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June 17, 2014 - 11:24am

The way 29-year-old Curtis Gallagher sees it, he's finally found a niche in business that isn't already occupied by a hundred other guys doing the same thing.

He's tried blacktop sealing and for two years he ran his own detailing and tinting shop. Now he's selling everything you need to start and maintain your own hydroponic garden.

A week ago he opened Nature's Best Hydro-Garden Center on Cedar Street, Batavia.

Hydroponics is an increasingly popular way for people to grow fruits, vegetables and even flowers without soil. The main medium is water, supplemented with nutrients.

"It's really pretty simple," Gallagher said. "A lot of people are intimidated. They think there's a lot to it, but it's very simple, and the growth rate for the plants and vegetables is twice as fast with hydroponics than in soil."

Gallagher sells everything a hydroponic gardner needs -- the trays and bins, grow tents, grow lights, nutrients and other items gardeners might use.

He settled on hydroponics for his new business because he found that he had a hard time getting what he needed locally to support his own hobby.

So far, he's drawing customers from throughout the GLOW region.

"There's a lot of people who have to travel out of town, so instead of spending their money in the community, they're spending it in Rochester or Buffalo," Gallagher said. "I'm trying to keep it in the community."

His parents loaned him the money to get started, though they were skeptical at first.

 "My parents asked me, are you sure, and I'm like, 'the only way to find out is to try it,' " Gallagher said.

He got out of the detailing business when his lease expired on his building and the landlord wouldn't renew it. He decided it wasn't worth it to try and open a new location.

When he started thinking of a new career, he realized he already had one growing.

"I'm really the only person around here doing this kind of work, and I think around this area, Genesee County, you have to be more creative," Gallagher said. "You have to have something that's more unique to be able to succeed verus just opening up something that everybody else is doing already. Whoever has their foot in the door first is the one who stays with their foot in the door."

Now, Gallagher is looking forward to each new workday.

"It's almost like having a pet," Gallagher said. "Like my tomato plants over there, every day when I come in it's like another tomato and another tomato. It's growing so fast I can't believe it. It's fun. I'm into hunting and fishing. It's like another hobby. Now it's turned into a career, I guess."

June 13, 2014 - 11:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor.

Executives at P.W. Minor, a locally founded, 147-year-old business, reportedly told employees today that the firm is closing July 31 and the workers will be out of their jobs.

Employees posted about the announcement on Facebook and The Batavian contacted two employees directly. One wouldn't comment, the other confirmed the announcement.

The shoe-manufacturing company was founded in 1867 by two Civil War veterans who originally called their company Minor Brothers Boots and Shoes.

The Batavian e-mailed P.W. Minor's CEO Wally Hinchey at about 6 p.m. seeking comment and has not received a response.

June 13, 2014 - 4:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy.

A year ago, Town of Le Roy officials took a look at 118 acres of land on its books and decided the town really had no short-term nor long-term use for it, so they decided to put it up for sale.

That decision came under fire from about five local residents at the town board's Thursday meeting.

The parcel is being sold to Zoladz Construction Co. for $95,000. Zoladz plans to open a facility to recycle municipal green waste and concrete from reconstruction projects.

Neighboring landowners are concerned about the noise, the dust and the possible pollution.

"We don't dispute your right to sell it," Thomas Ryan said. "It's who you sold it to."

Supervisor Steve Barbeau spoke at length about the history of the property and the decision to sell it. He said the sale was advertised in the Le Roy PennySaver and the Genesee Valley PennySaver and he wrote about it in his column for the Le Roy PennySaver.

In the end, only two potential buyers came forward: One offering about $40,000 and Zoladz.

The lower bid came from an outdoor club that would have used the property for hunting. 

Town Attorney Reid Whiting said the town tried to convince the club to increase its bid, but the club leadership said that just wasn't possible.

The board didn't act on Zoladz's offer right away. Instead, Barbeau took the issue to the Le Roy Business Council for advice and feedback.

Members there, he said, supported accepting the higher bid from the commercial business, getting the property back on the tax roles.

The board held another public meeting about the issue and then decided to accept Zoladz's purchase offer.

It's still not a done deal, Barbeau said, and even once the property is conveyed to Zoladz, the company must still seek DEC permits and get zoning approval.

While the property is in an industrial zone, the list of permitted uses in Le Roy's industrial zone doesn't include green waste and concrete recycling. The company will need a variance for such an operation, which must be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Town Board.

The parcel is located off Neid Road, just north of Gulf Road, in an area dominated by Hanson and Dolomite quarries. It's near the Lehigh Railroad derailment site, which Barbeau noted the town got an unrequested reminder about a couple of years ago.

Tom Dintruff and other neighbors raised concerns about possible pollution at the site.

At one time, the site was a quarry, then in the 1940s, it became a town dump. In 1979, a fire shut it down.

The fire burned for 10 days with various fire departments dumping water on it to try and control it, Dintruff said.

Dintruff said one local business owner advised against even trying to put the fire out, especially with water.

"You don't know what's in there," Dintruff said the man told town officials. "He wasn't saying it's a mystery. He was saying he knew what was in there."

The land has been unused and unoccupied since.

Ryan, Charlie Miller and Keith Maxwell raised concerns about truck traffic and noise.

Ryan said when he bought his land, it was with the belief that the old town dump would never be used again because of the environmental issues.

"I wouldn't have bought my place if I'd known there would be trucks running up and down my front yard," he said.

The roadway into the dump is just 55 feet from the front of his house.

He added, "Neid Road is already starting to crumble. There are no shoulders. I don't think it's set up for industrial traffic."

There was no resolution to the issue for the local residents last night and no promises were made by the board regarding future actions.

June 13, 2014 - 12:01am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground.

The Town of Le Roy Board had no choice but to pursue a lawsuit against one of its own local businesses, attorney Reid Whiting said Thursday night during a discussion with town residents of the Frost Ridge legal proceedings.

About 25 Frost Ridge supporters turned out to the board meeting and spoke up during a conversation that lasted at least 90 minutes.

There were no speakers supporting the board's lawsuit.

Frost Ridge is being sued by both the town and two neighboring residents over its very existence as a campground and its ability to hold outdoor music concerts.

The neighbors, David and Marny Cleere and Scott and Betsy Collins, have been pushing the town to enforce its zoning ordinance in regards to Frost Ridge, Whiting said. The two couples made it clear, Whiting said, the town would be sued if it failed to enforce its ordinances.

Such a failure, Whiting said, would embolden others to violate the zoning code and give the town little recourse for enforcement.

"If we ignored the violations, we would be found in dereliction of our duty and we would not be able to defend ourselves in other matters," Whiting said.

Later in the meeting, he said, "We did not act lightly. We did not act recklessly. We did not act without thought. We have a statutory duty to enforce the laws of Le Roy. If we do not, we are at risk. If we're at risk, you're all at risk."

The town board decided to sue Frost Ridge rather than defend its own Zoning Board of Appeals, which determined in 1978 and again 2013 that Frost Ridge was an existing, nonconforming use and permissible under the town's law.

Supervisor Steve Barbeau (second photo) said the ZBA overstepped its authority by making those determinations.

"The issue of whether something is grandfathered in or not grandfathered in is not their decision," Barbeau said. "If in the 1960s a record of music was played over the PA system so now that translates into Molly Hatchett coming in for a concert, if you believe that's the case, that's not something within the purview of the ZBA to rule on."

Both Whiting and Barbeau made the point that the town board was not criticizing the ZBA or arguing with the ZBA. The town did not sue the ZBA. Cleere/Collins sued the ZBA.

Whiting leaned heavily in more than one statement that the town's position obviously had merit because Judge Robert C. Noonan issued a temporary injunction against amplified music and alcohol sales at Frost Ridge.

"Judge Noonan takes precedent over anything the town board does," Whiting said.

When Eilleen Sherman Dries (top photo) said a code enforcement officer, who trained the town's current officer, told her Frost Ridge was a pre-existing nonconforming use, Whiting snapped, "The only thing that matters is what Noonan says."

At the hearing prior to Noonan's ruling, the ZBA was not represented. Whiting told Noonan during the hearing that the ZBA had been served notice that it was a defendant in the Cleere/Collins suit but chose not to be represented. That turned out not to be an accurate statement. Chairwoman Debbie Jackett has since said the board stands behind its determination that Frost Ridge is not violating existing town code.

The ZBA will be represented by its own attorney, paid for by the town, at further court proceedings.

Late in the meeting, Whiting said the town is just a secondary player in the legal proceedings, even though Noonan denied the Cleere/Collins side its own request for an injunction, granting just the town's request for an injunction.

If the other sides in the case were able to come to an agreement, Whiting said, he would not interfere with the agreement, but bring it back to the town board for consideration.

Coming to an agreement was the major request of just about every resident who spoke during the meeting.

"This is revenue we had and now it's going to Caledonia instead of Genesee County," said Lucie Ann Griffis (Disclosure, Griffis is a part-time sales rep for The Batavian). "This is revenue that not only the town needs, but the whole area needs. It's a shame the town board couldn't jump aboard on this and instead of saying what we can't do, saying what we can do.

"It's a shame what's being said about use, about the town not being friendly to business. I'm a lifer here. This is a travesty that we're losing this revenue based on the complaints of just a couple of people."

Carl (who refused to provide his last name) also complained about lost business.

"The town board should be out trying to promote the town and promote business and not take away a business because of some violation of code, because one or two complaints, and shut something down," Carl said. "The board should try and do some something to help them."

A couple sitting behind Carl said they were from Rochester and camp regularly at Frost Ridge, and have camped there since before the current ownership. They both said Le Roy has started to gain a bad reputation in Rochester because of situations like this.

Jennifer Keys also spoke in favor of finding some compromise that could save Frost Ridge.

"We cannot deny that Frost Ridge is a great source of revenue for our community," Keys said. "I would like to see it worked out so that the revenue stays here rather than going to Caledonia or Batavia."

Barbeau said the town has already tried to reach a compromise with Frost Ridge owners Greg and David Luetticke-Archbell, but at the 11th hour, the owners hired an attorney who withdrew their application for a special use permit for the campground.

"Once they conformed to that, then they could seek out a variance for concerts," Barbeau said. "There was no guarantee at all. It would have gone through the ZBA, then the planning board and then a public hearing and then the town board."

Keys responded, "I don't want to speak for the owners, but since they're not here, it's my understanding that county planning told them you can't do that, that their application (for a special use permit) wasn't valid because they didn't need it. They felt threatened and things blew up and here we are now. I would still hope something could be worked out."

Greg and David are out of town and not available for clarification, but The Batavian has previously spoke to sources who said Greg and David were advised by their attorney at the time that the special use permit was a trap. The issuance of a permit would negate prior rulings by the ZBA and end concerts at the Ridge.

Barbeau said he did try to find a compromise for Frost Ridge last summer and that he convinced Cleere/Collins to hold off on a suit during the 2013 concert season because shutting things down with contracts signed and deposits paid would have been economically devastating for Greg and David.

"I do bristle and I will continue to bristle when people say we didn't try as a town board to do anything to work things out," Barbeau said.

Barbeau said if Frost Ridge had continued with its application, he was confident it would have been approved by the board unanimously and then he was going to propose a town-wide zoning change that would have permitted concerts on any property three times a year -- Memorial Day, the Oatka Festival and July 4.

Frost Ridge hosts concerts at least nine times a year.

"They were gambling (when they withdrew their application) and they gambled wrong," Whiting said.

A man named Steve (who also refused to give his last name), made one last plea for resolution favorable to the town near the end of the discussion.

"This is a no-win situation," Steve said. "If you win the lawsuit, you lose all that revenue from all those people who come to Frost Ridge. "If you lose the lawsuit, you're going to owe the campground all that money, all the while costing me and the other residents a lot of money. You need to get in a room with everybody and work it out."

One audience member kept asking how the supporters could go about getting an item on the agenda at a future board meeting about the board reconsidering its position, and the answer was, there's a public comments section on every agenda.

"I want to know when we can ask you to represent the majority of the people in Le Roy instead of just two people," she said.

June 12, 2014 - 5:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, NY-27, chris collins.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today is blasting a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will significantly hurt the local cheese industry. The FDA is contemplating banning cheese makers from the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. This process is commonplace among artisan cheese makers operating across New York’s 27th Congressional District.

“This is just the latest example of a federal government hell-bent on regulating everything it can get its hands on,” Congressman Collins said. “The process of aging cheese on wood boards is older than the federal government itself. Once again, the bureaucrats in Washington who are totally out of touch with the real world are arbitrarily introducing new rules and regulations that will hurt local economies, cost people their jobs, and stall business growth.”

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the cheese made by Yancey's Fancy in Pembroke, NY, (Genesee County) is aged on wooden boards. The company recently announced a major expansion aimed at increasing production of the very cheeses aged through the process targeted by the FDA. The company currently employs 120 people.

“The proposal that FDA has made to ban the use of wood for curing cheese will negatively impact our plans to grow the natural side of our specialty cheese business,” said Brian Bailey, VP of Operations for Yancey's Fancy. “My understanding is that the rule was going forward without any discussion with the cheese industry, and apparently without any consideration to the impact that such a ruling would have.

"There is a far greater tonnage of cheese imported into the United States that is cured on wood than what is made in the United States, yet I haven’t heard of any ruling to address that issue either. There is plenty of science that supports wood as a safe material for curing cheese but I’ve seen no evidence to date that science has been considered...Producing safe, quality food is as much our mission and goal as it is FDA’s. Our existence depends on it.”

Congressman Collins is sending a letter to the FDA encouraging them to abandon this proposal immediately. A significant amount of cheese imported from abroad is aged on wood boards and currently not subject to FDA’s scrutiny of this particular aging process. In reacting to the proposal, American cheese makers said the FDA was not acting on sound science or law.

June 12, 2014 - 1:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, county legislature, dairy queen.

In honor of Dairy Month, the Genesee County Legislature presented Dairy Princess Kayla Wormuth with a proclamation recognizing the contribution dairy makes to the local economy and the nutrition of people. Legislator Shelly Stein, right, presented the resolution. Also participating were dairy ambassadors Becca Slattery and Mary Sweeney, and Georgia Luft, dairy maid.

 

June 7, 2014 - 6:30pm
posted by Billie Owens in Announcements, business.

Press release:

WNY Pediatric Gastroenterology (WNYPG) announces the opening of their Batavia practice focusing on the care of infants, children and adolescents with gastrointestinal, liver and nutritional disorders.

With the escalation of autoimmune disorders in WNY children, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, the physicians and other medical staff at WNYPG want Western New Yorkers to know that they are accepting new patients without long wait times.

The medical practice is located at 166 Washington Ave. Phone is 225-4132. (Web: wnypedgi.com)

They are committed to see patients within 48 hours. Dr. Daniel Gelfond focuses a significant portion of his practice on celiac disease and is a medical advisor to the WNY Gluten Free Diet Support Group.

Gelfond completed his residency at Long Island College Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and completed his fellowship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he worked with world renowned, Dr. Alessio Fasano at the Center for Celiac Research.

A nationally recognized physician scientist, Dr. Gelfond conducts clinical investigations studying gastrointestinal disorders in patients with cystic fibrosis. He is board certified in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and accredited by the Royal College of Physician Educators. He has contributed to numerous publications, and recently published a textbook titled Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Dr. Humaira Hashmi completed her residency in Pediatrics at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey, and her fellowship in Pediatric Gastroenterology at Women & Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. Dr. Hashmi enjoys teaching, and has a special interest in managing children and adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She also focuses on childhood obesity and helps families educate and manage their children’s nutrition.

Dr. Hashmi is actively involved in local and national clinical studies, is a member of the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, and a member of the Gastroenterology Women’s Coalition. Dr. Hashmi is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and accredited by the Royal College of Physician Educators, and contributes to numerous publications.

Both physicians are excited to be working together to help children and families throughout Western New York with gastrointestinal and nutritional issues. Dr. Gelfond lives with his wife and three children in East Amherst. Dr. Hashmi also lives in East Amherst with her husband, and their three children.

June 6, 2014 - 9:11am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced the retirement of James L. Vincent from the GCEDC’s board of directors at its board meeting on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Vincent served on the GCEDC board of directors for 31 years, playing an instrumental role on the board since 1983. In addition to being a board member, he also served as the GCEDC’s vice chairman for several years and helped the GCEDC become one of the most progressive economic development agencies in New York State through his deep, comprehensive understanding of the need for sustained economic growth. During his tenure as a member of the board, Vincent helped foster increased economic activity in Genesee County by advocating for new employment opportunities and a high quality of life for residents and their families.

Vincent served as president of L-Brooke Farms, Inc., an 8,000+ acre processing vegetable and grain farm since 1986. He also served as chairman of the New York State Advisory Council on Agriculture and the Genesee County Water Resources Agency, among others.

Vincent is past president of Genesee Memorial Hospital, Genesee Community College Foundation, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, and Genesee County Farm Bureau, as well as board member of Farm Fresh First, LLC, Pro Fac Cooperative, Inc., and former town supervisor. 

The GCEDC congratulates Vincent in his retirement from service to the GCEDC board and recognizes him as an exceptional leader in economic development and a dedicated citizen worthy of esteem of not only the GCEDC, but throughout Genesee County.

June 6, 2014 - 9:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Daily News, business, Oakfield, GCEDC, U.S. Gypsum.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved a final resolution for applications for assistance from 9 Apollo Drive, Inc., and an initial resolution to set a public hearing for United States Gypsum Co. at the June 5, 2014, board meeting. 

United States Gypsum Company Co. is planning to upgrade its paper mill at 2750 Maple Ave. in Oakfield, NY.  The project will include replacing and relocating equipment, stock cleaning and enhanced manila production to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the facility.

The upgrades will consist of three phases and are expected to commence in 2016. The projected capital investment is approximately $23 million. The investment will retain 98 manufacturing jobs and create 12 new production jobs.

9 Apollo Drive, Inc., is a business that manufactures doors and windows. The company plans to purchase the building located at 2 Apollo Drive in the City of Batavia to accommodate its growth and expansion. 9 Apollo Drive, Inc., will make a capital investment of approximately $750,000.

In 2002, the company was granted a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the building located at 9 Apollo Drive, Inc., by the GCEDC and pledged to create eight new jobs. According to PARIS reporting submitted to the GCEDC in 2013, the company has created 29 jobs at this location.

“It is very encouraging to see existing businesses in our region invest resources to improve production and operations and, just as important, retain existing jobs and create new jobs,” said Wallace Hinchey, GCEDC board chairman.

June 5, 2014 - 8:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy.

Le Roy Main Street Revitalization hosted a village clean-up this afternoon with residents, including students, pitching in to pull weeds and pick up garbage.

Above, Carly, Contado and Jack pull weeds from a garden bed along Main Street.

Candy Bower and Jennifer Keys cleaning the brick alleyway off Main Street.

For more information about Le Roy Main Street Revitalization, visit the group's Facebook page.

June 3, 2014 - 9:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Daily News, business, GCEDC.

Press release from GCEDC:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider two projects at its June 5, 2014 board meeting.

U.S. Gypsum Company is planning to upgrade its paper mill at 2750 Maple Ave. in Oakfield, NY.  The project will include replacing and relocating equipment, stock cleaning and enhanced manila production to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the facility. The projected capital investment is approximately $23 million and will ensure employment retention of 98 existing manufacturing jobs and the addition of 12 new production jobs.

9 Apollo Drive is planning to purchase the former Daily News building at 2 Apollo Drive in Batavia. With the purchase, the company anticipates further growth and plans to expand its business and manufacture more doors and windows. The projected capital investment for the project is $750,000.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Dr. Bruce A. Holm Upstate Med & Tech Park -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, NY, on the 2nd floor, across from Genesee Community College. 

UPDATE: John Johnson, CEO of Johnson Newspapers, says that the Daily News hasn't sold its building and has no plans to move.

May 31, 2014 - 2:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, environment, O-AT-KA Milk Products.

O-AT-KA Milk Products was issued a notice of violation by the DEC on April 24 for chemicals and waste materials being spilled into a lagoon south of Ellicott Street.

The company is complying with all DEC demands and requirements for dealing with spills from its dairy processing plant at the corner of Cedar and Ellicott streets, said David Crisp, director of business development for O-AT-KA.

The spills were brought to the attention of the DEC by Attica resident John Volpe (pictured above), a Native American well known locally for his environmental work.

Volpe said he's concerned about the health and well being of the fish, turtles, frogs and other wildlife in the lagoon, which is part of a 110-acre wildlife refuge owned by Chapin Manufacturing. The creatures, Volpe said, are part of the chain of life.

"This is how we look at our own life," Volpe said. "These are our teachers. All of our relations means just that. They’re all of our relations. You don’t leave out a worm or an eagle or whatever. We’re supposed to watch it and we’re supposed to protect it. That’s one of our jobs as among the people who walk this earth. It should be everybody’s job."

Volpe shared documents he said show serious environmental damage to the lagoon, including photos of more than 100 dead fish and dissection photos taken of dead animals -- such as turtles, frogs and fish -- showing medical issues (Volpe emphasized several times that he and his helpers never killed any animals, but merely took for samples and evidence animals they found dead).

The DEC letter accuses O-AT-KA of violating its SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit and three sections of environmental law.

The letter specifically accuses O-AT-KA of causing a drop in water quality standards for pH, solids and water color from spills on at least six separate occasions. The spills, according to the DEC, contained milk and/or cleaning solutions.

The letter also specifically cites a fish kill of various species April 15.

O-AT-KA was accused of discharging water that causes or contributes to conditions in violation of state code; discharging industrial waste in violation of state code; and discharging pollutants at a frequency or volume in excess of permitted standards.

The company was given until May 7 a turn over a document called "Best Management Practices" as well as a summary of response actions, investigations and corrective measures taken for each reported spill since August 2013. 

By yesterday, O-AT-KA was required to complete a facility review and submit a corrective action plan designed to prevent or minimize potential damage from future spills.

The DEC also required O-AT-KA to install a continuous recording pH meter.

Crisp said O-AT-KA has been fully compliant with the DEC's requirements, an assertion confirmed by Linda Vera, spokeswoman for the DEC in WNY. 

"O-AT-KA has taken a number of actions to mitigate and prevent additional discharges," Vera said.

Crisp said a DEC official was on hand one day recently when an alarm sounded from the new system indicating there was an increase in pH in the outflow line to the discharge pipe and the officials saw firsthand that plant workers responded immediately to correct the problem.

"It really comes down to how dedicated O-AT-KA is to the highest level of environmental protection," Crisp said. "That's why we're working with the DEC to assure O-AT-KA is in compliance with the SPDES permit."

There were two spills of milk, Vera said. One in August and another in October. She said steps were taken to prevent future spills and there have been no similar discharges since October.

"The remaining incidents were related to cleaning solution discharges," Vera said. "Action was taken after each incident to determine the source, and O-AT-KA added monitoring equipment and changed practices to mitigate the issue. During DEC's early May inspection, the probable source was identified. A deteriorated flooring in one of production areas allowed cleaning/disinfection solution to seep into a deteriorated pipe beneath floor. O-AT-KA is taking necessary actions to repair piping and floor."

It's still possible O-AT-KA could be fined for the spills, but the DEC has made no determination yet on further enforcement actions, Vera said.

One source we spoke to for this story suggested we look at the notice of violation delivered to O-AT-KA in context of how many DEC violation notices are handed out locally in a year, suggesting that there's nothing remarkable about a company getting a letter of violation.

According to the DEC's database of spills, there have been 76 incidents reported in the past 12 months in Genesee County. Eight of those have been tied to O-AT-KA, which more than any other source in the county. Only three of those spills -- where the size of the spill is known -- involve 100 gallons or more, and two of those involve O-AT-KA. Those are a spill of 125 gallons of milk product in August 2013 and 3,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide in January.

There were 48 incidents countywide reported in the prior 12 months, none involving O-AT-KA.

The series of spills has been a concern to Chapin, CEO Jim Campbell said, and company officials have met several times with O-AT-KA officials to review the measures taken to prevent future problems.

The 110-acre preserve includes nature trails available to employees and the area is teaming with wildlife, Campbell said. Andris Chapin, a family owner and chairman of the board, is keenly aware of environment issues, Campbell said, and once a year takes interested employees on a nature trail walk through the preserve. 

The company also has an environmental manager. He is Mark Volpe, who is also the plant manager and is John Volpe's brother.

Campbell said Chapin is confident O-AT-KA is responding appropriately. It's his understanding, he said, that O-AT-KA has spent more than $100,000 on preventative measures. He said O-AT-KA has recently brought in new executives with a good deal of technical experience in environmental issues.

"They've done a great job and have a great solution in place," Campbell said.

John and Mark Volpe started monitoring and measuring the Chapin's 110-acre habitat in 2008, acquiring and maintaining detailed records on the species and quality of life in the preserve.

It was through that process that John Volpe became increasingly concerned about spills from the O-AT-KA plant, which he said go back further than the August 2013 date covered by the DEC letter.

As he saw more and more environmental damage to the lagoon, he began raising concerns to the DEC, to the point, he believes, that some officials at the DEC started trying to avoid his phone calls.

In his workshop at his home in Attica, Volpe showed dozens of presentation boards displaying charts and tables documenting discharge dates, water temperatures, pH readings and photos of dissected animals and dead fish.

When Volpe found dead fish, he and his helpers photographed where each fish was found, collected them, brought them back to Attica, weighed and identified the species of each fish and photographed each one individually.

The dead fish included sunfish, bullhead and bass.

The DEC was slow to act on contamination issues at the lagoon, contends Volpe.

"Why didn’t the DEC do this and cite them sooner so maybe these fish would still be alive?" Volpe said. "This is not the first fish kill. We’ve had other fish kills."

Volpe's wife caught in a net one bass near death. It was blind, had lost all its slime and was emaciated. The Volpes have nursed it back to health. It's eating again and its eyes have cleared of the haze that covered the pupils. The fish has become more active in its tank.

The blindness and loss of slime is a result of a high pH in the water as well as sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide reaching the lagoon.

Volpe is also concerned about the water temperature in the lagoon, which he said was above 60 degrees in March (he takes the water temperature every day) and the turtles and frogs need the water below at least 50 degrees to hibernate.

There is also evidence of frogs "toxing out," Volpe said. The toxins in the water cause their legs to shoot straight out, become rigid and they can't jump. Eventually, they die.

Volpe was arrested in February and accused of illegal possession of protected turtles and birds of prey. 

The DEC had known for years and years about Volpe's conservation efforts involving wildlife, his friend and supporter Mike Bastine said during a meeting at Volpe's house. It was only after Volpe started making waves about O-AT-KA that the DEC decided to come down hard on Volpe.

"If you look at the implications from the spills that he has documented, that has a much greater impact on the environment than the violations they subjected him to," Bastine said. "Is the issue really about protecting the environment and the animals and the life around us? No, not really.

"They think if they can shut that part of his work down, he's going to go away and say, 'they beat me,' that he'll have to throw in the towel because he can't defend himself. They're hounding us saying we need a permit to hold a feather or care for turtles, but that's our responsibility and that's our custom. It's our job. It's our duty to step in an assist."

In her e-mail response to a series of questions, Vera did not respond to the accusation that Volpe has been targeted for enforcement because of his O-TA-KA complaints.

She said the DEC had been monitoring O-AT-KA independently of Volpe, but found his work helpful. 

"DEC's actions have been ongoing, and are not dependent on Mr. Volpe's findings," Vera said. "However, some of the discharges discovered by Mr. Volpe, have provided assistance in mitigating the discharges and investigating potential sources."

Volpe said he's also concerned because the lagoon sits over the Batavia's aquifer. All of the city's water is pumped from wells in the area. He thinks the contaminants could seep into the aquifer.

City Manager Jason Molino said that really isn't a concern. Even if any contaminants reached the aquifer, the city treats all of its water before it's distributed.

Molino's confident, he said, the DEC has things under control.

"We've spoken with O-AT-KA and the DEC," Molino said. "I think the DEC is aware of the situation and has responded to it and are in constant communication with O-AT-KA. Otherwise, it's outside our jurisdiction."

This photo is from Genesee County's GIS map. The photographs that comprise the map were taken in April 2013. The Chapin Lagoon is in the lower left. O-AT-KA's plant is in the upper right. There is a dirt road that Hanson Aggregates uses running from Ellicott Street. Beside it is a drainage ditch, which apparently is how runoff from O-AT-KA reaches the lagoon. We have no confirmation of what the milky white substance is in the lagoon, but there is no spill around that time period reported in the DEC database.

Sign by drainage pipe that runs under Ellicott Street to a stream that runs to the Chapin Lagoon.

One of the no trespassing signs marking the property line of Chapin's 110-acre wildlife refuge.

May 31, 2014 - 8:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, music, entertainment, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground.

Press release:

Jam At The Ridge Presents: Josh Thompson In Concert - Performance Location Change

As you may know, a preliminary injunction has been issued against amplified outdoor concerts at Frost Ridge at this time. To fully comply with the court order and meet our commitment to our guests, the Josh Thompson Concert scheduled for June 7th, 2014 at 5 p.m. (gates open at 4 p.m.) is being moved to:

    J W Jones Hall

    366 Leicester Road
    Caledonia, NY 14423

    Maps:  Google   Bing

The firefighters of Caledonia have been very gracious to provide this space and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. This location is only 14 minutes from camp and is easy to find. If you have any trouble, please come to camp and get a map.

Ticket-holders, please go directly to the venue at the address above.

Campers, please register at the campground and take the FREE shuttle to the venue.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us keep the music alive at The Ridge.

ADDITIONALLY: The attorneys involved in the two lawsuits over Frost Ridge met in conference Friday in the chambers of Judge Robert C. Noonan. The meeting was primarily to go over the calendar of motions and appearances in the case, but attorney Karl Essler was introduced as legal counsel for the Zoning Board of Appeals. Somehow, the ZBA, which has consistently found that Frost Ridge is a legal nonconforming use within the Town of Le Roy's zoning laws, was not notified it was a party to one of the lawsuits. The ZBA was not represented at a hearing that proceeded Noonan's ruling on the current injunction against amplified music and alcohol service at Frost Ridge. David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge, said Essler will be permitted to file a written argument in the case without opposition from the plantiff's counsel. It's unclear how the additional information might or might not lead to a modification of Noonan's ruling. No date was announced for the next court proceeding.

May 30, 2014 - 12:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Crickler Vending.

The Houseknechts are back in the vending business.  

John and Tom, who sold Loose Ends in 2008, after the family sold its Pepsi bottling company, has re-acquired their former business.

The new name is Crickler Vending. Crickler after the former Pepsi-Cola Batavia Bottling Corp., which was founded in 1890 as Crickler's.

"It looked like a good business opportunity and it's a business we're familiar with operating," Tom Houseknecht said.

The company has distribution centers in Rochester, Buffalo and Horseheads. Houseknecht said they consider their market areas Rochester, Buffalo and Elmira.

There are no plans to operate a distribution center Genesee County at this time, Houseknecht said.

The brothers re-acquired the business May 17 and immediately started re-branding their delivery trucks.

May 29, 2014 - 3:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Total Tan.

Total Tan has been in Batavia since 1996, but starting this week it's all new.  

The salon has moved to the new retail strip between Lewiston and West Main, next to the future new Tim Horton's.

Owner Cyndi Leonard, who founded Total Tan in Williamsville in 1994, said she and her managers had been looking to remodel and upgrade the old location in the Valu Plaza, but decided a new space made more sense.

The new location is filled with new, more modern units -- 20 in all, including five stand-up bays and a spray booth.

Pictured are Jaclyn Rossini, Cyndi Leonard, Rachel Mitchell and Emily Crego.

May 29, 2014 - 1:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground.

Le Roy's Zoning Board of Appeals will likely try to retain its own attorney in the Frost Ridge case, board Chairwoman Debbie Jackett said today.

At a hearing May 20, Town of Le Roy Attorney Reid Whiting told Judge Robert C. Noonan that the ZBA didn't have an attorney in court that day because the board chose not to be represented.

He said the ZBA had been served with notice of the lawsuit.

Jackett said the board didn't know it was named in a lawsuit until members read about the court hearing in The Batavian.

The ZBA was named by plaintiffs David and Marny Cleere and Scott and Betsy Collins because the ZBA found in July 2013 that camping and amplified music were permitted uses at Frost Ridge.

The board's position is and was, Jackett said, that camping and amplified music were both permitted uses prior to the area being zoned residential/agriculture in 1967.

The vote was unanimous, Jackett said, and the board's position hasn't changed.

The town board cannot overrule the ZBA's decision.

"Their view is contrary to our view," Jackett said.

Which is why Whiting can't represent the ZBA, she said. 

The ZBA serves both the town and village governments, but the board doesn't feel the village attorney should represent the ZBA since Frost Ridge is a town issue, so the ZBA is scrambling to secure independent legal representation.

The Town of Le Roy will be obligated to pay for the ZBA's attorney.

Frost Ridge and owners David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell are defendants in two lawsuits, one filed by the town and another field by Cleere and Collins challenging their legal ability to both exist as a campground and to operate occasionally as a live music venue.

The plaintiffs maintain that the campground and amplified music violate the current zoning ordinance. Frost Ridge maintains that the property was recreational use prior to 1967 and it's recreational use today.

Noonan issued a temporary injunction May 23 barring Frost Ridge from amplified music and alcohol service on the property, citing the likelihood that the town would prevail on the merits of the case. His decision was based on the May 20 hearing that lacked ZBA representation. 

Since the ZBA doesn't have an attorney yet, it's unclear whether any motion could be brought forward challenging the injunction.

A conference meeting -- where dates will be set for future proceedings in the cases -- is scheduled for tomorrow. Jackelt said she is unsure if the ZBA will be able to retain counsel in time for that court appearance.

May 27, 2014 - 2:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground.

Press release:

The Town of Le Roy, NY (Town) has filed suit against Frost Ridge Campground LLC (Frost Ridge) alleging they are in violation of local zoning code. After initial arguments, Judge Robert C. Noonan has ordered Frost Ridge to temporarily suspend “amplified outdoor concerts and alcohol service” until the merits of the lawsuits can be fully addressed.

Of course, Frost Ridge has complied and will continue to comply with Judge Noonan’s Order. In the meantime, Frost Ridge remains open to all its camping guests, and will continue to seek alternative options and potential venues for its live music.

Again, we thank our guests for being patient, as we have had to be patient. We need to allow this process to be worked through. There may be a few bumps along the way, but everyone who knows us will realize that we work through issues to resolve them.

May 24, 2014 - 6:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake theme park, nik wallenda.

Nik Wallenda, "The King of the Highwire," performed at Darien Lake for the first time on a 750-foot-long wire stretched over one of the lakes.

He performed with is wife, Erendira, and Nick Slimick and Alec Bryant, who were making their professional debut. Slimick and Bryant are graduates of a high school in Sarasota, Fla., where they studied circus performing.

Wallenda drove a specially equipped motorcycle across the wire, which was 150 feet above the water at its apex, with Erendira and either Nick or Alec on a trapeze bar attached below. At the apex, Wallanda performed a handstand on the bike seat on one trip. On another he stood on the seat. On other trips, Erendira and the two young men performed stunts. The final trip was just Nik and Erendira and they performed barrel rolls at the far end of the wire.

This isn't the show Wallenda will be performing at Darien Lake this summer.

The show this summer will be in the Galaxy Theater (to be renamed the Nik Wallenda Theater). Shows start June 24 and run through Sept. 1. The 10-week run will feature two performances every day (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) except Monday.

The hour-long show will feature top aerialists and stunt performers, Wallenda said. The finale will feature the Wallenda Family Pyramid on the Wire, untethered high above the stage.

During the show's run, performers will entertain park guests with wandering performances throughout the park, called "pop up performances." There will also be a regular interactive 20-minute show on the Gazebo Stage.

Wallenda said one reason he agreed to perform at Darien Lake is he that felt the need to give back to Western New York after being so warmly embraced during the run-up to his highwire walk over Niagara Falls.

"When I got off that cable in Niagara Falls, I said there will always be a piece of my heart that is in this region," Wallenda said. "This community has embraced me. It's been amazing. I get goosebumps.

"I think this shows my commitment to this region, to Western New York and Toronto," Wallenda said. "The community has been so good to me."

More pictures after the jump:

May 24, 2014 - 7:36am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground.

There can no amplified music at Frost Ridge Campground, ruled Judge Robert C. Noonan, in a decision handed down yesterday afternoon, at least temporarily.  

Noonan said the Town of Le Roy showed sufficient proof that it would prevail in its lawsuit on the alleged zoning code violation related to an amplified concert venue and restaurant at Frost Ridge.

He denied the same motion made by plaintiffs Cleere and Collins.

In a statement to The Batavian this morning, Frost Ridge co-owner David Luetticke-Archbell asked the public to be patient and understand that from the owners' point of view, Noonan has not been presented with all the facts by the plaintiffs.

"The most recent came from Mr. Whiting when he stated that the reason the Zoning Board of Appeals was not present was because they chose not to be," Luetticke-Archbell  said. "The truth is that they were never notified that they were being sued. He knew, but they did not ... a fact confirmed with them earlier today."

We are unable to get in contact this morning with Whiting nor a representative from the ZBA for comment.

"We just hope people will be patient, as we have had to be patient," Luetticke-Archbell added. "We need to allow this process to be worked through. There may be a few bumps along the way, but everyone who knows us will realize that we work through issues to resolve them."

We've e-mailed Luetticke-Archbell asking for confirmation whether their planned live music show for Memorial Day is being cancelled.

Noonan said in his five-page ruling that prior cases and NYS code gives the town the right to an injunction in the matter of an alleged zoning code violation, a right not available to the other plaintiffs, who have a higher standard to meet.

"As indicated above, the Town has clearly established that the concert venue and restaurant are in violation of the Town's zoning ordinance," Noonan wrote. "Further, the existence of safety hazards, public order and noise concerns creates a balance of equities in favor of the Town."

The town is not required to prove any special public damage in order to receive "injunctive relief," Noonan said, based on prior case law, just that there's the potential to prevail on a violation of it's zoning code law. 

Prior rulings also require Noonan to set a limit on what the town's damages would be if it ultimately didn't prevail in its lawsuit. If the town loses the suit, Frost Ridge could request Noonan to order the town to pay $225,536 in damages.

Noonan sided with the town on the live music and restaurant injunction, but did not order the campsites shut down.

The ruling acknowledges that the town, through the ZBA, may have misled the Luetticke-Archbells in September about whether live music was permissible, or "grandfathered in," only to contradict that ZBA finding the next day when the zoning code enforcement officer issued a letter barring live music.

The injunction was not granted to Cleere and Collins, the ruling indicates, because there is insufficient evidence of irreparable injury.

The ruling leaves open the ongoing disagreement between the town and Frost Ridge over whether campsites at that location are a preexisting nonconforming use, having been in place prior to adoption of the current zoning rules in 1967.

The town claims Frost Ridge was only a ski area, without campsites, prior to 1967. The Frost Ridge owners claim there were campsites on the property prior to 1967 and that the property was considered a "recreation" use, which means all recreation activity -- including live music -- is grandfathered in.

Noonan has ordered all parties back to his courtroom for a conference on the suit at each party's earliest possible convienence. 

UPDATE: In response to our request for clarification on whether live music will be cancelled Monday, David Luetticke-Archbell responded:

No, it is not cancelled. We are however going to comply with the order from Judge Noonan. I did read your article this morning, and would like to offer a correction. The injunction states:

"Therefore, the motion for a preliminary injunction by plaintiffs Cleere and Collins shall be denied; but the motion for preliminary injunction for the Town of LeRoy shall be granted to the extent of 'amplified outdoor concerts and alcohol service.' "

Frost Ridge shall comply with both of these.

Previously: 

May 22, 2014 - 7:35am
posted by Julia Ferrini in batavia, business, Harvester Center, J C Printing.

Trading in a dusty, cramped attic space for an open-windowed, well-lit studio was like free falling into the unknown for Jim Woodhams and Michael VanBuskirk -- as exciting as it was fearsome.

Woodhams is leaving a custodial position after nine years of service with the Spencerport School District; while VanBuskirk is leaving a laborer's position in the Batavia area. The pair are owners of JC Printing Company and recently relocated their business to the third floor of the industrial complex located at 56 Harvester Ave.

“The attic space became too small to accommodate the inventory and equipment necessary to expand the business,” Woodhams said.

Consequently, when VanBuskirk signed on he began looking into spaces to rent that would allow JC Printing Company to grow their business and have more of a presence downtown.

“I got into this business about a year ago,” VanBuskirk said. “It sounded exciting. It was something that interested me.”

On the other hand, Woodhams had taken a course on screen printing back in high school and enjoyed the class so much that he decided in 2009 to pursue it as a side job.

“The first heat press I bought is akin to an industrial iron,” he said.

From silk screening to embroidery on T-shirts, hats and other apparel; to foil wrap and photo prints on items such as, candles, coffee mugs or plates -- as well as other items -- are all produced in their new space.

“We don’t outsource any of our work,” said Woodhams, who graduated from Fairport High School. “We do all of our work on site. If we can’t do something, we will be honest about it.” 

Consequently, the printing company is making an effort to partner with other companies that have the capabilities JC Printing Company does not have at this time. For example, they have had several requests for paper goods -- letterhead, business cards -- however, they are not set up for paper production.

“Pencils are our biggest sellers right now,” Woodhams said. “We are still using vintage machines of the '30s. I purchased my machine from Guthrie Thomas -- a well-renowned artist of custom made guitar picks.”

Although the editorial process may be time consuming, turnaround time for merchandise is about two weeks for large orders; while some individual orders can be finished in about 20 minutes to an hour.

The process begins with an image, idea or concept the customer has in mind, followed by prepping or “cleaning up” the artwork. Once the artwork and design are approved, the next step is completely dependent on what the customer orders. For shirts, hats and the like, the design is then printed on a clear sheet that is put into a machine to transfer the image onto a screen.

Quality, pricing, efficiency and up-to-date processes are key in the work VanBuskirk and Woodhams produce. The storefront enables the owners to do minimum orders that will cater to the individual who walks in off the street as well as schools, corporations, hospitals, construction companies and more that pre-order merchandise.

“We want to please our customer. When you walk out the door with your purchase, we want you to be happy with the product,” VanBuskirk said. “Reliability -- we deliver on time. We listen to our customers. Communication is essential."

Realizing that advertising is part of the formula for success, tried both the traditional and the most current methods of advertising; according to Woodhams, their greatest success has been word of mouth and creating a catalogue.

“Someone had once told me that catalogues were a poor choice for advertising. For us, it was the best marketing decision we made.”

According to Woodhams, this venture entire is a huge leap. “I am leaving a job that I have held for the past nine years. It’s kinda scary.”

Pricing and other information can be found by visiting www.JCPrintingCompany.com, or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jcprintingcompany. They can also be reached via phone at 800-918-2701 or e-mail at [email protected].

The Grand Opening of JC Printing Company is Saturday, May 24, all day. The first dozen customers who place an order will receive a free gift.

CORRECTIONS: Our reporter was never informed there was another partner in the business. Her name is Carrie Farley. Also, our reporter was given the wrong grand opening date.  See comment below.

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