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September 15, 2020 - 11:50am

The federal government is letting counties such as Genesee down by failing to “bridge” a gap in funding necessary to prevent a collapse of its infrastructure, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said on Monday.

Speaking at the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Hens said most of the county’s large bridges are in desperate need of repair – a situation that seems to have fallen upon deaf ears in Washington.

“We have roughly 100 federal aid bridges and they all have design lives on them of 50 to 75 years,” Hens said, noting that the majority of these spans were built in the 1940s, ‘50s and early ‘60s. “All at the same time, we’re getting slammed with 40 to 50 bridges that need to be replaced and we’re only getting funded for one or two every other year. There’s no way we’re going to keep up.”

Hens said federal money used to come in to do two bridges a year, and then it decreased to one per year. It’s even less frequent now.

“It’s extremely frustrating … we have pushed very, very hard (for funding) all the way up to the president,” he said, adding that he’s uncertain of the status of a bill currently in the Senate.

Genesee County, as is the case with other municipalities across the state, is in the midst of a serious financial crunch due to the COVID-19 pandemic that shut things down in mid-March. The economy has started to recover, but sales tax revenue for the year is down and New York State has cut aid by 20 percent across the board.

Delays in federal funding for roads and bridges forced the county to have to pay “the full shot” (instead of the usual 5 percent) to replace a bridge on Stroh Road in Alexander, a cost of $1.8 million that was taken from the $7.5 million allocated for infrastructure after the sale of the county nursing home.

Hens said the county’s bridges are “getting worse,” advising that 48 of the 92 larger bridges (over 20 feet) are listed as deficient per state standards.

“Statewide, we are probably on the lower end of bridge conditions … and we’re definitely near the bottom of the list of counties in terms of the condition of our bridges,” he said.

Genesee County is responsible for all bridges in the county, an “an extra burden on us that most counties don’t have,” Hens said.

As he presented his departmental review, Hens said the large bridges showed nine “red flags” in 2020 – up from just two in 2019 – with two of those problems permanently corrected with the rehabilitation of bridges on Colby Road in Darien and McLernon Road in Bethany.

The county has 278 bridges of less than 20 feet, and 19 of the worst 30 have been replaced since 2016, including one this year.

Overall, keeping the roads up to snuff and performing preventative maintenance have become more challenging due to budget restraints and lack of funding, Hens said.

Along those lines, he said it is likely (pending negotiations with the employees’ union) that the county will switch to one-person snowplowing – instead of the usual two in the truck – to save money.

“The bottom line is that it seems like we keep kicking the can down the road relative to preventative maintenance and as anybody knows if you put off maintenance on your home, you’ll have bigger problems to deal with – and that’s where we’re headed with highways and bridges,” Hens said. “The continued budget cuts – we’re really out of options at this point. It’s kind of like which finger do you want to cut off your hand?”

He said that further cuts for highway will lead to dropping critical services such as driveway installations and ditching.

“There’s just nothing left to get rid of. Even if I was thinking about trying to privatize some of my department, you still have the maintenance and capital expense – there’s nothing left to cut, bottom line,” he said.

Hens’ 10-year capital plan shows expenditures for infrastructure and related expenses totaling $125 million.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg brought up the nursing home money and asked what the county’s share was when federal aid for infrastructure came into play.

Hens said that the county’s share is normally 5 percent, prompting Clattenburg to respond that 5 percent of $125 million was about $6 million – less than the $7.5 million in nursing home money.

“Where’s the crisis here?” she asked. To which Hens replied, “The crisis is the fact that we don’t always get federal aid. I usually program two federal aid bridges a year and we don’t always get that.”

Clattenburg then blamed federal lawmakers for putting the county in such a bind.

“We need to stop fighting each other and start thinking about real problems that people are having in Congress. We’re ready to go – we’ve been frugal. We put the money away so we can do this work, and now everything is stalled,” she said.

Legislator Andrew Young agreed, wondering, “Why they’re not talking about an infrastructure bill at the federal level? I don’t get it.”

Despite the financial woes, Hens said he is submitting a county road fund budget of $5,799,749 for 2021, within about $18,000 of the 2020 budget. The county’s general fund contributes more than $5.3 million of that amount.

He said the budget could increase by up to $50,000 if the Town of Bethany enters into a plowing and mowing agreement with the county for next year.

September 15, 2020 - 8:36am

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is adamant that neither public speakers nor a petition signed by 161 residents will force the board’s hand when it comes to selecting a permanent replacement for City Manager Martin Moore, who left the position on June 20.

 “We’re going to do our due diligence – getting all the information necessary to make an informed decision,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. following Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

Since Moore’s departure, Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving as the acting city manager.

Council met in an executive session between a Special Conference Meeting and the Business Meeting last night to discuss personnel matters, with the city manager post at the top of the list.

Jankowski said Council is “gathering more information” and expects a decision of how it will proceed by its next meeting on Sept. 28.

In all likelihood, the choices boil down to interviewing Tabelski and offering her the job, or conducting a nationwide search – utilizing The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of Moore in 2018.

Because Moore left prior to completing two years in Batavia, the Novak firm guaranteed a “free” search for his successor. However, that doesn’t include costs such as advertising in trade publications, expenses incurred to set up interviews (travel costs, for example) and potential moving expenses for the person hired.

It is believed that those additional costs could reach as high as $15,000 to $20,000.

Previously, Jankowski had reported that The Novak Consulting Group would be available to assist the city at the end of this month.

During the public comments portion of last night’s meeting, Batavians Sammy DiSalvo and John Roach spoke on the matter, coming from opposite sides of the fence.

DiSalvo said he supported a full search, pointing to what he called “nepotism” when Tabelski was appointed to the assistant city manager position in August 2018 while her husband, Adam, was a member of City Council.

“Regardless of whether her husband abstained from that vote or not, that is called nepotism,” he said.

“Now I want to fast forward to September 2020 … and this is the first time we’ve heard from any of you about Novak, the company that did the manager’s search, which you get a free search through if city manager left within two years, which he did,” he added.

“They said they could not start until the end of September. Hopefully, they do start that search and you go down that road, rather than just appointing somebody that was appointed while her husband was in a position of power. I don’t think that is really a way that city government should be functioning and that is not a good way to represent the people of Batavia …”

After expressing his dismay with changes in the City Deer Management Plan, DiSalvo ended his five minutes by producing a petition of what he said was 150 signatures (actually 161) of Batavians “who would like a full city search and do not want somebody who is appointed to the position by City Council.”

Next, Roach stepped to the podium, stating that “I take the opposite view on the hiring of the city manager.”

“I think it’s kind of embarrassing that the nine Council people – five of you haven’t been able to say as a majority – ‘Let’s make a decision.’ By now you should have been able to say in executive session, ‘OK, we’re going to go with the headhunter group or we’re going to hire the current assistant city manager,’ ” he said.

Roach then credited Tabelski for moving city business along.

“Obviously, she must be doing a good job,” he said. “The city is functioning well and I cannot for the life of me understand why you people still have to go into meetings to decide to make a plan to have a plan. Either hire her or say no, ‘you don’t cut it, we don’t want you’ – and let her start looking at alternatives. It can’t be that hard to say yes, you’re our choice, or you’re not.”

He also said he heard that a City Council member placed petitions in some businesses.

“I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not,” he said.

Finally, he mentioned Council’s handling of authorizing more pay for those who have took on added responsibilities in the absence of a permanent city manager.

“I’m also a little disappointed that the last time we didn’t have a city manager, everybody voted to give the other staff that were pitching in to do extra work, extra money. And they were all men,” he said. “This time, the same thing – we don’t have a manager and people need a little extra money for doing extra work, and some of you voted no, but they’re women. Coincidence or not? I’ll let you all respond.”

September 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

The path to passing a City of Batavia Deer Management Plant plan -- fraught with controversy, changes and a bit of confusion – became much clearer tonight when City Council approved a proposal giving its police department oversight of the operation.

By a vote of 6-2, Council endorsed an archery-only plan that puts management in the hands of police – understanding there will be overtime costs involved – and also allows only city employees to hunt on two parcels of city property and restricts hunting to antlerless-only deer in those two zones.

Council members Jeremy Karas, Patti Pacino, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, John Canale (who was the liaison to the Deer Management Plan Committee that resigned in protest of changes to the original plan on Aug. 13) and President Eugene Jankowski voted in favor of the plan. Council members Robert Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted against the plan.

It was Jankowski who introduced an amendment to prohibit the taking of deer with antlers on city property. That passed by a 7-1 count with McGinnis, who objected to the amount of time (about an hour) spent debating the pros and cons of the plan, abstaining.

Council Member Paul Viele was not in attendance.

Apparently taking the advice of Canale, who brought up the board’s history of “kicking the can down the road,” Council decided to adopt the plan and worry about implementation later, especially in light of the Batavia City School District’s “hybrid” schedule that has some students learning remotely from home.

“I don’t see what else there is to discuss,” said Canale, adding that the police department is more than capable of deciding whether it is safe for people to hunt in any of the five pre-determined zones. “It’s not like we’re sending out people into the woods on October 1st with bows and arrows” if the police deem that it’s not safe.

Jankowski said he agreed with Canale, urging his colleagues to “approve this and (then) the implementation is up in the air.”

“Personally, I don’t think it would have worked well for the volunteer (committee) to take on that kind of work,” Jankowski said.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said he anticipates overtime charges of $4,000 to $5,000 annually, calling it a “conservative estimate depending upon the level of commitment.” He also said he will select an officer from the department to head the program.

Heubusch said he plans to reach out to Town of Irondequoit police officers, who run the program there, as well as talk to landowners in the three zones that aren’t city property, and attempt to get landowner agreements signed and set up the selection process.

“There’s a lot of work (to be done),” he said, noting that although the department is fully staffed, it isn’t at a point where he can take an officer off the road.

City Attorney George Van Nest reported that he has already spoken with people in Irondequoit, who indicated that the Monroe County town’s program “works well and is effective.” He also said state Department of Environmental Conservation officials support the “tweaks” made by him and Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The most significant changes were moving oversight from the Deer Management Plan Committee to the police department, giving city employees exclusive rights to hunt on city property – eliminating members of the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen – and, per tonight’s amendment, putting in a provision to cull antlerless-only deer on city property.

Jankowski said he received thirdhand information that someone saw a large buck on one of the properties and that “somebody has designs on those antlers.” His amendment, however, can not be enforced on land owned by private citizens who agree to participate in the plan to reduce the deer population.

Van Nest said a New York State hunting license gives hunters the authority to take a buck on private property.

Before the vote to pass or reject the amended plan, Bialkowski attempted to table the measure, stating that the latest plan (dated Sept. 14) was not presented in a Conference Meeting, it comes with increased costs and was subject to a review of the school’s scheduling.

“I’d like to refer it back to committee … back to a Conference Meeting,” he said.

Christian supported tabling it as well, with her comments indicating she thought the plan included hunting by guns along with bow and arrow.

That’s when Canale spoke up, noting that the Deer Management Plan Committee worked very hard and for a long time (eight months) to put together “a wonderful plan, working with (former City Manager) Dr. (Martin) Moore on the “meat and potatoes of the plan.”

He credited Tabelski for making necessary revisions.

“I don’t think kicking the can down the road will help us out,” he said. “Approve it tonight and implement it when it’s safe.”

As a result, a vote to table the plan was defeated by a 6-2 count with Bialkowski and Christian voting to table it.

The deer management plan subject came up right from the start of the Special Conference Meeting that preceded the Business Meeting where the resolution ultimately was approved.

Batavia residents Sammy DiSalvo, David Majewski and his son, Noah Majewski, spoke about the plan during the public comments portion of the agenda.

DiSalvo said he identified “at least 20 changes from the original proposal – at least five of which are entirely new.”

He said he took issue with “taking away power from people who are citizens and experienced hunters.”

“I am sure there are many police officers who do hunt and are very capable, but you are taking this away from people who have spent 50-60 years as the main thing that they do,” he said.

As far as private property is concerned, DiSalvo said that owners of the three non-city property areas have decided not to participate in the plan – something that took Council and city management by surprise.

“I find it suspicious that Mr. DiSalvo, whose father (Samuel) was on the deer committee, is saying that everybody but the city is not participating,” Jankowski said. “He’s making detailed responses about landowners that we don’t even know about yet.”

DiSalvo applauded the police department for the great job it does in law enforcement, but disagreed with putting the responsibility of the deer management plan upon the officers.

David Majewski said he was concerned about people coming on his son’s property (25 acres) off Alexander Road, which is adjacent to one of the city-owned parcels. He said his son manages the property for deer hunting, and is worried that deer remains left on his property would attract more coyotes to the area.

“I’m kind of curious as to why city employees will be allowed to hunt. There are plenty of other good hunters,” he said.

He said he was also concerned about liability and the possibility of a lawsuit should someone trespass onto his son’s land – which he uses for beaver trapping -- and suffer an injury.

Noah said he has encountered many people trespassing from city property onto his property.

“I’ve notified people in the City of Batavia building and nobody seems to care. They usually end up being friends of people,” he said.

He also mentioned liability and that he runs “nuisance beaver traps” with a nuisance beaver permit from the DEC. He said the traps are set around a swamp and he would hate to see someone step in one of those traps.

“I just feel like this is opening up a whole new can of worms to bring more people into an area that’s populated with people, that has people running around there," he said. "... and not knowing who’s going to be hunting back there or anything like that, it’s a big area of concern for me.”

September 14, 2020 - 6:08pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, coronavirus, news.

Press release:

New Cases – As of 2 p.m. 

  • Genesee County received zero new positive cases of COVID-19.
    • One of the previous positive individuals has recovered and has been released from mandatory isolation.
    • Four new individuals are on precautionary quarantine due to travel from restricted states.
       
  • Orleans County received one new positive case of COVID-19.
    • The new positive resides in Albion.
    • The individual is in their 50s.
    • The individual was not on mandatory quarantine prior to testing positive.
    • Two of the previous positive individuals have recovered and have been released from mandatory isolation.

Seventeen new individuals are on precautionary quarantine due to travel from restricted states.

September 14, 2020 - 5:59pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Robin Scott Brooks, 58, of Hutchins Place, Batavia is charged with first degree criminal nuisance. Brooks was arrested by the Genesee County Local Drug Task Force and the Batavia Police Department. It is alleged that at noon on June 30 on Hutchins Place that Brooks allowed people to sell narcotics out of his residence. In addition, Brooks allegedly received a benefit (money) from the people selling narcotics from his residence. He was issued a hand-written appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer James DeFreze.

Janel B. Patterson, 41, of Valle Drive, Batavia, is charged with issuing a bad check -- with knowledge of insufficient funds. Batavia Police Officer Nicole McGinnis arrested Patterson on Sept. 8 on the charge, which stemmed from a fraud complaint on June 12, 2019, at Batavia Restaurant Supply Inc., 301 W. Main St., Batavia. After an investigation by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider allegedly found she issued a bad check, Patterson turned herself in on an arrest warrant and was arraigned in Batavia City Court. She is due back in court Oct. 27 to answer the charge.

Joseph W. Freeman, 36, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with two counts each of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and falsifying business records -- making a false entry. Freeman was arrested at 2 p.m. Sept. 10 after an investigation. It is alleged that he possessed property stolen from various stores on Veterans Memorial Drive in the Town of Batavia. Freeman was released with appearance tickets and is due in Batavia City Court Oct. 13. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Quackenbush.

Eric J. McGill, 37, of West Main Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. McGill was arrested after an incident at 7:53 p.m. Sept. 2 on Hutchins Street, Batavia, wherein he allegedly possessed an illegal billy (club) -- an expandable baton. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court Sept. 3 and released under supervision of Genesee Justice. He was due back in city court Sept. 5. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Adam Tucker, assisted by Officer Wesley Rissinger.

Brandon T. Tackett, of Batavia, was arrested at 7:17 p.m. Sept. 3 on Miles Road in Bentleyville, Ohio, and charged with possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree. Tackett and four Ohio residents were located in a parking lot after a report of a suspicious vehicle that had pulled into a driveway. Tackett is accused of possessing crystal methamphetamine. Bentleyville police report also finding in the red 2002 Chevy Malibu sedan a small blue case containing drug paraphernalia -- including a butane torch and a smoking pipe with tube, scales, cash, and prepaid gift cards. Tackett was transported to Bedford Jail.

Mario Alberto Reyes, 48, of Groth Road, Holley, is charged with: two counts of driving while intoxicated; operating a motor vehicle without a license; and moving from lane unsafely. At 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 13 on Clinton Street Road in Stafford, Reyes was arrested after a traffic stop. He was released with appearance tickets and is due in Stafford Town Court on Oct. 6. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jordan Alejandro, assisted by Deputy Austin Heberlein.

Ralph Andrew Burdick Sr., 63, of Kysorville-Byersville Road, Nunda, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. He was arrested at 5:09 p.m. Sept. 11 on Veterans Memorial Drive in Batavia for allegedly possessing a bottle of pills inside his vehicle without having a prescription for them. Burdick was issued an appearance ticket for Town of Batavia Court and is due there Oct. 22. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Gauthier, assisted by Sgt. Andrew Hale.

Quentin I. Bloom, 22, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. Bloom was arrested Sept. 9 following an investigation into an incident that occurred at 3:34 a.m. on Aug. 23. He allegedly contacted a protected party who had an order of protection from him. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Cronmiller.

Hezekiah N. Burch, 18, of Oak Street, Batavia, is charged with second degree criminal contempt for allegedly disobeying a court order. On Sept. 7, Batavia Police Officer Peter Post arrested Burch after an investigation of an allegation that Burch had contact with a person on Hutchins Place, Batavia, who had an order of protection against him. Burch was issued an appearance ticket for Nov. 11 in Batavia City Court. Post was assisted by Sgt. Dan Coffey.

Christopher Allen Sewar, 33, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with two counts of disobeying a judge's court mandate. He was arrested at 9:18 a.m. on Sept. 7 after an investigation of a violation of a court order by allegedly initiating contact with a protected party on Maple Street in Batavia on Aug. 25 and with violating the order on Aug. 23 on South Spruce Street, Batavia. He was released on appearance tickets and is due in Batavia City Court Dec. 8. The cases were handled by Batavia Police Officer Miah Stevens.

Lisa M. Babcock, 33, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. At about 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, Babcock was issued an appearance ticket for Batavia City Court, where she is due on Dec. 8. She was arrested after she allegedly failed to appear in court Aug. 18 after being served with a subpoena. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer John Gombos, assisted by Officer Christopher Lindsay.

September 14, 2020 - 3:35pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Six Flags Darien Lake.

Six Flags Darien Lake announced today that due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it will remain closed for the remainder of the 2020 season, which was scheduled to end in early November.

According to a statement on its website, the park remains committed to the health and safety of park guests and team members.

“These are difficult times, and we know the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many challenges for everyone,” the statement read. “Given the situation we want to ensure we provide you with all the value of your Season Pass. All 2020 Six Flags Darien Lake Season Passes and Pre-Purchased Tickets will be valid for the 2021 season.”

Previous story: No news is sad news for Six Flags Darien Lake patrons, seasonal part-time workers

September 14, 2020 - 3:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Schools, education, schools, video.
Video Sponsor

With new social distancing protocols in place, the Batavia City School District opened all four of its campuses today for the 2020-21 academic year.

September 14, 2020 - 3:15pm

Eight of the 20 "resident" members of the City Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group are diverse Batavians who say they desire to build a bridge between citizens and law enforcement that will lead to a safe and healthy community for all.

“Obviously, there’s a problem going on with police in America so I want to be a part of the solution, starting with that, if I can be,” said Brandon Armstrong, owner of Royal’s Barber Shop at 56 Harvester Ave. “And other than that, I pretty much want to help out in the community to make sure they’re (police) doing their part and to make sure the community is safe.”

Armstrong, one of three members of Just Kings Social Club, a local organization formed to foster equality and racial justice, also brought up the issue of respect.

“I want to make sure we’re being treated properly and we’re not living as if we’re in a prison or living in fear in our own hometown,” he offered. “I just want to be a little more comfortable.”

Francis Marchese, a semi-retired certified public accountant, said he is eager to see what comes out of the group discussions. The first meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at City Centre Council Chambers.

“I have lived in Batavia all my life and I feel that I will be able to help format a better condition for the City of Batavia and for the people who live here – that my voice may be heard,” he said. “I want to listen to what the group has to say … a group made up of people of different nationalities and to see what their consensus is and to see what they really want to accomplish.”

Marchese acknowledged “a lot of injustice in cities … but I also feel that no matter what the people department does, (the perception is that) they’re in the wrong – and that’s not right either.”

Victor Thomas, an employee of Western New York Concrete and Just Kings member, said he wants to be involved in “something that could help my community” and is pleased that the committee includes several citizens and not just law enforcement or government and civic officials.

“It’s a great place to start,” he said. “I hope to get a better understanding of how police officers view something and to bring issues to them that they may or may not be aware of. It’s definitely a challenge but I’m looking forward to it.”

For Raelene Christian, a retired NYS employee, the advisory group could be a way to restore community policing the way that her mother, City Council member Rose Mary Christian, remembers it.

“I believe that our police in our nation are being vilified, but the vast majority are good, hard-working people who just want to do their jobs … to serve and protect. Of course, there are bad officers, so I’m not saying there isn’t room for community policing,” she said. “In the old days, my mother knew all of the police officers. So, how do we get back there? Today, there is a lot of mistrust.”

Bill Hayes, owner Turnbull Heating & Air and active community member, said serving on the advisory group is a way that he can “give back to the county and city that have been very good to me” over the past 30 years.

“When I was in the service, there was no black, white, Hispanic – everybody mattered and we need to believe that in order to stand by it,” he said. “There are three stories to be told, and the third one is what are you going to do about it?”

He said that he is there for people to lean on, if necessary, and to hear others’ viewpoints.

“Hopefully, I can help. If not, I’ll leave the board,” he said. “I didn’t sign up to just be on another committee.”

Establishing a rapport with the police is vital to Gregory Munroe II, a Pioneer Credit Recovery employee and Just Kings representative.

“I am looking to learn how Batavia works and if something terrible (police action leading to tragedy) ever happened in Batavia -- and I sure hope it never does -- to make sure there is accountability,” he said. “I want see Batavia stay as safe as it is and even safer. It’s important to build the connection between police and the community.”

On having three Just Kings members in the group, he said the “city has embraced our group for the most part … and we’re heading in the right direction.”

Michael Henry, lifelong Batavian who works at the DePaul residence in Warsaw, said support and accountability go hand in hand.

“I want to know that the police are doing the best that they are capable of and have what they need to do their best, and also to make sure there is a measure of accountability,” he said.

The Batavian was unable to reach Bill Blackshear, who like Henry was added to the group earlier today.

Blackshear has spoken in favor of increased dialogue among different racial groups and law enforcement in the past, including a 2017 plea to City Council to act to bring citizens together “for a better communication and a better understanding of each other.”

September 14, 2020 - 3:00pm


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September 14, 2020 - 11:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in school boards, news, education, notify.

In 2018, The Batavian reported on school district policies that prohibited school board members from talking to the public about their individual views on school district policy.

In 2020, only one superintendent -- Mickey Edwards in Byron-Bergen -- informed us that only the superintendent was authorized to speak to reporters about district issues and that any statements from board members needed his approval. If we sought their individual views, they could speak as private citizens but he informed us he didn't have their private email addresses. We issued a FOIL request for their district email addresses, which we received.

Though only one superintendent attempted to claim to be the gatekeeper for school board statements this time around, the practice of school board members continuing to avoid public accountability for their position on policy issues is unabated in 2020.

We attempted to survey every school board member in Genesee County on their views related to school reopening in the age of coronavirus. Only two school board members out of 52 in the county responded with individual answers. Alice Ann Benedict, Batavia city schools, responded via email as requested. John Reigle answered the questions as part of an interview about his appointment as a trustee to Batavia city schools.

The school boards in Byron-Bergen, Le Roy, and Oakfield-Alabama provided group responses. John Cima, board president for Pembroke, provided a response that he said was made on behalf of the board.

We did not offer school boards the option of a group response but they did anyway.

We wonder how many teachers in Genesee County would give their students a failing grade for failure to follow instructions, turning an individual assignment into a group assignment?

There was no response whatsoever from Alexander, Elba, and Pavilion.

School board members are elected individually not as groups. The voting public has a right to know -- and every reason to expect -- what each individual school board member thinks about issues of public importance related to their school districts. The failure to be transparent -- and worse yet, forced group conformity -- deprives the public of a robust public debate, something essential in a healthy democracy, about important issues.

The requirement that the views of school board members go through a vetting process -- either superintendent approval or a homogenized group statement -- clearly violates the very idea of the First Amendment, depriving school board members of their right to speak freely and the press of its responsibility to accurately report on government policy.

This new strategy of a group response under the guise of "we speak with one voice" is no less noxious to the concept of a free and open society. It requires conformity and stifles dissent. It clearly sets up a chilling effect on free speech.

School board members will tell us they willingly go along with this "one voice" policy but we have no real idea which board members secretly feel their individual viewpoints are being unfairly kept from the public. "Individuality is fine as long as we all do it together," Frank Burns said in an episode of "M*A*S*H." That's long been the cry of the conformist in their discomfort with dissent. But good policies can't be fashioned without dissent and dissent can't be tested for its durability without healthy public debate.

These policies, as we saw and reported on in 2018, can even have a chilling effect on candidates for open seats in school board elections. How does a democracy continue to function when candidates for office refuse to answer questions for voters?

The Batavian will continue to press for school board members to be open and honest with the voters who elect them.

Responses to our questions:

Here is a list, by district, of elected officials who did not respond individually to our questions.

Batavia

  • Peter Cecere
  • Shawna Murphy
  • Tanni Bromley
  • Barbara Bowman
  • John Marucci

Alexander

  • Brian Paris
  • Molly Grimes
  • John Slenker
  • Sara Fernaays
  • Chris Mullen

Byron-Bergen

  • Debra List
  • Yvonne Ace-Wagoner
  • Kimberly Carlson
  • William Forsyth
  • Tammy Menzie
  • Amy Phillips
  • Jennifer VanValkenburg

Elba

  • Michael Augello
  • Michael Riner
  • Michael Hare
  • Dean Norton
  • Travis Torrey
  • Trisha Werth
  • Michael Zuber

Le Roy

  • Jacalyn Whiting 
  • Denise Duthe 
  • Christine Dowell 
  • Richard Lawrence  
  • Peter Loftus 
  • William MacKenzie 
  • Lloyd Miller

Oakfield-Alabama

  • Timothy Edgerton
  • Lorna Klotzbach
  • Matt Lamb
  • Justin Staebell
  • Jackie Yunker Davis
  • Pete Zeliff
  • Daniel Groth

Pavilion

  • Marirose Ethington
  • Jeff Finch
  • Margaret Gaston
  • Rebecca Dziekan
  • Kevin Stefan
  • Callin Ayers-Tillotson
  • Christopher Jeffres

Pembroke

  • John A. Cima
  • Heather Wood
  • Ed Levinstein
  • Dan Lang
  • Art Ianni
September 14, 2020 - 10:20am

The City of Batavia Police Department today announced the addition of two people in the “resident” category of its Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group, increasing the total number to 20.

Michael Henry and Bill Blackshear have been added to the committee, and will join residents Raelene Christian, Bill Hayes, Francis Marchese and Gregory Munroe II.

Others who have been selected are as follows:

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch, Assistant Chief Chris Camp and Batavia Police Benevolent Association President Matt Wojtaszczyk;

Public Defender Jerry Ader and First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell;

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, City Council Member Kathleen Briggs and City Attorney George Van Nest;

Batavia City School Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., YWCA Executive Director Millie Tomidy-Pepper, Batavia Housing Authority Director Nathan Varland;

Business owner Brandon Armstrong, Just Kings representative Victor Thomas and Rev. Martin Macdonald, City Church pastor.

Jay Gsell and Erik Fix have been appointed as facilitators/moderators.

The group has been formed in compliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on police reform.

It is charged with reviewing police policies and procedures, and adopting a plan that addresses, per the mandate, “the particular needs of the communities served by such police agency and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.”

The advisory group’s first meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 at the City Centre Council Chambers. All COVID-19 protocols will be in effect.

The governor’s executive order stipulates that municipalities must adopt a plan and submit it to the state by April 1 to be eligible for future state funding.

September 14, 2020 - 6:36am
posted by Howard B. Owens in gas prices, news.

Press release from AAA:

Today’s national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.19, down 3 cents from last week. One year ago, the price was $2.57. The New York State average is $2.28 – down a penny since last week. A year ago, the NYS average was $2.73.

AAA Western and Central New York (AAA WCNY) reports the following averages:

  • Batavia -- $2.22 (down a penny since last week)
  • Buffalo -- $2.25 (no change since last week)
  • Ithaca -- $2.21 (down 1 cent since last week)
  • Rochester -- $2.26 (down 1 cent since last week)
  • Rome -- $2.32 (down 1 cent since last week)
  • Syracuse -- $2.22 (down 2 cents since last week)
  • Watertown -- $2.32 (down 2 cents since last week)

With road trip season in the rearview mirror, pump prices have dropped along with demand. The Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline demand dropped last week, which is helping to bring pump prices down.

Low demand will likely help pump prices to continue their descent as summer fades to fall. Even back-to-school season didn’t lead to an increase in demand for gasoline since so many students are studying virtually.

From GasBuddy:

"Seasonal factors, as expected, are pushing gas prices down in most areas across the country. In addition, oil prices have hit a rough patch on renewed concerns about the economy and falling demand, leaving motorists the beneficiaries for the next few weeks," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

"No one should be in a rush to fill up as prices will likely continue to trend lower, especially as the summer gasoline requirement ends on Tuesday, ushering in cheaper to produce winter gasoline and a return to less fragmentation in supply since winter gasoline is common nearly coast to coast, making it less of a headache to produce fuel since it can be used universally."

September 14, 2020 - 6:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in advertisement, Deal of the Day.

Reminders of how the Deal of the Day program works:

  • To make purchases, you must be registered. Deal of the Day uses a registration system that is not connected to the registration for commenting on The Batavian (the main user login in the upper left of the homepage).
  • Once registered, you must sign in using the "sign in" link in this box.
  • You click on the orange button, which appears if the item is not sold out, and it takes you to a PayPal button. This allows you to pay either with your PayPal account or with a credit card/debit card. The login for PayPal is completely separate from our accounts.
  • The first person to successfully complete the PayPal transaction wins the gift certificate.
  • You are eligible to buy the same item only once in a four-month period. We use the registration system to track this for you so you don't have to.
  • Only one gift certificate from the same business PER HOUSEHOLD is allowed in each four-month period. We do not have a way to automatically track duplicate purchases within a household; however, if we notice such a purchase, we reserve the right to cancel the purchase and refund the purchase money. Each individual buyer must use his or her own PayPal account for purchases. It's important that participating businesses not be asked to redeem multiple gift certificates from the same person/family at the same time.
  • Gift certificates should be used within 30 days of receipt.
  • Problems, questions, concerns about the Deal of the Day? Email Billie Owens:   [email protected]
September 14, 2020 - 5:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, bergen, news.

A possible robbery is reported at the Bergen C-Store, which is near the intersection of Route 33 and Route 19 in Bergen.

Law enforcement patrols are looking for a blue or black Hyundai or Kia occupied by two black males.

UPDATE 5:50 a.m.: A deputy on scene reports this was shoplifting, not a robbery.

September 13, 2020 - 3:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, news, Elba Betterment Committee, music, arts, entertainment.

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The Old Hippies and What About Jane teamed up Saturday for an evening of memorable music as part of a summer concert series sponsored by the Elba Betterment Committee in the Elba Village Park.

Food venders included Dubby's Wood Fired Pizza (pictured below), Los Compadres, Lori's Delectable Edibles (desserts), and Bubble Tea.

The final concert of the season will be Wednesday featuring the Corfu Pembroke Community Band in an All-American-themed evening that will include the Betterment Committee hot dogs and hamburgs and serving Mom's apple pie. And, of course, there will be ice cream. Showtime is 7 p.m.

Photos by Kelly Dudley. 

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September 13, 2020 - 2:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in outdoors, birds, animals, batavia, news.

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Jason Smith shared this photo of a male cardinal feeding a female cardinal in the backyard of his Batavia home.

September 13, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in news, batavia, history, education, nostalgia, covid-19, St. Mary's School.

After attending school (elementary, high school and college) for 18 years and teaching school (fifth and sixth grades) for another 33, I have been a part of opening day 51 times. And that doesn't include the overlapping times when my own two children headed back to their educational journeys.

But nothing in all that time is going to compare what the beginning of this school year will be like due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Taking temperatures, wearing masks, social distancing, plexiglass separating panels, lots of sanitizing, and a whole lot more that teachers and students are going to face including some days at school and other days virtually, all because of COVID-19.

I have never regretted being retired, but I am even more happy about it this year and convey my best wishes to all those who will try their best to make the 2020-2021 academic year a productive one.

Back in the 1950s at St. Mary's School in Batavia, we certainly had a less worrisome time when our summer vacation ended. Some preparations had to be made, but nothing approaching what parents and kids have to do now, even before the virus.

Bow Ties and Buster Browns

There was no fretting about what to wear to impress our classmates. We had uniforms, so each kid looked as plain and mundane as every other one. For the girls, it was a light blue blouse with a dark blue skirt, and the boys wore a light blue long or short sleeve shirt with dark blue pants. The pièce de résistance for the boys was a blue clip-on bow tie. If I had a nickel for every one of those I lost I could have bought a lot of Junior Mints.

I'm pretty sure that the school had a deal with Charles Mens' Shop (which is still in business) to stock the uniforms and each year my mom would buy me two shirts and two pairs of pants. Between roughhousing on the way to and from school and outdoors at lunchtime, by June those pants would have been patched more times than a pothole at Ellicott and Main.

When it came to shoes, things were pretty simple. We'd head to Thomas and Dwyer's Downtown and Mr. Dwyer or Skinny Weiss would find a new pair of Buster Brown's in our size. We hated those goofy-looking round-toed things, but Mom was paying so that's what you got. The girls would arrive on day one with new saddle shoes or Mary Janes. I don't think sneakers were allowed.

Lunch Box and Lunchroom

In the '50s we didn't have backpacks, but choosing your lunchbox was a big deal. This was before everything was plastic and they were made from metal and most contained a Thermos.

Howdy Doody ones were a favorite of the younger kids, while the older boys wanted Davy Crockett or The Lone Ranger. By the way, those metal boxes could come in handy if you had to defend yourself from a bully.

During the first couple years of St. Mary's existence we were housed in the basement of adjoining Notre Dame High because the elementary school was still under construction. Once we got in the new building our lunch habits changed because we had a school lunchroom.

Mrs. Isabelle Suranni, who was a chef at various restaurants in the area, prepared the food right on the premises. Unlike most other lunchroom food I encountered over the years St. Mary's was tasty, especially the spaghetti. My mom worked in the kitchen for a couple of years and whenever spaghetti was served she'd bring some home for dinner.

So, that was about it -- uniform, shoes, lunchbox. Maybe a couple pencils and a box of eight crayola crayons. There was no list sent home of all the things the parents needed to buy.

As far as teacher preparations that were made for school's opening, it was certainly a big deal for me when I was teaching. We'd head back to our classrooms a week or two early to get the classroom ready. Desks were arranged, bulletin boards decorated, name tags made, lessons prepared, and so on.

'Convent'-ional Classroom

For seven of my eight elementary school years, my teacher was a nun -- a Sister of the Holy Cross (inset photo below right from the 1950s). I don't know how many of them had formal teacher training but I'd guess not many.

I could be cynical and surmise that the nuns spent their summer sanding and honing their rulers and yardsticks to use on us little delinquents.

But, since most Catholic schools had 40-50 students in a class, more likely they were catching their breath and recuperating from the previous semester.

Maybe they had nun spas where they would go to get refreshed. Probably not.

I don't recall much about bulletin boards or decorations, but with 50 desks there probably wasn't room for any. There were always a bunch of strategically placed statues though. Some saint was always looking over your shoulder when you were about to launch that spitball.

A Long Year Ahead

I can't imagine having more than 30 kids in a class, but it must have given the nuns some preopening day anxiety. Actually, I could identify with that feeling somewhat because my very first teaching job after graduating from college in 1969 was in a Catholic school, Sts. Peter and Paul in Rochester.

I was also similar to the nuns in that I really didn't have much preparation for teaching. I had, quite honestly, taken the job in order to secure a deferment from the military draft. I had only taken a couple education classes at St. John Fisher and never did any student teaching. Essentially, I was winging it.

My very first day I started out by handing out index cards to my sixth-graders and asking them to write down their name, address, phone number, and parents' names. I had a boy in the class who was from Lebanon named Toufik. 

As I circulated around he raised his hand. “Yes, Toufik,” I said. “How can I help you?”

“Mister,” he replied. “How do you make a T?”

“Oh boy,” I thought. “What have I gotten myself into?

First Days

Only two of my St. Mary's opening days stand out in my memory of boyhood, both of which I mentioned in a previous story.

In first grade, school started on a Wednesday, but because I had strep throat, I didn't arrive until the following Monday. I was a shy kid so I was probably terrified to come in on my own.

A boy named Lenny, the briefest of classmates, had the absolute greatest opening day entrance in my 51 years when he showed up with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and promptly got expelled. There was an ad at the time which said, “I'd walk a mile for a Camel.” Lenny only got to walk about 50 feet before the black-habited arm of a nun whisked him off the premises forever.

On my first opening day after retiring, I took my boat and went fishing. On the first opening day of my longtime girlfriend's retirement, we took a day trip to the pretty little Finger Lakes Town of Skaneatles.

What will we do on the first day of school this year? I'm not sure except that it won't involve little kids. Or nuns.

Photos and images courtesy of Dave Reilly.

September 13, 2020 - 1:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, Pavilion.

A caller reports a bridge is on fire in the area of 9963 Covell Road, Pavilion.

Pavilion fire is dispatched.

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