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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

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

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.


Muckdogs and CAN-USA sports hosting two charity events at David McCarthy Memorial Arena

By Press Release

Press Release:

CAN-USA Sports is excited to announce the return of the Battle of the Badges, City of Batavia Police vs City of Batavia Fire, charity hockey game & the Inaugural Batavia City Schools Foundation Faculty charity hockey game at the David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena in 2024.

The Batavia City Schools Foundation Faculty game will be on Sunday Feb. 4 at 5 p.m. with doors opening at 4 p.m. The event will feature current and former faculty members battling on the ice to benefit the Batavia City Schools Foundation. 

Kids 12 & under are free to enter and tickets are just $10 with proceeds benefiting the foundation. Foundation President Zack Korzelius “We want to bring more awareness to the foundation and there is such a rich tradition of hockey at our district we thought this would be a perfect fit”.

The event is open to the public and rosters will be release shortly. Tickets can be purchased online through this link-HERE or in person at the Ice Arena.

The 2nd annual Battle of the Badges will be played on Sunday Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. The City of Batavia Police Department took the inaugural battle of the badges cup last year with the event raising over $3,000 for the David McCarthy Memorial Foundation.

“We are looking forward to getting these two great departments together for the 2 nd straight year. The David McCarthy Memorial Foundation has helped so many families in our community over the years and we are excited to donate the proceeds to such a meaningful organization again this year.” official quotes from Detective James DeFreze (Detective-City of Batavia Police) & Matt Morasco (City of Batavia Fire Department). 

Kids 12 & under are free to enter and tickets are just $10 with proceeds benefiting the foundation. Tickets can be purchased online through this link - HERE or in person at the Ice Arena.

Both events will have full-service food & beverage at the rink & 50-50 at each evening’s game. “We have hosted several events in partnership with CAN-USA Sports ownership and they have been all successful. We love to highlight the rink, our community, and who doesn’t love hockey!” – Kati Murray, General Manager, David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena. 

“Hockey being my first love and being able to highlight the heroes & teachers in our community playing the game I love while giving back to local charities is just a win win for the community here.” – CAN-USA Sports Owner Robbie Nichols.

If you or someone you know owns a local business who would like to help sponsor either or both of the events please contact Marc Witt, General Manager/Ownership – CAN-USA Sports, [email protected] for opportunities.

City resident raises issues of street sign, council size and future housing at Creek Park

By Joanne Beck
Sammy DiSalvo Jr.
Batavia resident Sammy DiSalvo Jr. speaks to City Council about his concerns during a business meeting Monday at City Hall.
Photo by Howard Owens

Batavia has had its share of local crusaders over the years — local citizens willing to pack up topics of concern and carry them into City Council meetings to address at the podium in the hope that city leaders will listen and respond. 

Folks have been frustrated about unplowed streets, unshoveled sidewalks, property tax increases, a lack of specific businesses, city staff salaries, and various other concerns depending on the season, the year, and the week.

Sammy DiSalvo Jr., who has previously attempted to run for City Council and has been outspoken at meetings and online, is no stranger to this tradition. This week he brought in three concerns and related requests.

His first issue was about a former yield sign on Harvester Avenue that has been changed to a stop sign. He’d like to see that reverted back, he said.

“Many people don't really stop there, and it's kind of a safety hazard,” he said during Monday's council meeting at City Hall. “And I don't understand why that's a stop sign, but the corner of Jackson has a yield sign. So that's my first request.

“My second request is kind of commenting on the City Charter, and if there's an explanation as to why our City Council's as large as it is,” DiSalvo said. “We have about 15,000 people and we have nine members on our council that we pay to do a job, and places like North Tonawanda that have double our population have half of our council members, and I'm just wondering why we require so many, and if we can make our council reflect the population of Batavia and maybe reduce the size to an appropriate number.” 

His third item was about the city’s intention to put Creek Park property on Evans Street out for future housing development.

DiSalvo pointed to some 10 or so comments on a social media post as to what he believes is proof — an accurate “barometer” of local sentiment — that the majority seemed to agree that developing the plot of green space along the Tonawanda Creek and behind McCarthy ice arena was not a good idea. 

“I would like council to think about not selling that plot of land and turning it and developing it into something that more of the community can use. We live on a creek town, and there's really no public place along the creek that is safe to go on, except for behind the courthouse where there's a nice little park,” he said. “We all saw what just happened. And unfortunately, we could not complete the market rate housing across the street here, and that was a warning sign that we had for two years. The first warning sign that was going to be for low-income housing came with the Batavian article on Sept. 16, 2022, when Savarino announced that there was going to be low-income housing. And then, two years later, it seemed like a shock. So I would like you to reconsider selling that plot of land. Or if you do sell it, restrict it somehow the sale, the use of that for any kind of housing whatsoever, turn it back to something that the community can use.”

Council members John Canale and Eugene Jankowski Jr. were curious about the yield sign on Harvester as well, and they asked for more information from the police and/or public works departments about when and why it was changed.

Canale also addressed the number of council members issue. Nine members have been established for several years, with one each for six designated ward territories, plus at-large positions and a council president. 

Per Section 3-4 from the City Charter, the council member “shall receive compensation,” and ward members are paid $5,000 each, and council president is paid $7,000. Those salaries were increased in 2022, with council voting itself a raise from $3,500 and the president position up from $4,900.

Canale not only defended that pay but said he’d like to see it increased again, reminding everyone that he won’t be on council next year. As for the nine members, “more people is better representation with the amount of awards and districts that we have here in the city,” he said. 

“I would imagine this goes back to when we split the city up into wards, and we split it up into districts. At some point in time, our forefathers split it up into a council person per ward kind of thing. And then three large positions, I don't know who's responsible for that. As far as the public's concern about pay, I would be interested to see how these other council people are paid, because I know these councils here, don't get paid very much to do this, at one time this was a completely volunteer position,” Canale said. “Way back in my dad's day when he was a council person, I think is when they initiated a small stipend to give some incentive for good people to serve. We don't even think about it, because it doesn't affect our income, we don't do this to live on, obviously. I don't think we have to worry about the amount of money that we're spending to represent the entire population of the city.”

North Tonawanda’s five council members are each paid $8,000, and its president’s salary is $8,500, according to a Niagara Gazette article about the council’s failed attempt to get a salary increase vote to the floor. 

Jankowski addressed an online comment that DiSalvo mentioned about the city’s previous plan to have a second ice rink. 


“The second sheet of ice was tabled because it was a $25 million project. We just don’t have that kind of money. If a private industry wants to come in and build a sheet of ice there, contact us, and we’ll talk to you about it,” Jankowski said. “But as far as the city is concerned, there are other things that we’re spending our money on at this point. We can’t do everything we’d like to do. As far as Creek Park … we have a need for housing, especially middle-income housing. That seems to be the idea that keeps coming back for that project, and it’s still under review. So when that time comes, you can come and speak and give your opinion on it, but at this point, it’s really, nothing really moving on it, it’s a very slow process, we’re still looking into it.” 

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By Lisa Ace
Reliant Real Estate

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Batavia race horse advocates honor Tioga victims in moment of silence

By Tim Bojarski
Photo of Batavia horsemen and women during Tioga Downs moment of silence courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery. 

Prior to the start of racing this past Saturday night (Nov. 11) at Batavia Downs, members of the the local driver, trainer, groom and owner colony gathered trackside for a moment of silence to remember and honor their peers at Tioga Downs who lost their horses and their livelihoods as a result of what officials called "a despicable act of arson" that befell that track this past week. 

Many of them, and many of their horses who perished, raced at Batavia Downs, and "the impact of that horrendous event was felt among everyone at the Downs as well as the racing community all across North America," officials said.

When racing got underway, Saturday’s card featured two $15,000 Open I events, which were both won by horses driven by Jim Morrill Jr., who dominated in the bike with a total of five wins on the night. 

In the top trot, Morrill got away sixth with Gracious Triumph while Makadushin N Cheez (Kevin Cummings) led the field to the half in a peppy :57.3. Morrill tipped Gracious Triumph first-over into the breeze as they entered turn three and drew alongside the leader at three-quarters. Gracious Triumph took the lead at the apex of the final bend and drew away to a 2-¾ length victory in 1:56.4, which was a new seasonal mark. 

It was the seventh win of the year for Gracious Triumph ($10.40) and owner Harry Wortzman. Shawn McDonough trains the winner. 

Then in the featured pace, Morrill put Mirragon A on the point off the gate and never looked back. Mirragon A set fractions of :28, :58 and 1:24.4 while Out On Bail (Kevin Cummings) tried to keep pace in the pocket. As they made their way down the stretch, Out On Bail made up some ground, but Mirragon A stayed strong and won by a length in 1:53.2. 

It was also the seventh win of the year for Mirragon A ($7.30) who is owned by his trainer Mike Deters, in partnership with Joel Warner and John Manning. 

Morrill rounded out his quintuple crush with Oreo Dream Xtreme (1:56.4, $6.60), Fox Valley Inferno (1:57.1, $4.20) and Prairie Panther (1:55, $2.70), who reached a major milestone by winning the 70th race of his career. 

Live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Wednesday (Nov. 15) at 6 p.m. and there will be a $1,153 carryover in the Jackpot Hi-5 pentafecta wager in race 13.

Free full past performance programs for every live card of racing at Batavia can always be downloaded at the Downs’ website ( under the “Live Racing” tab and all the racing action can be viewed as it happens for free at the Batavia Downs Live Facebook page.

Photo of Gracious Triumph courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery. 
Photo of Mirragon A courtesy of Wendy J. Lowery. 

Hawley, Borrello honor fallen hero with George Harold Fry Memorial Highway

By Press Release

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) and State Sen. George Borrello (R,C) recently spearheaded an initiative to designate a portion of the state highway system in the county of Genesee as the “SP4 George Harold Fry Memorial Highway.” George Harold Fry, a native of Genesee County, was a Specialist-4 in the Army during the Vietnam War. On July 11, 1969, SP4 Fry gave his life to restore the company’s radio network during an assault by the North Vietnam Army. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his bravery and sacrifice in the battle. As the proposal has been signed by the governor, Hawley is proud to see this local hero get the recognition that he deserves.

“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,” said Hawley. “I want to thank Sen. Borrello for carrying this bill in the Senate, and I want to extend my congratulations to the Fry family for this prestigious honor. 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 our freedom.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley represents the 139th Assembly District, which includes parts of Erie, Genesee, Monroe, and Orleans counties. For more information, please visit his official website. 

Schumer calls on USDA to address milk carton shortage

By Press Release

Press Release:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action on the national milk carton shortage hitting dairy farmers and schools in New York and states across the country. 

Schumer urged the USDA to not only ensure NY dairy farmers have the technical support they need to get through the shortage, but also to work with industry leaders to devise creative solutions to get milk to our school lunchrooms and to investigate the shortage to stop disruptions like this from happening in the future and minimize downstream impacts.

“Milk is an essential part of our students’ school lunches and the lifeblood of our Upstate NY agricultural economy, but with a national milk carton shortage looming over our schools, now is the time for the USDA to step up to ensure our farmers get more support to continue their essential work. That is why I am calling on the USDA to start to work with industry leaders to address this shortage we are seeing nationwide, and provide all the leadership and technical support needed to help our New York dairy farmers,” said Senator Schumer. “The USDA is uniquely positioned to investigate this problem from a national level and work with the dairy industry, our farmers, and schools to mitigate the impacts of shortages and propose solutions.”

John T. Gould, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. President and Chairman of the Board of Directors said, “Our 260 dairy farm families are encouraged by our team’s efforts to continue to supply our milk to our school customers.  It has required hard work, coordination and cooperation to meet their needs.  We thank Senator Schumer for his support in recognizing the critical importance of milk in the nutritional needs of children and adults. We appreciate his efforts and concern in solving this packaging dilemma in a timely fashion.”

Amy Thomas, Executive Director of the Monroe County School Boards Association said, “We want to thank Senator Schumer for his advocacy on behalf of our schools and students. Our districts are working diligently along with our dairy suppliers to find solutions to this shortage, and we are grateful for Senator Schumer’s efforts to ensure these disruptions are addressed.”

Schumer explained that there is currently a nationwide shortage of half-pint milk cartons impacting New York’s dairy industry. He said that while there is not a shortage of milk, there is a supply chain problem with the cardboard cartons, consequently inhibiting suppliers’ ability to provide milk to schools and other customers in NYS and across the country. In school lunchrooms, milk is required to be served with every meal according to USDA nutrition standards. 

While schools are currently working with suppliers to figure out temporary solutions to ensure schools are receiving enough milk and student’s nutritional needs are being met, Schumer says now is the time for the USDA to work with industry and our dairy farmers to find solutions. 

It is currently unclear how long the shortage could last, which is why Schumer says it’s imperative  the USDA take immediate action and proactively work on the problem to ensure that farmers and dairy suppliers across New York have the support and technical assistance needed to minimize the impacts of the shortage on their business and ensure milk can continue to be provided to schools across America.

Schumer added, “Given the potential downstream impacts of disruptions to the milk packaging supply chain we also need the USDA to investigate the causes of this carton shortage to determine how we can avoid further disruptions to our dairy farmers and any further steps we can be taking to mitigate problems of this nature in the future.”

Schumer emphasized that New York State is home to more than 3,200 dairy farms and is the country’s fifth largest dairy state, producing 15.66 billion pounds of milk in 2022. The dairy industry is a driver of significant economic impact in New York and is also a large part of the state’s culture. He said it is vital that we protect this critical industry and ensure it has the support it needs to weather these disruptions until the supply chain recalibrates.

Schumer explained that dairy producers across New York are also feeling the impact of the national shortage and are deeply concerned about getting their milk to consumers. The Upstate Niagara Cooperative, a significant industry supplier of half-pint milk carton packaging, is experiencing operational challenges that are negatively impacting their ability to supply schools with milk packaging orders. 

The shortage is forcing them to seek alternative, creative solutions, like switching other institutions, such as hospitals and nursing homes, from half-pints to larger sizes of milk containers, in order to meet schools’ demand. The Co-op is also offering half-gallons of milk to schools as an alternative. 

Schumer said that New York’s dairy industry is the cream of the crop, as the largest single segment of the state’s agricultural industry. The state has more than 3,200 dairy farms, is the fifth-largest producer of milk, and is the largest producer of yogurt and cottage cheese in the nation.

Air show organizers host thank-you celebration for volunteers

By Joanne Beck
pete zeiliff wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
Pete Zeliff, co-chairman of the Wings Over Batavia Air Show, thanks volunteers and local agencies for their help during the 2023 air show that filled Genesee County Airport with activity and spectators day and night this past Labor Day weekend.
Photo by Howard Owens

Wings Over Batavia Air Show organizers soared one last time for the season to serve up more than $11,000 to local service organizations for their volunteer efforts during the event’s two-day activities at Genesee County Airport this past Labor Day weekend.

Event co-chairs Pete and Doreen Zeliff distributed $11,032.86 in proceeds to the following agencies for providing volunteers to help with parking, crowd control and food concession stands during the holiday weekend:

  • Genesee County ACORNS (Association for the Conservation of Recreational and Natural Spaces)
  • Batavia Lions Club
  • Batavia Ramparts
  • Crossroads House
  • Elba Class of 2024
  • Friends of the Rink
  • Genesee County Spartans
  • GO-Art!
  • Rotary Club of Batavia
  • Boy Scouts
  • YWCA of Genesee County

The Zeliffs hosted the agencies recently at Eli Fish in Batavia for some food and drink, and the monetary award distributions, and to thank them for their assistance during the newly resurrected, inaugural 2023 air show.

Photos by Howard Owens

wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
Co-Chair Doreen Zeliff
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023
wings over batavia thank you at Eli Fish 2023

Jerome Foundation selects Batavia couple for Health and Humanitarian Award

By Press Release

Press Release:

Submitted photo of 
Robert and Mary Ellen Zickl.

The 38th Health and Humanitarian Award of Genesee County will be presented to Robert and Mary Ellen Zickl of Batavia on Friday, December 1, at an awards luncheon at noon at Terry Hills Restaurant. The award presented by The Jerome Foundation recognizes volunteer men and women of Genesee County who have helped promote emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of the area’s residents.

Nominations reflected “ordinary people who reach far beyond themselves to the lives of those in need, bringing hope, care, and friendship, and helping build a stronger, healthier community.” In naming Mr. and Mrs. Zickl for this year’s award, The Jerome Foundation will recognize them for their many humanitarian and volunteer efforts. 

The Zickls were nominated by Mrs. Karen Green, Principal of St. Joseph’s School. She notes, “Bob and Mary Ellen have opened their home to countless children over the years, whether it be a short stay or a long one. The loving, compassionate and safe home that they provide has lasting memories and effects on all those who are familiar with them. In two instances in particular, they opened their home to children who
were not their own, but who were treated as members of their family, with much love and support during particularly challenging times. I know they will forever consider the Zickl home to be their own.”

Both Bob and Mary Ellen have given countless hours of volunteer time to St. Joseph School and Notre Dame High School. Bob currently serves on the ND Board of Directors and St. Joseph School Board. He volunteers on the sidelines coaching ND football, as well as organizing and supervising athletes in the weight room, always promoting good fitness and healthy choices. 

Mary Ellen is Foundress of All Babies Cherished and currently is involved in the Rosary Society at Ascension Parish, chairing several committees. Both Bob and Mary Ellen are Ascension Church lectors.

Bob Zickl is an Assistant District Attorney for Genesee County. Mary Ellen is a retired Special Education Teacher. They have five children and reside in the City of Batavia.

The Health and Humanitarian Award luncheon is open to the public. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased by mailing a check to The Jerome Foundation, PO Box 249, Batavia, New York 14021. For information call Chris Fix at 356-3419 or by email to [email protected]. Seating will be limited and reservations are encouraged by Nov. 24. 

Making miracles happen at Genesee Valley BOCES and Rotary camp

By Press Release
Submitted photo of Janet Green (second person from left).

Press Release:

Janet Green, a seasoned LPN instructor for the Adult Education Nursing Program at Genesee Valley (GV) BOCES, is a pillar of both knowledge and compassion in the medical field. With a decade of dedication to GV BOCES and an extensive background in nursing, Green's career is a testament to her unwavering commitment to healthcare.

Before transitioning to teaching, Green spent an impressive 35 years at UR Medicine Noyes Health in Dansville, where she worked in the maternity ward and the emergency department. The wealth of experience she gained there laid the foundation for her role as an instructor, where she imparts her wisdom to aspiring nurses.

For an astounding 33 years, Green has devoted her summers volunteering at the Genesee Valley Rotary Camp, which provides a free, week-long overnight camping experience for children aged 8 to 21 with special needs. What started as a friend's invitation to assist as a camp nurse in 1990 became a lifelong commitment for Green.

By 1995, she had assumed the role of health director for the camp, overseeing the well-being of the campers throughout the week. 

With a team of dedicated individuals, Green ensures that the campers, ranging from those in wheelchairs to those requiring tube feeding, experience a week filled with various activities every summer. From swimming and archery to music and adaptive physical education, the camp offers a range of opportunities for the children to explore
and enjoy. 

"We have a motto," Green said. "If you knew where and when a miracle was going to take place, wouldn't you want to be there? Every single year we see that.” 

Recognizing the importance of practical experience, she encourages her LPN students to volunteer at the summer camp. This camp holds a special place in Green's heart. For Green, the camp is not just a volunteer opportunity; it's a chance to make a difference in the lives of these children.

"My favorite part is the kids. I love the kids; they're my kids," she said with a warmth that reflects the genuine connection she forms with each camper. 

Green's dedication to the camp goes beyond her individual efforts; she transforms volunteering into a family affair. Her husband, son, daughter-in-law, and even her grandchildren, all join in the noble cause, contributing their time and skills to create a memorable experience for the campers.

Green continues to convey her nursing knowledge to future healthcare professionals during the academic year. She eagerly awaits the summers, knowing that amidst the trees and laughter of the Genesee Valley Rotary Camp. Green believes that miracles are bound to happen, and she wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

The Genesee Valley Rotary Camp, located in Portageville relies on fundraisers and donations to operate. The Rotary Clubs in Genesee Valley sponsor the children and support from other community organizations and members is welcomed. For more information contact [email protected].

Submitted photo of Janet Green (third person from left).

Preparing to make old new again: reuse study of Brisbane Mansion suggests market rate units or boutique hotel

By Joanne Beck
Larissa Reynolds and Rick Hauser at City Council
Designer Larissa Reynolds and Consultant Rick Hauser of In Site Architecture of Perry present their reuse study of Brisbane Mansion during Monday's City Council meeting at City Hall. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

Given the ample time and 80-plus page report he had to work from, consultant Rick Hauser wasn’t short on words in a study on Brisbane Mansion. However, three words seemed to capture it best.

“It’s a gem,” he said Monday during a presentation to City Council.  “I love the history of this building, it’s a 107-year-old building. So for starters, that's impressive. 

“It’s at a key location in your community,” he said. “One thing’s clear is that Brisbane Mansion is not being put to its best use.”

Hauser, a partner of Inside Architecture in Perry who has conducted a reuse analysis on the Main Street structure, otherwise known as the current city police station, reviewed the site from top to bottom. 

After reviewing and calculating existing floor plans, construction cost estimates, various options, forensic building timelines, potential grant and other financial incentives, a zoning map, photographs, a condition assessment, and design challenge considerations, Hauser and fellow designer Larissa Reynolds presented what they believed were the two most viable options.

One option is to carve out 11 market-rate apartments, with four two-bedroom and seven one-bedroom units on the first and second floors. All of them would be light-filled with an open kitchen, dining and living concept, comfortably-sized bedrooms and ample closet space, and they strive to maintain existing partitions, opening and architectural features as much as possible, he said. 

Preserving the historic integrity of the building is key, he said, as it is currently a contributing member of the historic district and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Maintaining historic integrity will be a principal selling point, he said.

The business plan includes utilizing grant funding which means renovation plans will be scrutinized as to whether they have an adverse impact not he remaining historic fabric and defining architectural features such as existing facades, structural elements, circulation paths, interior spatial layouts and finishes. 

The second option would be a 16-room boutique hotel containing seven micro units, three deluxe units and six deluxe suites to accommodate different needs and budgets while remaining unique and welcoming. 

“When we're thinking about what we're proposing for this building, we're really thinking about what the building wants to be. Because a lot of things are all set, the location of the building, centrally located to everything basically in Batavia, there is no other kind of lodging or hotels in the city core,” Reynolds said. “The history of it, the quirkiness of it, those are the key ingredients that really make a really nice boutique hotel. A boutique hotel that’s really well managed by someone that's gonna love and showcase the history and the elements of it.”

The most challenging task for these options was to work within multiple “levels within levels” by various additions and renovations done to the building at varying stages and time periods.

Who’s going to want to come in and develop an old mansion-turned-police station? Any number of people, apparently. It’s a tempting opportunity, Hauser said, because of its age: the property qualifies for historic preservation tax credits, which can be very attractive to developers and help provide key capital up front, especially if syndicated, he said. 

New York State is also rich in funding sources, including grants such as Restore NY and Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds, he said. 

What would this all cost a prospective developer? An estimated $3.5 million to $4 million, he said, with revenue for high-end apartments reaping $164,000 a year. 

Councilman John Canale asked if any developers have expressed interest in the site at this point, and City Manager Rachael Tabelski said yes, that Batavia Development Corp. Director Tammy Hathaway has taken a few prospective developers on tours of the property.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., a retired city police lieutenant, knows the building well and looks forward to its next life, he said.

“I love that old historic building. The public should be aware that we're definitely trying to repurpose it,” he said. “And at no time, we haven't even begun to discuss anything other than keeping the building there and repurposing it into something that is hopefully gonna get on the tax roll.”

The process will most likely involve a request for proposals once the city is ready to move forward, Tabelski said, and the police department has its new home at Alva Place and Bank Street.

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City of Batavia, NY Position: Cleaner The City of Batavia is accepting applications for a Part-Time Cleaner. The hourly rate is $15.43. The position is responsible for routine and repetitive manual work calling for the performance of simple cleaning duties. Work is performed under direct supervision of a supervisor who assigns tasks and frequently inspects and evaluates the employee and their work when completed. Civil Service applications and job description may be picked up at the City’s Human Resources Office, 2 nd Floor, One Batavia City Centre, Batavia, NY. Please submit completed applications to Rebecca McGee, Human Resources Director, One Batavia City Centre, Batavia, NY by December 15, 2023. Background check and drug testing required.
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Crossroads House is a comfort care home for the dying. We are a non-for-profit organization that provides its services free of charge. We run on a supportive community and selfless volunteers. With out both of those we would not be able to serve our community. If you have a caregiver's heart and 2 to 4 hours a week, we would love for you to become a part of our Crossroads House family! No experience required, we will train you and provide mentors and experienced volunteers to guide you. Please go to to apply, click on volunteer tab to complete application or email [email protected]
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