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BHS auditorium to get a new name

By Joanne Beck

It was the spring of 1927 when a “very unique”assembly program took place at Batavia High School, Patti Pacino says.

Frank E. Owen had just begun as music director, and he asked students to “sing with me.” Not only did they sing, but the school newspaper described it as something to behold, all due to Owen’s incredible influence, Pacino said.

“Because of his strength and excellence, a score of music groups have grown here,” Pacino, a city resident and councilwoman, said during the Batavia City Schools board meeting Thursday. “I’m here to represent hundreds of alumni, asking you to allow us to honor the man who started here at Batavia High School by naming the BHS auditorium after Frank E. Owen, as a show of respect and thanks.”

The board previously had a discussion about the merit of naming a piece of school property after someone notable. Most board members voiced support of the idea and Board President Alice Benedict opposed it. Owen had been suggested for the high school auditorium, and the public was invited to weigh in on the decision. His prominence has been recognized with a Musicians of Note Award in 2019 and a scholarship in his name for seniors pursuing a degree in music.

Upon his arrival, Owen formed and inspired a girls and a boys glee club, bands, an orchestra, a drumline, musical theater shows and a host of aspiring musicians throughout his time to present day, Pacino said. She wasn’t alone in her zeal to see Owen honored in this way. Melzie Case, a Batavia Middle School music teacher, and middle school band director Sean Williams each endorsed Owen as an appropriate candidate for the auditorium name.

Although Case had never met Owen — he was music director from 1927 to 1964 — she’s had a sense of who he was.

“I can feel Frank E. Owen’s work and spirit in our music department today,” she said. “(Naming the auditorium after him) will allow us to honor all past, present and future musicians.”

Williams first gave a brief history lesson on other well-known city icons, such as VanDetta Stadium named as a “fantastic testament” to the positive accomplishments of Coach Daniel VanDetta. Williams then turned to Owen. “This man graced us for 27 years,” Williams said. He added that it would be only fitting to honor him as so many athletic coaches and athletes have been recognized with the Athletic Hall of Fame.

The board required no more discussion when it came time to vote. The move was approved by a vote of yes from Barbara Bowman, Jennifer Lendvay, Michelle Humes, John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle, and the lone no vote from Benedict. Benedict had previously said she wasn’t against Owen but did not agree that pieces of school property should be named after a particular person. 

She announced the board's next move after the vote.

“We will be dedicating the auditorium to Frank E. Owen,” she said.

Photos: Pavilion seniors watch a simulated fatal DWI accident in advance of prom night

By Howard B. Owens

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Pavilion High School Seniors were asked today to imagine what it would be like to do something that would change their lives and the lives of dozens and dozens of other people.

They were asked to imagine taking another life, however unintentionally, perhaps the life of a fellow classmate, by driving drunk.

Such a decision would not only cost them their driver's license along with thousands in fines and perhaps send them to prison; they would live for the rest of their lives with the knowledge that something they did ended the life of another human being.

That decision would also bring grief to the lives of the families of their victim, and perhaps victims, and hardships and disruptions to the lives of everybody else impacted by that decision.

That was the message today of a Senior Prom DWI Drill at Pavilion High School sponsored by Pavilion Volunteer Fire Department and helped by volunteers from Stafford, Bethany, Wyoming, and Elba, along with Mercy EMS, the Sheriff's Office, and Genesee County emergency dispatches.

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Photos by Howard Owens.

Scrap metal fundraiser Saturday to benefit Le Roy Ambulance

By Press Release

Press release:

Le Roy Ambulance Service Inc. will be partnering with Scofield Transfer and Recycling to host a scrap metal collection fundraiser! On May 7, 2022 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. there will be several roll-off dumpsters located at Le Roy Ambulance, 1 Tountas Ave in Le Roy, to collect all unwanted scrap metal. Clean out your garage, shed, basement, etc., of all old and unwanted metal items and drop them off for disposal at no cost! Examples of items you can drop off include old appliances, gas grills, bikes, hot water tanks, and anything else made of metal. Volunteers will be on hand to assist with unloading your vehicle! Items that cannot be accepted are microwaves, gas tanks, paint cans, food cans, or any electronics. For more information, please contact 585-343-8383. 

Sheila Harding named assistant director of prevention at GCASA

By Press Release

Press release:

With a track record of success as an advocate for youth, Sheila Harding is equipped to help facilitate drug and alcohol awareness programs as the assistant director of Prevention at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

“Sheila demonstrated her abilities to connect with young people as a prevention educator at GCASA for the past seven years,” said Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Prevention. “We’re fortunate that she has accepted the assistant director position. Parents and students in Genesee and Orleans counties will be well served by her ability to lead the department.”

Harding oversees seven prevention educators who present evidence-based programming in five Genesee County schools – Batavia, Le Roy, Byron-Bergen, Oakfield-Alabama, Notre Dame and Genesee Valley BOCES – and two Orleans County schools – Medina and Albion.

“We are in these schools from one to four days a week, offering specific programs that illustrate the dangers of illegal substance use, while also providing student screenings, referral services and other presentations,” Harding said. “Our educators also are available when requested by schools that we do not have contracts with.”

Evidence-based programs offered by GCASA include Teen Intervene, Too Good for Drugs, Too Good for Violence, Active Parenting Now and Active Parenting of Teens. Community presentations include the DWI Victim Impact Panel, Responsible Server Training, Narcan and Opioid Overdose Prevention Training, Accountability Circles, Understanding Addiction and Gambling Prevention.

Harding said that reaching parents continues to be a priority.

“Community outreach, especially finding avenues and ways to communicate with parents, is crucial,” she said. “Currently, we participate in required parent meetings at the schools, but we are looking to develop other opportunities to help parents learn and understand the trends concerning alcohol, drugs and tobacco use.”

Harding was employed as a Child Protective Services caseworker at Genesee County Department of Social Services for 12 years prior to working at GCASA. She has a bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Brockport State College.

An Oakfield resident, Harding and her husband, Tyler Harding, have two daughters – Kayla, a junior, and Paige, a freshman, at Oakfield-Alabama Central School.

For more information about substance use prevention efforts at GCASA, contact Harding at 585-815-1883.

Law and Order: Bethany man accused of possessing fentanyl

By Howard B. Owens

Jason T. Knickerbocker, 30, of Bethany, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, DWAI combined influence of drugs, operating a motor vehicle with its registration suspended, uninspected motor vehicle, and driving a motor vehicle without insurance. Knickerbocker was reportedly found in a motor vehicle in a parking lot on West Main Street at 11:55 a.m. on Feb. 7 under the influence of drugs. Knickerbocker was allegedly found in possession of several bags of fentanyl. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Stephen Matthew Smith, 33, of Pleasant Street, Le Roy, is charged with failure to register sex offender change of address. He was charged with a Class D felony because of a prior conviction on the same charge. He was arraigned in Town of Le Roy Court and jailed without bail.

Daniel Norstrand, 66, of Church Street, Le Roy, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd and menacing 3rd. Norstrand was allegedly involved in a disturbance on Church Street at 8:56 p.m. April 28. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Jacklyn Ann Collins, 33, no address provided, is charged with petit larceny. Collins is accused of shoplifting from Tops Market in Le Roy at 4:14 p.m. April 26. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Cheyanne Alexis Lauer, 26, of Main Road, Pembroke, is charged with petit larceny. Laura is accused of skip-scanning items at a retailer on Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia (the address and name of the retailer were not included in the press release; The Batavian has submitted a public-information request for release of the information). UPDATE: The location was Walmart, 4133 Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia.

Lazeuia D. Washington, 44, of Batavia, is charged with trespass and harassment 2nd. Washington is accused of trespassing at a business on West Main Street, Batavia, and engaging in an altercation at 9:28 p.m. April 24. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Kyle J. Schroeder, 25, of Pavilion, is charged with criminal trespass 2nd and petit larceny. Schroeder is accused of making forced entry into a residence on Liberty Street at 12:35 p.m. April 23, remaining in the residence and stealing a pack of cigarettes. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Booker T. Ricks, 50, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd and endangering the welfare of a child. Ricks is accused of not adequately supervising his son and allowing him to run outside and into North Lyon Street before being found by a passerby. An order of protection was issued and Ricks received an appearance ticket.

Jolene Y. Stevens, 33, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear. Stevens was arraigned in City Court and released on her own recognizance.  Stevens also charged with trespass at the Red Roof Inn in the Town of Batavia at 9:26 a.m. on April 30. She was released on an appearance ticket.

John A. Cabrera, Jr., 32, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd. Cabrera is accused of using Facebook Messenger at 11:22 p.m. on April 22 to send a message to a person he was ordered not to contact. Cabrera was issued an appearance ticket.

Pedro L. Diaz, 38, of Batavia, charged with harassment 2nd. Diaz is accused of punching another person in the chest and stomach at 5:37 p.m. April 24.  He was issued an appearance ticket.

Feyza G. Osmancikli, 27, of Batavia, petit larceny. Osmancikli is accused of stealing merchandise from a business on Ellicott Street at 6:47 p.m. April 21. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Macella F. Greene, 37, of Bliss, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, felony DWAI drugs, unregistered motor vehicle; unlicensed operator, and moved from lane unsafely. Batavia patrols responded to a report of a vehicle operating erratically when entering the City at 6:10 p.m. on April 22.  Greene was issued an appearance ticket.

Brian M. Raphael, 34, of Batavia, is charged with failure to appear. Raphael is accused of failing to appear on an appearance ticket for an alleged crime on March 11. He issued an appearance ticket and turned over to the Sheriff's Office, which also had a warrant for his arrest.

Phillip P. Heale, 43, of Batavia, is charged with trespass. Heale is accused of trespassing in Dollar General at 2:13 p.m. on April 26.  He was issued an appearance ticket. 

Jonah Harmon Schnettler, 23, of Boneset Trail, North Chili, is charged with DWI and driving with BAC .08 or greater.  Schnettler was stopped at 4:29 a.m. May 1 on Townline Road in Bergen by Deputy David Moore. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Amanda Marilyn Jones, 34, no address provided, is charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Jones was arrested on a warrant, arraigned in Le Roy Town Court, and released.

Joshua Leneir Webster, 35, of West Main Street, Le Roy, is charged with four counts of criminal contempt 2nd. Webster was arrested on a warrant by Le Roy PD. Webster was arranged in Le Roy Town Court and released under supervision. Webster is also charged with criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, menacing 2nd, criminal contempt 2nd, criminal contempt 1st, and strangulation 2nd. The charges stem from an incident reported at 12:06 p.m. on May 1.

Ethelwoldo Galindez, 54, of Alma Avenue, Buffalo, is charged with petit larceny, conspiracy 6th, and driving without a license. William Anthony Lewis, 36, of Atlantic Street, Sloan, is charged with petit larceny and conspiracy 6th. Galindez and Lewis are accused of shoplifting from Dick's Sporting Goods in the Town of Batavia. Both were released on appearance tickets.

Alan J. Worgo, 59, of Albion,  is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Worgo was stopped by state police in the town of Alabama at 8:24 p.m. May 1. He was released to a third-party.

Sheriff's Office recognizes COs for Corrections Officers Week

By Press Release
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Press release:

On May 5, 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first full week of May would be observed as National Correctional Officers’ Week in recognition of the important role these officers play in our criminal justice system.

The position of Correctional Officer, once considered merely that of a “guard,” has become increasingly more complex and demanding, involving simultaneously custodial, supervisory, rehabilitation, and counseling roles, and that complexity continues to grow. 

The lights on the Old County Courthouse cupola will change red, white and blue to acknowledge this week.  Also, the Genesee County Legislature issued a proclamation at last week’s April 27 meeting recognizing May 1 – 7, 2022, as National Correctional Officers’ Week. 

“The important and difficult role Correctional Officers fulfill is not always recognized or realized by the general public,” stated William A. Sheron, Jr.  “If you know a Correctional Officer, please join me in thanking these men and women for the exceptional service they provide every day.”

GCASA ranked as one of the best companies to work for in NY

By Press Release

Press release:

Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse continues to be recognized as one of the state’s “best companies to work for.”

For the fifth consecutive year, the New York State Society for Human Resource Management (NYS-SHRM) has included the Batavia-based substance use treatment, prevention and recovery agency on its list of Best Companies to Work for in New York.

GCASA was one of 23 companies selected in the medium employers’ category (100-249 employees) for 2022. Additionally, 27 small employers (15-99 employees) and 25 large employers (250 or more employees) were honored at a reception last month in Albany.

“It is truly an honor to be selected for a fifth straight year,” said GCASA Executive Director John Bennett. “We were one of four agencies certified by the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, with the other three in the large employer category. We actually ranked higher than those other three. This is a testament to our employees, who have shown remarkable resilience and commitment to their profession over a challenging last couple of years.”

To be considered for participation, companies had to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be a for-profit, not-for-profit business or government entity;
  • Be a publicly or privately held business;
  • Have a facility in the state of New York;
  • Have at least 15 employees working in New York; and
  • Must be in business for a minimum of 1 year.

Companies from across the state entered the two-part survey process to determine the Best Companies to Work for in New York. The first part consisted of evaluating each nominated company's policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. This part was worth approximately 25 percent of the total evaluation.

The second part consisted of a survey to measure the employee experience. This part was worth approximately 75 percent of the total. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final rankings.

Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in New York and also analyzed the data and used their expertise to determine the final rankings.

For more information on the Best Companies to Work for in New York program, visit www.BestCompaniesNY.com.

BHS to honor Musicians of Note on May 13

By Press Release

Press release:

Musicians of Note, an event honoring past Batavia High School graduates who have made an impact in music, will host its 3rd annual ceremony on Friday, May 13, 2022, in the Batavia High School Auditorium at 7:00 pm. 

Honorees will be recognized with a video presentation and performance ensembles to celebrate their achievements. A plaque featuring their accomplishments will be displayed on the new Musicians of Note wall at Batavia High School. 

This year’s five recipients of the 3rd annual Musician of Note Award include: 

Lyle Mark: Class of 1938,  

  • US Navy, WWII, Leader of Mellville, Rhode Island Naval Base Dance Band
  • 27-year career as music director for Elba Central School
  • A 34-year member of Genesee Symphony
  • A more than 50-year member of Batavia Concert Band
  • Private music instructor and mentor to area students and musicians

Beth Ann Lambein Hooker: Class of 1963  

  • Julia E. Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, BS Music Education-Voice Major, graduated 1967
  • Taught Grades K-12 Vocal Music Oak field-Alabama, Baldwinsville & LeRoy, New York 33 Years (1967-2000)
  • Methodist Church Youth & Sanctuary Choir Director (16 Years)
  • Directed/Produced/Appeared in 132 Theatrical Productions over 54 years (1968-2022)

Mark Hoerbelt: Class of 1986

  • Baritone In All-State Chorus (1985)
  • Area All-State Chorus and Orchestra (violin) (1983-1985) 
  • Teacher at Alexander High School/Middle School (2005-present) 
  • Music minister at Resurrection Parish (1999-present)
  • Genesee Chorale conductor (2000-2005) 

Jacqueline Siegel McLean: Class of 2002

  • Choir Director at Newfield Central School District (2006-2010)
  • Choir Director at LeRoy Central School District (2010-present)
  • Golden Apple Award Recipient 2018
  • LeRoy Musical Artistic Director of Stars of Tomorrow, award-winning musical program (2010-present)\
  • Proud music educator of several Conference All-State, Area All-State, and All-County students  (2006-present)

Cindy Baldwin: Retired Music Teacher BCSD 1984-2011

  • Batavia String Teacher (1984-2011)
  • Department Chair (2001-2011)
  • NYSCAME President (2006-07)
  • RPO String Educator Of The Year (2008)
  • Active Performer (1964-present)

Tickets for the May 13 event are on sale in the Main Office at Batavia High School for $10. You may also email Jane Haggett at jhaggett@bataviacsd.org to reserve your tickets, which will be available at the will-call table the night of the event. 

Genesee County residents complete broadband surveys

By Press Release

Press release:

Nearly 1,300 Genesee County residents participated in a statewide broadband survey. Locally, the Genesee County Planning Department established a goal of 5% participation. However, Genesee County residents surpassed that goal and finished at a participation rate of 5.3%.

New York State launched its “Mapping Survey to Examine Quality and Availability of Broadband Across the State” in September 2021 and the survey closed in March 2022.

“The Department of Planning extends our thanks to all of the residents who participated in the survey. Genesee County had one of the best response rates among 62 counties across the state,” said Felipe A. Oltramari, director of the Genesee County Department of Planning. “The data collected will help provide a clearer picture and understanding of broadband availability, quality, and affordability in Genesee County.  Broadband access and reliability are important economic drivers, especially for our small businesses.”

Batavia Downs partnered with Genesee County to offer residents completing the survey a chance to win a complimentary, “Dine, Stay & Play Package”. The package included a one-night stay for two at the Hotel at Batavia Downs and $50 towards a meal at Fortune’s restaurant. Byron residents Amada Jack and Nicholas Weibel were the lucky winners.

“On behalf of Genesee County, our thanks go out to Batavia Downs for their generous sponsorship package and to the Genesee Chamber of Commerce for helping us spread the word about the survey throughout the business community,” Oltramari said.  “There is no doubt these efforts helped us surpass our participation rate goal.”

BSA Spring Art Show on display at Richmond, opening reception Tuesday

By Press Release

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Press release:

The Batavia Society of Artists' Member Spring Art Show is in the Richmond Memorial Library's Gallery Room, 19 Ross St., Batavia  till May 26th.  There are 15 artists contributing to the show.  We are showcasing Rick Ellingham as our Featured Artist in this show. There are a total of 60 pieces of art.  The Public is invited to the Free Opening Reception on Tuesday May 10th, 6:30 - 8pm.  The artwork is being Judged by Retired Middle School Art Teacher Kathy Schwank.  Winners will be announced at the opening reception.

We are also having a Silent Auction on a painting donated to the Batavia Society of Artists by Adrian Morris.  He painted this while demonstrating Acrylic Slap & Dash Landscape at our February demo.

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France-based equity firm acquires portion of Empire Access

By Howard B. Owens

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A publically traded private equity firm based in France has acquired a portion of Empire Access, a Prattsburgh-based broadband company that provides Internet and TV service to several WNY communities, including Batavia and Le Roy.

It's unclear from the news release how much of a stake in the company Antin Infrastructure Partners acquired.

The release stated that the Wagner family, which has controlled Empire since 1946, will retain an ownership stake in the company and Brian Wagner will remain on the company’s board of directors. Jim Baase, Empire’s COO, will become CEO.

Antin's stock is traded in the European Union and the company reported more than $48 million in revenue last year and has more than $23 billion in assets.

Founded in 1896 in Prattsburgh, New York, Empire offers high-speed FTTP ("fiber to the premises") internet, voice, and digital TV services.

The company reportedly manages a network of 1,280 fiber route miles servicing more than 92,000 addresses and 24,000 customers.

Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close in late 2022, subject to obtaining regulatory approvals.

“Empire is one of the preeminent FTTP providers in the regions we serve and the Empire-Antin partnership will enable us to grow more quickly," said Baase, quoted in the release. "With still a substantial opportunity ahead, we are excited to partner with Antin to help secure that future growth and provide high-speed broadband access to consumers across our footprint.”

Kevin Genieser, Senior Partner at Antin, promised growth for Empire with his company's investment. 

"Empire is uniquely positioned to leverage its expansive fiber network to provide broadband services to underserved parts of New York and Pennsylvania," Genieser said.

Citizens, CIT (a division of First Citizens Bank), and Webster Bank acted as lead arrangers on the debt financing for the transaction.

Twenty moms caring for children with special needs, medical issues pampered in Le Roy

By Howard B. Owens

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This past weekend twenty moms from the community who are caregivers to medically complex or special needs children were pampered at Personal Preference Salon and Spa in Le Roy, courtesy the non-profits Hope Rises and David's Refuge.

"So often, moms do not take the time for relaxation, and for moms of children who are medically complex or have special needs, it makes it that much harder to step away for self-care," said Hope Rises Founder Kate Glaser. "This was a great way for us to pour back into their cups and the smiles on their faces all day was the perfect result of the hard work and devotion that went into this."

Each mom received pampering services, including massages, pedicures, paraffin hand dips, manicures, makeup, hair style, meditation, and a brunch ahead of Mother's Day.  The charities also provided a goodie bag of gifts.

All of the moms are caretakers of a child or children who either have a life-threatening medical condition, are medically complex or have special needs.

Glaser said this was the first such event for Hope Rises but that the organization plans to do it or something similar again.

Photos and information submitted by Kate Glaser.

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Batavia City Schools budget presentation, board candidates on agenda

By Joanne Beck

As much as Michelle Humes would have liked a zero percent tax increase, she also realizes what comes first.

“We have to keep in mind that our students are the priority,” said Humes, a Batavia City Schools board member. “The approved budget keeps all of our existing programs intact while recognizing that there are ongoing financial challenges due to the rising costs our country is facing.”

She is a city homeowner who is also facing rising assessments and cost of living hikes, she said, but she voted for the proposed $54.8 million budget and related 1 percent tax levy increase as a good move for district residents. Echoing what other board  members have said, the decision was not an easy one, Humes said.

“We spent many hours reviewing the budget and working with Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski analyzing the numbers. I voted to approve the budget because of the hard work of Mr. Smith and Mr. Rozanski in getting the increase down to 1 percent,” she said. I feel that a 1 percent increase after having a zero percent increase in five out of the last 10 years is a win for the community, especially since it is still below our tax cap of 1.62 percent. I fully support our BOE decision to approve this budget.’ 

Given that the preliminary budget had a 5.5 percent levy increase to support it, Humes and fellow board members have expressed relief that it’s now down to 1 percent. That is not only a win for the community, Humes said, but “most importantly for our students.”

District residents will have an opportunity to hear the budget presentation and ask questions at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at Batavia High School, 260 State St., Batavia. Those wanting to speak do not need to have signed up before the meeting date.

There will also be time to meet Board of Education candidates Korrine Anderson, a newcomer vying for one of three seats; and incumbents John Marucci and Chezeray Rolle. Board member Michelle Humes is not seeking re-election.

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Korrine Anderson, center, in a photo used in her election materials. 

A Le Roy High School graduate, Anderson has a bachelors in science from Elmira College, is a health and wellness coach and is ready “to give back in another way” besides volunteering for parent groups throughout her children’s time in elementary and middle schools, she says. She and her husband Michael have three children, Zachary, Aidan and Ava.

“I know what it involves to be an effective member. I am looking to be a part of this side of the education system,” she said in the district’s newsletter. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to learn and share more of what the school board does to the parents and neighbors and community I know. I am so ready to serve.”

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John Marucci. Photo from BCSD Board of Education page

Marucci is currently the board vice president, having served three years, and has “thoroughly enjoyed serving the students, parents and staff of the BCSD,” he said in the newsletter. Marucci’s son Kaden is a senior and Damien a freshman, while two older step-sons are graduates of Batavia High School. A customer service rep with Orcon Industries, he would like to continue serving students as a member of the board, and he believes “we have some unfinished business.”

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Chezeray Rolle. Photo from BCSD Board of Education page.

A BHS graduate, Rolle left Batavia to serve in the U.S. Army, which is when he met his wife Bianca. They have three children who are now “walking the same halls that I once did,” Rolle says.

“I love being a voice and serving the people of this community that I live with,” he said in the newsletter. “It will be a great honor to be one of the candidates chosen to sit and make discussions (SIC) on behalf of the citizens of Batavia.”

The agenda includes a counseling plan presentation by counselor Sherry Crumity, a vote on dedicating and naming the high school auditorium for former music director Frank Owen, and a board discussion about the public speaking policy to sign up by 1 p.m. the Friday prior to a Thursday board meeting.

A Vietnam vet's journey brought him to Batavia and a better life at Liberty Square

By Howard B. Owens

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Eagle Star housing is "in the business of saving lives," Dennis Mahoney told the dignitaries and residents gathered Tuesday morning for the Liberty Square ribbon-cutting ceremony in Batavia.

Mahoney, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, said he isn't sure he would have made it without the assistance of Eagle Star.

His path to Liberty Square started with getting admitted to the PTSD program at the VA in Batavia.

"Getting there was a journey that took me decades," Mahoney said. "I was a great Marine but a horrible civilian. I didn't make the transition too well, but I also said the country didn't treat us too good coming home. That's been turned around greatly. Now I'm proud to be a veteran, proud to have served my country and served as well."

Mahoney's rocky journey after the war included a few encounters with law enforcement, he said.

"I was a mess when I came home," he said. "I'm not gonna use that as an excuse. Not all veterans did that. But I got myself together. And I wanted to make a life for myself. And I found that very difficult. I went from a hotel in Upstate New York with the intention of taking my life."

That attempt got him to a veterans hospital in Montrose, then transferred to Bath, and then Batavia.

Treatment in Batavia, he said, "literally saved my life."

But that wasn't the end of the journey.

"I had no idea what I was going to do," Mahoney said. "After I got out of treatment, I was totally lost. Eagle Star housing had something waiting for me (in Pembroke) where I could ground myself and look for a place to live. That was very difficult. I had no history. I had no way of marketing myself. My only talents were what I learned in the Marine Corps, so not very marketable."

Eagle Star's house in Pembroke is meant to be temporary assistance, but Mahoney held on until Liberty Square became available.

Now Mahoney has safety and security and he's also found a purpose in life.  He attends City Church, where he volunteers to help people with disabilities get to church and helps with food distribution.

He is grateful he found Batavia, he said.

"It's a great community. I found a life here. I've found things that I was able to do and I can give back to the community."

He credits Eagle Star and Liberty Square with rounding out a long and difficult journey to a better life.

"So many veterans with PTSD aren't making it every day," he said. "This facility, if we could replicate this all over the country, we would help veterans stay alive, not only prosper and find employment, but find a home that's affordable."

See also: Liberty Square apartments a 'much-needed' addition to Batavia

Photo by Howard Owens

Liberty Square apartments a 'much-needed' addition to Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

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The ribbon is cut, but Liberty Square, 554 East Main St., Batavia,  has been serving as a residence for as many as 28 veterans since December, and for Zach Fuller, executive director of Eagle Star Housing, that is "mission accomplished."

"Our mission is getting veterans back on their feet back into the community and interacting with the community," Fuller said.

Liberty Square is a collaborative project between Home Leasing, LLC, based in Rochester, and Eagle Star, with financial assistance from the State of New York through Homes and Community Renewal.

"We started the program for transitional 60-day programs, but we knew that if the veteran didn't have anywhere really to go from a transitional housing situation they would face difficulty and not have support services," Fuller said. "Working with New York State and the governor's office and HCR, where they came out with a program a few years ago with a housing-first model that allows us to get our veterans into safe housing. From here we're able to provide support services for them 24/7. We provide them with apartment furniture, any type of toiletries, and day-to-day needs they have. We're here to help them. We're trying to do everything we can to keep them on their progress path back to stability and back into civilian life."

The complex cost $12 million and includes 39 additional one-bedroom apartments, and eight two-bedrooms targeting people with a household income of 60 percent of the area's median income.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said the complex is a welcome addition to Batavia.

"Every study that the City and the County has done since 2010 has identified housing as one of our main needs," Jankowski said. "I realized what projects of this magnitude require. It's a lot of work by a lot of people. I was talking to Zach earlier and he said when this project started, his son was a newborn. And now he's five years old. So it goes to show you how long and how much perseverance it takes to get a project like this off the ground."

That perseverance is paying off, he said, because "for our veterans and those who qualify, these apartments are going to be a much-needed addition to the city. They're going to provide a safe and comfortable space to call home."

Photos by Howard Owens

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Zach Fuller.

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A plaque in the rec room will honor Bill Mosman, the late owner of Mosman Paint, which stood on one of the properties now occupied by Liberty Square for more than six decades. Mosman served in the Navy during World War II.

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