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Tenney introduces resolution calling for the release of Western New Yorker Ryan Corbett

By Press Release

Press Release:

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) introduced H.Res. 965, a resolution calling for the immediate release of Ryan Corbett, a United States citizen, who was wrongfully detained by the Taliban on August 10, 2022, and condemning the wrongful detention of Americans by the Taliban.

Additional cosponsors of the resolution include House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Representatives Dan Meuser (R-PA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), French Hill (R-AR), Pat Ryan (D-NY), Nick Langworthy (R-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Joseph Morelle (D-NY), Michael Lawler (R-NY), Morgan McGarvey (D-KY), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Joe Wilson (R-SC), Jim Costa (D-CA), Michael Waltz (R-FL), Daniel Goldman (D-NY), Brandon Williams (R-NY), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Marc Molinaro (R-NY), Tony Gonzales (R-TX), Zach Nunn (R-IA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), and Pete Stauber (R-MN).

Ryan Corbett, a husband, father, and Western New Yorker has been held without charge by the Taliban in Afghanistan since August 10, 2022. Ryan is being held in a basement cell without regular access to a bathroom, sunlight, or medical care. Other Westerners who have been released from the prison where Ryan is being held report that he is in deteriorating health. Ryan’s family has been fighting for his release in silence but decided to go public because of fears for his life.

Since meeting with the Corbett family and hearing their story, Congresswoman Tenney has led the charge in fighting for Ryan’s release and well-being. This includes working to get Ryan officially designated as a wrongful detainee by the U.S. Department of State on October 10, 2023.

"When I first heard of Ryan Corbett’s detention and the brutal conditions of his captivity from his wife Anna, I was heartbroken," said Congresswoman Tenney. "Inspired by Anna, his children, and his loved ones who have been bravely advocating for his release, today I introduced a bipartisan resolution, reiterating that Congress will not stand idly while an innocent American is wrongfully detained and suffers under harsh captivity at the hands of the Taliban. The strong bipartisan support for this resolution calling for Ryan Corbett’s release shows that Congress stands united in calling for Ryan’s release and condemning the Taliban’s wrongful detention of Americans. We will work tirelessly to bring attention to Ryan Corbett's case and advocate for his immediate release to bring him home to his family."

"I am grateful for the strong bipartisan support that my family has received, in particular from our Congresswoman, Claudia Tenney," said Anna Corbett. "Ending the wrongful detention of Americans abroad should be in the interest of all Americans, and I am hopeful that these continued efforts to highlight Ryan's plight will help us bring him home without delay."

View the text of the resolution here.

Notre Dame tops Byron Bergen in boys hoops, 62-58

By Howard B. Owens
byron bergen notre dame basketball

Byron-Bergen fell to Notre Dame in Boys Basketball on Monday, 62-58.

For Notre Dame, Jaden Sherwood scored 20 points, Ryan Fitzpatrick, 16, and Makyell Walker, 10.

Braedyn Chambry scored 21 for the Bees, and Brody Baubie scored 10.

In other Boys Basketball action, Batavia beat HFL 61-57. Carter Mullen scored 19 for the Blue Devils.  Casey Mazur and Aiden Bellavia each scored 12.

Photos by Jennifer DiQuattro.

byron bergen notre dame basketball
byron bergen notre dame basketball
byron bergen notre dame basketball

Police continue hunt for criminal suspect, Nathan Royse

By Staff Writer
Nathan Royse
Nathan L. Royse

Batavia PD has issued another call for public assistance in locating Nathan L. Royse, who has been on the police department's wanted list since late August.

Crime Stoppers WNY is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest of Royse.

Royce is wanted on a charge of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.  Police warn he should be considered armed and dangerous.

He is also wanted on a parole warrant.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 716-867-6161 

City leaders approve two union contracts, including 3.5 percent raises, $500 bonuses, perks for physical fitness

By Joanne Beck

If you’re a city employee in certain departments, it pays to be physically fit —- literally. 

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters will have that option as part of a contract agreement approved by City Council Monday evening. 

Over the past several months, the city and union representatives have been negotiating terms for a new agreement. On December 29, 2023, a tentative agreement was reached with the IAFF union. It will be a five-year agreement, a salary increase of 3 percent for three years, 2.65 percent for years four and five, an increase in the health care premium to 32.5 percent,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said during council’s conference session at City Hall. “IAFF members will now participate in the annual physical fitness incentive program. The holiday of Juneteenth is added as a paid holiday. Some of you may know that police and fire don't actually get holidays, however, they get holiday pay for those holidays because they work 24/7. We added two additional longevity payments for years five and years 15, a one-time payment of $500 to each member from the ARPA, a $500 signing bonus for each member, and other miscellaneous language changes.”

Those $500 payments will be coming from the American Rescue Plan Act that came out of the pandemic to help restore municipal losses and was passed down from federal funds. Longevity payments of $500 for five years and $900 for 15 years were added. 

Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked about the physical fitness payment.

If they pass and meet all of the required qualifications of the test, based on measurements such as running, push-ups, sit-ups, and meeting certain milestones per age and gender, firefighters are paid $855, Human Resources Director Rebecca McGee said. Members of the city police department have this same option as well, she said.

“I'm really actually excited about the physical fitness incentive because if you've ever been to a fire scene, they climb ladders, they pull very heavy hoses, they use axes, and the more physically fit you are, the less workers comp injuries we're going to have and the more we'll save in the long run,” Tabelski said.

Bialkowski wanted to clarify that the raises were concurrent, meaning that they would be on top of one another each year, and Tabelski confirmed that “they’re no different than any other contract,” as once employees receive a raise to their base pay, then that becomes their base pay for the next year, and so on. 

The cost of the contract is $490,272, she said.

Council also approved a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union that, as with the IAFF, will expire on March 31, 2024. The city and AFSCME came to a tentative agreement on Dec. 7, and the union membership ratified the terms on Jan. 11, Tabelski said.

The four-year agreement includes a 3.5 percent salary increase for the first three years, followed by a 2 percent increase in year four. The healthcare premium will increase between 30 and 35 percent, and there will be a shift change of four 10-hour days during the summer, from June to August, similar to how Genesee County employees operate, she said.

Additional perks include an additional floating holiday, pay for additional licenses acquired, such as for a commercial driver’s license or handling pesticides, a tool allowance increase of up to $1,000, and a $500 bonus payment per employee.

“So not everyone will have these licenses, it's up to the department head. But when we do have these licenses, it actually saves the city money in the long run, especially the pesticide license, because you can not apply pesticide without a license in New York State,” she said.

There are other benefits to having employees licensed for pesticide use, Public Works Director Brett Frank said. That would give the city better and more effective control over invaders such as weeds.

“We know we'd be looking more weed control that we currently outsource for a considerable amount per year, and take control of that as opposed to having a company come in, and basically be on a gator and kind of spray everything,” Frank said. “We could have somebody that could take ownership of it, we think we could do a better job overall and save money in the long run … we also know we could get a much better product by our employees taking care of that and having that license.” 

The cost of this four-year contract is approximately $323,522, Tabelski said. 

Woodward Memorial Library forced to close during cold snap because of inefficient heat pumps after upgrade

By Howard B. Owens
woodward memorial library no heat le roy
Woodward Memorial Library in Le Roy on Monday evening.
Photo by Howard Owens.

UPDATE: The Woodward Memorial Library is open today (Tuesday, Jan. 23).

CLARIFICATION: The term "heat pump" was not used in the discussion, just "pumps."  In non-boiler, home heating, "heat pump" refers to the heating system itself.  The school district uses a boiler system with a pump that pumps heat to the library. In the story, we didn't use the term "heat pump" but for the sake of a shorter headline, used it in the headline.

Libraries should be a quiet place.

But you shouldn't need to bundle up to read a book or a magazine, surf the net, or browse through the stacks.

For five-and-half-days, the Woodward Memorial Library in Le Roy has been quiet, frigid, and, as a result, closed. 

The lack of heat is the result of an apparent miscommunication between a vendor, a designer, and an installer who last year was tasked with upgrades to the boiler systems that delivers heat to Wolcott Street School and the library.  The upgrades were an add-on to the Le Roy Central School District 2022-23, $12.1 million capital improvement project, which was possible after other expenses came in lower than estimated.

The district owns the library building but does not operate the library. The boilers for the library's heating system are in the elementary school.

The failure of the heating system wasn't apparent in the spring when the work was completed, over the summer, or during the unusually warm weather in the first part of this winter.

Now that temperatures have dropped drastically, district officials have discovered the boilers used to generate heat for Woodward have pumps on them that are incapable of pushing enough heat from Wolcott Street School to the library building.

Superintendent Merritt Holly told the Board of Education on Monday that there was an issue with the design specifications, an issue with the installer not communicating the proper information about the system back to the designer, and there is concern about the pumps themselves and whether they are working at specification.

The pumps are supposed to provide enough heat -- leaving Wolcott Street School at 140 degrees -- to heat the building, the loading dock, and the pedestrian sidewalk leading up to the building.

Holly said he anticipated a question from board members: Who is going to pay for the mistake?

"If everything checks out (on the design and installation), then we go back to really what should be a warranty issue, the motor not being right or if there's a defect," Holly said. "That's a very small percentage. If that's the case, I think it's going to come down to how the communication between the designer and the installer designer."

In other words, Holly expects either a manufacturer's warranty to cover the cost of both a temporary fix and a long-term solution, or for the designer or installer, or both, to pay those costs.

New motors for the pumps -- which would provide only a temporary fix -- are in stock in Buffalo, Holly said he was told Monday morning, so it's a matter of getting a crew from the installer to Wolcott Street School to replace the motors.  That should be soon, but Holly doesn't have a firm commitment yet on a date.

"Remember, this is a band-aid fix until we get off heating season (so a longer-term replacement system can be installed)," Holly said.

In the meantime, he's hoping temperatures rise a bit for a few days, which would enable the current system to get the library's interior temperature up to 65 degrees so the library could reopen.

The ineffective pumps are only on the boilers for the library. The school is not affected. Those boilers have new, appropriate pumps and motors.

"The best case scenario is that tomorrow, I get an answer that our installer has a crew within the next couple of days, and the motors for the pumps are where they say they are in Buffalo," Holly said. "When we get our hands on that, we can put together a timetable because, remember, (the library) is going to be closed down on that day."

City leaders review budget numbers in attempt to continue positive streak

By Joanne Beck
Rachael Tabelski at budget session
City Manager Rachael Tabelski reviews the 2024-25 budget line-by-line with staff and City Council on Monday evening at City Hall. Pictured to her right are Councilman Paul Viele and Clerk-Treasurer Heidi Parker. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

She may be a bit biased, but City Manager Rachael Tabelski has confidence in the level of Batavia’s bang for its buck.

She compared the city’s proposed property tax rate of $8.96 to other cities — one of the lowest is Canandaigua at $7.67, North Tonawanda at $15.13, Geneva at $17.25, Dunkirk is $18.12, Jamestown is at $23.60 —  during the first collective budget session of the year Monday.

“So it's my opinion Batavia does extremely well, holding the tax rate to a low level while trying to find innovative ways to provide services that residents want,” she said. “And I feel like Council always gets hammered for ‘too much taxes, too much taxes.’ But we're only taking a quarter of those taxes. And where every single city resident utilizes our services, not every resident may utilize services of the school.”

She introduced a slide during her presentation that compared a breakdown of the city’s 25 percent representation of local taxes for benefits that “all city residents enjoy,” versus the city school district’s 52 percent of taxes that only some city residents enjoy the benefits of.

“The school taxes are a disgrace, it’s a joke,” Councilman Paul Viele said. 

City general fund budget expenses go toward tangible outcomes, those things that citizens look for, such as street and sidewalk improvements, police and fire protection, public works maintenance of roads (snowplowing in winter, picking up leaves in the fall), summer parks programs and paved parking lots. 

Expenses also include Workers Comp costs, which have an $86,000 increase this next year, insurance and retirement payments, reserve savings, purchase of two marked police vehicles at a total cost of $130,000 from reserves, software, personnel salaries and benefits — typically the largest portion of a budget — building repairs and maintenance, and future projects, such as repair of the Main St. 56 Theater roof at City Centre, which is earmarked for a $310,000 use of reserve funds. 

As Assistant City Manager Erik Fix sees it, residents —- or, more specifically, property owners — get all of those things for the price of “a cup of coffee a day.” The property tax rate is slated to increase by two pennies per $1,000 assessed value, or $2 a year for a home assessed at $100,000. (See previous budget story HERE.)

City Council has options, however, Tabelski said, pointing to another slide that shows the levy of $6,710,000 and total assessment of $748,497 currently for the $8.96, and scenarios for how the rate would change if the levy or future assessments were increased. 

The decision was made in July not to increase this year’s assessment, Tabelski said, but if it was raised in the future, say, up to $800,000 while the levy also was raised to $7,168,000, and the tax rate remained the same, the city could increase services by $450,000, she said. 

The other side of that would be true: if the levy remained the same and the assessment went up, the tax rate would decrease to $8.38, and services would also remain flat, she said.

All of the options were talking points to demonstrate how levy, assessment and tax rate are related, she said. None of them were actual proposals outside of what she has already proposed: a $6.7 million levy and an $8.96 tax rate that keeps services status quo.

 “As you know, we hear from residents about cutting. And when we go through some of the statistics about our city growing and the reduction in poverty we have in our city, we're actually doing quite well. And with that comes more services wanted by residents, needed by residents, and it strained all of our departments and our resources,” she said. “So this year, while I did only ask for departments to come in with 2 percent increases in their entire budget, I did have them put together a list of items that aren't being funded so that council has a full picture of things that we probably do need to address in the future. And my hope is through this process, and through the revenue workgroup, we'll find solutions to address these items.”

The city’s population, contrary to once predicted to shrink in size, increased from 2010 to 2020 from 15,464 to 15,600, she said. And there are people uncounted in that total, meaning an even higher population, she said. 

“Many, many people want to live in the city of Batavia. Houses that are on the market between $150,000 and $190,000 sell in less than 23 days. All houses in our market, which is still very hot right now, typically sell within 47 days,” Tabelski said. 

What are people looking for, and why in Batavia?

“I think it's always good to think about our mission, why we're here for the residents of our city, what we want the city to be. I want the city to be a safe place, a family-friendly place where I'm comfortable walking down the streets with my kids, any hour, night and day. I do not want to live in a city as large and maybe as unsafe as Rochester or Buffalo,” Tabelski said. “And I feel very fortunate to be here, to be selected as your manager, to be able to try to continue to implement safety measures for our city. I want our neighborhoods to thrive. I want good neighborhoods and community participation. We've had more volunteers for our boards in the last year or so than we've had in a very long time. And I think it's a good sign that there still are people interested in government.”

Current projects being designed are the ice rink chiller, the Bank Streetscape, Cohocton/Walnut Water main, Maple and Mill sanitary sewer, Pearl Street water main, wastewater treatment plant pond sludge removal, various street and sidewalk upgrades, paving of the Bureau of Maintenance parking lot, resurfacing courts at Kibbe Park for pickleball, replacing the playground at Austin Park and distributing a $350,000 housing grant for single family home rehabilitations, capital project and flood program planning and zoning ordinance updates.

The list of work always coincides with an ability to pay for it, she said. 

“We're finishing up projects at the fire station and BOM facility project. Any council member that would like to tour to see the improvements that were made, that started out as a $1.1 million project, and through COVID and inflationary prices, I believe it rose to $1.76 million. Overall, we had to use ARPA money for that project. And we still haven't finished major improvements at the BOM facility. They're still on this sheet of things that did not make the budget or the capital plan. There are still windows, office replacement, bathrooms, HVAC, air handlers, and doors,” she said. “So again, it's always a struggle to find the revenue to pay for these projects and to keep our facilities updated and running appropriately.” 

As for a source of potential revenue, Tabelski raised the issue of asking property owners who make payments in lieu of taxes to pay a fire and police fee. Towns do that, she said, but the city has not been able to since tax-exempt properties pay no property taxes, which include city services. 

It’s “definitely something we would like to look into,” she said. 

Matthew Kota memorial blood drive Saturday at Northgate Church

By Press Release

Press Release:

Join in to celebrate Matthew’s birthday and bring a “Plus One” with you to give blood and help patients in need celebrate more birthdays with their loved ones. The event includes a t-shirt sale and basket raffle with all proceeds for the Matthew Kota Scholarship Fund for students at Notre Dame High School and Byron-Bergen Jr./ Sr. High School. 

At a very young age, Matthew Kota, of Byron, knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up - a doctor. But sadly, his dreams were cut short. In memory of Matthew for his birthday, the Batavia community and surrounding areas are encouraged to give the gift of life and donate blood at the largest annual American Red Cross blood drive in Genesee County on Saturday, Jan. 27, at Northgate Church South Campus in Batavia. 

“Matthew never waited for anything to happen, he made things happen,” said Jason Kota, Matthew’s father. “He was truly one of a kind and I’ve yet to meet anyone else on this earth like him.” Matthew, the eldest of four children, was just 17 years old when he passed away in 2008 from complications of brain surgery.

Matthew enjoyed the outdoors and had a smile that would light up a room, but it was his humanitarian spirit that friends and family say was contagious. Matthew had a desire to help people, and that’s one of the reasons why he became a blood donor and volunteered with the Red Cross. He had hoped to join the Gallon Donor Club and even though he did not achieve that goal, his family and friends are now carrying out his wishes by holding blood drives in his memory. He was posthumously awarded the 10-gallon milestone from donors on his behalf in 2021. “Matthew was our son, a friend, leader and now our Angel,” Jason Kota said. 

Family and friends say hosting this blood drive is a unique way to memorialize what Matthew stood for - helping others. They are now giving back by turning their heartbreak into hope for other families in need. At this point, the Kota family has now collected 906 units - and counting - in their 15 years of hosting the blood drive. 

How to Sign Up

Schedule your appointment by visiting and entering the sponsor code bataviany or zipcode 14020.  Walk-ins are welcome around appointments. 

 Donate at the 16th Matthew Kota Memorial Blood Drive on Saturday, Jan. 27 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Northgate Church South Campus – Community Room located at 350 Bank St. Batavia.

Members of two local granges honored at National Convention

By Press Release
Submitted photo of Corfu Grange members (from left to right): Don Koepf, Corrine Koepf, Karen Bridge, Jan Bencic, Becky Perry, and Aurilla Putney.

Press Release:

The Grange is a fraternal organization based on agricultural principles with a long history of grassroots activism which has opportunities for the whole family. There are four levels of Grange: Subordinate (local), Pomona (county), State, and National. Within those levels, there are 7 degrees. The highest degree a Granger can receive is the 7th degree, which is presented at the National Convention. This year the National Convention was held in Niagara Falls. 

Nine members of the Genesee County Pomona Grange earned the 7th degree. Six members from Corfu; Don Koepf, Corrine Koepf, Karen Bridge, Jan Bencic, Becky Perry, and Aurilla Putney. Three members from East Pembroke; Julie, Alexandria (Jomni), and Colton Tarbell. Jomni, East Pembroke Junior Grange Leader, also received the Agricultural Awareness Award. 

For more information about the Genesee County local Granges, contact Joan Phelps, Pomona President, at 585-762-8503.

Photo of Jomni, East Pembroke Junior Grange Leader (center) receiving the Agricultural Awareness Award (photo courtesy of Lindsay Schroeder).

Godfrey Sr. rolls 300, Shields 299, Chamberlain 296 in GRUSBC league action

By Mike Pettinella

One Genesee Region USBC bowler notched his first certified 300 game while two others came within a strike of perfection in league play this week.

Michael Godfrey Sr. of Albion registered 12 consecutive strikes in the Thursday Triples League at Oak Orchard Bowl in Albion for a perfect game, his first. The left-hander finished with a 621 series.

Competing in the County Line Stone Friday Trios League at Mancuso Bowling Center in Batavia, right-hander Scott Shields strung 11 strikes before leaving a 4-pin in the second game for 299. He finished with a 747 series, edging out Ed Doody, who had 278--731 and Gregg Wolff, who posted 288 and 277 after a slow start for 723.

In the Tuesday StrikeForce Doubles League at StrikeForce Lanes in Oakfield, left-hander Aaron Chamberlain rolled 11 strikes in a row before leaving the 3-5-6-9 (bucket) for 296. The Oakfield resident finished with a 653 series.

In other action:

-- Lefty Nick Johnson of Bergen stayed hot with games of 268-256-247 for 771 in the Brighton Securities Tuesday Triples League at Mancuso's.

-- Southpaw Tim Talbot of Barker led the way in the Sunday Rolloffs League at Medina Lanes with a 269 game and 766 series.

For a list of high scores for the week, click on the Pin Points tab at the top of the home page.

'I enjoy helping people:' Corfu volunteer honored for 70 years of active service in fire department

By Howard B. Owens
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Chief Greg Lang presents Jim Mallory with a trophy as one of the honors Mallory received on Saturday evening from the Corfu Volunteer Fire Department in recognition of his 70 years of service to the community as a volunteer firefighter.  Assistant Chief Dean Eck looks on.
Photo by Howard Owens. 

There are volunteers throughout the county who remain on their department's active rolls after 50, 60, or even 70 years of service. But they aren't typically responding to calls any more.

At 88 years old, after 70 years of service to the Corfu Volunteer Fire Department, Jim Mallory still attends Monday evening training sessions, turns out to emergency calls, sometimes drives a rescue truck, and remains a member of the fire district's board of commissioners.

Mallory is still there, setting an example and sharing his experience and knowledge with younger members. 

Chief Greg Lang said that's impressive.

"He brings in all the young people," Lang said. "He's educational. He's got a brain like you wouldn't believe. He educates us. He helps keep members in the fire department because they would like to come up to his standards, you know what I'm saying? The younger guys love it.  I've learned so much from him throughout the years, it's not even funny." 

Mallory was recognized on Saturday evening for his service at the Corfu Village Hall during the department's annual installation dinner.

Mallory started to hear the siren call of the fire service as a child living near the fire hall.  The alarms would sound, and he would go to the hall to find out where the trucks were going and watch them leave.  

"I was fascinated by fire trucks," Mallory told The Batavian.

As soon as he turned 18, he signed up for service.

Since then, he's served not just as a firefighter, but on several truck committees, as fire chief, and as a commissioner.

"There was always another truck to buy," Mallory noted, and that helped keep his interest up.

And it was fun.

"I enjoyed the classes we went through," Mallory said. "I liked learning about firefighting, and I liked helping people out. If there was a call and I was able to be there, I'd be there to help out. I just enjoy helping people."

Mallory was also a successful local businessman, opening a gas station at the corner of Main and Alleghany before taking on co-owners to open a convenience store that the location, which is now Crosby's. He operated the business for 45 years.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley read a proclamation honoring Mallory.

"It is a privilege to recognize and pay tribute to individuals who have displayed a deep commitment to enhancing their communities and improving the state of New York," Hawley said before noting his 70 years of service to the Corfu Hook and Ladder Company Number One.

"James has become a model firefighter and a positive example for his community," Hawley said.

Also honored on Saturday was Kathy Skeet, as Firefighter of the Year. Skeet responded to 109 calls in 2023.

"On some of the calls, she is the chief there," Lang said. "She is the EMT. She is the fire police there. She's the only one there sometimes."

He also noted she puts in a lot of volunteer hours for department events.

"She's got 34 years of service," Lang said. "She's in charge of the Sunshine Committee. And, I can say, she's the best mother-in-law."

The department received 199 calls for service in 2023, and members provided 773 manhours of response time. There were eight fire calls, 130 EMS calls, four hazardous conditions, 15 good intention calls, and 18 false alarms.

Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger administered the oath of office to the 2024 slate of officers, which are: Chiefs Greg Lang, Dean Eck, and Dan Smith; Captains Tyler Lang and Jim Hale; EMS Captain Dillon Hale; Fire Police Captain MattLenhard; Safety Officer Justin Rodland; and Lieutenants Megan Stiles, Jacob Stiles, and Krista Hale.

corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Chief Greg Lang looks on as Assemblyman Steve Hawley reads a proclamation to Jim Mallory in recognition of his 70 years of active service to the Corfu Volunteer Fire Department.
Photo by Howard Owens.
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Kathy Skeet was named Firefighter of the Year, receiving a plaque and a trophy from Chief Greg Lang. Skeet responded to 109 calls in 2023.
Photo by Howard Owens.
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Kathy Skeet receives a hug from her daughter Karen Lang while her son-in-law prepares to present her with a trophy as Firefighter of the Year for the Corfu Volunteer Fire Department.
Photo by Howard Owens.
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Tyler Lang models the turnout gear a firefighter in the 1960s, such as Jim Mallory, would have worn when responding to a call in Corfu.
Photo by Howard Owens.
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Tyler Lang models the turnout gear a firefighter in the 1960s, such as Jim Mallory, would have worn when responding to a call in Corfu.
Photo by Howard Owens.
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Tyler Lang models the turnout gear a firefighter in the 1960s, such as Jim Mallory, would have worn when responding to a call in Corfu.
Photo by Howard Owens.
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
A short portion of old home movies from 1964 were shown during the recognition of Jim Mallory for his 70 years of service.  That's Mallory in the frame on the screen.  (Embeded video at bottom of this story)
Photo by Howard Owens.,
corfu volunteer fire department installation dinner 2024
Genesee County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Yaeger administered the oath of office to the 2024 slate of officers for the Corfu Volunteer Fire Department.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Remote video URL

South Byron Fire honors its own, swears in 2024 officers at annual dinner

By Virginia Kropf
south byron fire dinner
Fred Klycek, left, is speechless after Bob Wilson, vice president of the South Byron Fire Company, presented him with awards as Fireman of the Year and Member of the Year.
Photo by Virginia Kropf

 South Byron Volunteer Fire Company’s 48th annual banquet was one of celebration and remembrance.

The fire company, which is 104 years old, began the evening with a welcome and introduction of guests by emcee Fred Klycek.

After a prayer by the Rev. Harold Coller, a buffet dinner was served by Fred Hamilton and his crew.

Town of Stafford Justice of the Peace Bob Mattice swore in officers of the fire company, auxiliary, and fire police.

New firematic officers are Chief Brian Hickey, Deputy Chief Scott Blossom, Assistant Chief Jim McKenzie, 1st Lieutenant Christopher Hilbert, 2nd Lieutenant Al Secash, and engineer Matthew Dougherty.

Administrative officers are President Reggie Macdonald, Vice President Robert Wilson, Treasurer Alfred Klycek, Secretary Elizabeth Penkszyk, membership chair, and Sunshine Chair Theresa Hammer.

Members of the auxiliary board are President Michelle Dougherty, Vice President Beth Wilson, Treasurer Rozanne Klycek, Secretary Melody Stone, and party chair and sunshine Chair Theresa Hammer.

Fire police officers are Captain Theresa Hammer, Sergeant Reggie Macdonald, and Corporal Fred Klycek.

In a moving presentation, Elizabeth Penkszyk paid tribute to the one member lost during 2023, her grandfather Allan “Sneakers” Blossom. Blossom was a 47-year member of the fire company, who was dedicated to its mission.

“He’s the reason why I joined the fire company, making me a third-generation member,” Penkszyk said.

Her father, Scott Blossom, is a second-generation family member of the department.

In concluding the memorial ceremony, Penkszyk and her grandmother Mariellen Blossom lit a candle in honor of “Sneakers,” while observing a moment of silence.

The fire company gained one new member last year, Aaron Lathrop, who is carrying on his grandfather’s legacy, as Penkszyk did, she said.

The next presentation was the Auxiliary’s gift to the fire company.

“We wanted to make sure our firefighters are safe and well-seen when they respond to a call,” said Michelle Dougherty, Auxiliary president.

She was assisted by Melody Stone, Auxiliary secretary, in presenting Reggie Macdonald with one of the lighted safety vests they purchased for the department.

Macdonald next announced donations and tips from the bar would be donated this year to Mercy Flight and to the South Byron Rescue Squad to help pay for their new ambulance. No one was present from Mercy Flight, but Brad Nickerson accepted the check for the Rescue Squad.

Scott Blossom gave a firematic report, saying they had responded to 60-some calls last year. Chief Brian Hickey was named top responder in those calls

The department logged 535 training hours, with Matt Dougherty accumulating the most.

Fireman of the Year and Member of the Year were awarded to the same individual – Fred Klycek. When Bob Wilson called him to the podium to accept the Fireman of the Year Award, he said he didn’t expect that, and he was speechless.

“I had no idea,” he said. “But it takes a whole crew, and they all deserve this award.”

When he was called back and named Member of the Year, Klycek said he was really flabbergasted.

Wilson said Klycek does a tremendous amount of work for the fire company, and has for years.

“Much of what he does wouldn’t get done if he didn’t do it,” Wilson said.

The evening concluded with the awarding of door prizes and a benediction by the Rev. Coller.

south byron fire dinner
Michelle Dougherty, right, president of the South Byron Firemen’s Auxiliary, and secretary Melody Stone, pose with fire company president Reggie Macdonald, after presenting him with one of the lighted safety vests the Auxiliary purchased for the fire department.
Photo by Virginia Kropf.
south byron fire dinner
Elizabeth Penkszyk, left, and her grandmother Mariellen Blossom observe a moment of silence during a tribute to Penkszyk’s grandfather Allan “Sneakers” Blossom, a 47-year member of the South Byron Fire Company, who died last year.
Photo by Virginia Kropf.
south byron fire dinner
Bob Mattice, the town of Stafford justice of the peace, swears in new officers at the South Byron Volunteer Fire Department banquet Saturday night.
Photo by Virginia Kropf


City Council to discuss proposed $37M budget with 2-cent property tax and 19-cent water rate increases

By Joanne Beck

A tentative budget of $37 million calls for a 2-cent tax rate increase plus a 19-cent per 1,000 gallons water rate increase according to City Manager Rachael Tabelski’s proposed plan for 2024.

Tabelski laid out her estimated plan as part of a City Council agenda for this week, also keeping in mind that at least five budget workshops are scheduled to discuss city department wish lists and priorities before council votes on a final budget in February. 

The council conference session is set for 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, to be followed by a business meeting and the first budget workshop of the season. 

There is time allotted for public comments at the beginning of the conference meeting. 

The proposed property tax levy of $6,710,000 would be an increase of $110,000 and mean a property tax rate of $8.96 per $1,000 assessed value, Tabelski said in a memo to council. The $37 million total budget includes $1.37 million for street and sidewalk improvements and $1.13 million for vehicles, buildings and parking lots/sport court resurfacing, she said.

The sewer rate would remain the same, though the water rate is proposed to go up by 19 cents, to $6.46, per 1,000 gallons, she said. Tabelski estimates that to be a tab of $149 per quarter for a family of four per quarter, or about $600 a year. The two-cent property tax increase would add $2 a year to a home assessed at $100,000. 

This budget relies on $275,000 from the Water Fund and another $275,000 of unassigned fund balance, she said, and does not include any video lottery terminal aid or retirement reserves for the city’s annual retirement payment.

There are staffing and core services included in the budget, such as:

  • A confidential secretary position or the police department; 
  • Funding for another Neighborhood Enforcement Team officer that was added in July of 2023-24;
  • Funding for a police officer position that was frozen during the pandemic;
  • An additional firefighter position per a contract agreement executed in 2019; 
  • Maintaining the full-time positions of parking and recycling officer; and
  • Maintaining the full-time ordinance enforcement officer that was included in last year’s budget.

Photos: Batavia Ski Team mounts strong effort at Swain

By Steve Ognibene
Batavia Ski Team ready for race day at Swain.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ski Team ready for race day at Swain.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

The Batavia Ski Team competed in a double race (two runs of giant slalom and one run of slalom) on Saturday on Wheels Run at Swain.

It was a bitterly cold day with sweeping winds and snow later in the afternoon. Recent snowmaking on the headwall left the top of the course with 'golf ball'-like snowballs in parts of the race hill. This can make the terrain choppy.

The morning giant slalom landed Lily Wagner in 14th place and Abby Bestine in 20th. Freshman Nolan Radley was the top boys finisher at 20th, Ethan Bradley at 25th, and Gunnar Pietrzykowski at 35th. Ben Stone crashed in his first run but had a second run good enough for 16th.

The afternoon Slalom netted senior Ben Stone a monster 7th-place run. Ethan Bradley was 21st, Nolan Radley was 29th, and Gunnar Pietrzykowski was 35th. For the girls, Lily Wagner was 15th, and Abby Bestine was 18th.

The ski team will next be in action on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at Swain.

Information provided by Coach Matthew Holman, Batavia Ski Team

To view the race results, click here.

To view or purchase photos, click here.
Girls Varsity, Lily Wagner  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Girls Varsity, Lily Wagner  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Girls Varsity, Abby Bestine  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Girls Varsity, Abby Bestine  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Ben Stone  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Ben Stone  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Ethan Bradley  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Ethan Bradley  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Nolan Radley  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Nolan Radley  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Gunnar Pietrzykowski  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Boys Varsity, Gunnar Pietrzykowski  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Modified Class, Emersyn Mager  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Modified Class, Emersyn Mager  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Modified Class, Lucas DeVay  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Modified Class, Lucas DeVay  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Bees fall to Wildcats, 61-42, in Boys Basketball

By Staff Writer
byron bergen basketball

Byron-Bergen's Braedyn Chambry has been tough to stop all season, but Wheatland-Chili found a way to hold him to only eight points on Friday as the Wildcats cruised to a 61-45 win.

The loss was only the second one on the year for the Bees, now 11-2.

Colin Martin scored 13 points for Byron-Bergen, and Brody Baubie scored eight.

Also in Boys Basketball, Cheektowaga beat Pembroke, 72-63. Tyson Totten scored 29 points and Avery Ferreira, 14.

Photos by Jennifer DiQuattro.

byron bergen basketball
byron bergen basketball
byron bergen basketball

Elba beats Attica 59-36 in Girls Basketball

By Staff Writer
elba basketball

Elba improved to 11-2 in Girls Basketball on Friday with a 59-36 win over Attica.

Sydney Reilly scored 16 points. Lydia Ross scored 15, and Brea Smith scored nine.

Photos by Debra Reilly.

elba basketball
elba basketball

Batavia-Notre Dame United 'exorcises demon,' defeats Victor Blue Devils 4-2

By Howard B. Owens
Sam Pies scored off the faceoff early in the third period to give the United a 3-1 lead.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Sam Pies scored off the faceoff early in the third period to give the United a 3-1 lead.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

The past few seasons, it's been a struggle for Batavia-Notre Dame United against Victor, pernnially one of the toughest teams to beat in New York.

"They're one of the best-coached teams that we played against all season," said United's head coach, Marc Staley. "So it's a very emotional game, always with them. And I think for our kids, especially tonight, we probably were more emotional than we should have been. Just because it is Victor. It's sort of a mental block, you know, that we had to get over that hump. They've beaten us now five times in a row, combined score of 25 to four. So, for us to be able to turn it around tonight with a 4-2 win, it's sort of like exorcising the demon a little bit."

The Victor Blue Devils opened the scoring at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Arena with a goal in the first period, but United -- starting with a Sam Pies to Jameson Motyka to Brady Johnson goal a minute later -- went on an unanswered three-goal run to put them up 3-1 entering the final period.

"We went down by one, so we had to get one back," Johnson said. "We had to get pucks on the net. We knew that shots win games. So, every shot is a goal-scoring opportunity. So that's just what we're looking to do."

In the second period, the game got intense with shots on goal from both sides. United overcame back-to-back penalties but then went on the powerplay with two minutes left. Brady Johnson scored his second goal of the game in the high slot from a pass by Joe DiRisio to take a 2-1 lead after two periods of play.

In the third period, United was deep in Victor’s zone, taking a faceoff.  Sam Pies took a quick wrist shot off the faceoff draw and got shot past goalie Nate McBride.

Victor pulled back within a point in the third on a power play that Staley characterized as an undisciplined penalty, an example of letting emotions ride a little high.

"We know there is a very fine line between being a state top-ranked team and being just a good team," Staley said. "You have to stay out of the box. You have to be disciplined. You have to control your emotions. And you have to play through, weather the storm. You got to play through those tough moments, and we didn't do that as well tonight. I think we let them hang around. It ended up being a lot closer than I think it should have."

United added a bit of padding to their near the end of the game to seal the victory with a goal by Jameson Motyka.

"I think we felt like we were in control of the game," Staley said. "Most of the game, we outshot them. I thought we had time of possession on them. I think they're one of the best teams that we've played so far this year."

Pies said he thought United's defensive play was key.

"We needed to be on the defensive side of the puck at all times and couldn't take no chances with the defense," Pies said. "Pinching had to be 100 percent. They couldn't have any odd-man rushes. We had to get pucks out when we needed to, and good thing we did that, and we got the win."

Steve Ognibene contributed to the reporting of this story. To view or purchase photos, click here

Jameson Motyka in Victor's red zone, looking to score.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Jameson Motyka in Victor's red zone, looking to score.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Brady Johnson and teammates celebrate his second goal of the game.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Brady Johnson and teammates celebrate his second goal of the game.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ivan Milovidov on the doorstep of Victor's goalie.  United outshot Victor 39-32  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ivan Milovidov is on the doorstep of Victor's goalie.  United outshot Victor 39-32  
Photo by Steve Ognibene.
Jake Hutchins coming down the side boards with teammate.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Jake Hutchins coming down the side boards with teammates.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Bench timeout by United.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Bench timeout by United.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Photo: Chapin donates salt spreaders to Town of Batavia Fire

By Staff Writer
chapin town of batavia fire
When the folks at Chapin International learned that the Town of Batavia Fire Department needed salt spreaders to help emergency responders keep vital paths and driveways clear of ice and snow, the Batavia-based company came through with a donation of two spreaders for the Stringham Drive station. Pictured are Bill Kegler, Chapin's VP of operations, and Daniel Jacques, a director on the Town of Batavia Fire board.
Submitted photo.

A farmer's wife and artist, Bernice Yunker passes away at 98

By Howard B. Owens
bernice yunker
File photo from 2013 of Bernice Yunker in her studio, Farmer's Wife Studio, in the Yunker home on Transit Road in Elba.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Bernice Yunker was more than a farmer's wife.

Born July 26, 1925 in Mineral City, Ohio, Yunker led an adventurous life -- once biking from Buffalo to and around Conesus Lake -- as a young woman before meeting her future husband, Carl, in Bennington at a small church where her father was pastor. They married in Attica in 1947.

After her time with her family in Buffalo, where her father had been a pastor, and before joining her parents in Bennington, Bernice studied art at Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, and then at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She worked part-time at the DuPont Plant in Rochester as director of graphics to help the war efforts on the home front.

When the Yunkers married, Carl was already a farmer but a short time later, they acquired 100-acres in Elba and established a home, where they would eventually raise seven children.

The Yunkers quickly established themselves in the community and became active in the Elba Presbyterian Church.  Bernice became the first woman to serve on the Elba Central School District Board of Education. She volunteered at church, with the Arc of Genesee County, the Genesee County Nursing Home, and the Hospice of Genesee.

But she is perhaps best known in the community as a talented and creative artist and art teacher.  She was a member of the Genesee Arts Council and a founding member of the Batavia of Society of Artists.

In their home on Transit Road in Elba, Carl built an art studio for Bernice. In 2013, she told The Batavian that she was proud to call herself a farmer's wife, hence, the name of her studio -- Farmer's Wife Studio.

She often told her children, “Music and art are the frosting on the cake of life!”

Her husband and their children together built, from that initial 100-acre parcel, one of the largest farm operations -- CY Farms -- in Genesee County, growing crops, raising cattle, and notably operating Batavia Turf Farms.

Mrs. Bernice Dorothea Beisheim Yunker, 98, died peacefully at home with family at her side on January 15, 2024.

Carl Yunker, at age 97, died in 2021.

In her obituary, her family says, "Bernice was the best of moms and also cared for others in the community. She used her creative gift as a visual artist to serve others and honor God. During her 74 years in Elba, Bernice supported Carl, her family and the community with kindness, energy and frankly, a lot of art and art lessons!"

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Elba


bernice yunker
Bernice Yunker with a few of her paintings in her Farmers' Wife Studio in Elba. Previously unpublished file photo from 2013.
Photo by Howard Owens.

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