Skip to main content

Nominations sought for Youth Board awards

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee County Youth Board is looking for nominations for its annual Youth Recognition Banquet. There are three awards presented at the Youth Recognition Banquet:

  • Youth Recognition Award—This award recognizes young people who have performed exceptional service to the community and/or have assumed extraordinary roles in their families. Typically, the best candidates for this award are high school students, but we also know there are 12, 13 and 14-year-olds who exemplify distinctive qualities of service. Several youths will be recognized; however, the Youth Boards reserve the right to limit the number of recipients.
  • Adult Volunteer—this award recognizes an adult who provides service as a volunteer to youth in Genesee County.
  • Adult Youth Worker—this award recognizes a youth service professional whose work surpasses normal expectations.

Recipients will be honored at the Youth Recognition Banquet on April 13, 2023. Nominations are due by Friday, February 10th. For more information or to receive nomination forms, please call the Genesee County Youth Bureau at 344-3960 or youthbureau@co.genesee.ny.us. The forms are also on the Youth Bureau page of the Genesee County website, www.co.genesee.ny.us

Haxton announces winter reading program

By Press Release

image0haxton03.jpg

Press release:

Starting on February 1st, children from ages 3 and up can sign up to read at home to win prizes and collect charms at the library, during the month of February.

When the children register for the Haxton Memorial Library Winter Reading Program they will receive a "Readopoly" Board and a wristband.  For each task they complete they will earn a charm to put on their wristband.  A task is completed when all of the activities on the spaces are filled up in each color group. In addition, there are other activities on the board where they can earn tickets for the Grand Prize basket, including attending a library program on Thursday nights.

The library is also having a "Build Your Own Snowman" contest for children ages 3 and up as part of the Winter Read. Participants will share a photograph of their creation with the library staff and the judges will pick a winner. The winner will receive a Target gift card. Snowman builders are encouraged to be as creative as they want, using any materials or ideas that would make it a special work of snow art.

The program ends on February 28 and everyone is encouraged to pick up their gameboard and contest information and get reading!

To register or for more information about the Winter Reading Program or any of the programs held at the Haxton Memorial Library, please call 585-948-9900 or stop by the library at 3 North Pearl St. in Oakfield.

The Haxton Memorial Library, a member of the Nioga Library System, is located at 3 North Pearl Street in Oakfield and provides residents a variety of programs, events and materials that are listed on the library’s website at www.HaxtonLibrary.org.

 

Basketball Roundup: Notre Dame beats Williamson, Batavia beats Odyessy

By Howard B. Owens

Notre Dame improved to 11-1 on the season in Girls Basketball on Saturday with a 58-24 win over Williamson.

Amelia McCulley scored 26 points and had eight rebounds and six steals.

Emma Sisson scored 11 points. Sisson had six assists. Avelin Tomidy scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds.  She had four steals.

Also, in Girls Basketball on Friday:

  • Avon beat Le Roy, 43-39. Lindsey Steffenilla scored 14 points and had eight rebounds. Corina Dunn scored 13 points.
  • Pavilion beat Keshequa, 59-49. Karlee Zinkievich scored 24 points and had five assists. Lauren Kingsley scored 21 points and had 14 rebounds. Kyle Conway scored 12 points.

Also, in Boys Basketball on Friday

  • Batavia beat Odyessy, 69-44 to improve to 10-2. Carter McFollins scored 25 points. Sawyer Siverling scored 11 points. Mikey McKenzie scored 10 points. Estavon Lovett scored eight points. (Batavia also played a game on Saturday and those results are not yet available).
  • Perry beat Alexander 40-45. 
  • Oakfield-Alabama beat Byron-Bergen, 67-63. 
  • Elba beat Holley, 74-45. 
  • Notre Dame beat Attica, 81-65

UPDATE: Batavia beat East Aurora on Saturday, 53-53. Carter McFollins and Rasheed Christie each scored 12 points. Sawyer Siverling scored 10 and Mikey McKenzie scored nine.

In the face of potential social media dangers, local educators weigh in on who's responsible

By Joanne Beck

martell_pull_quote3.png

Social media companies should be held responsible for poisoning the minds and souls of youth and causing a litany of psychological ills.

That’s a pretty strong statement and is one being made by Seattle City School District,  the first in the United States to sue “Big Tech” for causing social media addiction to the point where schools can’t fulfill their educational mission, according to Bloomberg News (“Seattle Schools Sue Big Tech Over Youth Mental Health Crisis”).

There have been many other lawsuits filed by families about the negative impacts of social media on youngsters; however, Seattle is making headlines for being the first school district for taking on the likes of Facebook (Meta), Google, Tik Tok and Snap Chat, the Bloomberg article states.

The Batavian asked school administrators in Genesee County how they felt about this topic: is social media causing irreparable harm to young people’s mental health? Can the use of social media be regulated, and more importantly, should it be?

paul_kesler.png
Paul Kesler, Batavia High School Principal, sees the pros and cons of the issue and thinks that perhaps at least some kids should put their devices down.

“While I think social media has advantages for helping students stay connected, it can be problematic for many of our students,” Kesler said.  “Posts on social media can often negatively affect our students' self-concept or mental health.  Some students have become too attached to social media and would benefit from more time with in-person interactions.”  

Also from the city school district, John Kennedy Intermediate School Counselor Michelle Nanni has seen a variety of issues that have stemmed from social media platforms, she said, all of which have age restrictions that are older than JK’s students in grades two to four.

“Even with parental consent or controls, students are often viewing inappropriate and sometimes even sexualized content that is not suitable for children. Even content that would be considered appropriate often curates unattainable lifestyles with an emphasis on perfectionism and materialistic values, which can cause unrealistic ideals resulting in anxiety and depression,” she said. “These platforms also contribute to bullying, as young children are much more likely to send hurtful comments from behind a screen, especially as they will not truly realize the impact left on others without seeing their reactions.”

And reactions, according to the Bloomberg article, have been tragic, citing more than a dozen lawsuits filed by families blaming tech companies for youth suicides. In Nanni’s experience, one of the biggest problems and effects that she encounters is sleep deprivation among students.

“Because they are up all night on social media and don't have the self-control to know when to stop scrolling,” she said. “Social media is certainly having negative effects on the mental health and well-being of the students in our district.”

Lindsey Cummins, the social worker at Pavilion’s Middle-High School, agrees with Nanni. In fact, not only is social media having negative effects, but Cummins believes that it is “exacerbating symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues and concerns.”

“Through my work here at the school and also as a per diem therapist, I can say that social media causes so many difficulties. One of the biggest issues is definitely cyberbullying. Kids are being torn down through a phone, and sometimes do not even know who it is that is speaking to them this way. There are anonymous platforms where cyberbullying is taking place,” Cummins said. “Another issue is the students whose parents have restrictions on phones, and therefore, because they are not on TikTok or Instagram (or whatever the cool app is), they are being shamed and called ‘losers’ and feel disconnected from their peers. I think, in general, social media exposes them to all of the bad things that are going on in the world, which is, in fact, pretty depressing, and causes a lot of anxiety among adults and children.

“Also, the things that are shared on social media can cause a lot of concerns for parents, which then transfer to the kids at home,” she said. “All of this coupled with the lack of mental health support and services, is a really scary reality for our youth.”

rosales.jpeg
To sum it up, Elba Superintendent Gretchen Rosales said that it’s a “very complicated” topic and one that kids are not truly prepared for.

“Our children and teens are not wired for the constant barrage of information that comes from being engaged on social media; certainly, there is the aspect of over-stimulation and the lack of creativity that is fostered by the scroll-and-swipe nature activity,” Rosales said. “With this comes the emotional piece of children comparing themselves to others and always being engaged on an emotional level with content that isn't healthy.  We have even seen a societal shift in which people will say things or make personal attacks on someone if they do not agree. It is disheartening.”

That being said, she’s not certain that “we can legislate or litigate good behavior.” There needs to be more understanding of why mental health issues are on the rise, and it seems likely there’s a probable connection between social media and those issues, she said.

“We need to get to the root of why certain individuals use social media as a weapon, instead of using it for good,” Rosales said. “Having a productive and honest dialogue about these issues will be what affects positive change. At Elba Central, our students take a course in digital citizenship; these issues are addressed in that class. We encourage students to use social media as their ‘calling card’ by highlighting their achievements and using it as a platform to encourage and motivate others.”

Elba’s district has an Instructional Technology Committee comprised of educators and parents to work on addressing these very issues, she said.

“We are at a critical point in our children's education in which we need to arm them with the skills to be productive and positive members of a digital society,” she said.  “This endeavor will only be possible with the support of families who know what their children are engaging in, as well as social media platforms that insist on positive and healthy participation.”

2022_jason_smith_bcsd_headshot.png
Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith believes that “no doubt, social media has become a major player in the lives of our students,” and also that it’s a part of their lives that is not going away.

“The analogy I often make is that social media is like a car or a cell phone, or any other new invention: we need to treat it with respect, take advantage of all that it has to offer, yet understand that if we mistreat the technology, there can be serious consequences,” Smith said. “As educators, we need to teach students how to deal with the impact of social media in a proactive way, no different than how we teach 16-year-olds the safe way to drive a car.  There is no doubt that social media is causing an added level of stress to our students, as they seek approval, likes, acceptance, etc., via social media outlets, but coupled with strong family support and guidance at school from our counselors and social workers, we need to be able to help our students find balance.”

Having served as an administrator at other school districts beyond Batavia, he confirmed that this has been an issue here and in other districts as well.

“The mental health needs of our students are real, and a broad spectrum of supports from counselors, social workers, and school psychologists are critical in this important work,” he said.  “I would argue that if used correctly and with balance, social media can be and is a powerful tool in our students' lives."

matt_calderon.jpeg
Matthew E. Calderón, superintendent of Pembroke Central School, spoke more as a parent of seven children than as an administrator.

“My role as a parent is my starting point because it is my job as a parent to ensure my children are properly using the resources I provide for them.  As a parent, if I am concerned that social media is negatively affecting my children, then it is my job to curtail that.  It's also my job as a parent to make sure I teach my children how to communicate on social media in respectful ways and not to use social media to tear others down,” he said. “If I find out that my children are using social media to hurt others, then it's my job to reteach, correct and discipline them.”

He’s not certain that any social media platform is responsible for negatively influencing today’s children, though he did watch an interesting Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” that gave him food for thought about the potential of tech companies using psychology to promote addiction of social media.

“If it can be proven that tech companies purposely used psychological strategies to cause students to harm themselves or to purposely cause anxiety or depression, then those companies should certainly be held accountable,” Calderón said. “However, if the argument is that social media causes anxiety and depression because it provides students a platform to be mean and hateful to each other, then it's not the platform that is guilty, it is the students who are being mean and hateful who are guilty.

"Certainly, many of the ideas that people promote on social media can be harmful to our children, similar to harmful ideas that may be promoted on TV, in movies, in friendship groups and anywhere else where ideas or opinions are expressed.  I think one of the essential keys is to promote respectful communication at all times and to teach our children how to properly handle situations when others are disrespectful,” he said. “Harming ourselves or harming others is not the best approach when other people hurt us, including when others hurt us using social media.  If everyone used social media to encourage and build each other up, then we wouldn't be having this conversation, and the social media we use would be even more addictive.”

To answer The Batavian’s question of whether social media is causing anxiety, depression and other psychological troubles, per the Bloomberg article’s assertion, to the extent that something to be done to stop or lessen it, the obvious answer is yes, Pavilion Assistant Secondary Principal Charles Martelle said.

He believes that something should be done, though he is unsure what that would be and doesn’t think it’s his place to say whether a lawsuit would be necessary to remedy it or not.

“There is some value in social media, and to paint it with one broad brush is unfair.  It can inform, link like-minded people, offer opportunities and open a world of creative possibilities.  My critique is based on my experiences working with children in middle and high school as an assistant principal,” he said. “I do see a lot of unhealthy behavior related to social media.

"The most frequent and striking problem is that it amplifies, exaggerates, takes out of context and records text and images which kids post in their worst moments.  Kids have always said and done things without thinking, only to realize later the consequences of their actions.  That is the normal way kids learn; however, now their mistakes last longer and get noticed by more people.  Additionally, their worst moments get broadcast to people who should never have seen or known about these things.  Social media has an exponential side effect of spreading bad information, and it doesn’t turn off or go away.  Kids are subjected to these shameful moments, drama and comments all day and all night.”

Another point that makes social media so damaging, he said, is that kids are ‘on’ 24 hours a day — in school, out of school, during holidays and during their most intimate family moments, Martelle said.

“They are manipulated by advertising, meaningless posts, endless videos with messaging that is mildly entertaining at best and fundamentally horrific at their worst. 

"A few years ago, some very young students came to me to show me a post showing a man committing suicide.  The video that I saw still haunts me, and I’m 46!  These poor kids didn’t even seem phased by it,” he said.

He also pointed out that, while adults are free to make adult decisions of how and when to use social media, kids are just that -- younger minds in need of more guidance. 

“We all bear some responsibility, and certainly, we should all be thinking about how to go forward so we can address these problems.  Parents buy these phones for their children, handing them over often with little or no oversight.  School officials permit students to use them, and go a step further by using social media platforms to promote school events.  We all need to reexamine how we contribute to this problem instead of only blaming the social media companies.”  

Superintendents from Alexander, Batavia, Byron-Bergen, Elba, Le Roy, Pavilion, Oakfield-Alabama and Pembroke were contacted for this story. 

Le Roy Ambulance explains fundraising process

By Press Release

Press Release:

LeRoy Ambulance continues to fundraise for a new ambulance, and to date we have raised a total of $28,274. We continue to accept donations, and are planning several fundraisers for 2023 that will be announced at a later date. 

We have also continued the process of designing our new ambulance and obtaining quotes from multiple vendors, and while many details remain undecided, we do have several details to provide. The new ambulance will be a type III design, which means that it will be a box on a van chassis. The chassis will either be a Ford E Series or Chevrolet G Series, depending on availability/price at the time we place the order.

In order to minimize the cost, we will be transferring over the stretcher and most other equipment from our old ambulance instead of purchasing new. The anticipated cost for the new ambulance is currently in the neighborhood of $182,000, but we have been advised that this is likely to increase as costs continue to rise. We are exploring multiple grant and financing options, and will release further information as it becomes available. Lead time on a new ambulance currently varies from 6-18 months depending on options chosen and availability at the time of order. 

The 2016 Mercedes Sprinter ambulance that this project intends to replace continues to have reliability issues, and recently spent 9 weeks out of service at the dealership due to issues with the diesel exhaust system. It has since been repaired and is back in service, though it just rolled over 100,000 miles this week, meaning that this project is of utmost importance to our continued operation. 

We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has donated to this effort, your continued support is greatly appreciated and truly helps us to serve the community. We continue to collect donations for this cause, and you can donate at www.leroyems.org, or by mailing a check to LeRoy Ambulance Service, P.O. Box 56 LeRoy NY 14482. LeRoy Ambulance is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. 

 

Genuine, kind, indelible: Jim Owen left a lasting impact on Batavia

By Joanne Beck

jim_owen.jpg

For any new journalist not familiar with Jim Owen, he quickly became ‘that guy who showed up again’ to local events, and became a beloved and indelible character amongst local media and citizens alike — dubbed the Mayor of Redfield Parkway for his advocacy and presence on that westside city street — and was a knowledgeable and popular fixture of Batavia and even during his brief stay at Crossroads House, where his rest was often sprinkled with phone calls and visits from friends, students, school staff, musicians and his cat Rosie.

jim_and_cat.jpeg

His investments were large — from providing buckets of history about the city and school district, its buildings and bells and notables, to celebrating and helping to fund upkeep of the newly named Frank E. Owen High School Auditorium for his father’s contributions to the early beginnings of the music program, and filling a portion of GO ART! with local memorabilia — Jim Owen was practically a household name for many.

After a months-long, hard fought battle with cancer, the former and formidable teacher, coach, advocate, supporter, neighbor, historian, friend and smiling face at so many city events, Jim, 79, succumbed to the ill effects on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Just take a look at his Facebook page, and one can get a glimpse at the love and admiration he drew from the community. And just as a tree’s roots draw water into the soil and strengthens its foundation — so too has the community been shored up by what it has drawn from the likable Jim Owen.

linda_and_ji.jpeg

There were many lucky ones who got to know the Mayor more deeply, including longtime Redfield neighbors Rich and Linda Conroy. Friends, yes, but more so, they became family over the years, Linda said. Jim would come over for holiday gatherings, and they exchanged a lot of inner circle stories and jokes, she said.

jim_o_-_thanksgiving_1.jpg

“Jim liked to tell the story about how he lived with three women in Sackett’s Harbor when he was a young man right out of college,” Linda said. “Of course, he then would explain that the women were elderly, and he was just renting a room!”

As most people grew to know Jim’s sense of humor and quick wit, they would hear his quips, such as when he told Linda that he was paid weekly. “Very weakly,” he’d joke.

“Also, he liked to tell us about how long of a commute it was for him when he was visiting our house across the street,” she said. “‘You gotta have a little sense of humor,’ he would often say.” 

One of her all-time favorite memories is when he attended her daughter’s graduation party when he was a substitute teacher at the city school district in 2006. All of her daughter's friends were “fascinated” that Mr. Owen was the Conroy’s neighbor.

“The kids kept saying how ‘cool’ it was,” Linda said.

cityawards_2014.jpg

Of course, not to leave his beloved late sister Kathy out of the picture, there was an old photo posted online taken 50 years earlier that tagged Jim, and some ladies had replied how handsome he was, which seemed to bother his sibling. One had even commented about what a “hottie” Jim was, to which he couldn’t stop talking and smiling, “which annoyed his sister even more,” Linda said.

owen_hochul_01.jpg

Perhaps one of his biggest claims to fame was having taught the current state Governor Kathy Hochul in typing class as a teacher in Hamburg. Hochul, while a member of Congress, visited Batavia and attended a Muckdogs game with Jim, and more recently reached out to him with encouraging words by phone and through email.

"Jim Owen had a profound impact on me, my siblings and countless others as a teacher and coach at Hamburg Central Schools. Always upbeat and encouraging, I was proud to call him a friend later in life, and I will always remember our conversations, including earlier this fall and shortly before he passed,” Hochul said. “I am thankful to have known Mr. Owen, and I send my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who knew him - he will be dearly missed."

Jim was also friends with state Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who first met him as a senior summer parks program counselor. Jim coordinated all of the kids coming to Hawley’s farm to build a float on one of the hay wagons for the summer parks parade.

“He liked to talk about that often,” Hawley said. “His Father, Frank Owen, was the music director when I was in Batavia High Choristers. He and his sister Kathy were insurance clients of mine, and Jim bought new vehicles often and was always reminding me that he wanted the best prices possible because, as a retired school teacher, he was on a fixed income.”

Hawley was also aware of Owen’s mayor title, due in large part to his work to get stone pillars at Redfield and Main Street refurbished.

jim_owen_and_geno.jpg

“He was very interested in young people, history and politics. Although a fairly conservative-minded individual, he was always supportive of his former student at Hamburg High School, Kathleen (Courtney) Hochul, when she became Congresswoman, Lieutenant Governor and eventually Governor,” Hawley said. “As Jim’s health declined recently, a friend called me and wondered if I could get word to the governor that Jim’s time was dwindling and his spirits would be buoyed if she could call him ‘one last time.’ I had a very down-to-earth and reminiscing talk with him, and he mentioned that his former student ‘Kathy’ had called and how much he appreciated it. He seemed at peace.”

jim_o_-_hawley_sr.jpg

Jim was as consistent as he was gregarious. Always ready with a word or two in exchange for a greeting, he often liked to share special moments in his memory: when he taught Gov. Kathy Hochul in high school typing class, met up with a bunch of students for a chat, golfed with R. Stephen Hawley Sr., the current state assemblyman’s father, and even how he gave “that scoop” to a reporter. He seemed to love sharing those memories with the people who knew them best, as he also peppered his days with offering nuggets of information, history, and knowledge that he wanted to impart.

Batavia Middle School teacher Sarah Gahagan knows well of Jim’s giving spirit. In fact, she learned more interesting tidbits from him than from anyone else in the world, she said. And, “oddly enough,” they weren’t always in the form of an actual conversation.

sarah_and_jim.jpeg

“On many occasions, I would walk in my classroom and find a large manilla envelope lying on my keyboard. I immediately knew who it was from and couldn't wait to rip it open and see the next topic I would be learning about,” Gahagan said. “Packets of information on various topics — ranging from the history of Barbie dolls to the origins of my son's name, Grant. Jim was insistent I learned everything possible about Ulysses S. Grant. Jim enjoyed researching, highlighting the key points and even leaving little notes in the margin for me. 

“I LOVED finding these envelopes. They made my day. I hung up a picture he printed for me on my bulletin board — never thinking he'd notice — literally the next time he saw me, he commented on it. To this day, I have no clue how he knew it was there,” she said.

She learned a lot about the mysterious bell that Jim kept talking about and wanted desperately to uncover and bring out for all to enjoy. He kept on about it for quite some time.

“Well, it didn’t happen quickly,” Gahagan said. “He would laugh and joke and mentioned it quite a bit. And I mean quite a bit. Again, persistent to get someone to listen. Well, low and behold, they did, and this was a great day. I loved seeing this mission of his come to fruition.”

And in turn, Jim supported every endeavor that she pursued. He would hang out at the middle school, give fist bumps and tell stories and corny jokes that made even the toughest kids crack a smile, she said.

"He was a genuine person who truly cared for the kids. He took time to make those personal connections that sometimes fall to the wayside,” Gahagan said. “Watching Jim's interactions was always a pleasant experience. Jim treated everyone with kindness and received the same respect back in return.  The students truly enjoyed engaging with him.  Jim was always himself: caring, engaging, friendly, and a true friend to all; it's a trait I always admired in him. He had some clutch lines that were a staple before breaks and holidays, and although predictable in nature, oddly enough, they never got old.” 

jim_owens_bhs_2.jpg

It didn’t seem to matter, whether it was students, teachers or administrators, Jim got along with them all. Superintendent Jason Smith posted a message online for the city school district community, and a concert was performed in memory of Jim on Thursday. Smith also shared some thoughts with The Batavian about Jim, who he believed to be “a class act and a man of high character, dignity, and humility, and coupled with a razor-sharp sense of humor and compassion for others — he is an educator’s educator.”

“I first came to know Jim as a family friend at Horseshoe Lake many years ago, and then while in college, I worked for Jim as his lifeguard. He was always proud that I was ‘his’ lifeguard, and he and I would always joke about that—and Jim—with classic Jim humor—would credit himself for my success,” Smith said. “When my children had him in school as a sub—and they loved having him as a sub like all the other Batavia students—he would always be sure to share with them our lifeguarding story.

Smith said, as have so many others, that Jim has been so “truly beloved” by the Batavia district. Smith saw that firsthand during the Frank E. Owen Auditorium dedication last summer.

“I saw that loud and clear when he was swarmed by students,” Smith said. “It was such a heartfelt and genuine moment between a teacher and his students -- something I will never forget. Jim was so proud when the district named the auditorium after his father, and in his true, humble nature, he was quick to credit all those music teachers that came after his father for the success of music at BCSD.

“He gently prodded us to push forward with restoring the bells at the Middle School, and I know how thrilled he was with that project,” Smith said.

District Clerk Britt Witkop got to know Jim when passing him in the hallway or when spending a few minutes talking history with him, she said. He was a “solid dedicated part of the Batavia community and our school district” as a substitute for many years, and truly loved being part of the school system and enjoyed the students, she said.

“He always said that as a substitute, he did his best to keep the class aligned while the teacher was out, and to be a role model to the kids as well as listening and learning from them. He often said the kids taught him a lot about technology, and I could tell he appreciated that because he loved to learn,” Witkop said. “He had a strong sense of honor towards his parents, something we don't always see, which I felt was an admirable quality about him. Over the years, I got to see Mr. Owen more often, and we would talk whenever he came to sub at the high school. I enjoyed my time with him and learned a lot. When you got to know Mr. Owen, you could tell he was a hard worker and genuine person.”

When Jim became sick last year and visits decreased, there was a palpable emptiness that was felt at the district, she said, as “all of us had become accustomed to his presence.”

“Mr. Owen changed so many lives for the better, and I, as well as many others, will truly miss him. I feel lucky to have had him in my life,” she said. He was loved by more people than I think he could have ever imagined. Rest in Peace, my friend.” 

chua_pic.jpg

Probably even Jim would be ready for a chuckle right about now. How about it, teacher Allison Chua? Jim liked to tell a weekly joke: since he has been so good, he suggested that she was going to give him the next two days off. A joke he always told on Fridays, Chua said.

That’s how Jim was, she said: lively, positive and engaging. During visits to see Jim in December, she unabashedly shared that “we love Jim” and “our children love Jim,” and explained why.

“I feel honored to be asked to write a message about Jim Owen. I admire him for all that he means to BCSD and to our town. Jim always shows love for the people around him. When Jim would sub here, he would make a point to stop by rooms, peek in, and check in ‘Hey, how are you doing? You are looking great today!’ He made jokes with the kids and taught us all lessons about Batavia and life in general,” Chua said at the time. “He loved music, and (me) being a mom of music kids, he was the first to compliment both my sons on their performances and talents, acknowledging the amazing music teachers here at BHS. He came to the productions and made every kid feel like the star.”

Her son Aden, who is quiet and reserved, loved talking to Jim, who would first ask, “how are you, young man?” turning to his mom and asking, “who is this, your sister?”

“I would laugh, and I would say big age gap,” she said. “Jim showed this community what Batavia meant to him and his family. His pride makes us all a little more proud. I am so glad my children have memories with Jim Owen.  Jim's heart was open, and his love for this community is an inspiration. He makes me want to ‘Be Like Jim.’ The support that surrounds him is a testimony of a life well lived and a man well loved.” 

owenlibgoart2021.jpg

The love of the arts went well beyond music in the Owen household.  His sister, who passed away in 2019,  was an accomplished photographer.  Natalie Owen, his mother, was president of the Richmond Memorial Library Board of Trustees.  Robert Owen, his brother, was an author and actor.

Owen leaned heavily into athletics and admitted he had no artistic ability himself but he was always a firm supporter of the arts.

Based on his support of GO ART!, the nonprofit arts facility hosted an exhibit of Kathy’s photography in 2019, and in 2021, the room that had held the exhibit was dedicated as the Owen Library in honor of Frank Owen and Kathy Owen, complete with a white baby grand piano and a collection of art books.

Gregory Hallock, executive director of GO ART!, said he first met Jim Owen in 2017 during “small business Saturday.”

Jim stopped in to buy some art, “and of course, he haggled us down on their prices," Hallock said. “I helped him carry the pieces out to his car, and he said, ‘Let me be the first Mayor to wish you a Merry Christmas’ and gave me a box of chocolates."

Hallock and Owen grew close while working together to make the Owen Library a reality, and Owen shared something with Hallock that he rarely talked about in public: He was adopted by Frank and Natalie.

“Jim loved all children, and they all loved him back," Hallock said. “But he had a special connection with my children. He told them that he was just like them. He was chosen. My children are my everything, and he is right, they were chosen. I do not walk around saying they are my adopted children. They are my children, plain and simple. Jim and his siblings were chosen as well. This is not something he told most people, and I feel so incredibly humbled that he felt comfortable sharing this with my kids and me. My children loved him. I loved him.”

jim_o_-_owen_thing_1.jpg

Batavia is a city of characters, and Jim Owen was one of its most distinctive and memorable characters, author and screenwriter Bill Kauffman said.

He was only nine when Jim was supervisor of MacArthur Park and coach of Kauffman’s Midgets baseball team.  That forged a relationship and opportunity to see Jim Owen’s passions.

“Jim loved Batavia. He loved everything about it. He loved its history. He loved Redfield Parkway. He loved the city schools,” Kauffman said. “Although he liked to joke about how tight he was with the dollar, Jim was generous with his time, his energy, his attention, and his overflowing affection for his hometown.”

Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian and, in one of Jim's enduring jokes, Jim’s "older brother" (Owens was born in 1961, the year Owen graduated from BHS), was visiting Jim at UMMC, and it was right after Gov. Kathy Hochul and her brothers had called him along with some of their classmates he coached while teaching in Hamburg.

“He is very proud of both his connection to Batavia and Hamburg,” Owens said.  “He said, ‘I have dual citizenship. I'm a citizen of Hamburg and a citizen of Batavia.’”

Former newspaper Managing Editor Mark Graczyk had conducted a Q&A interview with Jim about 15 years ago and recalls how “very gracious” his interviewee was.

“He showed me his extensive baseball card collection and shared memories of when his father Frank, who was music director at Batavia High School,  was able to bring the march king John Philip Sousa to the high school in the 1920s,” Graczyk said. “Jim also shared Backward Glance's historical photos with the paper and helped me with some of the stories I wrote for my Hidden History blog. Sometimes he would stop in the office to offer story ideas or just to shoot the breeze. He was always friendly and encouraging. A great guy and much loved in the Batavia community.”

sarah_and_jim_2.jpeg

Don’t be surprised if, at some point in the warmer future, the city school district has a frozen treat day. But not just any frozen treat, and not just any colored frozen treat. It will be an orange popsicle day in memory of Jim if it happens. Gahagan only learned of this ritual while spending more recent time at Crossroads House, she said.

Not typically encountering a grumpy Jim Owen, she discovered that he could get rather feisty over a few particular things — orange popsicles being one of them. He would have the treat to help mask the bad taste of his medicine.

One of the kind nurses said Ok, Jim, red or purple today?  ORANGE, he said firmly. She laughed and said, you already finished the orange, I checked.  Red or purple?” Gahagan said. “ORANGE he said again. He ended up with red that night, but I made sure I bought two boxes and delivered them in the morning, and told them the orange are for Jim and anyone else can have the rest.”

She has suggested to the superintendent that “an orange popsicle day in honor of Jim would be nice.”

This reporter is going to break from my role for a moment to share how glad I am to have spent some time with Jim on a recent visit to Crossroads House. He was a bit tired but wanted to engage, ask questions, talk, and listen as I read items from around his room and shared about the blizzard that hit the county.

bms_sign_for_jim.jpeg

As I was about to leave, he firmly held my hand and asked if I could stay a little longer. Yes, Jim, I can stay. I’m not so sure it was anything about me personally as it was about his need to be with people. That was the Jim Owen I’ve known since the day we met. And there wasn’t a time that we spoke that he didn’t remind me about giving me a little scoop for a story, and eventually admitting that it got him in some hot water. But, he said, it was the right thing to do.

And there you have it, two principles of Jim that I believe so many people grew to admire: his love of people and his kind ways of wanting to do the right thing. He will be remembered. He will be missed. And he will leave a mark on the City of Batavia and the hearts of its citizens. Good night Jim, may you be in peace.

owenhochulmuckdogs.jpg

jim_o_-_flag_1.jpg

jim_o_-_mayor_1.jpg

Top Photo of Jim Owen with his proclamation from City Council deeming him as Mayor of Redfield Parkway, with his cat Rosei during a visit to Crossroads House, with Linda Conroy, wearing his Thanksgiving hat, with his sister Kathy, and another favorite Kathy, Gov. Kathy Hochul, accepting the Mayor proclamation from City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., with the late Stephen Hawley Sr., who he apparently reminded at the 18th hole that they were tied because Hawley had "forgotten" a few strokes; with teacher Sarah Gahagan, at the new Frank E. Owen auditorium sign with students and Superintendent Jason Smith and Principal Paul Kesler; getting a visit from Aden Chua, at GO ART!, with Sarah Gahagan at a sporting event, with Kathy Hochul at a Muckdogs game; and in his neighborhood. Photos are by Joanne Beck, Howard Owens, and submitted.

Man who admitted to rape in Darien sentenced to four years while in federal prison on 13-year term

By Howard B. Owens
mug2020turnquist.jpg
Nicholas Turnquist
2020 File Photo

Two weeks after accepting a plea offer on a rape charge, an Erie County man already serving 13 years in federal prison on related charges was sentenced in County Court today to four years in prison.

The sentence for Nicholas Turnquist, 37, will run concurrent to his federal term as well as a related four-year term out of Erie County.

Neither Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl nor the defense attorney, Joseph Lobosco, made any argument regarding a potential sentence before Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini issued her ruling.

Turnquist didn't make a statement in court and the victim in the case declined to make a statement because she's spoken at previous hearings about the impact of Turnquist's crimes on her life.

A decade ago, Turnquist, who most recently lived in West Falls, reportedly engaged in sexual activity with a minor in multiple jurisdictions, including Genesee County, Wyoming County, Erie County, Pennsylvania and Canada.

He was indicted by a grand jury on counts of rape in the third degree, a Class E felony, and sexual abuse in the first degree, a Class D violent felony, in connection with a crime in Darien on Aug. 23, 2014.  He was arrested locally in 2020 following an investigation by Howard Carlson of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

The only real discussion in court today was about a request by Turnquist that Cianfrini order the Sheriff's Office to hold him in Genesee County, instead of returning him to Alleghany County until he's returned to custody in Buffalo. 

Lobosco said his client told him that he's taking several medications. When he gets transferred from one jail or prison facility to another, the administration of his medication gets disrupted, and he wants to keep taking his medication. Cianfrini said she didn't have the authority to order the Sheriff or the U.S. Marshalls on transportation and housing, but she said it was her understanding that the Marshalls were going to pick Turnquist up in Genesee County to return him to federal custody.

Woman accused in dog OD case goes to courthouse, leaves before case is called, warrant issued

By Howard B. Owens
2022cassandraelmore_smallmug.jpg
Cassandra Elmore

For the second-straight scheduled court appearance, and the fourth time since her arrest, Cassandra Elmore was a no-show in City Court on Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the dog she is accused of allowing to overdose on narcotics, Oddey, remains confined to the Genesee County Animal Shelter, where it has been held since June.

The 30-year-old Batavia woman did make her way to the courthouse building today but disappeared shortly after speaking with her defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jamie B. Welch.

A warrant will be issued for her arrest at 2 p.m. on Monday if she doesn't appear in court before then.

A similar warrant -- with a 48-hour stay -- was issued after she failed to appear on Dec. 16. There was never a press release about her arrest on the warrant, but her name did appear on the court calendar for today's appearance.

Elmore faces three counts of injuring an animal under New York Ag and Markets Law Section 353.  She reportedly took Oddey, a French Bulldog, to veterinarians with apparent drug overdoses after the dog, according to police reports, licked up white powder from the kitchen floor.

Elmore has promised that once her legal case is resolved, we will get "the real case."

A hearing on motions in the case was scheduled at her last appearance.  

Legally, Elmore still owns Oddey, and the animal shelter must care for it without putting it up for adoption unless she signs over custody of the dog to the county or the case is resolved in a manner that permits her to again take possession of the dog.

Since her initial arrest, Elmore has also been charged with criminal possession of a weapon, obstruction of governmental administration, aggravated unlicensed operation 3rd. 

Previously:

Sponsored Post: Reliant Real Estate hosts an open house this Saturday

By Lisa Ace


**OPEN HOUSE SATURDAY JAN 21st @ 11-12:30** Solid ranch that checks all the boxes! Hillside location has scenic views from all windows! Set back from road, you can look out front across to see Horseshoe Lake and out back to a gorgeous wooded backdrop-best of all worlds! Home features three large bedrooms; master bedroom with full bath-as well as a second full bath and roomy guest bedrooms. A large living room and unique split kitchen/dining room or cozy secondary family gathering spot with wood stove looking out sliding glass door to back yard! Truly the gathering spot of this home it makes you want to stay and watch the seasons change! There is large pantry style closet for all your kitchen supplies as well as a great utility/laundry room for all the other necessities! This room also has direct access to covered carport for easy in and out for unloading the cars! Also there is enclosed front entryway, extra large foyer, and extra wide hallway. This home packs a lot in! This owner did all the right things through out the years maintenance wise, all that is needed is for the next person to make it their own! Don't underestimate all the possibilities here-this is a FOREVER HOME!!

For second time in three years, city faces possible tax cap override: budget presentation Monday

By Joanne Beck

rachael_outside.jpg
Citing reasons of double diesel fuel costs and rising supply, health care, retirement and employee wage expenses, City Manager Rachael Tabelski is calling for a move to exceed the state-regulated tax cap -- which would be the second override in three years for the city -- during this budget season.

“The 8 percent inflation the economy is facing challenges this budget, forcing the city to consider overriding the tax cap,” Tabelski said in a memo to City Council. “To balance the fiscal year 23/24 City of Batavia budget I recommend that the City Council of the City of Batavia consider overriding the tax cap.

“According to New York State’s property tax cap legislation, if a city government decides to adopt a budget with a property tax levy that exceeds the level set by the state, the city government must pass a local law to override that cap,” Tabelski said.

Tabelski is to provide a budget presentation and Council is expected to review and discuss her recommendations during its conference session next week. The session is set for 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Board Room at City Hall.

The proposed levy of $6.6 million would help to cover costs of a total $33.5 million budget and $19.4 general fund budget that includes a flat tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, a flat sewer rate, and a water rate increase of 30-cents, Tabelski said. The levy is raised from all real properties subject to taxation by the city based on the assessment roll for the fiscal year 2023-24.

She has also recommended a required public hearing to be set for Feb. 27.

Materials including salt, gas and electric are on the rise between 15 and 40 percent, while employee wages are at $400,000; retirements at $300,000; and health care just under half a million dollars, she said. Those are some of the rising costs imposing the need to ask for an override — unfortunately, not an unprecedented ask in city history.

Batavia City Council members voted to override the state’s 2 percent property tax cap just two years ago, passing a 7.5 percent property tax increase as part of the City’s 2020-21 budget. Part of the blame went to then Gov. Andrew Cuomo for withholding some of the video lottery terminal money from Batavia Downs revenues, though this year a similar portion was earmarked for the police department’s request for guns and equipment.

Other sections of the budget are up for discussion during future work sessions slated each for 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 for Public Works, general government and administrative departments; Feb. 7 for police and fire departments; and Feb. 9 for an as-needed session.

There is time allotted for public comments during this meeting. Speakers need to sign up prior to the start of the meeting.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski by Howard Owens.

Behavioral specialist urges ‘person-first approach’ to mitigate effects of substance use disorder stigma

By Mike Pettinella

padilla_seminar_1.jpg

Attitudes toward substance use disorder and words that reflect those attitudes can have a tremendous effect on the recovery process of those struggling with addiction.

“Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace and that (disgrace) is a pretty powerful word,” said Diana Padilla, a longtime behavioral health specialist who was in Genesee County on Wednesday to present a training seminar for social workers and providers at the Alexander Recreation & Banquet Facility.

Padilla, in her 90-minute “Reducing Stigma in Our Communities” presentation, provided tools for counselors to counteract the negative connotations associated with substance use and mental illness.

A research project manager at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Division of Substance Use Disorders, Columbia University Medical Center, Padilla communicated that stigma against people with substance use disorders can create barriers to treatment, such as an increase in shame and isolation from family, friends and community, and treating those with addiction as criminals.

She bemoaned the fact that the healthcare and judicial systems have not fully recognized that substance use disorder is an illness, and that recovery is possible.

“Stigma can lead to more substance use disorder and people can lose hope,” she said. “It really becomes a vicious cycle.”

Padilla said she has seen how health insurance companies and the law continue to view substance use disorder as a “result of a moral weakness and flawed character.”

She noted that some providers blame the individual for causing the problem and will reject treatment coverage, which can lead to substandard, non-science-based care.

When it comes to mental health treatment, Padilla said statistics show that stigma prevents 40 percent of people with anxiety or depression from seeking medical help, and affects people in treatment even when their mental health problem is a distant memory.

To combat stigma, she encouraged counselors to utilize “people-first language” in their interactions with their clients:

  • Speak or write the person first, then the disability, i.e., Sam is a “person with a disability,” or “Sheila is visually impaired…”
  • Emphasize abilities or accomplishments, not limitations.
  • When communicating about a group, “individuals with disabilities.”
  • Allow and expect that individuals with disabilities will speak for themselves.
  • Be careful not to idealize people who have disabilities as being brave simply because they have a disability.

In recent years, there has been a shift toward supportive and affirming language used by public health professionals, she said.

“By using the term, substance use disorder (instead of substance abuse or addiction), it meets a diagnostic criterion,” she said.

Padilla promoted “trauma-informed care” as a key component to successfully reaching someone with substance use disorder and/or mental illness.

She referred to the Adverse Childhood Experience study that reveals a direct link between traumatic experiences at an early age to subsequent alcohol and drug problems. According to the ACE study, 64 percent of adults have faced one adverse childhood experience (emotional, physical or sexual abuse) and 40 percent have faced two or more adverse childhood experiences.

“A person with four or more ACEs is five times more likely to develop substance use disorder,” she pointed out.

It is important for counselors to understand the impact of traumatic events upon their clients’ lives, Padilla said, and to adhere to the guiding principles of trauma-informed care – safety, transparency, peer support, collaboration, empowerment and cultural, historical and gender issues.

“Empowerment, giving the client a voice and a choice, can make a huge difference,” she said. “We should support those choices even when we don’t totally agree.”

In closing, Padilla shared that people are more likely to get treatment and recover when their families, friends, providers, and communities support them without judging them.

“We can choose supportive, respectful, and nonjudgmental words that treat people with respect and compassion,” she said.

The training seminar was hosted by the GOW Opioid Task Force and Genesee County Health Department and supported by the HEALing Communities initiative.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

Submitted photo: The Genesee County Health Department and GOW Opioid Task Force sponsored a "Reducing Stigma in Our Communities" training on Wednesday. From left are presenter Diana Padilla, Emily Penrose and Paul Pettit of the health department, Christen Foley of the task force and Jennifer Rowan of the health department.

WROTB directors solidly support board chair Bianchi

By Mike Pettinella

otb_leadership_2023_a.jpg
“Leadership matters” and that, according to the directors of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., is why Richard Bianchi of Monroe County is continuing on as the public benefit company’s chairman of the board.

“It’s my honor and pleasure to nominate (Bianchi) as chair because leadership matters,” said Director Dennis Bassett, who represents the City of Rochester, as he wholeheartedly endorsed the Monroe County delegate for a 13th consecutive one-year term. “He has taken us through tough times and through it all, I have learned that leadership matters.”

Bassett, speaking at this morning’s board meeting at the Park Road facility, said that Bianchi has the corporation’s “best interest at heart” while making the tough decisions and presenting a vision that has resulted in the purchase of a hotel, expanded summer concerts and providing exhibit space for public events.

“We’re experiencing our best years in OTB history and it is the direct result of the leadership of our board chair,” Bassett continued. “There has been sniping at the heels of the chair and this organization, but we have persevered.”

Director Richard Ricci (Seneca County) seconded the motion – noting that Bianchi “gives his heart and soul to this place” – before the board voted unanimously in favor of Bianchi.

That vote was followed by a unanimous vote to keep Edward Morgan (Orleans County) as the vice chair, a position the Murray resident has held for four years.

Bianchi thanked the board for its support, praising the directors’ work as well as the job done by WROTB officers, management and rank-and-file employees.

“The current board is more engaged than ever,” he said. “Let’s just keep up the great work.”

WROTB President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek echoed Bassett’s sentiments.

“Under Mr. Bianchi’s leadership, we have really good morale here with the workers, we've resolved a lot of the labor issues … and the business is at an all-time high,” he said. “And I think the outlook for the future is very bright. The physical plant is in great shape and WROTB is in the best shape it has ever been in.”

In other developments from today’s board meeting:

  • Directors voted to contract with Mind Squad Consulting LLC of Orchard Park for up to $75,000 for training and professional development for WROTB’s key officers, starting with Wojtaszek and VP/Administration William White.

“Bill and I will enroll initially and then we will see the results of that type of training. If we think it is beneficial, we will continue on and then we’ll send our other two officers (Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach and VP/Operations Scott Kiedrowski),” Wojtaszek said.

He said the leadership team has done its “due diligence” regarding Mind Squad Consulting, with the goal to “have us operating at the highest efficiencies that we can.” He said the training will consist of in-person and virtual sessions, lasting up to eight months.

  • The board authorized the purchase of a suite at Highmark Stadium for Buffalo Bills’ games for the next four seasons in the amounts not to exceed $109,000 for 2023, $113,000 for 2024, $117,000 for 2025 and $117,000 for 2026.

The resolution states that the expenditure is in line with WROTB’s “ongoing patron attraction and retention program … to provide entertainment event tickets for a certain level of our patrons as well as for special promotions.”

In a related move, directors approved spending $51,878 with Mark-It-Smart of Santa Ana, Calif., for Buffalo Bills’ clogs, coaster sets, backpacks and coolers to be used as promotional items.

  • The board extended a contract with Kim Crawford to provide consulting services in respect to the surfacing and banking of the harness horse racing track for the 2023 winter meet that is currently taking place.

WROTB will pay Crawford an additional $21,000 to the previously agreed upon contract of $65,000 for 2023.

  • Leach reported that $49,780 in surcharge from November activity will be distributed to the corporation’s member municipalities.

Photo: From left, Henry Wojtaszek, Richard Bianchi and Edward Morgan. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

The little Engine House that could keep going with some financial help: $1.86M project on tap

By Joanne Beck

engine4.jpeg

For anyone with strong Batavia roots, the Engine House conjures up dining memories of corned beef sandwiches for $2.10 and a champagne Sunday brunch for less than six bucks. Now the longstanding historical icon earmarked as a capital project has some much higher dollar figures attached.

The county Legislature is expected to vote soon on the $1.86 million project, to be offset by a $892,610 grant and sales tax proceeds of $975,990. Since the funding was from 2022, it’s considered a 2022 capital project.

County Manager Matt Landers laid out the explanation during Wednesday’s Ways & Means meeting.

“And the reasoning behind this is that we're running out of space. We have run out of space with public defenders. So that's why there's already four over there in the engine house. And we're putting two more over there,” Landers said. “This is utilizing outside funding, outside of the county, to be able to put an elevator into the building. That is in our long-term plans now, based out of necessity, because the courts facility was not built large enough. It's an access issue to be able to access that building properly.”

The courts facility — a complex built for city, county, and family court, children’s services, the district attorney and various other legal professionals — is now unable to accommodate all county personnel.

Landers credited Public Defender Jerry Ader for securing the grant of nearly $893,000. Part of the expense includes an amount not to exceed $150,600 for the renovation design for SWBR of Rochester.

Plans include an elevator, since it has been difficult to reach the upper floors of the building, Landers said. As it is, the public and county employees cannot access the space, he said. Legislator Marianne Clattenburg believed it was there for a reason.

“It’s a historic space, and it’s not going anywhere,” she said. “So, we might as well use it, right?”

The design may not be completed until 2024, Landers, said, and there will be flexibility in the plan.

“As soon as we have the design done and a full cost estimate out there, if it is on target like we thought it would be, then we would increase the budget, increase the project for the vendor space and then award the contracts for doing the construction work,” he said. “If it comes in too high, then we simply would pull back our funding and reallocate that sales tax into our reserve and for future purposes. This really is a building that's underutilized now … And the best part of this is it's right next door to the courthouse, right where their work is, and we have the ownership of that, and we should make good use of it.”

This isn't the first time the county has mulled the use of the Engine House. In 2017, there were discussions of giving it up or opting to renovate the site to accommodate a growing number of public defenders and make the second-floor handicap accessible. Those discussions got as far as setting a public hearing, which was canceled in lieu of tabling any definite action.

According to former county Historian Susan Conklin, the site at 3 West Main St., Batavia, had been built in the late 1800s — first as a sawmill, and later as a two-room brick shelter that housed water pumps. City leaders decided in 1948 to convert the building into a fire station, giving it the name that has stuck for the next several decades — even when purchased in the 1980s to operate as a restaurant.

The Engine House bar and restaurant closed in 1991, and it took eight years before Buildings and Grounds began to convert it into a county department. In July of 1998, the History Department was relocated into the front section of the property.

engine.jpeg
eng1.jpeg

Top Photo of a more recent version of the brick Engine House, and above, former buildings, including one that was partially collapsed from an explosion. Photos from the county's History Department archives.

Safety is the name of the game for new county position

By Joanne Beck

dustin_tammy.jpg

Workers’ Compensation is hardly a sexy topic, but it’s becoming a vital component of Genesee County’s offerings, Assistant County Manager Tammy Ferringer says.

After a four-month search, Ferringer found and hired the county’s first health and safety coordinator who will serve as executive secretary for a cooperative Workers' Comp program of most every taxing entity in the county, including schools, towns and villages.

Up to recently, the participating entities haven’t shown much interest in training offered related to on-the-job safety issues, Ferringer said.

“Participants weren’t interested in training until this past year,” she said. “It was exciting to see a lot of attendance.”

Participants of the Workers’ Comp program pay a premium to be a member of the plan, and trainings are one of the perks that also help them to keep employees safe at work and reduce insurance claims, injuries and related absenteeism.

Workers' compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job.

The new position was born out of the budget process this past year, Ferringer said after Kathy Jasinski had announced that she was going to be retiring at the end of the year.

“And so that prompted us to try and reenvision the gaps of the plan as it exists,” she said. “And we just wanted to enhance the services that are available to the plan participants ... the worker's comp plan that's administered by Genesee County, and towns, villages, school districts, any taxing entity in Genesee County can opt into the plan. And currently, there's a large list of them.”

Enter Dustin Watterson, a lifelong Oakfield resident who is now the full-time health and safety coordinator. He will be taking on administrative tasks, serving as safety officer for the county and going out on the road to meet plan participants.

“Dustin is going to be charged with the administrative piece of acting as executive secretary to the workers' comp plan. And he'll work with me on the administrative tasks necessary to make sure that it’s efficiently run," she said. "And then we are going to take this safety approach in-house, and he is going to go out on the road, and he is going to garner relationships with our participants and make sure that they know what's available to them.

“It keeps our workers safe, that’s the most important thing for everyone,” she said.

She added that if claims are contained, then costs will be reduced as well, which is also beneficial to any business operation.

Watterson has a decade of experience working in the security business via sales and consulting and is familiar with OSHA compliance, and items such as ADA railings, ramps, and rooftop fall protection, he said. Not only is the financial piece important, but also the morale of an employee who can otherwise be spared those days spent home recovering from an accident at work, he said.

Although Workers' Comp is one large umbrella, it covers multitudes of jobs and careers, Ferringer said.

“Our plan has so many different industries or types of workers, from law enforcement to nurses to just regular office staffs and highway workers and construction. There's such a diverse group of workers, we’re trying to make sure that we capture all of their needs,” Ferringer said. “But also, by working together with them … we’re just allowing them enhancement to help keep this community safe.”

During Wednesday’s Ways & Means meeting, County Manager Matt Landers introduced Watterson with confidence in his new role working with plan participants.

“I think he can help them with their safety plans,” Landers said.

Dustin Watterson, Genesee County's new health and safety coordinator, and Assistant County Manager Tammy Ferringer talk about the expanded and safety aspects of Workers' Comp Wednesday. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Local farmer says NYS making it harder to grow crops, and solar is better deal for low-yield land

By Howard B. Owens

img_4623.jpg

Farmers aren't converting profitable cropland into solar farms, said Tim Call, a Batavia businessman and farmer, after the Batavia Planning Board heard a proposal from New Leaf Energy to install a 5-megawatt project on 20 acres he owns at 7757 Oak Orchard Road.

There's good money to be made off of good land, according to Call, but it's become harder to turn a profit on low-yield land.

New York's new labor laws have a lot to do with turning marginal land into unprofitable land.

"Farmers are getting so good at producing on good acreage," Call said. "You don't need all the acreage that's there. The bad ground is not going to produce a lot of good things. It's just like the dairy farmers. If they have cows that are producing 40,000 pounds of milk a year, and they have one that's producing 10,000 pounds, why are you going to keep feeding those 10,000 pounds? You cull that one and get ones that are going to produce the most and give you the best return. You can't afford to farm bad farmland. It's just not profitable."

The state's increase in minimum wage and new overtime rules for farmworkers are causing farmers to re-evaluate what land they keep in production and what crops they grow, Call said. Out are low-yield acreage and crops that are labor intensive, such as cabbage, and other vegetables. Corn, wheat, and soybeans are favored because those crops don't need to be weeded or picked by hand.  The harvest can be fully mechanized. 

Last year, New York adjusted the overtime threshold for farmworkers to 40 hours per week. That's made it harder to hire workers who can migrate to other states with more worker-friendly laws, Call said.

"The overtime rule is really crippling everybody," Call said. "Plus the minimum wage that's out there. When we're trying to compete against other states where the minimum wage is $7, $8 and our minimum wage is $14.20, almost double, and then you can't get the farm or the migrants to come in and work because they can't get the hours that they want. It's just crippling. How do you compete?"

The proposed solar farm came before the board on Tuesday so the board could appoint itself lead agency for the environmental review, which it did.  The board will later be asked to vote on a proposed special use permit for the project.

This new solar installation will go on an 85.5-acre parcel that is just south of Daws Corners, which already contains a 15-acre solar farm on the back portion, along with some wetlands left undisturbed by either project. The two projects will cover 39.6 percent of the parcel, which is below the allowable 50 percent threshold.

New Leaf will plant about 153 trees to help visually screen the array.

The topsoil from the project area will be stored in a berm along the front of the property, which will make it available to redistribute on the parcel once the solar array is decommissioned.  The land could potentially, then, become farmland again.

Call noted during an interview with The Batavian that a solar installation doesn't permanently take the acreage out of agricultural use.

"The thing is, if it doesn't work out, you take the panels off, you pull it out of the ground, you pull the wire up, and you go back to farming," Call said. "You can't do that with some of these other things that they're doing. This isn't blacktop. It's not concrete, you know. You don't have a 40-by-40 pad that's 10 feet down in the ground. You can go back to farming."

Photo: Will Nieves, project developer for New Leaf Energy, and Mark Kenward, project engineer with Erdman Anthony, make a presentation for a solar project on behalf of property owner Tim Call, in the background. Photo by Howard Owens.

Top Items on Batavia's List

TAKE NOTICE THAT The Town of Elba is requesting Bids for the 2024 Cemetery Mowing season, with extra clean-up and trimming of trees/bushes. This will include three (3) cemeteries, Pine Hill Cemetery on Chapel Street, Maple Lawn Cemetery on Maple Avenue and Springvale Cemetery on Edgerton Road. Bids are for a 1-year contract and the successful bidder must provide their own $500,000.00 Liability Insurance certificate. A complete list of specifications/properties can be obtained by contacting the Town Clerk’s Office at (585)757-2762, ext. 10. Sealed bids should be clearly marked “Elba Cemetery Mowing Bids” and submitted no later than 4:00 p.m., Thursday, March 7, 2024 at the Town Clerk’s Office, 7133 Oak Orchard Road, Elba, NY 14058. Bids will be opened at 1:00 p.m. at the Town of Elba Town Hall on Monday, March 11, 2024. The Town Board reserves the right to accept or reject any or all bids that do not comply with their specifications. By Order of the Town Board, Trisha Werth Town Clerk
Tags: employment
Part -Time Children's Library Clerk Position available at the Haxton Memorial Public Library Application is available on the library website: haxtonlibrary.org Or apply at 3 North Pearl Street , Oakfield. Any questions please call 948-9900
Tags: Jobs offered
Crossroads House is a comfort care home for the dying. We are a non-for-profit organization that provides its services free of charge. We run on a supportive community and selfless volunteers. With out both of those we would not be able to serve our community. If you have a caregiver's heart and 2 to 4 hours a week, we would love for you to become a part of our Crossroads House family! No experience required, we will train you and provide mentors and experienced volunteers to guide you. Please go to Crossroadshouse.com to apply, click on volunteer tab to complete application or email Ashleymanuel@crossroadshouse.com
Tags: Jobs offered

Authentically Local