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WROTB officials considering expansion of Hotel at Batavia Downs, approve 34 Rush renovations

By Mike Pettinella

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Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. officials are exploring an expansion of the Hotel at Batavia Downs, the 84-bed luxury inn that the public benefit company purchased from ADK Hospitality LLC of Buffalo in mid-2021.

“We’re taking a hard look to determine if we are going to do it, if it’s the right time and if the cost is right. We’re taking a cautious approach to make sure that it is something that we really need to do,” said Scott Kiedrowski, WROTB vice president/operations, following today’s board of directors meeting.

Kiedrowski and director Edward Morgan, chairperson of the Batavia Downs Operations Committee, reported on a meeting with David Hart, president of Hart Hotels, which runs the facility.

“Mr. Hart, along with Rick Likus (hotel general manager), spoke to the board about the operation is 2022, which was the first full year of ownership by Western Regional,” Kiedrowski said. “Our numbers are significantly headed in the right direction – very robust.

“The rooms are sold out on a regular basis; we have a lot of traffic coming, so we’re very pleased with the financials and his (Hart’s) report to the board of directors on just how well the hotel is doing.”

Kiedrowski said that expansion, if and when it was approved, would likely add to the north end of the existing hotel.

“We’re trying to see if the lobby should move and the extent of the expansion,” he said, mentioning that 42 more rooms are being considered.

Board Chair Richard Bianchi said he will select three directors to serve on a committee with senior management and hotel staff to look into expanding the hotel.

WROTB directors voted for the $8 million purchase in February 2021.

At the time, Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach said the corporation would be able to utilize 20-year tax-exempt bonds to project a savings of $600,000 while bundling the refinancing of a balloon payment due in October 2023 with the hotel purchase expenditure.

In November 2016, Batavia Downs Gaming and members of ADK Hospitality LLC, the hotel ownership team, cut the ribbon on the hotel. ADK Hospitality bought land from WROTB in March 2015 and invested $7.5 million to build the facility.

In other developments, directors:

  • Approved a resolution to install floor and wall base at the 34 Rush restaurant/bar, contracting with WNY Tile & Sone Corp. of North Tonawanda for an amount not to exceed $19,139.

The expense will be covered by a portion of a $1.2 million insurance settlement stemming from a flood on the second floor when a pipe burst in September 2022, Kiedrowski said.

“The water did leak downstairs into 34 Rush, and there is a lot of remodeling going on in that area so we decided to replace the floor that did receive some of that water,” he said. “We are expanding the kitchen, which is just a normal course of business to make it bigger. So, while doing that we figured we would also take care of the floor.”

  • Approved the purchase of a recreational trailer for use by performers during the Rockin’ The Downs Concert Series from Elizabeth Marino of Florida for $29,000.

Kiedrowski said a concert promoter informed management that the 2014 Forest River Salem Villa destination trailer would be available for purchase, thus fulfilling a need that previously was supplied at no charge by local companies.

“It’s for the performers to use right off stage,” he said. “It is well maintained. Now we have two of them and they are used for the acts.”

The board also approved paying up to $325,000 for the various bands and performers this summer. The eight-week concert series kicks off on June 23 with the Almost Queen tribute band.

Photo: 2016 file photo by Howard Owens

Committee chair implores Batavia Downs Gaming leadership to address outdoor smoking area

By Mike Pettinella

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The chairperson of the Batavia Downs Operations Committee this morning urged the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors and senior management to take a proactive approach toward the placement of an outdoor smoking area at the Park Road establishment.

Edward Morgan (photo at right), who represents Orleans County on the 17-member board, said the powers-that-be at Batavia Downs Gaming “need to move ahead” in case the smoking waiver now in force is terminated.

Currently, Batavia Downs Gaming has an indoor enclosed smoking room only.

“The two-year waiver could be gone any day,” Morgan said at today’s board meeting. “We need to be prepared, even if it’s just a small heated outside area with no machines in it.”

Morgan said he visited the Del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo recently to check out its smoking accommodations. He reported that a 50- by 150-foot area, featuring about 150 gaming machines, has been installed outside – “exposed to all the elements."

“From the looks of it, people seem to use it to smoke and then go back inside to play,” he said, adding that he saw about a dozen people in the area during his midweek midday stop.

Morgan pointed to Batavia Downs Gaming surveys that reveal “how important it is to some of our patrons to be able to smoke at a machine.”

Scott Kiedrowski, vice president/operations, said that although a tri-county commission has approved a waiver for another two years, “there’s always a fear that something might change in the health department regulations or state regulations and we could lose our smoking designation.”

“A lot of casinos in the area and throughout New York and other states might have some stringent smoking requirements,” he said. “They have some outdoor areas, called smoke gardens, if you will, that are heated and covered with games outside … to have the ability to have smoking on the property but not inside the building.”

Morgan said it would be prudent for the board and management to start looking at options, including the location of an outdoor smoking area.

“Even if it was outdoors and heated, with no machines,” he reiterated.

Law and Order: Woman from Rochester with several prior bench warrants, arrested again

By Howard B. Owens

Jessica L. Holtz, 39, of Austin Street, Rochester, was arrested on two bench warrants out of City Court. The first bench warrant stems from a petit larceny charge at Kwik Fill, 99 Jackson St., on Nov. 18, 2021. She was issued an appearance ticket at the time of her arrest on Nov. 27, 2021. She was subsequently arrested for alleged failure to appear on Feb. 2, 2022. She was arraigned in City Court and released. She was subsequently arrested on May 1 for alleged failure to appear. She was arrested again on Jan. 29 for alleged failure to appear and arraigned in Centralized Arraignment Court, release status unknown.   The second warrant stems from a petit larceny from a church on South Swan Street on Nov. 27, 2021. She was arrested on a warrant on Feb. 2, 2022, arraigned in City Court and released. She was arrested on May 1 and on Jan. 29 for alleged failure to appear on that charge. She was again arrested on March 11 on both warrants. She was arraigned in Centralized Arraignment Court. Her release status is unknown.

Alexandro Rodriguez, 26,  of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 1st. Rodriguez allegedly violated an order of protection during a disturbance at a location on East Main Street on March 9 at an undisclosed time. He was arraigned in City Court on his own recognizance.

James N. Laurich, 37, of Buffalo Road, East Aurora, is charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation 3rd, unlicensed driver, and open alcohol container in a motor vehicle. Laurich was arrested by Officer John Gombos on March 11 following an investigation into a disturbance at an undisclosed location and an undisclosed time. Laurich was stopped on Washington Avenue. He allegedly failed a field sobriety test. He was processed at Batavia PD and issued traffic tickets.

Carolyn L. Kurek, 80, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Kurek is accused of shoving another person during a disturbance on State Street at an undisclosed time on March 10. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Shawn Lewis Anderson, 42, of Linwood Road, Le Roy, is charged with DWI, unregistered motor vehicle, unlicensed operation, uninspected motor vehicle, and moving from lane unsafely.  Anderson was arrested following an investigation by Deputy Travis Demuth into a single-vehicle rollover accident on Linwood Road at 1:51 p.m. on March 14. Anderson was issued traffic tickets.

Steven Andrew Wasielewski, 39, of Phelps Road, Pembroke, is charged with criminal contempt 1st and assault 3rd. Wasielewski is accused of violating an order of protection and hitting another person, causing an injury at 10:07 p.m. on March 19 at a location on Phelps Road in Pembroke. His release status was not provided.

Mark Samuel Robbins, 41, of South Lake Avenue, Bergen, is charged with two counts of harassment 2nd.  Robbins is accused of shoving one person and striking another during a disturbance reported at 9:44 p.m. on March 16 at a location on South Lake Avenue, Bergen.  Robbins was issued an appearance ticket.

Grand Jury Report: Man accused of possessing gun on school grounds in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Delonta R. Curry is indicted on counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, a Class C violent felony, and criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds, a Class E felony. Curry is accused of possessing a weapon on school grounds in the City of Batavia on Feb. 22 with the intent to use the weapon against another person.

James J. Santiago Jr., is indicted on one count of failure to register a change of address as a sex offender, a Class E felony. Santiago is accused of failure to notify the NYS Division of Criminal Justice of a change of address within the required 10 days for a registered sex offender in July.

Isaac C. King is indicted on counts of criminal contempt in the first degree, a Class E felony and aggravated family offense, a Class E felony. King is accused of making repeated phone calls to a victim in violation of a court order in December in the Town of Pembroke.

Jarrod K. Fotathis is indicted on counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a Class E felony, conspiracy in the fifth degree, a Class A misdemeanor, criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree, a Class E felony, petit larceny, a Class A misdemeanor, and unlawful possession of personal identification in the third degree., a Class A misdemeanor. Fotathis is accused of stealing a credit card in the City of Batavia on Sept. 2. He is also accused of stealing cash from the same victim. In a second indictment, Fotathis is indicted on counts of identity theft in the second degree, a Class E felony and petit larceny, a Class A misdemeanor. Sometime on Feb. 3 or Feb. 4, Fotathis allegedly used a person's identity of a second victim to make purchases of $670.77 using that person's debit card. He also allegedly stole an Amazon Fire Stick. 

Jeffrey A. Hewitt is indicted on counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree, a Class D felony, aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree, a Class E felony, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a Class A misdemeanor, and driving while ability impaired by drugs. On Sept. 25, Hewitt was allegedly found in possession of a metal knuckle knife. On that date, he was allegedly driving a 2009 Infinity while his driving privileges were suspended or revoked. He was allegedly found in possession of cocaine. 

Rufus G. Johnson is indicted on a count of burglary in the third degree, a Class D felony, and two counts of petit larceny, a Class A misdemeanor. Johnson is accused of entering Walmart at 4133 Veterans Memorial Drive on Oct. 8 with the intent to commit a crime inside the building. He is accused of stealing property while inside the store.

Johnnie M. Waston is indicted on a count of criminal mischief in the third degree, a Class E felony. Waston is accused of damaging the windshield of a 2017 Nissan Murano belonging to another person on July 21.

Jason S. Neth is indicted on counts of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree, a Class E felony, and leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, a Class E felony.  Neth is accused of restraining a person under circumstances that exposed the person to risk of serious physical injury in the Town of Darien on June 11. He is accused of operating a motor vehicle and having caused serious physical injury to another person and leaving the scene.

Student art display included in Botts-Fiorito American Legion open house on Saturday

By Press Release

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Press release:

The American Legion Auxiliary will be displaying artwork by Wolcott Street School 4th through 6th graders during the Botts-Fiorito American Legion Post #576 open house.

It will be the kick off to our Poppy Program and the center of the auxiliary's outreach to the public to see what the Legion has to offer.

The posters will be on display at the Legion from March 25 until Memorial Day.

Applications available for Interagency Council $1K scholarships

By Press Release

Press release:

The Genesee County Interagency Council is pleased to announce that we will be offering a $1,000.00 scholarship for the Fall 2023 semester.  Those eligible will be High School Seniors living in and attending high school in Genesee County, in good academic standing, and majoring in Human Services, Social Work, Sociology or Psychology ONLY. 

Because the goal of this scholarship is to support those students who have a strong drive to contribute to the field of Human Services, special consideration will be given to those students who have already demonstrated a commitment to the field through their employment, volunteer, academic, and/or extracurricular pursuits. 

The deadline for applications is Friday, May 5.  The awardee will be notified by June 1. The award will either be presented at our June 21 picnic meeting, or the check will be mailed directly to the individual if the in-person meeting does not occur.

Applications:

GLOW Y swim team competes in state championships, Reilly Davis wins title

By Press Release

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Press release:

Twelve members of the GLOW YMCA Riptide Swim Team competed in the New York State YMCA Swimming Championships at the Burt Flickinger Aquatic Center in Buffalo on March 18 and 19.  For seven of these members, it was their first time competing on a swim team this season.  All members experienced significant time drops throughout the meet.

Award recipients include Lily Bellamy, 14th in the 50 Back; Tori Davis, 6th in the 50 Back and 12th in the 200 Free; Wyatt Fisher, 7th in the 50 Fly, 8th in the 100 IM, and 10th in the 50 Breast; Caleb Henning, 16th in the 500 Free; and Anna Pritchett, 16th in the 50 Free and 16th in the 100 Free.

Reilly Davis took home the NYS Championship in the 8u 25 Breast.  She also placed 2nd in the 100 IM, 3rd in the 100 Free, 3rd in the 50 Free, and 3rd in the 25 Free.

The 10u relay team of Sarah Pritchett, Reilly Davis, Lily Bellamy, and Matilda Nevinger took home 5th place in the 200 Free Relay and 6th place in the 200 Free Relay.  All of these members were new to the YMCA swim team this season.

The entire GLOW YMCA Riptide Swim Team had an amazing season.  They are looking for new members to join them next year. The Riptide swim team is coached by Jennifer Pritchett and Emily Hirsch.

Submitted photos.

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Reilly Davis

Accident reported on Route 77 at Judge Road in Alabama

By Howard B. Owens

An accident is reported at Judge and Alleghany roads in Alabama.

A person is reportedly down in the roadway.

Alabama Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 8:23 p.m.: This may be a car vs. pedestrian accident.  Dispatchers are checking on the availability of Mercy Flight.

UPDATE 8:28 p.m.: Traffic being shut down on Route 77.

UPDATE 10:47 p.m.: This was a fatal accident.  The family has been notified. The Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation.  The Crash Management Team is on scene. The accident is under investigation, and there no further information is available just yet. The name of the victim will be released later. 

Hawley speaks out against Hochul's 'housing compact' plan for muncipalities

By Press Release

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, C -Batavia) joined fellow Assembly Republican colleagues today to stand against the governor’s proposed housing compact plan, which would force urban building in otherwise non-urban environments like suburban communities and rural farmlands. Local governments would be unable to stop any zoning law oversteps in this proposal. Hawley finds the proposal outrageous.

“This state government’s solution to everything is to treat a problem with a broad brushstroke, which has led to many other problems being born,” Hawley said. “This housing compact proposal is another instance of a state government enforcing its will on localities whether they like it or not. It will undoubtedly lead to further problems like overcrowded schools, accelerated strains on local roads and bridges and the overtaking of land that could be dedicated to farming or small enterprise.”

Haxton Library offers weekly storytime program for preschoolers

By Press Release

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Press Release:

Preschoolers from 2 to 5 years of age are invited to a morning of activities, stories, rhymes, songs, and a craft each week at the Haxton Memorial Library, 3 North Pearl Street in Oakfield. Preschool Storytime takes place Monday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the Children’s Room.

The Haxton Library’s talented Mrs. J. fills Storytime with fun for preschoolers with each program centered around a theme like holidays, animals, colors, pets, seasons, or special events. The colorful Children’s Room at the library is the perfect setting, and it invites the children to explore the other activities and materials available at the library. 

In addition to Preschool Storytime, the Haxton Memorial Library also has Baby Storytime that is held on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Babies from 0 to 24 months are invited to share rhymes, songs and simple board books, followed by playtime. While Baby Storytime is designed for infants and toddlers, older children are always welcome to attend as well.

“Our Storytime programs are great favorites because they engage the children with activities and songs,” says Kim Gibson, Director at the Haxton Library. “We love to have our preschoolers and their families explore and enjoy the materials, books and programs that we offer at the Haxton.”

For more information about Preschool Storytime, Baby Storytime, or any of the programs at the Haxton Memorial Library, please call 585-948-9900.

The Haxton Memorial Library located at 3 North Pearl St., Oakfield, provides residents with a variety of programs, events and materials that are listed on the library’s website.

GC Legislature honors a dispatcher, a friend; fundraiser to help family

By Joanne Beck

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As the community was still mourning the loss of Genesee County Sheriff's dispatcher Andrew Merkel, Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein read some words in his memory during the Legislature meeting Wednesday evening.

Emergency Services Dispatcher Andrew K. Merkel unexpectedly passed away at the age of 38 on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

He served the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office since October 1, 2011. In addition to his regular duties as an Emergency Services Dispatcher, he was a Communications Training Officer and a board member of the Genesee County Sheriffs Employee Association.

Andy, as he was more popularly known, was also a former employee of Mercy EMS from 2009 to 2015 as an EMT, an Oakfield baseball coach and mentor and a longstanding member of the Alabama Fire Department.

Outside of serving his community, he spent his time operating Wings Cupped Retriever Services, his dog training company, which specialized in obedience, retriever and gun dog training. He also enjoyed duck hunting and the outdoors.

"On top of all that, he was a family man and a great friend," Stein said. "He loved spending time with his wife and three young children, and talking about their escapades. He contributed valuable guidance and tremendous support over many years to anyone who crossed his path."

A GoFundMe has been organized by members of the Genesee County Sheriffs Association. All money raised will be given directly to Andrew Merkel's family, Stein said.

For more information, go to  https://gofund.me/8e7f0f3a for the Merkel Family Donation Fund. Or feel free to donate by mail to GCSEA, PO Box 46, Batavia, NY, 14021.

Video Sponsor
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Video: Andy Merkel featured in a video about the Retriever Hunting Challenge.

Top photo: By Howard Owens. Andy Merkel at Little League opening day in Oakfield in 2017. Inset photo, submitted. 

Jerome Foundation announces William F. Brown Jr. scholarship

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Jerome Foundation is sponsoring the William F. Brown Jr. Scholarship. The award is given in memory of the late William F. Brown Jr., noted author, broadcaster, and journalist who contributed greatly to the quality of life in Genesee County through his writing and as a member of numerous community and civic organizations.

An annual $1,000 scholarship for four years for a total of $4,000 will be given to a deserving Senior graduating from a Genesee County School whose intention is to pursue a career in the field of journalism, marketing, communication or public relations (in print, radio, television or digital media).

Applications for the scholarship have been sent to area High School Counselors or can be found at thejeromefoundation.org. Applications are due May 8,2023 and can be mailed to The Jerome Foundation, P.O. Box 249, Batavia, NY, 14021.

If further information is needed, contact Chris Fix at thejeromefoundation@gmail.com or 585-356-3419.

BDC expands land portfolio for redevelopment

By Joanne Beck

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Seven months after approving the acquisition of property between Tonawanda Creek and Evans Street, Batavia Development Corporation received the word it hoped for: yes.

A somewhat unusual sale, this one involved the Town of Batavia, which owned the 4.26-acre parcel tucked behind and alongside the McCarthy ice arena.

Batavia Town Board approved the sale of land this week, and agreed to sell it to BDC for $1. It falls under the name Creek Park LLC, which is a subdivision of BDC, and will be marketed for land development. That is, after the  unknowns are known, she said.

“First step after closing is to initiate the Phase II sampling, which is necessary for determining if there is a presence of any pollutants,” Hathaway said Wednesday. “Once results of the sampling are received, the BDC will have a pathway to whether the parcel is to be marketed as a Greenfield or a Brownfield; each offering different developer incentives.”

An example is Savarino Companies, which went through Creek Park LLC for its Ellicott Station housing project. BDC worked to get that project into a Brownfield development, which is identified as potentially needing remediation to remove toxic materials, and also comes with financial incentives for doing so.

As for the town property, the BDC has not yet closed on it.

“The conveyance was approved by the Town of Batavia and is currently in the Permissive Referendum period,” she said. “This period will expire on April 18; an anticipated closing is to follow as soon as can be scheduled.”

BDC uses the city of Batavia’s planning initiatives “as our roadmap,” Hathaway said, and one is the Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) study and program. Since the Creek Park area is vacant and underutilized, she said, the BOA has identified it as a “prime area” for redevelopment.

“The BOA program focuses on adaptive re-use of a site through environmental assessments, followed by clean-up efforts should the parcel be determined a Brownfield,” she said. “The Creek Park acquisition follows the mission of the BDC to encourage reuse of underutilized real estate.”

BDC voted to pursue purchasing the town property in August 2022.

Map provided by BDC.

Batavia organizers join forces for April 1 Easter bunny event

By Joanne Beck

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When it comes to springtime fun in Batavia, everyone seems to be, ahem, hopping on board.

Batavia First Presbyterian Church recently announced its annual Easter egg hunt, brunch and visit from the Easter bunny beginning at 11 a.m. April 1 at 300 East Main St., Batavia.

And then, the church, led by Rev. Roula Alkhouri, and organizers of the Batavia Development Corporation Indoor Market, led by Director Tammy Hathaway, partnered to double the fun.

The market will be open with assorted vendors inside the City Centre concourse, plus there will be family-friendly activities such as face painting, a coloring contest, multiple games, and a bounce house.

The Easter Bunny is planning to look dapper and have pictures taken with visiting families, and perhaps also play some games. Easter Bunny fun begins at 11 a.m. at both venues and ends at 12:30 p.m.

Both sites will offer a passport for children to find specific Easter Bunny helpers to obtain stamps on their passports. Each stamp will earn the child an entry ticket for a chance to win an Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle shop gift certificate, Hathaway said.

Vendors are collaborating on a basket to raffle off during the event, and tickets and more details will be available that day at the market information table.

Pat Burk of Batavia Players, whose home theater is at City Centre, jumped on board as well. He said that he invited the Boy Scouts to participate and conduct their candy sale, and “I think we are doing popcorn and something else that day as well,” Burk said.

Add in some enthusiastic shoppers and energetic kids, and it’s “a recipe for a fantastically fun Saturday,” Hathaway said.

The indoor market’s hours are 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the downtown Batavia City Centre. 

File photo of the Easter Bunny during a past visit to Main Street, Batavia. 

Darien Lake hosting hiring event on Saturday

By Press Release

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Press release:

Six Flags Darien Lake is looking for 1,000 energetic and motivated team members who want to work where they play! From first-time job seekers to retirees looking for part-time work, Six Flags has something for everyone, there are positions available across multiple departments, including lifeguards, ride operators, food service, entertainment, security, admissions, retail, and camping, we offer flexible schedules and competitive wages. Most positions are available for applicants 16 years old and up, with select opportunities for candidates 14 years old and up.

With FREE park admission for team members AND a friend, discounts on food, beverage and retail, employee-exclusive events and more, there is a lot to be THRILLED about when working at Six Flags Darien Lake!  

All interested candidates are encouraged to attend our spring on-site hiring event this Saturday, March 25, from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at the Six Flags Darien Lake Hotel. Applicants should bring their Social Security Card and a current Photo ID with proof of age OR a school ID & Birth Certificate.

Applicants can also apply online at any time by visiting sixflags.com/darienlake/jobs. For questions, call Six Flags Darien Lakes Human Resources office at 585 599 5108, Monday – Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Photo: File photo.

Spring burn ban in effect through May 14

By Press Release

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Press release:

With spring just around the corner and everyone just itching to get outside and get their yards cleaned up, we may need to be reminded about the open burn regulations in New York State.   

New York State enacted strict restrictions on open burning to help reduce wildfire risk, protect lives and property and reduce air pollution. The regulations allow residential brush fires in towns with fewer than 20,000 residents during most of the year, but prohibit such burning in spring when most wildfires occur.

The annual statewide ban that prohibits residential brush burning begins on March 16 and runs through May 14.  The DEC has enforced this burn ban since 2009, which has decreased the number of wildfires by more than 40%.

Exceptions to this ban include:

  • Campfires or any other outdoor fires less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in length, width or diameter are allowed.
  • Small cooking fires.
  • Ceremonial or celebratory bonfires.
    • Disposal of flags or religious items in a small-sized fire, if it is not otherwise prohibited by law or regulation.
  • Only charcoal or dry, clean, untreated or unpainted wood can be burned.
  • Fires cannot be left unattended and must be fully extinguished.

Remember, burning trash is illegal statewide in all cases.  It is unhealthy, un-neighborly and unnecessary. It causes serious health concerns and diseases, contaminated soil and discomfort for others enjoying the outdoors or their own property.

For more information about the open burn regulation, visit the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management Website https://www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/ems/index.php  or the NYS DEC website https://www.dec.ny.gov/press/124884.html

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens

GCC seeks community feedback on draft strategic plan

By Press Release

Press release:

Attention community members! Genesee Community College has recently unveiled a draft of its 2023-2028 Strategic Plan, "Connect | Include | Evolve", which aims to guide the College in meeting the needs of the local, regional and global community for the next five years.

This comprehensive plan is made up of strategic priorities and core objectives that will serve as a guide to achieving key performance indicators. With an emphasis on helping students attain their educational goals, the plan was developed based on feedback received from six separate college forums, where around 150 individuals participated including community members, faculty, staff, students and administration. These forums produced ideas based on critical data relating to current remediation rates, changing GLOW region demographics, completion rates, funding rates and enrollment trends.

Over the next five years, GCC plans to use this Strategic Plan as a dynamic document to facilitate the development and alignment of annual plans of achievement for each division within the college. This will bring GCC closer to achieving its mission.

As GCC continues to build on its successes and strives to create new collaborative partnerships, innovative academic programs, and foster an inclusive culture that promotes academic excellence, continuous improvement, and professional development, community input is essential. Therefore, the college invites community members to provide their feedback on the draft plan, which can be submitted at https://www.genesee.edu/about/offices-departments/administration/strategic-planning-23/.

Tenney announces annual Congressional Art Competition for NY-24

By Press Release

Press release:

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) today invited High School students from New York’s 24th district to participate in the 2023 Congressional Art Competition. The contest winner will have their artwork displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year.

Started in 1982 by members of the U.S. House of Representatives, High School students across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories are invited to participate in a nationwide annual art competition. Since its creation, over 650,000 high school students have submitted their artwork to the contest. 

“I’m pleased to announce the 2023 Congressional Art Competition for students across New York’s 24th District,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “This competition is an incredible way for students to showcase their artistic abilities. Every year, I am in awe of the talent of the students in our district, and I look forward to seeing all the great artwork that is submitted this year.” 

The deadline to submit artwork to be judged by members of the local art community will be Friday, April 21, 2023.

Additional information about the competition, including guidelines and student release forms required to participate in the 2023 competition, can be found at https://tenney.house.gov/services/art-competition or by calling Tenney’s District office at (716) 514-5130.

Conundrum of aging: growing need and worker shortage

By Joanne Beck

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You live and work and hope to be healthy enough to remain at home in those disputable golden years.

Yet, it far too often becomes a conundrum of finances if you’re not. How do you afford to hire a home health aide, and if you can, will there be one available?

New York State reportedly has the largest shortage of these aides in the country, and there’s been an ongoing battle of wages that’s not likely to go away. Yes, Gov. Kathy Hochul granted a much-needed $3 increase in last year’s budget in an effort to catch up with the flagging workers’ wages from a few stagnant years.

And in this year’s budget, advocates and agencies are rearing the bullhorns once again to appeal Hochul’s proposal to eventually prevent home health aides’ wages from ever exceeding a maximum, thereby remaining as a bottom minimum wage earner.

Hochul’s budget plan calls for the minimum wage, which is currently $14.20, to be indexed to inflation and capped at 3 percent annually. Home care advocates argue if the minimum wage reaches $18, direct care jobs would once again become low-wage positions and make it difficult for the state to attract new workers to the field. 

Issued from the New York Caring Majority: “As New York’s population ages and the home care worker shortage grows, Governor Hochul is throwing gasoline on a fire” the organization said in a statement. “This budget will ensure the state’s home care shortage will only deepen in the years to come.”

While that’s an umbrella agency for the state, the issue is not any less crucial right here in Genesee County. Office for the Aging Director Diana Fox has said previously that low wages and the demands of the job have meant waiting lists for her agency’s clients.

Home care workers perform a variety of tasks, including personal care such as bathing, assisting with toileting, dressing, food prep, some housekeeping, and maybe errands, it depends on the person’s needs, Fox said.

Those needs are only growing, she said.

“Fair pay for home care workers is a very important issue as the amount that workers currently make is not fair considering the responsibilities that they have and the vulnerable population they are assisting,” Fox said to The Batavian. “Locally, statewide and nationally, there are not enough home care workers to cover the demand. The Genesee County Office for the Aging provides casework staff that do assessments for people that utilize our services to determine if someone is eligible for such assistance, and we have a waitlist for home health workers.

“Given that, our aging population is continuing to increase. I don’t see the need likely to go down. I think that it takes special, committed people to do this kind of work, and while wages alone may not draw people to the field, it is important for people to have a livable wage and to be compensated in a way that supports them to stay in the field.”

And there’s the conundrum: A growing older population in need of care and the need for a larger workforce to care for them. A group of older adults visited Albany on Monday to deliver more than 8,000 letters demanding that the House and Senate reject the governor’s proposed budget and instead move to raise home care wages.

There was not a local contingent in Albany, but OFA has signed on to be part of advocacy efforts, Fox said. So there’s an avenue to help support the cause for aging.

There is also the other end of having to pay for workers, which becomes an issue of having enough personal savings or using insurance, if anything will even cover this need (many will not). And then build a network to find workers because they won’t just be waiting for you. This is not something to be left for those golden years, as decisions only become harder.

Often it will take a crisis to force the decision, and being proactive is really the better way to go. This reporter knows all about it, and the situation can be sad, scary, confusing, and even maddening at times. Prepare. Research. Get answers. Have a plan.

There are programs and resources available at OFA, YMCA GLOW, Richmond Memorial Library, AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, and your medical practitioner for maintaining one’s mental, financial and physical health.

For more information from OFA, call 585-343-1611.

File Photo of a senior home visit program through Genesee County OFA.

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