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October 21, 2011 - 1:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba.

The driver of a sedan that smashed into a tree on Route 262 in Elba shortly after 5:30 a.m. may face a DWI charge.

Corey Hemmer, 25, of Elba, was taken by Mercy Flight to ECMC.

Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster said a blood sample was taken from Hemmer and additional charges may be pending.

Hemmer is in intensive care.

Also injured where Megan Ann Gregg, 18. She is listed in guarded condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. Strong's policy is to list anybody in intensive care as "guarded."

The third victim in the crash is Aaron Pahuta, 19. He underwent emergency surgery at ECMC this morning.

Hemmer was reportedly driving westbound on Route 262 just east of Route 98 when his Pontiac drifted off the north side of the roadway. The car struck a tree head on.

Sgt. Brian Frieday said at the scene that a passerby found the wreckage some time after the accident. Investigators were unsure at that time how much earlier the accident had occurred.

All three occupants had to be extricated and transported to hospitals by Mercy Flight.

The accident is under investigation by the Crash Management Team of the Sheriff's Office.

Elba Fire Department and Mercy EMS responded to the scene and Town of Batavia Fire Department was dispatched to provide additional extrication tools and manpower.

Note: Upon request of the Sheriff's Office, publication of photos withheld until victim notifications completed.

October 21, 2011 - 5:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba.

A car has hit a tree on Route 262, just east of Route 98 in Elba.

Three people were in the car and one person is entrapped.

Mercy Flight is on in-air standby.

Three Mercy EMS ambulances have been dispatched.

Elba Fire Department is on scene.

UPDATE 5:52 a.m.: Two Mercy Flight helicopters requested to the scene. A landing zone will be set up at the fire department rec hall.

UPDATE 5:54 a.m.:  Third Mercy Flight helicopter requested to the scene.

UPDATE 5:57 a.m.: All three occupants are trapped in the vehicle.

UPDATE 6:01 a.m.: First Mercy Flight bird on the ground. A second has been dispatched. Dispatchers are checking on availability of a third helicopter.

UPDATE 6:06 a.m.: Town of Batavia Fire's extrication equipment requested to the scene. Oakfield Fire requested to standby at Elba Fire Hall.

UPDATE 6:08 a.m.: Third helicopter in route with a 20 to 25 minute ETA.

UPDATE 6:27 a.m.: Second helicopter on the ground.

UPDATE 7:02 a.m.: All three victims have been extricated. The third helicopter is at the scene.

October 20, 2011 - 11:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, taxes.

Greg Post, supervisor for the Town of Batavia, which currently has no town property tax, is tempted to announce a 50-percent increase in the tax levy.

For those who haven't done that kind of ciphering in a few years, 0 x 50 percent = 0.

But Post is rather irritated with Albany and the state legislature's passage of a 2-percent cap on property taxes without corresponding mandate relief.

Mandates include increases in health care costs for employees, an increase in power rates without local input, and an increase in pension benefits.

Meanwhile, many local governments are facing problems with aging infrastructure -- infrastructure that needs to be in good repair to attract jobs and retain businesses and help emergency responders get to where they need to go.

Albany, Post, said, should just butt out of local government.

"I’m perfectly capable, as is my board, of making decisions," Post said. "Whether they’re good decisions or not can be judged by the community. The community can show up here at public hearings and voice their concerns and if they don't like our decisions they can vote us out of office."

For the most part, Post said, the small towns and villages of Upstate New York are fiscally conservative and do a good job of holding down expenses. Albany, he said, has no idea how to run a town in Western New York and shouldn't even try.

But some towns have put off infrastructure repairs and their needs are getting critical.

He said he knew of one town that wanted to raise its tax levy 20 percent, which would have meant only a $20 increase in the average property tax bill.

But because of the tax cap, the board is faced with a tough decision -- take a special vote to override the cap, or not go out and get the revenue it needs for the town to survive.

Post sees the levy as a trap laid by Democrats in Albany to force conservatives in small towns in Upstate New York out of office. 

Uninformed voters, he said, will likely vote out of office any official who votes to override the cap, and they will be replaced by less fiscally responsible, less experienced officials.

That's why, he said, he introduced a local law for the Town of Batavia to override the cap. Even though Post has no intention of allowing a tax increase to go through, passage of an override measure is a protest against the heavy-handedness of Albany.

He hopes it will provide cover for those jurisdictions that really do need to override the cap.

He said he plans to introduce the same measure every year that he's in office so long as Albany refuses to pass meaningful mandate relief.

On Wednesday, the town board unanimously approved a public hearing on the proposed local law. The hearing is set for Nov. 9.

October 20, 2011 - 10:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather.

Western New Yorkers should prepare for a wetter and colder than average winter.

That could mean some dramatic storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Erie County, especially, should see colder and wetter whether, but the harsh winter could reach into Genesee County.

If the prediction is true, Genesee County will be wetter than usual. Whether that means more snow is uncertain.

For the second year in a row, a La Nina atmospheric condition will impact weather throughout the United States, according to NOAA.

That means the Southwest will be drier than normal and northern parts of the U.S. will be wetter than usual.

The wild card in the winter weather predictions is "arctic oscillation."

The oscillation will effect whether parts of the country, including WNY, will be cooler or warmer than average, or just average.

NOAA says that arctic oscillation is hard to predict and its impact on weather can't be read more than two weeks ahead of time.

Arctic oscillation, which pushes colder air into the U.S., can have dramatic impacts on winter weather.

From the NOAA site:

  • Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: equal chances for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and precipitation. Winter weather for these regions is often driven not by La Niña but by the arctic oscillation. If enough cold air and moisture are in place, areas north of the Ohio Valley and into the Northeast could see above-average snow;
  • Great Lakes: tilt toward colder and wetter than average;

October 20, 2011 - 9:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident.

A three-car accident with minor injuries has been reported on East Main Street at Vine Street, Batavia.

City Fire Department and Mercy EMS on scene.

October 20, 2011 - 8:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, Rose Road.

When I left the office late this afternoon, the clouds and shafts of light cutting through them looked pretty awesome and I started thinking about what sort of picture I could make on limited time. I remembered a barn on Pearl Street Road that I've never gotten a good shot of and thought of the clouds and light behind it. So I drove out there, and I was right. It could have been a great photo. Unfortunately, the owners had parked a high lift right in front of it. That just wouldn't do. So I kept going and circled back to the city by way of Upton Road and Rose Road. On Rose, a potential advertiser called me, so I pulled over to chat -- with this flag right in front of me. "There's a possible picture," I thought.

October 20, 2011 - 8:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, politics, independent living of Genesee Region.

District 1 Legislator Ed Dejaneiro spoke at the YWCA this afternoon as part of a candidates forum sponsored by Independent Living of the Genesee Region.  According to James Moody, 14 candidates for city and county offices appeared at the forum. Each candidate was given a chance to make a presentation and then answer questions from the audience. The forum was not a debate. Moody said the forum gives candidates a chance to learn about the rights of people with disabilities and the needs of the community. "We feel it's important for people with disabilities to get a chance to ask candidates questions."

October 20, 2011 - 8:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, Mike Ranzenhofer.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer is using his time away from Albany -- the legislature is out of session -- to meet constituents and visit local businesses.

Today, Ranzenhofer did an ag tour in Genesee County, visiting Kreher’s Organic Egg Farm in Basom, Torry Farms in Elba and Offhaus Farms in Batavia.

Above, Gordy Offhaus talks with Ranzenhofer about dairy cattle.

October 20, 2011 - 7:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Moody's -- the bond-rating agency -- likes Batavia.

Maybe not as much as they could -- the city's bond rating was downgraded in 2005 from A1 to A2 and remains there -- but a series of fiscal reforms caused the agency to issue a "positive outlook" for the city.

"It should be seen as good news," City Manager Jason Molino said. "They're saying, not only have you achieved the goals you set out to do, you achieved them sooner than you expected. In 2006, the city council set out to pay back all deficits by 2012. They did it by 2010."

Not that there aren't areas of concern for Moody's.

First, the fund balance isn't as high as it should be for a fiscially healthy municipality, and the unresolved contract with the Police Benevolent Association is a cause for concern.

Those two items are prime reason the city isn't getting back, just yet, it's A1 rating.

A municipal bond rating is like a credit score for personal finances.

In 2005, Moody's knocked the city for operating defcits four out of five years, negative general fund balance, high amount of delinquent property taxes, excessive police and fire overtime and the fact that the city's largest revenue source was sales tax.

Now, Moody's is praising the city for operating surpluses in all funds the past four consecutive years, eliminating certain kinds of municipal borrowing, and making progress on equipment and infrastructure projects. Plus, Moody's notes that in 2009 the city had the first positive undesignated fund balance since 2004.

"What they're saying," Molino said, "is that here in the past we faced challenges, in the not-too-distant past, but what the city council did, what we did as a community, is achieve transformative change."

October 20, 2011 - 6:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Announcements.

Members of Batavia Kiwanis are gearing up to serve pancakes at the club's annual Pancake Day breakfast Oct. 29 at the Presbyterian Church in Batavia. Breakfast is from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children 10 and under and $3 for seniors, 62 and over.

October 20, 2011 - 2:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sponsored Post, advertisement, contests.

Congratulations to Barb King, winner of the Main St. Pizza Company NFL Challenge contest for week 6. She was randomly selected from among the 16 people who correctly predicted that Cam Newton of Carolina would throw the most interceptions. Newton tossed three picks. King wins one calzone and French fries.

All contest winners have one week to claim their prize.

October 20, 2011 - 11:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather.

A rainbow spotted off Bank Street Road, Batavia. Photo submitted by Diane Deleo.

October 19, 2011 - 6:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in roundabout, Bethany, transportation, Route 20, Suicide Corners.

Suicide Corners has a reputation, and as the name implies, it's not a good one.

While accidents may not be frequent where East Road crosses Route 20, when they have occurred -- at least until a few years ago -- they've been deadly.

There were fatal accidents at the intersection in June 1998, April 1999 and June 2004. One was a triple fatal and another a double fatal.

After the 2004 accidents, Bethany residents gathered 2,633 signatures asking the NYS Department of Transportation to do something about the intersection.

Their thought -- regrade Route 20.

The state's response: No physical changes to the roadway were necessary. The DOT put up bigger and brighter signs.

There hasn't been a fatal accident at the intersection since, only fender-benders, according to Tom Douglas. He said accidents have been reduced by 36 percent.

Douglas, who with his wife, Debbie, raised six kids in a 200-year-old house (formerly an inn with a second-story dance floor) on property abutting Suicide Corners.  He and his son personally witnessed the 2004 accident, which claimed the life of an infant and two other people (inset photo from the memorial on a pole across East Road from the Douglas residence).

Now, seven years after the last fatal accident, DOT officials have apparently decided it's time to take more drastic measures to make the intersection safer.

The proposal: A $1.8 million traffic circle, a roundabout like the one on Oak Street in the City of Batavia.

If the project is approved, Tom and Debbie Douglas will lose their home. The state will seize their property through eminent domain (providing fair market value and relocation expenses).

About a quarter of the traffic circle will be on their current property, with the roadway through the area moving moved southward several dozens of feet.

Tom Douglas said not only will his family lose their home, a home with some local history, he doesn't believe the project serves any useful purpose.

"Statistically," he said, "It's not needed."

Lori Maher, public information officer for the DOT in the Genesee Region, said what the DOT is looking at is the entire history of the intersection, not just the past few years.

"That (no fatalities since 2004) doesn't mean that the problem is corrected and we should walk away from it, so we are pursuing a safety improvement program," Maher said.

But she said that doesn't mean the state will necessarily build a roundabout and that the Douglases will lose their home.

The proper corrective action is still under review and state engineers may yet determine that a roundabout is not the best solution (weighing, in fact, the serious decision of proceeding with eminent domain on the Douglas property).

The project, however, has been funded for construction to begin in the summer of 2013.

There will be public meetings and ample time for the public to provide feedback on the project, Maher said, but because fact-finding is not yet completed, no dates for those hearings have been set.

Douglas, town building inspector (Debbie is town clerk) and Bethany Town Supervisor Louis Gayton also question the wisdom of spending money on a roundabout when the Bethany Town Center Road bridge over Route 20 is in such drastic need of replacement or repair. Chunks of it regularly fall off onto Route 20.

"One of these days, somebody is going to get injured," Douglas said.

The main issue, Douglas said, isn't the traffic on Route 20. It's drivers on East Road, mostly northbound drivers, blowing through the intersection.

Douglas and others have suggested rumble strips on East Road, but both the state and the county highway department have rejected the idea as impractical.

"They think people will just drive around them," Douglas said. "But if they're driving around them, they're slowing down. It would still alert them to the intersection."

Gayton wonders if the roundabout will even improve safety.

"Trucks come through there at 60 to 65 mph," Gayton said. "Now they've got to slow down to 15 mph. I don't need to tell you what will happen."

Tim Hens, the county's highway superintendent, in an email sent Monday to county legislators obtained by Douglas, also questioned the DOT's decision.

This is not set in stone yet as it has to muster a public review process and final board adoption, but if adopted, we stand to lose funding for three bridge projects in the immediate TIP period covering 2011-14. This may only be the tip of the iceberg if new transportation reauthorization is not clear by the end of the year.

I did find it odd that they decided to keep the NEW Rt 20/East Rd (Suicide Corners) roundabout in the plan versus EXISTING bridges that are deteriorating. I know there has been loss of life at this corner, but not sure the roundabout is a popular solution with many local people.

Maher said, however, that the funding sources for bridges are different than the funding sources for intersection improvements. If an improvement -- roundabout or not -- for Suicide Corners isn't approved, then the $1.8 million slated for the project will just go to another intersection in the Genesee Region in need of improvement.

Sheriff Gary Maha, who attended a May 24 meeting with the DOT where the plan was first presented said he will leave the decision about how to improve safety to the experts, but he does know the state is increasingly using roundabouts throughout the state to improve safety on major roadways. He just visited two in Saratoga Springs.

"There's been a lot of serious accidents there over the years," Maha said. "I support anything that could improve safety in the area, certainly."

October 19, 2011 - 5:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, first presbyterian church.

Workers have been busy the past few days chiseling out the mortar between the bricks of the First Presbyterian Church on East Main Street, Batavia, in preparation for replacing the mortar.

The project is one of many being undertaken by the church as part of a $650,000 capital improvement project, according to Pastor Roula Alkhouri.

The money was raised during a fundraising drive this spring.

Projects include renovating the fellowship hall, asbestos removal from the basement, work on the foundation and repaving the parking lot, among several other projects to help preserve the building.

October 19, 2011 - 5:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba.

A man driving a Ford van lost control of it while on North Byron Road, Elba, this morning, causing it to go into a ditch and overturn.

The driver, Elmer Perez-Garcia, 17, of Morristown, Tenn., suffered only minor injuries in the accident and did not require hospital treatment.

Perez-Garcia was cited for alleged failure to maintain lane and driving without a license.

A witness told Deputy Chris Parker that he saw Perez-Garcia's van cross into the eastbound lane and the driver appeared to be "doing something" inside the van prior to losing control.

October 19, 2011 - 12:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Announcements, GCC, Gensee County Bar Association.

Press release:

The Genesee County Community College and the Genesee County Bar Association have partnered together to offer the community the “Citizen’s Law Series,” a legal educational series designed to educate residents with practical legal information on a number of common legal actions. 

“The legal series is designed to increase public awareness and knowledge of the legal system and how it works.  Each two hour seminar will give the attendees practical information about timely legal issues including topics such as criminal law, wills and estates and small claims and civil actions.  We are hoping that we can continue this series in the future on different topics as well,” noted Durin B. Rogers, Esq, President of the Genesee County Bar Association (GCBA). 

Raymon Chaya, GCC’s Director of the BEST Center, approached the GCBA with the collaborative idea earlier this year after hearing about the great success the Jamestown community had with its program. 

“Big decisions require first knowing what information you need to know and what questions you need to ask.  Making a decision to take legal action is serious and knowing basic information about a specific area of law and the legal process involved can save time and money in addition to minimizing personal, emotional, and social difficulties,” said Chaya. 

This valuable educational outreach opportunity will be presented by experienced practicing attorneys who can describe in common terms what an appropriate action is, what the law covers as well what you are likely to experience during the process.   

GCBA’s Citizen’s Law Series Committee Chairperson, Lisa M. Kroemer, Esq. noted why she became involved in the program. 

“I feel very strongly that as attorneys we should spend some of our time educating the public . . .”    Formed in 1912 for the purposes of promoting reform in the law, facilitating the administration of justice, and elevating the standards of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession , the GCBA today boasts a membership of approximately 100 attorney members.

The first of three seminars will occur on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 from 7-9pm at GCC and will take up the topic of Criminal Law, moderated by local Criminal Defense Attorney, Frederick M. Rarick, Esq. 

The second series titled “Putting Your House in Order-Wills, Estates, and other things you should know” will occur on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 and the third series, “Small Claims, Big Claims and other Civil Matters” will take place on Tuesday, December 13, 2011. 

All times will be 7pm-9pm at GCC and cost $10 for each 2 hour course attended.  Those interested in attending may register by contacting the BEST Center at 585-345-6868.

October 19, 2011 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center’s (GCEDC) Advanced Manufacturing and Nano-Technology Certificate training program has passed the halfway point and 24 students are on track to graduate on Nov. 18, 2011. Students have engaged in classroom work at Genesee Community College (GCC) and hands-on training at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

“Going to RIT was one of the most exciting days so far, Statistical Processing Control was fascinating,” said Dawn Hart, program participant. “Finally I understand how some of the formulas we learned during statistics class can be applied to the manufacturing process."

The Advanced Manufacturing and Nano-Technology program is funded by a grant from the New York State Office of Community Renewal and is free to the current participants. The training program is designed to prepare participants for entry level manufacturing positions by introducing them to the skill sets necessary to succeed in a high-tech and advanced- manufacturing environment. GCEDC, in conjunction with GCC and RIT have developed the program in an effort to bridge the gap between employers and prospective employees.

Not only are the students learning lean manufacturing, blueprint reading, CAD, programmable systems and other core skills, but they have the opportunity to tour local manufacturing operations and hear from industry experts. Greatbach Medical, Automotive Corp., Liberty Pumps, Syntec Optics, Sigma LLC, and Alpina Foods have all participated in the training program, connecting with students and further validating the need for this type of training. 

“I was pleasantly surprised with the type of questions asked by the class when I had completed the condensed employee orientation presentation,” said Doug Smith, plant manager at Automotive Corp. in Batavia. “I believe that the class represents an excellent first group for the launch of the program and their efforts will result in contributing to the future of the program."

Successful program participants will earn a certificate in Advanced Manufacturing and Nano-Technology and have an opportunity to meet with local employers at the conclusion of the program. Participants will be surveyed in the future to gain further insight into the program’s success in placing persons into jobs, or fostering an interest in an individual to continue in this field of study. 

With many local manufacturers expressing an interest in the graduates of this program, the GCEDC, in conjunction with GCC and RIT, will continue to seek funding for this certificate program.

October 19, 2011 - 12:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime.

A man with ties to both Wyoming and Genesee counties, who is wanted in Florida, may be in the area according to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

A car from Florida that may have been brought to the area by Michael Jay Finch was located Tuesday in the Village of Wyoming.

The car was reported stolen in Florida.

Finch is wanted on a battery by strangulation charge by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

The 32-year-old Finch is described as 5'6" tall, 180 lbs., with a shaved or bald head.

Finch should be considered dangerous, the Sheriff's Office said.

Anybody with information about Finch should call 9-1-1 immediately.

UPDATE: According to Sheriff Gary Maha, Finch has been taken into custody. Finch was spotted by a Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy exiting a cemetery in the Village of Wyoming. At the time of his arrest, Finch allegedly possessed a kitchen knife and pepper spray.

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