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Batavia City Council

February 12, 2018 - 11:35pm

To lease or not to lease … that is the question.

Batavia City Council members answered that line with a resounding yes tonight, approving by a 7-1 margin a resolution to enter into a lease agreement with Batavia Players that opens the door for the theatrical troupe to make a new home at the downtown City Centre.

“I cannot wait until they come into the mall,” said Council member Patti Pacino. “It’s just a wonderful way to bring people downtown where they will get into the habit before we open Eli Fish, before we fill the Carr’s department store (so) we’ve already got people down there. It’s just a delightful idea.”

Pacino joined Adam Tabelski, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, Paul Viele, John Canale and Council President Eugene Jankowski in voting in favor of the agreement to allow Batavia Players to lease space at parcels 2, 35 and 39 Batavia City Centre (sharing space in one of the parcels with Dent Neurologic Institute). Rose Mary Christian was at an out-of-town conference.

Robert Bialkowski cast the “no” vote, contending that the lease contains inaccuracies and loopholes, and that it keeps the City in an unenviable position as a landlord.

“My position is you draw a lease and you draw it properly – you don’t have all these errors in it, and I’ve never heard of a lease saying, ‘We don’t include utilities, you go work it out with the other guy who is paying for it,’” he said. “This is how you end up in court with lawsuits.”

Bialkowski disputed the monthly rent figure in the lease for months seven through 12, stating that it should be $2,243.76 instead of the $1,223.86, based on $3 per square foot for the 8,975 square feet to be rented by Batavia Players.

Interim City Manager Matt Worth acknowledged that the original draft had the wrong amount, but said that it had been corrected.

Bialkowski also questioned whether the City would be responsible for repairs and utilities, and pushed for his colleagues to put the space up for sale.

“I don’t believe in the City sitting on property and being the landlord. It’s not the job of government to be a landlord,” he said afterwards. “It’s the job of government to take repossessed property from taxes or whatever, put them on the auction block and sell them.”

He also said the low rent per square footage ($1 per square foot for the first six months, $3 per square foot in months seven through 12, and $4 per square foot in months 13 through 60) created “an unfair competition” situation.

“There are plenty of places to rent downtown; they cannot rent for $2 a square foot – it’s impossible. So for the City to be renting below cost is ridiculous, and it’s unfair competition, I would say.”

Worth noted that the mall operation user fee charged to tenants is $2 per square foot, so – including property rented by Dent, “the total (rent collected) exceeds that amount (user fees).”

The lease calls for Batavia Players to be responsible for everything except structural repairs. As far as utilities are concerned, Dent is currently footing the bill.

In the end, Council took the view that the Batavia Players organization is a community asset and would be in a stronger position to recieve some of the $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative money by being able to stake its claim downtown.

Pacino said Batavia Players has a solid track record and is a popular family entertainment option – just what is needed downtown.

“Batavia Players has everybody acting from 5 years old to 100 years old,” she said. “Every one of those has a family that comes to see every one of their plays. Every time they come to a rehearsal, every time they have a play, they’re downtown where we’re trying to get people.

“Then they’re going to a place to get something to eat. On their way there, they’re putting gas in their car. They’re (Batavia Players) doing everything positive …They’ve already proven themselves where they are. They’re dependable, and they take responsibility.”

In other action, Council:

-- Voted unanimously to take $17,400 out of the former Vibrant Batavia funds to pay for the engineering and architectural costs to design a flood-compliant home for Genesee County Habitat for Humanity at 116 Swan St., but only after amending the resolution to make sure the City has full use of those plans for future home building in a flood zone.

Bialkowski wondered aloud if the City would take ownership of the documents, or if they would belong to Habitat for Humanity.

“I think that since the City is paying for the engineering, we should own the design. Then it would be public domain,” he said.

After a brief discussion, Council agreed, voting 8-0 on an amendment making the resolution contingent upon Habitat for Humanity sharing the plans (and making copies available to the City) for the public domain. Then the board voted 8-0 in favor of the resolution.

-- Scheduled public hearings for Feb. 26 on the 2018-19 budget, water rates, meter fees, capital improvement fees, and City Centre concourse user fees and to amend the Business Improvement District plan.

The $24.3 million budget comes with a tax rate of $8.99 per thousand of assessed valuation, down from $9.27 a year ago.

Water rates are set to go up by 3.5 percent -- Bialkowski cast the lone “no” vote on water rate increases, citing high poverty rates in the City -- and the capital improvement fee is set to go up by about 5 percent.

The City Centre Concourse user fee is in play due to the recent settlement between the City and the Mall Merchants. The fee is $2 per square foot, effective April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2012, and goes up to $2.04 in 2021-22 and $2.06 in 2022-23.

-- Voted to accept a low bid of $721,566 from Roman Construction Development Corp. of North Tonawanda to complete construction of 12,300 linear feet of sidewalk as part of the Healthy Schools Corridor Project.

-- Heard from Jankowski that the city manager search committee will be meeting Wednesday afternoon to look at proposals from seven search firms and is prepared to share its recommendation at the next Council meeting (Feb. 26).

January 22, 2018 - 10:49pm

Batavia City Council members voiced their support of Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County tonight as they agreed to consider a proposal to back to a building project in the flood zone on the City’s south side.

“Habitat for Humanity does an outstanding job, and the best thing about this project is that it’s going to be in the Sixth Ward,” said Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who represents residents of that district.

Habitat for Humanity leaders are seeking a $17,395 grant from the City to cover engineering and architectural costs to design a flood-compliant home at 116 Swan St.

Mike Fahey, Habitat for Humanity board president, said the funds are needed because the property is in the 100-year flood zone – and a complete demolition of the existing home is the only way the organization can make the project work.

“Habitat, about a year ago, acquired the property and we were not aware at that time that it was actually in the flood plain,” Fahey said following the Council meeting. “Because of that, we are required to meet FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) requirements to have the property acceptable to everyone, and to make sure that flood insurance can be obtained on the property at a reasonable cost to the homeowner.”

Calling it a “unique challenge” (as it is the first Habitat project in the City’s floodplain), Fahey said it also presents an opportunity “because we’ve always been concerned that the south side of the City of Batavia has not been usable for Habitat or allowed us to go in there and look at home sites because of the floodplain problem.”

The proposal before Council calls for the City to take money from the former Vibrant Batavia fund (there is $48,000 left) – paying half to Habitat when the building permit is obtained and half when there is a certificate of occupancy.

Matt Worth, interim city manager, said that the engineering and architectural design study would become “a blueprint for future (Habitat) homes.”

Fahey said that the design work would be the “property” of Habitat for Humanity, but the group would be willing “to use those plans on any property in the City needing FEMA requirement.”

The total cost of the project is $104,000, an amount that “would be too much for a homeowner,” Fahey said.

“It would exceed any mortgage that they could comfortably handle. So we’re asking for some money to offset the cost to Habitat for the engineering,” he said.

Fahey said the property is in terrible condition and has to be demolished.

“We attempted to see if we could elevate the property, but it’s structurally unsound so that is an additional cost that Habitat, itself, is going to accrue,” he said. “That will not be handed off to the homeowner.”

He said that the structure is only about two-tenths of a foot below the floodplain, but still has to come down in order to meet FEMA regulations.

“The concrete slab has to be engineered in such a way so that if there is a flood, the water can escape from the building and not cause any future damage,” he said.

“Once we bring the building – the new build – to FEMA compliant, that reduces the cost of the flood insurance by two-thirds. Flood insurance will still have to be obtained for the property, but at a much more reasonable cost.”

City Council moved the resolution to its Business meeting on Feb. 12.

January 8, 2018 - 9:56pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, JC Penney, Jason Molino.

citycounciljan82018-2.jpg

Update: Tuesday, Jan. 9

Concerning negotiations between the City of Batavia and the Mall Merchants Association, Dr. Marlin Salmon this morning said that he is concerned over the parking situation in proximity to his dental practice located at the City Centre Mall, calling it a "significant issue" that has prevented him from signing the proposed agreement.

"I have talked with Jason (Molino) in the past and expressed my concerns," said Salmon, who is seeking consideration for parking spaces near his business. "The initial agreement gives us a pedestrian easement, but really what does that do?"

Molino said that the City has offered to restripe a portion of the east lot to have two-hour parking instead of all-day parking for "quicker turnover," but added that "there are only so many parking spaces close to his storefront."

The matter is on the docket in Erie County Supreme Court at 10 a.m. Wednesday with Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto presiding.

------------------------

No one questioned his suggestions and no one shot down his recommendations. Jason Molino's final meeting as Batavia city manager was a smooth one.

At tonight's special conference meeting at City Centre Council Chambers, Batavia City Council members unanimously signed off on Molino’s advice to appoint Department of Public Works Director Matthew Worth as the interim city manager and to contract with a recruiting firm to find Molino’s long-term replacement.

The meeting culminated a nearly 12-year association with the City for Molino, whose last day on the job is this Friday. He starts his new position as Tompkins County administrator on Jan. 29.

Council members -- after re-electing Eugene Jankowski as president and Paul Viele as president pro tempore for 2018 -- thanked Molino for his service through an official proclamation, which pointed to his budgeting and strategic planning expertise and his “leadership and creativity,” while also acknowledging his “integral” role in Batavia receiving a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from the state.

Molino accepted the proclamation from Jankowski, quipping that “I bet you would have never predicted 12 years ago that you’d be giving me this,” referring to a situation where Jankowski’s position on the police force was eliminated midway through Molino’s tenure.

“It has been a fun time … quite the roller-coaster ride, with a lot of ups and downs,” Molino said. “The staff has been remarkable to work with, and you’re in good hands as you look for your next leader.”

The reins, at least temporarily (it could take up to six months to hire a new manager), are being handed over to Worth, who along with Ray Tourt, maintenance superintendent; James Ficarella, water and wastewater superintendent; and Lisa Neary, deputy director of finance, will be taking on additional responsibilities.

Council approved these appointments, which will come with additional stipends of $1,000 per month for Worth, and $750 per month each for Tourt, Ficarella and Neary.

Worth said he's ready to do what's needed to keep the City running efficiently.

"It’s really just a matter of need," he said. "There’s a gap and they felt that I could help to move forward until they could get that permanent solution for the city manager. The City has been awful good to me over the years, and if I can help them get through this interim area, I was happy to do it."

Molino’s departure means that both key leadership positions in the City will be vacant as Batavia also has been without an assistant city manager for some time.

As reported previously on The Batavian, Molino suggested that due to several major infrastructure projects on the table, Council would be wise to postpone a water line replacement project and a sanitary sewer design project on several streets until 2019 and 2020, respectively.

“From a construction perspective, it would be best to postpone them to next year because you won’t have the manpower available,” Molino said.

Worth said there will be plenty of construction work in the months ahead.

"The priorities, of course, are first and foremost are to assist Council in getting the new city manager search started, and get that moving forward," he said. "After that, the big tickets items that are outstanding are the few capital projects that were discussed – the TIP project and TAP project, which are sidewalk and large resurfacing. Hopefully, (there will be) a resolution to the mall issues and the sales tax/water agreement with the county are the big items that need all of our attention."

When asked if he was onboard with putting off the water line replacements projects on Union Street, Brooklyn Avenue and South Main Street, Worth said a year delay won't make much of a difference.

"Well, I can say I dug more holes in Union Street that I care to think about over my career, so I very much am looking forward to replacing that water main, but then again, that water main’s close to 100 years old -- so one more year, it seems that it’s a reasonable step to take," he said. "We want to do it once, and do it right. Those projects are projects that will be in place for 100 years ... so let’s make sure we spend the time and do it right."

Molino said he was confident that Worth, Ficarella, Tourt and Neary would be able to navigate through the projects, which include an overhaul of the city’s entire software system, sidewalk construction, street resurfacing, facilities capital plan, City Centre concourse improvements and the Ellicott Trail bicycle and pedestrian pathway.

“The budget probably will be one of the easiest things to get through since the department heads are involved in this,” he said.

As far as the search for the new manager is concerned, Council agreed with Molino’s contention that hiring an executive search firm – which could cost up to $20,000 – would be the best way to “recruit the best talent with a fresh perspective and not placing a huge responsibility on the staff.”

He made a point of stating that candidates at this level “are interviewing you (City Council),” not the other way around.”

“The reality is that they are interviewing you to see what you have to offer,” he said.

After some discussion, Council formed a committee of Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski and Adam Tabelski, which will reach out to three or four recruiting firms and get proposals prior to its Jan. 22 meeting.

Jankowski said he liked the idea of “formulating a hybrid committee” of Council members, business people, citizens and department heads to conduct the initial screening, but Kathleen Briggs said she was in favor of department heads and council members.

“No business leaders at this point,” she said, adding that Council was responsible for the hire.

It was agreed that the committee of three would work with human resources specialist Dawn Fairbanks to contact search firms and report back as soon as possible.

“I’ll make sure everyone is informed every step of the way,” Jankowski said. “We want to act on this as quickly as possible.”

In other action, Council:

-- Voted in favor of two resolutions dealing with the JC Penney store at the City Centre Mall, continuing the practice of having unique agreements with the department store – the mall’s anchor tenant.

The resolutions granted an easement for JC Penney, formally known as 40 Batavia Centre LLC, for its use of the loading dock which actually sits on city property. Last week, Black Equities transferred ownership of the property to 40 Batavia Centre LLC.

This latest action is “one of the final pieces of the settlement documents in getting them passed by Penney’s and their new property owner.”

Molino said just one property owner – Dr. Marlin Salmon, DDS, Salmon Orthodontics  – has refused to sign the settlement agreement 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.

Dr. Salmon’s business is located on the north side of the mall, next to Batavia Family Dental.

Molino said that Dr. Salmon’s case will be reviewed by a judge in court on Wednesday.

Molino said JC Penney owners have “given their affirmation of wanting to stay in this community, which is good for our dialogue with them. They confirmed they want to be here; having that good anchor tenant is always a good thing.”

citycounciljan82018_a.jpg

In photo at top, Jason Molino receives a farewell hug from Council member Rose Mary Christian. "You're the best manager we've ever had," Christian said, adding that she promised to "be good to these guys (his interim replacements) for the next six months."

Photos by Howard Owens.

January 5, 2018 - 12:15pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Jason Molino.

Update: A gathering to thank Jason Molino on his service to the City of Batavia and to wish him well in his new endeavor is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 11 at T.F. Brown's in Batavia.

  • Contract with an executive search firm.
  • Offer a salary and benefits to attract top candidates.
  • Seek the opinions of existing staff members.
  • Don’t rush to hire someone just to fill the vacancy.

These are the primary suggestions from Batavia City Manager Jason Molino in a memo to City Council as the municipality’s governing body begins its search for a new chief executive.

The memo, dated Jan. 3, will be considered at Monday night’s City Council meeting (7 o’clock, City Centre Council Chambers).

Council also is expected to discuss another memo from Molino that recommends the appointment of Matthew Worth, Department of Public Works director, as the interim city manager, and the postponement of water and sewer projects on several city streets until 2019 and 2020.

Molino resigned his position last month, and will be starting his new job – as Tompkins County administrator – on Jan. 29. His last day in Batavia is Jan. 12.

In his city manager search memo, Molino places much stock in the benefit of an executive search firm.

“Executive search firms will most likely meet with City Council and staff to understand the culture of the organization and what type of leader you are looking for,” he wrote. “From there they would develop a recruitment profile that can be used to assist in advertising and recruiting for the position. Once the position is formally advertised, they will also have a network of existing managers and assistant managers that they know may be a good fit for Batavia.”

Molino indicated that he puts Batavia ahead of the City of Geneva, which also is seeking a new manager -- “This may be bias, but I think Batavia has much more to offer. Right now, Batavia has a great brand,” he wrote – but he also wrote that he believes Batavia’s pay scale is about $15,000 to $20,000 behind the “pay scale of comparable communities.”

He recommends that Council should form a search committee of “a few Council members, department heads and maybe a few community leaders” and to solicit feedback from the staff “that will be working closest to the city manager.”

All told, he wrote that he expects the search to cost around $20,000.

In closing, he advised Council to not hire someone just to fill the vacancy if “no candidate is appealing or appears to be a good fit … Do another search until you find the right leader for your organization.”

Increased Duties for Worth, Others

During the transition, Molino wrote that Worth has agreed to serve as interim city manager until a new leader is appointed, and also suggests additional roles for Ray Tourt, maintenance superintendent; James Ficarella, water and wastewater superintendent, and Lisa Near, deputy director of finance.

His suggestions come with $1,000 per month additional stipends for Worth, and $750 each for Tourt, Ficarella and Neary. All would be effective Jan. 13, contingent upon Council’s approval.

“Originally, the City had proposed a $2 million water line replacement for Union Street, Brooklyn Avenue and South Main Street, in addition to starting the design for a $1.5 million sanitary sewer replacement for Franklin Street, and a Maple & Mill Street sanitary sewer realignment,” Molino wrote. “While this capital work is important, it is recommended that it be pushed back to 2019 and 2020, respectively, when a new City leadership is on board.”

Molino noted that negotiations are continuing with Genesee County regarding water and sales tax agreements – calling it the “single most impactful and important issue facing the interim city manager and City Council over the next six months.”

Because Worth will be required to handle pressing issues, more responsibility will fall upon the other three department heads, particularly several capital projects representing $7 million of infrastructure investment, and the fiscal duties that accompany them.

Click here to read the entire memos on the Batavia City Council page (Organizational Meeting Agenda and Special Conference Agenda -- Jan. 8, 2018). Both meetings are open to the public.

December 28, 2017 - 11:02am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Jason Molino.

Outgoing Manager Jason Molino’s “main goal” is to provide his successor with as much information as possible to help him or her navigate through the many projects that are on the table in the City of Batavia.

That’s the word from City Council President Eugene Jankowski, summarizing Wednesday night’s special meeting – a closed executive session – at the City Centre Council Board Room.

“Jason’s main goal is to outline everything in a detailed and concise manner to benefit the incoming manager and make it easy to understand what is going on,” Jankowski said.

While Jankowski said there is no obligation – financial or otherwise -- for either party to continue any relationship after Molino’s final day on the job (Jan. 12), he did say that Molino has “volunteered to answer questions after he leaves for a reasonable amount of time.”

Jankowski termed the meeting as an “exit interview” and a time for “constructive criticism both ways.”

The council president said most of the 45-minute meeting consisted of Molino giving suggestions about what skills and qualifications that Council needs to look for in its next manager, and how to improve employer/employee relations.

“He cleared the air as to why he was leaving, basically stating what he said before, that he was moving up the ladder and taking the next step in his professional development,” Jankowski said. “There also was a lot of heart-to-heart, which is a good thing.”

Jankowski said Molino outlined “his exit strategy” and briefed Council on the major projects.

“Jason also will be making suggestions on who he thinks should be the interim manager, and suggested that Council should make an interim appointment effective Jan. 13,” Jankowski said.

Although no specifics were discussed concerning an interim replacement, Jankowski said that he thinks “it would be reasonable to compensate someone for additional duties” should the interim tag be placed upon a current city employee.

Jankowski said there was no discussion on how to fill the position, adding that a public debate is less than two weeks away.

“You can expect a lively debate about how we will proceed at our next meeting on January 8th,” he said.

Molino resigned on Dec. 18 after 11 years in Batavia, and will start his new job as Tompkins County Administrator on Jan. 29. The new position comes with more responsibility and a substantial raise from his current salary of about $94,000.

December 26, 2017 - 3:56pm

Batavia City Council, in an effort to get a "head start" on the task of finding a new city manager, has called an executive session for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the City Centre Council Board Room.

Officially designated as a special business meeting, the session will not be open to the public, Council President Eugene Jankowski said this afternoon.

"This will be completely an executive session, since there has been no gathering of Council to discuss the next step (in light of Jason Molino's resignation on Dec. 18)," Jankowski said. "Our thought is to get a head start on everything that needs to be done to find a successor -- which procedures to follow, Jason's exit plan and the best direction to take."

The Tompkins County Legislature formally appointed Molino as the new Tompkins County Administrator on Dec. 19, effective Jan. 29.

Jankowski said Molino will be an "integral part" of Wednesday's informational meeting, which he said was proper since this deals with a "personnel matter."

"I just talked to Jason about an hour ago, and he said that his concern is that the city is left in proper hands when he leaves," said Jankowski, adding that he wasn't sure of Molino's last day on the job in Batavia.

(The Batavian has just learned that Molino's last day as city manager will be Jan. 12).

The council president said it was imperative that all council members "get on the same page to weigh all of our options."

Those options include whether or not to hire a job search consultant, whether or not to appoint an interim city manager, and whether or not to focus on the city manager appointment and put the vacant assistant city manager position on hold.

"Hopefully, as a result of the executive session, will be able to discuss the situation publicly at the January 8th meeting," Jankowski said. "As of right now, there are a lot of unanswered questions."

December 12, 2017 - 8:29am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Batavia City Council passed seven resolutions at its Monday night meeting, including one that appropriates $264,050 toward preliminary engineering and design costs for a six-street preventive maintenance project.

That figure represents the non-federal funds share of the project that, in agreement with the state Department of Transportation, will result in work being done on the following streets:

-- Clinton Street from Routes 5 and 33 to the city line;
-- East Avenue from Clinton Street to Ross Street;
-- Liberty Street from Route 63 to routes 5 and 33;
-- South Liberty Street from South Jackson Street to Route 63;
-- Swan Street from Route 63 to routes 5 and 33;
-- Vine Street from routes 5 and 33 to Bank Street.

Eighty percent of the costs will be paid using federal funds, 15 percent will come from New York State and 5 percent will be contributed by the City.

Of the $264,050 that is being fronted by the City via this resolution, $224,450 is federal money and $39,600 is state money.

Public Works Director Matt Worth said the City will be reimbursed for 95 percent of the design and construction costs that it appropriates in advance, as long as the project proceeds as planned.

Worth said bids will be solicited in April with construction expected to start next summer, adding that the work primarily will consist of milling and paving the targeted streets.

In other action, Council:

-- Authorized acceptance of a Stop-DWI grant for $18,981 for the police department to conduct specialized patrols and training, and purchase equipment, and for $2,400 from the state Traffic Safety Committee for the fire department to participate in the car seat safety program.

-- Approved a contract with EnergyMark for the purchase of natural gas from 2018-2020 for $3.36 per dekatherm, the lowest bid received.

Worth said that the cost is 12 percent less than what would have been obtained through an aggregate seller, and that the City has worked with EnergyMark for the past six years.

-- Voted to continue a contract for City Court prosecutorial services with Genesee County for two years, beginning Jan. 1, 2018.

-- Appointed Robert Gerace to the Board of Assessment Review committee through Sept. 30, 2022, Connie Boyd to the Historic Preservation Committee through Dec. 31, 2020, and RaeEnn Engler to the Community Garden Committee through Dec. 31, 2021.

December 5, 2017 - 8:22pm

Batavia City Manager Jason Molino admits that a communication breakdown has resulted in the confusion surrounding a proposal to redevelop the Old Engine House on Main Street with help from a Restore New York Communities Initiative grant.

“Maybe we all could have done a better job communicating,” said Molino, speaking by telephone tonight.

Ever since Molino’s memo to City Council dated Nov. 22 – a report that apparently wasn’t read by all council members prior to their Nov. 27 meeting (Thanksgiving came in between) – there have been numerous public comments criticizing the process.

Some of those comments placed the blame on the city manager for “jumping the gun” and others questioned the selection of Thompson Builds of Byron and Churchville as the developer.

A public hearing on the proposal to renovate the former restaurant into a commercial/residential building and to apply for a $1 million Restore NY grant to help fund it was scheduled for Monday afternoon, but was abruptly cancelled after Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said the County Legislature wasn’t ready to declare the property as “surplus.”

This, as would be expected, cast a negative light upon all parties involved, especially Molino for bringing the project to City Council.

“(Cancelling the public hearing) caught me by surprise,” Molino said, noting that Gsell told him that the legislature needed more time to review the plan.

Currently, the Engine House, which is owned by the county, is the home to public defender offices and a facilities management shop.

Molino said he was aware that the county had been looking to surplus the property for some time – “a couple years,” he said – and that Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corporation, had referred a couple investors to the county.

“I know that Jay had people looking at it as well; multiple people already looked at it,” Molino said.

Molino said that Pacatte came to him with news that Thompson Builds was interested in renovating the building to have a commercial venture on the first floor and apartments on the second floor – and that he was excited by the prospect of putting the property back on the tax rolls.

“That was a few weeks ago,” Molino said, after the City submitted a letter of intent to apply for the grant and was accepted – matters that weren’t communicated to City Council.

“I could have done a better job of advising Council,” Molino said, adding that he also should have received confirmation that the county was ready to relinquish the building.

As far as the procedure to dispose of surplus property is concerned, Molino said the county had several options, including an auction, request for proposal (RFP) or “appraised value and straight deal contract.”

He said the City’s role was simply as a “pass-through” since the county was not eligible to apply for the Restore NY grant.

Molino said he knew of two interested investors, including Thompson Builds, but said that it was Pacatte who “worked with Thompson to develop it a bit more.”

Pacatte could not be reached for comment tonight.

For the record, Thompson Builds has done work at Genesee County Building 2, VA Medical Center, Genesee County Airport and Liberty Pumps in Bergen, and did major work at the Big Tree Glen apartment complex on West Main Street Road.

When it was pointed out that Pacatte reports to him, Molino acknowledged that “maybe I should have been involved more.”

Despite the setback, Molino said he hopes that City Council would consider applying for the grant in 2018.

“We need to come together and gear up for next year,” he said, “by communicating with the county on the disposal of the property and with the investor. By getting everybody on board, we should be able to move forward.”

December 4, 2017 - 12:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county, Old Engine House.

Update: Monday, Nov. 4 -- 2:15 p.m.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said that county legislators want to take a closer look at the county's downtown facilities before making a decision about the future of the Old Engine House.

"They want further discussion and also want to walk through the downtown buildings," Gsell said. "At this time it is best to slow down a little bit, (cancelling) the public hearing and in the aftermath of the City Council's reaction (to the proposal to redevelop the Engine House). Now is not the best time to move forward and ask for a million dollars if we don't have all of our ducks in a row."

Gsell said that he believes that more Restore New York funding will be available in 2018, and also mentioned outstanding funds from previous state and regional economic development initiatives.

He said that should Genesee County move to relinquish the Engine House, public defenders currently working there would be relocated (likely to the adjacent Genesee County Court Facility) and that facilties management employees would "move to the highway department (on Cedar Street) eventually anyway."

As far as Genesee County holding on to the building, Gsell said that it would need much renovation, noting that there is no close-by parking, no access to the second floor and that it is not handicapped-accessible.

"It should be mentioned that when the county purchased the property, it was the parking lot that was important (to serve the courthouse buidling)," he said. "The Engine House was an afterthought; a building that was bought through a tax lien from the city for $250,000 in 1996-97."

Previous story:

"I spoke with the county manager and at the present time the county is not prepared to dispose of the property."

With that statement this morning by Batavia City Manager Jason Molino, the public hearing scheduled for 5 o'clock this afternoon to consider a proposal to redevelop the Old Engine House has been cancelled.

When asked if Genesee County's change of heart puts an end to the idea of turning the former restaurant into a commercial/residential site, Molino would not offer any more information.

A call to County Manager Jay Gsell has yet to be returned.

At City Council's most recent meeting (Nov. 27), board members voted to set the public hearing for the application of a $1 million grant to redevelop the county-owned Engine House on Main Street.

The proposal was not eagerly received, however, as some council members questioned the process -- stating that they weren't given enough advance notification -- and one questioned the selection of Thompson Builds of Byron as the developer.

In a memo to Council, Molino reported that a Restore New York Communities Initiative grant was available for the project, but it could only be applied for by a city, town or village -- not Genesee County. The city manager also stated that the county was willing to declare the property as "surplus" and was on board with its redevelopment.

The plan, as outlined by Molino after discussions with the Batavia Development Corporation, Genesee County and Thompson Builds, was to convert the 14,425-square-foot buildilng for business use on the first floor and residential use on the second floor.

In the end, Council voted to set the public hearing, focusing on the prospect of returning the property to the tax rolls.

While it was reported that the building is vacant, it actually houses offices for the public defender (the Genesee County Court Facility is next door) as well as the shop for the county's facilities management divisiion, which also is in close proximity to key county-owned buildings.

November 28, 2017 - 7:50am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Old Engine House.

Batavia City Council members on Monday night voted to set a public hearing for the application of a $1 million grant to redevelop the vacant Genesee County-owned Old Engine House on Main Street but several of them did so with a bad taste in their mouths.

Council members Robert Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian questioned the process -- "this came out of the blue," Christian said -- while Kathleen Briggs sought clarification on the county's role in the matter and Al McGinnis said the City should be looking at providing more single-family homes.

All in all, the debate at times revealed the board's misinterpretation of and confusion over the proposal to let developer Thompson Builds of Byron turn the former restaurant (and historic building) into a commercial-residential building.

Christian said she was aggravated by "nonprofits that don't pay any property taxes and school taxes, and that I had to read (about this) in the paper before we knew about it."

Council President Eugene Jankowski corrected her, stating that the grant is "pass-through money" and doesn't come from city coffers -- and that the project puts the property "back on the tax rolls."

Molino pointed out that the Restore New York Communities Initiative grant has to be applied for by a city, town or village, but Briggs still wondered "why the county doesn't do something about it?"

To which, Molino replied, "I think they are ... they're disposing of it (by declaring it as surplus property) and putting in back on the tax rolls."

That prompted McGinnis' comment about the City needing "to concentrate our efforts" on single-family homes, and Bialkowski stating he had problems with the process.

"I didn't know about it until reading it (in local media) and I have not seen an RFP (request for proposal)," Bialkowski said.

He also questioned how Thompson Builds was selected and that he felt rushed into having to set a public hearing on the same night as Council's first discussion about it.

His comments prompted Molino to apologize, but the City Manager noted that his Nov. 22 memo to Council was "in the media packet" and he didn't have any control as to when it would be published.

"Also, the county doesn't have to dispose of public property through an RFP," he said.

The plan outlined by Molino, after discussions with the Batavia Development Corporation, Genesee County and Thompson Builds, is to convert the 14,425-square-foot buildilng for business use on the first floor and residential use on the second floor.

The project is in line with current zoning code.

"Mixed use (Commercial-Residential) is part of the planning processes that we have had for downtown property, and we have a developer that is interested in rehabiliating it," Molino said.

He also said that there is a huge demand for downtown apartments and that the project would have to go through all "proper approvals," including planning boards and the Historic Preservation Commission.

Council members John Canale and Patti Pacino backed up Molino's contention regarding the demand for living space, with Canale talking about the lack of "places to rent at a reasonable price range" and Pacino noting that there is a "whole generation (millennials) that we're trying to attract back to Batavia -- young teachers, professionals ... who aren't ready to buy a house."

Bialkowski said he was surprised that no one from Genesee County was at the meeting.

"The county is asking the city to give them $1 million so why don't they have someone here?" he said.

To which, Councilman Adam Tabelski countered with the fact the city has the opportunity "to team with the county and a private developer to make that (putting it back on the tax rolls) happen."

After Jankowski again said that state regulations require the City to apply for the grant and schedule a public hearing, Bialkowski still wasn't convinced.

"We're applying for the grant, and the county is getting a million dollars," he said.

Molino said that the money would go to Thompson Builds to help fund the $2.5 million project, prompting Bialkowski to say, "so we're giving it to the developer."

Jankowski tried to put the whole matter into perspective.

"The benefit is that we're taking surplus property and putting it back on the tax rolls," he said, moments before all council members voted to schedule the public hearing for 5 p.m. Dec. 4.

November 28, 2017 - 12:02am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Redfield Parkway.

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James Owen said he would gladly give away his stake in Redfield Parkway's well-known pillars as long as the City of Batavia commits to repairing the stone structures that have served as guideposts to the VA Medical Center.

"Because of my generosity, I would sell it to the City for a dollar so the pillars could be restored, and I would also give the dollar so they can pay me for that amount," Owen said with a wry smile. "That, as they would say, it's now public notice."

Owen lives at 2 Redfield Parkway, with his sister, Kathy, They along with Jim Fitch of 3 Redfield and Don Fryling of 6 Redfield spoke at Monday night's City Council meeting and were supported by several other Redfield Parkway residents.

All spoke about the pillars' historical significance and urged council members to act sooner rather than later.

"We simply don't see much of this stonework anymore ... it is the duty of our community (to preserve history)," said Kathy Owen, who added that three estimates to repair the deteriorating pillars were given to the city in 2012. "Six years and nothing has happened."

City Council was made aware of the condition of the pillars, which consist of two inner gateway-monument-style pillars and two outer posts, a couple months ago, and asked City Manager Jason Molino to explore restoration options.

James Owen said the pillars "look good from the street" but the mortar is cracking and they are "starting to fall apart."

Molino pointed out a couple of issues: (1) the outer posts are located on private property and (2) the pillars likely wouldn't qualify for grant money since they are not historically or landmark designated.

One of the outer posts is on the Owens' property and the other is on the property of Michael Riggi, whose address is 384 W. Main St. (at the corner of Redfield Parkway). 

Fitch said his mindset, as far as financial responsibility is concerned, is that the pillars "are part of one entity, and they need to be considered that way. Reparing them is a big decision with long-term ramifications."

Fryling said the structres "should be maintained."

"Don't let them deteriorate to the extent that the city park shelters did (and had to be taken down)," he said.

All of the council members voiced their support of the restoration project, and some mentioned the unique nature of Redfield Parkway, with its pillars and full-length island leading from West Main Street to Richmond Avenue (and the VA Medical Center), and also spoke of the work of the Redfield Parkway Association members who put up flags, flowers and Christmas trees throughout the year.

Molino had suggested an assessment of the situation by engineers or a masonry company experienced in stone pillars. He also talked about acquiring a permanent easement from the two property owners to give the City the ability to repair and maintain the structures.

"If you're going to do it, do it the right way," he said. "Make the right investment that will be lasting."

In the end, City Council President Eugene Jankowski directed Molino to get some "pretty hard costs," adding that "we don't want to wait until January of next year, and we want regular updates."

Molino said he would have detailed information by the January Conference meeting -- noting that an assessment could come with a financial cost --- and said a decision could be made by spring and put out for bid.

Afterward, James Owen said he liked what he heard from Council.

"Well, I believe they're on the right track," he said. "I hope within a year the pillars of Redfield will be repaired so the community can see the future. I think it will be a big project, but with the proper people doing it, it should be done efficiently and up to code, and also it will last for another 105 years."

Photos at top -- James Owen, holding a piece of the mortar that fell out of one of the Redfield Parkway pillars, and his sister, Kathy, speaking to City Council. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

November 27, 2017 - 2:40pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Old Engine House.

What can be done about the deteriorating masonry pillars, walls and lighting that welcome motorists and walkers onto Redfield Parkway from West Main Street?

Batavia City Council members are expected to learn more about that situation tonight when they meet at 7 p.m. at City Centre Council Chambers.

In a memo to the board by dated Nov. 8, City Manager Jason Molino recommends that the city seek funding streams to conduct a “condition survey” of the four structures that make up the Redfield Parkway pillars – two inner gateway-monument style pillars and two outer posts.

He wrote that a grant from the Preservation League of New York State is a possibility, along with historical preservation grants from the Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo. The grant amounts range from $3,000 to $50,000.

One snag, however, could be that the pillars are not “historically or landmark designated,” Molino wrote.

Also, while the two monument pillars (equipped with lighting structures) are located in a public right-of-way and are owned and maintained by the City, the two outer posts are located on private property. All are showing signs of disrepair, with cracked and missing mortar.

“The condition of these posts varies, ranging from visible cracking of mortar to the removal of several stones,” Molino wrote. “After a review of the individual deeds of each property, it has been determined that the outer posts are individually owned and maintained, and are responsibility of each property owner.”

The condition of the pillars was brought to Council’s attention in September by Councilman Robert Bialkowski, who was responding to a letter he received. He proposed using $52,000 in funds earmarked for community development initiatives to fix them.

Tonight’s agenda also includes a proposal by Molino to apply for up to a $1 million grant from the Restore New York Communities Initiative to put toward the redevelopment of the vacant Old Engine House on West Main Street into a commercial/residential building.

Molino, in a memo dated Nov. 22, wrote that he has had discussions with officials from Batavia Development Corporation, Genesee County and potential developer Thompson Builds to rehabilitate the 14,425-square-foot historic structure.

Genesee County owns the property, but is “prepared to declare the property surplus should the project be funded and move forward,” Molino wrote.

Council will be asked to vote on a resolution tonight (during a special business meeting) to schedule a Dec. 4 public hearing for the project.

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.

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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.

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