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Person ejected from vehicle in rollover accident near Federal Drive, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
route 98 and federal drive accident Mercy Flight

A vehicle has reportedly rolled over multiple times in the area of 8103 Oak Orchard Road, Batavia, and a person was ejected from the vehicle.

The location is between Federal Drive and the Thruway.

Mercy Flight requested to the scene. The landing zone will be near Call Parkway.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 9:27 a.m.: It appears that a grey hatchback was northbound on Route 98 and left the roadway a few feet north of the driveway to the RRH medical facility. It struck a mailbox and, further down, a Route 98 sign. It rolled over multiple times, sustaining significant damage, before coming to rest at the end of a field on its wheels. A female occupant was ejected from the vehicle and flown by Mercy Flight to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.  The Batavian will have more information and pictures from the scene once the State Police release additional details.

Photos by Howard Owens.

route 98 and federal drive accident Mercy Flight

Law and Order: Woman charged with theft in connection with assault on Law Street in May

By Howard B. Owens
mug nicole trapp
Nicole Trapp

Nicole M. Trapp, 21, of Buffalo, is charged with grand larceny 4th. Trapp was arrested on Nov. 1 following an investigation into an assault that occurred on Nov. 1 on Law Street, Batavia. Trapp is accused of stealing property from another person during the incident. She was arraigned in City Court and released under supervision.

Jennifer M. Shaffer, 41, of Batavia, is charged with aggravated driving while ability impaired by drugs (Leandra’s Law). Shaffer was stopped on Nov. 7 by a Batavia patrol officer at an undisclosed location. She is accused of driving while impaired by drugs with a child in the car. She was issued traffic tickets. PUBLISHER'S NOTE:  There are two women with children in Batavia named Jennifer Shaffer. Only one of the two was arrested.

jennifer m shaffer
Jennifer M. Shaffer

Kathleen M. Zemke, 58, of Perry, is charged with DWI.  Zemke was arrested by Batavia PD following a complaint from her employer that she had shown up to work intoxicated. She was issued traffic tickets.

Phillip P. Heale, 45, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Heale is accused of hitting another person in the face during a fight on Nov. 6 on East Main Street. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Dean D. Root, 42, of Batavia, is charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Root was stopped by a Batavia patrol officer on Oct. 18 at an undisclosed location. He was issued traffic tickets.

Aaron R. Hatfield, 39, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant (jurisdiction not provided). Hatfield was initially arrested on Aug. 14, accused of petit larceny and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th after allegedly stealing merchandise from Tops. He was issued an appearance ticket but failed to appear in court. A warrant was issued on Sept. 26. He was arrested on the warrant on Oct. 6. He was arraigned and released. He again failed to appear in court, and another warrant was issued on Oct. 19. He was arrested on Nov. 3 and arraigned in CAP Court. He was released and is due back in court at a later date.

Caitlyn A. Heidenreich, 26, of Batavia, is charged with DWI. Heidenreich was charged following a traffic accident reported on Harvester Avenue at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2. Heidenreich was allegedly operating a motor vehicle that crashed into a parked car. He was issued traffic tickets and released.

Zachary D. Kaczor, 29, of Buffalo, is charged with aggravated DWI. Kaczor was stopped by a Batavia patrol officer at an undisclosed time on Oct. 29 on Ellicott Avenue, Batavia. He was issued traffic tickets.

Patricia M. Anderson, 38, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant (jurisdiction not provided). Anderson was initially arrested on April 9 and charged with petit larceny, after allegedly stealing merchandise from 7-Eleven. She was issued an appearance ticket, but allegedly failed to appear. A warrant was issued on May 16. She was arrested on the warrant on Aug. 9. She was arraigned and released. She again failed to appear, and another warrant was issued on Oct. 10. She was arrested on Oct. 30 and was arraigned in  City Court and remanded to the Genesee County Jail on $2,500 cash bail, $5,000 bond, and $10,000 partially secured bond. 

Another piece of history: Larry Barnes to resign after 16 years as city historian

By Joanne Beck
Ryan Duffy and Larry Barnes
2019 File Photo of Holland Land Office Museum Executive Director Ryan Duffy, left, and City Historian Larry Barnes, with their amended version of the "History of the City of Batavia." Barnes has submitted his letter of resignation as city historian effective Dec. 31.
Submitted Photo

Larry Barnes — the go-to guru of all things related to the City of Batavia's history for the last 16 years — will be resigning his post effective Dec. 31, he says.

Barnes met with City Manager Rachael Tabelski Wednesday to personally deliver his letter of resignation and give an official 30-day notice. He decided to leave for a number of reasons, he said, including health issues and “it’s time to move on.”

“It’s been a terrific experience. I’ve learned a lot about the community in the process of doing the research for the books that I’ve written and the monographs that I’ve written, and just in terms of putting together talks and that sort of thing,” Barnes said to The Batavian Thursday. “State law requires that we have an appointed city historian.”

As of 2010, an official job description went into effect for the position, he said, which requires that the proper candidate live in the City of Batavia and is not allowed to keep city documents outside of the office maintained at City Hall.

City Code states that “there shall be a City Historian as required by Article 57 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law of the State of New York,” and thatthe City Historian shall be appointed by the City Manager with a term of office of four years. The City Historian may be appointed to consecutive terms by the City Manager. The City Historian must be a resident of the City of Batavia.”

Barnes has authored several books, and more recently scripted a play about Brisbane Mansion, which has been a hot topic of late. City officials are mulling options for the property, currently housing the city police department, and a consultant proposed two possibilities of selling it to a developer for use of a boutique hotel or market-rate apartments.

Barnes has been a proponent of repurposing the Main Street site and not letting it falter or be demolished, paths that other pieces of city history have taken in the past.

“That building definitely needs to remain, it shouldn't be torn down like many other historical buildings have been. And the proposal that has just been presented, either a boutique hotel or apartments or a combination of the two, would be ideal, I think.”

Barnes, a retired educator, has been quite active in the community, either serving or having served with several history-related groups, including the Landmark Society of Genesee County, Batavia Historic Preservation Committee, Genesee County Historians Association, Government Appointed Historians of Western New York and the Association of Public Historians of New York State.

For nearly his entire city historian career, Barnes has done the work as a volunteer. City Council just approved a yearly pay of $5,000 this past year. 

He and his wife Jerianne plan to stay in the community, Barnes said. 

Always one to offer up tidbits of history, he added that Jerianne’s first name has not always been this. In fact, it wasn’t until five decades later that she changed her original name to Jerry Louise, he said.

Her parents had planned to name their impending child Jerry Lewis for a boy and instead named their baby girl Jerry Louise. Hating all of her life, Jerry decided to give herself a 50th birthday present and had her name changed to Jerianne Louise.

While not really a part of Barnes’ retirement, Jerianne has been part of his life, and therefore the history indeed belongs with the historian.

Member municipality distributions to approach $10 million in 2024: WROTB chief financial officer

By Mike Pettinella

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. management is projecting net revenue from its racing and gaming operations to approach $86.4 million in 2024, resulting in nearly $10 million in surcharge and earnings to be distributed to its 17 member municipalities.

At Wednesday’s board of directors meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming on Park Road, WROTB Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach went over the operating plan – or budget – for next year.

The plan is a comprehensive document detailing income and expense streams for all aspects of the public benefit company, and is based on actual numbers through October of this year and industry trends.

“It’s a work in progress,” Leach said, but acknowledged that it close to being finalized. The final plan will be presented to the board for review at its December meeting. After board approval, it is submitted to the New York State Gaming Commission.

According to the report, the 17 municipalities, including Genesee County, are expected to receive $606,616 in surcharge distributions and $9,268,586 in earnings distribution for a total of $9,875,202 in the 2024 calendar year. That is up from $9,654,748 to be distributed in 2023.

Surcharge funds are derived from a 5 percent fee collected from patrons on winning wagers at WROTB branches and EZ Bet locations. Leach said the earnings distribution is about 11 percent of the net revenue from operations.

While the 2024 distribution projections reflect the corporation’s record earnings the past two years, Leach said the numbers are more impressive when looking back to 2019, when surcharge and earnings distributions hit the $3.6 million mark, and considering the impact of COVID-19 the following year.

WROTB lost $9.6 million in 2020, Leach reported. Despite that, the corporation has and is projected to distribute $38 million in surcharge and earnings for the six-year period, 2019-2024.

“We ate into our coffers some $9.6 million in 2020. And that, from a financial perspective, is incredible if you think about it. That we will be distributing and anticipate, project, to distribute $38 million,” she said.

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek added that profit realized in that year, beside the Payroll Protection Plan money to keep employees on the job, was from the off-track betting internet wagering side.

Batavia Downs Gaming was closed for six months due to the pandemic. It has bounced back strongly, however, with revenues, net win (credits played into the Video Lottery Terminals minus credits won) and distributions increasing each year. Leach is anticipating the net win total to increase to $89 million in 2024.

Leach and Wojtaszek touted the “very good news” when talking about gaming, food and beverage, and The Hotel at Batavia Downs, but painted a different picture when the subject turned to the harness horse racing industry and the financial health of the corporation’s eight brick-and-mortar OTB branches.

Only two of the branches – Lyell Avenue in Rochester and Clinton in Erie County – are expected to be profitable in 2024. Operational losses of the branches are at $418,202 through Oct. 30, 2023, continuing a downward trend.

Leach reported that all of WROTB’s EZ Bet (self-service) locations, however, have increased the company’s bottom line; none are in the red.

“On the OTB pari-mutuel side, they’re competing for the gambling dollar with sports betting, which came into New York State in January 2022,” she said. “Plus, we’re required to make statutory payments to other racing entities in New York State based on antiquated handle numbers from 1993 and 2002 when the handle was much more robust. We’re getting no legislative relief on that end.”

Wojtaszek said a “day of reckoning is coming” for horse racing, again mentioning sports betting and also a doping scandal that has rocked the industry.

“The sport has been damaged. The numbers are down,” he said. “Jackie's just giving the numbers from the last couple of years. If you look at what our handle was relative to OTB, when you go back a decade or two, it was $200 million. That was the handle -- $200 million.”

He said the horse racing industry needs to “police itself” better. He mentioned a recent CBS “60 Minutes” story that focused on a doping (drug) scandal that has resulted in deaths to numerous horses and prompted Congress to create the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to institute uniform rules for the sport across the country.

Wojtaszek said WROTB is working with a consultant to help the corporation going forward “but it’s going to be much more expensive to have our live racing relative to the testing. But it’s something that’s necessary.”

State law mandates that Batavia Downs Gaming must operate a horse track to keep its gaming license.

The corporation has reduced the number of OTB branches (or parlors) over the years and more cutting may be on the way.

Director Vincent Horrigan (Chautauqua County) asked if WROTB will continue “to live with” the branch losses or “do we turn it around?”

“That’s a great question and worth a discussion after the first of the year,” Wojtaszek replied.

Currently, the eight branches – located in Auburn, Jamestown, Erie County (two), Monroe County (three) and Niagara County -- employ 31 people.

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By Lisa Ace
Reliant Real Estate


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Borrello and Hawley sponsor legislation to pay tribute to fallen hero

By Press Release

Press Release:

sp4-george-harold-fry.jpeg
Submitted photo of 
SP4 George Harold Fry.

In conjunction with the nation’s celebration of Veterans Day, Sen. George Borrello announced that Governor Hochul has signed into law a measure renaming Route 63 in the town of Pavilion as the “SP4 George Harold Fry Memorial Highway.”

Legislation marking the designation was sponsored by Senator Borrello and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley.  

U.S. Army Specialist 4 George Harold Fry, a native of Pavilion, was killed in action on July 11, 1969, along with 20 other members of the 506th Infantry during combat on Hill 996 in the Shau Valley of Vietnam. Specialist Fry’s actions that day are credited with saving the lives of many other members of his unit.  

He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star.

“Specialist Fry gave his life defending his brothers in arms,” Sen. Borrello said. “He is a decorated war hero who served his country with honor and distinction. Dedicating this highway in his name is one small way we can honor the courage, dedication and ultimate sacrifice of this American hero.”  

Assemblyman Hawley said for generations to come, the SP4 George Harold Fry Memorial Highway will stand as a testament to Specialist Fry’s heroism and commitment to his country and freedom.

“As an Army veteran and member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I was honored to sponsor this proposal recognizing one of Western New York’s most valiant, Specialist George Harold Fry. It's fitting that this highway is being memorialized at the same time we're remembering those who served on Veteran's Day,” Assemblyman Hawley said.  

Specialist Fry served with D Company, 1st Battalion, 506th infantry, 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. As an RTO (Radio-Telephone Operator), it was his duty to maintain radio contact between his unit, other platoons and Battalion Command. After two fellow RTO’s were killed early in the assault on July 11, Specialist Fry left the safety of cover to re-establish communication between platoons during the battle, placing himself in jeopardy.

Specialist Fry’s actions enabled his commanding officer to call in artillery support, coordinate the U.S. counter assault and evacuate the wounded. Continuously under fire, Specialist Fry kept transmitting until he too was shot and killed. His company suffered more than 50 percent casualties. Survivors said were it not for Specialist Fry, many more U.S. troops would have been killed or wounded.  

For gallantry in action on July 11, 1969, Specialist Fry received the Silver Star Medal. He also received the Bronze Star Medal for outstanding meritorious service in connection with ground operations against a hostile force during the period of October 22, 1968 to July 11, 1969.  

Additionally, he received the Presidential Unit Citation for Operation Snow for the period of May 10 through May 21, 1969, in the Shau Valley.

“For generations, many of our region’s finest and bravest young men and women have found their calling in military service and safeguarding the liberties we cherish,” Sen. Borrello said. “Specialist Fry was one of those patriots. Naming this highway in his honor commemorates his courageous service to our country and reminds us of the immense contributions America’s veterans have made for us all.

“I want to thank Assemblyman Hawley for sponsoring this legislation in the Assembly and Governor Hochul for signing the bill to honor Specialist Fry who gave his life for our freedom.” 

Pie sale and basket raffle just in time for Thanksgiving

By Press Release

Press Release:

St. James Episcopal Church announced that their 5th annual Pie Sale/Basket Raffle will be held Friday, Nov. 17 from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at the church, 405 East Main Street, Batavia. Admission is free.

Known for the wonderful desserts served at Lenten Fish Fries, the St. James bakers have been busy in the church kitchen making apple and pumpkin pies for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. 

Pre-order 9” homemade pies for $12 each by texting 585-356-5359 or take your chances and stop in on Friday or Saturday.

A variety of gift baskets have been assembled, including homemade quilts and afghans, a lottery tree, homemade jams, and more. Tickets will be on sale throughout the event and you need not be present to win.

Dorian Ely, one of the organizers, said, “We are so grateful. Folks have been very supportive of our recent outreach efforts, particularly contributing to our bake sales for Ukraine and the street-front Blessing Box which provides non-perishable food and personal care products to the community. We hope to see many of our neighbors coming in to purchase raffle tickets and a pie or two.” The phone number at the church is 585-343-6802.

Alzheimer's Association offers tips of dealing with stress during national family caregivers month

By Press Release

Press Release:

In New York, there are more than half a million people providing unpaid care to a loved one with dementia. National Family Caregivers Month is the perfect time to get educated about dementia caregiving and ways to help.

Caring for someone with dementia is demanding: these caregivers on average provide more care for a longer period of time than other caregivers. A report released by the Alzheimer’s Association earlier this year found that New York’s dementia caregivers provided 884 million hours of care, valued at more than $19 billion dollars. With a looming shortage in the healthcare workforce and more people expected to develop dementia in the coming years, the burdens facing dementia caregivers are growing.

Dementia caregivers often take on these responsibilities while balancing careers and children. It’s not surprising that they find their own physical and mental health worsening due to stress. 

Dementia caregivers report higher rates of chronic conditions, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer than other people. In New York, 59% of caregivers reported at least one chronic health condition. 

Dementia caregivers report higher rates of depression than caregivers for people with other medical conditions. In New York, 24.7% of dementia caregivers reported having depression. 

Amara May, director of program outreach at the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, says, “Caring for someone with dementia is uniquely challenging. The caregiving tasks are intense and you’re doing them while watching your loved one gradually lose memory and function.” She continues, “Our goal at the Alzheimer’s Association is to help reduce sources of caregiver stress and help them find self-care strategies that work.” 

Debbie Gangemi of Hamburg assists her father, Richard, in caring for her mother, Donna Brese, who has Alzheimer’s. “It can get frustrating and stressful because of the unexpected,” she says. “Mom has a number of good days, but you just can’t anticipate when a bad day will happen.”

There are a range of self-care strategies caregivers can try to reduce stress. No single approach will work for everyone so it’s important to find what works for you. Options include: 

  • Talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend, family member, clergy or counselor. The Alzheimer’s Association provides a 24/7 Helpline with dementia experts available anytime.
  • Get outside. Even just a few minutes outdoors can improve your mood, especially on sunny days.
  • Exercise. Movement is a proven approach to improve mental and physical health. Try a walk around the neighborhood or a local fitness class, which has the added benefit of being social.
  • Try a mindfulness technique. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, and journaling are all options for mindfulness, which can reduce anxiety and depression and may even help reduce blood pressure and improve sleep quality.

Gangemi says she relies on her faith and family to help deal with stress, in addition to finding a healthy outlet by volunteering for the WNY Chapter. “When I do community outreach on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association, I get to hear about other peoples’ struggles and learn how they cope with them,” she says. “I know not to take anything for granted.”

The Alzheimer’s Association Western New York Chapter offers free caregiver education, support groups, and care planning meetings. You can access these resources by calling 800.272.3900 or visiting alz.org/wny.

Genesee County likely to waive Civil Service exam fees two more years at cost of $24K

By Joanne Beck

It looks like 25 bucks may have been standing in the way of Genesee County getting more job applicants, and county legislators and the Human Resources department have no desire to return there.

After a trial run of suspending the $25 fee for Civil Service exams since June 2022, HR Director Anita Cleveland reported a 31 percent increase in job candidates.

The experiment was due to a lackluster showing of candidates after a longtime belief that having no application fee lessened applicants’ resolve to show up and follow through on the process, county officials had said more than a year ago.

A $25 fee for all exams for police, sheriff, fire, probation and dispatch and $20 for all other competitive exams had been established in 2011 for that reason. During that prior discussion, Cleveland said that when people don’t pay for exams, “they don’t show up for exams either.” 

But on the other hand, candidates at one point just stopped showing up anyway. At that time, she then proposed to temporarily waive the fees — something that several other counties had also been considering — to ramp up candidate interest and get more viable prospective job applicants.

The county has struggled to attract candidates for several departments over the last couple of years, including the sheriff’s office, which is growing with a new, larger jail facility in progress, and the mental health department.

The trial period was to run from June 1, to Dec. 31, 2022, and is current through all of 2023. The Ways & Means Committee agreed on Wednesday to push it onward through 2024 and 2025. 

If the county Legislature adopts the measure during its Monday meeting, the county will lose an estimated $24,000 in revenue. 

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Sunny Rathod

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Erie County director ready to look into all aspects of WROTB operation

By Mike Pettinella
Jennifer Hibit

The Erie County representative on the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board today said it is incumbent upon her colleagues to look into the company’s legal issues that have yet to be resolved.

“I think we need to address those issues,” said Jennifer Hibit, (photo at right), responding to a question about the status of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former WROTB executive Michael Nolan and a reported FBI investigation into the corporation’s hiring practices.

“I think we need to look into them. And I think when all the new board members are seated, I think we'll look into those issues and hear from both sides.”

Hibit was appointed to the board in June, about a month after the previous board was dismantled as a result of legislation approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul and leaders of the Assembly and Senate.

The director of human resources at the Erie County Water Authority, Hibit is also the secretary of the Erie County Democratic Committee and the former chief of staff for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

She said she looks forward to learning more about the company in order to make educated decisions.

“I think we need to know what's happening. I think it's important to be informed. And if we can help put those things behind us and move forward, then that's what I'm here to do,” she said.

Hibit said she had made no judgments before joining the board despite what has been circulating in the media.

“I came in with an open mind, right? There’s always room for improvement every place you go,” she said. “And I think that's my job here is to listen, learn, and contribute to making Western New York Regional OTB better. And that's what I plan to do.”

At last month’s board meeting, Hibit voted against appointing Dennis Bassett, a Democrat representing the City of Rochester, as the board’s permanent chairperson. She said her decision was more procedural.

“I didn't think that it was fair to cast a vote for a chair moving forward, and I didn't realize that we elected a chair in January without all of the new members present and without of them all having a say in that,” she explained. “So that was really my point behind that.”

The City of Buffalo’s representative, Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney, has yet to obtain her license to serve from the New York Gaming Commission, and Monroe County’s representative, James A. Wilmot, was not at the October meeting.

“I just think they should have a say in the chair. So, I just voted for one meeting (to make Bassett the temporary chair) to move the process forward,” she offered. “I’m glad that Dennis took the seat.”

Hibit's vote holds the most power on the board, which now operates under a weighted voting system based on the population of the municipality.

Looking ahead, Hibit said she will work toward measures to ensure transparency. Last month, she suggested that the board meetings be livestreamed to the public.

“Transparency is super important,” she said. “Absolutely.”

Law and Order: Batavia woman facing drug dealing charges

By Howard B. Owens
joanna larnder
Joanna Lardner

Joanna F. Larnder, 30, of Batavia, is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance 3rd and criminal possession of a controlled substance 3rd. Larnder was arrested by deputies on a sealed indictment. Larnder is accused of selling crack cocaine to an agent of the Local Drug Task Force. She was previously arrested on charges stemming from a warrant executed by the task force in late August in the City of Batavia. During the search, she was allegedly found in possession of cocaine with the intent to sell. She allegedly failed to appear in court as ordered on those charges. Larnder was released on her own recognizance in compliance with current bail laws on the drug charges. She is being held on bail-jumping charges.

Carrie Ann Stewart, 43, of West Avenue, Attica, is charged with petit larceny. Stewart is accused of shoplifting from Old Navy on Veterans Memorial Drive at 4:48  p.m. on Sept. 27. She was arrested on Nov. 11. She was processed at the Genesee County Jail and issued an appearance ticket.

Katherine Marie Fremgen, 35, of East Avenue, Clarence, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs, failure to yield right of way, and moving from lane unsafely. Fremgen was stopped for alleged erratic operation at 10:29 p.m. on Sept. 27 on Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia, by Deputy Alexander Hadsall. Fremgen was arrested on Nov. 13 based on the results of a blood test.  Fremgen was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released.

edward Ruckdeschel
Edward Ruckdeschel

Edward G. Ruckdeschel, 61, of Batavia, is charged with grand larceny 3rd and two counts of grand larceny 4th. Ruckdeschel was arrested on Nov. 14 by State Police on a theft reported at 9:07 a.m. on Oct. 19 in the Town of Batavia, on a theft reported at 5:55 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the Town of Bethany, and on a theft reported at 7:14 a.m. on Oct. 20 in the Town of Alexander. He was ordered held. The State Police, contrary to state law, did not release any further details of the cases.  )See previously: Parolee with lengthy criminal record accused of multiple vehicle thefts in the county)

Richard W. Rumble, 38, of Corfu, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Rumble was arrested by State Police at 2:32 a.m. on Nov. 12 in the Town of Pembroke.

WROTB board seeks accountability when it comes to sporting, entertainment events in Buffalo, Rochester

By Mike Pettinella

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. directors today took on the task of passing a couple dozen resolutions that had been set aside, so to speak, while members of the revamped board obtained their licensing and right to vote from the New York Gaming Commission.

Many of the resolutions dealt with routine contract renewals such as maintenance, promotions and computers, and were passed with little or no discussion.

Such wasn’t the case for Resolution #62-2023, a measure authorizing the public benefit company to spend up to $25,000 through the end of the year for food and beverages at Highmark Stadium for Buffalo Bills’ games and concerts. When that came up, directors were ready with their questions.

The use of sporting event and concert tickets has been a sore subject for WROTB management since a 2021 audit from the state Comptroller’s office that, among other things, pointed out a lack of oversight of perks given to major players at Batavia Downs Gaming.

Erie County Director Jennifer Hibit, who holds the most voting power under the weighted voting system installed last May, asked whether a list of who attended a specific event could be provided to the board.

Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer said he keeps track of who received the tickets, adding that the tickets could then be given to somebody else.

Hibit said, “I think it would be helpful to see who’s attended.”

“I mean, we know there have been issues with this in the past, and I think it’s important to know who’s attending these events – who the tickets went to,” she said.

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek credited Hasenauer for maintaining the ticket list.

“And that’s why we’ve released it to the public and anybody else who has “FOILed” that information,” Wojtaszek said, speaking of the Freedom of Information Law.

Hasenauer then referred to the state Comptroller’s audit.

“Their recommendation was to track the tickets in the way that we are doing – the way we were already doing it – and they wanted to make sure we’re doing that moving forward,” he said. “What we’re doing now is at the recommendation of the state.”

A suggestion then was made to have a “sign-up sheet” at the events, not only for suites at Highmark Stadium but also when tickets are used for events at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester and the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Director Edward Morgan (Orleans County) said he didn’t think that was necessary because the board is now keen to the situation and will be monitoring events more closely.

Hasenauer clarified that tickets are awarded in two ways – to high rollers who reach a certain level of activity and as giveaways on “soft nights” such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays to drive traffic to the Park Road facility.

Temporary Chair Dennis Bassett (City of Rochester) said that “in the spirit of transparency, we should know in advance who is going to use the tickets.”

Wojtaszek said that once the ticket is issued, it belongs to the recipient. 

“We can’t stop them from giving it to someone else,” he noted.

Bassett then replied, “My goal is not to stop them, my goal is that when we get questioned, I’d like to be able to articulate that we're using these things in a way we want to use. I'm not I'm not trying to police them …”

Director James Wilmot (Monroe County) said he has attended events hosted by other businesses and never has seen a sign-up sheet.

“Whether I bring a spouse, friend, colleague, I'm not one of those people to get suspicious with sign-up sheets, but I know a lot of people that would,” he said. “And based on my previous experience with gamblers, who own various properties, they have no interest in listing who's with them. And there's some privacy stuff with that too.”

Hibit said she understood that once the ticket was issued, WROTB had no right to it. She did, however, ask if the board could see a report of the event “to see if there’s an issue that we could address it moving forward.”

Bassett said he appreciated the dialogue over this matter, acknowledging that the board “might be a little sensitive because we’ve been scrutinized with regard to these tickets.”

“We don’t want to over-scrutinize ourselves and cause problems with the people that we want to entertain ... so, I’m not in favor of a sign-in.”

Hasenauer advised that the resolution, as well as similar measures at Blue Cross Arena ($30,000 for food and beverages) and KeyBank Center ($75,000 for food and beverages), will run through the 2023 season and into the spring of 2024. All three resolutions passed unanimously.

In other action, the board:

-- Approved spending $275,000 with Tops Friendly Markets for $20 gift cards used to promote the Hotel at Batavia Downs. Hasenauer said the Sunday through Thursday promotion, which started in June 2022, has been a tremendous success. “We’re booking over 700 rooms a month with this package,” he said, adding that most customers use the cards for gas or groceries at the nearby Tops Market.

-- Approved a resolution to conduct winter racing in January and February 2024 on Monday and Thursday afternoons. The Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association has agreed to reimburse WROTB for any and all costs associated with conducting the additional 16 meets.

-- Voted to keep Bassett in the interim chair post through next month’s meeting. The board is expected to decide on a permanent chairperson in January.

-- Held a moment of silence in memory of Kenneth Lauderdale Jr., longtime director from Wayne County, who passed away on Oct. 25.

Having it our way, says city and county planning boards about new BK location

By Joanne Beck

In a continuing succession of steps to reach final planning approval for a new southwest site of Burger King, the Carrols Corp. folks have made it through another round of the city’s Planning and Development Committee this week, Committee Chairman Duane Preston says.

The Planning committee advised real estate manager Doug Beachel Tuesday that his client had to meet three contingencies handed down from the Genesee County Planning Board in order to get this ball rolling:

1. Applicant needs to complete a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and obtain a Stormwater permit for construction activity from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

2. Applicant needs to obtain comments about the potential traffic impacts of the project and obtain a required driveway permit from the state Department of Transportation.

3. Applicant needs to complete a 9-1-1 Enhanced Standards application. 

The project will then move on to the ZBA. Once all of these requirements are met, the properties of 301-305 West Main St., 307 West Main St., 4 South Lyon St., and a portion of 6 South Lyon St. need to be merged before anything more can commence, Preston said. 

The project has gone through several layers of various code, green space, height, width, zoning and layout revisions for the last year. Officials are hoping to have a new site in place by the fall of 2024. The new Burger King would be located at the corner of South Lyon and West Main streets. 

O'Lacy's closes, owner thanks patrons and staff with 'heavy heart'

By Joanne Beck
O'Lacy's Irish Pub
O'Lacy's Irish Pub is now closed.
Photo by Howard Owens

It was with a "heavy heart" that owner Roger Christiano closed O'Lacy's on School Street in Batavia Wednesday, 18 months after he took over the popular Irish pub in 2022 from former owner Kent Ewell.

Christiano posted a letter on the door of the site that explained:

It’s with a heavy heart that I announce that I will be stepping away from O’Lacy’s Irish Pub and closing the business effective today.

My wife’s declining health has left me unable to spend the time, resources, and energy that O’Lacy’s customers and staff deserve. While it saddens me to leave, I must put my family first and focus on my wife’s long-term care.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. It’s been a pleasure meeting so many wonderful patrons over the past 18 months. Hopefully the business will reopen under different ownership in the future.

A special thank you to Kent Breslin and the O’Lacy’s staff for all their time and dedication to this very special establishment. 

With gratitude, Roger Christiano

Ewell owned and operated O'Lacy's for more than 25 years before he bid his farewell to patrons. 

Vehicle on its side on off ramp in Bergen

By Howard B. Owens

A white sedan is reportedly on its side on the 33a off ramp from I-490 in Bergen.

An occupant is seen walking away from the accident with his dog.

Bergen Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

Third annual Cornell University food processing bootcamp introduces students to in-demand careers

By Press Release
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Press Release:

Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) hosted its third annual food processing bootcamp at Genesee Community College, training graduating high school students from 11 districts in Genesee, Livingston, and Wyoming Counties with experiences in high-wage in-demand careers.

The free, three-day “Cornell in High School” program teaches students about practices and opportunities in the food processing industry, Genesee County’s largest employment sector. 

“Our subject matter experts from CALS provide local high school students with an introductory program that teaches the basics of the food processing industry, educates them on the many career opportunities within the industry, and bring in local employees and HR professionals from local organizations within the industry from the GLOW region,” said Dairy Foods Extension Program Director Kimberly Bukowski. 

“The GLOW region offers hundreds of immediate job opportunities within the food processing sector; our job is to ensure local youth are aware of these opportunities while preparing them with the proper skills.”

At the conclusion of the program, participants received a “Cornell Food Processing Certificate” which will give them an advantage in securing careers in food processing. In addition to Cornell CALS, the program featured industry experts from Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Yancey’s Fancy, O-AT-KA Milk Products, Nortera and HP Hood.

“We have seen a significant increase in the skill set of next generation of workforce candidates and this paradigm shift in prospective employees can be attributed to the committed workforce development programs that have flourished in Genesee County for the past several years,” said Eric Brooks, Director of Specialty and Milk Balancing, Upstate Niagara Cooperative. “This is due largely to the great work of our HR and workforce development stakeholders across the
region.” 

Significant investment from the food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, and skilled trade sectors in Genesee County equates to the readiness of the local workforce for these industries. 

Programs such as GLOW With Your Hands: Manufacturing, GV BOCES Mechatronics, Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program, Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship and the Cornell Food Processing Bootcamp have contributed to the preparedness of the local workforce.

“Our approach to youth workforce development has set us apart from other regions and programs across the country. As sectors such as advanced manufacturing and food processing are key components of our regional economy, we are able to work with employers, students, and other stakeholders to tailor programs based on the constant-changing needs and skills of the workforce,” said Genesee County Economic Development Center Vice President of Business and Workforce Development Chris Suozzi. 

In partnership with New York State, the Office of Strategic Workforce Development awarded Cornell CALS a $400,000 grant to provide dairy industry training through a “dairy processing boot camp” and an online dairy science and sanitation course throughout New York State. 

“In the past two years Cornell has conducted three free food processing boot camps in Genesee County to support the growth and demand of the local food and beverage sector along with the good-paying debt free careers that local students have embraced for employers who are looking to fill these positions immediately,” said Suozzi.

Submitted photos from Cornell Food Processing Bootcamp.

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