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Trojans to take stage at Blue Cross Arena for Class C2 final on Saturday

By Howard B. Owens
alexander basketball

The Alexander Trojans, seeded #2 in Class C2 is heading to Blue Cross Arena on Saturday to via for a sectional championship after beating Bolivar-Richburg on Tuesday 52-49.

The Trojans will face #1 seed Byron-Bergen.

Game time is noon.

Dylan Pohl scored 26 points for Alexander. Trent Woods scored 16.

Photos by Brennan Bezon.

alexander basketball
alexander basketball
alexander basketball
alexander basketball

Chambry sinks final shot free throw to send Byron-Bergen to C2 finals

By Howard B. Owens
byron bergen basketball

Byron-Bergen's Class C2 semifinal game came down to the last shot, with the ball in the hands of the Bees top scorer, Brayden Chambry.

Of course, he sunk the free throw.

Final score: Byron-Bergen, the #1 seed, 61-60, over #4 seed York.

Chambry scored 30 points. Brody Baubie scored 13, Brendan Pimm, 10, and Colin Martin, eight.

Next up: #2 seed Alexander, at noon on Saturday at the Blue Cross Arena for the Class C2 championship.

Photos by Jennifer DiQuattro.

byron bergen basketball
byron bergen basketball
byron bergen basketball
byron bergen basketball
byron bergen basketball

Notre Dame topples #1 seed to advance to final in Class C3

By Howard B. Owens
notre dame semifinal basketball

Notre Dame earned a trip to Blue Cross Arena this Saturday with a 73-65 win over Fillmore on Tuesday in the Class C3 semifinal.

The Fighting Irish will play Arkport-Canaseraga for the championship at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

ND came into the game seeded #4 and went on to upset #1 seed Fillmore behind 23 points for Jaden Sherwood and 21 points for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Jay Antinore scored 11 points and Chase Antinore scored nine.

Sherwood also had eight rebounds.

Jay Antinore was assigned Fillmore's leading scorer, Zach Sission, on defense and held him scoreless from the field. Sission's five points in the game came on free throws. Antinore had six steals.

Arkport-Canaseraga is the #3 seed.

Photos by Pete Welker.

notre dame semifinal basketball
notre dame semifinal basketball
notre dame semifinal basketball
notre dame semifinal basketball

Borrello announces his candidacy for reelection

By Press Release

Press Release:

Senator George Borrello officially announced he is seeking re-election to the New York State Senate to represent the 57th District.

“Representing my constituents in Western New York is a great privilege and one that I strive to honor by giving 110 percent every day.  Albany is dominated by New York City legislators and activists whose priorities and values are a world apart from ours. I’ve made it my mission to be a champion for our district and rural New Yorkers,” said Senator Borrello.

“Right now, our state is facing a crisis of epic proportions caused by the unrelenting influx of migrants into New York. It is consuming billions in taxpayer funds at an alarming rate. Yet our governor refuses to rescind the ‘sanctuary’ status that is fueling the crisis,” said Sen. Borrello. “We need elected officials who will stand up for everyday New Yorkers who are rightly saying ‘enough is enough’”.

“As the City’s dominance has grown, the fight to secure our fair share of resources for our schools, roads, and other essential services has intensified. It is also critical that we continue to push back against one-size-fits-all policies that neglect to account for upstate realities,” said Sen. Borrello. 

“There is no better example than the natural gas bans and electric school bus mandates that are slated to go into effect in just a few years. Our rural setting and cold, snowy winters aren’t compatible with all-electric energy sources and, in the worst scenario, represent life and safety hazards.”

Senator Borrello noted that while statewide issues garner headlines, constituent service is a core priority.

“I am proud of the record my team and I have when it comes to helping our constituents. We logged more than 2,000 constituent cases in 2023 alone, spanning a wide range of issues. Behind those figures are real folks who reached out for help with problems – some complex and others that were addressed through a phone call. But in a rural area like ours, where services can be scarce, we recognize the vital importance of this assistance.”

“I’ve been a leading voice against the government overreach that is threatening our constitutional freedoms. We not only won the first court ruling against the governor’s ‘isolation and quarantine’ procedures, but we’ve also mobilized people across the state who realize the risks of giving the executive too much-unfettered power,” said Sen. Borrello.

“New Yorkers are asking for help. In the most recent Siena poll, a majority cited affordability and crime as their top concerns and a majority also said the quality of life in our state is declining. There is too much at stake to sit on the sidelines. That is why I am running for re-election. The future of our region and our state is at stake, and I am committed to doing everything I can to make the changes we need to not only survive but thrive in the years ahead," said Sen. Borrello.

Senator Borrello has represented the 57th District since winning a special election in 2019 and being re-elected in 2022. The district, one of the Legislature’s largest geographically, encompasses Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee, and Wyoming counties, as well as a portion of Allegany County.

More information on George Borrello is available at and @BorrelloforNY on Facebook.

GO Health warns of increased encounters with wildlife

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health) are warning residents to stay away from wildlife and stray animals.

“Due to the mild winter and warmer temperatures, there has been a rise in the instances of people encountering wild animals and strays throughout Genesee and Orleans Counties,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for GO Health. “In the past month, several residents have required rabies treatment following an animal encounter.”

Rabies is most often found in wildlife such as raccoons, bats, and skunks, but pets can be at risk of the virus too. “If you see an animal in need, even if it is a baby animal, avoid touching it and contact animal control, stated Darren Brodie, Environmental Health Director for GO Health. “It is also important to keep your pets up to date on their rabies vaccination.”

Rabies can be fatal if left untreated. It can be transmitted through direct contact with saliva through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth. 

If you are bitten by an animal, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention. All bites should be reported to the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments. 

To prevent the spread of rabies, the health department reminds residents to take the following precautions:

  • Keep your pets up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations
  • Obey leash laws. Keep your pets under direct supervision and on a leash so they do not come in contact with wild or stray animals. If an animal bites your pet, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the health department.
  • Avoid contact with wild or stray animals. Do not handle, feed, touch, or attract wildlife (raccoons, skunks, bats, bunnies, rabbits, and foxes) or stray dogs and cats.
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home. 
  • Prevent bats from entering living quarters. If you find a bat in your home, safely capture it and call the health department. DO NOT release it! For a video on how to safety capture a bat, visit
  • Call your local animal control agency to remove any stray animals from your neighborhood or if you see an animal showing signs of rabies. Signs of rabies in animals may include aggression, excessive drool or saliva, confusion, hair loss, and loss of movement or function.

Residents are encouraged to take note of our upcoming drive-thru rabies vaccination clinics for dogs, cats, and ferrets in Genesee and Orleans Counties which are offered at no charge. 

Genesee County Rabies Clinics at the Genesee County Fairgrounds (5056 East Main Street, Batavia)

  • Thursday, May 16, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, August 8, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 10, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.

Orleans County Rabies Clinics at the Orleans County Fairgrounds (12690 State Route 31, Albion)

  • Saturday, April 13, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, June 5, from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 10, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, October 19, from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m.

For more information on GO Health’s programs and services, visit You can also contact your respective health department: 

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

Photos: Sunset, Kelsey Road, Batavia

By Staff Writer
batavia sunset

Two photos of the sunset taken off Kelsey Road in the town of Batavia on Tuesday evening.

Photos submitted by Corey Coles.

batavia sunset

Chamber Awards: VFA earns special recognition in its 40th year caring for animals

By Joanne Beck
vfa chamber award
Members of Volunteers For Animals gather at Genesee County Animal Shelter in Batavia. 
Photo by Howard Owens

There they were: a dozen frightened, skinny, matted, shaking dogs — mostly poodles or poodle mixes — desperate for food, medical care, flea treatment, and, most of all, a loving and safe home.

Lucky for them, they were rescued by Genesee County dog control officers and delivered into the caring arms of Volunteers For Animals. From that moment on, those little guys and gals received much-needed baths and grooming, veterinary attention, dental work, and one by one — or in some cases, two by two — they were adopted to forever homes. 

It would be nice, perhaps, to think that this was an isolated case of animal neglect or abuse; however, there are many more stories. And for each one that volunteers share, they also share a smile when it ends in adoption. 

“It’s the happiest thing ever to see one walk out the door, and when the right family comes along, we say ‘yay, they got adopted,” VFA member Marcy Colantonio says.

Colantonio feels so strongly about the nonprofit that, in addition to being a member for the last seven years, she nominated the group for the Chamber of Commerce Special Anniversary Recognition of the Year Award.

“I think we do so much for the community and for the cats and the dogs. You know, this isn't home. And they need people to speak for them to help them find the right homes and the perfect homes for them. They don't need to be sitting in a kennel or in a cage, and I just like to promote this,” she said. “All we do, we take care of them, make sure they have a good life here, but it's not the best life. Ideally, they all need homes. So that's why I'm here, to help them find the perfect place for them.”

In 1984, there was an eager and active group of caring individuals who wanted to help four-legged creatures, and so it formed a nonprofit that, as the name implied, was truly about Volunteers For Animals. 

Those volunteers began at the modest — and often described as sad — shelter on Mill Street on the south side of Batavia until a new one was built in 2001. Ever since that first day, they have been cleaning cages, doing laundry, washing dishes, feeding cats and dogs, ensuring they get proper medical treatment and tests, and taking the pups out for regular walks, greeting and screening prospective adopters and — the most gratifying job of all: watching temporary shelter guests go home with their new families.

In more recent years, VFA has focused on fundraising for a strong spay and neuter program so that animals don’t reproduce and potentially create more unwanted innocent offspring. But all of this seems so clinical compared to what actually goes on at the shelter on Route 5 in the town of Batavia.

Amidst the feedings and tests and medical treatments — all valid in their own right — are the dozens, or hundreds, of stories, the tears, the smiles, the laughter, the compassion of people, pulling for an animal’s victory from abuse, abandonment, neglect, and putting in tireless effort, whether it’s to provide hands-on care, map out successful fundraisers or promote the nonprofit and shelter occupants. 

Colantonio joined for a reason familiar to most others: because she had a heart for the work.

“I wanted to do something for the animals, I knew someone who always shared good things about Volunteers For Animals and she said give it a try,” Colantonio said inside the adoption visit room at the shelter. “I fell in love with it.”

She has adopted a beagle and cat from the site, and as she and fellow volunteers Angie Knisley and Wendy Castleman began to think of rescue stories, the names just rolled off their tongues. 

There was Gigi, a white pitbull mix who had been at the shelter for 300 days and went through the Pathways to Home program, Ricky the cat, who was very sweet and landed a wonderful home eventually, Brad Pit, who was involved in an unfortunate long-term court case who had to remain at the shelter until the case was resolved, and was adopted once it was over. 

And Ruffles, a pretty tiger cat, who came in as a stray with a bad uterine infection. 

“Within days, you could tell she was feeling much better,” Castleman said. “She would’ve died on the street. She simply needed to be spayed.” 

Colantonio and Knisley waved and smiled as Ruffles and her new pet parent said goodbye and left the shelter. 

Castleman, who has been a member for two decades, said that VFA used to be mostly focused on the shelter itself and has expanded outward into the community, with a satellite location for cats at PetCo, a low-cost spay and neuter program, and the Path to Homes program, which began in 2018, with selected dogs being placed with inmates at Albion Correctional Facility and volunteer trainer and VFA member Tom Ryan working with them to prepare the dogs for adoption. 

Way before then, however, when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, VFA answered the call for those residents who not only worried about their own lives but the lives of their beloved pets left behind in the massive flooding. 

“Things seemed to change with Katrina. There was a huge shift, and there was a more of a recognition that there were places that had large volumes of animals that needed to be adopted and were adaptable,” Castleman said. “And for me, personally, it was a huge game changer. And I think those core volunteers are still very active. And to include the community and make it a more positive experience for both the public and the animals.”

Those rescues became a big source of news and more happy local adoption stories as volunteers drove dogs back to Batavia to a safer harbor. They have continued to snatch dogs from the jaws of high-kill shelters in other states for quick turnaround adoption times, as folks here always seemed eager to help out and welcome a four-legged into their own homes.

There’s a core of about 30 volunteers — some committing once a week and others more or less often — with 40 foster families tending to kittens to free up space for adult cats in the shelter but willing to bring the young ones in for visits when needed.

“We have a really good adoption rate because of the public; people think about adopting,” Knisley said. “I think, too, the gratitude that we feel towards the volunteers themselves because our volunteers come in and cover every day of the year. Somebody is here helping, and it's such an important integral part of us is having people here, and besides the wonderful donations that we get with the money to do what we do, it's the people.”

They are proud to say that 95 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to help the animals in Genesee County and the surrounding area, and there are no salaried employees in the organization. The breakdown for 2023 includes 76 percent for veterinary care, which was $170,827; 17% for medications, vaccine and food supplies, or $37,856; 5% for fundraising, $11,047; and 2% for rescue dog fees, or $4,560. 

It is rewarding, emotional and sometimes difficult being an animal welfare volunteer, Colantonio said. 

“We see the best of humanity and the worst of humanity,” she said. “From being saved from an abusive situation, rescued from a hoarder home to simply taking in a pet that is no longer loved or wanted, the well-being of the dog or cat is always our first priority.”  

One of those situations involved a barely recognizable pooch that came to the shelter with so much puss from infections that he had to stay in a bathtub for a while, Castleman said. 

“His ears and mouth were pouring with puss,” she said.  “We took him to a vet clinic, and the vet said ‘we can clean it up, he needs antibiotics, vet care and he had dental work.”

While the prognosis was iffy, and the amount of grotesque puss was “heartbreaking,” that dog turned out to be a “gorgeous Pomeranian.” His name was Nook, and he was most definitely a cutie. He proved positive that miraculous transformations can take place for what might seem like a hopeless cause.

It was the same for those dozen poodles, rescued from a hoarding situation. Most of them recovered and were adopted, including two little girls who went on to live for nine years with a local reporter. They had major dental work, anxiety, social issues, inability to take stairs, walk on a leash or hold down their meals many times or remain housebroken, but were loving, comfortable and loved. 

“They just rebound,” Castleman said.

After all, that’s what Volunteers For Animals, celebrating its 40th year, is all about: hope for hopeless animals. 

Photos by Howard Owens

vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award
vfa chamber award

Retired sergeant is presented with proclamation, best wishes

By Joanne Beck
Eugene Jankowski and Daniel Coffee
City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. listens as retired Sergeant Daniel Coffey says a few words with his proclamation during Monday's conference meeting at City Hall. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

A devoted leader and public servant passionate about his community and what he does, those are a few descriptions for retired Sergeant Dan Coffey, who was given a belated proclamation and best wishes from the City Council this week for his 20 years of service with the Batavia Police Department.

Coffey walked out the door of 10 W. Main St. for his Jan. 5 retirement this year after a career that put him in positions of police officer, field training officer, general topics instructor, lead firearms instructor and having served on the department’s emergency response team, before being promoted to sergeant in June 2012.

He took command of the first platoon soon afterward. He was in charge of the department’s fleet of vehicles, credited for being “integral in the day-to-day operations of the department,” for taking on many projects, and for serving his community and the department with passion and dedication. 

A lifelong city of Batavia resident who graduated from Notre Dame High School, Coffey attended Genesee Community College and obtained an associate degree before he earned his bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Brockport State College. 

He began his career as a police officer at the City of Batavia Police Department on Oct. 5, 2003. His other career experiences include time as an emergency services dispatcher at Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, a manager at a local restaurant, and as a former chief for the Town of Batavia Fire Department, where he continues to volunteer.

The public has recognized Coffey with “many appreciation letters and positive comments,” the resolution read. He is a past recipient of the Kiwanis Club Criminal Justice Award and has received other departmental awards, the proclamation states.

He has also distinguished himself as a leader and mentor within the department and the city of Batavia, it states.

“Now, therefore, in a true spirit of appreciation for 20 years of dedicated service to the city of Batavia, City Council makes this proclamation to sincerely thank Daniel J. Coffey for his dedicated service to our community and to wish him well in retirement,” City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said, reading the proclamation to Coffey during Monday’s conference meeting.

Coffey accepted the citation from Jankowski, a fellow retired police department member, and said a few words to the audience, which included some department personnel.

“Thank you very much for the sentiment. I really do appreciate it,” he said. “It was a good career. I enjoyed working for the city of Batavia, and it really does mean a lot to me that my service was recognized. I really do appreciate all the people here. Thank you.”

His retirement did not last long. Coffey was hired in January as director of campus safety for GCC in Batavia.

Town of Byron changes location for Wednesday informational meeting

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Town of Byron Sewer District and Waste Water Treatment proposed project informational meeting has been changed from the Town Hall to the South Byron Fire Hall, 7398 South Byron Rd. Byron on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.

This change was made to accommodate the number of attendees. 

MRB Group, project Engineers will be explaining the reasons leading to the proposed project and the plans going forward.

Public questions are welcome.

The regularly scheduled Byron Town Board Meeting will immediately follow the informational meeting.

Batavia City Schools board considers overriding tax cap as one option for $3M budget gap

By Joanne Beck

A $3.1 million budget shortfall due to potentially retaining seven positions funded by grants that will end this September, a decrease in state aid, and a transportation contract that’s gone up by more than $500,000 has triggered a tax cap alert for Batavia City School board members.

That is, at least some of them have agreed they would consider overriding the state-mandated tax cap increase, which for the city district is .72 percent. Members had a first go-round of the 2024-25 budget during Monday’s board meeting.

“If it is coming down to it, we’re going to have to look at every option,” Vice President John Reigle said.

Business Administrator Andrew Lang presented projected revenues and expenditures, retaining current staffing, busing and programs. The proposed general support budget would be $6,977,767, or an increase of $505,98; an employee benefits increase of $657,194; transportation, which just received a five-year ok from the board for $3,310,108 for the first year, or a 20.2 percent increase and provides transportation for students from home to school, athletic events, field trips and summer home to school. 

What Lang calls the rollover expenditure budget includes current staffing of seven full-time, long-term substitutes that have been funded through COVID-19 grant money of $5,804,256 that will end in September, five full-time social workers funded through a full-service community schools grant, five full-time instructional staff retirement replacements, all departmental requests for equipment and supplies, and two full-time school resource officers, one of which is funded with those COVID-19 grant funds about to expire in six months. 

Items that also will roll over and cannot budge are salary increases in accordance with collective bargaining agreements and individual contracts and projected employer contribution amounts for employee and teacher retirement systems, he said. There is also a free school supplies for all students program, also purchased with COVID funds. 

All totaled, the 2024-25 budget would be more than $62 million, at $62,052,726, compared to the current year’s budget of $58,875,814, for a difference of an additional $3,176,912. 

As for overall enrollment projections, those are expected to gradually decline, Lang said. Numbers had dipped to 2,006 in 2021-22, and then rose back up to 2,031 in 2022-23, 2,072 in 2023-24, and then slipped back down to 2,047 in 2024-25, and are projected to fall to 2,034 in 2025-26 hover around there in 2026-27, fall again to 2,022 in 2027-28 and bounce back to 2,046 in 2028-29. Numbers have been nowhere close to the all-time high of 2,167 of 2019-20. 

Those extra positions were added three years ago with COVID funds as a measure to deal with the aftermath of shutdowns and what educators believed was an issue of students struggling with social-emotional learning and related academic achievement.

“So there are some things that we need to be thinking about,” Superintendent Jason Smith said, referring to what he believes was “learning loss” attributed to COVID-19. “So we saw last month our test scores have been competitive. I’m not excusing the damage the pandemic caused, but it’s been four years … at some point, you can say the gap has been closed. Yes, we still want to give services to kids. We have seen some nice improvements across the district, and we still have some more work to do. But we also have to be careful that if we absorb that amount of almost $6 million into the general fund, which is what the plan is now, that may not be the most fiscally prudent thing to do.” 

Lang recommended that the next steps would be to increase the revenue by appropriating additional reserves, increasing the tax levy, and/or continuing to lobby for additional state aid. Expenses can be decreased through attrition and no additional hiring, he said, consider what to do with those grant-funded positions, and there’s an option not to replace the retiring personnel for more savings.

Board member Alice Benedict asked about transportation. 

“We also have flexibility on transportation too, do we not?” she said.

Smith initially said no.

Benedict pursued her line of thinking, adding that busing is not mandated, so the district is not bound to provide it.

“It’s something that can be looked at,” Smith said. “I’m not sure it’s something we would do.”

“Having lived here all my life, transportation has changed quite a bit,” Benedict said.

Smith said he believes there will be more Foundation Aid to come from the state. He turned to the board and asked if members wanted him to return with budget recommendations, and if there was any interest in exceeding the tax cap.

“I would,” Board President John Marucci said as Reigle also weighed in.

“We never want to, but I think it’s an option we have to look at,” Reigle said. 

He wanted to make sure that the SROs and school safety remained in place, and no board member suggested cutting any personnel at this point. Smith said that the administration would return with recommendations at the next meeting.

The group plans to meet at a budget workshop on March 12 at the District Office. A proposed budget is to be adopted by April 22 and be available for public review by May 6 and presented during a budget hearing at 6 p.m. May 14. A district vote will be on May 21.

Le Roy district announces merger of legendary football program with former rival, Cal-Mum

By Howard B. Owens
leroy calmum merger 2012 file photo
File photo from 2012

The rivalry was once among the most legendary in Section V - Caledonia-Mumford vs. the Oatkan Knights of Le Roy.

The rivalry waned when leagues were realigned a few years ago, and starting next season, the once fierce fighters on the field will be brothers on the gridiron. 

Both school districts have approved, pending Section V approval, a merger of the two football programs.  The merger will affect all levels of football in both communities.

The Knights are coming off a 2023 campaign in which the team won its record-setting 16th Section V title.

The Le Roy Central School District said in a statement on Tuesday evening:

Please know that this decision was made with the best interests of our students and our school district in mind and keeps the mission of our shared services committee central to our decision-making. The decision to merge football teams with the Caledonia-Mumford CSD reflects the collaborative spirit and commitment to providing exceptional opportunities for our student-athletes.

The statement acknowledged the rich football history in both communities and said the merger would strengthen football opportunities for all age groups and help both districts sustain 11 main football programs.

The district said there would be future announcements about the plan to carry out the merger, practice and game schedules and locations, and a selection of a head coach and additional coaching staff.

"The team name, mascot, and colors will also be determined by student-athletes in partnership with our athletic directors and coaching staff at a later date," the statement read. 

It concluded, "We are excited about this merger and the future of the Caledonia-Mumford and Le Roy football program."

Over the past few seasons, Cal-Mum has been merged with Byron-Bergen for football and cheerleading.  On Tuesday evening, Athletic Director Rich Hannan and Superintendent Pat McGee issued the following statement.

We are writing to update everyone on a developing situation with our football and fall cheer program here at Byron-Bergen. Last week we were made aware that Cal-Mum is exploring a new partnership for their football and fall cheer squad that does not include Byron-Bergen. While we did not initiate this change, we are already actively exploring possibilities for our student-athletes to continue competing in their chosen fall sports.

High wind watch issued for Wednesday

By Staff Writer

A high wind watch starts on Wednesday at 11 a.m., carrying a significant threat to safety and property, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters expect winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 60 mph.

High winds are expected through Wednesday night.

Possible difficulties include toppled trees, downed power lines, scattered power outages, and travel could be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles.

BND wins first Section V title as a unified program 3-2 in overtime

By Steve Ognibene
BND United first ever Section V, Class B championship after three years as a unified program.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
BND United's first-ever Section V, Class B championship after three years as a unified program.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Batavia Notre Dame, a merged hockey team in its third year as a united unit, won its first Section V Class B championship Monday in dramatic fashion -- pulling out an overtime victory.

United struck first in the first period. 

Brennen Pedersen came off the bench to keep the puck from crossing the blue line for offsides, taking a pass from Jameson Motyka and opening up the scoring for United 1-0 with seven minutes left in the opening period.

Nine minutes into the second period, Ivan Milovidov scored unassisted, which gave United a 2-0 lead.  

Webster Thomas cut the lead by one goal, scoring with four minutes left in the period to make it 2-1.

In the third period, after two penalty kills, United maintained the lead with under four minutes left. Webster Thomas scored again to tie the game 2-2 and send it into overtime.

In overtime, each squad had opportunities until Joe DiRisio scored the game-winner on a rebound to give BND the Class B title.  

BND United had 34 shots on goal.  Rhys Tanner made 32 saves for United.

Section V awards were given to Joe DiRisio, named MVP, and Ivan Milovidov, player of the game.

United moves on to the Regional round versus Kenmore East at Noon on Saturday at RIT.

Coach Marc Staley said he told his team going into overtime to take a couple of deep breaths and go out and do what they've done all year, to trust the process.

"This game could have gone either way," Staley said. "I mean, their goalie made some great saves. Our goalie made some great saves. We ended up getting a loose puck in front of the net, and we banged it home. That's how it goes."

He added, "You know, you get a little luck when you need it.  We got a little luck when we needed it."

DiRisio, who scored the winning goal, credited the win to the close bond between team members.

"We just stayed together, really, DiRisio said. "We're brothers. We're family. We love each other. And we knew we had to stay level for it. I feel like being level mentally is 80 percent of the game. It's just it's huge."

The win, making history for the program, was a magical moment, he said.

"Obviously, it's history. It's kind of a numbing feeling because you're just so excited; at least, I am. It's just, it's incredible. It really is."

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Joe DiRisio taking a shot on net.  DiRisio scored the game winning goal in overtime.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Joe DiRisio taking a shot on net.  DiRisio scored the game winning goal in overtime.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ivan Milovidov escaping a forecheck going toward the goalkeeper.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ivan Milovidov escapes a forecheck going toward the goalkeeper.  Milovidov scored the second goal for BND.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
#18 Brennan Pedersen gave BND the lead on a shot from the blue line.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Brennen Pedersen gave BND the lead on a shot from the blue line. 
 Photo by Steve Ognibene
Orion Lama setting up a pass to teammate Brady Johnson.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Orion Lama setting up a pass to teammate Brady Johnson.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Sam Pies entering the zone setting up a play.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Sam Pies entering the zone setting up a play.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
United's bench celebration after winning the game in overtime.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
United's bench celebration after winning the game in overtime.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Players from BND United raising the Class B Section V trophy.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Players from BND United raising the Class B Section V trophy.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Opining at council conference session about budget, water, medians

By Joanne Beck
Stafford resident Frank Loncz, who owns rental properties in the city of Batavia, decided to share some thoughts and ask questions during Monday's City Council conference session at City Hall.  Photo by Joanne Beck
Stafford resident Frank Loncz, who owns rental properties in the city of Batavia, decided to share some thoughts and ask questions during Monday's City Council conference session at City Hall. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Whether they were about dirty roadway medians, lackadaisical city management, confusing water bills, misspoken words from a colleague, ongoing pokes to council members gone quiet, or in defense of a perceived job well done, comments were plenty and varied Monday evening at City Hall.

Sammy DiSalvo picked up the gauntlet on behalf of a group of citizens that gathered two weeks ago to discuss a mix of concerns, from ugly city entrances and Batavia’s bedroom community persona to a lack of better-paying jobs, less empathy for the taxpayer and a potential plan to tap nonprofits to pay a fee for city services.

Frank Loncz, one of four speakers during Monday evening’s conference session, didn’t speak for long, but that wasn’t the point. “If you don’t show up to say something, then don’t complain about it,” he later said.

Although he’s not a city resident, he does own rental properties and wanted to know how the water system works when both the water and sewer operate from one meter but are separated on his bill. 

“And for the one rental that I’m working at, I get a quarterly bill for $36.37, and I’m not using any water at all,” he said, pointing to the proposed 2-cent tax rate increase. “It’s like, okay, if nobody's here to speak, it’s very easy to get, you know, two cents. Okay, what happens the next time? It's like, we went through that, we didn't have any complaints, not a lot of people were really interested, let's make it a nickel, or, you know, that's something we could go back to all the time. It's like, if people don't come out and speak about it, nothing changes. Everybody’s just fat, dumb and happy.”

DiSalvo questioned Batavia’s direction, especially given that he couldn’t find an updated strategic or comprehensive plan on the city’s website, he said. The latest version was from 2017, except for a 2023-24 pdf.

“Whatever direction y’all want is not recently updated for us to read. It’s not transparent. Cities like Oswego laid out solid plans, such as a city map with each of the coming years highlighted in a different color, and then Oswego color-coded which street projects were in the pipeline for the next five years, available on their website,” he said.  “This is full transparency. North Tonawanda supported their farmer’s market so intensely that it was voted one of the best in the nation. It feels like much of our current strategic plan is loose with timeframes and wishes. Commitment is difficult in case you miss deadlines, I understand, but that doesn’t mean it should be avoided.”

He made some suggestions, including a citizen survey and watchdog group that would monitor council to ensure there is sufficient communication and transparency between the city leaders and residents. He said that he hopes council members hear his words and consider taking action to alleviate the mistrust that exists amongst constituents.

“Whether you think anything I have said is true or false, the fact is people are perceiving things this way and are unhappy with how some things are. The sign of a good leader is not to defend but to say, ‘I hear people's perceptions of what is happening. I hear the complaints over what we are or are not doing. I hear that people are upset with X or Y. I see that people don’t trust us for right or wrong reasons. We need to change things we do and do better so these complaints and perceptions don’t exist, and so we better fulfill our role,’” he said. “That is what I hope council walks away from this meeting with.”

City resident John Roach has continuously poked the bear in terms of seeking clear-cut answers from council members Bob Bialkowski and Tammy Schmidt, both of whom previously said they wouldn’t vote for any tax rate increase. He has asked before and again on Monday for what exactly they would cut to keep the tax rate flat. Neither council member responded.

Bialkowski did speak up just as the group was going to begin the budget public hearing, as he wanted to clarify that, as a member of the Audit Advisory Committee, he didn’t review and approve of the 2024 budget. In fact, that committee only reviewed the 2022-23 budget, Bialkowski said.

Councilman-at-Large Rich Richmond had said during the last council meeting that Bialkowski was good with everything in the budget per those Audit Advisory meetings.

“This has nothing to do with that. We were in total compliance, and we met all the goals. We were continuing to contribute to the reserves, the auditors gave a very high grading, and it had nothing to do (with the upcoming budget),” Bialkowski said. “We discussed the upcoming budget in budget workshops.” 

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Council President Eugene Jankowski.
Photo by Joanne Beck.

"Just as a rule, I don't know how other council members feel. But if I could have a zero budget or a zero tax rate, we would. But we look at our core services, and we look at the expenses to maintain those services. Then, we come up with a tax levy based on our other incomes, our other grants, and our other sources of revenue. And we do the best we can,” Jankowski said. “There's been some years where, for example, when the nursing home became on the tax rolls, we lowered taxes that year because that made a big difference in our tax levy. So we tried to keep it as low as possible based on the need. 

“So it's not just two cents. Last year, it was zero. And the year before that, I believe it was zero. And now we can't maintain that with all the increases; we just can't maintain it. So we have to do something,” he said. “And I'm not for laying off any police or firemen or public works people at this point. We're at bare bones as it is. So this is where I stand.”

No one spoke during the budget hearing itself. Council is expected to vote on the $37 million budget during its business meeting on March 11. The budget includes a proposed 2-cent per 1,000 assessed property value increase or $2 a year for a home assessed at $100,000. There is also a proposed 19 cents per 1,000 gallons of water increase and an $8 water meter increase.

Chamber Awards: Director and staff have brought history to life at HLOM

By Joanne Beck
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Holland Land Office Museum Executive Director Ryan Duffy, left, and Curator Tyler Angora. 
Photo by Howard Owens

NOTE: This week, The Batavian is highlighting the annual Chamber of Commerce Award winners with a story daily through Friday. The awards dinner is Saturday evening at Batavia Downs.

Perhaps an 11-year-old Ryan Duffy could have predicted that he’d be championing the preservation of valuable artifacts and would be involved somehow in the back stories of how historical exhibits and programs came to be presented to the public. 

“I always leaned toward that, and then we went to Gettysburg that cemented it. I saw the park rangers giving tours. The seed was there that made it a reality; it wasn’t just about learning the facts; it was something you could actually do. I’ve been directing myself toward that from then on,” Duffy said. 

Chosen in 2017 as executive director of Holland Land Office Museum, Duffy has now been named on behalf of the museum for the Chamber of Commerce Special Recognition of the Year Award. He shared the credit with Curator Tyler Angora, who has zealously bitten off the entire museum collection to sort through and organize for a multitude of exhibits now and into the future.

Duffy’s folks are well aware of his own enthusiasm for the job, and they have visited the site at 131 West Main St., Batavia “many times,” he said. They are the ones that got the ball rolling by taking him on that family trip to Pennsylvania to the famous Gettysburg National Battlefield and National Military Park, with a museum and visitor center, Civil War artifacts and a memorial to mark the site of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 address. 

It was only 21 years later when the Holland Office Museum was established; it celebrates a 130-year birthday this year. Back when Duffy was hired, the museum had come to a standstill, which meant handing him the keys to drive it wherever he could imagine.

“It was kind of a blank slate. We were starting from scratch, putting new energy and new programs into it,” he said. “It was waiting for a new perspective. One of the first things I tried differently was a regular guest speaker series and trivia nights. It took a little time to build an audience up.”

Other programs were Java Joe, concerts, Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, and taking the show on the road, so to speak, as Duffy and some board members have visited groups upon request to share what’s happening at the museum and talk about local history. 

Did everything take off immediately? It did take a while to “get our name out there,” he said, and build up a customer base. But then that base began to spread out to Rochester, Buffalo, and even farther out to Syracuse. 

“It was about growing that. People have responded … our audience more than doubled, our overall visitor ship attendance and programming,” he said. “We added about 100 members as well. All of that has kept progressing in the right direction.”

An award nomination stated that the museum’s importance goes well beyond being “just a museum,” and in recent years, it has grown into a full-fledged community center, given all of the activities taking place there. 

“This year, Director Ryan Duffy and Curator Tyler Angora have been busy updating the exhibits to breathe even more life into the displays inside the museum. Tyler has brought his youthful energy to bring to life the lives of our predecessors, particularly in the ways they dressed,” volunteer Richard Beatty said, adding that Duffy has extended the museum’s reach by writing columns, producing videos and going into the community with his and volunteers’ presentations.

Duffy did also attempt to reel the antique show back into the fold, holding it at Batavia Downs, however, that darned COVID struck again, ruining yet another event, and “it fizzled out.” Duffy picked his battles and let that one go. “A lot is trial and error,” he said.

Meanwhile, though, he said he feels that the reputation of the museum “has come a long way” as an asset to the community since he took the lead. 

“And how people perceive us. Many more people notice us and take notice of us,” he said. “As a director, I’ve taken ownership … I’ve been the frontman; it’s my responsibility to make that happen. I’m very proud to make that happen and where we’re going to go. I’m hoping to continue a lot of progress of … the collection area, grow our outreach and membership. And grow into a wider area and become more of an attraction. Our base is here in Genesee County, but the Holland Land Purchase is all of Western New York.”

That means he’s eyeing from Rochester to Buffalo and down to the southern tier. 

“We're definitely seeing an uptick from people coming from areas outside Genesee County, and just our engagement, even if they're not visitors, but looking for research or wanting us to come and talk to them,” Duffy said. “And we get those kinds of calls from as far away as Syracuse, so we are getting our name out there. And that's what we want: the more people who know about us, the more people that will make the trip.”

Angora is planning to complete his master’s degree in history at Brockport State College in spring 2025, and has been full steam ahead since taking on the role of curator in 2023. The museum’s collection hadn’t been a priority up to that point, he said, so he “really took the reins” by organizing the upstairs area and unearthing buried treasures that had been there all along.

“There’s a clothing collection, Emory Upton items that were donated by his nieces, it keeps growing every day. We added 1,000 objects,” he said. “For the eclipse exhibit, 98 Years Since the Sun Went Out, people are seeing new parts they’ve never seen before.”

A grant has made it possible to digitize the entire 20,000-piece collection so that anyone will be able to view it online. That’s exciting, Angora said, because “it will allow accessibility” to any person with an interest or a research project to go to the museum’s website and view those artifacts for the first time. That should be a reality by the end of summer.

Also, later this year, Angora is hoping to do his long-awaited tours of the entire collection upstairs — a “behind the scenes” sort of take — that he’s been grooming ever since he began.

“It’s been exciting. It's been challenging. It's been everything encompassed in one kind of jar,” Angora said. “But overall, it's been an amazing experience to work with a collection that has so much history and a city and a county that has so much history tied to it that a lot of people don't know about. So being a part of getting people to know that history has been something quite fantastic.”

The work will never end, he said, but that’s a good thing. There are programs to come for the next several months.

Along with those coming months is an eventual expansion of the building on the west end toward the parking lot. A museum study made several suggestions to improve and preserve the old site, one being to add some much-needed space for a gift shop and to extend an exhibit room, Duffy said. 

In a nutshell, it’s about “looking good and being sound,” he said.

“Our expansion is looking at accessibility, breathing room, able to show off what we’ve got here for a better visitor experience,” Duffy said. “The county is dedicating funds to deal with the building, and we’re excited and very appreciative of that.

“Well, we're very honored to be recognized by the chamber. It is always a good feeling when people take notice of what you're doing. And especially see it as a positive aspect in the community. We always felt like we were a hidden gem, and it's nice to know that we're not quite as hidden anymore. And that the community appreciates what we do, because it's our first goal is to tell the history of our community,” Duffy said. “Tyler's got a long list planned out for the next few years too, I think, that will be very exciting for everyone. We're growing our partnerships and, with that, trying to create new programming or expand the programming that we currently have. 

“And just to be more exciting,” he said. “We’re really working towards making this place, creating a more vibrant atmosphere, a more welcoming atmosphere, that people will want to be here and be a part of what we're doing because we feel that we're on the way to some really big and important things.”

The 52nd annual Genesee County Chamber Awards ceremony will be at 5 p.m. March 2 at Batavia Downs Gaming, 8315 Park Road, Batavia.

Photos by Howard Owens

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Duffy to be appointed as city historian for important Batavia role

By Joanne Beck
Ryan Duffy

You could say that 2024 is looking like a banner year for Ryan Duffy so far, first being in line for a Chamber of Commerce Special Recognition of the Year Award on behalf of Holland Land Office Museum, and now being asked to fill an important role for Batavia.

City Council gave its unofficial blessings to appoint Duffy as city historian during Monday’s conference session at City Hall after City Manager Rachael Tabelski introduced the idea.

“I’m excited to present the appointment of Ryan Duffy to the historian’s position. He has been the executive director of the Holland Land Office since May 2017. His position actually brought him to Batavia. Since then, he's been an integral part of history in Batavia and in Genesee County to the residents, and thousands of visitors who visit,” Tabelski said. “At the Holland Land Office Museum, he's completed many different research projects related to our local history. He's published articles, one of which was on the Richmond Mansion, published in Western New York Heritage magazine. And I think he'll make a wonderful city historian for us.”

The part-time position is for a four-year term that runs to 2027. Duffy will be responsible for compiling information and data, maintenance of records concerning the history of the city. He will assemble historical data of significance to the city of Batavia by consulting various sources; conduct research into genealogy, maintain family files; organize and evaluate research data as to its authenticity and significance; maintain in narrative form, with photographs, when available, a chronological record to the locality’s past and current history; handle correspondence and request for information concerning the city’s history. 

He may also act as advisor or consultant on research studies relating to the city.

What does it take to be a city historian? Good knowledge of practices and techniques used in historical research activities, good knowledge of sources of historical information and data; good knowledge of and interest in local history; ability to keep historical records and to prepare historical reports; ability to write in a clear, descriptive and interesting manner; ability to establish and maintain favorable contacts with individuals and groups; initiative and resourcefulness, all according to the city’s job description.

Duffy will fill the vacancy left by former historian Larry Barnes. He will be paid a yearly stipend of $5,000.

New executive director at Crossroads House

By Joanne Beck
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Tracy Ford

Crossroads House has hired a new executive director after the gap was temporarily filled by interim director Tom Staebell in July 2023. 

The nonprofit's leaders happily announced the news Monday that they have found Tracy Ford, who "stood out from a pool of excellent candidates."

"We are pleased to announce that after a very intentional and thorough search, aided by a selection committee consisting of several community leaders and one of our very own volunteers, we have hired a new Executive Director to lead Crossroads House as we head into our second quarter century providing premier comfort care to our residents," nonprofit leaders said. 

Ford is to take the helm on March 4, but not before she gets her feet wet with an introduction at 9 a.m. Tuesday on WBTA. 

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