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April 15, 2021 - 10:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, Batavia HS, football.

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Batavia had little trouble scoring against winless Midlakes on their way to running up their season record to 5-0.

The final score was 56-0.

Terez Smith carried the ball 13 times for 217 yards. He scored two touchdowns. Ethan Loarza ran nine times for 57 yards and a TD, and Aidan Anderson, 11 times for 55 yards and a TD.

Jesse Reinhart was 10-13 passing for 188 yards and four TDs. 

Alex Hale caught two TD passes, of his five receptions, for 87 yards.  Tyler Budzinack also hauled in a pair of TD passes and gain 69 yards.

Anderson had seven tackles, Kaden Marucci and Mathew Mcwethy, six each, and Jayden Osborne, three.

To view or purchase prints, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

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April 15, 2021 - 10:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, football, oakfield-alabama, elba.

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Oakfield-Alabama/Elba ran all over York/Pavilion in their game on Wednesday, gaining 460 yards on the ground on their way to a 54-0 win.

"This was a great bounce-back win for our guys after last week," said Head Coach Tyler Winter. "They came out of the gate fast and played well for four full quarters.  We set some goals for our squad to clean a few things up on both sides of the ball, and I think we accomplished those goals tonight.  We'll go back to the drawing board tomorrow and look to continue improving this week as we prepare for a big challenge in Avon."

Ty Mott ran 22 times for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Mott has now rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season.

Gaige Armbrewster, three carries, 105 yards, 1 TD. Ty Kornow, five carries, 70 yards, 1 TD. Jayden Hughes, three carries, 35 yards, 1 TD

Bodie Hyde completed a 64 yard TD pass to Zach Howard

Peyton Yasses and Dontrell Jenkins each had 12 Tackles

Photos by Kristin Smith. For more, click here.

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April 15, 2021 - 9:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in scaffold law, Chris Jacobs, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) testified this afternoon in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in support of his legislation the Infrastructure Expansion Act. 

A transcript of Rep. Jacobs’ testimony as prepared for delivery:

“As we move forward with efforts to expand our nation’s infrastructure, I want to bring to your attention an important issue in my home state of New York. New York is currently the only state in the union to impose absolute liability on employers and property owners for gravity-related injuries. This archaic standard is enshrined in New York’s Labor Law 240/241, otherwise known as the “Scaffold Law.”

Absolute liability under the Scaffold Law means employers and property owners are fully liable for worksite accidents, regardless of the contributing fault of the worker. To understand the injustice of this law, take for example that courts have ruled repeatedly that the intoxication of an employee is not a defense for an employer under the statute. Contrast this with the liability standard of comparative negligence – the standard in every other state – which allows for a reasonable determination of fault between two parties.

Studies have indicated the Scaffold Law adds approximately 8-10% to the cost of construction in New York State. Due in part to the extreme standard set by the Scaffold Law, the cost of construction in New York is higher than anywhere else in the nation, resulting in unnecessary taxpayer spending across all levels of government. According to one study, the Scaffold Law is expected to add an additional $180 to $300 million to the Gateway Program. The Tappan Zee Bridge is estimated to have incurred up to $400 million in additional costs due to the Scaffold Law. In a recent amicus brief, the New York City Transit Authority stated it is in an existential financial crisis. Its public liability burden in 2019 was $150 million dollars, much of that due to the Scaffold Law. These costs represent hundreds of millions of dollars that could have gone toward improving our schools, repairing the New York City subway, or fixing our roads.

Defenders of the Scaffold Law say that it improves worksite safety, but data shows the opposite. A study deemed “practice-ready” by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering concluded that the law actually increases both fatal and non-fatal injuries by 670 each year.

The challenges presented by the Scaffold Law are why I have championed the Infrastructure Expansion Act (H.R. 1300), which would exempt federally funded projects from the Scaffold Law and instead place them on a standard of comparative negligence.

Mr. Chairman I would like entered into the record a letter of support from over sixty-five organizations throughout New York State supporting my bill.

The Scaffold Law is particularly challenging for minority and women-owned businesses, as the inflated premiums they must pay for liability insurance puts them at a competitive disadvantage when bidding for projects against larger firms. That is why groups such as the Minority & Women Contractors & Developers Association and the National Association of

Minority Contractors have been vocal supporters of Scaffold Law reform. I am proud to have their support for my bill.

Other supporters of Scaffold Law reform and my bill include the New York State Association for Affordable Housing. The Scaffold Law is estimated to add $10,000 to the cost of a single-family home in New York State. Anyone interested in making New York State more affordable for families should support the inclusion of my legislation in any infrastructure package.

Another supporter I am proud to have is Habitat for Humanity. Like the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, Habitat for Humanity appreciates efforts to make housing in New York more affordable. However, they have an additional issue with the Scaffold Law. In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Habitat and its volunteer partners rushed to help Long Island recover, however they struggled to find insurance because of the Scaffold Law.

For the sake of our roads, our bridges, our schools, our railroads, our homes, and all New Yorkers, the Scaffold Law must be reformed. I urge the Committee to include my legislation in the infrastructure package. With that, I yield back.”

New York’s Scaffold Law imposes an absolute liability standard for all gravity-related injuries on construction projects. New York is the only state with such a law. In February, Jacobs reintroduced his legislation, the Infrastructure Expansion Act (H.R. 1300), that would protect New Yorkers from high construction costs by pre-empting the Scaffold Law on any project receiving federal funding – instead of implementing a standard of comparative negligence for these projects.

April 15, 2021 - 9:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day, advertisement.

Reminders of how the Deal of the Day program works:

  • To make purchases, you must be registered. Deal of the Day uses a registration system that is not connected to the registration for commenting on The Batavian (the main user login in the upper left of the homepage).
  • Once re gistered you must sign in using the "sign in" link in this box.
  • You click on the orange button, which appears if the item is not sold out, and it takes you to a PayPal button. This allows you to pay either with your PayPal account or with a credit card/debit card. The login for PayPal is completely separate from our accounts.
  • The first person to successfully complete the PayPal transaction wins the gift certificate.
  • You are eligible to buy the same item only once in a four-month period. We use the registration system to track this for you so you don't have to.
  • Only one gift certificate from the same business PER HOUSEHOLD is allowed in each four-month period. We do not have a way to automatically track duplicate purchases within a household; however, if we notice such a purchase, we reserve the right to cancel the purchase and refund the purchase money. Each individual buyer must use his or her own PayPal account for purchases. It's important that participating businesses not be asked to redeem multiple gift certificates from the same person/family at the same time.
  • Gift certificates should be used within 30 days of receipt.
  • Problems, questions, concerns about the Deal of the Day? Email Billie Owens:   [email protected]
April 15, 2021 - 8:00am
posted by Press Release in st. paul lutheran school, batavia, fundraisers, news.

Press release:

This year has brought many changes to everyone during the coronavirus pandemic. One thing that has changed, is how we can safely raise funds. St. Paul Lutheran School has three upcoming fundraisers to help support our school, located on 31 Washington Ave. in Batavia.

And we are currently taking registrations for the 2021-2022 academic year for preschool students ages 3 and 4 through to grade six.

Join Us For These Events

  • Sponsored Dinner at Batavia's Original -- Wednesday, April 21, from 4-9 p.m. All dine-in, take-out and delivered orders will benefit the school with a percentage of the sales that will benefit our Tuition Assistance account.
  • Hanging Basket Vouchers -- Order a voucher from our school for $22 and then go shop at a Delre's Greenhouse for your selection of color and flower of your choice. Vouchers are good from May 15 through May 28. Proceeds to benefit our school.
  • Scrap Metal Drive -- Saturday, May 1, from 8 a.m. to noon at 31 Washington Ave., Batavia. We can accept: kitchen appliances, washing machines, dryers, lawn mowers, wheelbarrows, hot water tanks, bicycles, metal fencing and posts, gas grills, automobile batteries and boat batteries. Proceeds to benefit our school. We CANNOT accept: televisions, microwave ovens, propane tanks, rechargeable batteries, food containers.

For more information on any of these events, please call (585) 343-0488. Thank you kindly.

April 14, 2021 - 10:18pm

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The City of Batavia this week honored a longtime police officer who recently retired and recognized the contributions of Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center personnel.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski and Council member Jeremy Karas, at Monday night's Business Meeting, read proclamations honoring Police Officer Jason Davis and designating the week of April 11-17 as National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, respectively.

Davis retired on March 30 after nearly 22 years with the Batavia Police Department. Previously, he worked for the Village of Le Roy PD and Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office.

The proclamation noted his many roles, including the emergency response team, crime intervention officer, field training officer, general topics instructor, de-escalation instructor and, most recently, school resource officer at the Batavia City School District.

He also was a Boy Scout Troop leader for many years.

Per the proclamation, Officer Davis “served his department with professionalism and compassion, and has been a positive role model and mentor to other officers and many more in the community."

Davis thanked all those with the city for giving him the opportunity in 1999 when he transferred to Batavia 

Karas, after reading the proclamation that outlined the various ways communications staff and dispatchers are vital to public safety, introduced Genesee County Undersheriff Brad Mazur, at right in photo below, and Communications Assistant Director Frank Riccobono, at left in photo below.

Mazur thanked City Council for acknowledging the dispatchers' "hard work, dedication and true professionalism."

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Photos by Mike Pettinella.

April 14, 2021 - 9:06pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Williams Law Firm.

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Longtime local attorney Gerald "Jerry" Williams celebrated his 90th birthday today by doing what he has done just about every day for the past 60-plus years -- tending to legal matters at his downtown Batavia office.

Williams took time out from his duties to pose for a picture with his son, Thomas, who recently became the Genesee County Family Court judge, and daughter, Annie.

He said he was admitted to the bar in 1955, but for the first two years served in the Army.

"I came back in 1957 and commenced practice with Jim Murray, a trial laywer, forming the Murray & Williams law firm," he said. "Jim died in 1994 at the age of 86 and he was here the day before he died."

Williams said he, too, doesn't see retirement in his plans, noting that "I will keep working until I don’t enjoy it anymore."

This prompted Annie to quip, "Lawyers don’t retire anymore, they just lose their appeal."

As far as outside-of-work activities, Williams still plays competitive tennis.

"Now, I can’t wait to get into those 90-and-over tennis tournaments," he said.

Williams has three other children and 11 grandchildren.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

April 14, 2021 - 6:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, arts, entertainment, video.
Video Sponsor

For National Poetry Month, David Reilly reads "Nostalgia" by Billy Collins.

April 14, 2021 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, news, notify.

The adoption of a proposed 2021-2022 school budget for Batavia nearly brought Board of Education President Alice Ann Benedict to tears on Monday night.

She wasn't upset. If anything, she was overjoyed.

The budget doesn't increase the district's tax levy one penny over the 2020-21 budget. With rising property values and commercial properties that were previously covered by tax abatements known as PILOTs* rolling out of those programs, most property owners should see the education portion of their property taxes going down next year.

Superintendent Anibal Soler said a rough guess right now is that a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $64 less in school taxes.

He called that a win for the community and in remarks at the end of the meeting, Benedict agreed and thanked Soler, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski, and the rest of the board of education for their work on the budget.

"I just want to say how pleased I am that we got to zero percent because I think it is quite important for our community," Benedict said before fighting back tears. "This has been a tough year. I just wanted to say I appreciated it."

Rozanski said it was possible to balance the budget because of additional state and federal aid being provided to local school districts.

The tax levy this academic year is $19,493,958 and under the proposed budget will be exactly the same in the coming year.

The total budget will increase from $51,470,726 to $52,096,661, a 1.22-percent increase in spending, which is just below the consumer price index increase of 1.3 percent.

The tax rate based on the proposed levy has not yet been set.

"The tentative PROJECTED tax rate (using the current assessed values) is $20.65," said Rozanski in an email to The Batavian.  "This amount WILL change because all the information (assessed values, equalization rates, omitted taxes, and removed exemptions are NOT finalized until the summer.  The OFFICIAL tax rate will be calculated in August/September 2021."

There will be a public budget presentation on May 10 and the budget will go before voters on May 18.

*PILOTs -- Payment(s) In Lieu Of Taxes.

April 14, 2021 - 4:34pm

A federal bankruptcy judge in Buffalo has ruled that three debts of former funeral director Michael Tomaszewski cannot be discharged under bankruptcy law.

The three debts are part of more than $3.2 million in liabilities Tomaszewski listed when filing for bankruptcy in February 2020. He initially filed for Chapter 11, a reorganization of debts, but changed the filing to a Chapter 7, forgiveness of all debts not covered by available assets, last month.

Yesterday, in a separate criminal matter, Tomaszewski entered a guilty plea to grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial. Over the summer, the 40-year-old Batavia native was charged with more than 200 counts of criminal conduct stemming from a scheme to divert deposits made on prearrangements for funeral services to his own personal use.

The amount of restitution he will owe former clients will be set at his sentencing on July 13. He faces a possible sentence from two and one-third to seven years in prison. The restitution order could approach $500,000.

In his ruling, Judge Carl L. Bucki cited a section of federal bankruptcy law that says a debtor cannot discharge any debt that was the result of fraud or misrepresentation. 

According to the ruling, Tomaszewski will remain liable for prearrangement deposits from individuals for $10,500, $8,000, and $8,000. Under bankruptcy law, the three individuals are entitled to priority repayment for the first $3,025 of each debt.

The bankruptcy proceedings only include debts listed in the filing. Not all victims of Tomaszewski are listed as claimants in the case.

April 14, 2021 - 4:14pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news, notify.

Press release:

  • Genesee County reporting 15 new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • The new positive cases reside in the:
      • West Region (Alabama, Darien, Pembroke)
      • Central Region (Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Elba, Oakfield) 
      • East Region (Bergen, Byron, Le Roy, Pavilion, Stafford)
  • The individuals are in their 19-20s, 20s, 40s, 50s and 60s. 
  • Twenty-five of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.  
  • Four of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.

Orleans County reporting 13 new positive cases of COVID-19.  

  • The positive cases reside in the:
    • West Region (Yates, Ridgeway, Shelby)
    • Central Region (Carlton, Gaines, Albion, Barre)
    • East Region (Kendall, Murray, Clarendon)
  • The individuals are in their 0-19s, 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
  • Fourteen of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been removed from the isolation list.
  • Two of the new positive individuals was on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
  • Four of the current positive individuals are hospitalized.
April 14, 2021 - 4:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, covid-19, coronavirus.

Previously: School districts responding to new COVID-19 guidance from state

While working on a story today about new state guidelines for local schools, we emailed questions to the Public Health Director, Paul Pettit, and asked him about the new guidance, which makes local health departments (LDH in his response below) responsible for ensuring local school districts are adhering to state guidelines.

We asked if this was an additional burden for his department. We asked about what guidance he's offered superintendents given the seeming confusion the new guidelines may have created. Here is his response:

Yes, the shift of putting the LHDs into the role of compliance with the new state guidance was not discussed prior to the release of the document last Friday. This again is an example of the state adding additional requirements on the local agencies without notification and recognition of the current burden and lack of capacity for additional work with the current pandemic response needs.

Up until this guidance came out, LHDs have been in a guidance role and focused on case investigations and dealing with COVID cases in the school populations. Currently, as this was just released, there has been no clarification or process developed for ensuring compliance with these guidelines.

We have had weekly meetings with our superintendents and have discussed this new guidance and are seeking clarification from the state on several areas that are shifts from the previous guidance including, the 100-percent masking mandate, the use of barriers as a mitigation strategy for reducing distance and the data sources for determining community transmission. Currently, based on the CDC data, our county is in the high transmission category (Red Zone), which restricts distancing below 6 feet for middle and high school students unless they are able to cohort the students.

Many of these shifts have created barriers and challenges for increased in-person instruction in many of our districts. Each school is required to seek their communities risk tolerance to reducing distancing prior to changing their plans with their stakeholders and adhering to the new guidance.  

The LHD has not currently received or reviewed any school plans to date, nor are we planning to. The new guidance does also not require this review/approval component. Similar to all reopening plans (for businesses etc.) we do not review/approve them but would reference for compliance if complaints were brought forward.

The schools are responsible to adhere to the guidance and ensure their plans incorporate and follow the new guidance. This is to be posted and available public included submitted/filed with the department of education and the LHD. We are working to get further clarification.

April 14, 2021 - 3:31pm
posted by Press Release in fire, batavia, news.

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Press release:

At 5:11 a.m. today, April 14, the City of Batavia Fire Department was dispatched to a reported fire in an upstairs apartment located at 1 Jerome Place. Units were on scene at 5:12 a.m.

Upon arrival, firefighters found smoke emanating from several windows located on the second floor of the structure. Responding crews made an aggressive interior attack and were able to contain the fire to a single room on the second floor. The situation was called under control by on-scene fire command at 5:27 a.m.

Due to the intensity of the fire, the home received significant smoke damage to the second floor with minimal water damage to the first floor. One animal was rescued by bystanders prior to the fire department's arrival and all occupants were able to self-escape.

At this time, the City of Batavia’s Fire Investigation Team with assistance from the City of Batavia Police Department’s Detective Bureau are investigating the fire to determine the origin and cause.

The American Red Cross is assisting the occupants of the residence with support services.

City fire was assisted at the scene by the City of Batavia Police Department’s Road Patrol and Detective Bureau along with the City of Batavia Bureau of Inspection. Additional assistance was provided by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department and Emergency Dispatch.

All city fire department units were back in service at 8:19 a.m.

Submitted photos.

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April 14, 2021 - 3:17pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, news, NY-27, wny stamp.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) joined a bipartisan group of representatives and senators to call on President Biden to prioritize funding and policies in his FY2022 budget proposal that bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing and supply chains.

“Domestic production of semiconductors is an economic and national security priority,” Jacobs said. “China is investing billions of dollars into developing this technology and mass manufacturing. We cannot afford to rely on them or other foreign manufacturers.

"We saw this year the devastation when foreign supply chains break down, and given the sensitive, classified, and consumer technologies powered using semiconductors, we must ensure a robust domestic manufacturing program is developed to protect security.”

Specifically, the letter calls for prioritized investment into initiatives outlined in the CHIPS for America Act that was enacted into law as part of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation creates incentives to support semiconductor research and development and the domestic manufacturing of semiconductors.

“Nationally, these investments are critical to our economic development, global competitiveness, and national security," Jacobs said. "Locally, these investments also have the potential to aid in the economic development of Western New York by supporting assets such as the STAMP plant in Genesee County that are readily available to host high-technology manufacturers.

“I am encouraged the President has recognized the importance of secure supply chains and domestic manufacturing; I urge him to prioritize these needed investments.”

To read the letter to President Biden, click here (pdf).

April 14, 2021 - 3:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pets, animals, pembroke, news, crime, notify.

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A dog breeder in Pembroke who is accused of neglecting and abusing 15 animals on her Akron Road property is prepared to negotiate the future of the animals with Genesee County officials, her attorney told Justice Donald O'Connor today during her appearance in Town Court.

Lori Ann Adolf, 47, is charged with 26 counts of torturing or injuring animals and failure to provide proper sustenance along with one count of endangering a child.

Today, in her first court appearance, she entered a not guilty plea.

Her attorney, Michael Guarino, said that of the 13 dogs and two cats that were taken into the care of the Genesee County Animal Shelter, three of the dogs are the property of other people, and Adolf is ready to sign over seven of the dogs to the shelter so they can be put up for adoption. 

She would like to keep three dogs and two cats.

"The situation was not the way she intended it," Guarino said. "She's now receiving mental health care."

He said his client would like a chance to prove to the county that she can improve her situation and take proper care of her animals.

She has no prior record of animal neglect or abuse and no other criminal record.

The animals have been in county care for four months now and sources say are now in good health. When The Batavian visited the shelter last month, the dogs we observed seemed to be in good spirits.

Assistant District Attorney Kaitlynn Schmidt said she and she and Guarino will discuss the disposition of the animals between now and Adolf's next court appearance at 2 p.m., May 5. She said what becomes of the animals will be part of a plea agreement negotiation. She told O'Connor that the prosecution has made no plea offer and this point and has made no commitment that the county will agree to regarding the animals.

O'Connor also signed a no offensive conduct order of protection in regard to the minor who was apparently at Adolf's house while these animals were allegedly being mistreated.

Previously: Pembroke woman arrested after deputy allegedly finds 13 dogs, two cats in deplorable conditions

April 14, 2021 - 1:49pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, City of Batavia assessor, Batavia City Council.

In light of the frustration expressed at Monday night’s City Council meeting by two Batavia residents over the assessment letters they had received earlier in the day, The Batavian reached out to the city’s assessor for insight into the process of determining a home’s fair market value.

Rhonda Saulsbury, assessor for both the City and Town of Batavia, responding to an email, said that while many factors are considered for comparison purposes, all of a home’s information is run through a computer program prior to conducting a field review.

“The City of Batavia strives to maintain a 100-percent equalization rate -- sale price to assessment ratio -- which means that we keep our assessments at market value,” Saulsbury said. “To accomplish this, we do yearly revaluation and make adjustments accordingly. Values can adjust due to physical changes and/or market changes.”

Saulsbury said each property is placed into an appraisal software system, comparing the building style, square footage, year built, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and lot size against the recent sales data.

“We then do field review to determine the fair market value based on the aforementioned data,” she added.

She said that each neighborhood within the city is reviewed annually, but “we only update values in those that have experienced an increase in market values, thus we end up ‘rotating’ the neighborhoods.”

“This year we sent out just over 4,300 change-of-assessment notices throughout the city,” she said.

As mentioned at Monday’s meeting, the city canceled this process in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, sales of homes in the $100,000 to $200,000 have been extremely brisk.

“Now, as sale values have continued to climb upwards 20-plus percent above assessments, we are again adjusting assessed values in accordance with New York State Real Property Tax Law guidelines,” Saulsbury advised.

She said property owners have opportunities for assessment review if they believe they could not sell their property for the new assessed market value.

“The procedures to request the review are included with the change-of-assessment-notices (see the link to the previous story below). As at any time, we encourage an open-door policy to anyone with a question or concern,” she said. 

Property owners can call 1-866-910-1776 to inquire about the valuation process or informal assessment review process, Saulsbury said, and they also can receive an email with the individual market document that includes the specific sales used for any given property. 

If a property owner does not have access to a computer, printer or scanner, all relevant forms can be picked up at the City Clerk’s Office Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Saulsbury also said that the City of Batavia sale and inventory books used to calculate the new assessed values can also be viewed any time in the City Clerk’s Office or at Richmond Memorial Library to help in preparing an Informal Review Application. 

To access the above-mentioned information online, go to: https://cityofbatavia.prosgar.com/ and look for the RED links. 

To submit the Informal Review Application, email it to:   [email protected] or bring it into the City Clerk's Office.

Previously: Council advice to angry homeowners: Take your concerns to 'Grievance Day'

April 14, 2021 - 1:09pm

Press release:

In a new push to combat a silent but devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on mental health, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer this week pushed the feds to "quick release" $5 billion dollars he worked to include in the recently passed American Rescue Plan (ARP) so that the funds can give New Yorkers—and the mental health providers they rely upon—the help they’re asking for amid rising need.

Schumer said that, on average, three times more people than last year at this time report struggling with mental health symptoms like depression, anxiety, drug use and more. Schumer said that one of the biggest problems to beating these feelings and reclaiming mental health depends on timely access to care and overall access to care.

He explained that with the "quick release" of these fed funds, New York will see a surge in mental health support programs and increased access to a variety of care options.

“What many New Yorkers are saying right now is that the pandemic has taken such a mental toll that some of them need more help than others to overcome new challenges and struggles related to their mental health and happiness,” Schumer said. “In fact, New York’s increased mental health struggles are an overall silent—but devastating—effect of this pandemic with three times more people than last year reporting the onset of symptoms like depression, anxiety and more.

"Untreated, these conditions can lead to dangerous spirals that upend lives and families. That is why we need a quick release of the $5 billion in fed funds secured as part of the American Rescue Plan to beat back this surge in need and give patients and providers more help.”

COVID-19's Toll on Mental Health: Anxiety, Depression, Psychiatric Disorders Rising 

Schumer stressed the importance of combatting the mental health crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, citing a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation that said during the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, up from 1 in 10 adults who reported the same symptoms less than a year ago.

Amongst COVID-19 survivors as well, it has been reported that 1 in 3 patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months of physical recovery, indicating that the mental health effects of COVID-19 will last well beyond the end of the pandemic.

“This is a critical moment where we must acknowledge the lasting mental effects of the pandemic and work to combat them before the crisis deepens,” Schumer added. “The feds (via HHS and SAMHSA) must stand up their programs ASAP and begin the hard, but important, work of getting these funds out to support our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

“As a field, we are seeing surges in New York area patients with anxiety, depression, and loneliness for adults and children. Some COVID-19 survivors are experiencing psychiatric symptoms for the first time months into their recovery. And nationally there has been a significant increase in substance use and overdose deaths.

This is not a surprise. COVID-19 has disrupted every facet of life and people are struggling. The reality is that the pandemic has blocked common coping strategies including social interactions, daily routines, and planning for the future.

Schumer is wise to have secured these funds because there is a need in the community with new patients seeking care, and old patients returning to care.

Mental Health Funding Needed Sooner Rather Than Later

"The faster these funds are released the sooner more individuals can get the help they need,” said Aspasia Hotzoglou, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist at American Institute for Cognitive Therapy.​

The roughly $5 billion Schumer helped to deliver nationally is broken down, in part, below. New York will see a sizable portion of these funds, once they begin to flow.

  • Schumer secured $3 billion for mental health and substance use block grants. These grants are used to fund treatment for a variety of New Yorkers, enhance mental health prevention efforts, and implement local, community-based mental health interventions. Based on the services they offer, New York mental health organizations—and providers—will be able to apply for these funds via SAMHSA.
  • Funds would also be in the form of Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grants. These funds are sent directly to community organizations to provide mental health and substance abuse treatment and services, such as screening, day treatment programs, emergency services, outpatient treatment and more.
  • More than $1 billion for a new federal program to create mobile crisis intervention services, which are dispatched when a person is experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis. These services can work closely with law enforcement and help protect both patients and police officers.
  • $140 million for mental health needs of doctors, nurses and health care providers, who have struggled with PTSD and exhaustion during the pandemic:
    • $80 million for health care professional mental health programs;
    • $20 million for a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting health care professionals and first responders;
    • $40 million for grants for health care providers to promote mental and behavioral health among their health professional workforce.
  • $140 million for youth mental health.

“Bottom line here is that the feds need to get this money out the door so local organizations and providers can keep theirs open and meet the increased demand spurred by COVID,” Schumer added.

April 14, 2021 - 12:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, covid-19, coronavirus, news, notify.

New guidance from the NYS Department of Health instructs school districts to set rules for social distancing based on transmission metrics for COVID-19. But with the state and CDC providing data that can seem contradictory, area superintendents are trying to come up with the best approach to educate students while following state requirements.

By and large, the superintendents seem to be relying on one statement in the 23-page document that gives local school boards latitude to make local decisions.

"Ultimately, the school/district’s decision to move to shorter physical distances will come down to a local community’s risk tolerance based on its unique circumstances," the guidelines state.

That is certainly the approach Superintendent Anibal Soler is taking with Batavia city schools, which are scheduled to go back to full-time in-class learning on Monday.

This week, he sought the Board of Education's approval to continue with the reopening plan, which the board agreed to do.

Soler pointed out that with 131 new cases in the past week (as of Monday), Genesee County is in the state's Red Zone for transmission rate. The state says our testing positivity rate is 6 percent and the CDC says it is 3 percent, both numbers below the threshold that would require 6 feet social distancing in all circumstances.

At 6 feet in all circumstances, Batavia's reopening plan would be difficult to pull off. The district is relying on allowing students in certain situations, such as sitting in classrooms, to be able to mask up and be within 3 feet of each other.

The guidance affects both districts like Batavia that are moving back to full-time in-class learning and those that have already made the transition or started the academic year with in-person attendance.

Mary Kate Hoffman, superintendent in Pavilion, informed her board of the new guidance at Monday's board meeting. Currently, Pavilion schools are five days per week for elementary school and in-person five days a week with in-person classes for sixth through 12th grades, with Wednesday being a fully remote day for the middle and high school.

The policy to this point has been to require masks only when people can't maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The new guidance requires students, teachers, and staff to wear masks at all times. Hoffman said the district will make that policy change.

Elba is open five days a week for in-person learning after starting with a hybrid model in September and gradually moved to full-time, in-class learning. 

"Our approach and plan have worked to keep kids and staff safe," said Superintendent Ned Dale.

Pembroke has been in session with students on campus full-time since the start of the school year. Superintendent Matthew Calderon said the new guidance will not change much for the district.

"We added classroom sections to spread students out 6 feet apart and installed 1,500 desk shields," Calderon said. "We're not inclined to change from 6 feet to 3 feet, and despite the CDC backing off the need to use desks shields (which in part I believe they did due to the great cost incurred by schools, which was hindering many from opening), we will probably continue to use them as well."

"The new guidance states that if schools are going to reduce physical distancing to less than 6 feet between students, decisions must be made with input from parents, community members, teachers, staff, and local departments of health," Calderon added.

"We will carefully review the updated guidance and tweak our plan as needed, but as mentioned, I don't think we need to change anything, and we would like to maintain our plan as is. The initial response from our local DOH in that regard was positive. Nonetheless, we have an upcoming meeting with the local DOH and will certainly adjust our plan if needed."

Merritt Holly, superintendent in Le Roy, which went back to on-campus full-time learning on April 6, said he is seeking clarification on some of the requirements in the new guidance but is maintain the current plan for now.

"It won't complicate anything until I get clarification," Holly said. "When will that clarification come in? I am not sure yet."

Superintendents indicated they are working with Public Health Director Paul Pettit to ensure their education plans are in compliance with guidelines and that Pettit has been helpful and responsive. The new guidance doesn't require the districts to file modified plans with the state but to publish them on their websites and gives local health departments the tasks of ensuring compliance.

We attempted to reach Pettit for comment but have not yet heard back from him.

To read the state's guidelines, click here (PDF).

April 14, 2021 - 9:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia HS, batavia, news, schools, education.

Teachers at Batavia High School, looking to pursue relevant topics in fresh ways have proposed three new courses that were approved by the city school's Board of Education on Monday night.

The courses, two in Social Studies and one in English will only go forward if students show sufficient interest in taking the elective classes.

The courses are:

  • Sports and Race Relations through Digital Media, which will explore pivotal moments in American History in an effort to understand how they contribute to modern laws, policies, systems and culture. 
  • Law and Justice in America I and II will provide students an overview of the various areas of Civil and Criminal Law in our American legal system, along with time to discuss contemporary issues pertaining to justice in America. 
  • 1960s Literature, Lyrics and Culture will examine influences between our current times and the '60s. 

Superintendent Anibal Soler told the board it's important to recognize that these are teacher-driven initiatives and Molly Corey, director of curriculum and instruction, said, "Teachers are passionate because they were eager to see some changes in the courses they teach."

She added, "What we’re looking to do is provide more choice and some relative and timely topics.”

Existing teachers will lead the classes. There is no need to hire additional staff. They don't replace core classes.

Trustee Shawna Murphy, herself a teacher at Genesee Community College, said, "That’s what teachers are constantly doing, coming up with new ways at teaching concepts and making it relevant and easier to understand and, you know, ‘why does this matter to you as a student.’ I think that’s the fun part of being a teacher."

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