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A 'torn up' downtown Batavia to bring new police station, appearance to Bank Street

By Joanne Beck
bank street construction batavia
Bank Street's water project is Phase I of a three-phase strategy to spruce up and revamp the area with updated infrastructure, a new police station and streetscape appearance. Work is to be completed over 18 months into late 2025. 
File Photo by Howard Owens.

If you thought downtown Batavia was at all hampered by some traffic cones and a driving lane shutdown these past several weeks, that was just the appetizer for an ambitious entree of construction projects at Batavia City Centre beginning this April, and a corner city parking lot a few months later, city management says.

A water project along Bank Street from Main Street to Washington Avenue has caused the shutdown of one lane and slowed traffic for several weeks now, as Phase I of a three-phase project in that section of the downtown area. Phase II will be the new police station and a groundbreaking in the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street is expected to begin early this summer.

The police station, which will eventually move the department out of its 10 Main St. headquarters at Brisbane Mansion next to the county jail, will begin its journey of construction across from the Jerome Center in late spring, or early summer, Public Works Director Brett Frank said.

A third phase will complete the work in 2025 with a streetscape to more narrowly confine Bank Street, Frank said during Monday’s business meeting.

“So the Bank Street water project, first off … we've got four service connections to put in there. And then in springtime, final pavement will be done. So that'll take care of that water main project. So we're actually going to do this project in three phases. It's gonna be about a month of kind of being torn up. So we started with the water line in the spring, early summer, we're looking to break ground in a new police station. So we'll do that," Frank said. "And then as that kind of comes to close to being done, we're also entering into a Bank Street traffic calming and streetscape enhancement project. Right now we're at about 50 percent as far as designs are concerned, so that will take place on the back end of the police station. 

"So that'll kind of be what culminates, wraps everything, kind of ties it all together. Right now, tentatively, we're looking at 2025, next summer, as to actually the following summer, as to when we get into construction for that project," he said. "That will be a typical project where we’ll go to bid. It is a federal project like the Richmond Harvester project where it's at 80 percent federally reimbursed, and the remaining 20 percent will be paid for using funding. So it'll be the source of revenue for that.”

The Bank Street water project received a $334,000 grant for the total $418,000 project cost, and the city received a $2.5 million USDA grant to put towards the $15.5 million police station expense. A $944,934 grant will offset the total $1,113,920 cost of the Bank Streetscape project, which is the only one of those three still in the design phase. 

City Council members push back at budget criticism, defend decisions

By Joanne Beck
Rob Houseknecht
City of Batavia resident Rob Houseknecht questions and critiques the proposed 2024-25 budget during Monday's City Council business meeting at City Hall. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

One thing that city resident Rob Houseknecht — who has raised several issues regarding the proposed 2025 budget  — cannot complain about is that his criticism was not heard Monday evening at City Hall.

Houseknecht took to the podium for the several minutes that he was allowed, and questioned city police staffing, the proposed two-cent tax rate increase, an implied safety level on city streets, and what he and apparently others felt was a bloated budget.

“You probably know that we had a meeting at the Holland Land Office on Saturday, a number of city residents showed up, and, a lot of comments were there that not everybody's happy with what you guys are doing here,” he said during City Council’s business meeting. “I'm not in favor of any tax increase, I don't care whether it's small or not. We're getting hit around from every branch of government, federal state, county city. Why, and we keep putting more people on. They want to hire more officers, like to the tune of five, for 80-something-thousand a year. If I remember correctly, the city manager said city streets are safe: you can walk Main Street at any time of day or night, you can walk the side streets, you can walk on the south side of the street, you can walk all over it.

“Well, I'm wondering if the city manager’s actually walked at night. I have, and I felt very uncomfortable. Just walking down the main street in the summertime, not a good feeling for me. And so my point is, if the streets are so safe, why do we need five more officers?” he said.  “I don't know. I just don't see it. Like I said, every time you hire somebody, it is affecting our tax base. I would think that you guys would work hard for the city residents to not have tax increases and keep things as cheap for people as you can.”

Houseknecht questioned the need for an extra position to handle freedom of information requests at the police station, and the five additional patrol officers — a recommendation that came from a state criminal justice study and is not in this proposed budget — and suggested using the grant writer to perform some of those police clerical duties. 

He was surprised to learn that the city population has grown by more than the 100 people he initially thought. Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said that the total has grown by more than 1,000, though the total population in the city’s budget materials cites a growth of 135, for a total of 15,600 according to the April 2020 census.  

The point was that the city’s budget is providing services for a larger number of citizens, and Houseknecht then wanted to know if council members have looked at “who these people are and what they do?” Are these additional residents “people that are holding jobs here in the city of Batavia,” he said.

“Are they people that are here for our handouts of welfare and things like this, and where are they going? Isn’t that an important factor?” he said. “It is to me. There is just so much here that I could talk for probably all night … I just don’t support the tax increase, and I think you should take a look at the budget and trim it down. See where you can double up people, see where you can make things work without hiring more people.”

He also mentioned that he saw a Batavia City Police car in Akron and wondered what it was doing there. That vehicle belongs to a school resource officer who lives in Akron and drives it to work in Batavia and back home, where he parks it, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. The city school district pays for SRO salaries, and the police department budget provides for the vehicles, which are part of the contract, she said. 

The topic of city vehicles being taken home by department heads also came up, and Tabelski said there are 13 instances of people taking vehicles home, and not all of them are outside of the city as claimed. They are part of contractual negotiations and include the K-9 vehicle, Bureau of Maintenance, public works, water and wastewater superintendents, snow and emergency management positions, fire, police, and department heads, and detectives.

Jankowski said that the city is also considering the purchase of used vehicles when possible to reduce the expense. Council recently discussed the possibility with Public Works Director Brett Frank during a budget session.

“That’s what we’re looking into,” Frank said. “We budgeted for replacement of three vehicles that are new replacements. But if we can find something through that program, we absolutely have no problem with that.”

As for city streets being safe, Tabelski clarified that she wants all city streets to be a safe place for residents to walk at any time, and that is what the police department is aiming for with its Neighborhood Enforcement Team, surveillance cameras, and other ramped up law enforcement strategies. Here is what she was quoted as saying in a Jan. 23 article on The Batavian from a Jan. 22 budget session:

“I think it's always good to think about our mission, why we're here for the residents of our city, what we want the city to be. I want the city to be a safe place, a family-friendly place where I'm comfortable walking down the streets with my kids, any hour, night and day.”

Councilman Paul Viele pointed out that Tabelski “did a great job” with the budget, and that people want to complain even though they also “want a police officer when they need it, and they want the fire department when they need it.”

“But people should really be bitching about school taxes because that’s a joke,” Viele said. “The city’s taxes count little, the school’s huge. So I think our manager did a great job, and no one complains about the school taxes, and that’s the worst one.”

Fellow councilman Rich Richmond said that he and Councilman Bob Bialkowski both sat on the city’s Audit Committee and learned about all of the ins and outs of city finances, such as how water treatment plant chemicals increased close to 112 percent, he said. The city’s grant writer, a position that gets “bashed” for being indulgent spending, pays for itself by obtaining grants for projects, he said. 

He then posed the dubious question: what do you want to cut? Should we cut at the fire department, the sewage treatment plant, the water department, any and all of them?

“Those cuts are fine and good until you need that. Well, let's talk about vehicles, for example, some have a problem with certain people in management, the fire chief, the police chief, taking the vehicle home. If there's an emergency in the city, should they drive in, in their own car, and park it someplace to respond to a hostage situation or a bad fire?” he said. “I’ll say it again, I was on the audit committee. And my colleague, Bob Bialkowski was on the audit committee. Nothing was brought up, everything was fine. As a matter of fact, we both praised the city workers for coming up with the bare-bones budget. And I applaud all the people in this city for the hard work that they're doing.”

Council set a budget public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at City Hall. The budget remains at about $37 million with a tax levy of $6.7 million and a two-cent increase per $1,000 property assessment. That would mean a $2 increase per year on a home assessed at $100,000 and a proposed tax rate of $8.96 per $1,000 property assessment. There is also an increase of 19 cents per 1,000 gallons of water, plus water meter and capital improvement increases, for an estimated total of $47.20 more per year for a household of four people. 

Rich Richmond
City Councilman-at-Large Rich Richmond
Photo by Joanne Beck
Paul Viele
City Councilman, Ward 1, Paul Viele
Photo by Joanne Beck
John Roach
John Roach has become a fixture of City Council meetings, often attending and occasionally speaking up to share his concerns and ask questions. During council's business meeting Monday evening, Roach did both.  “Nobody wants to pay a penny more in taxes. And nobody wants to pay taxes whatsoever. We all want stuff but nobody wants to pay for it. And I don't want to pay for anything, but I want something. So I have realized the budget is as lean as it's going to get," the city resident said.  "Two council members have said they're going to vote against the budget. I would ask that maybe during the response time, that they tell us what they would cut to get the tax rate flat. I have yet to hear, you know, like a half a parking lot, which isn't going to affect the budget. What will you cut, or recommend, between now and next week, that would reduce it to flat."He was referring to members Bob Bialkowski and Tammy Schmidt, both of whom have said they do not want a tax increase. Bialkowski proposed slicing half of the cost of a parking lot project to remove $110,000 -- the increase of the tax levy -- however, that parking lot money is coming from reserves and would therefore not affect the bottom line of the budget and levy, Tabelski said at that time.
Photo By Joanne Beck

New mall entries on the horizon, silo replacement begins in April

By Joanne Beck
File Photo by Howard Owens

Those damp, moldy mall entrances will finally get torn out and replaced beginning April 15, Erik Fix says. 

Contracts are in place and the contractors are working on the procurement of supplies, the assistant city manager said Friday in response to The Batavian’s request for an update.

“The plan is to have everything needed on site prior to starting, so once we demo, the project can be finished in 60 to 90 days, so that we can limit the amount of time we cannot use certain entrances,” Fix said.  “Some HVAC and electrical work may take place prior to the April 15th date, but that is when you will start to see the demolition taking place. The silos need to be taken apart one piece at a time, so it won’t be like a wrecking ball-type situation.  There will be plenty of communication prior to the start date to ensure the public will know how to access the mall.”

The entrances at City Hall and near Dan’s Tire will remain as is, so the public will have access to them throughout the silo replacement process. 

“We’re hoping to begin demolition all at once, they will take them all down and build them all backup,” he said during Monday’s City Council business meeting.

Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding of about $1 million has been set aside for the silo project, with $120,000 for the design process and the remaining money for actually redesigning the silos. 

Bethany Volunteer Fire Department holds 2024 Installation of Officers Banquet

By Steve Ognibene
Members of Bethany Fire Department were installed for the 2024 year.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Members of Bethany Fire Department were installed for the 2024 year.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

This past Saturday evening, Fire Chief Jeff Fluker of Bethany Fire Department led as the master of ceremonies at Bethany’s annual awards and installation of officer’s banquet. 

More than 80 people attended including VIP guests from other area fire departments, including Alexander, Attica, Elba, Pavilion, Stafford, and Wyoming.

Dignitaries from Steve Hawley’s office, Jayleen Carney and Senator George Borrello’s office, and Genesee County Legislator Gregg Torrey attended to present years of service pin awards and acknowledgments.  

Dan Coffey presented the installation of officers for 2024.  Jeff Fluker, and Will Thurley announced the Firefighter of the Year award to Jeff Wolak. 

Vicki Wolak announced the EMS Awards.  They were given to Brian Britton, Carl Hyde Jr., Will Thurley, and Jeff Wolak.  Also, Wolak recognized three new EMTs -- Glenn Adams, Britney Johnson, and Peggy Johnson.

The Chief's Award was given to Carl Hyde Jr.  

The memorial service, led by Pastor Walter Wenhold,  honored William Shae and all deceased members of the department.

The department responded to 151 total calls in 2023. 

The top responders were:

  • Peg Johnson, 16 calls
  • Don Frank, 16 calls
  • Vicki Wolak, 26 calls
  • Gail Smith, 30 calls
  • Glenn Adams, 36 calls
  • Lyle Boundy, 47 calls
  • Carl Hyde Jr., 48 calls
  • Will Thurley, 50 calls
  • Brian Britton, 51 calls
  • Jeff Wolak, 59 calls

If anyone is interested in joining or learn more, contact Chief Jeff Fluker at 585-300-8153 or come to the fire hall any Monday night at 7 p.m.

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

Chief Jeff Fluker, master of ceremonies.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Chief Jeff Fluker, master of ceremonies.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Firefighter of the Year Award presented to Jeff Wolak.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Firefighter of the Year Award presented to Jeff Wolak.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Chiefs award presented to Carl Hyde Jr.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Chiefs Award presented to Carl Hyde Jr.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Left to right Jeff Fluker and Vicki Wolak presented EMS Awards to Will Thurley, Carl Hyde Jr, Jeff Fluker and Brian Britton (not pictured)  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Left to right Jeff Fluker and Vicki Wolak presented EMS Awards to Will Thurley, Carl Hyde Jr, Jeff Fluker, and Brian Britton (not pictured)  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Left to right, Jayleen Carney from Steve Hawley's office and Jeff Fluker presented Peggy Johnson for her twenty years of service pin & recognition certificate.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Left to right, Jayleen Carney from Steve Hawley's office and Jeff Fluker presented Peggy Johnson for her 20 years of service pin and recognition certificate.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Left to Right, Bethany Line Officers are Fire Police Captain Carl Hyde Jr., Lieutenant Jake Howland, Fire Captain Will Thurley, 2nd Assistant Chief Jeff Wolak, 1st Assistant Chief John Szymkowiak, and Chief Jeff Fluker  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Left to Right, Bethany Line Officers are Fire Police Captain Carl Hyde Jr., Lieutenant Jake Howland, Fire Captain Will Thurley, 2nd Assistant Chief Jeff Wolak, 1st Assistant Chief John Szymkowiak, and Chief Jeff Fluker  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Elba tops Holley in Boys Basketball 53-47

By Staff Writer
Elba basketball

In Boys  Basketball on Monday, Elba beat Holley 53-47.

Mike Long scored 31 points and Angela Penna scored 14 for Elba.

Also in Boys Basketball on Monday, Le Roy beat Pavilion 66 - 27. The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Knights and dealt a blow to the Goper's three-game win streak. For Le Roy, Merritt Holly scored 32 points, had 14 rebounds and three blocks. Jean Agosto, nine points and 13 rebounds.

Pembroke beat Kendall 71-41. Tyson Totten scored 31 points, 10 rebounds, Avery Ferreira, 11 points, and Owen Hootman, 10 points and nine rebounds.

Photos by Debra Reilly

Elba basketball
Elba basketball
Elba basketball
Elba basketball

Pembroke and Alexander win the Genesee Regional Cheerleading Championship

By Joanne Beck
Genesee Region

Led by Coaches Alison Diskin and Kayla Heinlein, Pembroke celebrates a third straight win for Division I  during this year's Genesee Regional Cheerleading Championship Saturday evening. Alexander won Division II.  Pembroke also included the winner of Ronald McDonald House All-Star, Ashley Johnson, shown below. 
Submitted Photos

Ashley Johnson

'Unique' metal artwork demonstration Tuesday at GO Art! in Batavia

By Joanne Beck
Bryan Wright fish
Artwork by Bryan Wright
Photo submitted by Batavia Society of Artists

The Batavia Society of Artists is hosting artist Bryan Wright on Tuesday at Go-Art/Seymour Place, 201 E. Main St. Batavia starting at 7 p.m.  He will be showing how to do his metal artwork, which is said to be “very unique!”

Light refreshments will be provided, and the 2.o.1. Tavern will be open for cash purchases.  Non-members welcome for a $5 fee.  We are always open to new members, all skill levels and mediums!  Dues are single $30, couple $50, veteran or student $10. 

Bryan Wright  was born and raised in Charleston, S.C., and lives in Batavia with his “amazing wife and two beautiful children.” As a child he would spend countless hours drawing, and says that “if I had a pencil and paper, the sky was the limit and I was content.” 

“As I grew older I developed a love for tinkering with computers and digital art and went to college to pursue this new passion and still unsure about my future career I saw that BOCES had a basic-advanced welding class, and signed up immediately,” he said in a press release. “Totally unsure what to expect, all I knew was I loved working with my hands and kept an open mind for this, was the first time I was introduced to a Plasma Cutter and as the class ended I started saving up my hard earned money for a used one. 

“Over the past 15 years I have been using this same machine and collecting scrap junk metal as my new blank canvas,” he said. “At the end of a busy work day or week, I can't wait to get out to the garage, even in this ridiculous WNY weather and create something special.” 

Wright is even more excited to be able to demonstrate his craft and extend this invitation to others who might be interested or are just looking to learn about something new, he said.

Photos submitted by Batavia Society of Artists

Wright octopus
Wright large fish
pineappple

Howe registers 300 game at Le Roy Legion Lanes

By Mike Pettinella

Rick Howe of Le Roy recorded his second United States Bowling Congress-certified 300 game last week during league action at Le Roy Legion Lanes.

The 52-year-old right-hander rolled games of 227, 215 and 300 on lanes 5-6 in the American Legion Thursday Men's League. He entered the night with a 201 average.

Howe's other perfect game took place in March 2012, and he posted a 299 game in Sept. 200, both at the Le Roy hall.

In other league play around the Genesee Region USBC, Brandon Gurnsey rolled a 758 series in the Sneezy's Monday Night League at Oak Orchard Bowl in Albion and Tim Talbot fired a 754 series in the Sunday Rolloffs League at Medina Lanes.

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

HLOM presents 'Spirits and Suspects, a Roaring 20’s Murder Mystery'

By Press Release

Press Release:

Join the Holland Land Office Museum for another Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre. The event will be on Saturday, March 23rd from 6-8 pm at the Batavia Country Club, located at 7909 Byron Rd. in Batavia. Enjoy a great meal from The Lodge at the Country Club and a wonderful show by WNY Improv. 

The mystery is "Spirits and Suspects, a Roaring 20’s Murder Mystery." Prohibition may be in full swing but for the Kingpin of Genesee County, the booze business is booming! What could possibly go wrong? Put your glad rags on and join the fun as mobsters, molls, and even a medium, face the eclipse... 

Tickets are $75 per person. There is a choice of three entrée options including stuffed chicken with beef, crab-stuffed fish, or pasta primavera. Please make your choice when you purchase your ticket. Your ticket includes your meal and dessert. A cash bar will be available. Links to buy tickets online are available at the museum’s website www.hollandlandoffice.com.

Hawley visits Jackson Primary students for his annual Valentines for Veterans program

By Press Release
hawley-at-jackson-primary.jpg
Submitted photo of Assemblyman Steve Hawley with students at Jackson Primary.

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) hosted his annual Valentines for Veterans program. Hawley teamed up with Jackson Primary and Robert Morris School to deliver over 150 handmade valentines from students to the residents at The New York State Veterans Home at Batavia. 

During this time, Hawley spoke to students about the importance of veterans and their service to our nation. Hawley hopes this event will raise awareness of veterans' issues and show the community’s appreciation for their service and sacrifice for our country.

“As a veteran myself, I understand the sacrifices our veterans have made to keep our country free,” said Hawley. “This is why every year I put on our Valentines for Veterans program to get our community involved in supporting our veterans. I’m thankful to the faculty and students at Jackson Primary and Robert Morris School for partnering with us this year and I hope to continue to put this event on for years to come.”

ESL Federal Credit Union warns community about increase in fraudulent activity

By Press Release

Press Release:

We would like to raise awareness in the community about a recent increase in fraudulent phishing schemes designed to exploit members’ personal and financial information. 

As part of the most recent scheme, customers receive a text message asking them to provide personal information through a link, or receive a phone call from someone claiming they are from their bank or credit union asking to confirm their identity by providing personal details.

It’s important that customers refrain from providing information to these individuals. ESL will never ask you to:

  • Click links in text messages to verify information
  • Provide banking login credentials (i.e. User name and password)
  • Share Apple, Samsung, or Google ID information
  • Provide any two-factor authentication codes or confirm login codes that have been sent to your phone or email

Ensuring the safety of customer information is of the utmost priority. If you have any questions about a call, text, or piece of mail you received, please call us at 585.336.1000.

HLOM History: the Flying Allens -- Batavia’s family of daredevils

By Ryan Duffy
Flying Allens of Batavia

Edwin Allen and his family were known across the United States as the “Flying Allens” and became some of the foremost aerial balloon daredevils throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Allens made their home in Batavia and always came back to Genesee County no matter how far-flung their escapades took them. 

Four generations of the Allen family rode in balloons dating all the way back to the Civil War. 

While Edwin Allen was the patriarch of the most prolific branch of the “Flying Allens,” the first balloonist was his grandfather, James, who was a balloon observer for the Union Army. All three of his sons became aerial exhibitionists in and around Dansville. Comfort Allen, Edwin’s father, made jumps with his older son Warren, also known as “Speck,” or alone. 

Ed and his twin brother Edgar, Red, continued the family tradition beginning when they were only 11 years old. They would ride up in a hot air balloon and then glide down on a parachute while holding onto a crossbar. Their first jump occurred in Lockport. Red’s career would last until 1924, when his balloon burst 200 feet up, and he was injured in the subsequent crash. Ed would continue a solo career until his children were old enough to join the family business. 

Ed Allen moved to Batavia in 1926, living on Vernon Avenue, to begin working for the P.W. Minor Shoe Company, and he married Louise Cromwell in 1934. 

In 1937 he was promoted to foreman, but he retired from the factory the next year to open a service station at 614 East Main St., which he ran until 1950. 

All five of the Allen children would join their father in his ballooning spectacles. Eddie Jr. began jumping at 18, followed by Gloria and Florence. The two eldest daughters were billed as “the World’s Youngest Jumpers” once their careers took off. They marveled at crowds in their white and black outfits as they glided down on their white parachutes.  

They took their act to another level by being shot from a cannon suspended under the basket of a balloon. The Allens traveled to fairs and carnivals all around the country, though always coming back home to make appearances. Their testing ground was located behind their service station on East Main Street. However, things changed in 1949 when New York State outlawed the performances, forcing “The Flying Allens” to work out of state. 

Captain Eddie, as he became known, continued to jump from his balloon until 1965, when he broke his leg during a jump at the age of 70. In 1977, he told reporters that he had made 3,253 jumps in his lifetime. 

Captain Eddie still attended balloon rallies regularly and was honored by several regional groups throughout the 1970s but was always proud of being from Batavia. 

In 1979 and 1980, The Festival Genesee hosted balloonists from across the United States to honor Edwin Allen for his lifetime of achievements.  

The death-defying stunts of the Allen family did not come without their price, as many of the family members suffered serious injuries or worse while performing their feats. Three of the Allen children, Gloria, Joseph, and Arlene, suffered severe injuries and died as a result of accidents involving the performances. Gloria died in 1939 after a very hard landing caused a severe brain injury. Arlene was killed after parachuting into power lines in 1946. Edwin’s nephew, Warren Jr., also was killed during a jump in 1946 when he fell 75 feet from his basket. 

Edwin Allen survived his thrilling career and passed away at his home in 1984. 

Flying Allens of Batavia
Flying Allens of Batavia
Flying Allens of Batavia

Try Hockey for Free program coming to McCarthy Ice Arena Feb. 24

By Press Release
try-hockey-for-free-3.jpg

Press Release:

Genesee Amateur Hockey Association (GAHA) invites children to the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Evans Street on Saturday, Feb. 24 for a Try Hockey For Free clinic as part of Hockey Week Across America. 

 Starting at 10:40 a.m. to Noon local youth, ages 4 to 9, are encouraged to experience ice hockey for the first time and learn the basic skills in a fun, safe environment.

“We look forward to welcoming families to David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena to try our great sport of ice hockey for free,” said Sharon Gray, Event Coordinator. “Our goal is for these families to enjoy watching their kids learn new skills with big smiles on their faces.” 

USA Hockey’s Try Hockey program, with the support of the National Hockey League and NHL member clubs, among others, is designed to provide youth hockey associations with a national platform for introducing children to the sport, free of charge.

All your youngster needs is a helmet (bike or sports) and winter gloves. Skates are available at the Rink free of charge (due to the generous offering of the David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena). The GAHA organization does have some used hockey helmets available for the event as well as a few hockey sticks.

Players in attendance will be given a free hockey jersey to take home. To register for this Try Hockey For Free event, please visit www.TryHockeyForFree.com (Use zip code 14020).

For more information, please contact Sharon at svgray@rochester.rr.com or 585-344-2248 (Coordinator for Try Hockey For Free).

Submitted photos

try-hockey-for-free-1.jpg
try-hockey-for-free-2.jpg

Developer hints at current, possible future involvement with Ellicott Station project

By Joanne Beck
Ellicott Station 2/9/24

When Samuel Savarino said he was closing his Savarino Companies and work halted at the Downtown Batavia Ellicott Station apartment complex in the summer of 2023, it seemed a given that the Buffalo-based developer was done with the project.

However, Savarino recently indicated, in responses to questions from The Batavian, that such a conclusion may have been premature. Work is being performed on the Ellicott Street property by “subcontractors of Savarino Companies LLC,” Savarino said Thursday. 

Contractor vehicles could clearly be seen at the site throughout the past several days, along with crews that apparently installed exterior siding and completed other construction tasks. 

The work is to both button up the property’s exterior to protect it from the wintry elements, and to further proceed with project construction, Savarino said.

He made an abrupt announcement in August 2023 that his company would be closing after a sticky financial situation involving the state Dormitory Authority and claims that not being paid for completed work created what Savarino said at the time was enough of a financial constraint, compounded by pandemic shutdowns, to keep some of his other projects afloat. 

After he backed off from Ellicott Station, city, county and state officials weighed in on the situation, proffering optimism that another developer would eventually step in and continue on. 

When asked if he had walked away completely from the project and if there was any possibility that he would work with another developer here, Savarino simply replied “No and Yes” to those two questions in that order. He did not wish to speak by phone and offered to answer questions by email. 

Savarino said that he’s been in communication with the city, Genesee County Economic Development Center, and the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal, with no elaboration or specifics as to when. City Manager Rachael Tabelski said on Thursday that she has “not had any communication on Ellicott Station from Savarino or the state.”

Savarino declined to answer further questions about the liens filed against his company by a handful of contractors that had already invested labor and materials into the project or whether he had any plans to file any type of financial protection, namely bankruptcy. 

When asked if he had any hindsight about what happened with the Ellicott project and if issues were about more than the Dormitory Authority, he did not reply. 

The project at 50-56 Ellicott St. became embroiled in a wrangle with city and county officials about how an initial market rate-turned-affordable workforce housing apartment complex became an unwelcome low to very low-income housing complex. 

Savarino qualified for state housing tax credits with a low-income strategy, but city and county leaders wanted to see the project accommodate higher salaried tenants to bring in more wealth and bump up the local economy and spending for what was being touted as “a pathway to prosperity.”

Much of it fell apart when GCEDC gained access to tenant demographics and discovered that Savarino was using a lottery method to select tenants and that income levels were much lower than anticipated. However, Savarino had also missed two October 2023 payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) installments of $25,312.26 for Ellicott Station and $11,743.90 for the adjacent property that was to be a brewery/restaurant, according to documents provided to The Batavian.

By the time that letter from Harris Beach was sent to Ellicott Station LLC on Jan. 3, 2024, GCEDC was demanding immediate payment of $833,021.26 as part of “its right to capture agency benefits,” plus late payments and interest.

The recapture schedule includes $23,868.23 for a PILOT payment, $637,500 in sales tax exempt savings for 2023, and $170,209 mortgage recording tax exemption savings for 2021, for a total of $831,577.23 in October 2023 for Ellicott Station LLC, plus a PILOT of $10,964.29 for the adjacent Ellicott Street property, $212,500 in sales tax exemption savings in 2023 and $57,274.50 in mortgage recording tax exemption savings in 2021, for a total $280,738.79 in October 2023. 

The Batavian asked Savarino if he is planning to pay the “clawback” request of more than $1.1 million and about his response to the GCEDC. 

“Ellicott Station LLC has responded to the GCEDC. No further comment at this time,” he said. 

In a letter dated Dec. 1, 2023, Savarino contested the agency’s claims of recapture as being “without merit” since Ellicott Station LLC only received notices of default in July and August, and “all of the information request in the July notice, however, was provided by July 31, 2023, as acknowledged in the August notice,” Savarino said. 

He also disputed the discrepancy of income requirements since “numerous emails between you and myself or Oxford Consulting reflect your and other agency officials’ knowledge and agreement that the 55 units of housing would be limited to occupants with income below 60 percent of the area median income.”

“There is simply no basis to contend that the company in any way misled the agency, which is the only claimed cause for termination of the agreements,” he said. “We respectfully request that the agency reconsider the termination of the agreements and revoke its demand for recapture of benefits thereunder.”

A response from GCEDC to Savarino's letter was unavailable prior to publication.

Meanwhile, Steve Hyde, CEO of the economic agency, has given the community a whiff of optimism by stating that he believes the project will end up better in the end. There’s just no telling when and by whom that ending will happen. 

To read all about Ellicott Station, go HERE

County's deputy treasurer announces candidacy for treasurer

By Press Release

Press Release:

andrews-photo-1.png
Submitted photo of
Kevin Andrews.

Genesee County Deputy Treasurer and Director of Real Property Tax Services Kevin J. Andrews announces that he is running for Genesee County Treasurer in this year’s elections. 

Mr. Andrews has nearly 14 years of experience in the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office. Kevin started his career as Deputy Director of Real Property Tax Services shortly after the Real Property Department was merged into the Treasurer’s Office. 

In 2013, he was appointed Director of Real Property Tax Services, and he completed the certification training program from New York State to become a Certified County Director. 

In January of 2015, he was appointed Deputy Treasurer by current County Treasurer Scott D. German. This mix of experience will be beneficial to Kevin in managing all of the operations of the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office.

In his role as Deputy Treasurer, Kevin has gained experience with managing the county’s financial operations, including issuing and refunding bonds, managing cash flows and investments, and financial reporting. 

He has helped to implement new accounting standards from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), such as additional accounting requirements for pensions (GASB 68) and new accounting requirements for leases (GASB 87). 

He has also helped to modernize and increase the efficiency of procedures within the Treasurer’s Office over his tenure.

Kevin is a lifelong resident of Genesee County, having grown up in the Town of Elba and now living in the Town of Le Roy along with his wife and three children. Kevin graduated at the top of his class from Elba Central School. He then went on to attend college at the University of Rochester, where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Financial Economics and Mathematical Statistics.

“If I am elected as County Treasurer, I plan to manage the fiscal operations of Genesee County in a responsible, accurate, and transparent manner. I would also like to continue making progress on modernizing processes within the Treasurer’s Office to increase efficiencies both internally with other county departments as well as externally with the public,” Kevin said.

Photos: Beatlemania Magic at Batavia Downs

By Howard B. Owens
beatlemania magic

It was a full house on Friday in Park Place at Batavia Downs for the Beatles' tribute band, Beatlemania Magic.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

beatlemania magic

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