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Anthony Fernandez's journey to leading Peace Frog, the ultimate Doors tribute band

By Staff Writer
Submitted photo

By James Fink

Two events helped lay the foundation that led to Anthony Fernandez creating “Peace Frog,” a Doors tribute band.

And, both happened when Fernandez was 11 years old.

First came his viewing of “Apocalypse Now,” the Francis Ford Coppola-directed Vietnam-era movie that used the Doors “The End” in key scenes. The song became a lifelong hook for Fernandez, now 56.

Then he read Danny Sugarman and Jerry Hopkins’ best-selling Jim Morrison biography “No One Here Gets Out Alive’ about the life and times of the Doors’ lead singer.

Taken together, they became a seminal moment for Fernandez.

"It was the first book (‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’) that I read cover-to-cover,” Fernandez said.

Since 1998, Fernandez has led Peace Frog, a Doors tribute band, that will be playing July 19 at Batavia Downs as part of its summer concert series. Fernandez, like Morrison, is the lead singer.

“It is just part of my personal relationship I’ve had with Jim Morrison and the Doors since I was 11,” Fernandez said.

Peace Frog is considered one of the top Doors’ tribute bands. Like the Doors, the four-piece band includes Fernandez on vocals, Brad Watson on keyboards, Tyler Thigpen on guitar and Adam Thompson on drums.

The band has a deep following, having played in 30 states plus Mexico, Australia, Canada and Greece.

The set list, which varies from show to show, includes hits and well-known songs as well as lesser played Doors’ tunes.

Yes, “Riders on the Storm” and “Light My Fire” will be played but so will others like the “Alabama Song” or “Tell All the People.”

“On stage, I channel what I call the intellectual Jim Morrison, not the destructive one,” Fernandez said. “I’ve done every song by the Doors that’s out there."

As for Fernandez himself, he has played and sung with former Doors members guitarist Robbie Krieger and the late keyboardist Ray Manzarek

Fernandez began his singing career with attending the University of Hawaii, where he started out singing in cover bands. When he returned to Los Angeles - his hometown - in 1996, Fernandez continued singing in local bands before a friend said he sounded like Morrison and maybe he should front a Doors cover band. Thus, Peace Frog was born.

A key moment came with a weekly booking at the Venice (Beach) Bistro that turned into a 12-year gig every Sunday night. Their run began in 1998.

“That’s what really cemented the band,” Fernandez said.

From there, out-of-town and out-of-country bookings followed.

The bookings are sandwiched between Fernandez’ “day job”, serving as  political science and Chicano studies professor at Pierce College in Los Angeles.

“It does keep me busy and current,” Fernandez said.

Tickets are on sale through

Peace Frog performs Friday, July 19 at Batavia Downs.

Batavia Downs offers free tickets for Friday's show of Peace Frog

By Press Release

Press Release:

Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel has announced that as part of a Guest Appreciation Celebration, Batavia Downs is now making the Peace Frog – Doors Tribute Concert, taking place this Friday, July 19, a free show.  

Those wishing to attend the concert can pick up their free GA ticket upon arrival at Batavia Downs inside of Park Place on Friday.

For those who already purchased tickets, they can visit the upgrade table located outside of the Park Place room on Friday, July 19 and have their tickets upgraded to the next section closer to the stage.

Eyesore becomes safety concern as property sits unprotected

By Joanne Beck
No fence at ES
File Photo by Howard Owens of Ellicott Station in downtown Batavia.

Within one day of the fencing down around Ellicott Station property in downtown Batavia, someone was found on the premises during a search Tuesday by Batavia Police.

“BPD officers observed an individual who had an outstanding misdemeanor charge in the area of Ellicott Station this morning. Officers searched the remaining portion of the original Della Penna building and located the male subject,” Assistant Chief Chris Camp said to The Batavian later Tuesday. “While we were on location, we decided to conduct a property check. BPD did locate an area where a lock was cut in the new construction. We continued to search the area and did not locate anyone else on the property who did not belong. The owner of the property was contacted and advised of the cut lock. We cleared and will have our officers monitoring the area for criminal/suspicious activity throughout their tours of duty.”

Property owner Sam Savarino has officially ceased work on the property since announcing the closing of Savarino Companies in the summer of 2023. He had previously subcontracted work crews to shore up the apartment complex’s exterior and perform routine maintenance; however, time has slipped by as weeds have grown up and around the premises. 

It’s a situation the city of Batavia is not tolerating, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

“Savarino has been cited for grass, weeds and debris, and the city has sent a third-party vendor out to cut the tall grass,” she said, which explains Monday’s landscaping activity and the dismantled fencing. “Yes, I’m very concerned that the construction site is unsafe and that the buildings are not properly secured. The city will continue to try to work with the owner to have the buildings re-secured and the site fenced off for safety reasons.”

The Batavian also asked Chief Shawn Heubusch about his concerns about the safety of the property and the potential for transients to enter and stay inside the vacant building.

“First, it is not the Police Department’s responsibility to secure the site. We will patrol the area of the building as we do with all other areas of the city, looking for anything suspicious and addressing it as needed,” Heubusch said. “We obviously will be paying some special attention to it due to its state of construction. Of course, we are concerned with any vacant properties in the city as they can become targets for trespassing and vandalism, among safety issues that come from having an unfinished property being left vacant. We hope the owner will take the necessary steps to secure the property as soon as possible.”

Savarino has yet to respond to requests for comment sent to him on Monday. 

BCSD appoints new principal and athletics director, extends superintendent's contract

By Press Release

Press Release:

On Monday, July 15, upon recommendation from Superintendent Jason Smith, the Batavia City School District Board of Education approved the appointment of Dr. Megan Crine as Principal of Batavia Middle School and Joel Reed as Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics. Dr. Crine will start on July 16, and Mr. Reed will join the District on August 19.

Dr. Megan Crine
Submitted photo.

Dr. Megan Crine has served as the principal of Ellis B. Hyde Elementary School in the Dansville Central School District since July 2023. Previously, she was the Middle School Red House Administrator at Churchville-Chili Central School District for twelve years, where she led committees focused on equity, student culture, and school improvement. Dr. Crine began her administrative career with internships at Marcus Whitman Central School District. She holds a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Rochester, along with a Master of Science in Literacy Education from Nazareth College and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a Concentration in History from SUNY Cortland. Additionally, she earned Reading Recovery Certification from SUNY Brockport. Dr. Crine is certified in Elementary Education, Literacy Education, and School Building Leadership.

Joel Reed
Submitted photo.

Joel Reed has 14 years of administrative experience, currently serving as the Assistant Principal and Director of Athletics at Medina Central School District. In this role, he manages student supervision, enforces school policies, oversees budget development, and supervises staff and coaches. Previously, Reed was the Director of Athletics, Physical Education, and Health at the Charter School for Applied Technologies. He holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, a Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Health Education from SUNY Buffalo State, and a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Sport from SUNY Brockport. Reed is certified as a Professional School District Leader, Professional School Building Leader, and holds permanent NYS certificates in Health and Physical Education.

“I am thrilled to welcome both Dr. Megan Crine and Joel Reed to the Batavia City School District,” said Superintendent Jason Smith. “With decades of combined experience in education and leadership, Megan and Joel are passionate about helping students thrive and making our schools great places to learn and grow. They have come highly recommended, and I am confident they will be valuable additions to our leadership team. I also want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the parents, staff, and community members who participated in both of the interview processes. Your input was invaluable, and we appreciate your dedication and support. We can’t wait for Megan and Joel to hit the ground running.”

“I am delighted to join the Batavia City School District as the newest Principal of Batavia Middle School,” said Dr. Megan Crine. “I am excited for the challenge and look forward to working with the exceptional students and staff. I cannot wait to become a part of the BMS family and Batavia community, and I am eagerly anticipating the start of the new school year.”

“I am honored to become the new Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for the Batavia City School District,” said Joel Reed. “Batavia has a strong athletics program with a track record of incredible success, driven by our talented student-athletes and exceptional coaching staff. I see tremendous potential in BCSD's health and physical education program and am excited to build upon its successes. I am proud to be the newest Blue Devil and look forward to contributing to Batavia’s legacy of excellence.”

Also at Monday’s meeting, the Board of Education approved a contract extension for Jason Smith through 2029. With his extension, he receives seven additional vacation days and increases his sick day bank by ten days, with the ability to buy back ten additional days upon retirement from BCSD.

“The Board was unanimous in approving the contract extension for Superintendent Jason Smith,” said Board of Education President John Marucci. “We are proud of the work Jason has done since he joined the district in 2022. Consistency in our leadership and vision for the district is important, and Jason's commitment to BCSD remains steadfast. We look forward to our continued work with him and are excited about the future of our district under his leadership.”

BHS Class of 1984 reunion celebration is set for August 24

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Batavia High School Class of 1984 is thrilled to announce their 40th reunion celebration! Mark your calendars for an evening filled with memories, laughter, and fun on Saturday, August 24, 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Mingle and Reconnect with Old Friends 

Alumni and guests are invited to gather for an informal get-together at the Terry Hills Golf Course & Banquet Facility 5122 Clinton Street in Batavia. This relaxed atmosphere is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with classmates, reminisce about old times, and create new memories. 

Delicious Food and Drinks

Throughout the evening, enjoy a generous spread of hearty hors d'oeuvres complemented by a cash bar. Your ticket price of $30 includes food and one drink (house draft beer, house wine, or house liquor).

RSVP and Stay Connected 

We encourage everyone from the Class of 1984 to attend this special event! To RSVP go to BHS Class of ’84 Reunion on Facebook where you can venmo your payment, to BHS Class of 84 Batavia. If you do not have a Venmo account, checks will be accepted payable to “BHS Class of 84 Batavia NY”. Please mail to: Kelly J. Bermingham, 8276 Park Road, Batavia. The deadline for registration is August 16!

To update your contact information, or ask any questions, please reach out to:

Don't miss this chance to celebrate four decades of friendship and shared experiences with your Batavia High School classmates!

Gagne honored for 'being the arms that hold us' during award ceremony

By Joanne Beck
Sue Gagne George Borrello
Sue Gagne receives the 57th State Senate District Woman of Distinction Award from Sen. George Borrello at the Generations Center in Batavia on Monday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

This is a better place because of the “Sues” in the world, Matt Landers says.

Referring to mental health advocate Sue Gagne, the Genesee County manager spoke about her many attributes, including an ever-increasing passion and energy for providing support to others in her myriad roles since he’s known her the last two decades. 

“So early on 20 years ago, I had a positive impression of Sue. And it has only grown from that point on for my 20 years here of getting a chance to know Sue, whether it's at (a Leadership Genesee) function, or the various roles she's had, and my opportunities to sit in and see her at work at various boards, and she's had a variety of them, all equally important to this community,” Landers said during the 2024 Woman of Distinction Award ceremony Monday at the Generation Center in Batavia. “I’ve gotten to see her more from her role in Mental Health Association, Suicide Prevention Coalition now UConnect Cares, and then some of the great work that she's doing with the City Church here, and the programming that she's advocating for, and coming to me for advocating for some funds for some Opioid Task Force monies, she's tireless.

“Many people in Sue’s role is, in my opinion, they slow down with time, she’s the opposite. I think that she’s speeding up and getting more passionate and more energetic through time, which is impressive. She’s one of those people that genuinely wants to help anyone in need in crisis,” he said. “I’m glad we have the Sues of the world. I’m a little more black-and-white, and the Sues of the world balance me out, and I’m glad that we have Sue and I’m glad to call her friend. Her passion and energy have positive impacted numerous lives in Genesee County, and it’s going to continue to impact them for years to come.”

Gagne was nominated by Sen. George Borrello of the 57th District for having “stood out amongst the group as someone so deserving” of this award. Gagne was honored in May during a ceremony in the Legislative Office Building in Albany alongside fellow honorees from across the state. The award program honors women who've made remarkable contributions to their professions, and their communities and serve as inspiration for others.

Monday’s ceremony brought the award home so that she could be recognized locally in front of friends and family. County Legislative Chairwoman Shelley Stein first encountered Gagne when she worked on the Board of Health and noted that Gagne’s name was there.

“Not only was her name there, Sue’s arms are there. And they’re around this entire county. And I can’t count on the number of times that I have said that name cares about all of us,” Stein said. “So thank you for being the arms that hold us kind of toward the center, or that we can bounce off of, because we need you. We need you more than we ever would imagine.

“I am grateful for the fact that you have continued to grow and to move your skills forward, because we are your beneficiaries here in this county,” she said. “On behalf of the county and our Legislature, and all of those who you take care of, we have a proclamation, but I’m not going to read t because you’re just gonna read it. Ours come come from the heart and from our head. Thank you Sue, congratulations.”

A great deal of Gagne’s work as stemmed from the mental health field, including when she was at the Mental Health Association in Genesee County, where she offered meetings for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. That was when Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia discovered that “she was a force to be reckoned with,” Battaglia said.

“And I knew way back then that she was just someone that you just loved to be around, genuinely. Our collaborations and interactions continued through the years. And when I came to Genesee County, she was one of the first to welcome me with some hoots and hollering and screams and cheers and hugs, and that was at the Suicide Prevention Center training in Albany, New York in September 2019, and we were just really excited about all the work that we were gonna do together," Battaglia said. "So I see a drive in Sue, that is one of advocacy, advocating and using your voice for those that cannot advocate for themselves. And with that advocacy comes educating our community on mental illness, stigma, suicide prevention, all areas that are near and dear to Sue's heart.

"She's assisted with the development of a grassroots suicide prevention called gal pathway to hope. And on her own time and dime. She nurtured this coalition and built relationships so that this coalition could flourish, and blossom into what it is today," she said. "When she sets her sights on a vision she homes in and does what she needs to do in order to make it come to fruition.”

It was a pleasure for Borrello to nominate and honor someone “as wonderful as Sue,” he said, while also needing to recognize the people that she’s encountered on the worst days of their lives, “when they’re struggling in crisis, when there’s just seemingly no hope.” And to have another human being step in to provide them that hope, “that takes a special person,” he said, especially amidst the red tape of government and navigating a system to receive those desperately needed services.

“You know, as a society, we don't want to talk about these things, we want to sweep them under the rug, we don't want to recognize the fact that there are people out there that are struggling, that have issues with substance use disorders, mental health problems, but you are right there in the middle with those people," he said. "That's why you were the perfect choice for this award, because you are the type of person that does this for no other reason than you want to make society a better place to be. So I am just very, very proud to to be able to honor you today, and just take this time in front of your friends and family and co-workers to say that you are special, because you look for the good in people, you look for the way to get them a path to be productive members of society, to lift themselves up, meet people where they are, as they say you do that every single day.”

In a matter of seconds, Gagne illustrated her open spirit by jumping from a joke about herself into deep tearful reflection about why she has persevered in this field.

“I’m just so grateful, my heart is so full, and now you get me crying. The sadness that people deal with on a daily basis, it hurts, and I can’t just go though life and ignore it,” she said. “And I know I’m speaking to the choir here. You guys are all advocates in your own way, and under our pastor’s leadership years ago … my notes from the dream conference, he said find a need and fill it, and it stuck with me.”

Sue Gagne George Borrello
Sue Gagne
Photo by Howard Owens.
Sue Gagne George Borrello
Genesee County Manager Matt Landers
Photo by Howard Owens.
Sue Gagne George Borrello
Speaking, Genesee County Legislative Chair Shelley Stein.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Sue Gagne George Borrello
County Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia.
Photo by Howard Owens.


Law and Order: Driver accused of doing burnouts in drive-thru at McDonald's charged with DWI

By Howard B. Owens

Tyler J. Burns, 20, of Batavia, is charged with DWI. Burns was arrested after Batavia patrol officers were dispatched to the McDonald's on East Main Street, where Burns was allegedly doing burnouts in the drive-thru lane on June 28 (time of day not released). He was issued an appearance ticket.

Darien L. Rhodes, 31, of Batavia, is charged with robbery 3rd, criminal contempt 1st, criminal mischief 4th, and harassment 2nd. Rhodes is accused of violating an order of protection, forcibly stealing a set of keys from another person and damaging property during a fight at a location on Oak Street. He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held.

Carl E. Canterbury, 53, of Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 5th. Canterbury was arrested June 28.  During a traffic stop in March, he was allegedly found in possession of what turned out to be cocaine. He was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance.

Kenneth B. Jordan, 31, of Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief 3rd and criminal contempt 2nd. Jordan is accused of violating an order of protection and slicing the tires of a vehicle in the driveway of the person he wasn't supposed to contact. He was arraigned and released.

Shane P. Herzog, 38 of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant on July 3. Herzog was previously arrested for bail jumping 3rd but allegedly failed to meet the conditions of a plea agreement. He was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Reicha B. Morris, 40, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Morris is accused of shoplifting from Tops. While being taken into custody, she was allegedly found in possession of methamphetamine. She was issued an appearance ticket.

 Leon C. Bloom, 42, of Penfield, is charged with DWI. Bloom was charged following a traffic accident on West Main Street, Batavia, on June 29. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Joshua L. Clair, 42, of Attica, is charged with DWI. Clair was charged following a traffic stop on June 30 on East Main Street in Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Adam J. Arsenault, 38, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Arsenault is accused of threatening a neighbor on June 29 on Hutchins Street during an argument. He was arraigned and released.

Janna Marie Stirk, 41, of Orchard Street, Albion, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and failure to obey a police officer. Stirk allegedly failed to obey traffic directions at 10:53 p.m. on July 11 at Darien Lake following a concert. Stirk was arrested following an investigation by Deputy Mason Schultz. Stirk was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released on an appearance ticket.

Jeffrey Robert Roth, 58, of South Main Street, Oakfield, is charged with criminal contempt 1st. Roth is accused of violating an order of protect at 7:22 on July 8 at a location on Veterans Memorial Drive. Roth was held for arraignment.

Moises Casarez, 43, of Leona Lane, Hamlin, is charged with DWI. Casarez was charged following a traffic complaint on Park Road, Batavia, at 2:20 a.m. on July 13. Sgt investigated the complaint. Mathew Clor. Casarez was held pending arraignment.

Joseph Degweck, Jr., 52, of Pine Street, East Aurora, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Degweck is accused of possession of a controlled substance at 10:20 on July 7 at a location on Main Road, Pembroke. He was held pending arraignment.

Alexander Michael Petrocci, 30, of County Road A, Farmington, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and speeding.  Petrocci was stopped at 10:52 p.m. on July 13 on South Lake Road, Pavilion, by Deputy Jacob Kipler. Petrocci was jailed pending arraignment.

Dawn Marie Testa-Turner, no age provided, of Johnson Hill Road, Lisle, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, running a red light, and improper left turn. Testa-Turner was stopped at 12:22 a.m. on July 13 by Deputy Jeremiah Gechell at Oak Street and Park Road, Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket.

J.D. Monroe Johnson, 24, of Wllmae Road, Rochester, is charged with failure to pay fine by court. Johnson was arrested on a warrant following a traffic stop at midnight on Nov. 13 and turned over to the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office.

University at Albany announces 2 local graduates

By Press Release

Press Release:

More than 4,650 students in the Class of 2024 were celebrated during UAlbany's 180th commencement festivities. Among the graduates were an estimated 2,934 undergraduates and 1,719 graduate students, including recipients who completed their degrees during summer 2023, fall 2023 as well as winter 2024.

The graduates join the ranks of more than 200,000 UAlbany alumni worldwide.

"For 180 years - since 1844 - UAlbany has been turning talented, driven students into globally engaged citizens. This year's class is no exception," UAlbany President Havidan Rodriguez told the graduates. "Yes, we know, you are graduating into an imperfect world. But all of the things that make this class uniquely special - your resilience, your values, your empathy, your thirst for understanding - will serve you well as you work toward greatness."

An estimated 2,934 undergraduates from the Class of 2024 received degrees (including summer 2023, fall 2023 and winter 2024). The May 2024 graduates includes 34 percent who are first-generation college graduates and 27 who are veterans.

The undergraduate degree recipients range in age from 19 to 68, with an average age of 23. Women make up 55 percent of the class. The graduates hail from 21 states and 27 countries. They received degrees in 55 different majors.

Another 1,719 students from the Class of 2024 received master's degrees, doctoral degrees and graduate certificates, with 1,047 receiving their degrees in May.

These graduate students come from 18 states and 37 nations. The average age of the graduate degree recipients is 28, with the oldest graduate student set to receive a doctoral degree at age 71, and the youngest receiving a master's degree at age 20. Among them are nine veterans.

The following students have graduated from the University at Albany:

  • Jeremy Arnold of Batavia, Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Alexandra Zanghi of East Pembroke Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude in Communication

Sheron announces graduating class of the 5th annual Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Teen Academy

By Press Release

Press Release:

“The fifth annual Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Teen Academy was another great success. The academy was held July 8 - 12, at Genesee Community College. This academy was made possible with the support of Genesee County STOP DWI, the Genesee County Legislature, and Genesee Community College. The students were provided with the opportunity to experience the various roles of law enforcement in our community, and they eagerly embraced all aspects of the curriculum. I want to thank the students for their hard work and dedication and to all those that provided instruction throughout this week-long program. A special thank you to Academy Director Deputy/SRO Joshua A. Brabon, and all the Deputies, School Resource Officers, and Investigators for their assistance and efforts in coordinating such a unique, one-of-a-kind experience for the students. We look forward to continuing this annual event for students throughout Genesee County for many more years to come,” stated Sheriff Sheron.

The following participants are graduates of the fifth annual Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Teen Academy:

Squad Leaders: Jireth Arias Diaz and Erica Gibbs

  • Roan Finn 
  • Audraya White 
  • Kaylee Merrill 
  • Dylan Vaughn 
  • Erik Garcia 
  • Anna McLaughlin 
  • Macie Parton 
  • Addisyn Van Dorn 
  • Skyler Carroll 
  • Kyle Pietrzykowski 
  • Ashton Pfendler 
  • Robert Villano, II 
  • Deacon Queal 
  • Michael Fortuna
  • Nathan Schiller
  • Bryan Lagunes-Carmona

Submitted photos.


GCEDC moves forward with Graham Corporation’s $17.6M expansion

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) board of directors advanced an initial resolution for Graham Corporation’s proposed new commercial production facility at its board meeting on Thursday, July 11.

Graham Corporation is a global leader in the design and manufacture of mission critical fluid, power, heat transfer and vacuum technologies for the defense, space, energy, and process industries. The project would add to the company’s existing location in the city of Batavia where the company has been headquartered since 1942.

The $17.6 million proposed investment includes the construction of a 28,867 sq. ft. expansion intended to reduce design and manufacturing costs and improve shipping capabilities. The project would create 24 new full-time equivalent (FTE) positions while retaining 367 current FTEs.

The initial resolution requested sales tax exemptions estimated at $383,546 and a property tax abatement estimated at $298,427 based on an incremental increase in assessed value totaling the proposed financial agreements to approximately $681,973. 

For every $1 of public benefit, Graham is investing $42 into the local economy resulting in a local economic impact of $19.5 million in wages and tax revenue. A public hearing for the proposed project agreements is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, July 17 at 3:30 p.m. at the Batavia City Hall.

Documents reveal Ellicott Station built on foundation of misunderstood housing terms

By Howard B. Owens
ellicott station ground breaking may 2022
May 3, 2022, the groundbreaking for Ellicott Station.
Photo by Howard Owens.

What is mixed-income housing? Workforce housing? Low-income housing? Affordable housing? Market-rate housing?

These terms appear frequently in thousands of documents obtained from government agencies by The Batavian for an investigation into how the 55-unit apartment building under construction at Ellicott Station transformed from “luxury” units to apartments eligible for Section 8 rental vouchers.

How did this once promising project go from a complex where all tenants hold down jobs to one where potentially as few as 36 percent of the potential tenants are gainfully employed, and finally, one where the project's actual completion is in doubt?

As it turns out, the terms bandied about were seemingly often interchangeably in many cases over the years by the developer, Sam Savarino, and representatives of the city of Batavia, the Genesee County Economic Development Center, and NYS Office of Housing and Community Renewal.

In fact, Savarino, in an email about a prior story by The Batavian, suggested the reporter didn’t understand the terms.

"This journalist doesn't seem to realize that workforce, affordable and low-income housing are all pretty much the same thing," Savarino wrote in an email to GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde on Feb. 23, 2023. 

But Joanne Beck’s reporting in The Batavian was correct. The terms are not interchangeable; perhaps this is why this critically important community project has become a concern for residents and local government officials.

Housing and Urban Development, the Federal agency that determines which housing projects are eligible for various levels of development and occupancy assistance, has specific definitions for each of these terms.

  • Affordable Housing is housing with a monthly rent or mortgage that does not exceed more than 30 percent of a household's income. The definition of “affordable” is entirely dependent on a household's monthly income, whether $2,500 or $5,000.
  • Very low income is a term for housing intended for households earning 30 percent or less of the Area Median Income.
  • Low income is a term for housing intended for households earning from 30 to 50 percent of the AMI.
  • Workforce housing is housing intended for people earning 80 to 120 percent of the AMI. HUD programs are available to subsidize workforce housing.
  • Market-rate housing has no income limit and no government assistance. The property owner sets the rent based on the landlord’s assessment of a unit’s worth in a particular market.
  • Mixed-income housing is a housing development that aims to accommodate households with income levels from very low income to those who can afford market-rate units without assistance. In a multi-unit complex, there would be tenants with a household income at or below the AMI, those earning 50 percent, 80 percent or more of the AMI, and those potentially with earnings off the charts.
sam savarino, steve hyde, ellicott station groundbreaking
May 3, 2022, Sam Savarino and GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde, now retired, at the Ellicott Station groundbreaking ceremony.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Who are the key players?

  • Sam Savarino, CEO of Savarino Companies
  • Steve Hyde, the now-retired CEO of the Genesee Economic Development Council
  • Rachael Tabelski, currently City Manager for Batavia, but was marketing director of GCEDC when the project first started, then director of the Batavia Development Corporation during much of Savarino's efforts to obtain financing for the project
  • Jim Krencik, marketing director for GCEDC

What the records show
Here is a timeline of how the project came to fruition, concentrating on the terms used by officials as they discussed the project and in their promises to others and the community.  We've included links to The Batavian's coverage to help provide context to how the project was proceeding.

March 16, 2016, The Batavian, Big plans unveiled today for portion of Ellicott Street, aimed to create 24/7 consumer demand Downtown

Oct. 18, 2016, The Batavian,  Local officials trying to spur fast action from ESD on funding for Ellicott Station

Nov. 14, 2016, The Batavian, Developer: Production brewery, 32 apartments comprise Ellicott Station plan

May 25, 2017, The Batavian, Photos: Work begins on Ellicott Station

May 31, 2017, The Batavian, Ellicott Station redevelopment advances with official application for anticipated financial assistance

June 1, 2017, GCEDC board minutes, the board approved a resolution to authorize a public hearing on the project, described as "48 modern market-rate apartments." 

June 9, 2017, The Batavian, Developer says the complicated financing for Ellicott Station coming together on schedule

In July 2017, Batavia's Zoning Board of Appeals approved an area variance for the project, which states that the apartment complex will consist of market-rate units.

Sept. 19, 2017, The Batavian, Developer waiting on financing for Ellicott Station project, deal now expected to close in November

Nov. 16, 2017, A memo prepared for a Restore NY grant states the project will be funded in part by a New Market Tax Credit ($9.6 million). The total project cost at that time is $17,745,667.  The plan then was for 47 apartment units, not 55.

Dec. 29, 2017, The Batavian, BDC and Savarino finalize transfer of Ellicott Station property

Jan. 24, 2018, The Batavian, Financing on Ellicott Station project expected to close in March

Aug. 10, 2018, The Batavian, Ellicott Station keeps inching toward construction

Aug. 29, 2018, email from Rachael Tabelski, BDC, as a follow-up to a previous day's meeting. "We knew that the Batavia market was untested in terms of a 'market rate' residential development projects of this scale, but we felt there was enough anecdotal evidence, pent-up demand, and small scape comparable upper floor new apartments that we were renting at what we considered market rate (or in this case, around 90 percent of AMI) to support the Ellicott Station Projects rents." She asks for a copy of the market study completed on behalf of Savarino.  She would like to set up a meeting to address the $1.8 million funding gap. She offers help with the HCR process and would like to better understand the new potential income mix and rental rates.

Aug. 29, 2018, email from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino. Hyde notes that there are modest two-bedroom apartments in Batavia of 1,100 square feet in the town of Batavia that are renting for $1,250 a month.  "There would be a willingness to pay that more for a brand new contemporary apartment in downtown," Hyde writes.  He thinks there might be a way to challenge HCR's market-rate assumptions. "We may need your team's help in interpreting the study as we are by no means housing experts, but I am not sure Lenny's (Lenny Skrill, with HCR) market rate assumptions apply here if the housing stock you are proposing is significantly different than what the basis of housing that was used to calculate market rate rents per study."

sam savarino
Sam Savarino speaks during the groundbreaking for Ellicott Station on May 3, 2022.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Oct. 3, 2018, email from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde and Vincent Esposito, Empire State Development, references a summit meeting where all parties agreed a unified application for funds should be made to Homes and Community Renewal.  "The HCR requirements, related loss of New Market Tax Credit allocation and attendant leverage debt mean that the project requires $5.4 million of HCR debt. The HCR programs we would be applying for have an aggregate limit of $4.4 million. This leaves us $1 million short. We need a gap filler."  There is an attached memo from Savarino CFO Melissa Acquard noting "HCR wanted lower rents," which means "we lost debt service coverage as well as the ability to support the debt." She's estimating there is still a $1 million funding gap.

October 2018, GCEDC board minutes note the complex is being increased from 51 units to 55 units. The square footage has increased from 26,011 square feet to 73,000 square feet.  The minutes also discuss the difficulty in making the project viable, given that Batavia's market rents "are depressed compared to nearby metro areas." It states, "Given this, business case adjustments have been made recently, which is impacting the final funding piece of the project. Despite an exceedingly complex capital stack needed to fund this project, all pieces of the funding finalized but one." 

Oct. 7, 2018, The Batavian, GCEDC to consider revised assistance for Ellicott Station to help secure state loan

Oct. 18, 2018, email from Rachael Tabelski to City Manager Marty Moore, noting there is still a $1.5 million funding gap that Savarino must close to start the project.  She says BDC will work on communication to the community that the project "still remains a high-end 'market-rate' or near 'market-rate' project."

Update in October 2018, a memo from Sam Savarino outlining a possible application to HCR for $3 million, which, if granted, would still leave a $1.5 million funding gap. Savarino's equity is $3.2 million, which includes a discount for construction costs. Savarino is providing guarantees on loans totaling $7.7 million. Resurgence Brewing has stuck with the project up to this point despite the delays.

Oct. 11, 2018, email from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde, noting that his equity investment in the project is up to $3.8 million.  There is still a $1.5 million funding gap.

Nov. 1, 2018, GCEDC board meeting agenda, Ellicott Station is described as "55 new upscale modern near market-rate apartments."

Nov. 19, 2018, Rachael Tabelski, BDC, to Sam Savarino in preparation for a closed session with the City Council about the HCR funding application. Tabelski covers anticipated income levels, which at that point include three market-rate apartments. "This is not a Section 8 'very low-income' project," Tabelski writes.

Nov. 26, 2018, email from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde and Rachael Tabelski. The memo covers efforts to close the funding gap for the Ellicott Station project. The initial funding gap was $6,154,935. Empire State Development grant of $2.4 million and New Market Tax Credits raised the "gap fillers" to $5.2 million. Savarino's equity investment increased to $850,000 and that was mostly in money already spent or committed. The annual cash flow (profit) has fallen to $42,688, a fraction of what was previously anticipated. Savarino is seeking approximately $3 million from Homes and Community Renewal. Savarino Companies is providing "bridge" financing on all grant funding and full guarantees on all loans. 

Feb. 12, 2019, email from Earl Wells with E3 Communications, to Rachael Tabelski, noting that Steve Hyde is concerned about Savarino having the "financial wherewithal to finish the project." He suggests a media strategy of rolling out the project in stages, starting with Phase I, groundbreaking for the brewery.  That would be predicated on a meeting Savarino was having with the owners of Resurgence that day.

Feb. 12, 2019, email from Sam Savarino discussing Resurgence (the brewery once slated to occupy the brick building on the west of the property).  He has two primary concerns. First, a "drop dead comment date of November, which will be difficult to meet. Second, the project will be 65 percent complete before the Resurgence lease starts. Items he thinks he can offer the owners in return for changes in the lease, such as an opaque temporary barrier wall to minimize construction disturbance from the residential building and offering additional work, such as shade trees, in the beer garden.

March 19, 2019, letter from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde requesting consideration for a $925,000 Downtown Revitalization Grant. "As you are aware," Savarino writes, "there have been several challenges to getting this project closed and underway. The most recent -- and most considerable -- challenge has been the provision for funding for the residential project. This has forced us to subdivide the project to allow a separate site for the residential project and forced us to abandon the New Market Tax Credit."

May 31, 2019, email from Jim Krencik to Steve Hyde summarizing a conversation about plans for Ellicott Station. Income levels from $30,000 to $51,000, $36,000 to $61,000, and $43,000 to $61,000, depending on unit size, with three units carrying no income restriction. "No knuckleheads," it states. "No subsidies to housing/HUD (all direct pay), no supportive mental health/substance abuse units (already served in public and supportive housing modes), a 'no tolerance' policy for drug use/malfeasance."  The goal is to attract and retain talent. The target market is millennials, young professionals, and downsizing empty nesters. "The folks who will be enjoying an IPA at Resurgence!"

July 11, 2019, The Batavian, Hyde calls upon Cuomo to jump-start Ellicott Station

Sometime before July 2019, memo planning for groundbreaking from Steve Hyde. The memo describes the housing as mixed between 50 to 60% AMI, 60 to 80%, and three units at market rate. Hyde states that the main factors in communicating to local leaders, "Project is not a low-income development -- has income minimums," and that "renters are direct pay -- no subsidized payments/vouchers from government."

On or about July 22, 2019, Joe Quinn, an intern with Savarino Companies, supplies a sample letter of support for local officials to send to HCR that describes the project as "mixed-income" with a "predominance tragedy at low and moderate-income tenants."  The background informs officials, "Our project will include funding from Low-Income Housing Credits, State Low-Income Housing Credits, Housing Trust Fund, and Middle Income Housing Program.  It also describes the project as "mixed-income/workforce housing." 

July 22, 2019, an email from Steve Hyde to Savarino Companies said, "Guys, who is Joe Quinn? This email he just sent flies right in the face of the position we've talked about all along and the reservations over more affordable housing in Batavia. Hyde notes prior conversations said the complex would include market-rate housing, is mixed-income, and "is not open to certain populations has income minimums."

July 23, 2019, email from Sam Savarino to Rachael Tabelski, and Steve Hyde.  "Not sure who was contacted but I recognize the timing is bad on this. Joe is following the direction of the HCR consultant and is gathering pro forma letters of support required for the application."

July 23, 2019, email from Jim Krencik to Courtney Cox, Krenick seeks clarification on income levels, stating that his notes from a May conversation, the majority of the one-bedroom suites were set for a minimum income of $30,000 and a maximum of $51,000, with two-bedroom suites set for $36,000 to $61,000 in annual income.

July 24, 2019, email from Rachael Tabelski to stakeholders, including all council members, and states, "The rent plan has been carefully crafted, with the assistance of HCR, utilizing professional third-party market analysis to meet the affordability needs of the broader Batavia community, not just those that earn the most, and to ensure the long-term success of the project." The average rent will be $897 a month. Income levels:

  • 7 units at $25,600 to $51,000 annually
  • 26 units at $30,000 to $51,000 annually
  • 2 units at $33,800 to $51,000 annually
  • 2 units at $30,600 to $61,200 annually

Aug. 13, 2019, The Batavian, Ellicott Station project status, condition of the property have City Council members speaking out

Fall 2019. A report by Joseph Sievert, a senior appraiser with Newmark Knight Frank Valuation & Advisory, a company based in Buffalo.  The project is described as mixed-use, 55 apartments, targeted to households at or below 50 and 60 percent AMI. The project will "replace blight with affordable workforce housing."  It states that the IDA (GCEDC in this case) has advised the projects are consistent with its economic development plan, which involves the creation of jobs paying $15 to $18 an hour. The report states Batavia needs more affordable housing. It states that 45 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their gross income in rent. "There remains an extensive unmet demand for affordable housing for the income groups and population served by this project," the report states.  "All of the existing affordable options in the PMA have extensive waitlists, limited turnover and extended wait times. (NOTE: A prior housing study by the County found there is also a shortage of market-rate housing).

Fall 2019, Savarino application to HCR. The application narrative refers to the project as "workforce housing." It states, "The project will create affordable workforce housing to serve the unmet housing needs of the low-income/entry-level workforce." And that it "affords ordinary workers (an opportunity) to live near jobs." It notes that the IDA advises that rent is set at levels consistent with the local economic development plan, with pay in the range of $15 to $18 an hour (note: for a full-time job, that is $31,200 to $37,440 annually). 

Sept. 4, 2019, in an email, Steve Hyde informs city officials that "GCEDC is actively engaged with Savarion Companies in support of efforts to secure HCR funding for the mixed-income housing portion of Ellicott Station."

Oct. 9, 2019. Courtney Cox, with Savarino Companies, requests a waiver from Michael DeBonis with HCR for the size of two-bedroom units. The completed architectural plans call units that will exceed HCR's 970-square-foot limit. "These units exceed the maximum allowable area because the building was originally designed as market-rate housing over a year ago," Cox wrote. "During the course of the development, the program shifted to affordable housing as we recognized the need for new, quality affordable housing in this Downtown Revitalization Area."

Nov. 5, 2019. In an incentive proposal document, Savarino Companies lays out project costs, which total $19,852,873. That includes $60,000 for property purchase, $13 million for construction and renovation, $2.6 million for site work, and $3.7 million in other project costs. 

Nov. 22, 2019, The Batavian, DEC opens comment period on Ellicott Station site cleanup

Nov. 25, 2019, The Batavian, Developer hoping for construction start on Ellicott Station in the spring

Nov. 26, 2019. In a certified mail letter to Batavia City Manager Martin Moore, Sam Savarino informs the city of his company's intention to apply to HCR for assistance. He states the company will seek assistance under the Low-Income Housing Credit Program and the NYS Low-Income Tax Credit Program. He notes that under IRS rules, Savarino can't make the application without notifying the local jurisdiction's chief executive officer and notes that the local jurisdiction has an opportunity to comment on the project.

Nov. 27, 2019. HCR approved the request for a waiver on the size of the two-bedroom apartments.

Dec. 6, 2019. A letter from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino. The letter notifies Savarino that the GCEDC board of directors has approved $3.25 million in tax incentives for Ellicott Station. This includes a 30-year PILOT for the workforce housing portion of the project and a 10-year PILOT for the commercial portion of the project. The letter acknowledges that Savarino Companies is applying to Homes and Community Renewal for 9 percent multifamily housing assistance.  

Dec. 9, 2019, The Batavian, Ellicott Station update: Savarino Companies to file funding application with HCR on Friday

Dec. 10, 2019. In a letter from HCR marked "confidential," Hunt provides Savarino with a letter of agreement to form a partnership. Hunt would receive 99.99% of the new corporation. Hunt would acquire financing for Federal Low-Incoming Housing Tax Credits ($12 million), State Low-Income Housing Tax Credits ($5 million), and State Brownfield Tax Credits ($2.3 million). 

Jan. 27, 2020, The Batavian, Council perplexed over Ellicott Station situation

March 5, 2020, the GCEDC board approves a resolution authorizing an agreement with Savarino Companies to build 55 mixed-income multifamily residential apartments.

June 2020, GCEDC board meeting minutes refer to Ellicott Station as "55 new modern workforce housing apartment units (max incomes $32,000 to $38,000)."

July 30, 2020, The Batavian, BDC board members speak out over lack of security, activity at Ellicott Station site

Sept. 16, 2020, The Batavian, BREAKING: NYS Homes and Community Renewal approves $5,691,573 award for Ellicott Station

Sept. 17, 2020, The Batavian, Savarino says HCR low income tax credit allocation is vital piece to moving Ellicott Station forward

Oct. 26, 2020, The Batavian, State grants earmarked for Ellicott Station enhancements give Council members a ray of optimism

April 2, 2021, The Batavian, Ellicott Station developer: Deal could close in May; paving way for demolition, construction

July 8, 2021. HCR is notified of a project delay. Because of COVID-19, there is market uncertainty and the original equity investor, Hunt Capitol, was unable to secure an investor at the monetary amount described in the HCR application. No investor was willing to buy Brownfield Tax Credits at all.

July 16, 2021, The Batavian, With key closing dates in place, Ellicott Station developer says remediation work will begin this fall

Nov. 17, 2021. According to a document obtained from HCR, the total development cost is $20,597,736, with a total construction cost exceeding $14 million. It lists a developer fee of $2.3 million and working capital of $209,620. HCR financing is $5,691,573 from the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund Program, an ESD Restore NY loan of $500,000 at 3% interest, and a state Downtown Revitalization grant of $425,000.  It states there are to be 16 one-bedroom units for residents with an income not to exceed 50% of the AMI, 19 one-bedroom with income not to exceed 60% of the AMI, and 20 two-bedroom with rent to not exceed 50% of the AMI.

Oct. 15, 2021, The Batavian, Pre-construction work, environmental testing taking place at Ellicott Station; demolition could begin in November

Oct. 25, 2021, The Batavian, City Council voices displeasure with lack of progress at Ellicott Station as it approves grant to help developer

Nov. 3, 2021, The Batavian, And the walls come tumbling down. Demolition is underway at Ellicott Station

April 25, 2022, Mark Masse, then VP of operations for GCEDC, signs a regulatory agreement that refers to Ellicott Station as a "low-income" project.

May 3, 2022, The Batavian, Local leaders and developer celebrate groundbreaking for 'affordable' Ellicott Station in Batavia

May 3, 2022, a statement by Sam Savarino at the groundbreaking: "We discovered the hard truth. We went out and did a market study, which indicated that, well, people in Batavia are not going to be able to come out here and spend over $3,000 a month in rent for apartments. And on top of it, those aren't the types of apartments that are needed. A lot of time, attention and resources are being directed to bringing jobs to this community. But it's not going to mean half as much if the people that come and work at those jobs and then have to go to Buffalo or have to go to Rochester to find a place where they can afford to live. Better to keep them in this community participating in this community."

In a separate interview with The Batavian, he said, "It’s difficult for people to afford to house, and then there’s a shortage of quality, affordable housing. In any event, the market study showed that there was a top end of the market that people could afford to pay in this area; otherwise, it wouldn’t be successful.” He said tenants would be making $20 an hour and below. “The idea being that nobody should be expected to pay more than a third of their income for occupancy that includes rent, or a mortgage, and their utilities,” he said. "Part of the idea was if you’re creating jobs here, you want to have safe, modern quality housing for those workers that they can afford.”

Oct. 24, 2022. Jim Krencik to Courtney Cox at Savarino Companies, asking if the AMI levels for the projects can be increased. She responds that the limits "remain the same as when the project agreements were approved."

Jan. 5, 2023, The Batavian, In the market for affordable housing? Ellicott Station is taking names

Jan. 13, 2023, email from Jim Krencik, marketing director for GCEDC, to Tammy Hathaway, BDC director, with guidance on how to answer questions from The Batavian's Joanne Beck.  Beck was trying to clarify, after getting a bit of a runaround from local officials, what kind of housing was planned for Ellicott Station, whether it was a workforce or low-income. She asked specifically if it would be subsidized housing. The narrative, he says, is that students graduating from Cornell in High School, new at a company, will be among the tenants, and they won't be kicked out when they get promoted. He shares that income will be based on Area Median Income, with 60% for 30 units and 50% for 25 units being the income levels. "Focus on that, not technical terms," he writes. "It's hard to 'see it' until your friend, your niece or nephew, your co-worker is living there."

Jan. 16, 2023, The Batavian, New apartment complex to serve entry level workers as viable housing option

Jan. 31, 2023, minutes from a meeting of local officials with Sam Savarino. Tammy Hathaway, Batavia Development Corp., provides background on Section 8 housing and affordable housing. Steve Hyde raises the issue of whether "affordable housing" becomes low-income housing, noting GCEDC has worked to promote workforce housing. Courtney Cox, with Savarino, notes that rental rates are set at 2021 income levels, and can't change until one year after the complex is operational. Jim Krencik, with GCEDC, wanted to know how the agencies and Savarino can work cooperatively with new, young workers. Sam Savarino suggests a collaborative effort to tell the story of what the building is, to use "poster child" tenants. Sam apparently notes, "can't afford to stub our toe." Also present, Rachael Tabelski, city manager.

Feb. 18, 2023, The Batavian, Apartment application reveals for first time, Section 8 vouchers accepted at Ellicott Station  The Batavian reported at the time that no official would confirm that Section 8 vouchers could be used for the project.  The Batavian reported:

As it turns out, a single person living alone making $18 an hour is making too much to qualify for an apartment at Ellicott Station, though that same person with two or three dependents, meaning no additional income, would qualify. 

Whereas two people each earning minimum wage, $14.20 an hour, are not eligible for a two-bedroom apartment at Ellicott Station because they would be earning too much (the maximum household income for two people in a two-bedroom apartment is $34,600, and two people working full-time at $14.20 would gross $59,072).

Feb. 18, 2023, The Batavian, OPINION: Ellicott Station is not looking like a 'Pathway to Prosperity

Feb. 19, 2023, email from Rachael Tabelski to Sam Savarino. Tabelski notes The Batavian's coverage and the concern it has raised among community leaders. "They believe this will be run-down 'project' housing in no time, and we're sold workforce housing and got extremely low income, not middle income."

Feb. 19, 2023, email from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino with a screenshot of the flier being used to market Ellicott Station. Hyde states, "Nothing about workforce housing ... implies largely the opposite in many respects."

Feb. 19, 2023, email from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino. Hyde notes that weeks before, there was a meeting to discuss managing the narrative of the rental marketing. "That opportunity has come and gone with info published recently on the state website about the project that characterizes this project completely differently than how I understood it."  He says that several GCEDC board members are feeling misled. He hopes the project can be reframed to be truly workforce housing. "The first I heard of Section 8 vouchers was at our meeting two weeks ago."

Feb. 19, 2023, email from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde. Savarino says he and his colleagues hear Hyde "loud and clear." He says, "We will do what we can to ensure that the project is accurately portrayed. "I would also note that Ellicott Station is no different than any other property/landlord when it comes to complying wth fair housing laws and Section 8 vouchers."

Feb. 21, 2023, The Batavian, City leaders surprised by Ellicott Station's income levels, ask developer to raise them

Feb. 23, 2023, in a letter from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde, he states, "The fact that incomes have recently risen dramatically and income restrictions are static to 2019 -- and cannot be updated until next year -- might be evident in a detailed analysis of the income restrictions versus potential workforce tenants."

Feb. 27, 2023, The Batavian, Ellicott Station developer, GCEDC excited about project for tenants to 'live, work and play'

Late February 2023 (letter undated), from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino. The letter addresses some requests from area officials that there will be on-site management, that there be a preference in selecting tenants from Genesee County, the renting process includes background checks, an annual report on whether the project is meeting workforce housing goals, and statistics on occupancy. The letter states, "The current flier and website, along with the HCR brochure, have not effectively messaged the strong commitment you've shared to accomplish a workforce housing model for working residents. This has created some real concern for several elected officials and community leaders who were expecting a powerful marketing effort to attract working residents with modest incomes to Ellicott Station."

March 7, 2023, Sam Savarino responds to Steve Hyde's letter. Savarino says the project is important to the community and to his company and states, "We remain confident that Ellicott Station will be a true asset to the community and help address identified housing needs and demands in the marketplace." He states all tenants will  be screened and go through a "rigorous vetting process within the bounds of New York State and federal law and regulations." He states the company has been diligent in trying to get the word out about the complex to lower-income workers and that the company will produce an annual report on meeting workforce housing goals. He attached the "Ellicott Station Apartments Tenant Selection Plan." The plan discusses advertising and "postings at Section 8 rental assistant offices and that it will be listed in "Affordable Housing Opportunities," which is distributed widely in Erie and Niagara counties. For applicants, income will be verified, credit history will be reviewed, and criminal background history will be included.  Reasons for rejection of applications include not meeting income requirements, conviction for product meth, and lifetime registrant on the state sex offender registry. 

March 13, 2023, City Council sent a letter to RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner and CEO of HCR, asking HCR to modify the income requirements for Ellicott Station, expressing the view that it was the council's understanding that when Savarino turned to HCR for financial assistance, it was to construct a mixed-income complex but that HCR directed Savarino to provide a low- and very-low-income complex.  The letter states that Savarino said this income level would align with the area's emerging manufacturing workforce, college students, and active seniors.  "The city of Batavia supported the application of Savarino Companies to HCR as a mixed-income workforce housing project that closely aligned with the City's DRI strategy."  It states that HCR required changes to the project, and the project no longer aligns with that vision.  The letter notes rising wages as a further barrier to attracting workforce tenants. It also notes that other HCR-backed projects in other communities in Upstate New York have been allowed to set rents at 80 to 120 percent of AMI. "We feel this (income level) will encapsulate the workforce housing that we were promised," the letter states.

March 14, 2023, The Batavian, Ellicott Station is going up, city leaders ask for income levels to do likewise

March 15, 2023, Steve Hyde emails city and county officials along with GCEDC board members a copy of a letter signed by City Council members petitioning HCR to modify that calculation of Area Median Income so that inflation is taken into account.  Hyde writes, "... capping incomes at pre-pandemic levels for a workforce housing project just limits the ability of our working residents with modest incomes to meet the criteria to live there. That undermines the nature of the project, which was to target and provide quality workforce housing for entry-level workers for area manufacturers."

April 6, 2023, Rachael Tabelski's email to Sam Savarino to ask for a conference call that would include other stakeholders, including Lenny Skrill from HCR, to explore options for increasing the project's AMI.  She said she would also like to hear how Savarino can "keep your promise that all tenants will be employed." She also expresses concern that there have been material changes to the building, such as eliminating ceramic tile, washers and dryers, and metal ramps into showers for handicapped residents.

May 3, 2023, email from Steve Hyde to Kylie Gordon, development operations manager for Savarino. Hyde requests information on lottery winners, including total number of applicants, a blind list of addresses of lottery winners, numbers per household, number of disabled and not working, number retired, wages of employed and self-employed winners, lottery winners currently unemployed, and number of winners eligible for Section 8 assistance.

May 5, 2023, The Batavian, Lottery drawing selects 55 tenants for Ellicott Station, Savarino says

May 9, 2023, The Batavian, One woman's dream comes true as first one chosen for Ellicott Station

May 17, 2023, Sam Savarino informs Rachael Tabelski in an email that HCR has informed him that they will not agree to reset the AMI.

May 22, 2023, email from County Manager Matt Landers to Steve Hyde. "Vicky and Tammie participated in the monthly Genesee County Housing Initiatives Committee meeting this morning, and the representative for Ellicott Station participated and definitely wasn't giving answers that made the group feel good. My understanding was that there would be a genuine attempt to get Genesee County residents into Ellicott Station, where Kylie was adamant that they cannot and will not give Genesee County residents priority. Secondly, I was under the impression there would be a real attempt to vet candidates before the lottery process to try and get people that were gainfully employed and Kylie said any type of vetting would be done AFTER the lottery."

May 23, 2023, email from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino. Hyde had previously requested information on the lottery winners and found the response insufficient. "We are trying to determine if the large majority of 'lottery winners' are gainfully employed and the related demographics. That information,  he says, would help him report to his board and the city if the project is meeting the goals of 'workforce housing' as portrayed in the Savarino project description of Dec. 20, 2019.

June 21, 2019, an email from Kylie Gordon to Steve Hyde provided some demographic information on lottery winners. Of the 53 winners who are still interested, 42 are from Genesee County.

June 2023, GCEDC board minutes.  The board approved a resolution directing attorneys to send a demand letter to Savarino for information previously requested about lottery winners. It passes unanimously. The discussion notes the project morphed from market-rate to mixed-income to workforce and that workforce would mean "affordable housing for those at the 50-60% of area median income, essentially those working at our Main Street businesses and entry-level manufacturing positions."

June 23, 2023, email from Steve Hyde to Sam Savarino on residential application status. Savarino notes that 79 percent of the lottery winners are Genesee County residents and mostly from Batavia. Only 10 percent are from outside the GLOW region. Hyde characterizes this as "good news." There are 13 applicants on disability. Hyde would like to know how many of those on disability were also employed. 

July 13, 2023, letter to Sam Savarino from GCEDC attorney Russell E. Gaenzle. It is a notice of default for not complying with the terms of the project agreement to provide workforce housing and provide GCEDC-requested documentation related to the composition of potential tenants who were selected in the lottery. 

July 31, 2023, letter from Sam Savarino to GCEDC attorney Russell E. Gaenzle. Savarino makes the following assertions:

  • "Our examination of the documents you have provided us indicates that we are developing and constructing exactly what we applied for, and that was considered, approved, and resolved by GCEDC and what was formally provided and received by the city of Batavia."
  • "We have followed regulations and laws in advertising for and selecting tenants who have yet to go through the screening and vetting process."
  • "That we actively solicited 'workforce' tenants in conjunction with local workforce development agencies and targetted advertisements."
  • "That we ought not to be held to arbitrary and malleable standards to determine whether the goals have been met."
  • "That we cannot impose restrictions or standards for selecting tenants that do not comply with regulation and law."

August 2023, GCEDC board minutes recapping a June 29 board action on Ellicott Station. The board declared the project in default for failing to provide sufficient information about the housing lottery. The board also found that the information that Savarino provided on July 31 indicates there is an insufficient number of lottery winners that meet GCEDC's definition of workforce housing, "which is aligned with the industry definition as well."

Aug. 22, 2023, The Batavian, Savarino Companies going out of business, leave Ellicott Station up in the air

Aug. 23, 2019, letter from Russell E. Gaenzle, attorney for GCEDC, to Sam Savarino. It is a second notice of default under terms of the project agreement. It alleges that Savarino Companies are not meeting the goal of providing quality workforce housing for working residents of Batavia. "The term 'workforce' generally includes those who are not typically the target of, or eligible for, affordable housing projects (such as those at or above the median income). This usually includes essential workers in the community, such as firemen, nurses, and medical personnel."  The letter notes only about 36 percent of the lottery winners are gainfully employed. GCEDC intends to recapture incentives under terms of the agreement "when 'the company has made a materially false or misleading statement, or omitted any information which, if included, would have rendered any information in the application or supporting documentation false or misleading in any material respect."  The letter demands that Savarino cure the default by petitioning HCR to increase the AMI to 80% to 120% of AMI, and if that isn't feasible, demand HCR increase the AMI so the 50% to 60% threshold includes higher wage earners. 

Aug. 23, 2023, The Batavian, Documents say Savarino defaulted on financial agreements, GCEDC and city work on 'next steps'

Aug. 24, 2023, The Batavian, Savarino explains reason for business closure

Aug. 24, 2023, The Batavian, Dealing with communication shutdown: 'a long process,' city manager says

Aug. 25, 2023, The Batavian, HCR's role for Ellicott Station: to 'deliver 55 affordable homes to Batavia'

Sept. 1, 2023, The Batavian, Apparent construction office for Savarino Companies removed from Ellicott Station site

Sept. 12, 2023, The Batavian, Developers are interested in Ellicott Station, a 'complex situation'

Sept. 17, 2023, The Batavian, Prospective Ellicott Station tenants advised to explore 'alternative housing'

Sept. 19, 2023, email from Douglas Randall, city code enforcement, to Sam Savarino about concerns that "defects in the building envelope may result weather deterioration of the wood frame structure and freezing damage to plumbing and/or mechanical systems."

Sept. 22, 2023, The Batavian, County officials optimistic about Ellicott Station while prospective tenants mull legal action

Oct. 4, 2023, The Batavian, Photo: Workers stop by Ellicott Station project

Nov. 20, 2023, notice of recapture sent to Ellicott Station, LLC by GCEDC, stating the agency seeks to recapture $831,577.23 and $281,518.40  in incentives. 

Nov. 29, 2023, The Batavian, GCEDC terminates agreements with Savarino, asks for $1M back

Dec. 1, 2023, letter from Sam Savarino to Steve Hyde, objecting to the "recapture" proceedings and termination of the agreements between Savarino Companies and GCEDC. He says there is "no basis for the termination." He denies Savarino Companies is in default and rejects the assertion that his company made "materially false or leading" statements. He states, "... the 55-units were to be 'workforce' housing, which the agency claims 'generally includes those are are not typically the target of, or eligible for, affordable housing programs" and with income of 80% to 120% of AMI. 

 "The agency cannot credibly claim that the company made a false or misleading statement in its application. Numerous emails between you and myself or Oxford Consulting reflect your and the agency officials' knowledge and agreement that the 55 units of housing would be limited to occupants with income below 60% of the area median income." Later, he states, "The agency's awareness and acquiescence to this income restriction is further reflected in the Low-Income Housing Regulatory Agreement, dated April 15, 2022, among the company, the agency, and DHCR."  Later, "Nor could any such promise be made or enforced. As you are well aware, the company cannot legally discriminate against unemployed applicants who otherwise meet the income requirements or otherwise ensure that the units go to a certain percentage of employed occupants." 

He notes that the project's income levels cannot be increased to 80% to 120% of AMI and still qualify for housing tax credits.  He concludes, "There is simply no basis to contend that the company in any way misled the agency, which is the only claimed cause for termination of the agreement. we respectfully request that the agency reconsider the termination of the agreements and revoke its demand for recapture of benefits thereunder."

Dec. 16, 2023, The Batavian, Some tidying up, holding out hope, at Ellicott Station

Jan. 11, 2024, The Batavian, Contractors seek payment through liens against Ellicott Station LLC for nonpayment of goods, services

Feb. 8, 2024, The Batavian, Photo: Workers install siding on Ellicott Station

Feb. 11, 2024, The Batavian, Developer hints at current, possible future involvement with Ellicott Station project

May 24, 2024, The Batavian, Housing study shows need for low income, workforce, or market rate? Yes to all, consultants say

July 4, 2024, The Batavian, As time marches on, grass grows, taxes compile and answers remain for stalled complex

ellicott station july 3 2024
July 3, 2024. The Ellicott Station project is on indefinite hold after Saravrino Companies completed requested work to button up the building.
Photo by Howard Owens.
ellicott station july 3 2024
July 3, 2024, an incomplete Ellicott Station apartment complex, in limbo during legal disputes and the announced closure in 2023 of Savarino Companies.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia's Thomas Rocket Car finds 'fitting home' in Buffalo automotive museum

By Howard B. Owens
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
The fully restored Thomas Rocket Car, first built in Batavia in the late 1930s, is unveiled on Saturday at The Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum.
Photo by Howard Owens. 

A unique and significant object from Batavia's history is now permanently displayed in Buffalo at the Pierce Arrow Museum at 263 Michigan Ave.

There is no other car in the world like the Thomas Rocket Car, built by Charles Thomas and Norm Richardson from 1935 to 1938 in a garage at the corner of Main Street and Ellicott Avenue in Batavia; the concept car was years ahead of its time. He had a periscope (or "Ventriscope" as Thomas called it), anticipating backup cameras on many vehicles built these days, mounted on its roof. It had independent four-wheel suspension, unheard of in the late 1930s.  There was also extra padding -- before the invention of airbags -- to protect occupants in a crash.

The refurbished Rocket Car currently sits next to another of Thomas and Richardson's contributions to automotive history—the prototype of the Playboy, a tiny single-passenger car that the Playboy Motor Car Company made in Buffalo in 1947. Only 97 Playboys were ever manufactured, and the automotive museum has a handful on display.

"For us, it's a big deal to have a Thomas car but to have the Thomas Rocket Car is very important," said Jim Sandoro, museum founder. "If you look at all the publicity the car got nationally and internationally, and even right now on the internet, when you look up the car, you find fabulous things written about it."

The museum took over the restoration project from a group of Batavia automotive enthusiasts in 2023, putting together all of the final and finishing touches.

The original restoration group included Ken Witt, Dick Moore, Dave Howe, Dick McClurg, and Josh Quick, Jeff Ackerman, among others.

In 2015, the group intended to restore the car and find a home for it in Batavia. The City Council of 2015 agreed to accept the car as a donation if a suitable place to store it and display it could be found. That place was never found, and the restoration effort became cash-strapped, which is when Sandoro stepped in.

"We're the Buffalo Transportation Museum, which is Western New York, of course," Sandoro said. "As soon as I saw it a few years back, I said, 'Boy, if it doesn't happen the way they think it is going to happen, we could finish it. I made it known at that time, but then I stepped back and let everything happen. There was some progression, and it did. And I'm so happy. ... It just worked out. It worked out. It was meant to be."

There were about 100 people on hand for the unveiling on Saturday morning, including Thomas family members.

Jeff Thomas remembers how proud his father was of the car. He drove it for years until one day, the engine didn't get enough fuel going up an incline, and it stalled on railroad tracks.

"My mom said, 'That's it. I'm never driving the car again," Jeff said. "So that was the end of it being used as our family car, but it got a lot of looks around town and stuff like that because it's obviously very special."

The car, Jeff said, meant "Batavia" to his dad.

"That's where he grew up," Jeff said. "That's where he made the car. I even ran into a guy who happened to be the grandfather of a guy I worked with in a pizzeria. And he said, your dad was from Batavia. And I said, 'Yeah,' and he goes, 'Thomas.' 'Yeah.' And he goes, 'I used to ride around in this car he was building in the 30s before the body was on it.' They would ride around Batavia on just the chassis. So you run into people, you know, that have a connection to the car. It's just part of history. So it's great."

The car was also unique for its hidden door hinges, low-set headlamps, one-piece frame, independent front and rear breaks, and no running boards.

The engine was 80 horsepower and, for the time, got a fuel-efficient 15 miles to the gallon. It had a top speed of 80 mph and could comfortably seat six.

Sandoro confirmed that if Batavia ever wants to "borrow" the car for display, he would make it available. It would need covered transportation and insurance, he said.  When the time is right, Batavia Downs might make an appropriate place to display it, he said.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski presented a Batavia City Council proclamation and praised people like Charles Thomas, who helped build Western New York, as "people with vision and determination."

He recalled seeing the car for the first time after it had been recovered from a barn in Lockport in 2015. 

"It was just such a disaster," Bialkowski said. "If it wasn't rusted, it was broken."

He especially praised Dick McClurg, proprietor of Old World Collision on West Main Street Road, Batavia, where much of the restoration was completed.

McClurg said the Pierce Arrow Museum is a "fitting home. I think it's really fitting."

He said, "The museum made it look good."

"I wish I could have met Thomas. I really do. But I feel he was with me the whole time I was working on it," McClurg said.

When Thomas showed off his car in Detroit, experts agreed it was at least a decade ahead of its time.

But timing and circumstances were not on the side of automotive innovation. War was looming in Europe. Preston Tucker's then-recent failure to bring a safety-first mass-produced sedan to the market scared off the Big Three automakers in Detroit. They may also have felt threatened by all the innovation or decided it was just too expensive to retool to build such a futuristic car.

Whatever the reason, once the Rocket Car was done, Thomas never built another one. It became the family sedan and a showpiece for auto dealers on visits around the region.

Once the car disappeared from sight, it sat in a field in Batavia for years before a car buff in Lockport, Gary Alt.

Alt, whose antique car collection consists of dozens of Chevys from the 1930s, found the Thomas wasting away in a field in Batavia in 1977 when he drove out here with the intention of buying a 1934 parts car. When he saw Rocket Car, he had no idea what it was. He'd never seen it before or heard of it, but he knew it was unique and worth saving, so he bought it and the parts car and hauled them back to his farm property near Lockport.

Eventually, he tracked down the car's provenance and interviewed Thomas and Richardson in Buffalo, leading to a magazine article Alt wrote about the car. When that article reached local car enthusiasts who had long wondered what had become of the futuristic vehicle, they contacted Alt and arranged to buy it from him and retrieve the dust-covered relic from his barn.

The Thomas family has tracked the progress of the Rocket Car's restoration since it was recovered from a barn in Lockport in 2015.  Family members at the unveiling on Saturday seemed thrilled to see it again in all of its original pristine glory.

"It's great for our family, great for my dad," Jeff said. "I mean, he deserves to have this in a place where people can see it instead of in a junkyard or something. So it's just fabulous. We're so happy."

For all of The Batavian's previous coverage of the Thomas Rocket Car, click here.

For a photo slideshow of the Rocket Car's restoration, click here.

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thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
Jeff Thomas, son of Charles Thomas.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
Jim Sandoro, founder of the museum, and Councilman Bob Bialkowski.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
Attendees applaud Dick McClug, standing, in blue shirt.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
The Thomas Rocket Car before the unveiling.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
Attendees get a first close look at the restored Thomas Rocket Car.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
The restored interior of the Thomas Rocket Car.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
The prototype of the Playboy, designed by Charles Thomas, alongside of its predecessor, the the Thomas Rocket Car.
Photo by Howard Owens.
thomas rocket car pierce arrow unveiling
Members of the Thomas family at the unveiling.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Photos: Thomas Rocket Car Restoration

By Howard B. Owens

Pitching shuts down Geneva in Muckdogs 7-0 win on Saturday

By Staff Writer
Matt Misiti
Photo by Nick Serrata

Muckdogs starter Matt Misiti went six scoreless innings, giving up only two hits and striking out six, to help Batavia to its 24th win of the season.

The home team beat Geneva 7-0.

Misiti lifted his record on the season to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.87.

The Muckdogs are  7 1/2 games ahead of second-place Auburn in the West Division 

Travis Hammond, Justin Espinal and Jacob Veczko each gathered two hits for Batavia. Shaun Pope picked up two RBIs.

Earlier on Saturday, the Batavia Muckdogs hosted the Challenger baseball clinic for clients of Arc GLOW and before the evening game, one of the participants was part of the first-pitch ceremony.
Photo by Nick Serrata
Former Olympic Swimmer for Estonia Jana Kolukanova, who attended Auburn University and is now a Batavia resident, throws a first pitch.
Photo by Nick Serrata
Photo by Nick Serrata
Photo by Nick Serrata
Photo by Nick Serrata
Photo by Nick Serrata

People are sharing hoax post on Facebook about missing boy in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
facebook hoax post about missing boy

A post in a Batavia-related group about a three-year-old lost in Batavia is a hoax, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The post on Facebook contains a couple of clues that it's a hoax.

The post says "Deputy Ryan Braidley" took the child to the "police station."  

There is no Deputy Ryan Braidley in Genesee County. A police station would imply a Batavia Police Department case, not a Sheriff's Office case.

At the time of this story, the post had been shared by 154 people.

The account of the original poster may also be fake.  The account's page has posts that appear to be spam.

Batavia Chief of Police Shawn Heubusch said users should be careful about sharing unverified information.

"Social media is a great resource for keeping in touch with friends and family, but everyone should be cautious about what they share publicly," Heubusch said. "Especially if they have not verified the information to be true and it has not come from a credible source. Sharing false information on social media can cause unnecessary panic and confusion."

Jury unanimously rejects criminal charges against former Batavia high football star

By Howard B. Owens
Ray Leach
File photo Howard Owens

A Genesee County jury on Friday rejected rape charges against a former Batavia High School football star, acquitting him in a unanimous decision on all counts following a trial.

The defense attorney for Ray Leach, Public Defender Jerry Ader, said the acquittal was appropriate.

"While the outcome was welcome and justified, the mental pain and suffering that these accusations and trial put Ray and his family and friends through were significant and long-lasting," Ader said.

The jury found Leach not guilty on counts of:

  • Rape in the first degree (Penal Law section 130.35(2)
  • Criminal Sexual Act in the first degree (Penal Law section 130.50(2) and
  • Sexual Abuse in the first degree (Penal Law section 130.65(2).

If not for the jury's decision, Leach's life could have taken a tragic turn, Ader said. 

The counts against Leach included two Class B violent felonies and a Class D violent felony.  Mandatory sentencing requirements, if Leach had been convicted, could have meant from five years to 25 years in prison, plus 20 years on parole and becoming a registered sex offender for life.

"Prosecutors are required to do justice, not necessarily get convictions," Ader said. "A prosecutor’s client is the public, not the police, witnesses or complainants.  This case had many issues from the start, almost two years ago.  Hopefully, cases like Ray’s will make people who investigate complaints and possibly prosecute them take a hard look at their practices and intentions to ensure that justice is done in the future.”

Leach is among the greatest high school running backs in New York State history

In 2018, Leach set the Section V single-season scoring record with 310 points. That was fifth all-time in the state. He set the Section V single-season rushing record at 3,012 yards, which was sixth all-time in the state. He scored 50 points against Cheektowaga on Nov. 10, 2018, a Section V record. He ended his high school career at the top of the list in Section V in all-time rushing yards at 6,203. He also set a new Section V record with 111 career touchdowns. 

Pursuit ends on South Swan with overtuned minivan, suspect uninjured and in custody

By Howard B. Owens

A Sheriff's Office pursuit that started somewhere on the north side of the city of Batavia ended at Swan and School streets at around 1:45 a.m. on Sunday when the suspect vehicle struck a utility pole and flipped over.

One person is reportedly in custody.

A deputy was overheard telling a distraught family member who ran up to the scene and crossed the police crime scene tape that the suspect was uninjured and was in custody at the Genesee County Jail.

Another woman was taken into custody kicking and screaming, "That's my brother," with a deputy telling her he was OK.

This is an ongoing investigation, and while The Batavian was on the scene, no members of the Sheriff's Office, which is the agency handling the case, were available to provide more information.

The pursuit was reported on both State Street and Ross Street prior to the crash.

There were flames coming from the vehicle when City Fire arrived on scene. The fire was quickly extinguished.

UPDATE 3 a.m.: Sgt. Mathew Clor confirmed charges are pending and should be part of a press release in the morning. One suspect in custody. The woman who struggled with police was released with a warning once she calmed down. Besides taking out the utility pole on Swan, the vehicle also struck a mailbox on Ross Street.

Photos by Howard Owens.


Ag Society volunteers prepare for their 'Super Bowl' as fair week nears July 19-27

By Joanne Beck
Avantae and vee at talent show
2023 File Photo of a happy Avantae Owens with his mom during the talent show at Genesee County Fair. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

With less than a week to go before Genesee County's largest event comes to roost for eight days, volunteers are mowing grass, whacking weeds, assembling animal pens, cleaning out buildings, preparing the barns, setting up tables and chairs and putting in the time from sunup to sundown until showtime.

It's hardly glamorous, but that's what keeps the annual county fair, driven by Genesee County’s 4-H participants and Agricultural Society volunteers, alive and well—with record numbers the last two years.

“For us volunteers that are putting it on, it never ends. So this is almost like our Super Bowl, right? We get to this very week, and we work a ton of hours. You know, it's a little bit different planning it because you do a lot of planning, like, during the day or at night, or when I'm in my car, I make a lot of phone calls, so you're always doing something every day to plan it," Ag Society Treasurer Norm Pimm said to The Batavian. "But within the week of the fair … we don't leave the fairgrounds. We’re there all week; we're there 24 hours a day for fair days. And it's tiring, because it's so long.

"But we do it, obviously, for the community, to keep growing and keep going so the kids in the community have something to enjoy. Because, I mean, a lot of the county fairs are either cutting back or are no longer in existence, and a lot of carnivals have sort of either died out or gone away," he said. "So we're trying to make sure that we stay there for the long term. Our focus is to keep this thing moving.”

The fair has continued to grow with the number of participants, variety of entertainment, and size of animal entries, Pimm said, and as a result, there’s been a constant increase of attendees that ramble through the entryway at $10 per carload. 

It's all set to begin July 19 at 5056 East Main Road, Batavia with a stockyard classic hog show, the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series, and the fair queen pageant, and the schedule doesn't stop until the final fireworks show is over on July 27.

Fair highlights
Back by popular demand, the North American Six-Horse Hitch Class Series is set for 5:30 p.m. July 19 in the horse arena, with a draft horse farm team show at 6:30 p.m. Tucked into that is the first half of the traditional fair queen pageant at 6 p.m. under the yellow entertainment tent. 

A fair favorite — the talent show — will hit the stage at noon on July 20 under the big yellow tent. Show organizer Laura Kauppi is looking for entrants of any age and type of talent (with the stipulation that acts must be family-friendly), so if you’ve got a song to sing, an instrument to play or a routine to perform, she wants to hear from you.

Participation is free, and there will be small cash prizes for first, second and third-place winners. Register before Sunday to receive a goody bag. Registration forms are available here  

Later that evening at 7 p.m., The Eaglez tribute band will return for another year of “Life in the Fast Lane” and more country and soft rock tunes. 

Knight Patrol, a Rochester 80s cover band, has been added to the lineup for 7 p.m. July 21, capping off the fair queen pageant and crowning earlier that afternoon at 4 p.m.

Meanwhile a Power Wheels demo and garden tractor pulls are scheduled at the track over at the grandstands at 2 and 3 p.m., respectively.

July 22 is Senior Citizen Day, which means half-price entry at $5 per carload from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for seniors and special entertainment by Kelly’s Old Timers Band at noon.

In lieu of the midway’s arrival not happening until Tuesday, there will be several free inflatable bounce houses and obstacle courses set up for kids from 1 to 5 p.m. July 20-22, Pimm said. 

July 23 is Veteran’s Day, with $5 per carload from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for veteran visitors. The midway is set to open from 4 to 9 p.m., with a kids’ day special from noon to 4 p.m. on July 24 and July 27 for $20. 

The fair parade is set for 6:30 p.m. July 23, and 7 p.m. karaoke nights will provide opportunities for folks to perform July 22 for a competition and July 23 for an open mic.

Faith at the Fair, a popular collection of denominational musical performers, is set to begin at 4 p.m. July 24

Unrelenting rain forced the cancellation of last year’s first-time 100-lap Enduro, so organizers have brought it back for a second try as a new element for the fair at 6:30 p.m. July 24 at the Grandstand. 

First Responder’s Day on July 25 means $5 per carload for anyone with a first responder/EMS badge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the day when much of the 4-H participants’ hard work culminates in the market animal auction, which begins at 6 p.m. at the main show ring.

"We're working on getting another band for that Thursday," Pimm said. 

The demolition derby is set for 7 p.m. July 26 at the Grandstands while BB Dang turns up a little high-energy pop, rock and country from 7 to 11 p.m. at the yellow entertainment tent. Fireworks wrap up the demo derby.

A new event -- the screaming diesel shootout semi pulls, modified pick-up, street and mini mod tractor pulls, are lined up for 7 p.m. July 27 at the track Grandstand while Nerds Gone Wild get their 80s on — figuratively and literally —with some fun apparel and melodies from the decade. Fair-goers are asked to join the fun by dressing the part.

Fireworks are scheduled to close out the evening and the fair.

In between these highlights there are, of course, the many 4-H animal exhibits and shows, tempting sweet and savory midway and Chuck Wagon foods, carnival games, pig races, kangaroos, trailer of birds, color wars, vendor exhibit halls, a balloon display and demonstration, small fry tractor pulls, a Future Farmers of America competition, radio-controlled car racing, a fair trivia hunt with prizes, and other activities. 

Volunteers are always welcome throughout the event to help out with things such as parking and at the food stand, Pimm said. If you’re interested in helping out, call the fair office at 585-344-2424.

For hours, schedule and other details, go to Genesee County Fair

GC Fair photo with girl and cow
2023 File Photo of Genesee County Fair participant and her cow.
Photo by Howard Owens

Independent Living celebrates 34 years of ADA with consumer picnic

By Press Release

Press Release:

July 26, 1990 was the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the first piece of legislation to provide people with disabilities the right to equal access to employment, governmental programs and services, areas of public accommodations, communications, and transportation. Many consider it to be the most comprehensive legislation giving individuals with impairments access to everyday life.

In celebration of this milestone, every year Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) holds a Consumer ADA Picnic. This year it takes place from 12 - 2 p.m. on Friday July 26 at the Town of Batavia Kiwanis Park, 3808 W. Main St., Batavia. It offers Free food and games including a Scavenger Hunt.

If you plan to attend, please R.S.V.P. to Catherine DeMare at 585-815-8501, extension 400 or email Transportation to this event may be available; please inquire with Catherine DeMare.

We look forward to having you celebrate with us!

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) is a member of the Western New York Independent Living, Inc. family of agencies that offers an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

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