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Stafford honors top firefighters at annual dinner

By Howard B. Owens

Billie and I were honored to be guests of the Stafford Fire Department last night at their annual awards dinner and casino night.

Above are the big award winners: Chris Scopano, firefighter of the year; Jeff Plaisted, most call responses; Megan Rumsey, most firematic training hours and most EMS training hours; Brian Breemes, total training hours (firematic and EMS) and most EMS training hours; and, Paul Hendel, chief's award.

More pictures from the evening after the jump:

Batavia makes final four of state tournament; Elba's season is over

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia boys and Elba girls, each played close games on Saturday, but Batavia will advance to the next round of the state tournament while Elba's impressive season comes to a close.

The Blue Devils (20-3) locked in a 40-38 victory over Olean at Buffalo State when Andrew Hoy sunk two free throws with 32 seconds left to play. A desperation 3-point try by Ryan Carney for Olean (20-3) came up short.

Later Saturday at Gates-Chili, Elba fell to Clymer, 39-36.

Elba finishes the season with a 22-1 record.

McKenzie Bezon led the Lancers with 9 points.

Saturday, Andrew Hoy knocked down 14 points and Josh Budlong added 10. Coco Irvin and Justin Washington each had 8.

Batavia's next game is in Glens Falls at 8:30 p.m., Friday against Section III champion Westville (20-2). If the Blue Devils beat Westville, the state championship for Class B will be played at 9 p.m., Saturday in Glens Falls.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Reaches Out To Community

By Robin Walters

Kay and Cheryl from the local Cornell Cooperative Extension were out on Central Avenue on Saturday morning with Care-A-Van Ministries. They brought along delicious snack treats for all as well as information regarding the services their office has to offer. Kay and Cheryl were a big blessing to many. The kids truly enjoyed the snacks.

Kay and Cheryl had the opportunity to be able to share with many as 35 families with 81 family members visited the Care-A-Van bus for groceries and prayer.

A special thanks to Cornell Coopertive extension for reaching out to the community on this rainy chilly morning.

Flood watch in effect through Sunday afternoon

By Howard B. Owens

A flood watch has been issued for the region by the National Weather Service.

The watch is effect through Sunday afternoon.

The forecast calls for an inch of rain over the next 48 hours. The rain combined with snow melt has increased the chance of water levels in creeks and streams rising to bank levels.

The weather service encourages residents to monitor media outlets for any changes in flood conditions, including possibly raising the alert level to "warning."

People in areas prone to flooding should prepare to take appropriate actions.

Photo: Tonawanda Creek behind the Genesee County Court House this afternoon.

Today's Deals: Settler's, Delavan's, Alex's, Matty's, Center Street, Margarita's

By Howard B. Owens

Settler's Restaurant, 353 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Settler's has a 25-year history of serving great, affordable breakfasts, lunches and dinners to Batavians. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you want to eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Matty's Pizzeria, 4152 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Matty's is another Batavia favorite for pizza and wings. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $25 gift card for $12.50.

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, 15 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When you're looking for an authentic Mexican meal, Margarita's is the place to go. The food and atmosphere are perfect and the service is always outstanding. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.


City's new Mental Health Treatment Court aims to reduce crime and recidivism

By Billie Owens

All too often a person with a mental illness cycles in and out of the criminal justice system, never really getting the kind of assistance he or she needs to break the pattern.

They may stop taking their meds, get high on drugs or alcohol, and wind up committing a crime. They are no less culpable for their actions, but they can make better choices, move forward and be less likely to get into trouble, if they plug into the many resources available to them in Genesee County.

So say the proponents of the Mental Health Treatment Court, which is a new division of Batavia City Court. It accepted its first case last June, before being officially designated as a mental health court in November.

On March 23, an opening ceremony will take place at the courthouse with many of the stakeholders present, including the Hon. Robert J. Balbick, who also presides over city and drug treatment courts and the "veterans' track" cases.

He has spent 20 years on the bench and during that time has seen the growth and advancement of treatment courts.

"People who have mental-health issues, traditionally, haven't been dealt with effectively by the criminal-justice system," Balbick said. "People with a mental illness will not respond in the same way to ideas, programs, etc., as a person without a mental illness.

"We run our court differently. We're trying to encourage, to put people in a place where they can take control of their lives. We are not as coercive. ... Mental health is different than other treatment courts and the (public) response to it is different than others."

Chief Court Clerk Linda Giambrone said the plans for the opening are definately unlike any other held at the courthouse to date. A flautist will play softly before and after the ceremony, a classical guitarist is being sought to perform and art works produced by the mentally ill will be showcased. There's a brunch reception afterward.

"Sometimes the treatment courts are seen as 'soft justice,'" Balbick said. "But they're not. We make that person accountable -- maybe financially, certainly to the community. Hopefully, the person doesn't recycle back into the system. I'd rather see them go through the treatment process."

That process typically begins with recommendations from law enforcement, the public defender's office, doctors and other professionals. Resource Coordinator Nicole Desmond, who has a strong background in the mental-health field, reviews these and is part of a team which evaluates whether a defendant is a good match.

The team includes representatives from Genesee County Mental Health, Mental Health Association in Genesee County, ACE Employment, Horizon Village Recovery Center, GCASA, Atwater House, Genesee Justice, the D.A.'s office, public defenders' office and assigned counsel.

Desmond's job at the courthouse is to bring together a variety of providers and services to address these unique and often complicated cases.

"With the decentralization of psychiatric hospitals, people have fallen through the cracks," Desmond said. "I think this is a positive way to get people to take better care of themselves."

Of course, the major of people living with mental illness never see the inside of a courtroom because they've never broken the law. They are productive citizens who hold jobs, go to school, raise families, etc., despite their diagnoses.

The prime candidate for mental health court has committed a crime but is not a threat to others. It has been determined he or she has mental health issues that are biological in nature, apart from any other issues, like behavioral problems and substance abuse, which often compounds the complexities of these cases.

Currently, 11 people are participating in the mental health treatment court, which is held from 3 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Batavia City Court. Their diagnoses include: traumatic brain injury, mental retardation, developmental delays, post-traumatic stress disorder and serious mental illness. Eight of the cases also have an alcohol and/or substance abuse diagnosis and are active in outpatient treatment.

For now, only people eligible to have their cases heard in Batavia City Court can participate. But if someone say, from Pavilion, also had a diagnosed substance abuse problem, a recommendation for mental health court could be considered.

"We give people opportunities to link to treatment to help themselves," Desmond said. "We focus on treatment, we monitor them and help them stay connected rather than just getting into trouble and going to jail. Somebody can live with mental illness but they function better if they are plugged in."

With the exception of hiring Desmond, there have been little or no public expenditures to create and run the mental health court, according to the judge. He admits it means more work for the public defenders' office, because the cases are often more complicated and therefore more time consuming.

But the other key entities are already in place and operating. It's just a matter of pulling the resources together, like working a puzzle, to get the best outcome, the judge said.

People who receive or qualify for SSI, Medicare and Medicaid don't have to worry about paying for treatment, thanks to taxpayers, who also foot the bill for the costs of incarceration.

But the working poor, those with only catastrophic health-care coverage and those who can't afford to pay high co-payments struggle the most in trying to fund their mental health treatments. A "sliding scale" based on the ability to pay helps.

One of the biggest problems the Mental Health Treament Court faces is the lack of bed space for treatment and the availability of housing.

"It's a systematic problem," Balbick said. "One thing that's not available here is a crisis center. In an emergency situation, our options are limited to incarceration or a civil commitment to a hospital. That's one of our challenges."

Director of county nursing home announces retirement

By Howard B. Owens

John Demske, Genesee County Nursing Home administrator, is retiring effective May 14, County Manager Jay Gsell announced late this afternoon to county legislators and staff.

Demske and his wife, Rosemary, intend to stay in the Batavia area and pursue opportunities in education, consulting or private business, said Gsell in an e-mail message.

In an interview after the announcement, Gsell said the county will need to replace Demske immediately, even as the county explores cost-saving options for the nursing home, including possibly selling it. State law requires that the nursing home be managed by a director that is licensed and experienced in running such facilities. When Demske steps aside at 5 p.m. on May 14, a new director must in place and ready to take over.

Demske has been in the long-term-care field, both in the private and public sector, since 1978.

"His son is graduating from college, so one Demske is entering the work force as another one is leaving -- that's what he told me," Gsell said.

City publishes list of properties facing foreclosure

By Howard B. Owens

Notice of foreclosure for unpaid taxes have been filed against more than a dozen property owners in the city.

Property owners have until May 14 to pay the back taxes or face foreclosure and have their properties put up for auction.

The properties listed by the city, with amounts owed, are:

606-622 E. Main St., Andrew Mistler, $23,375
643 Ellicott St., Rear, Chess, LLC, $306
13-15 Jackson St., Rear, C.L. Carr Properties, LLC, $2,939
4 Cherry St., Barbara A. Suozzi, $15,876
507 Ellicott St., Margaret J. Colantonio, $15,389
20 Franklin St., Maxin P. Johnson, $14,527
151 Harvester Ave., Jeffrey C. & Diane M. Shultz, $12,191
3 Manhattan Ave., David R. Foley, $21,190
16 Oak St., Mary M. Sorce, $10,707
11-13 Raymond Ave, Philip R. Zickl, Jr., $17,298
48 Riverview Parkway, DVM Corp., $649
21 South Lyon St., Richard S. and Tamara E. Ishmael, $21,544
132 Summit St., Thomas and Mary L. Geary, $4,705
1 Union St., Douglas C. and Lori A. Veltz, $21,027
308 Washington Ave., Rose L. Nigro, $3,585

One name that may jump out at readers is Mistler. I spoke briefly with Ken Mislter about his properties and he said there was a misunderstanding with the city. He said he's been working with the city to resolve the issue and the matter will be settled shortly.

This list originally appeared in the PennySaver. Part of the original list was 643 Ellicott St., Rear, owned by Hanson Aggregates. Those taxes have been paid, according to City Clerk Heidi Parker.

Police Beat: Le Roy man jailed after alleged violation of probation

By Howard B. Owens

Benjamin G. Evans, 21, of 23 Lincoln St., Le Roy, was arrested by Le Roy Police at 6:28 p.m., Thursday, on a bench warrant out of Batavia City Court. Evans reportedly failed to comply with the terms of a release-under-supervision agreement. Evans was originally charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, in August 2009. Following his arrest by Le Roy Police, he was turned over to Batavia Police and jailed on $3,000 bail.

Summer Ogden, 33, of 112 State St., Apt. #2, Batavia, is charged with DWI, moving from lane unsafely, failure to notify DMV of address change and unsafe tires. Ogden was stopped at 1:45 a.m., Friday, by Officer Dan Coffey on West Main Street.

Batavia's Graham Corp. continues forward momentum in 2010

By Howard B. Owens

Batavia-based Graham Corp., which in 2008 saw the price of its stock drop from $50 per share to under $10 in the space of about three months, continues a string of good news in recent months.

This week Graham announced a quarterly dividend of two cents and another $6 millions in orders.

The orders have come from multiple sources around the world and include work for steam surface condensers installed in the U.S. and Asia.

The first order will be sent to a municipal waste-to-energy project in the U.S.

Batavia mother who tried to kill baby in Erie County sent to prison

By Howard B. Owens

A Batavia mother who tried to kill her baby was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison yesterday in Erie County.

Marcia Mitchell tried to smother her baby while they were at an Erie County hospital following a house fire in 2008.

The Buffalo News reports:

“I realize I made a horrible mistake. I miss my children exponentially,” Mitchell told the judge.

Mitchell, 29, said that at the time of her crime, she was “under extreme stress,” with both of her daughters hospitalized. She said she got no help from family members after her Batavia flat was destroyed in an April 2008 fire.

Unless experts determine otherwise, Mitchell will not be able to see her baby until 2019.

Stepmother accused of killing baby from Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Andrew John Cianfrini, 21 months, was supposed to spend the weekend of Nov. 8 with his father and stepmother in Elmira. He never came home.

The infant died Nov. 10. Elmira police now say the child's stepmother, Melissa S. Englehardt, 24, put Methanol, an ingredient in anti-freeze, in a drink and served it to him.

Andrew lived with his mother, Kristen Cianfrini, in Batavia.

Englehardt has been charged with manslaughter, 1st.

The child's father is George Englehardt.

Flooding reported in basement of home in Elba

By Howard B. Owens

The basement of a house at 6163 Quaker Hill Road has reportedly flooded.

The quarter is believed now to be above the power panel and water is coming up through the kitchen floor.

Elba Fire is being dispatched.

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Genesee ARC holds open house at new facility at former St. Mary's School

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee ARC introduced its new Community Center tonight in a special program that included an art exhibit by ARC clients and a presentation on the organizations fundraising campaign.

Genesee ARC acquired the former St. Mary's School at 38 Woodrow Road, Batavia, two years ago and is in the process of completely remodeling the facility to meet the needs of clients and families.

The project will cost more than $1.4 million, with $750,000 of the funds necessary for the project coming from private donations. So far, 59 percent of the total has been raised, and Genesee ARC is looking for other community members to step forward and help with the fundraising drive.

Tom Houseknecht and his wife Lynn are co-chairs of the campaign. The Houseknecht family has been involved with Genesee ARC from its earliest days. Tom's parents, Ralph and Agnes, lost a developmentally disabled child who was 3 years old and realized the need to support families with developmentally disabled children. The entire Houseknecht family has been involved in supporting Genesee ARC for nearly 35 years.

"We have received much more than we have given, as we have all experienced the special gifts of these individuals and the families that ARC serves," Tom Houseknecht said.

The new facility will offer a culinary arts program, a creative arts room, family support services, recreation and physical fitness and a resource center.

Tonight's program included a showing of art work by several Genesee ARC clients. The featured artist was Henry James Stratton II (pictured below), also known as "Hank," or, in Challenger Baseball season, "Hammerin' Hank."  Hank likes to paint super heroes and villains, but his 11-piece exhibit included a sunset, a zoom mobile and a birthday bonanza.

Several of the artists wanted to have their pictures taken tonight. Please take a moment to click the "read more" link below to see the pictures of these artists and their works.

Joe Gear and his piece, "America."

John Brown with "Train Going Into Station" and "Train With Smoke." John made the wooden frames.

Mary Abella with her son Vincenzo Falcone and his piece, "John 3:16."

Kathy Gartz with "Butterlies."

The Geese Are Here: It Must Be Spring!


It was only last Sunday when Claudia and I saw our first flock of geese. By Wednesday the skies were filled with myriad waterfowl, a good sign that spring is almost here.

Spring offically arrives at 1:32 pm Saturday, March 20th, but thousands of geese can't be wrong. If their arrival signals an early spring, it's okay with me. 

While the larger ponds and marshes are still covered with ice, throngs of Canadas have been congregating in open fields and small patches of open water.

Some geese took advantage of the open water....

  while others waddled in slushy snow.

A lone goose glides over the phragmites.

Preparing to touch down.

The respite is over...

once again heading for an unknown destination.

All photos were taken off Roberts Road along the southern perimeter of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Special thanks to my grandson, Sammy, for his assistance!  

Photo: Bald Eagle in Alexander

By Howard B. Owens

Stacy Wirth provided this picture. She was driving on Brookville Road in Alexander today when she spotted the Bald eagle dining on a deer carcass.

St. Paul Lutheran School celebrates National Lutheran Schools Week

By Ethan Thompson

Every year St. Paul Lutheran School in Batavia celebrates “National Lutheran Schools Week”. It is a week dedicated to celebrating the uniqueness of Lutheran schools across the nation. This year St. Paul chose to make their theme “Numbered with the Saints.” So every day this past week they have had events that had to do with numbers and math. Yesterday the children invited their grandparents to come to the school to see what their usual day is like and also performed a play for them. Today was “The Math Olympics”. Each of the fourth and fifth grade students ran a different station which had to do with some kind of math. Then the younger children teamed up and went around to compete in each “event.” At the end of the day the team with the most points won a prize of treats and goodies.

The video below gives a quick glance at what the afternoon was like.

Fall down stairs takes the life of Darien Center man

By Howard B. Owens

A 57-year-old Darien Center man who fell down a flight of stairs in his home and struck his head on a hammer, died this morning at the Erie County Medical Center.

William Thomas was a retired carpet salesman and the father of five children.

The accident occurred around 7 p.m., Tuesday, and Thomas was taken by Mercy Flight to ECMC.

For the past 10-and-a-half years, Thomas was married to Marguerite. Together, they have 15 grandchildren.

"(Our time together was) way too short," Marguerite said this afternoon. "We were married right here on our property where we built our log home, right here in Darien Center. This was our dream."

She said Bill's accidental death hasn't really sunk in yet.

"He was a very healthy man," she said. "He loved me beyond belief and I knew that."

She said, "We were glued together."

Thomas served in the Navy in the 1960s, loved to ride his motorcycle and "had the best sense of humor of anybody you would ever want to meet."

There is no information available yet on funeral arrangements.

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