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May 1, 2015 - 10:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Kiwanis, Genesee County Bar Association, law day.

The Kiwanis Club of Batavia and the Genesee County Bar Association hosted their annual Law Day Criminal Justice Awards dinner at Batavia Country Club on Thursday evening.

Among the winners, Det. Kevin Czora and Det. Richard Schauf, Batavia PD, for their work in the successful apprehension and conviction of child molester Sean Vickers. Vickers received more than 100 years in prison as a result of the work of the two detectives, who also assisted the victims in the case. 

Other awards went to:

William Zipfel, jail superintendent, for his more than 32 years of service in law enforcement and what Undersheriff Bill Sheron said is the outstanding work he's done as head of the Genesee County Jail.

Susan Gagne, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Genesee County, for the services she provides to the criminal justice community. Her efforts have assisted in criminal justice professionals gaining knowledge of people dealing with mental illness. She's also helped arrange events and speakers that have raised awareness and knowledge of mental health and criminal behavior.

The Batavia High School Mock Trial Team received the Charles L. Mancuso Award for winning this year's competition.

Judge Robert C. Noonan, who is likely to retire within the next year, received an exceptional jurist award. A graduate of Batavia HS, Noonan attended St. Lawrence University and Fordham Law School. He worked in the District Attorney's Office for 19 years, eventually becoming District Attorney. He was elected to the bench in 1996. The award recognized his years of dedicated service to the community and his "great intelligence, fairness and knowledge of the law" while working as a jurist.

Judge Michael DelPlato, who has retired as a City Court justice. A graduate of Notre Dame High School, he attended Canisius College and SUNY Buffalo School of Law. He's been practicing law since 1973. He's been a teacher in Alexander and substitute with Batavia City Schools. He's been a director and president of the Bar Association. He served as a City Court judge from 2003 to 2015. He was honored for his lifelong commitment to the people of Genesee County.

Deputy Brian Thompson was honored by GCASA for exceptional service for his work with the DWI/Victim Impact Panel. On a monthly basis, Thompson meets with panel members to discuss his own experience as a victim of a drunken driver. He also helps keep panel gatherings civil and respectful. 

Batavia High School Mock Trial Team

Judge Robert C. Noonan

To purchase prints, click here.

May 1, 2015 - 9:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, polls.
April 30, 2015 - 5:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID.

The Batavia Improvement District held its annual luncheon this afternoon at the City Church Generations Center on Center Street.

Top photo: Steve Krna, vice president of Genesee Patrons, an insurance company, accepts a Spirit of Downtown Award.

David Boyce, CEO of Tompkins Insurance, receiving a Spirit of Downtown Award for Tompkins.

John Roche, Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, was honored as a volunteer.

Mary Valle, Valle Jewelers, was also honored as a Volunteer of the Year.

The keynote speaker was Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place.

April 30, 2015 - 10:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Le Roy, Empire Access.

The City of Batavia is wired. Wired for high-speed broadband, that is. 

Empire Access can now deliver download speeds of 100 megabits to more than 95 percent of the properties in the city. There are only about 40 or 50 households that would be hard to reach, but once a couple of access hurdles are cleared, Empire will be able to service those customers as well.

"We're very pleased with the response we've received," said Jim Baase, president of Empire. "Even without video, we've sold a lot of internet-only packages. We're ahead of plan of where we thought we would be and video will only help with more penetration."

While broadband and telephone service is licensed through the state and requires no local approvals to provide service, federal law requires cable TV providers to sign franchise agreements with local municipalities.

Empire has been in negotiations with the City of Batavia for a franchise agreement for at least six months. Councilman John Deleo has raised the issue at two consecutive City Council meetings and City Manger Jason Molino hasn't wanted to comment further in public than "we're in negotiations."

Empire already has franchise agreements with 35 other municipalities in New York.

"Typically, it takes a couple of months to get through negotiations," Baase said. "It's taking a little longer with the City of Batavia. There are still a few outstanding issues that the city is requiring us to agree to. We haven't resolved those issues yet. We're hopeful in the next few weeks those issues will get resolved."

For residential customers wanting affordable, high-speed broadband now, the installation process typically takes about two weeks.

The photos with this story are of an Empire crew doing a line drop on a residential street in Batavia and at a Downtown location.

Once a customer signs up for the service, an outside crew drops a line to the location and tests it. An inside crew comes later, at an appointed time with the customer, to finish the install inside the residence.

The installation make take a little longer with apartment complexes serviced by underground utilities.

Empire is also working on expanding service beyond the City of Batavia. The company is working with Town of Batavia officials now to start stretching beyond the city's borders and engineers are drawing up plans for providing service in Le Roy.

The company hopes to start building the network in Le Roy by the fourth quarter of this year.

As for reaching more rural parts of the county, Baase said the company is looking for municipal partners in that process and is in fact talking with Town of Batavia officials along those lines.

With such partners, it might make it possible to tap into the $500 million in seed money Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed for expansion broadband in rural New York.

They're also looking for more partners like the Town of Big Flats, in Chemung County, where officials didn't want to wait around for grant money, so the town helped Empire secure a low-interest loan to build out the network.

"There are limited resources and we can't build everywhere at once," Baase said. "We're in the Town of Big Flats because they reached out to us. We're looking for more partnerships like that."

Photos: The work crew handling the outside installation work yesterday was Rick Burke, Kasey Wetmore, Don Todd, Joe Kirchner and Roy Faulkner. Pictured are Burke, in the cherry picker, and Wetmore, seen in the fourth photo splicing together a line from the outside of a house to the inside wire.

April 30, 2015 - 8:41am
posted by Howard B. Owens in bergen.

A truck driver passing through a railroad crossing in Bergen tells dispatchers that his tractor-trailer was still in the crossing when the gates came down.

He had not choice but to continue through the crossing to avoid being hit by a train.

The gates were damaged. He's waiting roadside. A deputy is responding. The railroad company has been notified.

April 29, 2015 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Le Roy, bergen.

Le Royans will often tell you, they live in a special place. Now they have some proof and a chance to demonstrate just how special it is, with the chance at a $3 million prize at the end of the rainbow.

Frontier Communications, drawing from 138 applications in 27 states, has picked Le Roy as one of the Top 50 communities in America.

The honor comes with a $50,000 prize to help fund writing a comprehensive plan aimed at spurring business growth with assistance from business leaders at IBM.

"For those of us who choose to live here, and those people who have chosen to move away and come back, there is a draw to la-roy, or lee-roy (pause for laughter), and we need to capitalize on that, and I think maybe that's why we were so strong with our application," said Lynn Belluscio, curator of the Le Roy Historical Society, who helped with the application process. "It is going to take all of us going in the same direction, which we know is sometimes difficult in this community, but I think we can do it."

The impetus to apply came from County Legislator Shelly Stein, who worked with the staff at GCEDC to get the ball rolling, but the application process and letters of support brought together not just Stein and the GCEDC, but Belluscio, Supervisor Steve Barbeau, the Rotary Club of Le Roy, the Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Schools Kim Cox, the Le Roy Business Council, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and the Village of Le Roy.

The Village and Town of Bergen also pitched in because Le Roy by itself didn't have a big enough population to qualify.

The business project that will be targeted for infrastructure improvement -- a bigger natural gas pipe and broadband -- is the park at Route 19 and West Bergen road.

Robert Smith, the Rochester area general manager for Frontier, said he though Le Roy and Bergen were a great choice.

"But the work doesn't end here," Smith said. "You have a lot more to do because there is a lot more that can come from this."

The comprehensive plan will be reviewed in November and after that the Le Roy group will find out if it moves onto the next stage.

The eventual payoff for the winner is a $3 million prize, but second plays will earn $2 million and third, $1 million.

Growing the local business base is critical, Barbeau said.

He noted that for every tax dollar generated by a commercial property, businesses consume about 60 to 70 cents and services. For agriculture, it's about 30 cents in services. But residential, he said, eats up about $1.30 in services.

"We feel like this is a perfect opportunity to expand our infrastructure and bring in more business," he said.

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, said this is an exciting opportunity for Le Roy and Bergen and fits right in with everything GCEDC is trying to do to attract more industry to Genesee County.

"When you try to grow an economy, you need to be able to talk about the quality of life and the factors that make it a place where people want to live, work and play," Hyde said. "This community has that."

Photo: Smith presenting a finalists' certificate with Rotary president Randy Vink and Stein in the background.

April 29, 2015 - 3:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Mercy Flight, NY-27, chris collins, Mercy EMS.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced $103,637 in federal funding for Mercy EMS in Batavia. The grant was allocated through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), which is designed to help first responders improve their capability to respond to fires and emergencies of all types.

“Providing the necessary funding for our first responders is an excellent and prudent use of federal money,” Congressman Collins said. “Our local heroes need the proper resources to do their jobs and protect our communities. Many small fire companies and emergency medical service providers are unable to purchase necessary equipment upgrades due to financial limitations. This funding will help create more efficient and effective first responders, and I am proud I was able to help Mercy EMS secure this money.”

“Mercy EMS is extremely pleased to be awarded a grant through the FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program,” said Bill Schutt, general manager for Mercy EMS. “The grant will allow Mercy EMS to equip all our first-line ambulances with power-lift stretchers and tracked stair-chairs. These two devices will have multiple impacts on our operations. The power stretcher allows a crew to lift a patient with the touch of a button, eliminating manual lifting and the associated risk of injury to crews. Likewise the tracked stair-chair allows a patient to be moved down a flight of stairs with no lifting involved, again reducing the risk of injuries from lifting. The additional impact of the equipment involves increased patient safety and when dealing with larger patients the ability to move them with an increased level of dignity. As a nonprofit agency Mercy EMS could not afford these upgrades without grant assistance.”

April 29, 2015 - 2:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion.

Press release:

The Town of Pavilion Republican Committee is still seeking candidates for the following positions, which will appear on the election ballot in November:

  • Town supervisor
  • Highway superintendent
  • Town justice
  • and a Town Board seat.

Another endorsement meeting is being held on May 7.

Any town resident interested in one of the positions is asked to send a letter to:

Town of Pavilion Republican Committee

c/o Dorothy Wentland, Chair

10511 Asbury Road, Le Roy, NY 14482.

Letters must be received by May 4 for consideration.

April 29, 2015 - 11:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, infrastructure.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Water Department will be making a repair on the water system Thursday April 30th on Pearl Street near Roosevelt Avenue. Low water pressure or water service interruption may occur on Pearl Street in the area of Dewey Avenue to Brooklyn Avenue and possibly some adjacent areas while repairs are completed. There may also be a period of water discoloration in the immediate area as a result. Traffic patterns are expected to be maintained, but will be slow near the repair area.

April 29, 2015 - 10:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy.

Press release:

Four New York communities – including three in greater Rochester and the surrounding area -- are celebrating their first round of success in the America’s Best Communities competition, a $10-million initiative to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns and cities. Webster, Le Roy and Livingston County, plus Norwich in Central NY are moving ahead in the competition. Each will receive $50,000 to develop comprehensive strategies to accelerate the revival of their local economies and improve the quality of life in their communities.

Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel — the competition’s sponsors — today announced that Webster, Le Roy, Livingston County and Norwich have advanced into the quarterfinals of this innovative competition. They are among the 50 quarterfinalist communities that now have six months to complete their revitalization plans and compete for up to an additional $3 million to bring their ideas to life.

In the months ahead, the communities will partner with a major corporation that will provide guidance and support throughout the next stage of the competition. The America’s Best Communities Adopt-a-Community Program has brought together 50 distinguished companies from across the nation to support the quarterfinalist communities. Each corporation will be paired with a community to serve as their strategic mentor, while also contributing $15,000 of the $50,000 in prize money. These corporate partners will forge relationships with local leaders and focus their efforts on successful implementation of the innovative business plans.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce Livingston County and Le Roy as two community areas that have pulled together their talent and first-class ideas and are now moving forward in the competition,” said Bob Smith, area general manager of Frontier’s Rochester West operations. “I can speak from personal experience as to the caliber of the leadership, the resilience and strength of the communities, and the overall commitment they have toward enhancing, growing, and setting the bar high.”

Julie Marshall, Livingston County director of Economic Development stated, “We are pleased to be selected in the America’s Best Communities competition. The community revitalization plan that we will develop with the financial support from America’s Best Communities will be designed to generate sustained economic momentum that will further strengthen Livingston County for many years.”

Shelley Stein, County Legislator for Le Roy, said: "The community of Le Roy and Bergen are so excited to learn that we are one of America's Best Communities! Our application was a shared effort of the Town Supervisor Steve Barbeau and Director of the Jell-O Museum and the Le Roy Historical Society Lynne Belluscio. All of us are eager to share our story of agrarian roots and our ability to create local/regional commerce steeped in strong entrepreneurial tradition in the community.

"We look forward to meeting with our strategic mentor and continuing this exciting opportunity for Le Roy to attract more attention to our incredible work ethic, ability to collaborate and strong leadership capacity. We sincerely thank Frontier, Dish Network, CoBANK and The Weather Channel for assisting rural communities reach our full potential.”

Sharing comments on Le Roy making it to the quarterfinals, Belluscio stated: “This is great news! Le Roy is extremely proud to be included in this national search for America’s Best Community. Rural communities are great places to live and raise families. This is where neighbors help neighbors, and the true American spirit is fostered. It is where American entrepreneurs can thrive with proper planning and economic development. It takes a team of dedicated people to make it happen - - and Le Roy has that team - - now we hope that this kind of economic investment and technical support will propel this community into the next generation.”

As the newly appointed Area General Manager of Frontier’s Rochester East operations, Bill Carpenter said, “I am very excited to have a town in my area of responsibility move forward in the competition. Webster has demonstrated that it has the inspiration and dedication to generate ideas that will reinvigorate the community. It’s this type of local engagement that attracted me to Frontier, and I am very proud to work with Webster as the community moves to the next round of competition.”

Speaking on behalf of Webster, Matt Chatfield, executive director of the Webster Community Coalition for Economic Development, noted: “The Webster community is grateful to receive this national recognition for the long-standing efforts of its political, civic and business leadership to make Webster a community of choice in Upstate New York. We are also excited about the prospect of working with our corporate partner to develop a unique, sustainable and achievable business growth plan that will propel our community forward for the foreseeable future.”

After launching in September, the America’s Best Communities competition successfully attracted entries from 138 applicant teams, representing 347 communities across the country. All 138 applications were reviewed by a panel of independent expert judges who selected the 50 winning communities based upon an objective set of criteria.

America’s Best Communities is a multi-stage, three-year competition that will provide $4 million in seed money and other support to assist communities as they develop new economic growth strategies. The top three communities — those with the most innovative proposals being effectively implemented — will share a total of $6 million in prize money. The winning community will be awarded $3 million, with $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.

“As the largest telecommunications company focused on rural America, we recognize the economic impact that strategic investments often have on the revitalization of small towns and rural cities,” Frontier Communications Executive Chairman Maggie Wilderotter said. “America’s Best Communities has already inspired new collaboration among local leaders across New York, and it’s just getting started. The innovative ideas the competition is investing in have the potential to become roadmaps to growth for communities across the U.S.”

April 29, 2015 - 8:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in polls.
April 28, 2015 - 4:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield, Le Roy, Pavilion.

Ann Rita Pokornowski, 54, of Ellicott Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Pokornowski is accused of stealing a pair of boots from her boyfriend's house on Bennett Avenue, Oakfield.

Sade Henderson, 20, of New York City, is charged with petit larceny. Henderson is accused of stealing an Internet router from a dorm room at College Village. 

Danielle G. Bryant, 41, of Stewart Road, Pavilion, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Bryant is accused of violating an order of protection in Le Roy.

April 28, 2015 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, sports, high school sports, softball, Batavia HS.

The upgraded softball field at Batavia High School will be dedicated Friday to honor Ed Anderson, a former coach and teacher with the school district.

Anderson taught sixth grade from 1965 until his retirement in 1998. He was the first varsity girls softball and girls soccer coach for the Blue Devils.

"He was known as an excellent teacher and is most famous for his annual weeklong sixth-grade camping trips to Allegheny State Park that he led for 30 years, said Sue Medley, who has been helping organize the dedication ceremony, which starts at 3:30 p.m., Friday, rain or shine.

Anderson coached junior high bowling from 1977 to 1987, softball from 1979 to 1998, soccer from 1978 to 1998 and girls basketball from 1988 to 1991.

The girls won their first sectional title in softball in 1982.

"Coach Ed Anderson left his mark on generations of Batavia Middle and High School students while serving the Batavia City School system for more than 30 years. He was a role model to all," said Athletic Director Mike Bromley. "He was a source of support and an example of calmness, determination and generosity for the athletes he coached. He fought tirelessly for equality and opportunity in girls’ sports."

While school officials had recognized the need to upgrade the softball facilities, it was only after a group of players and their parents filed a Title IX lawsuit demanding facilities more on par with what the boys baseball team enjoys by playing its games at Dwyer Stadium that a settlement was reached. That led to new bleachers, dugouts, infield, outfield fence, scoreboard and batting cage.

The team is scheduled to play Greece Arcadia at 4:30 p.m. Following the game there will be a celebration reception in the high school's atrium at 6:30 p.m.

The dedication committee is still seeking financial support. The committee has currently raised $3,400 with a goal of $10,000. Funds will be used for field signage, a permanent memorial, dedication ceremony and contribution to the Ed Anderson Outdoor Education Campership Fund on behalf of the community. To contribute, visit http://www.gofundme.com/coachedanderson.

April 28, 2015 - 10:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, housing, abandoned properties.

To whatever degree some council members were skeptical of a proposal to create a tax exemption to encourage investment by home buyers into vacant and abandoned houses, that skepticism is gone with the change of the season.

The Batavia City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the process to create the exemption. 

That process requires the council to pass a resolution, which it did, asking the Legislature to create a bill and generate a bill number amending the city's local law to create the exemption.

Once that's done, the city can give final approval to the exemption.

The exemption would apply to any single-family home that has been abandoned and vacant for at least three years and a would-be owner-occupant is planning on investing money on restoration.

The targeted home is one where the cost of rehabilitation exceeds the value of the home.

Typically, a home requiring less repair wouldn't yield much in the way of an increase in assessed value, making the proposed exemption of little value.

The exemption only applies to the portion of the property tax generated by an increase in assessed value as a result of improvements to the property.

There are a number -- though the exact number is unknown -- of vacant and abandoned homes in the city that can be salvaged before they completely deteriorate.

City officials have made the point several times that vacant and abandoned properties bring down neighboring property values and are a potential blight on the city.

In a report to Council, City Manager Jason Molino said vacant and abandoned properties are costing the city at least $25,000 in unpaid taxes per property, $11,300 in unpaid fees and fines and more than $500,000 in lost local buying power.  

The assessed value of the properties continues to fall while they sit dormant.

The proposed exemption is just one prong in the city's strategy to deal with vacant and abandoned properties. City officials are also trying to inventory all the properties and use code enforcement to get banks, mortgage and/or title holders to deal effectively with the properties or get them on the market.

Creating incentives for potential home buyers to invest in such properties will help spur banks into putting the homes up for sale, it's hoped.

Two previous objections raised by council members were addressed in Molino's report.

First, if the property owner is eligible for more than one exemption, the property owner will receive only one exemption and that will be the one most financially favorable to the property owner.

Second, on the objection that the proposed exemption creates an unfair disparity in benefits, there is already a tax-exemption program in place for property owners who wish to remodel their existing properties. The council approved the exemption in 2010 and it applies to all 3,611 single-family homes and 712 double-family homes in the city. It provides an exemption on the increase in assessed value for remodeling projects with greater than a $3,000 investment.  

So far, four property owners have entered the program with an average investment of $33,000 and resulting increase in assessed value of $22,225.

Councilman Eugene Jankowski said he received a number of favorable comments from constituents about the proposed exemption.

"People say we're on the right track," Jankowski said.

April 28, 2015 - 9:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire.

After 21 years of service to the citizens of the City of Batavia, Captain Mark Mikolajczyk was honored by the City Council on Monday evening with a proclamation presented by Councilman Kris Doeringer. 

April 27, 2015 - 5:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee Cancer Assistance, Batavia HS, Mr. Batavia.

Jordan Fluker, Mr. Batavia 2015, presented a check today to Genesee Cancer Assistance for $3,055, which is the proceeds from this year's Mr. Batavia event at Batavia High School. Pictured with Fluker are Joe Gerace and Patricia Arnold.

Photo submitted by Lisa Robinson.

April 27, 2015 - 4:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield.

An Oakfield man has been accused of impeding firefighters who responded to a report of smoke in a residential trailer on Overlook Drive on Sunday.

Jeffrey M. Johnson, 27, is charged with obstructing firefighter operations.

Town of Batavia Fire responded to the call at 5:20 a.m., Sunday.

Johnson was said to be uncooperative and allegedly refused firefighters entry into the trailer, which firefighters said was filled with significant smoke.

State Police were summoned and Johnson was taken into custody and jailed on $250 bail.

It was determined the smoke was the result of food left on an unattended stove.

NOTE: Johnson's arrest was reported in this morning's Law and Order, but we received additional information this afternoon.

April 27, 2015 - 3:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident.

Local law enforcement is being asked by the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office to be on the lookout for a red pickup truck that was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run property damage accident.

The truck was last seen northbound out of Warsaw.

It should have passenger side damage and purple paint transfer.

April 27, 2015 - 2:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, thruway.

Kiran Thapa

This video of a three-vehicle accident last Tuesday on the Thruway going through Batavia already has more than 230,000 views and has drawn more than 400 comments.

The driver of the Camaro was charged with DWI.

Kiran Thapa, 32, of Columbus, Ohio, was allegedly driving with a BAC of .19. He was also charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 1st, a Class E felony.  

Thapa was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and jailed on $2,500 bail or $5,000 bond.

A spokesman for Troop T had no further information available on the accident at this time.

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