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Batavia City Council

November 13, 2017 - 8:50pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Jason Molino.

Batavia City Council has begun talks with City Manager Jason Molino to renegotiate his contract.

Council President Eugene Jankowski confirmed following tonight’s meeting at City Centre that the subject of Molino’s pay and contract was part of an executive session held before the 7 o’clock meeting – and that talks will continue until both parties reach an agreement.

“Jason’s present contract is over 10 years old and has no expiration date so, during talking with Council, we decided that we wanted to propose another contract negotiation with Jason,” Jankowski said. “Jason drew up a contract and presented it to Council, and we’re now in the process of going through that contract and making a counterproposal.”

Last month, Council voted 5-4 against giving a 2.75 percent raise to Molino, who was hired in 2006 as assistant city manager and became the city manager shortly thereafter. His current salary is $93,782.

Jankowski said he expects the new contract to be a three-year or four-year pact – that’s still up in the air – a switch that would put an end to the yearly, somewhat contentious salary situation.

“As it looks like it’s presented and from what I’ve seen so far, that’s a strong possibility that the salaries will be more incremental over a period of years, instead of yearly budgeted,” Jankowski said.

“It will be similar to a police or a fire or a DPW contract – a period of time with set amounts already in there -- so we can forecast in our budget what to expect over the next so many years (and) so we’re not blindsided by any unnecessary costs each budget year. We’ll know ahead of time where we’re going and where it’s going for.”

The council president said a three-member committee of Council members Adam Tabelski, Rose Mary Christian and Robert Bialkowski met with Molino to get the ball rolling.

“They had the initial meeting with Jason and listened and brought it back to council,” he said. “And we listened. My goal is to get this done by the end of this budget year (March 31, 2018), and start with the new contract at some point.”

Jankowski said he wasn’t sure if the agreement will include retroactive benefits, adding that Council “will have the lawyers look at it and then do the counterproposals -- and go back and forth between Jason and Council."

During the Business meeting, Molino reported that the interview process for the new assistant manager is ongoing. Batavia has been without an assistant manager since July when Gretchen DiFante resigned to take a similar position in the state of Alabama.

Jankowski said he’s in favor of a full-time assistant manager although the City Charter does not indicate the number of hours for the authorized position.

“Because of the city of our size, I believe that an assistant manager is helpful in the event that the manager is unavailable,” he said. “A part-time assistant manager might not be ready to jump into the reins, to jump into the job that needed to happen.”

In other developments, Council:

-- Approved a new contract with the City’s 35 Department of Public Works, wastewater and water treatment plant, highway and parks employees (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union).

The one-year collective bargaining agreement that begins on April 1, 2018 provides the employees a 1.75-percent salary increase, a $450 uniform credit, and reopens talks should sales tax distribution affect the workers. The impact upon the City budget is $38,000.

-- Accepted a $218,000 bid from Hohl Industrial Services Inc., of Tonawanda, to replace and rebuild the traveling mechanical screen and the cyclone grit classifier at the Wastewater Treatment Facility.

-- Approved five resolutions transferring various amounts to complete capital projects ($20,000), to the public works equipment reserve fund ($50,000), to the Ellicott Trail pedestrian/bicycle project ($146,000), to the sidewalk reconstruction fund ($25,000) and to the administrative services equipment and software reserve fund ($300,000).

-- Voted to amend the fire department budget to reflect the receipt of a $236,072 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy 24 self-contained breathing apparatus units – replacing the ones that have outlived their usefulness.

The grant also provides money to purchase a Pak Tracker system that is used to locate a firefighter who becomes missing or trapped in a dangerous environment.

-- Authorized the City to contract with the state Department of Transportation to complete construction phases of the “Healthy Schools” project in the amount of $982,238, of which 75 percent will be reimbursed to the City.

The pact calls for the early 2018 replacement of 12,300 feet of sidewalk for Liberty Street from East Main Street to Morton Avenue, and Washington Avenue from Ross Street to Bank Street.

-- Heard a brief report from Council Member Rose Mary Christian about the “marvelous” program being offered to youth at City Church’s property on Liberty Street (St. Anthony’s). Christian estimated that 300 children participated in various activities, including basketball, dance and ping pong.

November 7, 2017 - 11:02pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county legislature, notify.

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Eugene Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski, Adam Tabelski.

City Republican leaders and supporters were in a celebratory mood tonight at City Slickers on Main Street after learning that Batavia voters sent their three incumbent candidates – Eugene Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski and Adam Tabelski – back to City Council for another term.

In an eight-person race for three at-large seats, Jankowski (the sitting City Council president) tallied 1,101 votes, Bialkowski 1,069 votes and Tabelski 912 votes, according to unofficial results compiled by Republican party committee members.

Bill Fava, a former City Councilman, placed fourth with 788 votes, followed by fellow Democrat Brad Eddy (563) and the three Libertarian Party candidates – Lisa Whitehead (409), Jim Rosenbeck (407) and Mark Potwora (249).

In the contested race for the District 9 seat (City Wards 4&5) on the Genesee County Legislature, the unofficial count showed former Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha, a Republican, drawing 364 votes to incumbent Democrat Edward DeJaneiro Jr.’s 302 votes, with 79 absentee ballots yet to be counted.

"We're very pleased with the results, and very confident that Gary (Maha) has beaten a good and tough candidate for the Legislature seat, and that the other (City Council) candidates won by a decent amount," said City Republican Party Chair David Saleh, crediting his committee for their hard work during the campaign.

Republican Message: Let's Get Back to Work

All three City Council winners said that the results indicated that the voters are happy with the job they have been doing, and that they need to stay the course.

"We appreciate all the support we have had across the city and now for us, it's back to work," Tabelski said. "We've got a lot of great things going on in the city. We've got a major focus right now on downtown revitalization. We have infrastructure projects going and, for us, it's back to work."

Jankowski said that he was glad that people are supporting what the Council has been doing, also mentioning the pending infrastructure projects and downtown revitalization plans.

"It's good to hear that the people are behind us ... and we're on the right track. We're doing what they want us to do."

Bialkowski talked about the time and effort put in by his party as a deciding factor.

"I think when the voters speak, people need to listen," he said. "One of the things that we did as the Republican party -- we worked very hard, we abided by all the laws and ordinances of the city. We didn't put our signs in parkways or put them on people's property without asking.

"We had a clear message -- we're working hard. We may not do everything right all the time, but we're sure trying."

He also gave a lot of credit to Saleh.

"On the city side, our city Chairman Dave Saleh deserves a lot of credit," Bialkowski said.

"He's worked very hard with us, and given a lot of his personal time. He's gone out and handed out materials door to door. He's had quite a few meetings. He's helped us all along the way ... And it was a real learning curve for him, too." 

Eddy, Libertarians Keep Their Chins Up

Eddy, a political newcomer, was optimistic in defeat, stating that he enjoyed campaigning and kept the door open for a future run.

"I really enjoyed getting out and meeting a lot of people in the community," he said. "There’s a lot of great ideas, a lot of people that are unhappy with the progress we’ve had so far. So that kind of motivated me to getting out there and campaigning – and really getting to know the community a little better and getting my ideas out there as well."

He said the "lack of name recognition" likely hurt his chances, but he also tipped his cap to the diligence of Batavia's leaders in the area of economic development.

"(Them) getting that $10 million – they’ve been working very hard for that -- for the downtown revitalization. (It seems that voters) wanted the status quo, and wanted things to go the way that things have been … until next time."

The three Libertarian candidates, running on a platform to replace City Manager Jason Molino, understood that they had an uphill climb, but, speaking at T.F. Brown's, remained steadfast in their quest to have an impact on city government.

"It's a platform that we believed in (and) we continue to believe that," Rosenbeck said, "The people chose a different path and we wish the incumbents who were re-elected well.

"We will be back here again in two years and four years. We're making incremental gains and we expect to continue to do that."

Potwora said the Libertarian trio "did a lot of work, we canvassed a lot of people, we met a lot of good people and we feel we did make some impact on City Council."

"We did show up at a lot of City Council meetings, and we just believe that we were a good voice for the people of Batavia who supported us in this race. It's kind of tough being a third party, but we feel we did the hard work that was needed."

Maha Back in the County Ring

Maha, who retired on Dec. 31 after seven terms as sheriff, said he's ready to resume working for the people should his lead over DeJaneiro hold up.

"As you know, I retired the first of the year, I got all of my work done around the house and now I have time to do something and I feel that I want to represent the people here in Wards 4 and 5 in the City of Batavia," he said,

While saying he's not pushing for a particular type of new jail, Maha did stress that something needs to be done.

"With the Legislature there are a lot of issues out there. I know my opponent tried to make the jail an issue. And the media never talked to me about what my position was on the jail, it came from him, I tried to explain that to (a media outlet)."

He said that all options are on the table, and that the Legislature has addressed the jail issue.

"Still, the state commissioner of corrections has said you need to do something with your jail," he said.

"It could be a shared jail with another county. Orleans County at the present time hasn't committed to have a shared jail yet. The county has a study out there for a jail. It's kind of premature that it will be a shared jail or a stand-alone. That's something that the full Legislature has to address, not just me."

"I'm no longer sheriff. I'm not pushing for a new jail. My job is to look out for the taxpayers, and ... I will represent them to the best of my ability."

In another contested races:

Town of Le Roy -- Former Councilman John Duyssen defeated incumbent Michael Welsh for Town Justice by 79 votes, and Town Council: Incumbent David Paddock won one of two council seats, with the other going to newcomer James Farnholtz.

Town of Bergen -- James Starowitz and Mark Anderson won Town Council seats;

Town of Bethany -- Incumbent Town Justice Thomas McBride defeated challenger Joseph Nowakowski.

Town of Byron -- Roger Rouse over Gerald Heins for Town Supervisor.

Town of Stafford -- Newcomer Julie Scheuerlein defeated Michelle McEwen by a wide margin for Town Clerk, and incumbents Ronald Panek and Robert Mattice were returned to their Town Council posts.

electionnov72017-2a.jpg

Gary Maha, center, checking out the unofficial vote total.

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Paul Viele and Jack Taylor go over election results.

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Genesee County Democrats at Smokin' Eagle in Le Roy -- Rob Stiles, Mike Welsh, Nikki Calhoun, Brad Eddy, and Anne Sapienza.

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Libertarian Party candidates Lisa Whitehead, Jim Rosenbeck, Mark Potwora. Photos by Howard Owens.

November 7, 2017 - 11:02pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county legislature.

City Republican leaders and supporters were in a celebratory mood tonight after learning that Batavia voters sent their three incumbent candidates – Eugene Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski and Adam Tabelski – back to City Council for another term

In an eight-person race for three at-large seats, Jankowski (the sitting City Council president) tallied 1,101 votes, Bialkowski 1,069 votes and Tabelski 912 votes, according to unofficial results compiled by Republican party committee members.

Bill Fava, a former City Councilman, placed fourth with 788 votes, followed by fellow Democrat Brad Eddy (563) and the three Libertarian Party candidates – Lisa Whitehead (409), Jim Rosenbeck (407) and Mark Potwora (249).

In the contested race for the District 9 seat (City Wards 4&5) on the Genesee County Legislature, the unofficial count showed former Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha, a Republican, drawing 364 votes to incumbent Democrat Edward DeJaneiro Jr.’s 302 votes, with 79 absentee ballots yet to be counted.

This is a developilng story. 

October 31, 2017 - 8:47am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

As expected, resolutions calling for more than a half-million dollars to be allocated for special projects -- as well as others to accept a $236,0000 firefighters grant and to complete the final phase of the “Healthy Schools” sidewalk plan – were kept on the table by the Batavia City Council at its Conference meeting on Monday night.

Council, by unanimous agreement, moved to its Nov. 13 Business Meeting proposals that earmark $541,000 in unassigned funds to the Department of Public Works equipment reserve ($50,000), sidewalk reserve ($25,000), administrative services equipment and software reserve ($300,000), street resurfacing project ($20,000) and the Ellicott Trail project ($146,000).

Scroll down to see a previous story on The Batavian for details.

The board also agreed to consider resolutions accepting a $236,000 FEMA Assistance Firefighters Grant for the purchase of 24 self-contain breathing apparatus units – replacing the ones that have outlived their usefulness, account to Chief Stefano Napolitano.

Additionally, the grant will allow the department to purchase a Pak Tracker system that is used to locate a firefighter who becomes missing or trapped in a dangerous environment, Napolitano said.

The “Healthy Schools” resolution authorizes the City to contract with the state Department of Transportation to complete construction phases of the project in the amount of $982,238, of which 75 percent will be reimbursed to the City.

Previously, the City was awarded the funding to replace 12,300 feet of sidewalk for Liberty Street from East Main Street to Morton Avenue, and Washington Avenue from Ross Street to Bank Street.

DPW Director Matt Worth said bids will go out in December and construction will start next spring.

Council gave its stamp of approval to “Christmas in the City,” a four-hour yuletide celebration coordinated by the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District on Dec. 1. The cost to the city for its part in the event is expected to be around $1,800.

In another development, Council seemed to agree with a recommendation by Worth, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and Molino to beef up traffic control along Evans Street (in the Watson Street, Thorpe Street and Ganson Avenue areas) as an alternative to a resident’s request to install an “Autistic Child” sign.

The plan, according to a memo by Worth, is based on the premise that motorists’ driving speed needs to be addressed. Molino said the resident, Jonathan Bell, who has an autistic son, agreed with the following recommendations:

-- Installing a portable speed monitor trailer on Evans Street prior to the winter to let drivers know how fast they are going;
-- Using grant funding to increase traffic enforcement in this area, hopefully resulting in information that would determine if stop signs or reduced speed zone signs are warranted;
-- Placing a “Children at Play” sign on Evans Street at Watson Street, southbound, as vehicles exit an industrial area into a residential area.

October 30, 2017 - 11:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

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Batavia is a small city but it’s not immune to big city problems when it comes to respect, responsibility and accountability from its youth and law enforcement.

That is the gist of the message shared at Monday night’s City Council meeting by longtime Batavian Bill Blackshear, who is calling for citizens to come together “for a better communication and a better understanding of each other.”

Blackshear, 61, has lived in Batavia for about 50 years – he was elected as Batavia High School’s first black “Mayor” back in 1975 – and has expressed his views in the past, always in a dignified manner.

Last night was no different as he appealed to council members to take action to stem what he sees as a growing unrest among youth, especially minorities.

“I am concerned about the rash of crimes committed by people 15 to 19 years old,” he said, specifically mentioning a recent incident where youths threw fluid in the face of a man, causing second-degree burns, and a previous incident where people were accosted by young men.

Blackshear said it’s time for people to “build bridges” to improve relations between the community and law enforcement, and that he welcomes all “feedback, guidance and your prayers.”

He believes that police, city agencies such as Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, parents and others should “establish dialogue to instill pride” in young people and promote programs – such as police ride-alongs and Q&A sessions – to get youths more involved.

“I would hate to see Batavia become another Rochester or Buffalo,” he said. “There is always room for enhancement to adapt to the new challenges that have arisen.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski responded to Blackshear’s plea by requesting Police Chief Shawn Heubusch to work through the Criminal Justice Advisory Council to “start some dialogue and see if there are programs out there.”

Afterward, Blackshear, who said he will be meeting with Assemblyman Stephen Hawley in the near future, elaborated on his views of today’s Batavia. He said is aware of destructive influences from outside the area but also believes there have been incidences of racial profiling.

“I fear that because of their youth that they may be easily manipulated by forces from some of the larger cities – and it is definitely having an impact in Batavia with the rash of crimes as well as a feeling of mistrust for law enforcement and vice versa,” he said.

“I understand that police officers fear for their lives as well, and so we need to establish some sort of dialogue for a better communication and a better understanding of each other through talking and some programs that can be innovative.”

Blackshear, an employee of Goodwill Industries of WNY in Batavia, said that “inclusion” is a way to give young people “a voice that matters.”

“Then they feel more empowered and it gets them to seek alternative means of pride as well as opportunity,” he said. “I’m not saying that it’s necessarily lacking; it’s more of a misunderstanding based upon a lot of elements coming from sources other than the home.”

He said he hopes that “a lot of the things we’ve seen happen … in the larger cities where kids have been shot and harmed because they were mistakenly taken for someone or suspects as far engaging in behavior that seems threatening” doesn’t become part of the fabric of Batavia.

“And vice versa -- police are concerned, too,” he said. “They may feel like everyone is suspect, and that’s not always the case. So we all need to sit down and communicate. Maybe some of these kids can get to know law enforcement and how it works better in order to understand that not everybody is an enemy.”

To make Batavia’s streets safe for everyone, there needs to be accountability on both sides, Blackshear said.

“(Young people) need not be profiled or suspected when they aren’t doing anything or if they are nonviolent (and) they shouldn’t be treated like criminals. There should be accountability on both sides. Kids should know that they’re accountable for their actions and their choices as well as anyone who deals with them. There’s always the accountability factor.”

Photo at top -- Batavian Bill Blackshear spoke at the City Council meeting tonight on the need for outreach to the City's young people.

October 30, 2017 - 10:26am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Update -- 7 p.m.

City Manager Jason Molino’s recommendations for the allocation of $541,000 in unassigned funds to committed and restricted fund balances highlight the agenda of tonight's City Council meeting.

His recommendations are as follows:

-- $50,000 into the DPW equipment reserve, based on the current plan to replace a loader and single axle dump truck with plow over the next three years, and an expectation that close to $600,000 in equipment will need to be replaced by 2021.

-- $25,000 into the sidewalk reserve, based on plans to replace about 15 percent of the sidewalk within the City limits at a cost of $2.35 million. Sidewalk replacement targets for 2018 are Tracy and Washington avenues and Liberty Street and for 2019 are State and Bank streets and Washington and Richmond avenues. Federal grants will cover the majority of the cost.

-- $300,000 into the administrative services equipment and software reserve, which is deemed necessary to upgrade the City’s information technology software and management operation.

-- $20,000 in Bond Anticipation Note financing for capital projects, specifically to cover preparatory costs for a $2.55 million project to resurface several streets in 2018, first reported in The Batavian. Those streets include Union, Clinton, Vine, Liberty and South Liberty streets, and East Avenue. Eighty percent of the cost will be covered through federal transportation funds.

-- $146,000 for Ellicott Trail, the 4-mile pedestrian trail with off-road segments for pedestrians and bicyclists running through the Town and City of Batavia. These funds will go toward the City’s local match ($170,000) of the $1.3 million project.

Also, City Council will be asked to approve “Christmas in the City,” a four-hour yuletide celebration coordinated by the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District. The event is set for 5-9 p.m. Dec. 1, with a parade from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street set for 8 p.m.

October 10, 2017 - 10:09pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Jason Molino.

Unless the subject is brought to the table in the coming weeks – and that is a possibility – Batavia City Manager Jason Molino will not be getting a raise this year.

Tonight City Council voted 5-4 against a 2.75-percent salary increase for Molino, who has been instrumental in the community’s Downtown resurgence, which recently was punctuated by a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from New York State.

Council members Rose Mary Christian, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, Paul Viele and Robert Bialkowski voted “no” to the raise, while Adam Tabelski, John Canale, Pattie Pacino and Council President Eugene Jankowski voted “yes.”

The 2.75-percent hike, which was in the city budget, would have upped Molino’s annual pay from $93,782 – reportedly the lowest salary for a city manager in the state – to $96,361.

Even before the resolution came up in the meeting, Christian took the floor, stating that she had “some questions” about the process because it is the “taxpayers’ money.” Jankowski cut her off, and said that everything would be covered in executive session after the public meeting.

When the matter came up again (it was the last resolution on the agenda), Bialkowski contended that the raise had not been presented in the form of a resolution as required by the City Charter. Both Jankowski and Molino countered that it was put forth as a draft resolution in July – a fact confirmed by this reporter’s check of the July Conference Meeting agenda.

Bialkowski made a motion to delay the vote again, but that was defeated 6-3, after Christian questioned whether some on the Council up for election this year wanted to wait "because if it's passed now, you won't get elected."

She also, once again, questioned the process used to determine raises.

“I don’t like the system and I don’t like the 2.75 percent,” she said. “This comes up every January, so we go to the next budget, and they say we gave Jason 2.75 percent, so we have to give the department heads the same 2.75.”

Jankowski said that January is the time to discuss that and that Council is in the “process of changing the procedure, which will be talked about in executive session.”

Following the meeting, Jankowski said he previously asked that the vote be delayed to the fall since he knew he was going to miss a meeting and “wanted to be here to vote on it because it is controversial.”

“I wanted my intentions to be known, which were to reward the city manager for his proper work over the last year – it was budgeted for in January for him getting a favorable evaluation, which he did receive,” Jankowski said. “So I felt obligated to honor that contract.”

Jankowski and Bialkowski both said they thought the issue could be presented to Council again, with the former stating that he was going to explore the options going forward.

Molino, contacted by phone after the executive session, did not want to comment on the record.

Hired in July 2006, Molino is responsible for a workforce of about 140 (full-time equivalents) and manages a $25 million budget. The city’s budget presentation was honored for the third straight year by Government Finance Officers Association (see press release below).

In other developments, Council:

-- Heard a report on the city’s audit for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017, which produced “overall positive results,” said Laura Landers, CPA, of Freed Maxick.

“The unassigned fund balances put the city in a stable position,” said Landers, who highlighted the community’s statement of net position for its general, water and sewer funds.

Landers said the city was required to have a full audit this year – and likely for the next few years – because it expended more than $750,000 in federal Department of Transportation funds.

On the general fund, she said revenues of $16.2 million were less than expenditures of $17.6 million, thus decreasing the fund balance to $7.1 million, but that was done by design.

“It was a planned use of reserves of almost $1.7 million for sidewalks, capital improvements, and equipment,” Landers said, as well as for (as Molino pointed out), a fire truck and health-care expenses.

Landers noted that actual revenues were slightly less than budgeted, sales tax revenue also came in less than budgeted and expenditures – continuing a 10-year trend – also were less than the budgeted figure.

Of the $7.1 million fund balance, $1.8 million is unassigned, meaning that it can be used for whatever City Council wishes, Landers said.

Both the water and sewer funds showed operating surpluses, and have $2.4 million and $3.5 million in funds restricted for capital improvements, Landers said.

-- Was updated by Molino on the progress of the $10 million in DRI funds that were awarded to the city last week when Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in town.

Molino said the state has selected a consultant, LaBella Associates, a Western New York firm which has done work in the past for the Town and City of Batavia, and will be choosing a steering committee in the next couple weeks with the goal of submitting projects to the governor’s office.

“It’s a rough process – similar to a Request for Proposal process with certain criteria,” he said. “I would think that less is more in order to be able to evaluate projects, but there’s really not a lot of concrete information to give you at this point.”

Still, the program is on a fast track, Molino said, as recommendations are expected to be sent to Albany by February.

-- Voted unanimously to adopt the updated Comprehensive Plan after learning that some grammatical and formatting errors in the 100-plus-page document will be rectified and that all items, particularly form-based codes, will have to be brought before Council prior to being implemented.

Bialkowski said he was dismayed that errors existed in the document in light of the fact that Council authorized spending $100,000 for outside consultants to update the plan for the first time in about 20 years.

-- Voted to release five properties sold at auction to the highest bidders as follows: 29 Brooklyn Ave., Louie Kingsbury, $4,000; 200 S. Swan St., Geib Corporation, $20,000; 1 Watson St., Justin and Yasmeen Calmes, $13,500; 46 Swan St., Justin and Yasmeen Calmes, $1,500; and 2 Willow St., Robert Fritschi, $19,000.

September 26, 2017 - 6:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Batavia Comprehensive Plan.

The adoption of a revised Comprehensive Plan for the City of Batavia, adding the term “Gateway District” to define zoning on East Main Street near the city line, is moving closer to reality as a result of action by City Council on Monday night.

“We’re talking about making it a little more Commercial (zone)-based, or having different options than just Industrial,” said City Manager Jason Molino after Council agreed to send the 2017 Comprehensive Plan draft to its Oct. 10 Business Meeting.

Molino said the plan update, led by a steering committee, has been in the works for a year and a half. Several internal and public meetings have taken place and the update has been reviewed and approved by the Genesee County Planning Board.

Responding to questions from Council members last month about the proper zoning for East Main Street, the committee changed the area from the proposed “Neighborhood Commercial” rezone to “Gateway District.”

Molino explained that Batavia is unique in that it has four major highways – Routes 5, 63, 98 and 33 – leading into the city. By creating a “Gateway District,” it promotes “good optics and good development plans,” he said.

“It’s a more guided zoning code … one with consistency,” he said. “There has been a lot of focus on gateways over the past decade.”

Following discussion about the plan’s timetable, homes in the floodplain, redevelopment of the C.L. Carr’s building on Main Street, keeping electric car charging stations out of the plan, form-based codes and cleaning up the document’s grammatical errors, Council moved the issue forward. Jankowski noted that he was pleased by the fact that Council would be able to vote on individual proposals in the plan, rather than the entire document.

The steering committee recommended incorporating form-based codes into the Future Land Use plan. Form-based codes focus on matching development with the environment and this approach aligns with the City’s vision statement, according to a committee report.

September 26, 2017 - 12:03am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

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An electric car charging station in Batavia’s downtown area may be a worthwhile venture, but it’s not in the best interests of the City of Batavia to oversee its operation and maintenance.

That’s the viewpoint of five of City Council’s nine members, who on Monday night voted against a proposal to partner with Genesee Region Clean Communities and the Genesee Transportation Council to put up an EV charging station in Batavia.

Council members Rose Mary Christian, Paul Viele, Robert Bialkowski, Al McGinnis and Kathleen Briggs voted against moving the measure to the board’s next Business Meeting for more discussion and a possible up-down vote, overriding “yes” votes by Council President Eugene Jankowski, Patti Pacino, Adam Tabelski and John Canale.

“It looks like a good idea, but it’s for a private enterprise,” McGinnis said. “I would think there are enough entrepreneurs that would knock each other down to get this. I don’t think we need to get involved.”

McGinnis asked how many electric cars were in Batavia, to which Tabelski replied (reading from a proposal packet) that there were 1,061 EVs that require charging in the Genesee Region as of 2015.

Tabelski voiced his approval of the EV charging station at the new Dunkin' Donuts at 405 W. Main St., adding that while a "private location downtown would be more feasible, I think it's (a city-run EV station) worth considering at least."

Jankowski said he could “see the benefit of it” but didn’t like the idea of government getting involved in running a business.

“We’ve seen what happens,” he said, apparently referring to the City’s ill-fated connection to the City Centre (formerly Genesee Country) Mall.

Canale put forth the argument that the charging station, which would have been placed in the northeastern corner of the Austin Park parking lot next to the Post Office, could be an attractive option for travelers on the Thruway and from the two big cities east and west of Batavia.

“It takes a considerable amount of time (to charge electric cars) and people won’t stay with their cars, they would go to a restaurant … spend some money,” he said. “An advantage to having it in the downtown area could attract people off the Thruway (to stop in Batavia).”

The proposal presented by City Manager Jason Molino was based a Genesee Regional EV Charging Station Plan indicating that the City of Batavia is a location where EV charging stations are needed.

He said the City would be obligated to a free, three-year ChargePoint network subscription. However, the City (as a host city) would not have to pay for the station – a $7,500 expense – but only the cost of installing a conduit from a utility pole to the charging station unit (estimated at $1,500).

As far as the cost of electric is concerned, Molino said the City could set and manage the pricing (if the City chose to charge for electric), could charge the consumer an hourly rate on a per kilowatt hour basis, with optional peak and off-peak rates, and could track consumption and related details of the station’s usage.

“After three years, the City could continue to subscribe to ChargePoint for an annual cost of $560 or drop the subscription and have the consumer continue to use the station via their app (on their mobile devices),” he said. “Also, the City (at that time) would have the option to remove the charging station.”

Afterward, Molino was asked whether he was disappointed by the proposal’s defeat.

“Well, we bring forward ideas and initiatives -- proposals to the Council because we think they promote certain elements and are progressive on certain matters,” he said. “The Council has the full right and authority to say that it’s consistent to what we think or not consistent of what we think, and we support those decisions both ways.”

“I totally understand their perspective on it, and right now we’re not going to move forward with that initiative. Should that change at a later date (however), I’m sure the Council would say, ‘Hey, we’re going to change it.’ ”

Asked if he thought that a private entity could step in, he said that it was possible, “just like what happened at Dunkin' Donuts.”

“It’s definitely a possibility that someone could do it on private property in the downtown area. Nothing’s prohibiting anybody from doing that.”

In the meeting’s public comments session, Jim Rosenbeck, of Lewis Avenue, also spoke against City involvement in an EV charging station, asking Council to “be cautious when this idea comes up.”

“It may sound good and feel good, but it costs the people money, and they’re not benefitting from this service,” he said.

Jankowski said he wished that the proposal went through to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on it.

“I just thought it would be nice to at least go to a vote and get two weeks for me to get some input,” he said.

“It’s not done, it just didn’t get put on the agenda, so if there’s public input on it and people want it, then it could be put back on a Conference meeting and re-voted at a future time. So, I’m going to wait until I receive any feedback and go from there.”

In other action, Council:

-- Moved to its Business Meeting a resolution approving the sale of five parcels that were auctioned to the highest bidders – 29 Brooklyn Ave., Louie Kingsbury, $4,000; 200 S. Swan St., Geib Corporation, $20,000; 1 Watson St., Justin and Yasmeen Calmes, $13,500; 46 Swan St., Justin and Yasmeen Calmes, $1,500; and 2 Willow St., Robert Fritschi, $19,000.

Christian expressed her dismay that the property at 46 Swan St. wasn’t sold to Ronald Viele, who had offered significantly more.

The City’s Municipal Code and Ethics Code, however, prohibit the purchase of real property to a City Council member or City employee, and it this case, Ronald Viele is the father of Council Member Paul Viele, who is involved in the family business. When Ronald Viele was informed of the restriction, he withdrew his offer.

-- Was advised of a letter sent to Bialkowski by Kathy Owen, of 2 Redfield Parkway, who is seeking the City’s help in restoring the pillars that act as a gateway to the street from West Main Street.

“The pillars are in a serious state of deterioration,” Bialkowski said, and urged Council to approve using some of the $52,000 earmarked for community development initiatives to fix them.

Molino said the City previously applied for grants for this project but was denied. He noted that two of the pillars are on private property and two are on city property, a situation that creates “some nuances” as far as repair work is concerned.

He said that the community development funds could be used as restoration of the pillars is considered a “neighborhood improvement” project. Cost to professionally repair the pillars was estimated at around $20,000.

-- Heard from Jonathan Bell, of Evans Street, who asked that the City put up a sign notifying drivers that there is an autistic child living on the street.

“I have five kids and one is severely autistic and runs in the street,” he said. “What’s a $100 sign when you are asking for $25,000 for rocks? My child’s life is worth more than a couple rocks (referring to the pillars on Redfield Parkway)."

Molino and Council members agreed to look into this, with Jankowski wondering aloud “what broke down in the process that this gentleman had to come to this meeting?" (instead of it being handled by city officials). Bell reportedly had called the City of Batavia office more than once but received no reply.

In photo at top, City Council Member Kathleen Briggs reads a proclamation designating Oct. 8-14 as Fire Prevention Week. She is joined by City firefighters, from left, Chief Stefano Napolitano, Christina Marinaccio, Tom Douglas, Jeff Stevens, Greg Ireland, Ryan Clair and Mike Morris. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

September 12, 2017 - 8:21am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

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Calling it his “dream job,” Batavia native Cody Mulcahy began his career Monday night as a Batavia City Police officer.

The 2010 Batavia High School graduate was sworn in as the department’s newest recruit at last night’s City Council meeting.

Mulcahy, 25, will be attending the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy at Niagara University over the next several months before embarking upon four months of field training. After that, he will join the Batavia force on road patrols.

“This really is my dream job,” Mulcahy said. “I live in the City of Batavia and it gives me an opportunity to be a positive role model.”

The son of Tim and Pam Mulcahy, he studied at Genesee Community College and Brockport State College, obtaining a degree in Criminal Justice.

Mulcahy is the third resident of Batavia to be enlisted for duty in his hometown in recent months, joining Matthew Dispenza and Ryan Shea.

In other action last night:

-- Council passed a pair of resolutions to accept grants for the police department.

The first is an $11,374 grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to fund overtime patrols over the next 12 months designed to increase seat belt usage and reduce dangerous driving behaviors.

“The grant period is Oct. 1, 2017 through Sept. 30, 2018, during which we will set up checkpoints, singular patrols and dedicated patrols – such as Main Street pedestrian safety,” Batavia Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said.

The second grant is for $10,000 from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to offset the purchase of body cameras.

“This was a surprise,” Heubusch said, noting that around $27,000 was spent per last year’s budget on body cameras for officers.

-- Councilman Paul Viele commented on renovations being made at Falleti Ice Arena on Evans Street.

“I would like to thank (DPW Director) Matt (Worth) and (City Manager) Jason (Molino) for the improvements at the rink,” said Viele, who brought several issues to light earlier this year.

Viele ran the meeting in place of President Eugene Jankowski, who, along with Councilman Al McGinnis, was absent.

-- Molino reported that he continues to wait for word about the city’s attempt to receive a $10 million state downtown revitalization grant for the Finger Lakes Region.

Communities in seven of the state’s 10 regions have yet to hear of the results, Molino said. Batavia submitted its proposal about three months ago.

-- Council approved a liquor license for Batavia Brewing Company LLC, which will be opening on Main Street in the near future, and plans for the Alzheimer’s Association WNY Chapter Walk on Sept. 23 and the John Kennedy Intermediate School Color Run on Oct. 21.

At top, Cody Mulcahy is sworn in as a Batavia City Police officer by Deputy Clerk Aimslee Cassidy. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 11, 2017 - 8:45am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, deer management.

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Deer running loose in the City of Batavia -- creating havoc with residents' flower gardens and posing a threat on roadways -- has been a problem of varying degrees in the City of Batavia for the better part of two decades.

So, in the eyes of City Council, any deer management plan that does not include an option to cull the deer population is simply passing the buck (or doe).

On Monday night, council members responded to a report submitted by the Council-appointed Deer Management Task Force that recommends a non-lethal approach to managing the deer population.

During a discussion steered by Council President Eugene Jankowski, the board agreed that more needs to be done to minimize the impact of deer in several parts of the city, notably the Naramore Drive, Clinton Street, South Main Street and Burke Drive areas.

"Did you reach out to the Hawleys and Michalaks (property owners on Bank Street Road in the Town of Batavia), the county or the town to network with them and possibly assist us?," Jankowski asked Mike Freeman, task force chairman, following Freeman's presentation. "I think we need a balanced approach, and I know that the Hawleys and Michalaks are open to assisting us."

Deer herds on those Town of Batavia properties make their way into the city, primarily causing problems in the northeast section of the community. 

Councilman John Canale agreed with Jankowski, while noting that he has seen eight or nine deer running through Lambert Park near Burke Drive. Councilman Robert Bialkowski said he is aware of herds on South Main Street, Union Street and at the VA Medical Center and Councilwoman Patti Pacino has received calls about deer on Ross Street.

"There are people who have done everything (to deter the deer from coming on to their property)," Pacino said. "Can't we do better? Isn't there something we can do? In a year and a half, there won't be a tulip on Ross Street."

The task force's report (details were outlined in a story on The Batavian on Monday) focuses on ways to alleviate or prevent "deer-related impacts" -- through an informational link on the city's website and basing its recommendation on survey responses that suggest the issue "did not rise to the attention that a lethal and proactive initiative needed to be undertaken ..." 

Freeman, who said the task force did not speak to the Bank Street Road property owners, said residents need to be educated about ways "to keep their property safe and to keep the deer away." He also noted that it is against the law to feed the deer.

As far as hunting deer within the city limits, the task force did not rule that out as long as residents adhere to NYS Environmental Conservation Law, which restricts the discharge of a gun, bow or crossbow within certain distances of residences and buildings.

Task force member Joe Rowbottom of Naramore Drive said he has been dealing with deer in his yard since 2001. He said the best way to cull the herd is during the summer, at night, baiting them and using sharpshooters to take them out.

"But, there is a problem with legality," he said. "You have to get property owners to agree. And who is going to be liable if mistakes are made?"

Jim Rosenbeck, of Lewis Avenue, speaking during the public comments portion of the meeting, said he didn't think it is "realistic" to hunt deer in the city.

"I don't want to see the city get deeply involved in a hunt in the city," he said. "Issuing a permit in the Town, that's the way to do it. Homeowners can come together and go to (speak) to Mr. Hawley."

In the end, Jankowski and Council called for the task force to continue its work by exploring a "combination plan" -- culling, education and enforcement of the law -- that would ultimately involve the Department of Environmental Conservation in the process of issuing permits and butchering the deer (with meat given to local food banks).

"We need a little more research, a couple more options," he said.

In other action, Council passed two resolutions dealing with the community's Comprehensive Plan update -- (1) establishing the City as the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) for the draft Comprehensive Plan and (2) setting a public hearing on the proposed plan for 7 p.m. Aug. 14.

City Manager Jason Molino reported that the City Plannining & Development Committee already has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for July 18. 

Once adopted, Molino wrote, the Comprehensive Plan will require zoning code updates consistent with the new plan, adding that the City has money in a committed fund balance to support zoning code updates.

Photo: Mike Freeman, chair of the Deer Management Task Force, addresses City Council on Monday night. Seated at the table in the back are other task force members, from left, Ken Alfes, Joe Rowbottom and Rae Ann Engler. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 10, 2017 - 9:15pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

City Council may or may not be contractually obligated to give City Manager Jason Molino a 2.75-percent salary increase for the 2017-18 fiscal year, but, as far as Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian is concerned, the time for across-the-board raises must come to an end.

The subject of Molino's pay hike, which would lift his annual salary to $96,361, was presented to Council at Monday night's Conference meeting. After a few minutes of discussion, it was moved to the board's September business meeting when a vote is expected to take place.

Christian, who has spoken favorably of Molino's job performance on several occasions, said if a raise is warranted she would rather see a specific dollar amount not a percentage.

"I'm not in favor of a raise," she said afterward. "I started (as a council member) with (an) $8 million (budget) in 1992, we're up to $24 million now. It just boggles my mind."

Christian said Molino receives his salary and many perks as well.

"We give a three thousand dollar raise besides all your perks. It's just crazy, OK. We pay him for gas, we pay him for different events that he goes to, any college that he wants to attend as far as somethng to do with our city, any kind of NYCOM meanings, all of his family has health insurance.

"Goodness. There's so many families that can't even put food on the table, let alone everything else."

When asked for her thoughts going forward, she was quick to respond.

"I know what the solution is going to be coming up in 2018 -- nobody's going to get a raise. We're going to be at a standstill. It's going to stay right there, as far as I'm concerned. We've got to have some adjustments. Think about it, there were never any houses that defaulted on their taxes at one time. Now, we have three, four, five a year. And how many (more) are coming this year?"

While Councilman Paul Viele said he agreed with Christian's assessment, Councilman Robert Bialkowski said that Council needs to act consistently with terms of a contract that, he said, enables the City Manager to receive a raise in line with what other city management employees were given. 

Noting that Molino scored at least 4.5 out of 5 in various areas of his performance evaluation, Bialkowski said "it is up to us to be responsible and meet our obligations," adding that he doesn't go for "double-crossing on deals."

Council President Eugene Jankowski pointed out that the board is "taking steps to adjust some things in next year's contract ... looking at other ways of compensation."

"We are doing something; it's not falling on deaf ears," he said.

Councilwoman Kathleen Briggs said that positive evaluations don't necessarily result in pay raises, while Councilman John Canale noted that Molino's raise was included in the budget that was passed in the spring.

It was decided to postpone the vote on Molino's raise until September since Jankowski will not be in attendance at the August business meeting.

July 10, 2017 - 9:32am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

City Council has called a special business meeting tonight (7 o'clock, City Hall, Council Board Room) to consider a pair of resolutions dealing with the community's Comprehensive Plan update.

The governing body is expected to act on a resolution establishing the City as the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) for the draft Comprehensive Plan and a measure to set a public hearing on the proposed plan for 7 p.m. Aug. 14.

The Comprehensive Plan update is one of six items on the agenda of Council's Conference Meeting. A five-resolution Business Meeting -- which also includes a report from the Deer Management Task Force -- also is scheduled for tonight.

In a memo to Council dated July 5, City Manager Jason Molino stated that the Council-appointed Comprehensive Plan steering committee has worked with Elan Planning, Design & Landscape Architecture PLLC over the past 18 months and has engaged community participation in an effort to update the document that outlines the City's vision for the next 10 years.

"The relationship between the comprehensive plan, zoning law and the local boards that implement the land use system are all interrelated," Molino wrote. "Most importantly, the future land use map sets the foundation for the City's zoning, based on feedback and input from businesses and residents on what they would like the Batavia of tomorrow to look like."

Molino pointed out that the City Plannining & Development Committee already has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for July 18. He recommends that City Council pass the resolution scheduling its public hearing for Aug. 14, which then could be considered for adoption at the Sept. 11 Council meeting.

Once adopted, Molino wrote, the Comprehensive Plan will require zoning code updates consistent with the new plan, adding that the City has money in a committed fund balance to support zoning code updates.

As far as the City's deer management strategy is concerned, a special task force met a dozen times since April 2016, with its activities including identifying problem areas, collecting pertinent data, conducting a survey of residents and looking at deer managements plans of two Michigan communities -- East Lansing (which takes a "deer-related impact" approach) and Meridian (which uses a bow hunting club to control the deer population).

In a memo dated June 29, the task force reports that the City "should not take a lethal approach to managing the deer population, but rather manage deer-related impacts."

The committee outlined several reasons for its recommendation:

-- The density of the City, little public land and an "inadequate environment to hunt in most (of its) areas."

-- Deer damage has been limited to select areas of the City.

-- There have not been a significant amount of deer-vehicle accidents in the City.

-- Response to the survey was low and suggested that the issue "did not rise to the attention that a lethal and proactive initiative needed to be undertaken ..."

-- Of those who did respond to the survey, half suggested lethal action and half opposed lethal action.

The committee's report does call for the implementation of a deer management website (link on the City of Batavia's website), conducting a public survey every two to three years to monitor activity, and to allow property owners to hunt within City limits, as long as they follow the parameters of the NYS Environmental Conservation Law which restricts the discharge of a gun, bow or crossbow within certain distances of residences and buildings.

June 12, 2017 - 8:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, austin park.

More police presence at Austin Park and less parking on Thorpe Street.

Those are the hopes of two Batavia residents who let their feelings be known at Monday night's City Council meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

Sandy Merkle, of 6 Thorpe St., a narrow small street on the city's Southside, said all she wants is a sign put up prohibiting parking near the corner of the street to enable her to safely enter and exit her driveway.

"I've talked to the neighbors about it, but they're renters ... and they say, 'we pay our rent,' " Merkle said.

Council members readily responded to her request, with Kathleen Briggs stating that "something has to be done" and Rose Mary Christian adding that "there should be signs for no parking near the corner and also for no parking on one side of the street, and tickets should be given to violators."

Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch is "responsible" for handling this matter and has the "authority" to correct the situation without City Council action.

As far as Austin Park is concerned, Sonya Alwardt, of 335 Bank St. said she was extremely disappointed in the response she received from City Police when she called on them to break up a fight there around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Alwardt said she saw a group of 10 to 20 people fighting when she took her 6-year-old child there to play. She said she called the police but was dismayed that it took a long time for them to respond and that the crowd wasn't disbursed promptly.

"I told officers that I didn't feel safe, but was told that they had a lot of pending calls to take care of," Alwardt said. "How is protecting children not a priority?"

At the end of her comments, Alwardt said she would not go to Austin Park anymore.

"It's a shame that you can't bring your children there," Christian said, before asking Heubusch to increase patrols there.

Jankowski said the matter "could have been resolved by Alwardt speaking to the (police) supervisor" on duty that night, and not having to come before City Council.

Councilman Robert Bialkowski agreed with Jankowski and added that Council "needs to set an example."

"If it happens again, there should be arrests," he said. "This is not tolerable."

Following the meeting, Heubusch could be seen speaking with Alwardt.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved a resolution to extend the current sales tax allocation agreement with Genesee County -- a pact that is set to expire next February -- through Dec. 31, 2018 in order to buy more time as negotiations between the city and county continue.

"The only reason we're extending it is that part of the process will require 16 or 17 small municipalities to renegotiate their water contracts (with the county)," Jankowski said. "That could be a major holdup. Just to be safe, we're extending it so we don't run out of time."

Calling it a "complicated process," Jankowski said the city is at the "fact-finding stage" and can't go further until the municipalities reach their agreements. He said the Genesee County is on board with the extension and likely will be passing a similar resolution.

Currently, the terms of the sales tax agreement provide the city with 16 percent of the sales tax generated in Genesee County, with the towns and villages splitting 34 percent (based on assessed valuation) and the county receiving 50 percent.

The contract is tied in to the city/county water treatment agreements as well, which leads to the complications cited by Jankowski.

-- Approved a resolution to transfer $35,000 from reserve funds to replace the message board at Dwyer Stadium, hopefully prior to the start of the New York-Penn League season later this month.

Originally, that money was earmarked to replace seats at the Denio Street ballpark, but Council deemed that the scoreboard was a more immediate need.

-- Commended Doug Cecere for his exemplary performance as a city firefighter for 24 years. Cecere recently retired.

May 2, 2017 - 8:48am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county legislature.

City Republican Committee Chairman David Saleh's confidence in his party's slate of candidates soared Monday night with the news that former Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha will be running for a seat on the County Legislature.

"All of our County Legislature candidates have done a very good job and Gary will be a great addition," Saleh said this morning, hours after City GOP representatives endorsed Maha for the legislature's Ninth District seat, a position that covers the City of Batavia's fourth and fifth wards.

"With a new (county) jail a major issue, and other key decisions to be made, Gary's experience is unparalleled."

City Republicans also backed City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. and At-Large Councilmembers Bob Bialkowski and Adam Tabelski for at-large positions in November's elections.

"We've got good continuity on City Council and we're going in the right direction," Saleh said. "In terms of experience, these three men bring value to city residents. All in all, we're very hopeful for November."

Jankowski has served as City Council president since 2016, and will be seeking his second term on the board.

Saleh said the GOP committee will conduct its chicken BBQ fundraiser on May 21 and "pull together with the candidates to prepare for the election."

April 11, 2017 - 1:35pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, picnic in the park.

Batavia City Council members on Monday night decided to make the city a bit more "vibrant" this summer by passing a resolution to allocate $4,000 to the Picnic in the Park event at Centennial Park on the Fourth of July weekend.

The funds will be transferred from the committed fund balance -- money from the now-defunct Vibrant Batavia initiative -- to the general fund. As of March 31, the committed fund balance was $52,611.

Council's vote was 8-1 with Rose Mary Christian dissenting.

"I stated before that this would get a precedent started -- and I think that is what is going to happen," she said.

City officials and event organizers have said that the Picnic in the Park was in danger of not continuing beyond this year due to budget constraints.

With the contribution, the city will be named as a sponsor of the 2017 event, which reportedly will include a Beatles tribute band.

April 10, 2017 - 10:39pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, DePaul.

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DePaul President Mark Fuller says the proposed DePaul Batavia Square Apartments on East Main Street, an 80-unit complex for income-eligible tenants, is his way of giving back to the community that he calls home.

"I grew up in Warsaw, went to RIT, and worked at Eaton, Yale & Towne before finding out I didn't like what I was doing," said Fuller, opening a presentation about the project at Monday night's Batavia City Council meeting.

"I then worked for the county, met my wife, Michele (Rapone), and we've been married for almost 40 years. My kids went to Notre Dame and I live in Le Roy, I'm Genesee County through and through."

Fuller, along with DePaul Vice President Gillian Conde, attorneys Ashley Champion and Jonathan Penna, and architect Joe Gibbons, shared details of their plan with Council, which later passed a resolution -- with Alfred McGinnis casting the lone "no" vote -- to introduce a necessary ordinance to change the zoning in the vicinity of the Batavia Gardens apartments (661, 665 and 679 E. Main St.) from Industrial to Commercial and to set a public hearing on the matter for April 24.

Champion pointed out that DePaul was in agreement with the Batavia Planning & Development Committee's recommendation to change from Industrial to Commercial zoning (not the original proposal of Industrial to Residential) to "more closely align with the goals and perspectives of the city's Comprehensive Plan."

But the theme of the video presentation -- which included photos of other DePaul renovation projects and testimonials from three residents of the Rochester-based company's Batavia Apartments on East Main Street near Eastown Plaza -- was that, according to Fuller, "there is a huge need for affordable housing in Batavia."

He said that New York State has identified Genesee County as needing affordable housing and has allocated $3.2 billion across the state for projects such as these. Residents of Batavia Square, should it come to fruition, would receive services to meet special needs and be charged rent based on income limits, for example, $27,000 for an individual and $38,700 for a family of four.

"Every project fills within two to three weeks, and we have huge waiting lists on all of our projects," he said.

Fuller said he is convinced the Batavia community will support the venture, which will include DePaul applying for financial incentives -- PILOTs or payment in lieu of taxes -- from the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

"What’s amazing is – I talked to Kiwanis last week, I’m speaking to Rotary in a couple weeks and I’ve been out meeting with everybody in the community – to a person, everybody wants the project," Fuller said. 

"The history of DePaul, we’ve got a great reputation in Batavia, and I’m really doing this because people approached me and wanted more housing in Batavia. The lack of adequate, handicap-accessible housing for special needs and everything else (is there), so I’m really doing this to give back to Genesee County – my hometown."

Of the 80 units, 36 have been designated as affordable units with preference given to elderly people and/or people with mobility disabilities, four are set at market rate, 30 are for people with special needs linked to services, and 10 will be allocated for veterans.

Fuller said that comments that DePaul is making money off of veterans or doesn't need the tax breaks stem from those who "don't know the whole story."

"We’re getting no money to house veterans. We’re just setting aside 10 units (as priority for veterans) and it could be more if there’s 20 veterans … we’re setting 10 units aside to guarantee because our housing projects fill in 10 days."

As far as the PILOT is concerned, Fuller said DePaul would be unable to get involved without it.

"These projects would not be doable without a PILOT with the city, but it’s important to point out that we’re a not-for-profit but we’re still giving a significant tax payment to the city for 30 years – more than four times than what they’re getting for that property now."

Fuller said the development will create 18 jobs as well as another 200 construction jobs.

Gibbons outlined details of the complex -- a 5-acre parcel with 24 units in Building A, 24 units in a three-story Buildilng B, and 32 units divided into four eight-unit two-story townhouses. The plan calls for 56 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom apartments and 94 parking spaces (which could be expanded).

"It will be highly energy efficient through Energy Star and NYSERDA programs, and typically 50 percent will be handicapped-accessible," he said.

Conde said that rent will be set at $700 for a one-bedroom unit and $850 for a two-bedroom apartment, but residents have to show an income to be eligible. Utilities, wireless Internet and cable TV are included, along with around-the-clock staffing and a sophisticated security system.

She added that "housing specialists" are on staff to help link tenants to services in the community, but before being accepted all applicants "receive extensive background checks" -- with those convicted of non-DWI felonies or sex offenders not eligible.

"We manage our own tenant list ... that's a huge piece toward having respectful communities," she said.

The DePaul team said it will be meeting once again with the Genesee County Planning Board later this week over the rezoning issue, and hopes for a positive outcome over the next several weeks with City Council.

"This is really just the first start – the hard part is getting the money out of Albany," Fuller said. "We certainly have done it a lot, we’ve got the project in the works, we’ve been told this is a high priority. Our goal would be to have that all in place by the winter so we can start construction in early spring 2018, and that’s about a two-year construction period."

March 13, 2017 - 8:42pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Ellicott Trail.

City Council on Monday night passed numerous resolutions, most notably the 2017-18 city budget, which was approved by an 8-1 vote (with Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian dissenting).

The $24 million budget -- of which $16.5 million comprises the general fund -- calls for a property tax levy of $5.2 million and an increase of less than 1 percent in the tax rate.

Passage of the budget was welcome news for Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corporation, who attended the meeting along with BDC President Pier Cipollone.

"It means that the city is supporting us in more good work to do, particularly related to the Brownfield Opportunity Area advancement," Pacatte said. "This budget, specifically, has some additional carve-outs to help us advance our second BOA site – Creek Park – behind the (Falleti) ice arena (on Evans Street)."

Before the budget vote, Christian expressed her disappointment with the fact that city revenues are down by $458,000 and that a sales tax agreement has yet to be reached with Genesee County.

"Also, I've been waiting for sidewalks on Clifton Avenue (in her Ward) for over 12 years and wanted some of the money from the VLT (video lottery terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming) for a pool on the Southside," she said.

This prompted Robert Bialkowski to mention that no one spoke against the budget during last month's public hearing and that City Manager Jason Molino met Council's request to reduce the tax increase to less than 1 percent.

Adoption of the spending plan means that the tax bill for a city resident with a house assessed at $90,000 will now be about $838 for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that the property tax levy of $5.2 million is only about a third of the total general budget, and asked for a breakdown of the revenue stream.

Molino pointed out that, beyond the $5 million from property taxes, about $6 million comes in from sales taxes, another $1.7 million from state aid, and the rest from an assortment of fees, aid, grants, income from services provided and mortgage taxes.

In other action, Council:

-- Passed resolutions establishing slightly higher new water rates and meter fees, a 2.75-percent increase for non-union city employees (including management) and slight wage increases for part-time and seasonal city employees. All three of those resolutions passed by 7-2 votes, with Christian and Paul Viele voting "no" in each instance.

-- Voted unanimously to adopt a local law to amend the Business Improvement District Plan.

Molino said the amendment to the plan was a lowering of the assessment charge on the properties in the Business Improvement District because of the expiration of a large debt service payment.

"The amount levied is going down from about $120,000 to about $57,000," he said. "So what property owners can expect to see in the BID is a decrease in that BID assessment charge."

In an email to The Batavian, Molino said that the BID Plan identifies two sources for funding the activities of the Business Improvement District: the Business Improvement District assessment (BID Assessment) and the City of Batavia. The BID Assessment for each property is calculated by multiplying the assessed valuation of the property by the BID assessment rate.

In accordance with the General Municipal Law 980-k, a BID is limited in the amount of money that can be raised through the assessment. The district assessment charge, excluding debt service, may not exceed 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in a year against the taxable property in the BID.

As of Feb. 1, it is estimated that 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in 2017-18 against the taxable property in the BID is $57,926, based on current taxable assessed values and the existing City property tax rate. The BID assessment rate is estimated to be $1.844 per $1,000 of assessed value. There is currently no debt service to be paid for with district assessment charges.

-- Welcomed new Batavia City Police officers Ryan Shea and Matthew Dispenza, who were officially sworn in by City Clerk Heidi Parker, and recognized Jayme Privitera, of Le Roy, for submitting the first-place logo in the Ellicott Trail Logo Contest, which was reported first on The Batavian last month.

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From left, Assistant Chief Todd Crossett, Ryan Shea, Matthew Dispenza, Chief Shawn Heubusch.

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City Councilwoman Kathleen Briggs reads a proclamation honoring Jayme Privitera, who created the winning logo in the Ellicott Trail Logo Contest. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

February 27, 2017 - 11:17pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, mall merchants association.

Although senators in Albany may not be inclined to consider the idea of New York becoming a “sanctuary state,” City Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian wants to make sure they know where she stands on the matter.

“I want us to draft a resolution and send it to (Assemblyman Steven) Hawley, (Senator Michael) Ranzenhofer, (U.S. Senator Charles) Schumer and (Gov. Andrew) Cuomo, letting them know that the City of Batavia is opposed to this bill,” Christian said toward the end of Monday night’s City Council meeting. “I want no sanctuary city or state.”

Christian spoke out against a bill – known as the New York State Liberty Act -- that was passed by the state Assembly on Feb. 6. The bill is under review in the Senate.

The bill provides certain protections and rights for immigrants, including standards governing law enforcement’s ability to question a person’s immigration status and/or start deportation proceedings.

Council President Eugene Jankowski said that he was under the impression that the Senate was not going to call for a vote on the measure, but Christian wasn’t deterred.

“I still would like to see if my colleagues agree with me,” she said. “It might not do anything but we are willing to try.”

After a brief discussion, Council voted to have City Manager Jason Molino draft a resolution against any measures to create a sanctuary state or city, referencing both the Assembly and Senate bills, and have it ready for an official vote at the board’s next Business meeting on March 13. (It then would be forwarded to the elected representatives, including U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand).

Jankowski added that he was on board with Christian’s motion, but noted that “it might be putting the cart before the horse.”

“I don’t think the Senate wants to oppose the federal government and a new president so early in his tenure,” he said.

It also was noted that Assemblyman Hawley did not support the bill, labeled A3049B.

In other developments, Council:

-- As expected, approved a resolution authorizing Jankowski to sign a settlement between the City and the Batavia City Centre Mall Merchants Association to resolve longstanding litigation over the City Centre Mall.

The vote came after Council went into executive session for about 30 minutes to go over details of the agreement.

All council members voted yes except Robert Bialkowski, who abstained because his wife is an employee of the Mall Merchants Association. The agreement now goes to the merchants, who also must sign it.

Two weeks ago, Molino announced that the City and the Mall Merchants Association crafted an 11-point “settlement framework” that calls for the City to retain ownership of the downtown facility's concourse, pay 100 percent of capital improvements and take care of mall maintenance and operations.

Additionally, the City will spend an estimated $650,000 to fix the roof, silos and skylights. Moving forward, the City would impose a user fee based on each merchant’s property square footage.

Bialkowski said he had his doubts about the deal, citing the history of the mall and the series of lawsuits filed by the City and the Merchants.

“I hope that this resolution works this time but when it was first built, it was a disaster,” he said. “The city tried running it itself, but then tried to unload it. I hope it doesn’t become an anchor around the taxpayers’ neck.”

Bialkowski added that he believes that “business should be best left in the private sector; it’s definitely more efficient.”

-- Held public hearings on the 2017-18 budget; cwater/sewer rates and capital improvement fee; amending the Batavia Business Improvement District plan, and a Community Development Block Grant. No one from the public spoke.

Thus, Council members likely will vote in two weeks on the City's proposed $23.9 million spending plan that calls for a 0.9 percent tax increase.

-- Moved forward to the March 13th meeting several resolutions, including one that retains Freed Maxick for financial auditing services for another five years, and another that approves a $90,000 increase in the final cost of the Summit Street reconstruction project (which still came in $250,000 under budget).

February 17, 2017 - 3:36pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Ellicott Trail, town of batavia, Batavia City Council.

ellicott_trail_logo_privitera_1.jpg

JAYME PRIVITERA -- FIRST PLACE

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RICHARD GROSS -- SECOND PLACE

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KRISTEN STEPHANY -- THIRD PLACE

The Ellicott Trail Project has its logo, and it’s the work of an accomplished graphic artist from Le Roy who is no stranger to entering (and winning) competitions that are open to the public.

“I’m really excited about the fact that people will be able to see something that I created,” said Jayme Privitera, a professional graphic designer for the past decade.

Privitera’s captured First Place in the competition that was set up by the Ellicott Trail Project steering committee to find a logo that best represents the proposed 4.6-mile bicycle/pedestrian path that will run from Seven Springs Road to Pearl Street Road (Route 33).

She won $100 for her logo, which will be used in many ways, such as on all-weather exterior signs, way-finding maps, stainless steel sidewalk emblems and, eventually, banners, stickers and fliers.

Richard Gross, of Wyoming, took Second Place, winning $75, while Kristen Stephany, of Warsaw, placed third, good for $25.

Members of the steering committee, led by Tom Lichtenthal, who also is serving as project manager for the Town of Batavia, made their selections on Thursday afternoon.

Lichtenthal said that 26 finalists out of the 176 submissions were considered at yesterday’s meeting. Entries came in from students and adults – from the age of 10 to 58 – from 15 communities in Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Erie, Wyoming, Niagara and Allegany counties.

Privitera said her goal was to keep the logo simple (per contest rules) and “easily recognizable, emphasizing that it was for a trail – something that keeps going.”

Two years ago, she won a statewide contest conducted by adnetworkny.com. Since 2011, she has provided graphic design for Lake Country PennySaver in Albion.

The logo will be officially unveiled at the Batavia City Council meeting on Feb. 27, Lichtenthal said.

Gross, a former ironworker and fabricator, said he does 3D modeling in his home “for fun.” He said he focused on the location of the trail and keeping the logo uncluttered.

Stephany is an adult student in her last semester at Genesee Community College where she is majoring in Graphic Arts. She said her goal was to use text that rendered “a bit of elegance and class” to the logo.

In December, Lichtenthal reported that the $1.7-million joint venture between the city and town was on schedule for completion by Thanksgiving.

The Town of Batavia is acting as lead agency for the project, which is being funded for the most part – 80 percent -- by a New York State Department of Transportation grant. The Town of Batavia and City of Batavia are contributing 10 percent each.

A Municipal Facility Grant of $250,000 will pay for a new bridge on Walnut Street, Lichtenthal said, while a portion of funds from a Genesee County Parks Department capital project will pay for a boardwalk at DeWitt Recreation Area.

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