Leaders of Western Regional Off-track Betting Corp. are lining up support to turn Batavia Downs into a full-service casino and they took their case to the Genesee County Legislature on Wednesday.
In a meeting with the Ways and Means Committee, three representatives of Batavia Downs told the committee that getting Genesee County's support for the plan is crucial to lining up support from the other 15 counties that co-own Western Regional OTB.
"You're the key," said Mike Nolan, VP of administration for Western Regional OTB and Batavia Downs. "You're the host county and the place where we live. You gain the most to benefit from what happens at Batavia Downs. We're hoping you can be the leader so we can go to the other municipalities and say we have your support."
The committee unanimously approved a resolution supporting Batavia Downs becoming one of the nine racing facilities in New York to offer table games along with slot machines.
Legislator Mary Pat Hancock said she isn't fully supportive of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's push to legalize casino gambling across the board in New York, but she could support this resolution because it limits gaming to just the existing racing and video-terminal facilities (often called "racinos").
The earliest Batavia Downs could offer table games -- such as blackjack and poker -- would be January 2014.
For that to happen, the current State Legislature and the next one seated must approve a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos, and then the amendment would be voted on in a statewide referendum.
During the process, state lawmakers would need to also pass enabling legislation that would government how the casinos are run.
If all of that could happen by November 2013, then Batavia Downs could start offering new games and begin construction expanding the existing facilities -- creating 1,000 construction jobs and leading to more than 400 new full-time jobs at the casino.
Nolan (top photo), who met with the committee along with Mike Kane, president and CEO, and OTB Board Member Richard Siebert, said there is still opposition from Senecas, but that is an issue for the governor's office to deal with. In the meantime, Batavia Downs needs to line up its own support and make its own plans in the hope that casino gambling is approved in New York.
It's apparently getting easier for drunken drivers to avoid DWI checkpoints so the governor's office is funding an experimental program for "enhanced" checkpoints.
Genesee County has been selected, along with Erie and Westchester, as one of three counties statewide to test the program, according to Assistant County Manager Frank Ciaccia.
The Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to approve acceptance of a state grant of $21,755 to fund the operation of six enhanced roadblocks.
Unlike most grants, where the state sets the amount of money it will make available, local officials were able to determine a budget for the program and tell the state how much it needed.
The enhanced checkpoints will be multi-agency efforts, involving the Sheriff's Office, State Police, Batavia Police Department and the Le Roy Police Department.
At each of the six checkpoints, the lead agency will set up and run the roadblock while patrols from other participating agencies will prowl the streets around the checkpoint looking for drivers who are seemingly trying to avoid getting stopped.
Ciaccia said drivers have learned to look ahead for checkpoints, see the lights, and make a turn to avoid them, but there are also apps available now that people can download to their smartphones that will give them advance warning of checkpoints.
Legislator Ray Cianfrini, an attorney, expressed concern that the enhanced checkpoint program may run into legal issues because, for example, not everybody making a left-hand turn is doing so to avoid a checkpoint.
"Anybody who doesn't go through a roadblock is now suspicious?" Cianfrini said. "Innocent people who have nothing to hide are going to get dragged into the whole thing and I'm not comfortable with the concept."
No dates were announced for the checkpoints.
The Sheriff's Office will act as lead agency on four checkpoints, and Batavia and Le Roy will each conduct one.
State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has introduced legislation in the New York State Senate to reinstate the STAR rebate check program for senior citizens. Senate Bill No. S6286 would provide seniors, who qualify for the Senior STAR exemption, with a rebate check.
“Property taxes are a serious burden for seniors, making it more difficult for them to afford the increased costs of staying in their homes. That is why I have proposed a bill in the State Senate to reinstate the STAR rebate check program and restore property tax relief to senior homeowners,” Senator Ranzenhofer said.
Senator Ranzenhofer also has authored legislation, Senate Bill No. S4338, to reinstate the Middle Class STAR rebate check program. Restoring the program for homeowners would provide $141.5 million in tax relief for Western New Yorkers.
“One of the reasons why I opposed the 2009-10 State Budget was because it eliminated the STAR rebate check program. The 2009-10 State Budget also failed to offer homeowners a rain check to make up for the loss in tax relief. As a result, the average New York household has had to pay an additional $900 in property taxes each year since that time. Passing this legislation is a start to return the tax relief which was taken away,” Ranzenhofer said.
Initiated in 2006, the STAR rebate check program was eliminated in the 2009-10 State Budget. Senator Ranzenhofer, along with many of his colleagues in the State Senate, lead the fight by starting a petition drive to restore the program shortly thereafter. The discontinuation of the program cost the average New York household $900 per year.
Lee Uzarowski, 44, of South Lake Road, Pembroke, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th, and harassment, 2nd. Uzarowski is accused of punching a woman in the face and taking her mobile phone when she attempted to call 9-1-1. He was jailed on $1,000 bail.
Sean Allen Kota, 18, of Byron Holley Road, Byron, and a 17-year-old of Warboys Road, Bryon, are charged with petit larceny. Kota and his companion are accused of stealing beer from the Bergen Sugar Creek Store. From a separate incident, Kota is also charged with criminal mischief, 4th. At 2:47 a.m., Jan. 28, Kota allegedly drove his vehicle through a yard on West Bergen Road causing damage.
The amount of carcinogenic agent reportedly found in a water sample from a private well in Le Roy is at a concentration level below legal limits, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The agency also plans to seek its own sample from the well, but it's unclear if the DEC will investigate further, such as trying to determine the source of the possible containment.
The chemical is known as MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether). It has been used as an additive in gasoline and diesel fuel, but was outlawed for such use in New York in 2004.
Bob Bowcock -- a researcher from California who took water samples in Le Roy more than two weeks ago at the behest of environmentalist / lawyer Erin Brockovich -- said Friday that the chemical turned up in a sample from a private well at a residential property.
According to Bowcock, MTBE could be part of any hydrofracking fluid (there are various mixtures) that uses gasoline or diesel fuel.
Fracking was used to open the natural gas wells on the property of the Le Roy Central School District and there are reports that at least one of the wells suffered a leak or spill of fracking fluid.
DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said DEC staff conferred with Bowcock today and concluded that the sample taken by Bowcock had six micrograms per litre, which is below the state's limit of 10 micrograms per litre.
It's also below the federal Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water advisory for MTBE, which is 20 to 40 micrograms per liter, she said.
DeSantis offered no opinion from the DEC on how the MTBE got into the well, which is according to Bowcock, a little less than a mile from the southeastern-most natural gas well on Le Roy school district property.
Yesterday, the DEC -- through spokeswoman DeSantis -- expressed little interest in Bowcock's reported finding. DeSantis maintained that MTBE is not used in fracking fluid and the DEC had no reason to believe the company that fracked the Le Roy school wells used MTBE as part of its mixture.
After being pressed for more information, DeSantis arranged for Bowcock to speak with DEC staff. It was only after further email exchanges with The Batavian that DeSantis confirmed the DEC would conduct its own testing.
Since 2008, companies engaged in fracking gas wells are required to disclose the chemicals used in the process, DeSantis said.
"While the most recently drilled wells on the LeRoy CSD property were permitted prior to this requirement, the well driller informed us of the chemicals used to fracture the wells and MTBE was not used," DeSantis said. "Again, MTBE is not used in hydraulic fracturing."
When told of DeSantis's statement, Bowcock said he was flabbergasted by her response. He said prior to even coming to Le Roy, he had had conversations with DEC staff on other matters about MTBE being in fracking fluid.
While there are numerous environmental websites that say MTBE is contained in fracking fluid, it's harder to locate a neutral source online, even the EPA.
Bowcock supplied an EPA document that said a Bureau of Land Management report confirmed MTBE in fracking fluid, but the same paragraph in the same document says the EPA has not confirmed the use of MTBE in fracking.
EPA also obtained two environmental impact statements that were prepared by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In these impact statements, BLM identified additional chemical compounds that may be in fracturing fluids including methyl tert butyl ether (MTBE) (U.S. Department of the Interior, CO State BLM, 1998). However, EPA was unable to find any indications in the literature, on MSDSs, or in interviews with service companies that MTBE is used in fracturing fluids to stimulate coal-bed methane wells.
The MTBE issue isn't his main focus, Bowcock said, but resolving the issue for property owners is important to him. Further testing could make the case for the homes to be put on public water -- possibly at the expense of the energy companies (paid for, possibly, as part of a prior environmental settlement).
Michael A. Nicometo, 27, of 37 Lake St., Le Roy, is charged with four counts of criminally possessing a hypodermic instrument and one count of criminally using drug paraphernalia, 2nd. Nicometo was allegedly found in possession of the instruments after police and EMS responded to his residence for a report of an unresponsive male.
Cheri Monea Patterson, 19, of Cottage Street, Lockport, is charged with petit larceny. Patterson is accused of stealing $45.46 in merchandise from Kmart.
Ryan N. Bartholomew, 18, of Adams Street, Batavia, is charged with two counts of petit larceny. Bartholomew is accused of shoplifting from Kmart.
Rebecca Jean Viedeffer, 43, of Franklin Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny and criminally possession of stolen property. Viedeffer is accused of stealing two official 2012 NYS trailer inspection stickers and possessing them in the Town of Pavilion.
Barry R. Robinson, 29, of 16 Park Ave., Brockport, is charged with promoting prison contraband, 1st, unlawful possession of marijuana, DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, aggravated unlicensed operation, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to keep right, unsafe tires and unlawful possession of marijuana. Robinson was arrested at 1:54 a.m. Sunday on Clinton Street by Officers Darryl Streeter and Marc Lawrence following an accident in which Robinson apparently lost control of his vehicle and drove off the roadway. Robinson's driver's license allegedly had 19 prior suspensions. He was jailed on $2,000 bail. At 8:29 p.m., Sunday, while in the Genesee County Jail, Robinson was allegedly found in possession of six bags of marijuana in his sock and underwear. Investigators said the marijuana appeared to be packaged for sale. Robinson is scheduled to reappear in Batavia City Court at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday.
Paul Hipolito Colon, 29, of Marne Street, Rochester, is charged with possession of untaxed cigarettes and failure to stop at stop sign. Colon was stopped at 9:31 a.m. Friday on Akron Road, Pembroke, by Sgt. Brian Frieday for an alleged traffic violation. Colon was allegedly found in possession of 400 untaxed cigarettes.
Delmus M. Holton, 35, of Clinton Street, Rochester; Preston L. Lawrence, 38, of Afton Street Rochester; and, Ray M. Little, 49, of Langham Street, Rochester, are charged with trespass. At 10:56 a.m. Friday, a resident in Bergen reported seeing a suspicious vehicle in the area of 7427 Clinton St. Road, Bergen. The vehicle was located, parked off the road, across the street from Demo's Truck Parts. The three men allegedly entered the Demo's property without permission. (Initial report)
Jason M. Norton, 39, and Michelle T. Norton, 51, of 7198 Pekin Road, Oakfield, are charged with trespass (both), disorderly conduct (Jason only) and resisting arrest (Jason only). The husband and wife duo were arrested following an alleged incident at a West Main Street business.
A 17-year-old resident of Le Roy is charged with petit larceny, criminal possesion of stolen property, 5th, and burglary, 3rd. The youth was arrested Saturday morning after Le Roy PD received a report of a person going through several vehicles in the parking lot at 18 Genesee St., Le Roy. The youth was apprehended following a brief foot chase. Property was found at the scene and Le Roy PD is asking anybody who may have missing property to contact the police department. Le Roy PD did not release the name of the suspect.
Timothy James Ziminski, 19, of Walden Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, 5th, and displaying forged inspection certificate. Ziminski was allegedly found to have a forged and stolen inspection sticker on his vehicle.
A father saved his baby son today moments before the room where he was sleeping burst into flames.
Peter Dart was downstairs in a two-resident house at 7650 Macomber Road, Alabama, when he and his wife smelled smoke.
He rushed upstairs to his 13-month-old son's room. The room was filled with smoke, smoke so thick he couldn't see anything.
He had laid the toddler down for a nap just 30 minutes earlier.
Dart found the boy's crib just by memory, grabbed him, pulled him to his chest and rushed out of the house.
Investigators have determined the cause of the fire was related to an electric heater plugged into an extension cord.
The fire was reported by Dart's wife at 10:36 a.m. When the first firefighters arrived on scene from East Pembroke, the northwest corner of the 180-year-old house was fully engulfed in flames.
Lorna Klotzbach, a Town of Alabama Planning Board member, owned the house and lived in the other half.
The house sits in an area of Alabama without public water. Tankers were dispatched to the scene from 15 fire departments to draw water from creeks, ponds and the closest fire hydrant.
Many of the nearby ponds had frozen over in the past couple of days, making it harder to draw water from them, said East Pembroke Chief Don Newton.
"A good supply of water definitely would have helped," Newton said. "We ran out of water quite a few times. We did not have enough water to fight the fire to the best of our ability."
The entire second floor of the house was destroyed.
Newton said much of the first floor was saved, and the residents would be able to recover personal belongings from downstairs.
The wind and cold weather didn't help in fighting the fire, either, Newton said.
Dart's son was taken by private vehicle to UMMC and treated for smoke inhalation. Dart said he is doing fine.
At least four emergency responders suffered minor injuries related to the incident. One firefighter was transported to UMMC with a hand injury.
At least one of Klotzbach's three cats survived the fire and Lorna said her dogs escaped safely.
Responding to the scene, along with East Pembroke, were Alabama, Town of Batavia, Oakfield, Darien, City of Batavia's Fast Team, Pembroke, Indian Falls, Elba, Barre, East Shelby, Byron, South Byron, Alexander, Bergen, Attica, Wolcottsville, Mercy EMS and the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
CORRECTION: We initially reported the child was a girl. That was based on what I thought for sure was the father saying "she" when I interviewed him. Even after reviewing the tape, that's what I thought I heard; however, there is some wind on the recording. Another, reliable source assures me the child is a boy. The story has been changed accordingly.
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