Skip to main content

Elba farmer makes Batavia's first legal weed purchase at Empire Hemp

By Howard B. Owens
empire hemp first legal weed purchase
Historic moment: Matthew Starowitz, an Elba farmer, makes the first legal marijuana purchase in Batavia at a new dispensary inside Empire Hemp.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Matthew Starowitz arrived at Empire Hemp early this afternoon, well before the 1 p.m. opening time for legal cannabis sales, with the goal of being the first customer to make a legal weed purchase in Batavia.

Goal accomplished.

"That's the way I was raised," Starowitz said. "You support local people, and so you're there; you're the first one."

It's been a struggle to bring legal cannabis sales to Batavia as state regulators figure out the ins and outs of licensing and legal distribution. Empire Hemp has had products ready to sell for some time.  With the "pop-up" store, called the Cannabis Growers Showcase, opening on Tuesday, they've been allowed to open to cannabis buyers on a limited basis.

The adult-use dispensary for licensed cultivators of high-quality cannabis products will run from 1 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday through Dec. 30. 

It provides local shoppers with the opportunity to purchase certified cannabis products, but the showcase opens the door for Empire Hemp to sell its THC products as well. Typically, the state doesn’t allow one company to be a grower, a processor and a retailer, VanDusen said, and this will allow his company to sell Empire Hemp products through Dank as the retailer set up within Empire Hemp shop. 

Starowitz said he was happy the long process of marijuana legalization has gotten to the point that there is now a locally owned and operated retail location in Batavia.

"I've smoked it since I was like 12 years old," Starowitz said. "I'm 35 years old now. I have always loved it. It's just always been that way. So now that it's legal 100 percent, I'm going to support it locally."

He purchased several different products as a kind of sampler.

"I feel like I just want to sample everything that they have here, at least as far as sativa and sativa hybrids, because then I'll figure out what I like, you know," Starowitz said. "I think that this is better than the stuff I'll ever get from the Res because a lot of their stuff is unregulated. It's not lab-tested. At least this here is legit and lab-tested."

Why sativa?
"Because with indica, I feel like I get too lazy, and I really don't want to do too much," Starowitz said. "Whereas with sativa, I'm always active and going around and doing things. "I'm a vegetable farmer, so sativa is for me as the way to go. This way, I don't get lazy."

Previously: Making history: first-time legal cannabis sales begin Tuesday at Empire Hemp in Batavia

empire hemp first legal weed purchase
Empire Hemp's Chris VanDusen opens the door to his shop at 1 p.m. for the first time with a legal pot dispensary.
Photo by Howard Owens.
empire hemp first legal weed purchase
The first potential customers for the new legal marijuana dispensary in Batavia enter the store."
Photo by Howard Owens.
empire hemp first legal weed purchase
Photo by Howard Owens.
empire hemp first legal weed purchase
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia native Mike Sputore hired as Blue Devils' varsity baseball coach

By Mike Pettinella
Mike Sputore

Mike Sputore fell in love with the game of baseball when he was a young boy growing up on the southside of Batavia.

He excelled at the sport, starting as a member of the Ramblers, who were coached by his father, Paul, in the Batavia Minor League on the diamond at the corner of State and Denio Streets and continuing through two seasons as a pitcher and third baseman for the Genesee Community College Cougars.

Sputore’s baseball career didn’t end then, however. In a sense, it was just beginning. For the past 20 years, he has been a coach at various levels – including the past two years as the varsity head coach at Pembroke Central School.

This summer, when he heard that James Patric was stepping away from the job after two years at the helm, Sputore submitted his resume to Mike Bromley, director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for the Batavia City School District.

“In 2022, James had reached out to me about coaching the jayvee team at Batavia, but I was committed to Pembroke at that time,” said Sputore during an interview with The Batavian on Monday at Mancuso Bowling Center, where he is employed as the general manager. “When the position did come available, I applied and was interviewed by Mike and (physical education staff members) Brennan Briggs and Nick Burk.”

Apparently, Sputore, a 1999 BHS graduate, aced the interview and was offered the job.

“We had several applicants and Mike came through as the leading candidate,” Bromley said. “He had some great experiences as a coach at Notre Dame and the last couple years at Pembroke as the varsity coach. We know that he has a love for Batavia baseball, with his family deeply involved in baseball here for a long time.

“We think that he has some of the attributes that it would take to be the next varsity coach here in Batavia – a good work ethic, great with kids and loves baseball. Just a good fit.”

Sputore credits his dad, who was president of Batavia Minor League for many years, for introducing him to the sport.

“He was a big influence when I was young and now, I’m enjoying it more and more the older I get,” Sputore said. “It’s very satisfying to help others in reaching their goals.”

After progressing through the summer youth baseball programs in the city – Minor, Little and Junior-Senior leagues, Sputore was a three-year starter at Batavia High under coaches Pep Johnson and Rick Saunders – claiming a Section 5 title in 1998 and earning Monroe County Honorable Mention status as a pitcher and third baseman.

Interestingly, Sputore’s brother, Chris, also won a Section 5 championship as a Blue Devil in 1994.

Mike Sputore played American Legion ball, before enrolling at GCC. It was there that he started his coaching career, serving as an assistant in 2003.

From there, he joined the Notre Dame High baseball program, recruited by varsity coach Rick Mancuso to run the jayvee program. In 2006, he became the varsity assistant coach under Mike Rapone and stayed in that capacity for 11 more years.

From 2018 until last season, Sputore coached at Pembroke – helping to build its program while coaching at the modified and varsity levels.

“We were very young (at Pembroke), but we made progress,” Sputore said, noting that the team won five games over the past two seasons after not winning any the previous couple years. “Going to Batavia, I feel the program has been set up for success, thanks to James, and we hope to continue the tradition built by Pep and Rick.”

Sputore said his expectations for his players start with two words – hustle and effort.

“It takes zero talent to hustle and give your best effort at all times,” he said. “We’re looking for kids to be coachable and to be motivated to succeed.”

He said he hopes to get his players on the field for some practice in October and is planning some “winter workouts” with the drop-down batting cage at the high school’s auxiliary gym. He also is excited about the “Meet the Coach Night” on Sept. 12 at the high school for all of the program’s players and parents.

Ryan Mansell, a five-year ballplayer at Brockport State, has accepted a health teacher position at BCSD and has been hired as the baseball program assistant. Other coaches are Derrick Busch (junior varsity), Greg Mruczek (modified A) and Rich Wagner (modified B).

Sputore has a son, Benjamin, a senior at BHS, and a daughter, Brooklyn, an eighth grader at Oakfield-Alabama Central School. His wife, Jillion, is a teacher at John Kennedy Intermediate School.

Pavilion school board gets run down of busy summer for facilities team

By Howard B. Owens
Rex Eighmey, Pavilion Central Schools, director of facilities.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Rex Eighmey, the director of facilities for the Pavilion Central School District, gave the Board of Education on Monday a complete rundown of all the work his staff is performing during the summer months.

It's more than just keeping the lawns mowed and the floors buffed -- which board members praised as always extra shiny -- it's repairs and upgrades, among other items.

A few of the items he mentioned:

  • Clean all furniture, windows, floors, ceilings;
  • Perform maintenance on the HVAC system;
  • Unpack and assemble new furniture that comes in and place in the appropriate rooms;
  • Retrofit some of the high-pressure sodium lights outside with LEDs;
  • Clean and repair concession stands at sports fields;
  • Maintain and repair sports fields;
  • Repair baseball and softball dugouts;
  • Replace some whiteboards and blackboards in classrooms; and,
  • Replace condensation pumps in the cafeteria.

Among several other items that have kept work crews busy all summer.

Pavilion's new SRO welcomed to school district at Monday's board meeting

By Howard B. Owens
deputy trevor sherwood
Deputy Trevor Sherwood
Photo by Howard Owens

The Pavilion Central School District Board of Education members warmly welcomed Deputy Trevor Sherwood as the district's new School Resource Officer at their Monday evening meeting.

Sherwood's new position begins with the start of the school year, and he said he's excited to get going.

He said the job is a chance to have a positive impact on the lives of young people.

"I grew up here -- not necessarily in Pavilion, but in Batavia, just down the road," Sherwood told The Batavian after the meeting. "The biggest thing is I have a younger brother who is still in high school. I think I can be a positive role model."

A former star athlete in basketball and baseball at Batavia High School, Sherwood said one of the aspects of the job he's looking forward to is supporting the Golden Gophers in their athletic programs.  He's on board, he said, with Gopher Pride.

"I've always tried to be a positive role model, especially in sports," Sherwood said. "I've been out of touch with (sports) for years. I've coached previously, junior league baseball and stuff like that years ago, and I thought one of the biggest things is that it would be cool to be around sports again."

pavilion board of eduction sherwood
Front row, left: Rebecca Dziekan, Margaret Gaston, Callin Ayers-Tillotson, Marirose Ethington; back row, Christopher Jeffres, Kevin Stefan, Trevor Sherwood, and Jeff Finch.
Photo by Howard Owens

Former parochial school principal suspected of violating terms of plea agreement

By Howard B. Owens
Jason Clark

A former parochial school principal in Batavia who admitted to a course of sexual conduct with a child less than 11 years old is facing the possibility of having his interim probation revoked.

A hearing will be held in October to help Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini determine if he's violated the terms of his probation by telling probation officers that, contrary to his guilty plea, he has never been sexually attracted to children.

When Jason Clark, who was principal at St. Paul Lutheran School, entered his plea, District Attorney Kevin Finnell said Clark made a factual admission, by definition of his guilty plea, that he had sexual contact with a child to satisfy his sexual desires.

Clark's statement to a probation officer during his pre-sentence investigation interview, according to Finnell, is that Clark isn't and never was sexually attracted to children, and that statement, Finnell asserts, is inconsistent with his sworn admission in court. 

That constitutes a violation of the warnings Clark was given by Cianfrini at the time of his guilty plea.

In June, Clark entered a guilty plea to sexual conduct against a child in the second degree, Class D felony.  Under the terms of the plea, Clark agreed to surrender his teaching license and was placed on interim supervision by the Probation Department for one year.

If he successfully completes interim probation, Clark can change his plea to endangering the welfare of a child, which is a misdemeanor. 

As part of his plea, Clark made a factual admission that he touched the chest of a female child two or more times over a period of time not less than three months in duration.

Cianfrini ordered a hearing, which will likely include testimony from the probation officer, for 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 17. 

Clark was named principal at St. Paul in June 2019 and served in that position until sometime in 2022. He was arrested in January.

Making history: first-time legal cannabis sales begin Tuesday at Empire Hemp in Batavia

By Joanne Beck
Chris Vandusen, CEO of Empire Hemp, behind the
Chris VanDusen, CEO of Empire Hemp, behind the cannabis sales counter at his company's retail shop on East Main Street. On Tuesday at 1 p.m., the empty shelves in the cannabis room will be filled with legal weed products from various vendors selling marijuana legally in Batavia for the first time.
Photo by Howard Owens.

A line down the sidewalk.

That’s all anybody could hope for, and Empire Hemp founder Chris VanDusen and his eight suppliers — cannabis cultivators and processors bringing in product for the 204 E. Main St., Batavia Empire Hemp store beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday — will happily and hopefully be watching the street side form with customers.

“For us, it's a huge thing for us. People always ask -- they want our THC products, and we haven't been able to sell to them because we're not allowed to. So to be able to have this opportunity is really great,” VanDusen said during a busy Monday of preparing for opening day of the Cannabis Growers Showcase. “So we have a range of products, flower products, prerolls, you know, a lot of whole flower from … all the other vendors are cultivators. So it's all their stuff. We're hoping that we have a line down the sidewalk is what we're really hoping for. We're just just hoping for a really big turnout. We just found out last week we got approved to do it, so you know we've been scrambling to get everything out there.”

Greenside Cannabis, in partnership with Dank, Buffalo’s first licensed adult-use dispensary, and Empire Hemp Co., is hosting the WNY Cannabis Growers Showcase, a pop-up adult-use dispensary for licensed cultivators of high-quality cannabis products, which will run from 1 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Saturday through Dec. 30. 

Not only will it provide local shoppers with opportunity to purchase certified cannabis products, but the showcase opens the door for Empire Hemp to sell its THC products as well. Typically, the industry doesn’t allow for one company to be grower, processor and retailer, VanDusen said, and this will allow his company to sell his products through Dank as the retailer set up within Empire Hemp. 

He’s got three flavors of THC gummies and three flavors of vape cartridges, plus more being developed in the lab to be launched soon, he said. Other participating cultivators and processors include Greenside Cannabis, Tarot Tokes, Flwr City, and House of Sacci, vendors “all the way from Jamestown to Niagara Falls to Rochester and everywhere in between,” he said, with a range of flower, edibles and vape products.

All participants are licensed by the state Office of Cannabis Management and are therefore authorized to sell directly to consumers. Would he have liked a larger window of more hours and days? Yes, of course, VanDusen said, but the OCM worked this out and adjusted the schedule to make it six hours a day for five days a week, “and we said, ‘no problem, that works,’” he said.

“But to be able to sell, so what it's gonna be is, we're partnered with Dank as the dispensary (from Buffalo), and they have set up their cash registers within our store. So they’re like a dispensary within our CBD store,” he said. “I think what it's going to be is, right now, they're looking at is like after January 1, there won't be any more, but if they don't get enough dispensaries opened by that time, I think they will extend it because it's the only way small brands can survive.”

Dank has been operating at 501 Main St., Buffalo, for six weeks and has been doing “excellent, way better than we thought we’d do,” owner Aaron Vancamp said. Not that he didn’t see the big influx at the start, but then expected traffic to ease up a bit after that, Vancamp said, and that’s not what’s happened.

“But it's actually increased and been increasing a little after that. So it's been really good,” he said. “We've become more efficient, though. So like, we're getting the customers, we still have the line. But then it's just like the rest, learning the payment processing and things like that to just get the customers out quicker.”

So they’ll be bringing those lessons to Batavia for some brisk sales in what VanDusen said will be a two-part process of checking IDs at one station and then cashing people out at the second one. Overall, Vancamp believes this showcase might just be a lifesaver for those in the cannabis business.

“It could be something that possibly saves the industry. It’s in dire straits, with the amount of stores that are open and the fresh crop coming in, people really need outlets to take care of that fresh crop if we could get a lot of these open and places like Batavia, where there’s like a good solid population, and Batavia’s been very welcoming of us, it wasn’t really tough, they were very glad to have us, and double the amount of revenue that we’re going to generate for them,” he said. “So basically, we think this could be something that saves you on the street for the time being until they can get more stores open and get things organized on the retail side.”

What are the benefits of these pop-ups? Convenience, established hours and locations for point-of-sale, and a coded product that a consumer can check to get the breakdown of how many milligrams it contains of THC or CBD, he said. 

“That’s especially helpful in dealing with the vapes or the edibles because you can actually break down your dosage and figure out what exactly you need,” Vancamp said. “In the other market, you don’t know what you’re getting. Sometimes it could be better. Sometimes it could be worse. Sometimes it could be something horrible. They’re dealing with old products or something like that. And you’re just better off with a more safe route here.”

How can customers trust the product? It’s all been lab tested, and each product has a certificate of analysis (COA) to prove that every one of them has been tested and is safe to consume, VanDusen said.

empire hemp cannabis
Cannabis products from Empire Hemp.

Police respond to Oak Street after receiving calls reporting gunshots in the area

By Howard B. Owens
shots fired
Investigators marked possible evidence locations on Oak Street, Batavia, following a report of gunshots in the area on Monday night.
Photo by Howard Owens

Police are investigating what appears to be a case of gunshots fired on Oak Street at around 10:50 p.m. on Monday night.

Witnesses said they heard five or six shots but that whoever was involved fled the scene quickly.

At about 10:50 p.m., dispatchers asked a patrol officer to switch to LE Secure (the encrypted channel for police communications), and another officer responded that he had heard gunshots while he was still inside the police station. 

The dispatcher said the 9-1-1 Center had received multiple calls.

A short time later, an officer reported that he had a person in custody, but a police source said that information was incorrect.

There is currently no official source of information available, and a police source said it is too early in the investigation to release much information.

A source said there are no reported injuries at this time.

There are City PD and Sheriff's patrols on scene on Oak Street, between La Cross Avenue/Charles Street and Allen Street.  There are also patrols strategically placed elsewhere in the city, but we've been unable to confirm that a suspect or suspects are still at large.

shots fired
Photo by Howard Owens

House on Prune Street heavily damage from fire that started in garage

By Howard B. Owens
10 prune street fire

There were no injuries, not to the residents, firefighters, nor to the family pets in a fire at 10 Prune St., Batavia, this evening, but there was significant damage to the residence, said City Fire Chief Josh Graham.

The garage, where the fire started, is a total loss.

"There is significant damage to the second story," Graham said. "It's pretty well a total loss, and there is a lot of water and smoke damage on the first floor."

Graham said City Fire received a call at about 6:22 p.m. of smoke coming from the garage.

"Crews saw smoke as soon as they pulled out of the fire station (on Evans Street)," Graham said. "When they got on scene, the garage was fully involved with an extension into the house. They declared a second alarm, and the Town of Batavia responded, Elba responded."

The residents were out of the house, and a dog and cat also escaped safely, Graham said.

The streets are narrow, and houses are close together in the Prune Street neighborhood. The Tully's parking lot was right behind the house. That made it tight quarters to maneuver trucks and fight the fire.

Unloading hoses quickly and getting them into place quickly was difficult.

"One thing I will say is there's a house down here with a 16-year-old that came out and saw us struggling to pull a hose down, and he grabbed ahold of that hose and helped pull the hose down," Graham said. "Moving all that hose, getting everything in place with everything else around in the house was the hardest part."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

A neighboring house sustained some heat damage.

Property tax records indicate the house is owned by James and Peggy Benedict. It was built in 1900 and remodeled in 1970. 

(Initial Report)

Photos by Steve Ognibene.

10 prune street fire
10 prune street fire
10 prune street fire
10 prune street fire
10 prune street fire

Photos below by Frank Capuano.

10 prune street fire
10 prune street fire
10 prune street fire

No easy task, East Pembroke Fire officials give 44-cent tax rate increase on eve of vote

By Joanne Beck

There has been some confusion about the East Pembroke Fire Department’s upcoming vote for a plan to help retain volunteers, and after attempting to confirm the related tax rate increase, it’s not difficult to understand why.

The vote is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the fire hall, 8655 Barrett Drive, Batavia.

Late Monday, officials said the confirmed rate per thousand of property tax increase is 44 cents.

District Chairman James Gayton said that the fire department was required to only post the resolution, which does not include information about the tax rate. It states details related to the service award program for volunteer firefighters and is recapped in full below. 

However, property owners have questioned — via online posts and by reaching out to The Batavian — how approval of this resolution will affect their property taxes. Apparently, one such citizen distributed a letter citing an inflated and incorrect tax rate increase, and information was mailed to residents encouraging folks to vote no -- with the appearance of being signed by Gayton, though he had nothing to do with the mailer.

There was a public information session about the resolution, but there was nothing online available from that session pertaining to the tax rate, attorney Bradley Pinsky said. The district wasn’t required to do so, and therefore only posted the resolution itself, he said. 

The Batavian attempted to obtain the tax rate increase and received conflicting information. Gayton explained that other factors go into the final tax numbers and therefore seemed reluctant to provide a final tax rate of cents per $1,000 assessed value increase. 

He referred The Batavian to the fire district’s attorney, Bradley Pinsky of Syracuse, whose calculations first came up with a 96-cent per $1,000 assessed value increase. So for a home assessed at $100,000, that would mean an increase of $96.25 a year for the first five years of this approved resolution. It is to decrease significantly after those first five years, Gayton said. 

Gayton also does not believe the increase will be that high, as he initially estimated it to be 80 cents and then came in with a 50-cent per $1,000 figure when pressed for a definite number this past weekend. 

“That number is based on 100 percent people (qualifying for retirement benefits), which won’t happen,” he said Monday. 

After further calculations later Monday evening, since Pinsky apparently didn't realize that all of the three district towns of Batavia, Alabama and Pembroke should have been included, he came up with a 44-cent "confirmed max" increase per $1,000 assessed value. That would mean an increase of $44 on a home assessed at $100,000.

This number was tabulated as of about 8 p.m. Monday, on the eve of the vote. The Batavian isn't sure why the information wasn't readily available since an information session had already happened, and district residents had been encouraged to ask questions for several days prior.

An online post related to the vote claimed that the information was fully provided in a legal notice. Below is the legal notice sent to The Batavian:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that pursuant to a resolution of the Board of Fire Commissioners, a special election of the qualified voters of the East Pembroke Fire District in the towns of Pembroke, Batavia and Alabama, County of Genesee, State of New York, will be held on the 29th day of August, 2023 between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., held at 8655 Barrett Drive, Batavia NY 14020 to vote on whether to approve the following resolution adopted by at least sixty percent of the Board of Fire Commissioners:


Whether to adopt a defined benefit service award plan within the East Pembroke Fire District for the volunteer firefighters of the fire company of the East Pembroke Fire District, being the East Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., pursuant to General Municipal Law Sections 216 and 219, with an estimated annual cost of the program being $118,514.00 for the first five (5) years, with the annual cost thereafter being $27,706, and an estimated annual administration fee of $3,648 dollars ($3,000 plus $18/participant).

The annual amount of the contribution made on behalf of each participant credited with a year of fire service shall be twenty ($20.00) dollars per month of service for a maximum monthly entitlement benefit of four hundred ($400.00) dollars. 

Benefits shall be accruable, per year of active service limited to twenty (20) years. Participants will vest a non-forfeitable right to a service award after five (5) years of service. Each qualified participant shall receive credit for up to five (5) qualified years of active firefighting service prior to the establishment of the Service Award Program, known as a buyback service credit and the cost of this buy back shall be amortized over a five (5) year period, the cost stated above. 

The entitlement age shall be sixty-five (65). The program will be administered by the East Pembroke Fire District and will take effect on the first day of January, 2024.

All persons registered to vote in the district and residing in the district for at least thirty days prior to the day of the vote may vote in such special election.

This is the resolution and does not say anything about the actual tax rate impact to property owners. A previous story about the retirement benefits of this resolution ran in The Batavian earlier this month.

Six rural counties join litigation aimed at overturning changes to WROTB governance

By Mike Pettinella

Lawmakers in six of the 15 counties that benefit from revenues generated by Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. have passed resolutions to participate in a pending lawsuit to overturn changes to the structure and voting format of the public benefit company’s board of directors.

Legislative bodies in Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming, Livingston and Seneca counties have joined Genesee County in an effort to nullify bills passed by New York State -- during budget negotiations in May – that eliminated the board at that time and shifted voting to a weighted system.

Albany’s action transferred the voting power from the rural (predominately Republican counties to the urban (predominately Democratic municipalities of Erie and Monroe counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Genesee County Attorney James Wujcik today said that he has been talking to lawyers representing the rural counties, confirming that six have signed on thus far. Others rural counties that may opt in are Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Oswego, Wayne and Steuben. The status of Schuyler County is unknown at this point.

“So far, six counties have passed resolutions authorizing their county attorneys to enjoin litigation,” said Wujcik, who added that a draft of the lawsuit is forthcoming.

He also confirmed a report in the Niagara Gazette that Genesee, Niagara and Orleans counties have committed $5,000 each to retain the Lippes Mathias law firm of Buffalo. According to a story on Aug. 1, the newspaper reported that the firm’s lead attorney, Dennis Vacco, will be paid $400 per hour as the “coordinating attorney of all activities” while three others will be paid $375, $350 and $280 per hour.

Should 12 counties sign on to the lawsuit, each would be expected to pay the same amount in attorneys’ and related fees.

Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said that premise of the litigation is “to protect the counties’ Home Rule rights” – the one-county, one-vote format -- that have been in place since WROTB’s creation 50 years ago.

“Genesee County’s position is that we must protect our citizens who, by a referendum, voted to join Western Regional,” Stein said. “People trying to change the result of an election is an overreach, and we can’t let that occur in New York State.”

A portion of the resolution passed by the Genesee County Legislature in June refers to the Home Rule provision, noting that:

WHEREAS, the New York State Court of Appeals recognized in Matter of Moran v. La Guardia, 270 N.Y. 450, 452 that “To repeal or modify a statute requires a legislative act of equal dignity and import.” Nothing less than a Home Rule Message from a majority of the founding counties will suffice, i.e. “the doctrine of Legislative Equivalency”. The doctrine of legislative equivalency has uniformly been applied with respect to the modification and or amendment of prior legislation, and,

WHEREAS, none of the founding counties, especially Genesee County, the home County of WROTB, enacted Home Rule Messages requesting that N.Y. Rac. Pari-Mut. Wag. & Breeding Law § 502, be modified and/or amended, and never authorized a relinquishment of control of WROTB to Erie County, Monroe County, City of Buffalo, and City of Rochester, and WHEREAS, Batavia Downs is located in the Town and City of Batavia in a residential area and this is an important quality of life issue for the host County of Genesee to not be negatively impacted by any change to the Board of Directors make up.

Democratic State Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo initiated action to dismantle the WROTB board and change the voting structure in light of a state Comptroller’s audit that found fault with the corporation’s use of tickets to sporting events (notably, Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres) and concerts; “gold-plated” health insurance for directors, and for President/CEO Henry Wojtaszek’s use of a company vehicle.

Wojtaszek has said that the corporation has taken corrective measures since then, recently stating that management is working on new health insurance options for employees, but not board members.

Call into Monroe County dispatch found to be 'swatting incident'

By Howard B. Owens
county line road swatting incident
The scene on Countyline Road in Darien late this afternoon in what local law enforcement is calling a "swatting incident," a false report of a violent crime.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Monroe County emergency dispatch received a call on a non-emergency number Monday afternoon reporting a murder-suicide at 3865 Countyline Road in Darien.

Genesee County Sheriff's Office and State Police responded, along with Mercy EMS, and found a farm field at that address. They checked three neighboring residents near that address and didn't find any issues. Patrols have cleared the scene. 

 "We checked residences out of an abundance of caution given that we had plotted the address to an empty field," Chief Deputy Joseph Graff said.

Graff said the call may have indicated that a person had shot his girlfriend and then killed himself and that a third person may have been involved.

According to Graff, the Orleans County Sheriff's Office checked a similar address in Orleans County and also found no incident.

Officials are calling this a swatting incident. 

Graff said prank calls such as this are a danger to law enforcement, other first responders, and the community.

"I think the danger is just evident," Graff said. "We have law enforcement resources responding in an emergency fashion to essentially check out a false report. Not only does that endanger the law enforcement individuals who are responding, but also the community at large."

Since these sorts of incidents have helped elsewhere in the county, law enforcement has learned, Graff said, to hold some resources back so there are still patrols available in other parts of the jurisdiction. 

Since the call didn't come in on an emergency line, there was no immediate caller ID information available, Graff said, but authorities will be working to identify the caller. Criminal charges are possible. 

"The caller could be charged with filing a false report or falsely reporting an incident; those are the first two that come to mind," Graff said.

Either can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The severity of the charge would depend on the actual statements made by the caller, Graff said. 

Asked what motivates these types of calls, Graff said, "I wish I knew the answer to that. I don't know."

Famous residents of Batavia historic cemetery visit 'Tea and Spirits'

By Press Release
Photo of (from left to right) Charley Boyd as Dean Richmond, Lucine Kauffman as Mary Richmond, and Ryan Duffy as Eli Fish standing with a portrait of Dean Richmond.
Photo courtesy of Don Burkel.

Press Release: 

"Tea and Spirits" at the Holland Land Office Museum(HLOM) was visited by Dean Richmond, Mary Richmond, and Eli Fish, famous residents of the Historic Batavia Cemetery. They entertained the crowd at a 200th-anniversary tea party on Sunday, August 20. Tales of their lives, accomplishments, and local, state, and national influence were told and enjoyed by all in attendance. 

One more "Tea and Spirits" with sweet treats and savory bites is scheduled for September 17 at 2 p.m. Famous Civil War General John Martindale, Fouierist and social reformer Albert Brisbane, and poet Reverend John Yates will be in attendance. Reservations are required, tickets may be obtained by calling the museum at 343-4727. Tickets are $20 for HLOM members and $25 for non-members. Hurry, space is limited!

Photo of Lucine Kauffman as Mary Richmond(left) and Charley Boyd as Dean Richmond(right). Photo courtesy of Don Burkel.
Photo of the crowd enjoying the presentation at “Tea and Spirits”. 
Photo courtesy of Don Burkel.
Photo of (from left to right) Lucine Kauffman as Mary Richmond, Charley Boyd as Dean Richmond, and Ryan Duffy as Eli Fish. 
Photo courtesy of Don Burkel.

Photos: Ghost Riders celebrate 30th year at Batavia Country Club

By Howard B. Owens
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Kay McDonald.
Photo by Howard Owens.

More than 300 people turned out Sunday afternoon at Batavia Country Club for a free concert by the Ghost Riders, celebrating the group's 30 years of providing Genesee County with a hardcore country soundtrack.

Previously: For the love of the music: Ghost Riders still kickin' 30 years into their career

Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Bill McDonald.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Charlie Hetrick sitting in on bass (in place of Bill Pitcher).  Hetrick was one of several local musicians and former members who sat in for some songs during the concert.
Keith Worthington, foreground, on lead guitar.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Ghost Riders 30th anniversary
Gene "Sandy" Watson
Photo by Howard Owens.

Accident reported at Park and Oak, Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

A two-car accident is reported at Oak Street and Park Road, Batavia.

No word on injuries.

City Fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE 3:21 p.m.: Vehicles are blocking.  "Traffic is backing up," the fire commander reports.  He says police will be needed for "traffic offenses" and tows are requested for two full-size pickup trucks.

Top Items on Batavia's List

TAKE NOTICE THAT The Town of Elba is requesting Bids for the 2024 Cemetery Mowing season, with extra clean-up and trimming of trees/bushes. This will include three (3) cemeteries, Pine Hill Cemetery on Chapel Street, Maple Lawn Cemetery on Maple Avenue and Springvale Cemetery on Edgerton Road. Bids are for a 1-year contract and the successful bidder must provide their own $500,000.00 Liability Insurance certificate. A complete list of specifications/properties can be obtained by contacting the Town Clerk’s Office at (585)757-2762, ext. 10. Sealed bids should be clearly marked “Elba Cemetery Mowing Bids” and submitted no later than 4:00 p.m., Thursday, March 7, 2024 at the Town Clerk’s Office, 7133 Oak Orchard Road, Elba, NY 14058. Bids will be opened at 1:00 p.m. at the Town of Elba Town Hall on Monday, March 11, 2024. The Town Board reserves the right to accept or reject any or all bids that do not comply with their specifications. By Order of the Town Board, Trisha Werth Town Clerk
Tags: employment
Part -Time Children's Library Clerk Position available at the Haxton Memorial Public Library Application is available on the library website: Or apply at 3 North Pearl Street , Oakfield. Any questions please call 948-9900
Tags: Jobs offered
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
Tags: Jobs offered

Authentically Local