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Genesee County faces future $725K mobile command purchase

By Joanne Beck
Tim Yaeger presents mobile buy
Genesee County Emergency Management Services Deputy Coordinator Gary Patnode, center, and Coordinator Tim Yaeger, right, talk about the need for a new mobile command vehicle in the next 12 to 18 months during Tuesday's Public Service meeting. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

It was a good run — squeezing out every ounce of use from a mobile command vehicle the last 20 years — and it’s now time to make another considerable purchase to upgrade Genesee County Emergency Management’s ability for on-the-go operations, Coordinator Tim Yaeger says.

He gave a presentation Tuesday to the Public Service Committee about the current vehicle’s status, purchased for $157,000 nearly two decades ago, along with how much for a new one, with more interior space to accommodate more than twice the people, communication equipment, three work stations, single telescoping with two mast-mounted cameras, internet, a bathroom, kitchen area with amenities, and on-board gas generator.

Ticket price? About $724,000.

“This thing has been added on and morphed over the last 10 years, and probably at most, we've updated some of the equipment in there. But its capacity to maintain and keep stuff where it needs to be, it just doesn't have the capacity. So it's just starting to age, mechanically, or visually, inside it just looks unkempt, but it still functions. But we struggle with it,” Yaeger said. “I’m leaning towards a year to a year and a half to take possession of another vehicle.”

While there initially seemed to be adequate space inside, there isn’t enough internal working space — fitting about four law enforcement people in the command area — for command staff and officials, he said, especially after COVID brought about a general sense of people not wanting “to be on top of each other” when working indoors.

By the time a new vehicle is purchased and delivered, this one would be at least 20 years old, having been used an average of 14 times a year for everything from a plane crash to events at Darien Lake. The propane tank needs to be replaced, and the front tires, brake lines, leveling system and generators are all a concern at this point, Yaeger said.

He recommended a manufacturer that makes the Snap-on Tool trucks, and a customized vehicle would have upgrades of two cameras for viewing from more than just the front as is the case now; seating for 10; a large command center area; an on-board bathroom, which isn’t always important for urban units but is for rural Genesee County, he said; and it can be retrofit for future needs and is a “50 percent improvement from what we’re using.”

Yaeger said he’s “guessing around a $50,000 value” for the current vehicle and that, after scouting for a new mobile unit the last few years, the package would include a $27,000 discount and delivery. He will be getting Homeland Security funds to replace radio equipment.

"I'm using all my security money. So the 800 megahertz radios are all going to be replaced with new ones, and we are going to have a couple of remote heads. So in the command area, there's a capability for you to be in the Command Area and hear what's going on, obviously, and talk, but most of the radio equipment's going to be in the back. That's all going to be new," he said. "We are going to reuse some of the UHF and VHF equipment because we can add that to the current vehicle, and it's not that old. But that's all that's allowable under Homeland Security, and I can afford it with the Homeland Security funding. We have to replace the equipment. But other than that, there's nothing to purchase.

“I fear the longer we wait, it’s not going to get less expensive,” he said. “Right now, it would be a capital project.”

He joked that on the plus side, County Manager Matt Landers spotted that it came with a Keurig coffee maker. Landers said that he had anticipated this expense in the 2024 budget with an assets allocation of $675,000. The remaining cost would come from a sales tax reserve.

“So anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000 is the additional amount that we're going to have to pull from a 1% sales tax reserve,” Landers said. “And we'll accomplish that through a budget resolution that we will bring forward to the public service (committee) next month, and then the full funds will be available in the budget, then Tim can go out and procure that vehicle. 

“Tim, 19 years ago, made the determination that this was something that was needed in the community. It is a significant cost, which is something that I'm mindful of. However, it does act in some ways, as I said, as an insurance policy,” Landers said. “You don't know how important it is until there's a crisis or something's happening, in which case you're going to need it. So we'll be glad to have it on hand in the event of that crisis. And it's just unfortunate that it costs so much money.”

Photos: Modes of transportation

By Howard B. Owens
modes of transporation
While a student walks on a path from the Genesee Community College campus to College Village, a small plane flies overhead on Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Water main break on North Spruce in Batavia

By Press Release

Press Release:

The City of Batavia Water Department is repairing a water main break on North Spruce Street Tuesday afternoon.  The length of time the water will be off is unknown in the surrounding area. 

Traffic may be closed in the area while the repairs are being made.  Please use an alternate route.

As always, when the water is restored, it may be discolored.  Please refrain from doing any laundry until the water runs clear.

We apologize for any inconvenience, and the public’s patience is greatly appreciated.

Photos: Albino squirrel in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
albino squirrel

Frank Capuano shared these photos he took of an albino squirrel who is a regular visitor to his yard in Batavia, sharing corn with his friends.

albino squirrel

Law and Order: Batavia woman charged with DWI, resisting arrest following property damage accident

By Howard B. Owens

Felicia R. Sherrell, 43, of Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving while ability impaired by drugs and alcohol, failure to keep right, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, harassment 2nd, and resisting arrest. Sherrell was arrested in connection with a motor vehicle accident reported on Dec. 17. According to police, Sherrell's vehicle struck a sign on West Main Street at Oak Street, Batavia, and then left the scene. Once located, Sherrell allegedly resisted arrest and struck an officer. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Isaiah J. Munroe, 33, of Batavia, is charged with assault 3rd, unlawful imprisonment 2nd, and criminal mischief 4th. Munroe is accused of being in a fight with another person on Walnut Street, Batavia, on Feb 4. He is accused of restraining a person and preventing the person from calling for help. He was arraigned and released.

Michael R. Ostrander, 59, of Batavia, is charged with assault 3rd. Ostrander is accused of hitting another person, causing injury, during an incident on Feb. 9 on Mill Street. Ostrander was arraigned and released.

Leona J. Polk, 44, of Le Roy, is charged with harassment 2nd. Polk is accused of striking a nurse in the emergency room at UMMC on Feb. 12. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Rebecca R. Fugate, 33, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Fugate is accused of striking a person on Feb. 12 while on a bus in Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Kristen R Aquino, 40, no community listed, is charged with DWI. Aquino was stopped on Feb. 3 on Liberty Street by a Batavia patrol officer. She was issued an appearance ticket.

David J. Sokolowski, 54, of Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Sokolowski was allegedly found in possession of narcotics on Feb. 6 in the city of Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Jaylinn M O'Neil, 33, of Le Roy, was arrested on Feb. 7 on a warrant issued by City Court. O'Neil was initially charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle 3rd on Nov. 8. She is accused of failure to appear in court as ordered. She was arraigned in City Court and released pending her next court appearance.

Peter Hubbard, 43, of Lovering Avenue, Buffalo, is charged with DWI, DWAI (combined influence of drugs and alcohol), driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, moving from lane unsafely, driving left of pavement markings.  Hubbard was charged following an investigation by deputies Zachary Hoy and Nicholas Chamoun at 5:40 p.m. on Dec. 16 on Ellicott Street Road, Pavilion.  He was arrested on Feb. 17. Hubbard was released on an appearance ticket.

A 13-year-old was arrested by State Police on Feb. 15 and charged with burglary 3rd. The alleged burglary was reported on Dec. 29 at 5:17 p.m. in the Town of Elba. No further information released.

Jacqueline M. Kotas, 49, of Alden, is charged with DWI. Kotas was stopped by State Police at 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 in the Town of Darien. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Batavian's journey to trace roots leads to Italy, pauper's plot, enlightened sobriety

By Joanne Beck
Jim Morasco and Sharon Burkel at Batavia Cemetery
Jim Morasco and Sharon Burkel stand in front of the pauper's plot at Batavia Cemetery on a sunny Monday on Harvester Avenue in Batavia. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

Although it’s fair to say the Rev. James “Jim” Morasco has been working on a genealogy project to trace various members on his dad’s side of the family for the last several years, it might be more accurate to say he’s been working to put the pieces of himself in order for more than three decades.

And, although he may not have planned it this way, the two have peacefully collided with his latest find: his grandmother Genevive and Uncle Nicholas, both who have been traced to the nondescript pauper’s plot on the Southside of Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue.   

“When I called Catherine Roth the second time, she said they’re here; that was the a-ha moment; that’s how I found them,” Morasco said during an interview with The Batavian Monday at The Pub Hub just across from the cemetery. “When I was in Italy … I went to a church and touched the baptismal. All those people I never knew contributed to who I am.”

Roth was a staunch supporter of city and cemetery history and had helped Morasco with research to track the whereabouts of his long-lost family members who died in the 1930s. His grandmother had died at the age of 40 with heart issues, and Nicholas was just 6 years old when he died of scarlet fever. 

Shelves and shelves of darkened yellow parchment from so long ago.

Carefully guarding life’s passing of forgotten people.

Diligently searching for familiar names in memory.

Morasco only remembered hearing about how his father could feel the drip of melting ice that was packed around the bodies when temporarily at their house.

Neither of them had a burial or a headstone, which Morasco wants to rectify. He has compiled a book of poems written over the years in honor of his family, his spiritual work and beliefs, people and social justice, and Morasco’s own struggles and triumphs with alcohol addiction.

Suddenly they come alive after being dead for so many years. They shout at me from the page.

Congessio, Francesco, Giuseppe, Vincenzo.

Moresco, Morasco, Morasca.

Born, Married, Died.

Life’s important moments.

Suspended in time.

It was Vincenzo Morasco who led the way in America from Vasto, Italy, a hilltop ancient Roman town overlooking the cerulean blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. Not an easy task in its own right, emigrating to the United States was made even more difficult, Morasco said, due to Vincenzo having broken his leg and being advised that he wouldn’t be let into Ellis Island with such an injury.

So he bypassed the usual route by going through South America, traveled by banana boat, and ended up coming by way of Niagara Falls. Morasco has visited the famous falls and imagined his brave Italian elder making his way over to a whole new world, a new way of life and opportunities.

Vincent, as he was called on the Southside, worked for a while on the railroad, blasting rocks with a sledgehammer. He was blinded in one eye when a piece of rock flew up and hit him in the eye, and he apparently went on to own a big greenhouse on Swan Street, Morasco said. 

And after that first relative’s trek, six generations followed, he said, bringing with them a spirit of community and patriotism by serving in the military, nursing, as firefighters, and clergy — Morasco, a 1974 Batavia High School grad, is pastor at Morganville United Church of Christ. 

We were something once they say,

Mamma, papa, bambino.

We were flesh and blood once,

Now your flesh and blood.

And so we breathe again,

We are family.

It’s time to bring us home.

While he has been able to relate to family struggles with alcohol — “finding answers to why I act the way I do” — he also cherishes the advice given to him by his Irish mom, Margaret McCann, who shared stories and urged him to carry them on.

“My mother thought the stories were important. She would talk to me about things I didn’t know,” he said. “This is something that I've been thinking about for a while since I told my father I wanted to do this. But I was busy. I'm older now, and I’ve got a lot more time, so I can get things done that I wanted to do. It's kind of a closure for me.

“That was part of it because, you know, I've been in recovery for over 30 years. But that was finding answers as well. You know, finding answers to why I act the way I do, where that comes from, looking at my family history of alcoholism and substance use, and then I started on this as well, along with it, because I started digging up information on people,” he said. “I realized it was almost impossible that I wasn't an alcoholic; it was part of our family; we had the Irish and the Italian; it was an interesting mix.”

While it has also become a closure of sorts for the whole family, it has served as an opening for family reunions with siblings and cousins. Perhaps he’ll share his own stories of visiting Italy and sneaking into a fenced area to see old fishing platoons and envisioning how his own grandpa may have played there years before.

“I told my brother the other day, it's like the grandmother we never knew was bringing us together,” Morasco said.

Any remaining proceeds from the book will go to Batavia Cemetery Association for the good work that the nonprofit’s volunteers do, he said. “It’s important to me that they’re recognized as well,” he said.

Sharon Burkel said that, on behalf of the cemetery association, “we are very pleased that he wants to remember his family this way.”

“Every soul in the cemetery has a story,” she said. “We’ll pick a nice spot in that area for the marker.” 

She remembered reading a news article that, at one point, those in charge of the cemetery were burying people three bodies deep. They had no family to claim them and sometimes were indigents or had been in jail or for whatever other reasons. There wasn’t money or a prearranged plot for them in the traditional cemetery, so they would be placed in the pauper’s plot, a piece of unmarked land with a few trees dotting the landscape. 

Morasco’s book, “Dreaming,” is available at Holland Land Office Museum, GO Art! and HERE.

He isn’t quite done with his genealogy. He also discovered another uncle whose whereabouts were unknown up to now: Uncle Franchesco “Frank,” who drowned in the Tonawanda Creek at age 15. He is in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, though it’s not known exactly where, Morasco said. He’s onto another mission.

Batavia Girls win 18th indoor track sectional title back-to-back, Boys finished third

By Steve Ognibene
Batavia Girls won their 18th Indoor Track sectional title at Nazareth College.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Girls won their 18th Indoor Track sectional title at Nazareth College.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

The Batavia Girls Track and Field Team won its 18th sectional title in Class A2 on Sunday at Nazareth College.

The boys' team came in 3rd.

The girls' team finished with 161 points, 40 points ahead of the second-place Pittsford Mendon. 

Individual results:

  • Maddi Smith - 1st place 55 Hurdles
  • Campbell Riley - 1st place 1000m, 1st place 1500m
  • Ava Wierda - 1st place Weight Throw, 1st place Shot Put
  • Ella Shamp - 1st place Long Jump, 1st Place High Jump
  • Ava Anderson - 2nd place 55 Hurdles, 4th Place Long Jump
  • Miah Jones - 6th place 55 Hurdles
  • Jadyn Boyce - 4th place 600m
  • Izzy Scott - 4th place 1500m
  • Karizama Wescott - 4th place 300m, 3rd place Triple Jump
  • Ella Radley - 6th place 300m, 6th place Long Jump
  • Libby Grazioplene - 3rd place Shot Put
  • Jaimin McDonald - 5th place Shot put, 4th place Weight Throw
  • Drew Stevens - 3rd place Weight Throw
  • Sophia Moore - 6th place Weight Throw
  • Isabella Walsh - 2nd place High Jump
  • London Graham - 4th place High Jump
  • 4x800 Relay - 1st place Jenna Higgins, Helaina Staley, Izzy Scott, Campbell Riley
  • 4x400 Relay - 1st place Ava Anderson, Kylee Brennan, Jadyn Boyce, Karizma Wescott
  • 4x200 Relay - 2nd place Kylee Brennan, Ella Radley, Maddi Smith, Ella Shamp

The girls won 9 out of 17 events on the day.

Batavia is the smallest school of 17 teams in the A2 classification.  The 18 titles for Batavia have come over the past 22 years.

The boys team picked up 85.5 points, good enough for 3rd place. University Prep won sectionals with 98.5 points.  

Boys results:

  • Sheldon Siverling - 1st place Shot Put, 1st place Weight Throw
  • Cole Grazioplene - 1st place 600m, 5th place 300m
  • Cooper Konieczny - 1st place Pole Vault
  • Mekhi Fortes - 2nd place Shot Put, 5th place Weight Throw
  • Karvel Martino - 3rd place Shot Put
  • Cameron Garofalo - 3rd place 1000m, 5th place 1600m
  • Parris Price - 4th place 300m
  • Josh Budzinack - 5th place Pole Vault
  • Grant Gahagan - 5th place High Jump
  • 4x800 Relay - 4th place Jamari Irvin, Nate Kinsey, E'Nhazje Carter, Donavin Solis
  • 4x400 Relay - 3rd place Trevor Tryon, Grant Gahagan, Cameron Garofalo, Parris Price
  • 4x200 Relay - 5th place Trevor Tryon, Emmanuel Richardson, Lakoda Mruczek, Cole Grazioplene

Coach Nicholas Burk said Batavia's teams continue to excel because the athletes understand what it takes to be competitive in every meet.

"The kids need to commit," Burk said. "The kids need to recognize that this is a process, and you continue to improve. It gets more and more difficult for kids with all the distractions they have in life. So, kids have to commit; they have to enjoy this feeling of wanting to win again. I don't mean to necessarily sound overconfident, but we're going to be in the midst of it. Our kids are gonna give effort, and they're gonna work their tails off, so we're in a position where we're a top two, top three team, and we're gonna get after it, and you know, we're gonna build that confidence to try to win."

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Mady Smith won the 55m hurdles.  Smith also took 2nd place in her 4x200m relay team.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Mady Smith won the 55m hurdles.  Smith also took 2nd place in her 4x200m relay team.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Campbell Riley won both the 1000 and 1500m race and also with her teammates in the 4x800m relay.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Campbell Riley won both the 1000 and 1500m race and also with her teammates in the 4x800m relay.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Sheldon Silverling took first place in both the shotput and weight throw.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Sheldon Silverling took first place in both the shot put and weight throw.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Cole Grazioplene won the 600 m race.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Cole Grazioplene won the 600 m race.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ella Shamp won the Long Jump and High Jump.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ella Shamp won the Long Jump and High Jump.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Girls 4x400 Relay team took first place, left to right pictured - Karizma Wescott, Kylee Brennan, Jadyn Boyce, Ava Anderson  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Girls 4x400 Relay team took first place, left to right pictured - Karizma Wescott, Kylee Brennan, Jadyn Boyce, Ava Anderson  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ava Wierda won the girls weight throw.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Ava Wierda won the girls weight throw.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Girls celebrate their teams 18th sectional indoor track title over the last 22 years.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Girls celebrate their teams 18th sectional indoor track title over the last 22 years.  
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Genesee County Sheriff's Office Jail Bureau graduates corrections officers

By Press Release
Photo of Deputy Jail Superintendent Jeffrey J. Searls, Jail Superintendent William A. Zipfel, C.O. Ian A. Sanfratello, C.O. Aaron M. Spring, C.O. William H. Steavens, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur
Submitted photo.

Press Release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. announces the graduation of Correction Officers Ian A. Sanfratello, Aaron M. Spring, and William H. Steavens today from the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy’s 27th Basic Course for Correction Officers.

At the top of the class was C.O. Sanfratello who received the Academic Excellence and Joseph E. Steblein Memorial awards. Joseph E. Steblein was the first director of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy. This memorial award is presented to the individual who demonstrates overall excellence in all areas of training and is selected by the instructors of the academy.

The 247-hour course included training in effective communications, essential services, use of force, NYS Penal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Inmate Transportation, Firearms, Pepper Spray, Taser and Defensive Tactics, and other topics pertaining to corrections. 

“Congratulations to all three of these Correction Officers. We look forward to your future in Corrections at the Genesee County Jail,” stated Sheriff William A. Sheron, Jr.

Photo of Correction Officer Ian A. Sanfratello and his father, Sergeant Thomas A. Sanfratello
Submitted photo.

House fire reported on Wortendyke Road, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

A house fire is reported at 9070 Wortendyke Road, Batavia.

East Pembroke Fire responding with mutual aid from Corfu, Town of Batavia, Alexander, and Darien.

The fire is contained to the garage. It's mostly smoke right now, a chief reports. 

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: The chief believes the fire is contained to the garage. There are crews in the house, in the attic and in the basement.

UPDATE 11:11 a.m.: Fire is knocked down. Starting overhaul.

UPDATE 11:58 a.m.: Overhaul complete. Fire investigation starting.

Damaged fire hydrant delays attack on fire in Batavia, property is total loss

By Howard B. Owens
14 mckinley fire

An apparently damaged fire hydrant on a McKinley Avenue home forced City firefighters to take a defensive posture instead of entering a duplex at 14 McKinley Ave. on Sunday to try and knock down a fire.

The structure, though still standing, is a total loss, said Chief Josh Graham.

"It just looks like maybe either a car or maybe a snowplow might have hit the hydrant," Graham said. "It's a little loose over there. I'm not sure exactly what it is yet."

The fire, with smoke and flames already showing, was reported shortly after 2 p.m.  Heavy smoke and flames coming from a first-floor window is exactly what firefighters found when they first arrived on scene, Graham said.

With the closest hydrant damaged, firefighters were forced to connect to a hydrant on East Main Street. The short delay allowed the fire to advance enough, Graham said, that firefighters were forced to make their initial attack from outside the structure.

Two families occupied the structure, including children. Graham didn't have a count of the exact number of occupants but said they were all out of the apartments by the time firefighters arrived on the scene. One person was transported to an area hospital with possible smoke inhalation and knee injuries.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined. Graham said he expects more information to be released on Monday.

He also said there were pets in the structure, and all of them escaped the fire.

The original house was built in 1911 and was wood framed, with what is called a balloon frame, which allows flames to easily grow up through the walls from the first floor all the way to the attic. 

It is 2,024 square feet. It was last sold, according to county tax records, in 2022 for $111,500 and has a total assessed value of $81,000.  The current owner, according to records, is Brandon Stevenson.

Previously: House fire reported on McKinley in Batavia (with more photos)

14 mckinley fire

House fire reported on McKinley in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
mckinley house firew
Reader-submitted photo.

A house fire with smoke and flames showing is reported at 14 McKinley Ave., Batavia.

All occupants are out.  One may have smoke inhalation. 

City Fire dispatched. Also dispatched, Town of Batavia, Elba, Oakfield, and Stafford.

The fire hydrant on McKinley is not working. A hydrant on East Main will be needed. Traffic on East Main to be shut down.

14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens
14 mckinley fire
Photo by Howard Owens

LeRoyan Rohl tops Batavian Wolff for tourney title

By Mike Pettinella
super bowling
Tournament director Mark Brown, left, congratulates Tom Rohl, champion, and John Wolff, runner-up, following the "Super Bowl" handicap singles event at Mancuso Bowling Center. Submitted photo.

LeRoyan Tom Rohl defeated Batavian John Wolff, 210-203, in a battle of left-handers to win the “Super Bowl” handicap singles tournament at Mancuso Bowling Center in Batavia.

Rohl, 50, earned $500 while Wolff, 83 years young, took home $300 for their efforts in the event, which drew 43 entries last weekend.

Based on his 212 average, Rohl received three pins handicap and just managed to sneak past Wolff, who received 44 pins based on his 171 average.

Rohl downed Rich Wagner of Batavia, another lefty, while Wolff topped Rick Underhill of Batavia in the semifinals. Wagner and Underhill won $160 each.

Quarterfinalists were Brandon Luce of Oakfield (the high qualifier), Selena McJury of Batavia, Sam Oddo of Batavia and Austin Hawker of Geneseo. They won $120 apiece.


In Genesee Region USBC league action last week, Le Roy Legion Lanes produced some high scores, with Shayne Herold's 290 game highlighting the American Legion Thursday Mens' League.

Herold finished with 737, behind Josh Cummings' 744. Mickey Hyde posted 725.

In the Le Roy Moose League, Zach Plath took top honors with games of 267 and 287 en route to a 746 series.

Barn fire in Darien Saturday night

By Joanne Beck

There is a fully engaged barn fire reportedly about 50 feet from the home at 10203 Alleghany Rd., Darien, shortly before 9 p.m. Saturday, according to Genesee County Sheriff's dispatch.

Everyone in the home was being evacuated as of 9 p.m., and a fire tanker from Alexander and crews from Corfu Volunteer Fire Department had been called out. 

Batavia students and staff take the 'polar plunge' for a good cause

By Joanne Beck
Over 100 people participated in this years 2024 Polar Plunge at john Kennedy Intermediate School.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
More than 100 people get ready for a cold spray as part of this week's 2024 Polar Plunge Friday at John Kennedy Intermediate School in Batavia.
Photo by Steve Ognibene

City of Batavia firefighters are on hand Friday for the dozens of soaking wet people standing outside in the frigid weather at John Kennedy Intermediate School, but it wasn’t due to any unfortunate emergency, school counselor and event Co-Chairman Eric Knapp says.

Quite the contrary, those brave souls were part of what’s become a traditional gathering of Batavia City School, fire department, business and community representatives for a yearly fundraiser to benefit Special Olympics of Western New York.

This event has been so successful, the Special Olympics organization recognized organizers this year with a plaque.

“We are the number one leading school district and we received what was called the Cool School Award for raising the most money. So they're going to present us with a plaque for this year. I'm not sure if we're going to be number one for this year. But last year, we were number one. I think we're going to be a strong number two, which is still pretty good,” Knapp said during the event surrounded by some 150 participants, organizers and supporters. “I’m a school counselor for John Kennedy School, and it's just to get the whole idea of helping people in your community. And it’s also bringing attention to the Special Olympics and the athletes and all the gifts that they have. So bringing awareness to diverse people … it's just the coolest thing to help other people, especially the Special Olympics population.”

The coolest thing? He can say that again: “it’s literally going to be the coolest thing, when it’s like 10-degrees,” he said. “We are all together, some will get wet, some will not get wet, it’s pretty cold.”

Organizations included the fire department and its union, the school’s Varsity football team, Batavia Middle School Honor Society, JK’s fourth grade mentors, New York State Troopers, Batavia Police Department, the district’s students and staff and Jersey Mike’s.

Eric’s wife Krista, a second grade teacher, first began doing a polar plunge at Lake Ontario for Special Olympics before the pandemic hit, and then she and her husband brought the idea of a polar spray to Batavia to continue with the fundraising, he said.

Successful? You bet. They raised $10,000 last year and surpassed that with a total of $10,060 this year. Polar Plunge is the organization’s largest fundraiser for New York State, Senior Director for Development Kelley Ligozio said. When the pandemic and shutdowns happened, the Knapp couple and fellow organizers “wanted to build some spirit amongst our administrators and our students because COVID was really hard on everybody,” she said. 

 “And it's resulted in now 150 people here today to raise money to support people with intellectual differences, from our young athletes to our unified program in the schools, to our traditional competition,” Ligozio said. “The money that we're raising today, and what we raise across the state, goes back into the communities that we serve, and we serve over 3,500 athletes across the greater Rochester area. It is amazing."

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

Principal Paul Kesler and daughter prepare for the plunge.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
John Kennedy Principal Paul Kesler and daughter prepare for the plunge.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Students from John Kennedy School preparing for the plunge.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Students from John Kennedy School prepare for the 'polar plunge.'
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Participants going though the water spray.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Participants bravely walk through the water spray.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Eric Knapp JK school counselor  Photo by Steve Ognibene
John Kennedy School Counselor and Event Co-Chairman Eric Knapp with a fellow polar-plunger.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
City of Batavia Fire Dept preparing for the water spray.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
City of Batavia Fire Department staff eagerly wait for the signal to begin spraying.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia Football team post event.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Batavia City School's Varsity Football team commemorates the event.
Photo by Steve Ognibene
Eric and Krista Knapp, BCSD school educators who chair the annual event.  Photo by Steve Ognibene
Eric and Krista Knapp, BCSD school educators and co-chairs of the annual event.
Photo by Steve Ognibene

Byron-Bergen makes cultural connections during black history month

By Press Release
Students participating in “living wax museum” 
by Gretchen Spittler.

Press Release:

On Friday, Feb. 9, the Byron-Bergen Jr. High School took part in Cultural Connection Day. This program included special guests Kelvin “KD” Jackson, Executive Chef at Locals Only in Rochester, Bryan Redmond, neuroscientist and MD PhD candidate at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and a “living wax museum” of Jr. High School students presenting research projects on prominent people of color. 

The day kicked off with a drum circle performance featuring student musicians led by High School Band Director Kevin Bleiler followed by opening remarks from 6th Grade Teacher and Cultural Connection Day organizer Alyson Tardy.

“Representation is important,” said Tardy. “Listen to the stories that your peers are sharing, that our guests are sharing, and find a way to connect to them.”

Jackson’s presentation included a cooking demonstration. While showing the students how to repurpose leftovers into healthy after-school snacks, Jackson reflected on his professional culinary journey. “I have dealt with racism. I’ve been overlooked and not taken seriously. Everything I had to do I had to do it a thousand times harder or better.” 

Having met his goal of becoming an executive chef, Jackson now has his sights set on owning his own restaurant and providing opportunities for the next generation. 

“I hope to inspire anyone who wants to be a chef, or even just wants to have a cookout, I’m there. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve tried to teach someone else and give back.”

Redmond’s future is in neuroscience, but his roots are in social activism. His original career goal was to become a lawyer and he pivoted in college to medicine. Redmond asked the students to participate in a lively activity while breathing through a drinking straw. “How do you feel? Tired? Now imagine the straw is filled with water. This is what an asthma attack can feel like.” 

The students discussed the biology of asthma and learned associated vocabulary such as inflammation and mucus. Redmond explained the importance of knowing the vocabulary to understand a topic. The group then discussed the terms diversity, equity, and cultural disparity in healthcare. 

“Only 5 percent of physicians are Black or African American and I want to change that. I’m going to practice medicine, but I’m also thinking, what else am I going to be? How else am I going to make an impact?”

Junior High School students had the option of participating in a “living wax museum”. 

Participants researched a prominent person of color and created a short presentation. When viewers pressed a button on the table, the participants would “come to life” as their research subject and deliver a monologue in the first person. Some students also dressed up like their subject. Wax museum subjects included Rosa Parks, Louis Armstrong, and James Earl Jones. 

“This was an important day for our students,” said Byron-Bergen High School Principal Paul Hazard. “Our guests made connections with our students on many levels. We couldn’t be more grateful for their time, expertise, and storytelling. Not only are Mr. Jackson and Mr. Redmond incredible role models for our student body, but also inspired students and staff alike.” 

Cultural Connections Day is part of the Byron-Bergen Black History Month celebrations and aligns with 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade curriculum.

Locals Only Executive Chef Kelvin Jackson demonstrates cooking techniques
by Gretchen Spittler.
Presentation of Africa-style drumming
by Gretchen Spittler.
URMC MD and Ph.D. candidate Bryan Redmond eats lunch with students after his presentation on healthcare disparities
by Gretchen Spittler.
Wax museum participant presents James Earl Jones
by Gretchen Spittler.

Hawley says Hochul's proposed cuts to local roads and bridges 'lacks of understanding of basic economics'

By Press Release

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, C - Batavia) recently criticized Gov. Hochul’s proposed cuts to local roads and bridges in her 2024-25 Executive Budget proposal. 

Hawley is joined by his Republican colleagues in the Senate and Assembly in his opposition to Hochul’s proposed $60 million cut for the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), the state’s main source of funding for repair and maintenance of local roads, bridges, and culverts. 

For local communities, taxpayers, and motorists, CHIPS is essential to maintaining safe road conditions and using tax dollars as efficiently as possible. The group also criticized Hochul for failing to be fair and partial in her priorities for upstate and downstate infrastructure. 

Hawley and his colleagues are calling on the governor to restore the $60 million cut to CHIPS base aid and increase the CHIPS base funding level by $200 million to a total of $798.1 million.

Since 2013, Assemblyman Hawley has worked closely with local transportation advocates on the “Local Roads Are Essential” advocacy campaign. The campaign is sponsored by the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association (NYSCHSA) and the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, Inc. (NYSAOTSOH) and brings hundreds of advocates to Albany each year to support local infrastructure. Hawley will also be meeting with local County, Town and Village Highway Superintendents on Friday, Feb 23rd to discuss these proposed cuts. Hawley hopes this initiative will bring meaningful change and provide much-needed funding for local roads and bridges.

“The proposed cuts to funding for local roads and bridges shows a complete lack of understanding of basic economics,” said Hawley. “While the price to pave, maintain and upkeep infrastructure is rising, localities are not given the funding they need year after year. The Majority’s politically driven spending is now burdening upstate communities with less aid for schools and now unreasonable cuts for their roads and bridges all to make an impossible attempt to balance an already bloated budget. Prosperity for New Yorkers begins at the local level. If the governor wants to reverse the trend of record-high outmigration, that starts with taking care of local infrastructure instead of turning a blind eye to the needs of upstate communities.”

Batavia Alpine Ski Team sectional results from Swain Resort

By Staff Writer
Gunner Pietrzykowski, Ethan Bradley, Nolan Radley, and Ben Stone
Submitted Photo.

Submitted by Coach Matt Holman

On Tuesday, the Batavia Boys Alpine Ski team found a mixed bag of weather and conditions at Swain Resort. 

The warmer temperatures over the weekend led to a sugary snow, easily pushed away by each skier leading to a hard service with large banks of soft light snow. The morning sun turned to afternoon clouds and light snow of giant picturesque snowflakes.

The boys came in sixth place out of 11 teams in the competition.

Freezing overnight conditions left the race course in great condition for the girls on Wednesday. 

The soft snow from the day before was much more solid and the girl skiers did not have to worry about snow piles of any kind. The day was perfect for ski racing, with bluebird skies minimal cloud coverage, and the bright spring sun.

The girls, competing with an incomplete team, came in eighth place out of 11 teams.

Abby Bestine and Lily Wagner
Submitted Photo.
Lily Wagner
Submitted Photo.
Abby Bestine
Submitted Photo.
Ben Stone
Submitted Photo.
Ethan Bradley
Submitted Photo.
Nolan Radley
Submitted Photo.
Gunner Pietrzykowski
Submitted Photo.


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