern that a former gas station next door could have leached contaminants onto the property, creating a potentially costly clean-up requirement.

If the county became part of the chain of title for even one day, county taxpayers could wind up footing the bill for any environmental impacts.

By voting to cancel the tax lien, the property -- with numerous alleged code violations -- becomes an issue for the owner and the village to deal with.

Several people have noted that a couple of weeks ago, crews were inside the former hotel removing fixtures and other items, basically stripping the building of salvageable items, according to witnesses.

January 26, 2011 - 6:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime.

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The Sheriff's Office is looking for help in identifying a larceny suspect who may have ties to Genesee County. Further details about the alleged crimes and suspects are not available for release.

The alleged crimes occurred in another jurisdiction.

Anybody with information to share should contact Deputy Chris Parker at 585-345-3000, ext. 3249.

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January 26, 2011 - 6:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, elba.

mug_Gregori.jpgThe Local Drug Enforcement Task Force has  arrested an Elba resident who was stopped by a Sheriff's patrol in November and allegedly found in possession of a quantity of crack cocaine with the intention to sell.

Taken into custody Tuesday was Mark C. Gregori, 49, of Oak Orchard Road, Elba.

He is charged with one count of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd.

Gregori was jailed on $10,000 bail.

January 26, 2011 - 6:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, State Street.

mug_hewitt.jpgA Batavia resident was arrested on a drug-trafficking warrant following a traffic stop on Washington Avenue on Tuesday by members of the Local Drug Enforcement Task Force.

He is accused of selling cocaine in and around the City of Batavia.

Charged with four felonies in a sealed indictment is Jeffery A. Hewitt, 32, of State Street.

He is accused of selling drugs to an agent of the task force.

Hewitt is charged with two counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, 3rd, and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd.

Hewitt was jailed without bail pending arraignment in Genesee County Court.

January 26, 2011 - 5:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy.

Updated 9:19 p.m.

A Le Roy resident who appears to have headed a Genesee County-based methamphetamine ring entered a guilty plea in federal court today to a drug dealing charge.

The charge -- conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine -- carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $4 million fine.

Donald G. Vanelli II, 47, of 8394 Lake St., Le Roy, was arrested in July following a months-long investigation by local, state and federal authorities into meth sales and distribution in Genesee and Monroe counties. Three other Genesee County residents along with a Monroe County resident were also arrested and accused of dealing meth.

The investigation revealed, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, that Vanelli was responsible for procuring from suppliers and distributing between 5 and 15 kilograms of methamphetamine from 2004 through July 2010.

A kilo equals 2.2 pounds. The estimated street value of a pound of meth is between $15,000 and $25,000.

The contents of  an affidavit released by authorities after his arrest gives the appearance that Vanelli was the kingpin of the meth distribution ring, with other alleged dealers coming to him for their supplies, and Vanelli working with a Monroe County source to allegedly acquire meth from unnamed sources.

During the investigation, law enforcement authorities seized approximately 75 grams of methamphetamine, three firearms, and more than $6,000 in cash.

As part of the plea agreement, the defendant agreed to forfeit to the government a 9mm rifle, a 9mm magazine and 78 rounds of 9mm ammunition that were seized from his Le Roy residence.

Sentencing is set for 3:15 p.m., May 10, in Rochester Federal Court.

The charges against the four other defendants in case are still pending.

Vanelli's co-defendants are Donna L. Boon (aka Donna Mcauly), 44, of 3658 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road; Andrew W. Chapman, 40, of 5 Cedar St., Batavia; Kerry A. Ball, 51, of 7202 Meadville Road, Basom; and, David H. Cohen, 49, of 918 Goodman St., Rochester.

January 26, 2011 - 1:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Justin Amend, who admitted to public lewdness for engaging in a sexual act in Farrall Park with Suzanne Corona, appeared in City Court this morning.

The 29-year-old former Oakfield resident had been a fugitive from justice after he failed to appear for sentencing in November. He turned himself in this week.

Upon appearing before Judge Robert Balbick this morning, Amend's attorney, Tom Williams, requested permission to apply to the Sheriff's Office for a weekend work-release program. 

Spots are limited in the program and there is no guarantee Amend will be accepted.

Balbick also said given Amend's decision to move out of the area, any prior sentencing agreement no longer applies.

"At this point he stands before me having entered a guilty plea to public lewdness, a Class B misdemeanor," Balbick told Williams. "I have complete authority to sentence him within full perimeters of the law."

Amend could face up to 90 days in jail.

Sentencing is scheduled for next Wednesday.

January 26, 2011 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Thurway.

carfire_pembroke.jpg

There were no injuries following a two-car accident on the Thruway in Pembroke this morning, near mile marker 403 in the westbound lane.

One car caught on fire following the accident, according to State Police.

One westbound lane was blocked for about an hour.

Photo submitted by reader Kevin Switzer.

January 26, 2011 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba, Le Roy, Bethany, corfu.

Ajuna Mona Pruitt, 19, of Dawnhaven Drive, Rochester, is charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespass, 2nd. Pruitt is accused of entering a room at College Village without permission and then, while in the parking lot, striking another woman with her car. The alleged incident occurred at 6:30 p.m., Monday.

Ajuna M. Pruitt, 19, of Dawnhaven Drive, Rochester, along with Ebony S. Barnes, 18, of Chaplain Street, Rochester and Shibritney M. Colbert, 19, of Shelter Street, Rochester, are charged with harassment, 2nd. The trio are accused of going to an apartment at College Village at 10:39 p.m., Tuesday, and banging and kicking on a door in an attempt to get the resident to come out and fight.

Danielle Marie Kotmel, 30, of East Main Street, Corfu, is charged with petit larceny. Kotmel is accused of stealing a red Dell laptop computer. The alleged theft is believed to have occurred in December but was not discovered until an audit was completed in January.

Robert G. Woodhouse Jr., 50, of Creek Road, Bethany, is charged with criminal trespass, 2nd, and criminal mischief, 4th. Woodhouse is accused of entering a residence and remaining unlawfully. He's also accused of damaging a door.

Richard John Downs, 48, of Oak Orchard Road, Elba, was arrested on a probation warrant out of Town of Elba Court.

Steven Michael Keaton, 38, of Gilbert Street, Le Roy, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Keaton is accused of contacting a woman whom he was ordered not to contact.

January 25, 2011 - 8:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC.

In response to a reader request, we asked for information on whether GCEDC staff members are eligible to participate in the NYS state retirement system.

Here is the full text of GCEDC's response:

Request: Can I get a list of GCEDC employees who participate in the NYS retirement system and what GCEDC’s annual contribution to the pension program is, please?

Response: Membership in the New York State Retirement System is mandatory for all full-time employees of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). Currently there are six employees who are enrolled in the New York State Retirement System including the President and CEO, Sr. VP of Operations, the CFO, VP of Business Development, the Marketing and Communications Manager, and the Office Manager. Contributions to the New York State Retirement System are set by the state. In 2010, the GCEDC received an invoice to pay $41,663.

January 25, 2011 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Budget.

Councilman Bill Cox called the proposed 2011/12 city budget a work of art.

Council members Patti Pacino, Kathy Briggs and Frank Ferrando all congratulated the city manager and his staff for presenting a budget proposal that retains current city services and protects cash reserves at a time when pension costs are skyrocketing and sales-tax revenue is down.

The council then approved a resolution adopting a revenue plan totalling $5,578,355 with a 1.39-percent property-tax increase, down from the original proposal of a 1.59-percent increase.

The new increase is less than $12 per year for a home assessed at $80,000.

"I'm afraid if we reduced (the tax increase) it would come at the expense of our reserves," said Cox. "I think we need to continue to build our reserves and this is just a modest increase."

Councilman Bob Bialkowski also spoke in favor of protecting reserves, especially in a time when major cities and the state of New York itself are facing severe financial distress.

Members Rosemary Christian and Sam Barone said they would like to see a zero-percent increase, but Council President Marianne Clattenburg said that anybody who wants to see zero should suggest how they would reduce spending without threatening the reserves or eliminating staff or services.

"If we go to zero, what we're talking about are staff cuts and cuts in services," Clattenburg said. "We're talking about the possibility of getting rid of a police officer -- I mean, we're talking about cutting into the bones of what the infrastructure of the city is."

The proposed budget also calls for water-rate hikes that will add about $13 a year to the typical residential bill.

Before the vote on the revenue resolution, Cox called on the council to give City Manager Jason Molino a round of applause for his work on the budget, and all the council members joined in.

The city council set the public hearing on the proposed budget  for 7 p.m., Feb. 14.

January 25, 2011 - 10:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

In an emergency resolution, the city council voted Monday night to transfer $55,000 from its contingency fund to deal with two unexpected expenses.

City Manager Jason Molino said that for the entire winter last season, the city had only 61 days where the roads needed salt. So far this year, the city has seen 61 salt days. That has depleted the salt supply and Molino recommended the council transfer $30,000 into the snow-removal fund to buy 750 tons of salt.

Also, the roof on the city's fire hall needs repaired. And it needs to be done before all the snow melts and causes bigger problems.

It will cost the city at least $22,000 to put a protective membrane over the roof. The council transferred $25,000 to the fire department. The extra $3,000 will cover any unexpected cost overruns and replacement of some ceiling tiles inside the building.

Currently, city staff is making regular trips to the roof for snow removal in order to minimize any potential damage to the building.

The replacement membrane should last 20 years.

There was about $200,000 in the contingency fund.

January 24, 2011 - 9:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, John Parrinello.

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Legal charges against a Monroe County attorney and school board trustee accused of causing a ruckus at a basketball tournament in Batavia were reduced by the District Attorney's Office today.

John Parrinello, an appointed member of  Monroe County Community College Board of Trustees, now faces charges of trespass as a violation and two violations of disorderly conduct.

The charges stem for an Dec. 12 incident at Genesee Community College when Parrinello allegedly hassled a referee during a college women's basketball game and then refused to leave the gym when ordered by security. He was arrested after a State Trooper arrived and Parrinello allegedly failed to follow his instructions about which exit to use as he left the gym.

The original misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass, 3rd, were dropped, but not without Parrinello making a stink about the change.

"I want to know what's happening with the criminal trespass, 3rd, charge?" Parrinello asked while standing before Justice Michael Cleveland. "That's why I was handcuffed, cutting my wrists, put in a patrol car, had my mugshot (taken) and published in all the newspapers."

Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini kept trying to explain that the charges were being amended and Perrinello repeatedly interrupted her.

Cianfrini asked for a short recess to make a phone call and Perrinello complained that he had been waiting for the case to be called for two hours and didn't want to wait any longer.

Cleveland allowed Cianfrini to make her call and she returned and explained that she would submit the new charges and ask Cleveland to drop criminal trespass charge.

Perrinello's attorney, Batavia-based Lisa Kroemer, asked that the charges be dropped without prejudice and Cianfrini objected.

Kroemer said that in order to prepare for trial and make proper motions, she and her client needed to know that the misdemeanor charge wouldn't be refiled.

Cleveland said he would drop the charge without prejudice, which means the charge can be refiled.

The reason the lesser charges were filed, Cianfrini said, is that after a review of statements, evidence and interviewing witnesses, the reduced charges were more appropriate.

Kroemer refused to answer questions after the hearing, but Parrinello spoke briefly with reporters before getting in his Cadillac and driving away.

"They knew, or should have known, that what they arrested me for was not a proper charge,” Parrinello said, adding, "I'm presumed to be innocent. They have to prove me guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which they'll never do."

January 24, 2011 - 7:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, crime, Le Roy, Chris Charvella, Jay Grasso.

The case of Chris Charvella, accused of placing an unwanted phone call to Legislator Jay Grasso, is moving back to Genesee County Court with a request that Judge Robert C. Noonan reassign the case again.

Previously, the case was moved from Le Roy Town Court to Town of Batavia because both judges in Le Roy had conflicts of interest.

Charvella's attorney, E. Robert Fussell, told Town of Batavia Justice Michael Cleveland that he and the District Attorney's Office agreed the case should be heard by a judge who is an attorney.

Cleveland is not an attorney.

Justice Tom Williams in Town of Batavia Court is an attorney.

Cleveland said that when the case was moved to Batavia, he and Williams discussed the case and decided that Cleveland would hear the case. Cleveland did not explain why they reached that decision.

Fussell will submit an application to Noonan to have the case reassigned to another town court, such as Stafford, where an attorney sits on the bench. Yet Stafford does not have two judges with a legal degree. The case could still wind up before a non-attorney judge.

The case needs to be heard by a judge who is an attorney, Fussell said, because of the Constitutional issues involved in the case.

Charvella is charged with harassment, 2nd, under the provision of the law that prohibits phone calls for no legitimate purpose.

After some back-and-forth between Charvella and Grasso prior to the last election -- in which Charvella reportedly wrote that he would shove some campaign signs up some people's rear ends -- Charvella called Grasso's house and said, "Thanks for reading my blog."

Grasso, who represents Le Roy, contacted State Police and had Charvella arrested on the harassment, 2nd, charge.

For previous coverage, click here.

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