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City Council discusses residency waiver, moves to vote in May

By Joanne Beck

After a brief discussion Monday evening, City Council agreed to forward a residency waiver to its next business meeting for a vote.

The residency requirement for Fire Chief Josh Graham was to be in effect within six months of his hiring, which is up this month. Apparently, Graham requested an extension of that waiver, and most of council seemed to be in agreement to grant it.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski was the only one to question whether the chief used a city vehicle to drive to his home in Wyoming County, and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said yes, as is the case for department heads.

The group agreed to forward the item onto the business meeting agenda in May.

When asked by The Batavian why the city was granting a waiver extension, Jankowski said that it was temporary.

“Until the situation changes. I can’t discuss the reasoning as to why,” he said. “I have no concerns, and if you come to work on time and you’re on-call and you’re here in a reasonable amount of time, I don’t have a problem with that.”

Council had at one time discussed widening the circle of territory for where city department heads could live and maintain residency requirements, Jankowski said. Other city officials have been granted such extensions of living outside of the city, including former and current police chiefs and assistant city managers, including the most recent one, Erik Fix, who lives in Le Roy.

Jankowski said he felt that as long as people made it to work on time and didn’t mind a longer commute and dealing with bad weather, it was ok with him.

But others disagreed, so they now take such situations on a case-by-case basis, he said.

By no means will there be a carte blanche residency waiver system, he said. This is just one of those individual cases, and council wants to work with a valuable employee, he said.

“He’s doing a great job,” Jankowski said of the fire chief.

File photo of Eugene Jankowski Jr. by Joanne Beck.

Elba/OA sinks Attica for first time in golf season



Submitted match information and photo.

The Elba/OA Lancers defeated the Attica Blue Devils 187-194 on Tuesday at Batavia Country Club.

The Lancers Jake Walczak (photo) was medalist with a round of 41, while teammate Brayden Smith fired a 43.

Attica’s Evan Piechowiak led the Blue Devils with a 42. The Lancers improve to 3-1, while the Blue Devils are now 4-1. 

A year in review of service, wins and loss at South Byron Fire's annual banquet

By Virginia Kropf


South Byron Volunteer Fire Company President Reggie Macdonald presents Melody Stone with his choice as Member of the Year during the annual fire company banquet.

The South Byron Volunteer Fire Company celebrated a year of achievements during its annual banquet Saturday night at South Byron Fire Hall.

Tim Yaeger, Genesee County fire coordinator, served as master of ceremonies and introduced guests during an evening filled with memories, recognitions and honors bestowed on members past and present.

Theresa Hammer gave the firematic membership report, in which she announced they have 48 members, 23 of which are active, and four new members. John Leaton is a life member.

South Byron lost one member, Jeremy Bateman, who died this year. His achievements included being Member of the Year in 1998 and was a past president.  Bob Fite read the Firemen’s Prayer in honor of Bateman. Fite added this year marks the 50th anniversary of South Byron’s fire hall.

In the membership report, Michelle Dougherty announced Melody Stone as a 20-year member.

In the absence of chief Brian Hickey, deputy chief Jacob Yasses presented the annual firematic report. The department responded to 79 calls, a steady increase from the previous year. These included fire calls, motor vehicle accidents, mutual aid, service calls and one natural disaster.

Jacob Yasses, Jeremie Rassel, Allison Gurgel, Vito Muoio and Matthew Dougherty were recognized as top responders.

The department completed more than 2,400 hours of training during 2022. Topping the list was Nicole Boldt, followed by Vito Muoio,  Jeremie Rassel and Allison Gurgel.

Jeremie Rassel announced Allison Gurgel as Firefighter of the Year.

“She is a huge asset to the department,” Rassel said. “She strives for excellence in everything she does for us.”

In choosing a Member of the Year, president Reggie Macdonald said it’s not about being at every call.

“Sometimes it’s what you do behind the scenes, stepping up whenever you’re needed and being there for our community, as well as the fire company,” he said.

He chose Melody Stone for the honor.

“I don’t know what to say,” Stone said. “I didn’t expect this, but I really appreciate it.”

Stone said she is following in her father’s footsteps.

Gurgel and Jacob Yasses presented a special Recognition Award to his mother Michelle Yasses.

“She has supported Allie and me at our training on Monday nights or during fire calls in the middle of the night,” Yasses said. “She helps watch the kids when Jake and Allie run calls on the rescue squad. I couldn’t run the number of calls I do without her.”

The final presentations were citations for “going above and beyond,” presented by Assemblyman Steve Hawley. They were presented to Jeremie Rassel, Vito Muoio and Brian Hickey for responding for assistance in the severe December 2022 snow storm which hit the area; Nicole Boldt and Vito Muoio, who responded to a call for a woman in labor, and delivered her healthy baby; and to Allison Gurgel and Nicole Boldt for their fast thinking in saving the life of a child who was choking.

Firematic officers for 2023 are Brian Hickey, chief; Jacob Yasses, deputy chief; Jeff Starowitz, assistant chief; Allison Gurgel, captain; Jeremie Rassel, 1st lieutenant; Vito Muoio, 2nd lieutenant and engineer, Chase Cone.

Administrative officers are Reggie Macdonald, president; Jeremie Rassel, vice president; Fred Klycek, treasurer; Katie Rassel, secretary; and Theresa Hammer, membership chair.

Members of the Auxiliary board are Michelle Dougherty, president; Andy Stone, vice president; Katie Rassel, treasurer; and Melody Stone, secretary.

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


Members of the South Byron Volunteer Fire Company who were recognized for hours of training are, from left, Allison Gurgel, Jacob Yasses, Jeremie Rassel, Vito Muoio and Nicole Boldt.


Three top responders in the South Byron Volunteer Fire Company are Allison Gurgel, Vito Muoio and Matthew Dougherty.


Michelle Yasses, right, excitedly accepts a Special Recognition Award from her son Jacob Yasses and his fiancée Allison Gurgel at the South Byron Volunteer Fire Company banquet.

Photos by Virginia Kropf.

Genesee Region USBC banquet set for May 20

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee Region USBC Association Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, May 20 at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road in Batavia.

The event will get underway with a brief memorial service at 6 p.m.

Tournament champions and league leaders will be honored and association officials will provide a report on the 2022-23 season.

The cost of the dinner is $30, with the following exceptions:

NO CHARGE – GRUSBC directors, Adult Tournament Champions (limit one tournament only), Youth Tournament Champions and one guest (limit one tournament only), guest speaker and one guest.

HALF PRICE – Past GRUSBC Hall of Famers, league secretary or representative (limit one per league).

The reservation deadline for the banquet is May 12. No reservations will be taken after that date and no one will be allowed to “walk in” on May 20.

The banquet is open to all GRUSBC members and to the public.

An election of officers and directors whose terms are up will take place as well. Two director positions are vacant.

For reservations or for information about serving on the board of directors, send an email to Association Manager Mike Pettinella at or call 585-343-3736.

The GRUSBC includes bowling centers in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Mallory Diefenbach hired as new Communications Manager at ARC

By Press Release

Press Release:

For the past seven years her byline has been seen hundreds of times on local news stories. Now Mallory Diefenbach will be serving the GLOW community in a different capacity as the communications manager/grant writer at Arc GLOW.

A native of Eden, Diefenbach has been living in Batavia and growing a part of the community as she worked as a reporter. Prior to moving to Batavia, she worked as a reporter for The Post-Journal in Jamestown. Together, she has a decade’s worth of writing experience and community engagement.

“I’m so excited to be part of Arc GLOW, and bring attention to empowering individuals with disabilities in our community,” Diefenbach said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m glad to serve those who might need help to make sure their voices are heard.”

“Mallory is a great addition to the Arc GLOW’s family—her knowledge of the GLOW region is so valuable to this agency. We are excited for Mallory to be part of this exciting time as we enter our second year since the merger” said Lisa Bors, director of public relations for Arc GLOW. 

Diefenbach has a bachelor of arts in journalism and mass communication from St. Bonaventure
University, and has a double major in history. 

Arc GLOW is a merger of The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming and Arc of Genesee Orleans, becoming an official four-county chapter in October 2021. The four-county service area covers roughly 2,400 square miles - geographically, the largest Arc chapter in New York state. Arc GLOW is a private, nonprofit organization founded by parents and friends of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Their mission is to empower and support people of all ages with a broad spectrum of emotional, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

This week is National Infant Immunization Week

By Press Release

Press Release:

April 24-30 is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). National Infant Immunization Week is observed yearly and highlights the importance of protecting children from birth to two years of age from serious childhood diseases.

As a parent, you want to protect your little one from harm. Vaccines, which are among the most worthwhile and successful public health tools, have significantly reduced infant deaths and disability caused by 14 preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and polio.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among children born from 1994-2018, vaccinations will prevent an estimated 936,000 early deaths, 8 million hospitalizations, and 419 million illnesses.

GO Health encourages parents to make sure their children are up-to-date on their routine vaccinations. “Children who may have missed or skipped vaccinations may be at an increased risk of diseases, which can be serious,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “It is important to stay on track with well-child visits and recommended vaccination schedules. Please check with your healthcare provider to make sure your children are up to date on their routine vaccinations.”

For more information about vaccines and the diseases they prevent, visit these

  • Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule
  • Vaccines for Your Children
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Parenting Website

For more information on GO Health’s Immunization Clinics, visit You can also contact your respective health department:

  • Genesee County: (585) 344-2580 x5555 or
  • Orleans County:  (585) 589-3278 or

Boy Scouts of America based in Buffalo and Oakfield to merge

By Press Release


Press Release:

The Greater Niagara Frontier Council, Boy Scouts of America based in Buffalo and the Iroquois Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America based in Oakfield announced today that they will be merging as of May 1 to form the new Western New York Scout Council Inc., Boy Scouts of America. 

“This is an exciting time for Scouting in WNY as we bring together the best of what both councils have to offer to better serve young people, families, and the community. Our councils have been working together for generations and this solidifies that partnership. Combining ensures that we continue to provide world-class program experiences for our Scouts long into the future,” said Gary Decker, Scout Executive & CEO of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council.

“The combined strengths of our staff, volunteer leaders, and camp properties ensures that we’re uniquely prepared to deliver life-changing educational and character-building programs to young people and families across the entirety of Western New York,” added Jim McMullen, Scout executive and CEO of the Iroquois Trail Council.

The newly combined council will serve youth from all of Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties, and most of Livingston County in Western New York and offer many benefits, including:  

  • Improved program opportunities
  • Better support for volunteer leaders
  • A larger membership base to support a wider variety of events and activities
  • Greater financial sustainability
  • Two fully operational camp properties

The WNY Scout Council will continue to operate two Scout service centers in Cheektowaga and Oakfield. The council will also operate two scout camps: Camp Scouthaven, in Freedom, and Camp Sam Wood in Portageville. Gary A. Decker, current Scout executive and CEO of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council, will serve as the Scout Executive & CEO of the newly formed Council and James C. McMullen, current Scout Executive & CEO of the Iroquois Trail Council will serve as the deputy Scout executive and COO.

About Greater Niagara Frontier Council, BSA - The Greater Niagara Frontier Council, Boy Scouts of America serves more than 5,000 Scouts and Adult Volunteers in Erie County and the western third of Niagara County. The Council provides educational programs for boys and girls aged 5 to 20 to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness. The Scouting program in WNY has served more than half a million members since its incorporation in 1910. More information about the council is available at

About Iroquois Trail Council, BSA - The Iroquois Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America serves more than 1,500 Scouts and Adult Volunteers in Eastern Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Livingston counties in Western New York. With offices in Oakfield, the council operates three districts across the five-county service area. More information about the council is available at

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens. From 2022, Luke Geiger, Nicholas Grover, Aidan Clark, take the Eagle Scout oath, administered by Eagle Scout Thomas Ognibene.

Crime Victims' Rights Week: Breaking the cycle of abuse takes awareness and support

By Howard B. Owens


Police officers are often in a position to first pick up on the signs of domestic abuse, and they sometimes deal with people in the most difficult times of their lives. 

So after a talk at Genesee Community College by author Janine Latus, who suffered a string of domestic abuse traumas in her life, The Batavian spoke to local law enforcement officers about the role of cops in breaking the cycle of abuse.

It takes empathy, awareness, and the knowledge of resources available in the community for police officers to play a role in stopping domestic violence, said Shawn Heubusch, chief of the Batavia Police Department, and Brian Frieday, chief deputy for road patrol at the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.

Heubusch said officers need to bring empathy to every call they answer.

"You have to remember that it could be somebody's worst day," Heubusch said. "Whether it's the second time you've seen them or the very first time that you've seen them, just be understanding of what people are going through. Not everybody deals with things the same way that we do."

Frieday said that one pitfall of the job in dealing with so much trauma is that an officer can become dissociated from the feelings of a crime victim, whether it's a domestic situation or a petit larceny or an accident. 

"It's called an accident, but it's really a crash, and that might be the biggest thing in the world to that person on that particular day," Frieday said. "And it might last longer, so we try relaying to younger officers that (this incident)  could have lasting effects. It might be the only thing in their life that happened or it might be a lot deeper than what we perceive."

Heubusch and Frieday were at GCC for a Crime Victims' Rights Week seminar, where Latus was the keynote speaker.  Latus wrote If I'm Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder and Liberation, which is as much about her murder of the author's sister by a boyfriend as it is about her own life.  Latus was the victim of multiple abusive men. 

Focus on victims
The first takeaway Heubusch and Frieday had after the talk was always to keep the victim in mind, which brought to mind immediately the struggles police officers are facing because of bail reform.

"The victims are underrepresented at this point," Heubusch said.

Frieday agreed.

"The focus should be on the victims," Frieday said. "They're the ones who are suffering the consequences, suffering the losses, based on whatever crime or action the defendant or suspect did to them, whether it's financial or physical. The focus has gotten turned around to the wrong side."

Under the current bail laws, if there is a human victim of a crime, an officer can bring the suspect in front of a judge for arraignment, and a judge can issue an order of protection, but except for a very few circumstances, the judge cannot order the defendant held in jail.

"We've had instances where we've seen that person leave court, walk to the house, violate the order of protection, sometimes, through an assault," Heubusch said.

Signs of abuse
Latus talked about noticing the subtle signs of abuse.  She used the example of a talk she gave where a young man asked a question, and she answered it. After the talk, the young man came up to her and told her why he was wearing long sleeves.  When his girlfriend fought with him, she would drag her fingernails down his arms and cut him.  Sometimes he wore hoodies to hide the wounds.  It's little things like that, Latus said, people should watch for in friends and family members that might alert them to possible abuse.

Police officers aren't social workers, but they often come into family situations that could alert them, if not explicitly, perhaps implicitly, to abuse.  That's why it's important for police officers to know about the resources available in the community to assist both victims and perpetrators, Heubusch and Frieday said.

In attendance on Monday were staff members from Genesee Justice, the Child Advocacy Center, as well as professionals who work with sexual assault victims, domestic violence victims, and substance abuse counselors.

"There are avenues that are available in the community that we have access to at least get them to, or at least try to, like one of the early presenters said, the worst they can do is just say no, but we're trying to lead them down paths that could get them to help," Frieday said.

In the schools
Heubusch said one of the early warning systems now available are School Resource Officers. They are in a position to spot problems before crimes are reported.

"Sometimes they're seeing things, or the school is seeing things that we're not necessarily seeing or hasn't risen to the level of an enforcement action or police officers being called to a home, but they're seeing the kids come into the schools day after day with a multitude of issues," Heubusch said. "Again, (they can use those resources) as a clearinghouse to get them to the resources that Chief Deputy Frieday mentioned. There are just so many available to them, and we just have to get them there."

Frieday also said SROs now play an important role in identifying potential domestic abuse.

"They see the kids on a day-to-day basis," Frieday said. "They see trends in their behavior, or, you know, differences in absences, truancy, and everything like that, that they can have those talks. A lot of times, it's in conjunction with the school, but they can get out ahead of that sometimes and tell them, 'Hey, you're on a bad path. I've seen this. What can we do to help?'"

Domestic abuse is known to elevate over time, or certainly not end without intervention but officers also must be careful about how they approach a topic that can be sensitive for victims.

"When it comes to victim blaming, we have to be very careful when we try to tell a domestic violence victim that potentially you're going down a bad path and you are going to be hurt if you don't do X, Y or Z," Heubusch said. "We have to be careful because we're not a judge, judging that person. We don't want to feel that person to feel judged. But we want to relay to them that there are services that can help them. We absolutely have a role to play in that, especially when it comes to the suspects, identifying what they're doing, holding them accountable, or doing our best to hold them accountable, and advising them that this is not going to make your life easier."

A history of abuse
For Latus, her bad path started when she was young, working as a babysitter, when she was abused by a part-time teacher.  Then while working in a hospital, she got involved with a medical student, a wealthy young man.

She learned one Thanksgiving that his father was abusive and told herself, she needed to be there for him, then, on a ski vacation, she said the wrong thing, and her boyfriend punched her in the face, in the ribs, and kicked her while she was on the ground. Then blamed her for making him do it.

Her sister was her moral support, but Latus didn't want to cost her boyfriend his medical career, so at her sister's suggestion, she contacted another doctor she knew. He came to her house and nursed her broken nose and broken ribs.  He was caring and attentive.  They fell in love. He was married and eventually left his wife for her.

Her husband was controlling and jealous, and threatening.  She told stories of the creepy things he did and how she blamed herself.  Eventually, her sister helped her leave him.

Her sister found a man. A cowboy.  She worked. He didn't.  It turns out he had a criminal record.  The sister bought him everything he needed to become a painting contractor.  She always portrayed her relationship with her man as happy and loving. 

Then she disappeared.

Eventually, authorities found a note taped under her desk, written 10 weeks before she disappeared, that began, "If I'm ever missing or dead," and pointed law enforcement to her abuser, her boyfriend.  Her body was found at a construction site wrapped in a painter's tarp, and her boyfriend served 20 years in prison for her murder.

Latus said she wrote the book to encourage people who are abused or know about abuse to speak up.

Avoiding abuse
"If I didn't pretend everything was perfect, my sister would not have had to pretend everything was perfect," Latus said. "I wrote this book to save other angels."

She shared some things abusers do:

  • They use coercion to obtain sex.
  • They use financial resources to exercise control.
  • They use social media to isolate victims (such as sending messages to friends using their partner's account to say things like, "I hate you.").
  • They use mobile devices to track partners.
  • They use technology to make the other person feel stupid and unworthy.

"None of those things raise a bruise," she said.

During the Q&A at the end, she was asked if the man who first abused her was ever arrested. She said authorities learned he had multiple victims around the time she was abused, but because he never penetrated, by the time the crimes were uncovered, the statute of limitations had run out.  She asked a former classmate as a result of that investigation, if there were any other "creepers" in town.  The former classmate said, "Yes, your father."

Research has shown that people tend to pick partners who are like former partners.  Asked how people can break the cycle of abusive partners that Latus seemed to grow through, she said if you leave an abusive relationship, don't get involved in a new relationship right away.

"I absolutely recommend what I call a dating sabbatical," Latus said. "Take time off. Don't go to the next person to save you from this. Stay by yourself. Go to dinner by yourself. Make friends, go to movies, discover that you're great all by yourself, that you're comfortable and happy. Embrace the view that you are the best company you've ever had. And then the person you're going to be attracted to and appreciate and attract to you is probably going to be healthy, happy and whole, too. If you're insecure, you are going to attract an insecure person who is going to exploit you. If you are solid in yourself, then the person you're going to choose is far more likely to be healthy."

Photos by Howard Owens.


City to sell two mall parcels to downtown entrepreneur

By Joanne Beck


Derek Geib, entrepreneur, property owner and president of the Business Improvement District, has been a tight-lipped businessman.

He didn’t have much to say when voted in as president of the BID while operating successful enterprises with Bourbon & Burger, The Coffee Press and Roman’s, all in downtown Batavia.

Now it appears as though Geib has more ventures on his to-do list, with a proposal to buy parcels 11A and 11B in the City Centre from the city of Batavia.

When reached Monday, Geib would not go on record with any comments about the purchase or his plans for the mall property. He wouldn’t even give a hint about what type of business might be going into the space formerly occupied by Valle Jewelers several years ago.

City management had previously requested permission from City Council for a reassessment of vacant properties, and 11A and B were evaluated to be worth $60,000 as fair market value by Lynne, Murphy & Associates, Inc.

Geib, operating under Geib Estates Corp., agreed to pay the price tag, plus additional expenses. Assistant City Manager Erik Fix recommended that the city “continue to foster development and activity in the Batavia City Centre, a unique downtown asset, and authorize this sale.”

“The property will go onto the tax rolls, and all the appraisal fees and closing costs will be paid by Geib Estates Corp.,” Fix said during City Council’s conference session Monday evening.

The purchase would align with the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Brownfield Opportunity Area and Strategic plans, Fix said in his memo to City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked about the property’s assessed value and when the sale would actually take place. City Attorney George Van Nest said that a survey and title search will have to be completed first, which “can take a little bit of time.”

“But once that is done, we’ll make arrangements to have a closing and transfer the title,” he said.

Tabelski estimated that it would probably be in the summer, possibly in July. No one had an answer about the assessed value. According to online assessment records, the 2022 full market value is $124,000. For years, it has been sitting unoccupied. 

“Yes, put it back to work, I’m in favor of this,” Bialkowski said.

A resolution will be on the next business meeting agenda for council’s vote.

Photo of former Valle Jewelers property in Batavia City Centre from online assessment website. 

Crime victims encouraged to exercise most important right: talk about it

By Joanne Beck


Voices of crime victims need to be heard, though they’re often relegated to darkened silence, Theresa Roth says.

“I think that the theme is here, centering on elevating voices, is very, very important because crime often happens in private, behind closed doors,” said Roth, program coordinator for the Justice for Children Advocacy Center, during a recent Genesee County meeting.

The meeting of legislators was to recognize various efforts throughout the county and across the country in April, and this week shines a light on crime victims’ rights.

Legislator Gary Maha read a related  proclamation that states:

WHEREAS, the term victim is more than just a label and has legal standing and protections that go along with it; and

WHEREAS, crime victims’ rights acts passed here in New York and at the federal level guarantee victims the right to meaningfully participate in the criminal justice process; and

WHEREAS, victim service providers, advocates, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and other allied professionals can help survivors find their justice by enforcing these rights; and

WHEREAS, victim service providers and allied professionals can reach more victims through innovative, trauma-informed programs, such as telehealth services and multidisciplinary teams; and

WHEREAS, victim service providers and allied professionals can increase access to victim services and compensation in areas that have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by inequality by implementing culturally responsive services; and

WHEREAS, equity and inclusion are fundamental prerequisites to survivor care, and survivor-led services that provide victims with opportunities to share their experiences are essential blueprints for support; and

WHEREAS, National Crime Victims’ Rights Week provides an opportunity to recommit to ensuring that accessible, appropriate, and trauma-informed services are offered to all victims of crime; and

WHEREAS, Genesee County is hereby dedicated to helping crime survivors find their justice by enforcing victims’ rights, expanding access to services, and ensuring equity and inclusion for all. Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature proclaims the week of April 23-29, 2023 Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Genesee County.

Diana Prinzi of Genesee Justice said that the most important thing her agency can do first is to “let their voices be heard.” And then to take the crucial steps to help victims begin to heal.

“We work with all of our community members trying to make them whole again. And let them know that we care and provide the services they need to repair the harm that was done to them,” she said. “And we appreciate all the community members that assist with that, our other agencies we partner with, multidisciplinary teams we work with. We couldn’t do it alone.”

County Legislator Gary Maha and Diana Prinzi flank Theresa Roth as she talks about the importance of elevating victims' voices during a recent meeting that recognized Crime Victims Rights Week and other efforts that are part of April. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Extra staff helps out to get West Main St. CVS back on track

By Joanne Beck

For at least the time being, CVS Pharmacy in Batavia seems to have caught up with a backlog of prescriptions, satisfying at least one of the customers that an apparent staffing shortage had vexed.

Two days ago, The Batavian published an article about multiple dissatisfied CVS customers due to unfilled prescriptions and a phone system gone awry, and during the weekend, the story reaped more than 120 comments discussing the issue and 15 emails from additional customers.

The Batavian reached out on Friday to corporate spokesperson Amy Thibault, Lead Director of External Communications for CVS Pharmacy, and she said that employees would be pulled from others stores to help shore up the gaps at the West Main Street store.

Thibault responded to The Batavian’s follow-up for an update on Sunday evening.

“Extra team members were brought in over the weekend, and they were able to get caught up on delayed prescriptions and returning voicemails,” Thibault said.

The original article began with Roberta White’s story, and how she struggled to obtain her steroid inhaler for bronchitis, compounded by severe asthma. One of her main questions was, 'What's going on?' She was happy to report this past Sunday that she picked up all of her backed-up scripts.

“They were super thorough, and they filled everything I have been waiting on. They were very nice to me and even had the pharmacist come over to explain meds, which they have never done before,” White said. “There was a new pharmacist, not anyone I had seen before. Never had such great service there.

“Whoever they brought in is doing good, but why was this not an option back when people were hurting for meds desperately?” she said. “It seems to me they failed at recognizing and handling urgent needs.”

CVS is certainly not the only company in a bind to hire more help, as many businesses are on the hunt for employees — from manufacturing line workers and corrections officers to restaurants and some post offices.

One reader emailed a comment that this issue is much more far-reaching than just this one store, and is about a stock and staffing shortage, lack of corporate responsibility, and cutting hours across the board with “all drug stores.”

Yet, there were others that praised particular pharmacies that no one seemed to have an issue with, and insurance programs were often cited as the root of stalled prescriptions. Most people did not fault the store staff, which seemed to be doing the best it could. Some people suggested calling in prescriptions early, and yet scripts often cannot be filled until the date for refill is up; others, such as Michael Tooley, chose the self-advocacy route.

“I also have experienced the same issues, which, as you stated, is not the fault of the local staff at all, but management in failing to maintain and/or replenish diminished/inadequate staffing issues,” he said to The Batavian. “I do commend the local Pharmacists (Joel in particular) for going out of their (his) way to finally communicate with me directly and make an effort at amends through an unexpected gift card.  Of course, this only happened because I was the ‘squeaky wheel’ that happened to get the grease because I emailed their Executive Office [] directly, mostly out of frustration after all other avenues to address the issues had failed to get ANY response.”

After all, it’s not that customers aren’t understanding, as Shannon Ferguson said.

“I’m sure they are all frustrated, but so are the rest of us. We’re all dealing with extra work, shortages, and higher costs for everything,” she said.

While most of the comments were complaints about poor service, lagging prescriptions and inability to reach anyone at the West Main Street CVS by phone, others defended it by stating that it’s not the only pharmacy with such issues; the problems are about upper management and not about store staff; where are additional employees supposed to come from in a small city; and/or that no issues have been experienced.

GO ART! awards state grants to multiple artists and community organizations

By Press Release


Press release:

On Sat, April 22, GO ART! announced the 2023 Statewide Community Regrant (SCR) Program Grantees at the Hoag Library in Albion.

The Statewide Community Regrant Program was developed by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) in 1977 in response to a mandate by New York’s Legislature that there be greater local involvement in funding decisions, affecting local non-profit organizations, offering artistic or cultural services and programs, and to ensure New York State’s cultural funding reached every part of the State.  The program is funded statewide, in all 62 counties, and NYSCA funds are regranted by local arts agencies through a transparent peer panel funding process.  Through the Statewide Community Regrant Program GO ART!, NYSCA and the New York State Legislature hope to extend, upgrade and increase the arts and cultural programming in Genesee and Orleans Counties. The goal is to make state arts support available to geographically, economically, and ethnically diverse segments of the state’s population. 

Through the SCR Program, GO ART! awarded a total of $210,000 in regrant funding to 50 artists and organizations for events and programming throughout Genesee and Orleans counties.

The Statewide Community Regrant Program consists of three different grants Reach, Ripple and Spark:

REACH: The GO ART! Community Arts Grants (Reach Grants) provide seed grants to individual artists, collectives and arts organizations for projects and activities that enable Genesee and Orleans County communities to experience and engage with the performing, literary, media, and visual arts. Each year the program supports arts projects, including concerts, performances, public art, exhibitions, screenings, festivals, workshops, readings, and more. 


  • Batavia Business Improvement District - Jackson Square Concert Series - $5000
  • Batavia Concert Band - 2023 Batavia Concert Band Summer Concert Series - $3231
  • Batavia Development Corp - Murals in the Batavia City Centre - $2800
  • Batavia Players, Inc - 2023 Theater Season - $5000
  • Bergen Historical Society - Holiday Mural Panels - $4286
  • Bill & Kay McDonald - Homegrown Concert Series 2023 - $5000
  • Brian Kemp (Batavia Business Improvement District) - TableTop ArtShow - $5000
  • Byron-Bergen Public Library - Enriching lives through the Arts - $4954
  • David Burke (Warrior House of WNY) - The Goose Community Center Indoor Mural - $2500
  • Elba Betterment Committee - EBC Presents Art Around Town (Again) - $5000
  • Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden - Artistic Interpretive Panels - $5000
  • Gillam-Grant Community Center - Community Art Adventure - $4849
  • Genesee Chorale, Inc - Genesee Chorale 2023 Season - $5000
  • Genesee Symphony Orchestra - 2023 Concert Series - $5000
  • GLOW OUT! - 2023  Pride Festival - $4500
  • Haxton Memorial Library - Talented Thursdays - $5000
  • Heather Davis (St. Mark's Episcopal Church) - Opera on the Oatka - $1500
  • Holland Land Office Museum - Guest Speaker & Concert Series - $3500
  • Hollwedel Memorial Public Library - Shake on the Lake Presents William Shakespeare - $5000
  • Michelle Cryer (Friends of the Batavia Peace Garden) - Batavia Water Storage Tank Mural - $2800
  • Oakfield Betterment Committee - Oakfield Labor Daze - $5000
  • St. Mark's Episcopal Church - Music at St. Mark's - $2970
  • Thera Sanchez (Habitat for Humanity) - Batavia's Gold Mural - $3000
  • Warrior House of WNY - Learning Through Art - $5000
  • William Peterson (Batavia Players) - Everyone Has a Story - $5000
  • Woodward Memorial Library - Art All Year ­- $5000


  • Albion Merchants Association - Concerts on the Canal - $5000
  • Cobblestone Society & Museum - Cobblestone Museum Arts Series for 2023 - $5000
  • Friends of Boxwood Cemetery - Boxwood at Night - $4160
  • Hoag Library - Hoag Music Series - $5000
  • Howard Barry (Community Free Library) - Myron Holley Erie Canal Mural - $5000
  • Lee-Whedon Memorial Library - Finally Fridays! 2023 - $3200
  • Lyndonville Lions Club - I Hear the Music - $5000
  • Orleans County Historical Association – Multidisciplinary Live History Event- $5000 
  • Veronica Morgan - I was a "Hoggee" on the Erie Canal - $5000
  • Vette (Albion Merchant Association) - Albion Summer Concert -$4768
  • Village of Albion - Bridging the Village Music Series - $5000
  • Village of Holley - Concerts at the Canal - $3000
  • Yates Community Library - More than Just Books - $5000

RIPPLE: The GO ART! Individual Artist Commission (Ripple Grant) supports local, artist-initiated activity, and highlights the role of artists as important members of the community. The Commission is for artistic projects with outstanding artistic merit that work within a community setting. 


  • Eric Zwieg - Passenger: A Billion Little Pieces - Postmodern Reflections - $2500
  • David Burke - Harvester Center Hallway Mural - $2500
  • William Schutt - Connecting Hands Connecting Communities - $2500
  • Joshua Lang - On Dreams - $2500


  • Eric Weatherbee - The Humble Bard Present - $2500

SPARK: The Arts Education Program (Spark Grant) supports arts education projects for youth and/or senior learners. Emphasis is placed on the depth and quality of the creative process through which participants learn about the arts. Projects must focus on the exploration of art and the artistic process.


  • Genesee County Youth Bureau - Re:Creation (Drawings of Nature) - $3200
  • Strength in Numbers Organization Inc - Strength In Numbers Organization Youth Music Program - $5000
  • Linda Miranda Fix (Batavia Central School District) - #kindness,empathy&you mural - $5000
  • Laura Jackett (Byron-Bergen Public Library) - Art Workshops at the Libraries - $5000


  • Patricia Greene (Orleans County Chamber of Commerce) - Art Experiences for Seniors - $5000
  • Judd Sunshine (Lyndonville Central School District) - Erie Canal Songwriting Project - $3300

These grants are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.  

Photos by Tom Rivers/Orleans Hub.

Top photo: Gregory Hallock (right), executive director of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council greets about 75 people during an announcement on Saturday for $210,000 in grants to local arts programs. He is joined at Hoag Library in Albion by Mary Jo Whitman (left), the education and Statewide Community Regrant Program coordinator; and Jodi Fisher (center), the GO ART! administrative assistant.


GO ART! officials on Saturday presented checks for $210,000 to about 50 different artists, community organizations and municipalities to support cultural programs in 2023. The funding was presented to about 75 people at the Hoag Library in Albion.


Sara Vacin, executive director of GLOW Out, said a grant will help fund the GLOW Pride Fest on June 9 in Batavia.

Genesee County announces the first countywide Farmland Protection Workshop

By Press Release

Press release:

Genesee County, in collaboration with Genesee Valley Conservancy, Western New York Land Conservancy, and Genesee Land Trust, has announced that the Agricultural & Farmland Protection Board will be accepting pre-applications from landowners interested in being considered for New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets Farmland Protection program or other state and federal farmland protection initiatives that may become available in the future.

The Farmland Protection program buys conservation easements on the State’s most productive farmland.

The program is completely voluntary, and the seller retains ownership of the land and can continue farming the property. However, the land will have permanent restrictions on commercial, residential, and industrial uses.

A workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 2, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at Genesee County Building 2, located at 3837 W Main Street Rd, Batavia, to provide landowners with information about the program. All interested landowners must attend this workshop prior to submitting an application. If any interested landowners cannot attend, contact the County Planning at or (585) 815-7901 to inquire about making arrangements.

The State Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program reimburses farmers up to 87.5 percent of the value of the development rights on their land. Three land trusts serve Genesee County and can submit applications for this grant funding. All farmers wishing to apply to the State program must complete a reapplication with their respective land trust. Pre-applications will be evaluated by the land trust and will consider the amount of development pressure, quality of soils to be protected, and farm viability. The highest-scoring pre-application(s) will be invited to have full applications submitted to the program. These pre-applications may be used to select eligible farms for other future state and federal farmland protection programs. The Genesee County Planning Department, the Genesee Valley Conservancy, the Western New York Land Conservancy, the Genesee Land Trust, and the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District work cooperatively to manage the pre-application phase.

The pre-application process will be open year-round for interested landowners in the County but will be reviewed annually by each Land Trust. The full application deadline to the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets has not yet been announced, and there is no guarantee the State will release a funding opportunity this budget year. However, establishing a pipeline of interested farms is crucial to demonstrating funding needs and critical to leveraging other non-state funding. 

For more information on the New York State Farmland Protection program, visit:

Brighton Securities to host annual shred day on May 26

By Press Release


Press release:

Brighton Securities, a Batavia Financial Services firm, will hold its 12th Annual Free Shred Day on Friday, May 26, from 12 - 2 p.m.

“Our Shred Event is a service we offer our community as a great way for them to safely dispose of their bank records, credit card statements and any other sensitive documents for secure, eco-friendly destruction and disposal. We’re proud to offer this service for the 12th year and encourage our community to participate. We will have staff on hand to help our event participants decide what to dispose of and shred, what to save, and for how long certain records should be saved,” said Steve Hicks, branch manager of Brighton Securities.

A shredding truck from Shred-Text, Inc. will be standing by for contactless disposal of your old documents. We'll also have staff on hand to help you decide what to shred and what to save, as well as you will be able to monitor on-screen, your documents as they are shredded. This is a free event, and all are welcome to attend.

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens.

Jimmy Sturr coming to Batavia to spread the love for Polka

By Howard B. Owens

Not many legends play concerts in Batavia, but this Thursday, Batavia Downs will host Jimmy Sturr -- winner of 18 Grammy Awards, leader of a polka band since age 11, and musical artist who has recorded 152 records.

His first recording in 1964, in the midst of Beatlemania, was a 45 -- the A-side was a song Sturr wrote, "Hepsa Polka" -- and he's been touring and recording since, building a reputation as the King of Polka.

"I fell in love with it (Polka) at an early age," Sturr said during an interview with The Batavian. 

That won't be hard to understand once you know a bit about where he grew up.

Sturr was born in 1941 and raised in Florida, NY, and even with international success, he's never left Florida, NY.

He's perhaps as proud of his hometown as he is of Polka.

"It's funny, but Florida, New York is known as -- now don't get upset when I tell you this because I know you think your part of the state is the Onion capital of the country -- well, Florida, New York is supposedly the onion capital of the country. We grow, I guess they say, approximately 30 percent of the nation's onions."

Sturr is Irish, but Florida, NY, was 85 percent Polish when he was growing up.

"A lot of the people came over from Poland and Germany working in the black dirt, and they brought all their traditions with them, one of which was their music," Sturr said. "That's how I fell in love with the music. My high school dances all had Polka bands. The local radio station had a Polka show every day. And of course, we had those three-day Polish weddings. So you know, I just fell in love with Polka."

If you were coming of age as a musician in the 1940s and 1950s, it wasn't a bad time to fall in love with Polka.  Some of the genre's most influential musicians -- such as Frankie Yankovic, Walt Solek, Larry Chesky, and Myron Floren -- were cutting popular albums. Myron Floren became a regular on the "Lawrence Welk Show," playing a Polka segment that a young Jimmy Sturr never missed.

He quickly became a proficient musician and, by 1952, was leading his own band. In one interview, Sturr said his band was the third call band because he was so young.  If the more established bands in town were booked, Sturr got the call, which still led to plenty of performance experience and helped launch his career.

Sturr said he was also influenced by the Big Bands of the East Coast that occasionally passed through his hometown. 

"For some reason, most of the bands that came here were from New England, from Massachusetts, and some were from New Jersey and New York," Sturr said. "That's the kind of music I grew up on with bands that came from that area. I sort of molded my band in that direction. That's why we have such a big band."

And it's a good band.  There are dozens of live recordings of the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra on YouTube that demonstrate how well the band plays together, their dynamic performances, and individual musicianship.

Sturr, from early in his career, wanted to be an ambassador for Polka.

He realizes there is a bit of a stigma attached to Polka.  That it's grandma and grandpa's music, but he's seen for himself how young people can enjoy the music -- which is really party music -- as much as anybody.

"You know, once we can get them to hear the music -- just like last week in Buffalo (for a Dyngus Day celebration) -- there were a lot of people who weren't Polka fans, but they were there for the party," Sturr said. "Once they heard it, they were hooked. I had them hooked. They stayed the whole night."

Spreading the love for Polka is one reason Sturr has recorded with so many other artists who aren't usually associated with Polka, such as Arlo Guthrie, Mel Tillis, Bela Fleck, Brenda Lee, Charlie Daniels, Bobby Vinton, Porter Wagner, Ray Price, the Oak Ridge Boys, Bill Anderson, and Allison Krauss.

Willie Nelson has appeared on five Sturr LPs.

"I read a book one time on Willie Nelson, and that's how this whole thing sort of started," Sturr said. "I read that Willie Nelson started in a Polka band back in his home state of Texas. So I thought, 'Well if I ever get the opportunity to meet Willie, I'm going to ask him if he would record with me.' Well, sure enough, not long after that, I had the opportunity to perform with Willie on the same show. After the show, I snuck around and said, 'Willie, would you be interested in recording some polkas with our band?' And he said, 'I'd love to do that. And we did. That was back in around 1998."

By then, Sturr was already a big star, thanks to the Grammy Awards. 

The Recording Academy didn't get around to declaring Polka a genre worthy of its own award until 1986, when Frankie Yankovic won that first award.  The next year, Sturr won the first of his Grammys, starting a string of six consecutive Grammys for best Polka album.  He would win 12 more before the category was eliminated in 2009.  Since 2011, Polka artists have been eligible for awards in the Regional Roots Music category, but so far, no Polka act has won that award.

"If we had not won 18 Grammys, I think we would be just another, quote, polka band," Sturr said. "But the Grammys meant so much. You get to meet a lot of people, people like Willie Nelson. I mean, from that, we got to play Farm Aid. I'm sure we wouldn't be doing that If we hadn't won those Grammys."

In his effort to appeal to younger music fans, Sturr has always welcomed a variety of musicians into his band.  His current guitarist is Chris Caffery, lead guitarist for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

"That's one reason I like to tour with Chris Caffery," Sturr said, explaining his desire to reach young fans. "He comes out with the long hair, and he does rock guitar with the horns, and it sounds quite good. It's a good mix. And, of course, the young kids all of a sudden, they're right into it. And the next song I play would probably be a Polka. And those kids are still getting into it. They'll get into the polka." 

Sturr's performance at Batavia Downs on Thursday is part of WBBZ's Polka Buzz broadcast from Batavia Downs.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased on the Batavia Downs official tickets website,   Tickets can also be purchased at the Lucky Treasures Gift Shop. Tickets can be redeemed for $20 in Free Play on the day of the show.

The Batavian hires Kara Richenberg as publication assistant

By Howard B. Owens

For the first time in its nearly 15-year history, The Batavian has three full-time employees.

Kara Richenberg, a lifelong resident of Genesee County, is joining the staff today as a publication assistant.

Richenberg's duties will include posting press releases, managing our community calendar, and administering Deal of the Day, as well as other customer support.

"We're excited to add Kara to our team," said Publisher Howard Owens. "She has been an active part of our community throughout her life, knows the community well, and will fit well with the team we already have in place."

Already on that team are Lisa Ace, creative manager, who joined The Batavian nearly 12 years ago, and News Editor Joanne Beck, who has been in that role for about a year.

In her previous jobs, Richenberg has worked for Tops Markets, the Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union, and Toyota of Batavia.  She is a graduate of Pembroke High School and earned an associate's degree from Genesee Community College.

Mike and Kara Richenberg married in 2016 and welcomed their first child, a daughter, in 2020.  Her new job will allow her to work from home and care for her daughter.  The couple is currently working with the building trades team at BOCES to build a home for themselves in Corfu.

Both Mike and Kara are avid runners (Mike won the first six consecutive Arc Friends and Family 5Ks), and Kara is currently the coach of the modified tennis team at Pembroke HS.

The Batavian will market its 15th Anniversary on May 1 with the launch of an upgraded website as well as a new program that will enable readers to help us produce more community news.

Photo: Residents respond to Drug Take-Back Day, filling four boxes

By Howard B. Owens


Today was another successful Drug Take-Back Day, said Batavia PD officers this afternoon at the drop-off spot on Alva Place in Batavia.

Four boxes were filled with unwanted prescription drugs so they can be safely destroyed.  Det. Jason Ivison said Le Roy PD officers also dropped off several full boxes for disposal.

Batavia PD, the Sheriff's Office on Park Road, and the State Police on West Saile Drive, all operate drug drop-off boxes in their lobbies throughout the year.

Photo by Howard Owens. Officer Connor Borchert, Det. Jason Ivison, and Officer Peter Post.

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