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June 13, 2016 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian.

Many readers probably remember that about three months ago I had surgery for a detached retina. I was unable to work for three weeks.

That surgery went well and I seem to have healed fine. Now it's time to have the silicon oil put in my eye to hold the retina in place while it healed removed. That surgery is this morning.

This time, the doctor says I can't work for a week.

At least, if all goes well, when it's over, my vision should be back to where it was.

We have our great freelancers to help with coverage, and Billie, of course, and our news partnerships with WBTA and 13WHAM to help out, so we should be fine, but that's why I won't be doing much over the next week.

June 12, 2016 - 7:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Flag Day, VA Hospital, batavia, news.

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Michael Mazutta, an Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran, was the keynote speaker at a Flag Day ceremony this afternoon at the VA hospital in Batavia.

Included in the ceremony were certificates of appreciation to Vernon Rowe and Joe Gerace. After Rowe received his certificate from Mazutta, he volunteered to present Gerace with his certificate.

Students from Batavia Middle School presented handmade gifts to the veterans who are residents at the hospital.

The St. Joe's band performed after the ceremony.

Prior to his invocation, Chaplain Robert Chambers called for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando and then prayed for them and their grieving families.

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June 12, 2016 - 6:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in MöbileSchlägen, Oakfield, business, news.

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Three guys in Oakfield think they've hit the nail on the head when it comes to their new business.

They've put a new twist on an old German game. They introduced the concept at a tournament yesterday held at the Caryville Inn.

The game is MöbileSchlägen, a portable version of hammerschlägen.

In schlägen, you get a cross-peen hammer and a nail and you get one whack at the nail per turn, hitting it with the wedge (or peen) end. The starting position is with the hammer on the table outside the wood block, making it harder to aim. The nail is tapped in to a depth equal to a line on the hammer, so everybody starts at an equal distance.

The first person with the head of the nail flush with the wood wins.

"Being first is pretty cool, but the last thing you want to do is be last," said Marc Johnson, one of the co-inventors of the mobile version of the game.

Last means ridicule from your buddies, at the least, and if alcohol is involved, it might mean buying a round of drinks.

Teasing and harassing is part of the fun of the game, because if you can goad a competitor into talking while he or she holds the hammer, (the rule is, "no hammer talk") that person loses a turn.

Johnson said for years, every time he hosts a party at his house, he and the guests play hammerschlägen, but hauling around the giant tree stumps needed for the game made it impractical for tailgate parties or picnics.

A few years ago, he brought two logs to a family gathering in Vermont and that's when he started to think there had to be a better way.

"Everybody loved it, but it killed my back," Johnson said. "It was a bad idea. You’re on a mountain and you’re rolling those stumps around."

When he got home, he and his friend James Betters started imagining a mobile version of the game, but lacked the engineering background to make it a reality, so Dan Mangus joined the team.

They formed a company, drew up their plans and filed for a patent, which was issued in March.

The end-grain wood plate, which can be laser etched with any possible logo, fits snuggly in a hard plastic base, which rests on sturdy, but foldable, legs.

"Basically, it fits in a bag that looks like a big banjo and you can throw it over your shoulder and carry it a lot easier than a 300-pound stump," Mangus said.

It took a few prototypes to get the right design and then a long search to find the right end-grain wood with the right density to take in a pounded nail easily, but not too easily. 

And lest would-be competitors might think they can make their own log inserts (the inserts need to be replaced after they fill up with nails), the design requires a properly cut and fitted log into the reverse-cupped holder. This design not only improves safety and durability, but with the patent, it also prevents copycat manufacturers from making replacement parts.

Some 40 or 50 people showed up for the game's public debut at the Caryville Inn yesterday to compete in the first official MöbileSchlägen tournament.  

There seemed to be no shortage of fun nor frustration during the tournament.

The next big step for the entrepreneurs is a Kickstarter campaign to fund the manufacturing of games for consumers. If that does well, they hope to ship the first games to customers by Spring.

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June 12, 2016 - 12:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, Stafford, news.

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Returning from Le Roy last night, I stopped for a few scenic shots.

Above, a tractor in a field off Randall Road, Stafford.

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A barn off Randall Road.

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One of my favorite trees (we had a picture just last week) off Route 33 in Stafford.

June 12, 2016 - 12:34pm

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Collin Raye, who is celebrating 25 years as a recording artist this year, opened the 2016 concert season at Frostridge last night with a set that highlighted his #1 hits and other fan favorites.

Before the show, he met with fans who had purchased VIP passes, including one who presented him with a handmade guitar strap. He also posed for a picture with Frostridge owners David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell.

Among the opening acts were the Morgan Twins.

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June 11, 2016 - 3:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia.

City fire is dispatched to Maple Street near Thorpe for a tree stump on fire in a yard.

June 10, 2016 - 7:57pm

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If you visited Valle Jewelers today, you probably met Megan Williams, mother of Brady, 9, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 20 months.

The Williams family of Oakfield is one of the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation families around the nation that raises money to help fight pediatric cancer. The family has raised more than $30,000 for the foundation, mostly through the lemonade stand they set up every year at Oakfield's Labor Days festival.

Today, as they did last year, Valle's donated 10 percent of all sales to the foundation. 

Plus you got a free cup of lemonade from Megan.

The foundation today had a goal of raising $1 million nationally, through the participation of 36 families, representing the 36 children diagnosed every day with cancer.

June 10, 2016 - 7:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, BID, public market, farmers market, business, news.

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The new public market -- a merger of the Business Improvement District's public market and the Genesee County Farmers' Market -- opened at Bank Street and Alva Place today.

A new vendor this year is Big Bossman's BBQ, run by Anthony Person, of Lockport.

Person said his family has a long tradition in the food business, and after his mother died recently, he wanted to keep the tradition going.

Fighting back tears, Pearson told WBTA's Alex Feig that he was president of his mother's company, Mrs. Ribs, but after she died, he didn't want to trade on her name, so he bought his own truck and called it Big Bossman's, a name his parents used for their first restaurant, which they ran out of their home.

The recipes have been handed down generation after generation in his family, from mother to mother to mother, going back to the family's days as slaves in the South. 

He was pleased to get invited to be a vendor in Batavia, he said.

"I’m a small businessman just trying to make an honest living just like anybody else, always looking for a way to expand my market, sell my product in new areas, and Batavia, I’ve always wanted to come this way and the Farmers' Market offered me a chance to showcase my cuisine," he said.

The market will be open for business from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and will run through Oct. 28, weather permitting.

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June 10, 2016 - 6:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, sports, news.

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It's probably never happened in Batavia HS history -- three players participating in three different sports across the course of a single school year winning Section V title patches.

This year, Andrew Mruczek, Jake Schrider and Adonis Davis did it in football, basketball and track.

At a school that won six sectional titles this year, a few of other athletes came close, but the trifecta is a singular accomplishment.

"It means a lot to us," Schrider said. "It means we worked hard."

Davis agreed.

"It means hard work paid off," Davis said. "Going to summer camps and workouts to try and reach our goal to be sectional champions. It showed more this year."

It's also an accomplishment that hasn't drawn a lot of attention at school, Davis said. Everybody knows they're champions, but the never-before trifecta hasn't sunk in with the student body.

"They know we've won," Davis said. "They're proud of us, I guess, but they probably just haven't put it all together."

Athletic Director Michael Bromley said it's a great accomplishment that is rarely achieved by athletes in the region. In boys sports this year, Andrew Mruczek, Trevor Sherwood (football and basketball) and Noah Dobbertin (football and wrestling) came the closest when the baseball team lost a title game to Aquinas 2-1, and though several girls got two titles this year, none got quite as close to a third title.

Batavia was blessed with a great group of seniors this year, Bromley said, but also, a great homegrown coaching staff that is also very focused on success and the hard work it takes to achieve it.

The senior athletes, Bromley said, really came together this year and supported each other and their teammates as they competed throughout the year. Athletes not in competition jumped the stands as part of the Blue Zoo, the school's cheering section. They also rallied the school throughout each school day.

"They’re really going to be missed around here," Bromley said. "They were good leaders. They were positive leaders. They were role models. Sometimes you get classes come through who are not those things and this class really was and the school is going to miss them."

The support of classmates and teachers was really a motivating factor all year long, Davis said. 

"Everyone tells us they will come out the games and stuff and you don’t want to disappoint when you have a bunch of teachers and a bunch of students saying they’re coming," Davis said. "That motivates us when people are watching to do it for them.”

It's especially helpful, he said, with road games against bigger Monroe County schools.

"When we travel to other places against bigger schools, our fan base goes with us, and just having people behind us to cheer us on to at the other schools, the bigger schools, it’s more fun," he said.

Brennen Briggs, football, Buddy Brasky, basketball, and Nick Burke, track, are all Batavia HS graduates and lifelong residents. Bromley thinks that further fuels their dedication to the school and the athletic program.

"The time commitment they put into ti and the love they have for Batavia High School is evident," Bromley said. "Those guys are 12-month-a-year coaches. If you go by the track, come by the football field, go by a weight room, come by a gym, one of those guys is probably doing something.

"The real special part about it," he added, "is it seems over recent years is they’ve really come together. They support each other, they share kids, so that’s why we’re seeing a lot of success."

All three share a high level of commitment to hard work and motivating their kids to work hard and stick through the tough things, but given the nature of team sports, Briggs and Brasky also model hard work by watching hours and hours of game film week after week.

"They spend days each week on just looking at film and trying to figure out what we can do to be successful," Bromley said. "The kids have bought into that. They know the coaches are going to work hard for them, so that’s why they work hard."

Asked which coach is the toughest on them, Mruczek, Schrider and Davis said Brasky is, hands down.

"He takes you to a whole new level," Mruczek said. "You've got to be tough. He drives you hard."

Schrider said there's no slacking off during a Brasky-led practice.

"You've got to give 120 percent the whole time," Schrider said.

Davis said that drive made Brasky kind of an "old-fashioned coach," but in a good way.

"When we do stuff, he wants us to be perfect and I think that’s what helps us in games," Davis said. "When we’re practicing, we're doing reps over and over and over again and then we’re more prepared than the other team."

Of the three athletes, only Mruczek has another upcoming season with Brasky, and rather than fearing the intensity, he's looking forward to it.

"It makes me want to be successful," said Mruczek, whose goal for 2016-17 is to repeat the trifecta.

The hard work, the focus on success, has helped each of the young men grow, they said, carrying over to school work and the rest of life.

"I think success on the field is helping me to be successful in school, because being on a sports team, it takes hard work and then in the classroom you’ve got to work hard there, too," Mruczek said.

Davis said he thinks he was still pretty young when he first joined the football team and got exposed to the dedication demanded by Briggs, but he learned quickly that dedication and hard work pays off and that has helped him beyond just athletics and even beyond academics.

"At first, I wasn’t really into putting into much time into sports," said Davis, who now intends to attend SUNY Brockport, compete in track and pursue a degree in athletic training. "Once I did, then everything else, plus the sports, I put more time into it, school, helping out in the community. I volunteered for a camp, a football camp for little kids and I never thought I would  do that. I just put time into stuff. It transfers over to everything else and I think it helped me."

There is a clear connection between athletic success and academic and life success, Bromley said. In athletics, you learn about the value of practice and repetition, how to deal with setbacks and how to work on a common goal with others -- all lessons that carry onto all aspects of adult life.

"Sports are life lessons," Bromley said. "That’s pretty much what it is. That’s probably the area in the academic world where you learn it the most. I would say, after school from 3 to 5, those kids are learning life lessons that they’re going to use forever. Hopefully, they leave after this year and they go on and they’re successful in college and they’re successful parents and some of them come back and coach. That would be great."

June 10, 2016 - 12:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, Elba HS, Elba Drama Club, entertainment, arts, news.

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The Drama Club of Elba High School presents a performance tonight that highlights the past 10 years of musicals performed by the Club, including selections from "The King and I," "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Cats" and "My Fair Lady." The performances will be followed by senior awards.

The show starts at 7 p.m. in the Elba Central School theater and tickets are $3 per person.

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June 10, 2016 - 2:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, Stafford, news.

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A car has reportedly hit a tree in the area of 9294 Fargo Road.

Unknown injuries.

Stafford fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 2:45 a.m.: Mercy Flight requested to the scene. Landing zone is about 20 yards south of Sweetland Road. 

UPDATE 3:20 a.m.: More manpower requested to the scene for search and rescue for a possible third victim.

UPDATE 3:59 a.m.: it's unclear if a third person was involved. The possible third person may have been the driver.  On person transported by Mercy Flight in pain but conscious  Le Roy also on scene  

UPDATE(S) (By Billie) 3:31 a.m.: A Town of Batavia engine and thermal imaging camera are requested to the scene to provide mutual aid, along with a rescue unit and thermal imaging camera from Le Roy, non-emergency mode. An emergency coordinator is also called to the scene. The location is between Sweetland and Clapsaddle roads.

UPDATE 4:39 a.m.: A male was transported via Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital. A female was taken there by ambulance. The female indicated a third person may have been in the vehicle, but rescuers searched both sides of Fargo Road and after combing the area, found no one. They are wrapping up the search and preparing to leave the scene.

UPDATE (By Howard): The female involved in the accident has admitted she was the driver and there was no third person in the vehicle, according to the Sheriff's Office. The female is identified as Nicole K. Sullivan, 30. She was transported to Strong by Mercy EMS with head and leg injuries. She reportedly told deputies at 5:45 a.m. that she was the driver, after allegedly telling them at the scene, that there was another driver, but couldn't identify him and she didn't know where he went. Additional volunteer firefighters from Stafford, Batavia and Le Roy were called to the scene for a foot search of the area, with the use of FLIR technology. The search failed to locate anybody. The passenger in the vehicle is identified as Zachery W. Schwarts, 20, who was transported to Strong by Mercy Flight #5. He was initially unresponsive when emergency personnel arrived on scene, but was conscious when he was extricated from the vehicle. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending. The investigation is being conducted by Deputy Eric Meyer, Sgt. John Baicocco and Investigator Joseph Graff.

June 8, 2016 - 4:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Castilone, batavia, news, City Fire, business.

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City firefighters have two new buildings that they can use for training because they are scheduled to be demolished.

Today, a crew practiced a second-floor window escape. The scenario is that a fire has expanded and blocked the stairwell, so the only way out is through a window. A few years ago, the state required fire departments to acquire the necessary equipment to make such escapes possible after a tragedy in NYC where firefighters had to jump from the upper story windows of a burning building.

The new Ladder 15 was used in the training, but only as a safety backup. Typically, the urgency of the situation and the fact Ladder 15 would be tied up on other tasks at the fire scene would mean it wouldn't be available to hoist a backup rope to safety.  

In this scenario, firefighters knocked a hole in a bedroom wall to expose a beam they could use as an anchor for a rope.

The two former houses are on West Main Street, just west of Castilone Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. The dealership acquired the property to further expand its new car lot. Demolition is scheduled to begin June 20.

Before then, Batavia's Emergency Response Team will also use the houses for training and drills.

Castilone also just signed a contract to acquire the property at the corner of West Main and Vernon Avenue. That property was once proposed as a new location for an Arby's Restaurant, but the plan met stiff opposition from Vernon Avenue residents. Steve Castilone said he also already met with neighborhood representatives and discussed his plans with them.

"I sat down with them and I told them all, ‘whatever is going to make you people happy, I’ll do,' " he said. " 'If I do something that makes you unhappy, I’ll change it. If I put a light up and it shines in your windows, I’ll move it.’ They asked me to not put a driveway on their street and I said when I’m done I’ll close the driveway off. They were delighted. What would you rather have, a drive-thru Arby’s on the corner or stationary parked cars?”

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June 8, 2016 - 11:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in ARC, batavia, news.

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Local law enforcement officers -- including troopers, deputies and police officers, carried the Special Olympic torch in a run from Elba to Batavia, finishing at the ARC center on Oak Street.

June 8, 2016 - 7:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in charity, byron, news.

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That last community fundraiser you went to with a chance auction (often called a Chinese auction) and a 50-50 raffle, it probably violated state law.

These common fundraising tactics used frequently by groups coming together for a sudden and unexpected hardship or tragedy that hits a member of our community are not allowed by state law, according to Rich Kaczynski, from the New York State Gaming Commission, who spoke Tuesday night at the South Byron Fire Hall.

The event, hosted by the South Byron Volunteer Fire Department, was prompted by the recent discovery by several local volunteer departments that their longtime fundraising events may have, at best, skirted the edge of state law.

This year, Stafford fire canceled its Corvette raffle and Town of Batavia fire canceled its annual Harley raffle. In both cases, the departments are looking to better understand the law.

Kaczynski's department regulates four types of games of chance -- bingos, raffles, bell jar tickets and casino night type of games.

The state allows certain types of nonprofit groups to use these games as fundraisers, including volunteer fire departments, service organizations, fraternal groups, veterans groups and religious organizations.

For bingos, the group need only have existed one year before applying for a license, but for all other games of chance allowed by the state, the organization must have existed for at least three years.

It's that last provision that may most frequently put community fundraisers for victims of hardship into legally questionable territory. Often these efforts are created by ad hoc groups of people who are friends of the family and are not legally established groups in existence for at least three years. 

Sometimes, these raffles are organized by established nonprofits, but if the fundraising isn't for the legally defined purpose of the group, then it also runs afoul of state regulation, according to Kaczynski. For example, a volunteer fire department can't hold a raffle to raise money for a member stricken by cancer.

To assist that cancer victim, there would need to be a three-year-old organization with the express mission of raising money for cancer victims, or similar hardships.

For the sake of extending the example, then, Genesee Cancer Assistance could host such a raffle, but only members of Genesee Cancer Assistance could conduct the raffle, and to be a member eligible to conduct the raffle, you must be a member for a least a year prior to the raffle.

The good news, perhaps, is that for small organizations, the bureaucracy of fundraising through games of chance isn't quite as cumbersome as it is for groups raising larger sums of money.

Groups that will hold raffles that generate a profit of more than $5,000 on a single raffle, or whose total profit for the year on raffles exceeds $20,000 in profit fall into Category 2 of New York gaming law and have more paperwork to deal with. Groups that reach Category 1 have more paperwork and pay a 2-percent tax on profits over $30,000 in a calendar year.

If your raffle efforts fall in Category 3 (below $5,000 in profit on a single auction, less than $20,000 profit in a year), you can self-define your group as meeting state requirements for existing for three years (or a year for bingo), not meeting the profit thresholds, falling within the proper categories for games of chance, and managing your funds within state guidelines.

Groups in categories 2 and 3 must register with the state and once they receive a state ID number, apply for a license from the town, village or city clerk where the group is organized.

In all three categories, if they want to sell raffle tickets outside of their home jurisdictions, they can sell only within jurisdictions within their same county and in the municipalities in counties contiguous with their home county. They cannot venture outside of that group of contiguous boundaries to sell tickets. For example, no selling tickets to your cousin in California. If your cousin from California wants a raffle ticket for your gun raffle in South Byron, he must fly to Buffalo, drive to South Bryon, enter your fire hall and buy a ticket with cash, and only cash.

In order for a group in any of the three categories to sell in a contiguous jurisdiction, they must request a letter of authorization the municipality's clerk. For example, if you're a volunteer with the South Byron Fire Department and you work at Graham Manufacturing, your department needs authorization from the City Clerk of Batavia in order for you to sell raffle tickets to your coworkers.

That applies to every single possible contiguous jurisdiction. If there are 20 contiguous municipalities, the organization needs 20 different letters of authorization.

If you're a business owner and a volunteer with South Byron and your business is located in the Town of Byron, you can sell raffle tickets at your business, but your employees can't sell raffle tickets unless they're related to you by blood or marriage.

A volunteer fire department can get a license to fund raise through a game of chance, but in order for the Ladie's Auxillary to help with that fundraiser, it must get its own state ID, and the same applies for the "Sons of" organizations. With all three groups properly licensed, and duly noted on the proper paperwork, they can assist each other in games-of-chance fundraisers, but otherwise, only members with at least a year of membership can participate.

If you want to hold a casino night, the gaming implements must be owned by the organization or rented from a licensed company, or, if approved, borrowed from an organization that owns the tables and wheels and cards and dice. Only members of the organization can deal cards or spin roulette wheels.  

Even if your casino night doesn't have a buy in, if it's based on chance and has prizes, it's regulated by the state.

If you're running a game that isn't authorized by the gaming commission regulation -- such as a Texas hold 'em tournament -- you're likely violating state antigambling laws.

Your blackjack tournament? It's allowed, but it must be run precisely according to state regulations.

Repeatedly during the presentation, Kaczynski had to remind audience members he was just repeating state law. He doesn't make state law or control state law. That's up to the Legislature, or up to the gaming commission's attorneys to interpret. 

There is legislation pending, supported by Assemblyman Steve Hawley, to help take away some of the difficulties being faced by local groups that have long relied on raffles as primary fund-raising tools.

June 8, 2016 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in auto dealers, Castilone, batavia, business, news.

There are local car dealers upset about a dealer from Dunkirk setting up a temporary sales lot in Batavia this weekend, not because they fear the competition, but because the Dunkirk dealer is taking advantage of a loophole in state law to unfairly compete with their established businesses.

The law isn't just about protecting existing dealers, they say, it's also meant to protect consumers from fly-by-night used car salesmen who don't stick around to service what they sell.

"They move into a small market where they can clobber people over the head and then they leave," said Steve Castilone, co-owner of Castilone Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on West Main Street, Batavia. "That’s what they do. They ram them into a car and then they leave."

Just a few years ago, tent-sale dealers would come to town with their temporary lots, blanket the community with mailers, make a few sales and leave, but the law was changed to require a fixed and physical location before the dealer could receive a license. The Dunkirk dealer, Larry Spacc, has leased office space at 4152 W. Main Street Road, in the Valu Plaza.

Castilone thinks the operation is a sham. He's complained to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, supplying a video taken shortly after Spacc's last sale five months ago. It shows a lot once filled with used cars, by then filled with only potholes, and shots through the windows of Spacc's strip mall office space filled with nothing but promotional posters on the wall and a lone motorcycle. There wasn't a single desk or phone line anywhere in sight.

Greg Strauss, Castilone's business partner, calls these operations, "ghost dealers." He'd like to see them shut down.

When The Batavian attempted to contact the local dealership Tuesday afternoon for comment, a man named Nick answered the phone. We identified ourselves and said we were writing a story about the dealership. There was muffled talk over the earpiece and then Nick came back on the line and said his two managers had just left to get a bite to eat and one of them would return the reporter's call when they returned. No call was returned.

Pending legislation wouldn't close up such temporary dealerships completely, but it would make it harder for them to operate. It would require temporary lots to be set up only within 20 miles of the main dealership. In Spacc's case, Dunkirk is 87 miles from Batavia.

"We do these sales," said Castilone pointing to Spacc's latest mailer, "but I’m not trying to whack you over the head. I’m not trying to sell you a bill of goods. I’m trying to sell you a car. It costs us millions of dollars to be here every year, millions in overhead, and then you have some fly-by-night come in with an $800 storefront and sells you a car and you buy because you think it’s cheaper. It’s not cheaper. It’s more money and the interest rate is going to be higher. I wouldn’t mind if they were doing this sale and they were still down at the end of the street next week."

Guy Pellegrino, Pellegrino Auto Sales of Batavia, shares the concerns of Castillone and Strauss. He's put a lot of money into his business, pays property taxes, employs a local staff and is concerned that a "fly-by-night" operation isn't there to provide support after the sale.

"Competition is a good thing and we all get along well (in town)," Pellegrino said. "We all survive together. But when somebody comes in and sets up a tent, tries to push cars, I don’t agree with that. I don’t like it and I don’t agree with it."

Pellegrino employs 12 people, all local residents, and he recently completed a $300,000 expansion of his facility. That's an investment Spacc hasn't made in our community, he said, nor is Spacc out donating to local charities, sponsoring youth sport teams or showing up at community events.

"We’re here making an investment in the community and doing the best we can for our people and they’re going to sell you an overpriced car with all the gimmicks, and you will likely have issues and where are you going to go?" Pellegrino said. "There’s nothing there.” 

The sales people at these temporary lots are rarely local residents. The temporary lots most often hire experienced used car sales reps from all over the country, people with experience in the hard sell, both Pellegrino and Castilone noted.

The flier you get in the mail may say "sale," and proclaim limited availability, but don't be fooled, the local dealers say, the temporary dealer is out to maximize profits. Putting the right deal together for the customer is the furthest thing from the sales rep's mind.

“You spend all that money and do you really want to deal with a guy who is going to be gone? Here today, gone tomorrow?" Castilone said. "But not everyone understands that when they get one of these fliers in the mail.”

If you walk onto the lot, Pellegrino said, expect the hard sell. Yeah, the local dealers, like any small business, are out to make a buck, but Pellegrino said that at the end of the day, he knows if he sells you a car, he might see you at the next community event he attends. He wants to be able to look you in the eye and be proud of the business he conducted with you.

"(The tent sale) is a circus show," Pellegrino said. "They take the slickest, sharpest sales people and they’re going to make the most money they can on you and they will never see you again and you’ll never see them again. For us, we’re here, we’re in your community, we’re at all of your community events, we sponsor you and support you. Support us and forget the circus show, because that’s all this is is a circus show. "

Castilone employs more than 35 people and Castilone and Strauss have invested more than $2.5 million in remodeling and expanding their business, with another expansion just starting that will raise the total investment to more than $3 million. They pay local taxes on all that property.

Asked about the support Castilone provides to local charity, Steve said they don't normally seek publicity for their contributions, but they support local youth sports teams, sponsor four local charity golf tournaments and recently made a $5,000 contribution to the YMCA for the Y's youth camp. That donation will probably send 20 kids to camp this summer, Strauss said.

"When we did it, my sales manager said we should call the media, get some publicity for it," Castilone said. "I told him, 'no, we know we did it, that's all we need.' We didn't do it for the publicity. We did it because we care about our community."

Yes, Spacc is a fellow auto dealer and yes, Castilone said, his quotes in the media about his practices might upset him, but he said he wasn't worried about that.

“I want him to know that he’s in my backyard and this is our area, so go to Dunkirk and sell your cars to your own community, or open up a legitimate business and stay open 365 days a year where people can call you and come back to you again, and open a shop so you can fix these people’s cars," Castilone said. "Then you know what, it’s all fair competition.” 

June 7, 2016 - 9:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, news.

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Along Route 33 in Stafford this evening.

June 7, 2016 - 5:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, pets, animals, news.

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This pup was lost in Stafford and found by Marrianne Newmark. She called the Sheriff's Office and the dog is being taken to the Genesee County Animal Shelter on West Main Street Road. If you lost your friendly and playful dog, that's where it is.

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June 7, 2016 - 10:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, news, downtown.

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adamtab_june62016.jpgJust 10 years ago, Batavia was a city barely hanging on. Nobody could imagine, said City Manager Jason Molino, that things would have turned around enough by 2016 that Batavia could be a serious contender for a $10 million prize in a competition for downtown revitalization projects.

Genesee County Economic Development Center CEO Steve Hyde said Batavia is certainly a top contender in the Finger Lakes Region because of the progress made, the joint initiatives underway, the recent wins in job creation in Genesee County. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo loves competitions for economic development, Hyde said, and Finger Lakes came out on top a few years ago in a competition of the state's 10 economic development regions, winning a $500 million prize. Of that $500 million, 34 percent is earmarked for use in Genesee County, primarily at the high-tech Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in Alabama. With Dairy Farmers of America taking over the $200 million Quaker Muller food processing plant in the ag park, and 1366 Technologies heading into STAMP, Batavia his hitting all the high points the governor's office looks for in these competitions.

"(At build out), we're talking about 30,000 to 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region," Hyde said. "In the Finger Lakes Region, what other community is poised to benefit off that job growth more than Batavia? It will be difficult for any other community."

Stiff competition may come from Rochester, which is battling one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, and fighting poverty is a key goal of the governor's office, but Rochester also got $100 million from that $500 million prize for its anti-poverty efforts. The $10 million could have a bigger impact in Batavia, which could be a factor in the prize consideration.

"The $10 million is a potential drop in the bucket in terms of explosive transformation for Rochester," Hyde said. "The state likes to look at the leverage model and when it looks at $10 million in Batavia and what it could do in Rochester when they have $100 million already committed, they will look at the marginal benefit. That's just my personal view."

Every city and several villages and towns in the Finger Lakes Region are competing for the same $10 million prize, and we should know by the end of June which community wins the award, which would be spent on projects over a five-year period.

Yesterday's panel discussion at the Generation Center on Center Street, with Molino, Hyde, Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte and County Manager Jay Gsell, was a chance to share with the community how Batavia will respond to the application request and gather feedback on how the questions will be answered.

"You would think for a $10-million prize, they would have a 40-page stack of paperwork, but it's just a two-page application," said Councilman Adam Tabelski (inset photo), who moderated the discussion.

The application needs to address issues about downtown boundaries, mixed use, walkability, public gathering places and economic opportunity.

The city already has traction in some key initiatives, Molino said, most notably its brownfield program, known as the Batavia Opportunity Area, or BOA. An experienced brownfield developer has already committed to redeveloping the former Dellapenna building on Ellicott Street, and there is interest from developers in the city's other four target BOA areas.

"Over the past 18 months, we've seen the most interest yet in investment in Batavia," Molino said.

Just an announcement that the city won the prize, if it won, would generate even more interest, Molino said.

Pacatte said Batavia is getting developer attention because of its mixed-use potential. Downtown scores well on walkability ratings; it has parks and open space, both retail and business space and the city's initiative to bring quality housing to downtown has been tremendously successful. The BDC helped developers open up nine refurbished apartments downtown, and all were leased immediately. The apartments at the former WBTA building at Swan and East Main are also all rented, even though two of them have not yet been completed.

"We think that's a great testament to what can happen in our market," Pacatte said. 

Pacatte also revealed that in addition to a microbrewery and restaurant incubator being planned by Matt Gray and Jon Mager for the former Newberry building on Main Street, they are also planning a $1.5 million investment to convert the second and third floors of the building into apartments.

Gsell said the city's investment in infrastructure, notably the current work on Washington Avenue, is a further sign the city is moving in the right direction and creating an environment developers will find attractive. 

Other projects in Batavia's favor, Molino said, are the flood insurance rating program, which has helped reduce the cost of flood insurance for affected properties by 15 percent, and Batavia's first-in-the-state zombie property law. Batavia is showing tangible success in dealing with zombie properties, which is still unique in the state.

All of these efforts will give Batavia a good start on dealing with its own poverty rates, Hyde said, and putting people to work and reducing poverty is the main reason all of these economic develop efforts exist in the first place. 

"If we say we're a democracy and we're a free enterprise society, then we address the poverty issue," Hyde said. "The only way we get a society to function well is if we create opportunities for everybody."

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The video below is part of Batavia's application for the prize.

June 6, 2016 - 12:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jim Kelly Celebrity Golf Classic, terry hills, batavia, news.

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The entire Buffalo Bills football team, along with numerous former and current players and celebrities along with well-heeled business people from throughout Western New York, are at Terry Hills today for the annual Jim Kelly Celebrity Classic.

Kelly, top center, was energetic throughout the morning, joking and posing for pictures and even making a last-minute decision to ride in Pete Zeliff's helicopter for the first-ever Rex Ryan golf ball drop, which carried a 50-50 prize of about $1,500.

The 30th annual event is a fundraiser for Kelly's charity, Kelly for Kids.

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Kelly, Gary Pasco (friend of Zeliff's), Ryan and Zeliff prior to the golf ball drop.

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After the drop, Kelly and Ryan joked and teased each other about the helicopter ride.

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

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Prior to the start of the tournament, Bills players played miniature golf.

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Chris Berman obliged two of the women with a drink cart by posing for a photo.

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