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Batavia City Council

April 9, 2018 - 11:04pm

A New York State comptroller’s audit of the City of Batavia’s relationship with the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District mandates City Council to assume greater control of the agency’s financial matters.

That was the word from both Council President Eugene Jankowski and Interim Manager Matt Worth at tonight’s City Council business meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“Basically, the state has supported what we said in the past (that Council needed more oversight of the BID) and lays down some ground rules going forward,” Jankowski said. “This has been going on for a couple years; we should have caught it sooner.”

See NYS Local Government and School Accountability audit summary findings posted above this story.

Worth said the audit addresses several procedural issues, particularly in the areas of budget oversight and retention of the BID’s funds.

“It deals with who should take possession of the funds and requires that a more formal contract between the City and the BID needs to be created,” Worth said.

The City and the BID were at odds for some time into the second half of 2016, stemming from the City’s contention that the agency’s 2016-17 assessment budget exceeded the General Municipal Law limits for district assessment charges used for operations.

Jason Molino, city manager at the time, also urged the BID to follow Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws, and to post its bylaws and meeting notices and minutes on its website.

The dispute simmered in a public forum, eventually prompting Laurie Oltramari to resign her position as BID director (although she said the budget flap did not enter into her decision).

Since then, the BID Board of Directors has changed as has the director, with Beth Kemp taking over the lead role in November 2016. Additionally, the City -- in a move supported by the audit -- has more than $200,000 in a special account (BID taxes that were levied inappropriately) that will not be used until the agency plans a capital improvement project.

A call to Kemp this evening had yet to be returned when this story was posted.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved a contract with R.A. Haitz Co. Inc., of Batavia, for $49,838 to replace two roofs at Dwyer Stadium, with the intent of having the work done prior to the opening of the Batavia Muckdogs’ season in mid-June.

“I think it’s great that we finally found someone from Batavia that can do some work in Batavia,” Council Member Rose Mary Christian said.

The cost comes in at $1,838 over the projected budgeted amount, but Worth said he thinks the City could save money on some other projects at the baseball park “so it comes out in the wash, so to speak.”

The Haitz bid was not the lowest of the three received, however. A $28,800 bid from Dan & D.J.’s Reasonable Contracting, of Elba, was not considered because that firm miscalculated insurance costs related to the project, Worth said.

-- OK'd a liquor license request by the Muckdogs to offer beer and cider during the New York-Penn League games.

-- Voted to contract with Labella Associates in the amount of $12,000 for administrative services in connection with a Communities Development Block Grant to replace 900 linear feet of water mains on a portion of Brooklyn Avenue.

-- Passed a resolution designating four eligible census tracts – in Ward 2, 3, 5 and 6 – as federal qualified opportunity zones.

This gives developers federal tax incentives to reinvest capital gains in areas designated as “disadvantaged” by virtue of having 20 percent or higher poverty and a median family income 80 percent less than the area’s median income.

The resolution states that “coupling opportunity funds with the locally enacted Pathway to Prosperity tax increment financing program may assure cleanup of brownfield sites, gain new investor commitments to Batavia, and will ensure that our region can be an attractive economic driver creating jobs, building tax base and increasing population …”

-- Was informed that two part-time janitors have been hired to work at the City Centre Mall but a full-time maintenance worker has not been hired yet.

Council Member John Canale reported that a mall merchant commented that she noticed people working in the mall and “appreciated” the City’s effort to improve what has long been a tenuous association between the merchants and the City.

March 28, 2018 - 9:57pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

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The Batavia City Council can expect the process of hiring a new city manager to take at least three months and it should be prepared to pay a salary of at least $110,000, according to a representative of the recruitment firm contracted by the municipality to find someone to replace former City Manager Jason Molino.

Six of the nine council members took part in a meeting at the City Centre conference room tonight with Catherine Tuck Parrish, executive search practice leader for The Novak Consulting Group, which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tuck Parrish’s office is in Rockville, Md.

“The market for city managers is what it is … you’re not competing against nonprofits and the private sector,” Tuck Parrish said. “I’ve seen your salary, and you’re going to have a hard time (finding someone at that level).”

Molino ended a nearly 12-year association with the City on Jan. 26, and started his new job as Tompkins County administrator three days later. He left Batavia with a salary of about $94,000; his pay at his new position increased to around $130,000.

Tuck Parrish, during her 60-minute presentation, outlined her company’s proposed recruitment plan – touching on key points such as job postings and outreach, timeline, interview process, and confidentiality and public information. She also distributed a one-pager that set the qualifications for the optimal candidate.

“We’re looking at three deliverables,” she said, calling them a main document, working document and recruitment plan memo.

The main document is a recruitment brochure that “highlights the best of Batavia – the great things about your community,” she said. It also will include the requirements for the job, preferred qualities and how to apply for the position.

The working document is a list of 12- to 18-month goals that “helps me know what is most important to you (City Council) and helps the next manager to say ‘Here’s what I need to do.’ The manager can only focus on so many things and do them well, so this identifies your top priorities.”

The third document, a memo, is the basic recruitment plan that pinpoints where to post the jobs – such as the International City/County Management Association newsletters and the League of Women in Government website, for example – and the related costs, as well as the recruitment schedule and proposed interview process.

Tuck Parrish said her firm will use social media and links, and also “customizes” outreach for each position, including targeting particular individuals.

“If you have an individual or organization (in mind), let me know and instead of you recruiting them, let me handle it,” she said, speaking directly to the council members. “It is my job to protect you.”

As far as the schedule is concerned, Tuck Parrish said telephone interviews with council members, department heads and bureau chiefs were conducted prior to tonight’s briefing. She said she expects drafts of the recruitment plan, brochure and first-year goals to be submitted by April 3 with the board’s final comments on those three items due by April 10.

On April 17, the firm will post the position, place ads and begin outreach to prospective candidates, she said.

“From April 17th through May 29th, that time is our work,” she said, to which Council President Eugene Jankowski replied, “Our goal is to let you do your job and come back to us when you have some candidates.”

That could happen around the week of June 18 when Tuck Parrish will meet with City Council to review the top candidates and select those to be interviewed (in a session closed to the public).

She said that the process must be “completely confidential” to protect both City Council and prospective candidates who, likely, will be employed in similar jobs at the time.

“It’s not that you can’t share names and information during the process, but also after that as well,” she said. “It comes down to a code of silence forever.”

Council members present – John Canale, Rose Mary Christian and Paul Viele were absent – said they would leave it to the recruitment subcommittee of Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski, Adam Tabelski and HR Specialist Dawn Fairbanks to whittle a large field of candidates down to about three, and then the entire board would get involved.

The Novak Group personnel will conduct reference and background checks at the end of June, Tuck Parrish said, with the goal of City Council conducting interviews in early July.

The exact dates are up in the air due to Jankowski having to be in Texas from July 7-27 to film “Shot to the Heart TV,” a shooting competition show involving couples of which he is the host.

Tuck Parrish’s timeline calls for negotiation with the top finalist and approval of the employment agreement happening sometime after July 13, and for the new manager to begin his or her employment within 60 days after that.

Required qualifications include a bachelor’s degree, minimum of five years of local government experience in progressively responsible positions, and supervisor/executive level experience (including time as city/county manager or assistant manager or department director).

Preferred qualifications include a master’s degree, budget development/financial management, grants administration, labor relations, project management, economic revitalization, intergovernmental relations, business/community engagement, strategic planning and credentialed manager.

Tuck Parrish said City Council should expect the new manager to relocate to the City within a “reasonable time after appointment” and set the compensation package at $110,000 to $135,000 (depending upon qualifications), with an excellent benefit package.

She said the expected hiring salary range will be included in the advertising pieces for the position and that she will collect salary information of the finalists.

The contract with The Novak Group calls for the City to pay $23,500 for the firm to "complete the city manager recruitment," plus $1,000-$1,500 for advertising, $175-$300 per top finalist for background checks, and travel costs for finalists to attend interviews in the City.

Photo at top -- Catherine Tuck Parrish, right, makes a point at tonight's city manager recruitment plan meeting; at left is Dawn Fairbanks, City of Batavia HR specialist. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

March 12, 2018 - 11:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

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Batavia City Council breezed through two dozen resolutions tonight, including the unanimous passage of the City budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins on April 1.

“The budget has passed with a 3-percent tax decrease for the current year,” Interim City Manager Matthew Worth said matter-of-factly before exiting Council Chambers to take part in the board’s Executive Session.

The $26.9 million budget, of which $16.7 million comprises the general fund, calls for a tax levy of $5.25 million, and also includes a 2-percent salary increase for 10 supervisors and department heads.

Council also passed Local Law No. 1 for 2018 which establishes 3.5-percent increases in water rates and meter fees, and a 10-percent increase in capital improvement fees. The vote on that measure was 7-1 with Robert Bialkowski casting the “no” vote.

Bialkowski abstained on a 7-0 vote to adopt Local Law No. 2 that allows the City to collect mall concourse maintenance fees from merchants as a result of the litigation settlement between the City and mall merchants.

The annual user fee schedule is $2 per square foot April 1, 2018-March 31, 2021; $2.04 per square foot April 1, 2021-March 31, 2022; and $2.06 per square foot April 1, 2022-March 31, 2023. After the last date, the user fee shall be determined by the revenue needed from the user fee to support the total annual costs of operation, maintenance, management and improvement of the concourse.

In another matter related to the mall, Bialkowski voted with the majority in an unanimous tally to hire a full-time building maintenance worker at $14-18 per hour and benefits and four part-time custodians without benefits.

Three resolutions dealing with the issuance of general obligation bonds were passed by 8-0 counts (Rose Mary Christian was absent).

The first one is a $2.5 million bond for a combined 3.5 miles of pavement milling and overlay on Clinton, Liberty, South Liberty, Swan and Vine streets, and East Avenue. The second is for $800,000 for sidewalk improvements on Washington and Tracy avenues and Liberty Street. And the third is a $750,000 to buy and install a management systems computer software package.

“Most of the bonds are -- with the exception of the software -- major construction projects that we’re actually receiving federal monies for,” Worth said.

“However, with those projects you have to expend the money on the front end of it and then you get reimbursed. These bonds are really just a cash flow to bridge until we’re reimbursed by the federal government.”

Council also passed resolutions to adopt a revised purchasing manual, updated strategic plan and retooled investment policy that, Worth said, affords the City more flexibility.

“When the city as a municipality invests its money into the bank account, the bank has to basically get collateral for our money – to ensure that ours is covered,” he said.

“This flexibility allows the bank to instead of having collateral, (for it) to buy essentially the insurance policy through FDIC to insure the city’s money. That allows them to free up some of their other assets. That being the case, they can offer the City a better return on their invesetment – essentially a higher interest rate on their savings.”

Other resolutions that passed, all unanimously:

-- The purchase of a CAT Loader with a plow and wing for $226,300 from the DPW equipment reserve account. The City is financing it via a “municipal lease,” a tool that keeps the “tax levy somewhat flat and spreads the cost over several (in this case, seven) years,” Worth said. “Once the financing is complete, it is owned by the City.”

Worth said the attachments to the new loader and one bought last year are interchangeable.

“This is very useful … in plowing parking lots, in particular. This is a critical piece of equipment.”

-- An intermunicipal agreement with Genesee County for the City to pay 20 percent of the Genesee County Youth Bureau director's time providing administrative services for the City Youth Bureau, and a revision of the Youth Bureau bylaws.

-- A bid from The Tree Doctor, based in Clarence, for annual tree trimming and removal. Depending upon the size of the tree, costs range from $200 to $3,290 per tree, with trimming costs set at $310 per tree.

-- The transfer of $45,000 from the employee benefit accrued liability reserve fund to meet obligations of accrued benefits due to employees upon termination. Included in the list of payments are a $3,800 payment to the former city manager and $27,000 in payments to former fire department personnel.

-- A contract with Layne Inliner, LLC, of Fairfield, Maine, for $145,212 for the pipelining of 21 segments of sewer mains on portions of Vine Street, Swan Street, Burke Drive and South Main Street. Layne was by far the lowest of six bids received, and is about $45,000 less than the budget amount for the project.

“With Layne’s bid coming in as it did, it will allow us to do more than we anticipated,” Worth said.

Council approved two community events – Z-Club of Batavia High 5K run/walk downtown on April 29 and GLOW Progressives rally and walk at Williams Park on March 24.

Photo at top -- Batavia Middle School fifth-graders Cristian DeSalvo, left, Cooper Crowley and Anthony Licata attended tonight's City Council meeting, observing local government in action as part of their Cub Scout Pack 6069's "Building a Better World" adventure project. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 27, 2018 - 8:27am

Batavia’s slo-pitch softball “renaissance man” was back in front of City Council on Monday night, this time with a group of players and fans from his league at Kibbe Park as well as representatives of the Batavia Girls Softball League at Lions Park. Both organizations are seeking funds to improve their respective fields.

“I’ve finally rounded up a bunch of players,” Michael Jamil said during the public comments of the meeting. “We have a wide demographic – age 18 to 60s … and it seems like everything is heading in the right direction. In time, (working) hand in hand, we will have a solution.”

Just two weeks ago, Jamil addressed Council as part of his continuing quest to have the City provide a sand/clay mix to keep the Kibbe Park diamond from flooding after it rains and to fix the lights.

Two league members spoke of their time in the New Batavia Softball League – Aaron Osterman of Wyoming, who says he comes back to Batavia after working a full day here three times a week “just to play softball,” and Andrew Ernst of Batavia, who said he used to play softball in Pavilion and Brockport before joining the Batavia league and having an “awesome experience the past three seasons with these guys.”

Osterman said he has observed Jamil working many hours on the field to get it in good enough shape for games to be played there, and running an extension cord from the park pavilion to power a scoreboard that Jamil paid for out of his own pocket.

Ernst pointed out the field’s problems, stating that the “infield sometimes can be terrifying (with all of its ruts and holes).”

“I’ve witnessed Mike Jamil working from dusk to game time to make the field playable, barely playable,” he said. “I believe the City is looking into upgrades to the field. Anything will be put to use and will be appreciated.”

Both men said the league, which has around 33 teams, attracts many fans and provides an economic boost to the City.

Before those three had their time at the microphone, Stan Kaus of Batavia, coach of the Batavia Stingers 12-and-under girls’ softball team, spoke on behalf of the Batavia Girls Softball League at Lions Park on Edward Street.

Kaus, who has been affiliated with the league for 23 years, said about 75 girls participate in the summer recreational program that has “no tryouts, no cuts and where no one is turned away if they can’t pay.”

He thanked the City for cutting the grass and picking up the trash, but said additional help is needed with the backstop, outfield fence (there is none), smoothing the outfield and improving the infield.

“We need clay topping on the field; regular dirt doesn’t work, it turns to mud,” he said. “The clay acts like a shield. The water will pond, but eventually dry.”

Following their pleas, City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that the board, at Interim Manager Matt Worth’s urging, has agreed “to find the money (in this year’s budget) to buy dirt and get the fields as best as we can.”

He then mentioned a city parks’ “master plan” that is being prioritized for consideration in the 2019 budget.

“Thank you to Michael for bringing this to our attention and it has steamrolled into helping girls’ softball as well,” Jankowski said.

While there is no money in this year’s budget for fences, he said, it will be discussed – looking at the pros and cons of having outfield fences.

February 26, 2018 - 11:29pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

Extensive experience in the recruitment for city manager positions, including a successful search for the Oneonta (N.Y.) city manager in 2016, gave The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, the edge in the City of Batavia’s quest to find someone to replace former City Manager Jason Molino.

“You know really, honestly, with references and what was contained with all proposals – they were pretty even, even with the pricing that they were going to charge it was pretty close, so it really came down to their New York State experience,” said City Human Resource Specialist Dawn Fairbanks following tonight’s City Council meeting at the City Centre’s Council Board Room.

In a Special Business Meeting that took place after the regularly scheduled Conference Meeting, Council members voted 9-0 to enter into a contract with Novak to conduct an executive search that, according to officials, could last as long as five months.

Fairbanks said that she will immediately let the other two vendors know that they were not selected and attorneys will prepare the contract for City Council President Eugene Jankowski to sign.

“Tomorrow I will be making contact with all the proposals, with the vendors that submitted proposals and let them know the outcome,” Fairbanks said. “Legal will finish up reviewing the contract so that Council President Jankowski can sign it and then we’ll get the ball rolling.”

Fairbanks was part of the City’s search committee along with Jankowski and Council members Adam Tabelski and Robert Bialkowski.

Tabelski said they received seven proposals and whittled it down to three companies. After reference checks and telephone interviews, Novak was selected.

“One firm rose to the top and that was Novak Consulting Group out of Ohio,” Tabelski said. “They have the most experience and while most (firms) had relatively the same fee, Novak was in the low range.”

Jankowski said Novak’s recruitment team will be interviewing all Council members plus some staff and private citizens. The search – which is estimated to cost the city upwards of $26,200 – will consist of advertising, marketing, identifying and screening potential candidates and interviewing by both Novak and City Council.

Both Jankowski and Fairbanks mentioned Novak’s guarantees that the person who is hired will stay in Batavia for at least two years and that they will not try to recruit that person for a job somewhere else.

Jankowski, partially in response to a question from city resident John Roach, said salary that has not been paid to a city manager or assistant city manager (since both positions are vacant) could be used to offset the cost of the executive search.

In other action, Council moved several agenda resolutions to be voted upon to its next Business Meeting, which is scheduled for March 12:

-- The 2018-19 budget of $26.9 million which calls for a tax levy of $5.25 million and a 2-percent salary increase for 10 supervisors and department heads, effective April 1.

-- Increases in water rates and meter fees (3.5 percent) and capital improvement fees (10 percent).

-- Establishing user fees for City Centre Mall merchants as a result of the litigation settlement that gives the City maintenance responsibilities of the concourse. They also will vote on whether to hire a full-time building maintenance worker (at $14-$18 per hour) and four part-time custodians to work in the mall.

-- Renewal of an agreement with Genesee County to pay 20 percent of the Genesee County Youth Bureau director's time providing administrative services for the City Youth Bureau, and revising the Youth Bureau bylaws.

-- Securing Bond Anticipation Notes for $3.3 million as up-front funds to complete street and sidewalk improvement projects, and another $750,000 to finance an upgrade in the municipality’s software system. The street and sidewalk funds will be reimbursed to the city as they are federal projects.

-- Accepting a bid from The Tree Doctor, based in Clarence, for annual tree trimming and removal. Depending upon the size of the tree, costs range from $200 to $3,290 per tree, with trimming costs set at $310 per tree.

Council also approved six events:

-- Care-A-Van Ministries cookouts, Thursdays, June 7 through Aug. 30, 5-8 p.m., Austin Park.

-- Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union 5K/10K Walk/Run, May 6, 9-11 a.m., starting at the credit union property on Jefferson Avenue.

-- Kiwanis Club Easter Egg Hunt, March 31, 9 a.m., Centennial Park.

-- GLOW Corporate Cup 5K, Aug. 2, 6 p.m., Centennial Park.

-- Batavia Concert Band series, June 27 through Aug. 8, 7 p.m., Centennial Park.

-- Living Waters Apostolic Ministries outreach, July 22, noon-3 p.m., Austin Park.

February 25, 2018 - 11:51am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

The City of Batavia's search committee that has been formed to fill the vacant city manager position is recommending that The Novak Consulting Group conduct the professional search at an approximate cost of $26,200.

The commitee, consisting of Council members Eugene Jankowski, Adam Tabelski and Robert Bialkowski along with HR Specialist Dawn Fairbanks, will be asking Council to consider the Cincinnati, Ohio, firm during Monday night's Conference Meeting at the City Centre's Council Board Room with the goal of the board casting a positive vote at a Special Business Meeting immediately afterward.

According to a memo from Fairbanks dated Feb. 21, the search commitee received seven responses from executive search services for the recruitment of a manager to replace Jason Molino, who resigned effective Jan. 29.

Fairbanks wrote that the committee narrowed the field down to three finalists, and each of those companies were interviewed via a conference call.

"After careful review, the Search Committee recommends The Novak Consulting Group for the search services ...," Fairbanks wrote.

The proposed contract calls for the City to pay $23,500 for Novak to "complete the city manager recruitment," with additional costs as follows: $1,000-$1,500 for advertising, $175-$300 per top finalist for background checks, and travel costs for finalists to attend interviews in the City.

The Novak Consulting Group was founded in 2009 by Julia D. Novak, whose resume lists 30 years of experience working with and for local governments. A consultant, trainer and facilitator, Novak's local government career includes positions in Fort Collins, Colo.; Lexington, Mass.; Rockville, Md,; and Rye, N.Y. (where she was the city manager).

She is a noted author and speaker on a variety of public administration management topics. Her staff includes consultants with decades of collective experience.

Details of the executive search contract's work plan for the City of Batavia, as provided by Novak, are as follows:

-- Develop candidate profile. Tasks include speaking with each member of City Council to learn individual expectations of each elected offical, in addition to discovering the shared goals for a new city manager -- utilizing focus groups and/or online surveys. From those meetings, etc., Novak promises to develop a tailored marketing and recruitment plan that includes New York, the region and the nation, preparing a position profile that is unique to Batavia. Also, the firm says it will develop first-year organizational goals for the successful candidate so he or she knows what will be expected.

-- Conduct active recruitment and screening. Tasks include conducting an advertising campaign -- using social media, phone and email contacts -- to identify and solicit potential candidates. After that is completed, the firm will market the position and identify qualified candidates for assessment, utilizing networks such as the International City/County Management Association, New York State City County Managers Association and other state and regional organizations pertinent to the recruiting process. The recruitment plan includes seeking candidates who are minorities, women and those who have worked in similar communities.

-- Support interviews and selection. Tasks include facilitating a customized, multistep interview process, which could consist of writing and role play exercises and/or a community reception. Novak will help arrange travel logistics for each candidate, and review candidates' strengths and backgrounds. The firm also is able to assist in salary negotiations.

The contract would be good for two years, with the guarantee that if the new hire leaves the position within two years time, Novak would conduct a new search for no professional fee. The City would then be responsible for billed direct expenses only.

Novak has assigned Catherine Tuck Parrish, who has conducted more than 100 searches for city manager/administrator jobs, and Jenn Reichelt, who has 16 years of experience in local government management, as the executive search practice leader and associate, respectively.

Other items on the Conference Meeting agenda include:

-- Public hearings for the budget ordinance; water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees; establishing a user fee for the City Centre Mall, and amending the Business Improvement District Plan.

-- Creation of a full-time building maintenance worker and four part-time custodians as part of the City's Public Works Department to cover the operation and maintenance of the Mall concourse as a result of the City's agreement with the mall merchants association.

-- A resolution for an inter-municipal agreement with Genesee County for the City to pay 20 percent of the Genesee County Youth Bureau director's time spent providing administrative services for the City Youth Bureau.

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.

electionnov72017_a.jpg

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.

electionnov72017-3a.jpg

Paul Viele and Jack Taylor go over election results.

elecpicsnov72017a.jpg

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

elecpicsnov72017a-2.jpg

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

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