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Three-car accident reported in front of Darien Fire Hall

By Howard B. Owens

A three-car motor vehicle accident is reported in the area of 10537 Alleghany Road, Darien, which is right by the Darien Fire Hall.

At least one injury is reported.

Darien Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 11:48 p.m.: Minor injuries and very minor damage to vehicles. The vehicles were moved off to the side of the road.

Additional $2M toward county's third-phase water project 'certainly helps'

By Joanne Beck

Water is one of those things that doesn’t evoke much interest until the well runs dry, and county officials have been steadily working on a plan to ensure that doesn’t happen, they say.

And that doesn’t happen without funding, which will be needed for the upcoming $150 million third phase.

Tim Hens
County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens

“We are currently designing and evaluating the needed improvements for Phase 3, which brings 7.6 million gallons more per day. This quantity of water was intended to replace the City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant production. Part of this transition requires a Source Supply Change Study to make sure water chemistry does not cause issue in the city’s old pipes and services,” county Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said. “This study is intensive and will take approximately three years to complete. During this time, we will continue to design the overall Phase 3 project. There are parts and pieces within Monroe County that are not controlled by the Source Supply Study that will advance ahead. The county is continuing to seek federal and state funding to complete the project that has a total estimated cost of $150 million.”

Some good news came this month in the form of a $2 million grant from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Office. That money will go towards a new water tank on North Road in Le Roy, County Manager Matt Landers said. While there’s still much more expense to go, it “certainly helps,” Landers said, and is “$2 million less that we have to borrow and pay interest on.”

As for how to pay for the remaining project?
“We are certainly hopeful for future grant assistance.  We recently submitted for a $30 million Water Infrastructure Improvement grant with NYS and submitted for $1.7 million in Congressional earmark funding through Congresswoman Tenney’s Office,” Landers said.  “We plan on submitting annually to both NYS and the federal government for as long as phase 3 is being designed and constructed.

matt landers
County Manager Matt Landers

“We are searching for federal and state grants, expecting to raise some of the funds through a bond issuance and having a small increase in the water rate to cover the rest,” he said. “In addition to the $2 million recently announced, we are also applying $8 million of federal ARPA funding towards phase 3. We have not paid for phase 3 yet because it is still being designed.”  

Remember those county press releases reminding residents to temper their water use during summer months? Those reminders, and the need for spray parks in Batavia and Le Roy to be closed temporarily this summer, are all related to city and county water infrastructure issues and the rising need for water, officials say.

“Demand continues to outpace water supply, and this trend will only get worse in the coming years,” Landers said.  “Clean reliable water is essential from both a public health standpoint and from an economic development perspective." 

There haven’t been any reminders lately about restricting water use, so does that mean the situation is better?
“Recent repairs at the City water plant (repair of a well pump and replacement of a low service pump) have helped supply keep close with demand,” Landers said. “In addition, the county is moving away from the peak demand season, which will relieve some of the pressure on the city water plant.”

Batavia Medical Center pushes back plans for opening

By Joanne Beck
batavia medical center
Batavia Medical Center 
Photo by Howard Owens

A media tour scheduled for Wednesday morning at the new Batavia Medical Center has been canceled, along with the grand opening of the Batavia-based facility set for Monday, Rochester Regional Health officials said.

RRH was waiting for a final letter from New York State signing off on the project, but that letter has not yet arrived. A new opening date has not been determined but will likely be sometime in mid-September, spokesperson Cristina Domingues Umbrino said Tuesday.

The health facility hosted a small tour for dignitaries at the new 95,000 square-foot site on Oak Orchard Road last Friday, with the plan to open it up to media this week in anticipation of an opening slated for Aug. 28. 

Savarino Companies going out of business, leave Ellicott Station up in the air

By Joanne Beck
ellicott station savarino business closed
The gates at Ellicott Station are closed with padlocks in place and there were no contractors in site on a normal work day on Tuesday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

As Ellicott Station, the four-story apartment complex in Batavia’s downtown Southside, remains unfinished and behind schedule of what was previously announced for a summer opening, Samuel Savarino of Savarino Companies confirmed Tuesday that the 23-year-old company “will be winding down and ceasing operations,” according to The Buffalo News. 

Savarino said that the company would be laying off 30 employees after being unable to overcome significant financial losses following its dismissal from a state-funded SUNY construction project, the article states.

The Batavian called City Manager Rachael Tabelski and Samuel Savarino for comment and received an emailed response from Savarino confirming that the company will be "winding down and ceasing operations," however, it offered a thin promise for Ellicott Station's future completion.

UPDATED 4:12 p.m.: "The primary factors governing the firm’s decision are ongoing and increasing costs related to a project the company’s surety was forced to complete at Alfred State College, a recent termination of work and the company’s inability to obtain surety bonding or acceptance of alternative performance guarantees for $110 million of 2023 work which the company would otherwise have had underway at this time. Without that work, it would not be possible for the company to operate profitably," the email stated. "Savarino Properties, LLC, which is an independent company and provides property management services throughout Western New York, will not be impacted.

"Savarino Companies, LLC is actively working to achieve the best outcomes for its employees, clients and vendors. The firm is working with its clients, and in some cases, its surety to complete work on active projects and, where needed, is making arrangements with replacement contractors for upcoming work the company was slated to perform," the company stated. "The status of several initiatives and development projects that Savarino Companies was affiliated with has yet to be determined."

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that the city had not been contacted by Savarino Companies before the announcement and is, therefore "reviewing and evaluating all information as it comes forward."

"Over the past month, the City has worked with the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) to demand Savarino Companies provide workforce housing at Ellicott Station as promised in their applications to the State and City.  The City will be meeting with regional and state partners to seek assistance to move the Ellicott Station Project forward," Tabelski said Tuesday. "As more details become available, we will update the community.”

Savarino also emailed reports of the many charitable organizations that the company has supported over the years of its existence.

Photos by Howard Owens.

ellicott station savarino business closed
ellicott station savarino business closed
ellicott station savarino business closed
ellicott station savarino business closed

End-of-summer bash celebrates reading at Haxton Library

By Joanne Beck
Haxton Memorial Library summer reading
An end-of-summer party at Haxton Memorial Library celebrates the reading efforts of children, teens and adults.
Submitted photo.

More than 80 participants — children, teens and adults — attended an end-of-summer-reading ice cream party this past week at Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield, Director Kim Gibson says.

Soft serve ice cream was served, and all of the prizes were distributed during this fun-filled evening at the library on Aug. 17. 

The library had a lot to celebrate: a busy summer of 200 children, teens and adults in the “All Together Now” Summer Reading Program, and children and teens reading more than 70,000 minutes combined as the library offered 35 programs, and an attendance of more than 1,020 participants during the six-week program. 

 “We had such an amazing turn out and we are so proud of all of our readers this summer,” Gibson said.

Haxton summer reading party
Submitted photo.

Six people arrested at Nickelback concert at Darien Lake

By Howard B. Owens

The following were arrested by the Sheriff's Office at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center during the Nickelback/Brantley Gilbert Concert on Aug. 16.

William J. Oatman, 23, of Liberty Street, Adams, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly hitting a Live Nation security guard.

James R. Rogers, 24, of County Road 189, Adams, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly hitting a Live Nation security guard.

Matthew J. Morano, 28, of Harrison Street, Blasdell, is charged with trespass after allegedly refusing the leave the concert area after being told numerous times to do so.

Mitchell H. Simon, 22, of Lillyridge Drive, East Amherst, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly pushing another person.

Harry K. Elliott, IV, 23, of HSY 2 Troy, is charged with criminal trespass 2nd and harassment 2nd after allegedly climbing over a fence to enter the concert venue and hitting a Live Nation security guard in the chin.

Some areas of NY seeing more COVID, Genesee has moderate increase

By Joanne Beck

While some areas in New York are seeing an uptick in COVID cases — enough to warrant stricter masking policies — that hasn’t been the case in Genesee County so far, Genesee and Rochester Regional Health officials say.

Two Upstate Medical hospitals recently reported revised policies to reinstate mandatory masking for all staff, visitors and patients in clinical areas of the hospitals’ spaces, and masking was also strongly encouraged for non-clinical areas as well, according to news reports

Genesee Orleans (GO) Health’s Public Information Officer Kaitlin Pettine said that there’s been an increase in COVID cases in the second week of August, but there has not been any new masking policy considered.

Her agency is reflecting the recommendations set forth by the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at this time, even though “medical centers/systems can also determine their protocols at their own discretion.”

"For the week of August 9 to 15, Genesee County had 10 new cases,” Pettine said. “As expected, we are seeing new strains of COVID. Each strain will present with varying levels of transmissibility and severity.  We will continue to monitor activity in our communities and provide recommendations as indicated."

Rochester Regional Health is seeing some increase in COVID inpatient admissions, but the number is considered “rather small,” communications specialist Cristina Domingues Umbrino said.  

“We are not considering reinstituting the mask mandate at this time,” she said. “Some restrictions remain in high-risk areas.”

Hospital restriction policies are available HERE.

As everyone moves into the fall season, Pettine encourages residents to practice the following public health advice for all respiratory illnesses: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often. If soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider and get vaccinated. 

If you're curious about local cases, GO Health updates COVID-19 data on Wednesdays at the GO Health website 

Law and Order: Batavia man accused of hitting person, fleeing police, and then causing another disturbance

By Howard B. Owens

Joel D. Prouty, 37, of Batavia, is charged with strangulation 2nd and assault 3rd. It’s alleged that Prouty struck the victim in the face and strangled her during a disturbance on an undisclosed date at an undisclosed location in the City of Batavia. When Police arrived on scene, Prouty allegedly jumped out of a second-story window and fled on foot. Officers were unable to locate Prouty that day. On Aug. 4, patrols were called back to the same address for another disturbance between Prouty and the same victim. When officers attempted to take him into custody, Prouty reportedly fought with them. He was additionally charged with resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration 2nd. He was arraigned in City Court and held without bail.

Owen Charles Scouten, 22, of Batavia (no street address disclosed), is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speed not reasonable and prudent, moving from lane unsafely, and drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle. Scouten was reportedly involved in an accident at 1:16 a.m. on Aug. 20, on Lewiston Road, Batavia. Two people were injured in the accident and required transport to a hospital for treatment. Following an investigation, Scouten was arrested by Deputy Carlos Ortiz Speed.  Additional charges are pending. Scouten was released on an appearance ticket.

Owen Charles Scouten, 22, of Church Street, Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speeding and moving from lane unsafely. Scouten was stopped at 7:38 p.m. on Aug. 14 on Route 20 in Alexander by Deputy Alexander Hadsall. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Richard A Demmer, 30, of Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant issued by City Court. Demmer was initially arrested on May 29, after he allegedly attempted to rob the 7-Eleven, on East Main Street A warrant was issued on July 12 after Demmer allegedly failed to appear for a court appearance. He was arrested on that warrant on July 13. Another warrant was issued on July 27 after he again allegedly failed to appear in court. Demmer was located by Batavia Police on Aug. 3 and arrested. He was arraigned in City Court and remanded to the Genesee County Jail on $10,000 cash bail, $20,000 bond, or $40,000 partially secured bond.

Crystal A. Mounts, 46, of Batavia, was arrested on a bench warrant issued by City Court. Mounts was initially arrested on April 9, 2022 after allegedly stealing property from a local church. A warrant was issued on April 29, 2022 after she allegedly failed to appear in court. She was arrested on that warrant on May 14, 2022. Another warrant was issued on Sept. 19 after she again failed to appear in court. She was arrested on that warrant on July 29. She was arraigned and released.

Lance D. Beals, 53, of Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief 4th and criminal tampering 3rd. Beals was arrested after an investigation into an incident on East Main Street where he allegedly damaged to an apartment building. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Kavyia A. Spencer, 24, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Spencer was arrested after an investigation into an employee theft from Kwik Fill on Jackson Street, Batavia. It’s alleged that she stole merchandise from the store on two separate occasions. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Patricia M. Anderson, 38, of Batavia, was arrested on on Aug. 9 on an arrest warrant issued by City Court. Anderson was initially arrested on April 9 after allegedly stealing merchandise from 7-Eleven on East Main Street in Batavia. A warrant was issued after Anderson allegedly failed to appear in court. Anderson was arraigned in City Court and released on her own recognizance. 

Edmund J. Sobresky, 54, of Batavia, is charged with DWAI Drugs. Sobresky’s arrest is the result of a traffic stop on April 11.  He was charged on Aug. 8 following an investigation. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Patricia A. McCarthy, 29, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd and public lewdness. McCarthy was arrested after patrols responded to Dellinger Avenue, Batavia, on Aug. 6 for a report of two people fighting. It’s alleged that McCarthy engaged in a fight with another person. During the fight, McCarthy became disrobed. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Jason Howard Heerdt, 27, of Hilltop Drive Elma, Ryan Thomas Budziszewski, 32, of Northseine Drive, Cheektowaga, and Carlie Marie Budziszewski, 25, of Northseine Drive, Cheektowaga, are charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle. Heerdt is accused of taking a golf cart at Darien Lake Theme Park without permission on Aug. 6 at 9:25 p.m.. They were issued appearance tickets.

Joseph David Johnson, 53, of State Street, Mumford, is charged with robbery 3rd and harassment 2nd. Johnson is accused of using force to steal property from an elderly victim while inside Batavia Downs Casino at 1:26 on Aug. 10. He was held pending arraignment.

Christopher James Parker, 34, of Batavia Elba Townline Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd. Parker is accused of violating an order of protection at 10:37 a.m. on Aug. 11. He was held pending arraignment.

Steven Albert Barraco, 53, of Edgewood Drive, Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Barraco is accused of shoving another person by the throat during an altercation on Aug. 10 at 5:31 p.m. at a location on Edgewood Drive. He was held pending arraignment.

Brian Michael Tracy, 35, of Horseshoe Lake Road, Stafford, is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, criminal contempt 2nd, criminal mischief 4th, and harassment 2nd.  Tracy is accused of getting out of a car and striking another person in front of two children on Aug. 11 at 4:10 p.m. at a location on Horseshoe Lake Road. He was processed at the Genesee County Jail and held pending arraignment. 

Jason Michael Babbitt, 49, of Perry Road, Pavilion, is charged with 46 counts of aggravated harassment 2nd. Babbitt is accused of calling the Emergency Dispatch Center 46 times, including calls after he was instructed to stop.  According to the Sheriff's Office, his calls were not placed to request the services of police, fire, or EMS.  He was issued an appearance ticket.

Jose Efrain Velz-Torres, 42, of Sobieski Street, Rochester, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, speeding, aggravated unlicensed operation, operating a vehicle with improper plates, and driving without insurance. Velz-Torres was stopped at 1:19 a.m. on Aug. 14 on Clinton Street Road, Bergen, by Deputy Ryan Mullen. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Mark Louis Frongetta, 53, of Park Road, Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct. At 6:14 p.m. on Aug. 14, Deputies responded to the Best Western Inn Suites on Park Road after receiving a report of a disturbance. Frongetta is accused of standing in the lobby yelling obscenities and of throwing the hotel's phone. Frongetta was held pending arraignment.

Dennis Edward Biggins, 48, of Franklin Street, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and driving too slow (impeding traffic). Biggins was stopped at 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 14 on Route 237 in Stafford by Deputy Nicholas Chamoun. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Lorriance Marie Nelson, 61, of Hillcrest Street, Newfane, is charged with driving while impaired by drugs, speed not reasonable and prudent, and moving from lane unsafely. Nelson was reportedly involved in an accident at 12:51 a.m. on May 25 on Ellicott Street. She was arrested on Aug. 18 following an investigation by Deputy Mason Schultz.  She was issued an appearance ticket.

Joseph Albert Boisclair, 58, of Knowlesville Road, Oakfield, is charged with DWI, speeding, driving left of pavement markings, and failure to keep right. Boisclair was stopped at 1:35 a.m. on Aug. 19 on Lewiston Road, Batavia by Sgt. Mathew Clor. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Angel Eliseo Colon, 41, of Grant Street, North Tonawanda, is charged with harassment 2nd. Colon is accused of spitting on another person while at the Genesee County Jail at 7:02 p.m. on Aug. 16. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Akeem Rashaad Gibson, 33, of West Main Street Road, Batavia, is charged with reckless endangerment and unlawful fleeing a police officer 3rd. Gibson is accused of fleeing from a deputy in the Town of Byron at 3:31 p.m. on July 30. He was arrested on the charge on Aug. 15. He was held pending arraignment. 

Joseph Jerome Kostanciak, 33, of Genesee Street, Pembroke, and Shannon Leah Smith, 46, of Genesee Street, Pembroke, are charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Kostanciak and Smith are accused of possession of drug paraphernalia at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 18 at a location on Genesee Street, Pembroke, including an uncapped needle that was accessible to children who are under the age of 17.  Both were held pending arraignment.

John Joseph Wojtkowiak, 56, of Attica Road, Attica, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and drinking in a motor vehicle. Wojtkowiak was reportedly involved in an accident at 6:44 a.m. on Aug. 1 at the Totempole Gas and Smoke Shop on Ledge Road, Basom. He was arrested following an investigation by Deputy Kevin McCarthy. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Fielding tasty lessons at Elba Central School

By Joanne Beck
Elba girl in cafeteria
Elba Central School has been bringing a farm-to-school program to life, from local farms to the school district campus cafeteria, as a "real-world scenario" in which school leaders are hopefully teaching their kids to make healthy choices as they learn and grow, Superintendent Gretchen Rosales says.
Submitted photo.

It may be summertime, but there’s no break from working on Elba Central School’s farm-to-school program, Superintendent Gretchen Rosales says.

In fact, much of the program’s produce is planted, harvested, and sold — via a farmers market added onto the campus this year — right now. Thanks to state and federal grants from the Department of Agriculture and Governor Hochul's office, Elba students have been able to plant, harvest, learn about, prepare, cook, and most deliciously, enjoy their own healthy foods.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Elba, of Genesee County, our state, and the nation.  This is a great way to see our interconnectedness as a community and as a whole,” Rosales said to The Batavian.  “Elba is a culturally rich community, and I am certain that as we embark upon this project, we will learn so much more from each other.”

Elba first began working with Katie Metzler and Kathy Allen from Porter's Farm last year, when students visited the Elba farm weekly to harvest, wash and prep items for the school's salad bar.

Elba kids at Porter Farms
Elba Central students get hands-on lessons about selecting, planting and harvesting their own produce at Porter Farms.
Submitted photo

“Some items they picked included tomatoes, peppers, onions, melons, lettuce, and spinach. We also sent them with apples, pears, and green beans. At Thanksgiving, we donated some winter squashes and other seasonal items for their Thanksgiving feast,” Metzler said Monday. “We’re not sure of specifics yet for this year, but we are planning on doing something equivalent to meet their needs. Our hope is to have the students get as much hands-on time at the farm as possible. We are happy to collaborate with faculty and admin at Elba to provide such a hands-on experience for these students. Hopefully, our partnership will continue to grow each year and potentially with other districts in the area as well.” 

After their selections were made, the students would work with Elba’s agriculture teacher, Tracey Dahlhaus, to wash and prep the produce.  They also brought their own egg-laying chickens onto campus so that students could collect the eggs and sell them.  

“We would like to use them in our food options in the cafeteria as well,” Rosales said. “Planning focused around growing our own food. Building a greenhouse is part of this plan.”

Next came the funding. The district applied for a USDA Farm to School grant and was awarded $100,000 this year to "support planning, developing, and implementing farm-to-school programs that connect students to the sources of their food through education, taste tests, school gardens, field trips, and local food sourcing for school meals,” Rosales said.

The school district plans to use the funds to continue the work that it began last year in its food science course.  Applying for the grant was the chance to look at what a true farm-to-school could  look like if there were no limitations on funding,” she said.  “Our agriculture students and Mrs. Dahlhaus have talked about wanting a greenhouse since our program started four years ago.  Personally, I have always valued the community connection that naturally comes from harvesting one's own produce.  The shared responsibility of a community garden came to mind.”

And community it is. Students, staff, faculty, local farmers and customers have come together to plant fruits and vegetables, grow their own produce, harvest, cook, support local businesses, supply healthy food sources, and come together to actually “break bread” as a community, Rosales said.

Elba kids in cafeteria
Submitted photo

The nice part about the grant, she said, is that lessons are for all students — in grades UPK through 12.  Little ones will be learning how to make their own healthy snack choices and then how to cut foods safely to make those snacks, while older kids will learn more advanced skills and nutritional components of meals, plant science and international cooking.

One facet seems to springboard onto another, and they're evolving the offerings all the time, Rosales said.

“We would like to produce our own maple syrup. Our students can expect to try many new foods in the cafeteria,” she said.  “Mrs. Walcazk (the new nutrition coordinator who just took over for retiring Lisa Crnkovich) has been busy working on new recipe ideas for the students, including hot breakfast choices, expanded salad buffet options, soups, and pasta.”  

Future goals are to build the school district’s own greenhouse and to have cooking classes and shared meals in the evenings, she said. Another grant, this time for $150,000 from a Healthy Eating initiative, will go toward those expenses. 

Another big component of this effort has been the use of surveys, asking students about their food preferences to determine which fruits and veggies to incorporate. Berries and watermelon? A big yay. Cauliflower? Not so much, she said. Kids definitely preferred fresh raw vegetables more so than cooked. The response rate over the summer has been about 60 percent so far. 

Elba boy with apple
Submitted photo

And what would an agriculture program be without a farmers market? It seemed a natural fit, and one that fits nicely onto the school campus once a week throughout summer and into fall. 

“The school is the center of the community, so holding it at ECS just makes sense.  We have invited all of our farming students and entrepreneurs to sell their goods.  Students have expressed an interest in selling flowers, eggs, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, maple syrup, and honey.  We are starting small and will see how it goes,” Rosales said.  “It is important for Elba to have a farmers market, and we hope to provide a great service to our community.  Mrs. William's civic readiness class and Lauryn Hawkins (middle schooler) Full Hearts Club have started an Elba food pantry. So again, more connections are being made. I am hopeful that we can include fresh produce in the pantry as well.”

The Elba Betterment Committee will also be involved with the pantry, so that's yet another community member participating, she said. 

The district’s agriculture program, with Dalhaus and the Future Farmers of America students, has accomplished a great deal the last four years from the farming perspective, Rosales said, plus new hire Hanna Erion as a Family and Consumer Science teacher to further expand programming. 

“Food production and food science is a booming industry in our area, which is natural considering that so much food is sourced right here,” Rosales said.  “Schools have an obligation to teach students about these industries and to prepare them for the future.  Although agriculture plays an important part, there are so many facets involved.  There is a production component, but also a business and finance part, as well as a culinary perspective.  It is also about showing our students the process of seeing something through from start to finish, about trial and error and looking at how to best solve a problem from different sides.

“Farming and production are collaborative in nature: our students have to learn to communicate and problem solve as a team.  That is why this grant is so important to us; it is not just the funding. The funding provides critical learning opportunities.”

Accident reported on South Lake Road, Pavilion

By Howard B. Owens

A vehicle and a semi-truck are turned over in the area of 10386 South Street Road, Pavilion.

Possible series injury.

Mercy Flight out of Buffalo on in-air standby.

At least one person is entrapped in the vehicle.

Pavilion Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched. Mutual aid from Le Roy Fire requested.

UPDATE 2:32 p.m.: A first responder on scene reports there is no entrapment.

UPDATE 2:34 p.m.: Le Roy Fire can stand by in quarters.

UPDATE 2:37 p.m.: Mercy Flight can go back in service.

UPDATE 2:38 p.m.: All Mercy ambulances can go back in service. Le Roy Ambulance will handle the scene.

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.: DEC has been notified. Unknown if they're going to respond. The scene commander reports 100 to 150 gallons of diesel fuel on the ground between the two saddle tanks.

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

By Howard B. Owens
the ghost riders
A recent Ghost Riders lineup: Jimmy "Steel" Duvall, Bill McDonald, Kay McDonald, Bill PItcher, and Bob Norton.
Submitted photo.

There were some sharp elbows involved, says Bill McDonald, and Bill Pitcher's brother didn't expect the partnership to last when the two "Wild Bills" of the local music scene came together in Batavia 30 years ago to form the band that became the Ghost Riders.

But the partnership has thrived, producing some great music and some great memories for all involved as the Ghost Riders prepare for their 30th Anniversary celebration show at Batavia County Club at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27.

By the time 1993 rolled around, both McDonald and Pitcher were veterans of the local music scene, with McDonald even venturing well beyond Genesee County's borders to pursue a musical career.

When he returned home, it was with the intent to take care of his family in their new home in Darien.  Then a friend suggested he needed to start a country band.

He found a guitarist, and they started inviting in established musicians they knew who would fit into the hardcore country style they were after.

After a few rehearsals, they lined up a first gig and then the bass player had to hightail it to Florida because of some legal issues to resolve there, and then the lead guitarist quit to join an established gigging band in Buffalo.

At the same time, Pitcher's band Bullseye was running its course. The pedal steel player decided it was time to retire, and another member moved to Buffalo and another to Florida.

"So my band was dissolving right at the time that Bill needed a bass player and guitar player, so we kind of morphed into a good group of guys," Pitcher said. "We had all the elements we liked."

But still, no name for the band and gigs already lined up, including gigs originally booked for Bullseye.

Also, part of that original lineup was Jimmy Duval on pedal steel (Duval has played with McDonald for 40 years),  Larry Merritt, and Jimmy Symonds.

The first gig was a long-gone tavern, Confetti's, located on property now occupied by City Centre.

"We played on a Saturday night, and it went over great," McDonald said.

"We’re hardcore country, country with a twang, with steel guitar and lead guitar, and we sang harmonies," Pitcher said.

McDonald said they drew on influences such as Merle Haggard.

"We wanted to keep real country alive," he said.

It was a few gigs into the band's career before they came up with a name.

One evening, the band was booked at the South Byron Fire Hall, and they decided to hold a band name contest. They invited fans to write new suggested names on a card. Then the band reviewed about 20 submissions and narrowed down the field to three "we could live with," McDonald said.

They read the names off to the crowd, and Ghost Riders, taken from the name of a song they played, and suggested by Fred Ferrell, was the overwhelming favorite.

"It may not be the most unique name, but it stuck," McDonald said.

In those early months, the Ghost Riders were a cover band even though McDonald was an established songwriter.  The original songs would come later.

"It just was so hard to put all that together in a short period of time," McDonald said. "Everybody knew all the other songs (the covers), so it just made it easier.  We learned (the originals) as we went into the studio to record an album. Then we practiced all of the original songs that we had. That's when we did our rehearsing, right in the studio. Yeah, that was pretty cool."

The Ghost Riders, in their career, have released five studio albums.  None, of course, were big sellers, but they kept the fans happy, and there were always plenty of fans.

Pitcher remembers that on the first CD, the band included Ghost Riders in the Sky.  They had to pay royalties -- eight cents for each CD sold.  He ended up sending a check for about $3 to the publishing company in New York.

The band has also released another four live CDs, mostly compiled by Pitcher.  There is a collection of songs recorded over a three-year period at the Stafford Carnival.  There is another set recorded at a venue in Buffalo through the sound system onto a cassette that Pitcher said has just amazing fidelity considering the available technology. 

Rarely, over the past 30 years, has the band traveled much beyond Western New York, but there have been gigs in Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"We never got a national booking agency involved with the band," McDonald said. "We had some chances to do it, but we booked our own stuff. We were getting up there. As I said, I was 30 when we started the band. He was 40. So we weren't a couple of youngsters."

McDonald had had his time on the road.  As the frontman of Slim Chicken and the Midnight Pickers, McDonald toured throughout New York before moving the band to Texas (with a year at the end in California).

He even had his shot at a major record deal. One snowy winter night, his band was booked into the Cafe Espresso in Woodstock.  That was a place favored by Bob Dylan and The Band at one time.  The place was dead because of the winter storm. There was one customer, a man sitting by himself shuffling papers and just not leaving.

"I kept saying to the guys, why won't they close the place up and let's get the hell out of here?" McDonald said. "The owner said. 'We've still got a customer.'  And he sat there all night. At the end of the night, after we played our last song, he came up to me and he told me, 'What are you guys doing tomorrow morning? Busy? I ask him who he is, and he says, 'I'm Harley Lewis. I'm from RCA Records in New York City."

He was an A&R man, and he wanted Slim Chicken and the Midnight Pickers in the studio in NYC the next morning to cut a three-song demo.

The band was in the studio and cut the demo, but the deal didn't come through.

McDonald said RCA decided to sign Pure Prairie League instead. 

McDonald started his musical journey in Batavia with some friends and the band T&T and the Explosions, followed by Lookout Bridge and then Beethoven's Dream Group.

Pitcher’s musical journey began when he was five years old.  His dad was a guitar and harmonica player who attached his harmonica to his guitar, not on a rack around his neck like Bob Dylan would popularize. As Pitcher and his brother, known locally as Uncle Rog, were growing up, their dad mostly played house parties, maybe six or 10 couples at the parties, maybe two or three times a week.  He was a school teacher who drove truck in the summer.

When the Pitcher boys -- from Pavilion -- got older and had a band of their own, Dad would sometimes sit in.

"He never took a nickel for playing ever because he loved to play."

Then they formed a family band, Family Plus One. That band included another Pavilion boy, Charlie Hettrick, and Pitcher's mom, who bought her own Git Fiddle, which was a wire connected to a stick and a bell on top. She would hit the floor on the downbeat and pluck the string. Uncle Rog played drums. 

By then, Pitcher was playing a little melody on guitar, which would give his dad a break on harmonica. 

Most of the time, they played in Fulton County, where both of Pitcher's parents had extended family.

They would go into a bar and ask the bartender if they could play a bit.

"We had a good time in the bar," Pitcher said. "You know, in a half hour, 45 minutes, people would gravitate in. Somebody would make a couple of calls or something, and we would end up playing for two or three hours."

Before Bullseye, Pitcher was the leader of The American Countree Four.  He was known as Wild Bill.

And McDonald, in Slim Chicken, was Wild Bill.

For years, fans would get them confused, both McDonald and Pitcher said.

"People would start talking to me, and I would figure it out -- 'oh, they mean a gig that Bill played,'  and I'd tell him, and then he'd go, Yeah, somebody talked to me at a wedding reception, he thought that he was me," Pitcher said.

That's one reason Pitcher's brother didn't think these two guys used to leading their own bands would be able to put away the sharp elbows long enough to make music.

The first compromise was Pitcher, a few months older than McDonald, became "Mild Bill" while McDonald remained "Wild Bill."

Over 30 years, the Ghost Riders have played a lot of gigs.  Most of them paid.  There was a time when a good local gigging band could make a living in the warmer months playing lawn fetes and carnivals and picnics and parties. Every community had at least one annual event back then that needed live music.

Now it's much harder to find enough gigs, McDonald said.  The band has also started other projects.  McDonald and his wife Kay (who is also now a member of the Ghost Riders), for example, also tour as The Old Hippies. Pitcher has a few side projects, including a bluegrass musicians collective in Pavilion. Still, the Ghost Riders have some of the same gigs they play every year and have for 20 years.

One thing they've always done is play for free in support of good causes. 

"We did a lot of civic stuff," McDonald said. "We thought when we started, we wanted to do what we could for the community for no money. You know, just do whatever we could do."

All along, the Ghost Riders have been all about the love of the music, both musicians said.  That's the real secret to keeping the band going for 30 years.

"We just, we'd enjoy it," McDonald said. "We love playing music. And this is what gave us the opportunity."

Pitcher added, "My answer to why we're playing is because that's what we do. We love it. It's part of us. It comes from the heart."

All photos courtesy of the Ghost Riders.

The Ghost Riders Play at Batavia Country Club on Aug. 27 from 3 to 6 p.m. The current Ghost Rider members are: Gene "Sandy" Watson, Bill McDonald, Kay McDonald, Bill PItcher, and Nino Speranza.

the ghost riders with graz
One incarnation of the Ghost Riders: Jimmy "Steel" Duval, Bill McDonald, Brian Graz, Bill Pitcher, and Bob Norton. 
the ghost riders
The Ghost Riders can often be seen participating in local parades, picking their songs on a flatbed trailer.
the ghost riders
Bill Pitcher, Batavia, Jimmy "Steel" Duvall, Waller Tx, Jim Sweet, Buffalo, Bill McDonald, Batavia, Bob Norton, Union City, Tennessee. 
the ghost riders
CDs released by The Ghost Riders during their 30-year career.

Photos: Links and Drinks fundraiser at Terry Hills

By Howard B. Owens
links and drinks at terry hills
At the completion of the ninth hole relay race, Mark Napoleone takes the picture of Richard Francis, Lexi Henderson, Jessica Weibel, and Tom Scott.
Photo by Howard Owens.

The Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation billed it as “Not Your Average Golf Outing," and the nine-hole event at Terry Hills Golf Course on Saturday evening lived up to the billing.

There were holes where golfers took shots from a ski before dancing around a mat in a musical-chairs type of game that would determine the club they would use on every shot on that hole, and a horse race to dolls to determine where the group would tee up their balls, and a relay-race (time was scored, not strokes) that involved shooting eight baskets, doing a hula hoop in a tutu and then trying to make a putt from about five feet.

Of course, it was all for a good cause.

"It's just shenanigans on nine holes of golf," said Laurie Napoleone. "We've got great sponsors and great volunteers. It's a good day. It's a lot of fun."

Photos by Howard Owens

links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills
links and drinks at terry hills

Photo: Sunset in Stafford

By Howard B. Owens
sunset
Saturday's sunset from Route 237 and Griswold Road, Stafford.
Photo by Nick Serrata.

Photos: Dozens of classic cars visit Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
classic cars in Batavia

If you were tooling around Batavia late Saturday and noticed a lot of classic cars passing through town, they were apparently here for a classic car rally in the parking lot of Tompkins Bank of Castile on East Main Street.

Photos by Nick Serrata.

classic cars in Batavia
classic cars in Batavia
classic cars in Batavia

Schumer says WNY to become America’s semiconductor superhighway

By Press Release

Press Release:

After years of relentless advocacy to bolster Upstate NY’s innovation and manufacturing industries, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced the Rochester-Buffalo-Syracuse region have joined forces with a proposal to become a federally-designated Tech Hub in the first-of-its-kind nationwide competition created in his CHIPS & Science Bill. 

The proposal, entitled the New York Semiconductor Manufacturing and Research Technology Innovation Corridor Consortium (NY SMART I-Corridor), would build on the historic investments Schumer delivered that have spurred a boom in semiconductor manufacturing and innovation investments in Upstate NY. 

The three-region proposal would use targeted federal assistance to help attract new companies, strengthen domestic supply chains, launch startups & support innovation, expand workforce training, connect underserved communities to good-paying jobs, and revive this critical industry integral to America’s national security and economic competitiveness. 

Schumer has personally written to Commerce Secretary Raimondo on behalf of Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse, making the case that their proposal is best suited to help drive forward stronger semiconductor and broader microelectronics industries for the entire nation.

“From Rochester to Buffalo to Syracuse the I-90 corridor has everything it takes to become America’s semiconductor superhighway. The NY SMART I-Corridor Tech Hubs proposal would tap into Upstate NY’s booming microchip industry, training our workforce for tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and supercharging R&D, all while helping attract new major employers in supply chain industries and bringing manufacturing in this critical industry back to America,” said Senator Schumer. 

“Each city has superb academic centers and each brings with it a unique set of assets with Micron’s historic investment in Central NY, Rochester as one of the leading centers in research & innovation, and Buffalo as one of the great manufacturing powerhouses that built America in the last century and is primed to do the same this century. Together they are a killer combination that can make Upstate NY a global leader for semiconductors with targeted federal investment from the Tech Hubs program. I originally proposed the Tech Hubs program years ago as part of my bipartisan Endless Frontier Act with Upstate NY in mind, and was proud to create the Tech Hubs competition in my CHIPS & Science Bill. This proposal is everything I envisioned, ensuring America’s future is being built in the places that helped build our nation as powerhouse manufacturing centers, and nowhere is better primed and more capable than Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse to rebuild this critical industry for our nation.”

Schumer explained that the first-of-its-kind nationwide Tech Hubs Competition is an economic development initiative that he originally proposed in his Endless Frontier Act. The senator was able to finally create the competition in his CHIPS & Science Bill, which included a $10 billion authorization for the Tech Hubs program and was signed into law just over a year ago. 

Schumer secured an initial infusion of $500 million in last year’s spending bill to jumpstart the competition. The competition is designed to strengthen a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and grow technology in 10 key focus areas. The program will invest directly in regions with the potential to transform into globally-competitive innovation centers in the next decade to bring critical industries back from overseas and create good-paying jobs for American workers.

Schumer said the NY SMART I-Corridor proposal would bring together the combined assets of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse to help the region become a globally-recognized semiconductor manufacturing hub in the next decade, with innovation focused on improving the quality and quantity of semiconductor manufacturing and, along with it, amplifying the region’s microelectronics and microchip supply chain ecosystem.  

Schumer explained that the Tech Hubs program is being rolled out in two phases. The first phase of awards that the NY-SMART I-Corridor has applied for will designate promising Tech Hubs across America and provide strategy development grant awards to accelerate their development— the joint Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse proposal has applied for both types of awards. 

The EDA expects to designate at least 20 Tech Hubs across the country, and only those that receive the Tech Hubs designation in the first phase will be able to apply for Phase 2 implementation awards. These awards are designed to be larger, multi-tens of millions of dollars each for a first infusion, in order to fund several key initiatives to make the Tech Hub a success.

The Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse consortium includes over 80 members from across the public sector, industry, higher-ed, economic and workforce development, and labor communities.  This includes over 22 industry groups and firms, 20 economic development organizations, 8 labor & workforce training organizations, and 10 institutions of higher learning.  

Byron GOP looking for candidate to fill position on town board

By Press Release

Press Release:

Due to a recent resignation on the Byron Town Board, the Town of Byron Republican Committee is looking for candidates to recommend to fill the position. The Town Board would appoint the candidate to fill the term until an election could be held next year. The appointed term would be the remainder of 2023 and all of 2024. The elected term is for one year, 2025 to finish the full term. Anyone interested in the position please contact Steven Hohn @ 585-703-5528, or Jim Northup @ 585-409-4327 by August 30.

Dispatchers receive iPhone crash indicator on Thruway

By Howard B. Owens

Dispatchers have received an iPhone crash indicator on the Thruway in the area of 379.4 in the eastbound lane.

There is no voice contact.  No answer on callback.

Le Roy Fire and Le Roy Ambulance dispatched.

UPDATE 7:25 p.m.: It doesn't look like a crash. A vehicle is on the shoulder with its four-ways on. Two men are out of the vehicle, walking.  The ambulance is canceled.

UPDATE 7:29 p.m.: The occupants had apparently lost a phone.  They found it.  Le Roy Fire is back in service.

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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
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