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October 15, 2020 - 9:55am


Genesee County leaders are advocating a spirit of togetherness as they take a divide-and-conquer approach to fulfilling the requirements of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on community police reform and reinvention.

On Wednesday night at the Old County Courthouse legislative chambers, the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative met for the first time, with 15 of the group’s 19 current members attending either in person or via Zoom videoconferencing.

County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein put out a call for unity and respect as she welcomed those who are tasked to address the policies and procedures of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office per the Executive Order issued on June 12.

“Together … we have an opportunity to learn from each other … to improve and manage public safety … through thoughtful, respectful and robust discussions,” Stein said. “Step by step by step, we will do this together.”

Stein emphasized that each member of the committee – from public officials to representatives of social or minority groups -- was important to meeting the governor’s directive.

“Each community must envision for itself the appropriate role of the police,” she said, “and policies must be developed to allow the police to do their jobs to protect the public and the policies must be with the local community’s acceptance.”

Following her opening statement, Stein introduced Robert Bausch, former County Legislature chair, who will serve as moderator for the group. After that, the committee members who were social-distanced throughout the room said a few words about themselves.

County Manager Matt Landers then read highlights of the Executive Order, focusing on the section that outlines the 15 different policing strategies that must be analyzed by Sheriff William Sheron and the community stakeholders.

Landers distributed a 10-meeting timeline (on Monday nights at 6:30), with five of those meetings dedicated to reviewing those 15 strategies as follows:

  • Nov. 2 – Use of force policies, procedural justice, any studies addressing systemic racial bias or racial justice in policing;
  • Nov. 16 -- Implicit bias awareness training, de-escalation training and practices, law enforcement assisted diversion programs;
  • Dec. 7 -- Restorative justice practices, community-based outreach and conflict resolution, problem-oriented policing;
  • Dec. 21 -- Hot spots policing, focused deterrence, crime prevention through environmental design;
  • Jan. 4 -- Violence prevention and reduction interventions; model policies and guidelines promulgated by the New York State Municipal Police Training Council; standards promulgated by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.

Sheron is scheduled to give a report on his department to legislators and the committee during a regular meeting of the legislature on Oct. 28, and will answer questions afterward.

Last night, the sheriff pointed out that the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office recently was reaccredited by New York State, which means that the agency has met or exceeded 133 standards as set forth by the state. The department was initially accredited in 2000.

Accreditation aside, Sheron said he would appreciate members' input, adding that "constructive criticism" is a vehicle "to making it better for our citizens."

The remainder of the collaborative’s meeting timeline indicates: a review of the draft report on Jan. 18; presentation of the draft to the public for feedback on Feb. 1; review and vote on the final report on Feb. 15; submission to the county Ways & Means Committee on March 3; adoption by the full county legislature on March 10; and delivery to the state Division of the Budget prior to April 1.

The Executive Order stipulates that the reform plan must be submitted to the state by April 1 or else it could jeopardize the locality’s state aid.

Landers said that the timeline isn’t etched in stone and that he is open to adding to the group’s number, especially if the interested person represents “another perspective or opinion.”

He added that the county’s Information Technology staff will be recording the meetings and the public is invited to attend in person (adhering to COVID-19 guidelines) or via Zoom.

Members present at last night’s meeting -- along with Landers, Stein and Sheron -- were:

  • Community members Julie Carasone, Perez Dinkins, Barb Starowitz, Tyrone Woods; Genesee Community College international student Rachel Gelabale;
  • Nonprofit community group member Lynda Battaglia, Genesee County Community Mental Health Services;
  • Faith-based leader John Keller, Northgate Free Methodist Church;
  • Educational group member Rachel Siebert, Genesee Valley BOCES;
  • Local elected official Gregory Post, Town of Batavia supervisor; Genesee County Public Defender Jerry Ader;
  • Genesee County District Attorney Lawrence Friedman;
  • Genesee County Sheriff’s Department Officer Howard Carlson.

Other members (who did not attend) are community member Leandro Mateos; John Bennett, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse; Millie Tomidy-Pepper, YWCA of Genesee County; and Genesee County Undersheriff Bradley Mazur.

The collaborative includes several persons of color and a cross section of people who have deeper views of societal issues through their interaction with minorities in their fields of employment, such as farm ownership, social and mental health services, substance use counseling, pastoral guidance, cultural competence and athletics.

Photo: The first meeting of the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative took place Wednesday night at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

October 15, 2020 - 7:15am
posted by Steve Ognibene in batavia, eastridge, girls tennis, sports.


The Batavia Varsity tennis team evened its record at 2-2 with a 7-0 victory at Eastridge. It was the Blue Devils' second straight win after starting the season 0-2. 

Winning at singles were Kylie Tatarka, Lidia Pehrson, Dallas Lama and Savannah Freeman. 

Doubles winners were Maya Schrader/Casey Tatarka, Hannah Carney/Katelyn Witherow, and Mikalina Pellegrino-Scott/Lilana Espinoza.

Batavia will take on division rival Brockport on the road Thursday.

Story submitted by Head Coach James Fazio.

To view and or purchase prints, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene.




October 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

A decrease in the Genesee County property tax rate and a much smaller than anticipated increase in the Town of Batavia property tax rate.

That’s the latest word from the managers of both municipalities who shared developments from today’s meetings with the legislature and town board, respectively, concerning their 2021 budgets.

“We’ve had several budget meetings with our county legislature and at this point and time I’m ready to propose a county budget that has a decrease in the (property) tax rate of approximately 31 cents down to $9.80 (per thousand of assessed value) from $10.11,” said first-year County Manager Matt Landers.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post had encouraging news as well, reporting that his current budget calls for about a 39-cent increase – from $2.45 per thousand to $2.84 – which is considerably less than the potential 88- or 89-percent increase that was bandied about a couple weeks ago.

“Everyone should thank the county legislators for their hard work to make it possible for the revenue distributions they have just made,” Post said, referring to a final 2020 payment of $6 million and a pledge to distribute $10 million in 2021 to the county’s 13 towns and six villages. “Now, we feel much better about taking $550,000 from our fund balance to make this happen.”

Both budgets are tentative and subject to change, but in all likelihood any modifications should be slight at this point.

Holding the Line Paved the Way

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she was hoping that her colleagues and management would be wrong in August (when they predicted a dire outcome).

“I’m glad we were, so we could increase this amount up to 10 million dollars,” she said of the 2021 revenue distribution, which is $2 million more than previously announced. She then applauded the efforts of everyone involved, noting that she appreciated their “work and consistency and your sticking with us.”

Landers echoed her sentiments, pointing out that the moves the legislature has made over the past six months, under the direction of Stein and former County Manager Jay Gsell, “have helped put us in a (good) position and helped me to put together this budget.”

“We’ve been able to fund our roads and bridges to the level that I’d like to fund them in 2021 … and they made a lot of good decisions … on furloughs, hiring freezes, deferring capital projects, deferring acquisitions.”

In order to lower the tax rate, Landers is proposing using about $2.3 million of the county’s $15 million fund balance. He said that is necessary due to a projected 20-percent (or more) cut in aid from New York State.

“We still don’t know if there’s going to be a stimulus for governments,” he said. “The stimulus isn’t anything I am looking toward for revenue replacement; the stimulus would benefit Genesee County primarily in that it would provide revenue to the state, and the state would not have to cut us.”

A 20-percent cut in state aid translates to a $2 million hit to the county’s budget, which will come in at around $144 million.

Sales Tax Numbers Better Than Anticipated

“As you saw in the resolution tonight (at the legislature meeting where the revenue allocations were approved), we’re going to budget $10 million of revenue distribution to our towns and villages in 2021,” Landers said. “We are projecting a small reduction in sales tax, but not anything that we would have thought six months ago. There were estimates that sales tax would be down 30 to 40 percent, but now we’re projecting a 5- to 10-percent reduction in sales tax.”

With sales tax numbers better than expected, the county is able to provide $10 million next year to support the towns and villages.

Landers said he and department heads went through the budget line-by-line during a couple Saturday morning workshop sessions and he “feels comfortable at this point submitting a budget that has roughly a 31-cent decrease in the tax rate, with a levy increase of approximately $400,000 (due to an increase in the county’s assessed value).

“I wish we could do more; I wish we could reduce taxes more,” he said. “It’s one of those (situations) where I’m glad we could come to a consensus with the legislature. I’m glad that we’ve got a balanced budget that I’m going to be proposing and once it goes from my hands to the legislature, it's their ability to modify it and amend it as they see fit.”

He said he expects the legislature to “tweak a thing or two,” but is relieved to have made it this far in the budget process.

“I’m glad to get through my first budget session. I never envisioned putting one together in a pandemic and a financial crisis, but I am glad that we are able to have a stabilized tax rate for Genesee County citizens,” he said. “I understand that it is going to utilize a little more fund balance than we like to, but that’s what the ‘rainy day’ fund is for. If we potentially didn’t have a 20-percent reduction in our state aid, we might have been able to have the possibility of further reductions (in the tax rate), which would have been great.”

Landers said the county’s fund balance is at 12 to 13 percent of its general fund expenditures – the proper level according to guidelines from the state Comptroller’s office.

The spending plan will be presented at a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Old County Courthouse. It is slated to be adopted by the legislature on Nov. 23.

Town Supervisor Breathes a Bit Easier

Post said he expects to get a good night’s sleep tonight for the first time in months after coming out of a budget workshop this afternoon at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The town received word that it would be getting another revenue check from the county in the amount of $1 million this year and just shy of $1.7 million from the county in 2021.

While the $1.7 million is less than what board members originally had hoped for, it is enough for them to be able to allot $550,000 from the fund balance to lower the tax rate.

“That, plus the fact that our investments are beating the market rate by a factor of six times, puts us in position to do that,” Post said, letting out a sigh of relief.

He attributed the town’s ability to weather the economic storm to its collaboration with the county, City of Batavia and Genesee County Economic Development Center that has resulted in developing “multiple streams of income.”

“This all started 12 years ago … by incentivizing businesses that provide sales tax revenue,” Post explained. “All of these entities have collectively applied those principals to our community and we’re reaping the benefits.”

The town board has indicated it will conduct a special work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 20, prior to adopting a preliminary budget on Oct. 21. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 4.

October 14, 2020 - 5:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, coronavirus, news.

Press release:

New Cases – As of 2 p.m.

  • Genesee County Due to ongoing technology/internet issues, we do not have an update for Genesee County.  We expect to report more information on these cases tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience.
    • Monday there was one new positive case.
    • Tuesday there were two new positive cases.
    • Wednesday there are two new positive cases.
    • Since Oct. 9, 37 new individuals are on precautionary quarantine due to travel from restricted states.
  • Orleans County received two new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in Albion.
    • The individuals are in their 20s, and 30s.
    • Both of the individuals were not on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Fifteen new individuals are on precautionary quarantine due to travel from restricted states.
October 14, 2020 - 3:06pm
posted by Press Release in business, batavia, Legacy Insurance Group.

Press release:

Legacy Insurance Group will be having a Grand Opening & Open House at their new office location 212 E. Main St., Batavia, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday Oct. 20th.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 o'clock. Social distancing and masks required.

Legacy Insurance will be a local resource for Medicare Advantage plans through UnitedHealthcare, as well as several life insurance options, and can help with navigating health insurance choices on the NYS of Health Marketplace. As of now, due to offsite events and individual appointments, hours will be by appointment or by chance.

Agent Diana M. Wagner resides in Stafford with her husband, Ron, and two of her three children, Bobby and Rachel.

She greatly enjoys the relationship that she builds with her clients, being a local point of contact, and being a resource in the community.

Most Fridays during market season, Wagner can be found with a Medicare information table set up at the Genesee Country Farmer's Market. She is also on hand at local retailers such as Walgreens and Tops, as well as senior residences like 400 Towers, and various other venues to bring Medicare information and answer questions. 

Please stop by to enjoy some cider, donuts and coffee!

October 14, 2020 - 2:34pm

A drive-thru chicken barbecue to benefit the Elba Volunteer Fire Department will be held on Sunday, Oct. 25 at the fire rec hall on Route 98 in Elba.

It starts at 11:30 a.m. and goes until sold out. Cost is $12.

Coronavirus protocols will be observed. Please wear a face mask and remain in your vehicle.

"Because of the (COVID-19) shutdown, last month was the first chicken barbecue we held this year," said an organizer, Barbie Starowitz, of Star Growers Farm LLC. "It sold out so fast! Now that we can be outside again we wanted to do another one. We're hoping for a nice (weather) day."

The address of Elba Firemen's Recreation Hall is 7143 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98).

October 14, 2020 - 11:58am
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, news, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) has cosponsored the State Municipal Assistance for Response and Transition (SMART) Act.

“Many local governments in Western New York did not meet the 500,000 resident threshold to receive coronavirus funding from the CARES Act," Jacobs said. "Without additional aid to state and local governments our hospitals, first responders, and schools are facing the risk of layoffs and cuts to critical services they provide our communities."

The SMART Act would provide $500 billion for a Coronavirus Local Community Stabilization Fund to provide aid to state, local, and tribal governments. The latter would get $16 billion of the funds. The other $484 billion would be distributed to localities in three tranches based on the population, relative revenue loss, and COVID-19 caseload in the state as of June 1st.

States would be required to release at least one third of these funds – totaling $161.3 billion – to municipal and county governments.

“Our local governments and services they provide are critical to rural communities,” Jacobs said. "Ensuring they have the resources they need is a top priority during this pandemic. I am proud to cosponsor this legislation to support these communities, and I will continue to advocate for targeted funding for local governments in additional COVID-19 relief legislation."

October 14, 2020 - 11:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve robinson, batavia, news.

Steve Robinson, white shirt, was honored with a proclamation Tuesday night by the Batavia City Council for his 30 years of service to the residents of Batavia.

Robinson started his career as a dispatcher for Batavia Police Department, continued as a dispatcher when the county and city 9-1-1 centers were consolidated, and stayed on part time with Batavia PD in a desk role after the consolidation.

October 14, 2020 - 11:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Rachael Tabelski, batavia news, notify.

On a vote of 7-2, the Batavia City Council approved an additional $1,000 a month stipend for interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, who has been filling the role since June after the resignation of Martin Moore.

Council members Bob Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted against the stipend.

Christian said she opposed the same stipend for Matt Worth when he was interim city manager after Jason Molino left, and to be consistent, she needed to oppose it for Tabelski.

"I'm concerned about a lot of people," Christian said. "We have long lines at food banks; people can't pay their rent or mortgage."

Bialkowski said he was applying the standard of the private sector, that when you're on salary you do the work assigned even if you fill in for a vacant slot at the same salary you were getting.

Council President Eugene Jankowski spoke in favor of the stipend. The assistant acts as a department head for administrative staff as well as other administrative duties and while department heads have helped pick up some duties the workload for Tabelski has increased substantially.

He also noted the City Charter requires the city to have a city manager and assistant manager. 

"If you're doing both jobs, it's a burden," Jankowski said.

Tabelski's base salary is $52,339.

Moore's salary was $110,838.

Jankowski noted that the stipend is not a cost that will put the city in a hole because they're currently saving money operating without a city manager.

The Council is in the process of identifying candidates, which may include Tabelski, to become the city's next city manager.

Reporting takes time and time is money. We could use more reporters to do more reporting. You can help make that happen. Please become a supporter.

October 14, 2020 - 10:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Halloween, batavia, news, notify covid-19, coronavirus.

To trick-or-treat or not to trick-or-treat? That seems to be the question on the minds of a lot of families in Batavia as our first pandemic-era Halloween approaches.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski said he's received calls from residents wondering if the city will permit traditional Halloween activities and he said there are even residents concerned that if they don't leave a light on for young ghosts and ghouls their houses might be targeted for vandalism.

Interim City Manager Rachel Tabelski said after reviewing information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), including a chart she said shows Genesee County as one of the few counties in the area the CDC has marked safe for trick-or-treating, she sees no reason right now to cancel Halloween in the city.

She said residents should be informed of the CDC's guidelines, which include:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

Tabelski suggested residents who want to hand out treats, not have trick-or-treaters come to their door but instead meet them one at a time on their sidewalk.

"We are not banning trick-or-treat unless the county or state come down and ask us to ban it," Tabelski said. "We think it's a great idea for parents and residents to be informed to help them feel safe."

She said she didn't anticipate any trouble for residents who choose to turn off their porch light and not participate.

"I think people understand some people may not feel comfortable opening their doors," Tabelski said.

Reporting takes time and time is money. We could use more reporters to do more reporting. You can help make that happen. Please become a supporter.

October 14, 2020 - 10:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, covid-19, coronavirus, news, notify.
Video Sponsor

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit Genesee County, the revenue outlook for the City of Batavia was pretty bleak -- a projected $2.4 million in losses because of an anticipated 30-percent decrease in economic activity.

As it turns out, sales tax revenue in the county is down only 4 percent, Interim City Manager Rachel Tabelski informed the City Council on Tuesday night.

The city also received an 80-percent payment from the state for video lottery terminal (VTL) revenue from Batavia Downs.

Better news but not necessarily good news. There's still a shortage in revenue of $793,000.

"While we still have many freezes and cuts to the departments, we are weathering the storm well of comfort," Tabelski said.

City department managers continue to work to control costs, making cuts in purchasing in vehicles, equipment and supplies, deferring what they can, and some departments are still under a hiring freeze. Those cost-saving measures are projected to save $611,000.

Whether those cuts are for the long term is yet to be seen.

"That's definitely hard to predict," Tabelski said. "We have rising contractual costs of employees coming into next year's budget and we still have New York State's 2 percent property tax cap that we try to look at and maintain, and stay within if we possibly can. The hope is that as we get closer and closer to the next quarter of sales tax collection, we'll have a better revenue picture and we'll be able to tell if we have a better budget outlook to present to Council in January."

Reporting takes time and time is money. We could use more reporters to do more reporting. You can help make that happen. Please become a supporter.

October 14, 2020 - 9:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, genesee county legislature.

Update 11 a.m. with comments from Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein:

"We can gladly say that this is good news for the people in our county's towns and villages and City of Batavia. As the calendar moves on, there were key factors that we had to understand before we could determine (the amount to be distributed). The taxpayers are the ones who will benefit as they are the most important people in this entire conversation. It shows that we can work collectively in a manner that can least harm our taxpayers."


The Genesee County Legislature later today is expected to pass a pair of resolutions that will authorize the distribution to towns and villages of another $6 million in revenue to close out 2020 and $10 million in anticipated revenue for 2021.

“These are the dollar amounts that the legislature felt it could share for the rest of 2020 based on total revenues that come into the county, taking into consideration various lost revenues – state aid, sales tax and interest earnings,” County Manager Matt Landers said this morning.

Landers said the final round of $6 million in payments brings the 2020 total distribution to the county’s 13 towns and six villages to $12,179,543.

Looking ahead, the legislature’s intention to provide $10 million in revenue distribution for next year is welcome news to the municipalities, especially the town boards that are in the process of finalizing their budgets for their 2021 fiscal year that begins in January.

For villages, the 2021 distributions will help in crafting budgets for 2021-22 as their fiscal years run from June 1 through May 31, except for Alexander, which runs from April 1 through March 31.

The $10 million is more than what Landers called “a conservative estimate” of $8 million that the legislature projected in early September – but still less than the $14 million originally budgeted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially, we didn’t want to project a number that we couldn’t provide, and after another month or so of reviewing the data and reviewing where our revenues are coming in, the legislature felt comfortable increasing that $8 million estimate to $10 million,” Landers said.

Revenues are determined by a formula that takes into account the municipality's taxable assessed value and equalization rates.

Following are the dollar amounts (total of $6 million) that represent the final payments for 2020:


  • Alabama, $237,321;
  • Alexander, $245,122;
  • Batavia, $1,025,995;
  • Bergen, $296,990;
  • Bethany, $246,247;
  • Byron, $284,878;
  • Darien, $593,614;
  • Elba, $221,624;
  • Le Roy, $495,998;
  • Oakfield, $183,392;
  • Pavilion, $327,483;
  • Pembroke, $600,149;
  • Stafford, $379,168.


  • Alexander, $44,197;
  • Bergen, $113,589;
  • Corfu, $80,543;
  • Elba, $64,499;
  • Le Roy, $435,583;
  • Oakfield, $123,609.

Following are the dollar amounts (total of $10 million) that represent full payments for 2021:


  • Alabama, $408,817;
  • Alexander, $399,714;
  • Batavia, $1,692,733;
  • Bergen, $510,034;
  • Bethany, $410,123;
  • Byron, $462,932;
  • Darien, $973,751;
  • Elba, $361,341
  • Le Roy, $824,606;
  • Oakfield, $300,052
  • Pavilion, $544,694
  • Pembroke, $1,023,383;
  • Stafford, $651,846.


  • Alexander, $71,208;
  • Bergen, $199,528;
  • Corfu, $138,044;
  • Elba, $106,922;
  • Le Roy, $720,318;
  • Oakfield, $199,954.

The full legislature meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Old County Courthouse and will be followed by an informational meeting to set the timeline of the Genesee County Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative at 7 p.m.

In another development, the county’s Information Technology department has been working since Tuesday morning to restore phone, financial management and email networks to full efficiency. Officials have been unable to use email and getting through by telephone has been hit-and-miss.

October 13, 2020 - 6:59pm
posted by Press Release in coronavirus, covid-19, news.

Press release:

Due to the Columbus Day holiday, both the Genesee and Orleans County health departments were closed yesterday. There were no map, website or media updates over the weekend or on Monday. Updates were supposed to resume today, Oct. 13, but technology issues got in the way.

Stay safe, stay distanced and wear your masks to continue to slow the spread. Thank you for your understanding.

New Cases – As of 2 p.m. 

  • Genesee County -- due to technology/internet issues, we do not have an update for Genesee County. Those numbers will be updated tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience.
  • Orleans County received 11 new positive case of COVID-19.
  • The new positive cases reside in Albion, Shelby, Carlton, Barre, Yates.
  • The individuals are in their 0-19 years, 20s, 30s and 50s. 
  • Five of the individuals were on mandatory quarantine when they tested positive. Six of the individuals were not on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
  • Ten new individuals are on precautionary quarantine due to travel from restricted states.
October 13, 2020 - 4:27pm
posted by Press Release in City Fire, fire safety, news, batavia.


Submitted photos and story.

Last week, Jackson Primary and John Kennedy School participated in Fire Prevention Week.

Captain Greg Ireland, of the Batavia Fire Department, read a book and made informational videos that educated students about fire hazards and why it is important to stay safe in an emergency.

Students participated in a coloring contest where the winners received a grab bag and a picture with the BFD. Students also learned why fire prevention is so important. Jackson Primary students had the chance to Google Meet with students from John Kennedy where they shared information they learned about fire safety. 

On Oct. 6th and 7th, students from the two schools had the opportunity to see a real fire truck. They watched the firemen explain how the fire truck works and had the opportunity to see their gear and tools.

The students also donated a dalmatian mascot with the name J.K. Jackson to keep at the firehouse to remember how important and valuable their partnership with the Batavia Fire Department is.




October 13, 2020 - 4:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

The Batavia City School District has created an executive director of operations position as part of a reshuffling of jobs that has reduced the number of employees on its administrative leadership team.

“It’s important for people to know that we didn’t grow our administration,” Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said today while reporting that he was able to shift staff members to reduce the number of administrators from 19 to 16 and save the district around $70,000.

Soler said that two of the job changes affected last year’s budget and one took effect in the current year’s budget.

“I really didn’t understand why we had 19, and the reality is that we only have half of our kids coming every other day,” he said. “So, some of that need isn’t there.”

He emphasized, however, that the school district is one of the largest employers in Genesee County and should have a human resources manager, which is a key component of the executive director of operations position.

“For us not to have an in-house person in charge of human resources – personnel and benefits – was not good,” he said. “We created that position … and just made some moves internally.”

Trisha Finnegan, formerly the director of Special & Alternative Education, was appointed as executive director of Operations.

The rest of the current administrative team at the Batavia City School District is as follows:

  • Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.;
  • Business Administrator Scott Rozanski;
  • Molly Corey, executive director of Curriculum & Instruction;
  • Jason DeGraff, director of Facilities;
  • Amanda Cook, director of Special & Alternative Education;
  • Michael Bromley, director of Health, Physical Education and Interscholastic Athletics;
  • Paul Kesler, Batavia High School principal;
  • Nate Korzelius, Batavia High School assistant principal;
  • Julia Rogers, Batavia High School assistant principal;
  • Ashley John Grillo, Batavia Middle School principal;
  • Lindsey Leone, Batavia Middle School assistant principal;
  • Bernadette Krumpek, Batavia Middle School assistant principal;
  • Brian Sutton, John Kennedy Intermediate School principal;
  • Maureen Notaro, Jackson Primary School principal;
  • Jeffrey McKinney, John Kennedy and Jackson assistant principal.
October 13, 2020 - 4:06pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in Saigon Lady, news, vietnam war, Darien, Hercules C-130.

A Darien man’s love of aircraft and dedication to aviation history has placed him in the center of a restoration project at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo.

Mike Foss grew up on a farm near Darien, where at the age of 5 he used to stand outside and wave to the C-130s when they flew over. When the pilots spotted the boy, they would dip their wings to him. 

As he grew up, the C-130 became his favorite airplane. Last year at an aviation event, he actually met one of those pilots who dipped his wings at the little boy.

But his mission now, after joining the National Warplane Museum several years ago, is to be actively involved in the restoration of an historic C-130A Hercules, which has been awarded to the warplane museum by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

“I love C-130s,” Foss said. “They are an incredible plane, and to think (that) this (type of plane) is still flying is incredible.”

Initially, there were only three people working on restoration of the plane, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in June others were brought on board and now the crew has seven members, Foss said.

The plane will be revamped to showcase museum pieces; it will never fly again, according to Foss.

'Saigon Lady' Restoration to be Centerpiece of Geneseo's Vietnam War Memorial

The plane will be the centerpiece of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial being developed at the Warplane Museum, with guidance from Barry Culhane, of Rochester. Culhane was also instrumental in construction of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Rochester, which honors Vietnam veterans from all of Western New York, including Genesee County. 

The museum’s recently acquired C-130, nicknamed “Saigon Lady,” will help the Warplane Museum tell the stories of veterans who served in Vietnam during the war and the Southeast Asian Americans who built a new life for their families in America.

This memorial will be one of the first of its kind in the United States, according to information from the National Warplane Museum.

“Saigon Lady” has a unique history. It was the last military cargo plane to fly out of Saigon on April 3, 1975, before the city fell to the North Vietnamese. Its pilot, Lt. Pham Quang Khiem, was able to fly his family of 10, along with more than 50 refugees, to Singapore and eventual freedom for them in the United States.

On Wednesday afternoon, Khiem and his family, who now live in Ohio, visited the National Warplane Museum, where a special ceremony took place.

Meeting the Artist Who Painted 'Saigon Lady' Portrait

Khiem got to meet the artist who painted a portrait named "Saigon Lady," Carol Culhane, of Albion. Culhane, whose husband, Gerald, is a Vietnam veteran, has dedicated much of her work to veterans. She also did artwork for Barry Culhane and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Rochester.

She is well-known throughout the Batavia area for her paintings done for Ducks Unlimited members, including the late John O’Brien. Most of O’Brien’s vehicles were adorned with scenes of ducks and dogs painted by Culhane. She also donated her talent for a mural at Justice for Children in Batavia. She is planning to do a portrait of Khiem for his family as well. 

Wednesday’s ceremony included an introduction by the Warplane Museum’s volunteer Larry Jones, and museum founder Austin Wadsworth.

Jones told the small crowd, “If you like history and if you like airplanes, this is the place to be.”

What makes Saigon Lady so remarkable is the story behind it, Jones said.

Remarkable Story of an Iconic Aircraft

“This plane is an icon from 1972 – 1975 in Vietnam,” he said. “It is a story of defense and courage and the vision of the museum’s Don Wilson and Ray Ingram who learned the Smithsonian was about to release some of its aircraft, and set to work to acquire this plane.

The C-130 Saigon Lady was, until recently, part of the Smithsonian’s collection. 

On Wednesday, Lt. Khiem told the story in his own words.

First, history of the C-130 provided by the Warplane Museum states the "Hercs," as they were known, were a valuable asset to the Vietnamese Air Force. The Lockheed-made aircraft were the largest and heaviest load-carrying aircraft in the VNAF inventory.

As the enemy advanced southward, the C-130s were used in the evacuation of northern cities. At 11 p.m. on the night before Da Nang fell to the enemy, Khiem and his squadron flew one of the last resupply missions into the city. 

“As soon as we landed and taxied to the ramp, an Army Republic of Vietnam major jumped into the aircraft to assure himself of a seat. I knew that thousands of people in the terminal would rush the airplane after seeing this, so I kicked him off.

"As it was, the ramp was filled with refugees almost immediately anyway. I shouted to them to let me offload my 20,000 pounds of cargo and then I could take about 200 of them. As soon as the cargo was off the plane, people rushed on and we couldn’t stop them.

Overloaded Plane Bound for Freedom

“The loadmaster called on the intercom and said he could not close the ramp because of the people on it,” Khiem said. “I told him to hang on, then hit the brakes. That jammed them in tight enough to allow him to close the ramp. I had to jump on the brakes three times.

"As soon as we got to cruising altitude, I got out of my seat to take a look back in the cabin. There were people hanging on the paratroop static line cables and no one was sitting down. When we offloaded at Tan Son Nhut, we did an actual head count of 350 people.”

The aircraft was designed to carry 90 people. (Some sources say when maximized, it can accommodate up to 128 people.) 

“The flight and panic I saw in Da Nang got me to thinking it looks like the same thing is going to happen in Saigon. I will have to take a C-130 and get my family out.”

Khiem is quick to explain he did not intend to “steal” an aircraft, just borrow it.

Some of the C-130s flew bombing missions to destroy aircraft left behind. The C-130s were loaded with 55-gallon drums of gasoline or napalm and then dropped on VNAF aircraft abandoned on the ramps.

On April 2, 1975, Khiem hitched a ride into Phan Rang on a C-130, hoping to locate his younger brother, who was an airman in the headquarters there. He had hoped to take him back to Saigon to be with the rest of family, but Khiem could not locate him. 

“We were lucky though,” Khiem said. “He showed up at my parents’ home in Saigon five minutes before our escape. On the flight back to Saigon, I thought to myself, ‘If Phan Rang is lost, it won’t be long before the Communists are in Saigon.’ It was time to plan my escape.”

There was a lot of talk among other pilots of stealing a C-130 and getting their families out. But Khiem never said a word about it to anyone in his squadron. 

“Headquarters must have considered the possibility of that happening, though, because they ordered the airplanes to be fueled with only enough gas to accomplish their missions. If you were going to Phan Rang, they gave you just enough gas, plus a small reserve, to get there. You would have to refuel there in order to get back to Saigon.”

Khiem realized a problem would be finding someone to help him escape.

A Little Help from Friends

“One of my best friends, Major Nguyen Huu Canh, was in the VNAF in our sister squadron. We had been friends a long time and we discussed the possibility of getting out. I knew once a pilot managed to steal an airplane and escape, the VNAF would tighten security, making further escapes impossible. I told my friend if we are not number one to escape, there will never be number two.”

The Major’s family was in DaLat and he wanted to get them to Saigon. But on April 2, DaLat was overrun by the communists and he lost contact with them. After that, he was willing to go along with anything Khiem planned.

“On April 3, all the C-130s were used on bombing missions. I was number one standby on the mission, but I needed time to tell my family what I had planned. I went to the Squadron Operations officer and told him I didn’t feel good, so he agreed to drop me to the bottom of the list.

"That gave me a chance to run home for lunch. I took my brother aside and told him what I had planned. I asked him to take charge of the family and keep them close to home.

“If they heard from me, they were to go immediately to the Long Thanh Airport, which was about 17 miles southeast of Saigon. Long Thanh was a former U.S. Army airbase, on which I had landed several times during training. It had been closed since the U.S. withdrawal in 1973 and was deserted.

Leaving Immediately with Luck on Our Side

“When I got back to the airport, I waited for something to happen. At 3 o’clock, my friend Major Canh called to say he had been assigned to a food resupply mission to Phan Rang. Actually, another pilot had been assigned to the mission, but he complained he had already flown two missions that day and was tired, so my friend volunteered to take his place. I ran home and told my family to leave for Long Thanh immediately.

“But we had another problem. Since we were in different squadrons, we would not ordinarily fly together. In fact, I could not even get into his squadron area.

“Once again we were lucky. The airplane he was supposed to take had mechanical problems and his squadron borrowed one of our airplanes – Hercules CF 460 (Saigon Lady). I met him at the airplane. Now the problem was getting rid of his copilot.

"We told him that I would be glad to take his place in order to fly with my friend, and to look for my missing brother. He was only too happy to take the rest of the day off, especially since he had a date. I warned him not to go back to the squadron since they might not like our switching places without authorization.

“These missions had become so routine that we could take off within minutes, and that created another problem for my plan. The 17 miles to Long Thanh was on a rough country road and I knew my family could not get there before 4 p.m. I also knew once we took off, timing would be essential.

"We couldn’t land at Long Thanh and wait around for them to show up. A C-130 landing on an abandoned airstrip would raise an alarm, and the rest of the crew would know right away what we were doing.

“I had to delay takeoff somehow, so I made sure I got to the airplane before the flight engineer. I pulled several circuit breakers that would not normally pop by themselves, and I knew they would be hard to spot. The flight engineer finally spotted the popped breakers and we cranked the engines at 3:30.

"I am sure the crew was wondering what had gotten into the pilot, since each checklist was read and reread thoroughly. I delayed as long as I could, but we were still rolling before 4 p.m.

One Shot at Escape

“In all my calculation about where we would go, the problem of fuel had always been on my mind. I did not think we would have more than an hour and a half of fuel on board, which would have only been enough to get us to Thailand, and that was not far enough to ensure our safety. But getting this airplane was an opportunity we could not pass up, no matter what the outcome. 

“The first thing I did when I got out to the airplane was flip the master switch on to check the fuel level. My heart leapt into my throat when I saw the tanks were full. The line crewman must have anticipated my surprise, because he apologized, explaining he had taken a smoke break while fueling the airplane and forgot about the new rule regarding rationing.

"He begged me not to turn him in. Of course, I gave him a stern look and told him not to ever let it happen again, and then told him to forget about it. With a full load of fuel, we could fly all the way to Singapore. My friend was still despondent about the loss of his family, but he didn’t care where we went as long as it was out of the country.

“Right after takeoff, I turned off all the radios and the transponder. Then I turned on the intercom and said, ‘What’s the matter with them anyway? Why are they sending us to Long Thanh to pick up those people.’ Now the crew knew we were going to Long Thanh, but they thought we had been sent there by headquarters.

"I told my friend we had to slow down, saying if we fly slow, maybe they will think it is a helicopter on their radar screen. As we began to circle the airport, I looked down and tried to spot my family.

“The place was deserted and I got a sinking feeling. The next time around, I searched the country road for them and there they were. Five little cars about a half mile from the airport. I knew my brother had briefed the family to run onto the airport as soon as they saw the ramp come down.

"When the ramp was open, I asked the loadmaster to offload the cargo, which was 20,000 pounds of dry rice. So far they didn’t suspect anything, but I knew I couldn’t take them out of the country without letting them know what I was doing. 

“As soon as my family was on board, I said, ‘Gentlemen, I have to tell you that this aircraft will not go back to Saigon any more. We are leaving the country. Anyone who does not want to go is free to leave now.’

Skimming Waves, Singapore Bound

"The flight engineer unhooked his seatbelt and headset and got halfway out of his seat, then sat back down and said he would go with us. The number one loadmaster, who was a 10-year VNAF veteran, must have thought we were defecting to the North Vietnamese, because he got off as quickly as he could.

“Once we were off, we headed out to sea at tree-top level. As soon as we got over the sea, we dropped down to 50 feet above sea level so we wouldn’t be picked up on radar. I mean, we were low. After an hour of skimming the wave tops, I realized we were over international waters and we climbed to 16,000 feet and set a course directly for Singapore."

They landed at 7 p.m. – 56 refugees from the war -- and announced they were “illegal” and wanted asylum. The airport had closed at 5 p.m. and the person who dealt with such people couldn’t be found. Finally at about 1 a.m. 20 trucks filled with police surrounded the airplane and Khiem and his passengers surrendered, explaining they would like political asylum in Singapore.

No one knew what to do with them, so Khiem suggested the airport give them charts and fuel to fly to Australia and they would leave. That seemed like a good idea to airport personnel, until the matter of paying for the fuel came up. They would only accept U.S. currency, and the passengers only had about $400 of the $5,000 needed. 

“Fortunately, they were sympathetic,” Khiem said. “They must have had an idea how the war would end. They billeted us in what was like a jail, l and then treated us as heroes. We were there 19 days, then a bus came and took us to a resort island. We had beds to sleep in, not the floor any more.

"The next day we were flown to Guam. We were on our way to a new life in the United States.”

Khiem had managed to get his entire family out, with the exception of his youngest brother, who was in the Army. After the Communists took over, he was sent to a re-education camp for two years of brainwashing. In September 1991, just three months before their father passed away, Khiem’s brother and his family were reunited with the rest of the family, after 16 years apart.

Love for America, Making a New Life

Khiem’s love for America had begun when he attended the language school at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in November 1969 as a Vietnamese Air Force cadet. He received his basic pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base, then moved on to Keesler Air Force Base. Eventually, he was assigned to fly transport aircraft and was pilot in command of C-123K aircraft, before moving up to the C-130.

His family of 10 included five brothers, all of them in the military during the war. Three of his brothers were in the VNAF and his oldest brother was the chief training officer for the 62nd wing of the VNAF at Nha Trang. It was a family that believed in their country and was willing to fight to save it – almost to the bitter end. 

“What I’ve dreamed for the last 45 years is thanking the U.S. for accepting my family,” Khiem said. 

The next day after he and his family were taken out of Singapore, the USAF claimed the C-130 and flew it to South Korea. It was flown there for several years, then flown to the United States to be used by the Coast Guard. It’s final flight was to the museum at Dulles.

When it was released to the National Warplane Museum, a crew disassembled it and transported the wings and fuselage by truck to Geneseo, where it has been reassembled.

After settling his family in America, Captain Khiem began flying for American Airlines, and retired about seven years ago from U.S. Air. He is rated to fly the Boeing 727-100/200, 737-200/300/400 and AirBus 319/320/321.

His friend Major Nguyen Huu Canh is presently flying for an oil-drilling company in Houston.

Khiem has been to the National Warplane Museum several times during the past year to see his C-130. He is eagerly supporting their mission to restore his plane, physically and financially, Warplane Museum founder Wadsworth said. 

Photos courtesy of Virgnia Kropf.

Below: Pham Quang Khiem (with baseball cap on at left) and his family pose with the C-130 he “borrowed” and flew his family to freedom just before the Communists invaded Saigon. The plane will be the centerpiece of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, which recently acquired it from the Smithsonian.

Below: Carol Culhane, an acclaimed artist from Albion, poses with Pham Quang Khiem and the picture she painted entitled "Saigon Lady," which will accompany the historic airplane that is to be completely restored.

October 13, 2020 - 3:00pm
posted by Press Release in Alzheimer's Association WNY Chapter, dementia, news.

From the Alzheimer's Association WNY Chapter:

Judging by the calls received at the Alzheimer’s Association® Western New York Chapter office from dementia caregivers, COVID-19 continues to be a major challenge.

It compounds the struggle for care partners already challenged by the demands of providing day-to-day care for someone they love who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

While the association's physical office remains closed to ensure the health and safety of our staff and the public, it continues to provide free resources such as virtual support groups.

The Chapter oversees several monthly caregiver support group meetings in the Genesee County region, which allows dementia caregivers to connect with others facing similar challenges and hear advice for overcoming them from care partners in local area.

These programs generally run an hour in length and are free to attend via telephone or the Zoom video chat application. Additionally, there are no residency or minimum attendance requirements. 

Caregivers looking for guidance, compassion and time away are welcome to join the discussion by phone on the third Thursday of every month at 1 p.m., including these Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. There is also a meeting accessible by phone or Zoom on the third Wednesday at 7 p.m. on these upcoming dates: Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16.

While there are no fees, preregistration is a requirement, by calling 1-800-272-3900 at any time. Online registration is also an option at alz.org/CRF. If you are unfamiliar with the Zoom app, call the Chapter office for a quick and easy practice session at (716) 626-0600, ext. 313.

Genesee County residents also have access to caregiving resources and programs through the Chapter’s partnership with the Genesee County Office for the Aging. To learn more about local caregiver resources, call the county office at (585) 343-1611.

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