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August 13, 2021 - 5:49pm

And then there was one.

The Pembroke Town Board on Thursday night voted, 5-0, to sign an amended water supply agreement with Genesee County, leaving the Town of Darien as the lone municipality not to opt in to a contract that would set the stage for $10 million in sales tax distribution from the county to its towns and villages over the next 38 years.

“We felt that it was more important to secure sales tax funding than to hold out on the water agreement,” Pembroke Town Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said. “In good faith, we believed that it was best to mend some fences with the county.”

In a previous story on The Batavian, Schneider indicated there were some hard feelings over the way water agreements were handled in the past, but the current board is willing to give county leaders the benefit of the doubt – believing that the legislature will attain its goal of equalizing the water surcharge.

Schneider also said he talked to County Manager Matt Landers about the potential of “bumping up” the guaranteed sales tax money to be shared with the municipalities in light of the Village of Corfu (at the end of July) and Town of Pembroke opting in.


“Hopefully, we are thinking that the $7 million in sales tax distribution could go to maybe eight or eight and a half million – based on having Corfu and Pembroke on board.”

Genesee County’s offer to distribute $10 million in straight sales tax revenue is contingent upon universal buy-in from its towns and villages.

Without that universal buy-in, the proposal is to distribute $7 million in annual sales tax revenue and an additional $3 million in other revenue on a periodic basis over the next 38 years.

Municipalities not opting in would receive less in revenue distribution than expected to allow for the equalization of water surcharge revenue.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein was asked if lawmakers would consider Schneider’s proposal to increase the guaranteed sales tax distribution.

Choosing her words carefully, she replied, “Here’s what I’m going to say: Let us do our work.”

“We have not met and we won’t until Monday. So, there’s a process that we follow and let us do our work. But, certainly, that suggestion is taken and welcomed.”


Currently, the county’s revenue sharing process has created a situation, per state law, where towns with villages inside them have to keep two separate books and have two separate tax rates – an A fund for townwide sales tax that affects everyone and a B fund for sales tax that only affects the services of taxpayers outside the village.

Stein said the legislature’s focus has been “to be able to direct that revenue sharing into the B funds of those towns and villages; that is our focus for this entire process. And, if we can find a way to get there together, that’s our goal.”

She previously explained that the $10 million figure that the county is committed to putting into the sales tax agreement would fix the unbalanced A and B tax rate.

When asked if she thought the Darien Town Board would change is mind and opt in, Stein said she that if it did reconsider, it would need to be mindful that the county has a timetable to adhere to “that is significant because our calendar has already started.”

The legislature’s Ways & Means Committee is expected to address the situation at its meeting this Monday, with the full legislature scheduled to vote on a distribution amount on Aug. 25.

“Plus, the City of Batavia has to do this at their meetings in September and the (New York State) Office of Comptroller needs 60 to 90 days and we already want to be able to distribute our third quarter payments (in October) as sales tax,” Stein advised.

“Time is not our friend right now,” she said. “But for those six towns that have the B funds or that have villages in their towns, it is truly meaningful for their more rural taxpayers to rebalance that property tax imbalance that is occurring right now for them.”


Landers said he was “happy” to learn that Pembroke passed the resolution.

“I know that they will be hopeful that the county as a whole, not just Genesee County but the towns, will remember this 5-0 vote when it comes time for the equalization of the retail water rate charged by the Monroe County Water Authority,” he said.

“The county can recommend an equalized retail rate and, again, I’m certain that Pembroke is hoping for a spirit of cooperation seeing that they agreed to sign this agreement because they know it is best for the county as a whole.  It is in everyone’s best interest to have an equalized rate because it allows for the free flow of water a little easier between the center and western parts of the county.”

Landers explained that the original agreements with towns and villages dating back to the early 2000s each had “little nuances in them,” with different considerations.

“When the county took over individual water systems, the county water fund would make some compensation sometimes for that,” he said. “For example, we paid off some of the debt of the Corfu water plant for that village. All of the amended water supply agreements that the county have undertaken over the last three or four years have been uniform; we wanted to make sure that they’re all the same.”

The new agreements allow for the county, with proper notification and justification, to increase the surcharge above 60 cents (per 1,000 gallons). The original agreements were frozen at 60 cents but since then, the later agreements raised it to $1.20 to pay for Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Project.


The county manager said one of the sticking points was the county removing erroneous language in the initial agreements that guaranteed supplying water to the municipalities.

“It’s erroneous in the sense that the Monroe County Water Authority, in our agreement with them, can’t guarantee us water; there are things that can happen,” he said. “It is difficult for us to guarantee something that’s not guaranteed to us.”

He said that changes had to be made “because we need water to pay for water.”

“When we go to Phase 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 (of the Countywide Water Supply Project), if there needs to be an increase (in the surcharge) to pay for the debt service, there needs to be a way to pay for it,” he said, adding that 20- to 30-year cash flow projections – including the retirement of some debt service -- indicate that the surcharge should not increase that much, if at all.

Landers said that he continues to speak to Darien Town Supervisor Steve Ferry Jr. about his board’s decision.

“If Darien passed a resolution next week and they signed the water agreement, it is possible that the amount in the resolution on the floor of the legislature on August 25th could be amended to be increased to $10 million,” he said. “I still have hope that we can find a path forward so that we can share the full $10 million in sales tax, and have everyone on the same water supply agreement.”

Asked if Ferry has sought concessions from the county, understanding that Darien has been paying more for water than other towns and villages, Landers would not go there.

“I don’t want to get into the subject of proposals back and forth,” he said. “I want all of that to be discussed between him and I, and our legislature and his board.”

Previously: Darien Town Board votes to not accept county's updated water agreement offer; Corfu signs on; Pembroke TBD.

Previously: Ways & Means passes measures rescinding revenue distribution payments, accepting HCA with Plug Power.

August 13, 2021 - 3:57pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Bergen Fire Department, Mercy EMS.


A driver was uninjured after her car left the roadway on Clinton Street Road in Bergen around 2 this afternoon and stuck a utility pole.  

The driver was evaluated by Mercy EMS medical and signed off on further treatment.  

Bergen Fire responded along with a deputy and a trooper.  

Photo by Howard Owens.

August 13, 2021 - 3:48pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Health Department is aware of concerns about rodents at Indian Falls Log Cabin restaurant located in Corfu, NY.

Public Health Sanitarians conducted an inspection this morning, August 13th, 2021 and the owner has voluntarily closed the restaurant.

The facility will remain closed until further inspections are completed.

August 13, 2021 - 1:18pm

johnfisguselba2018.jpgWhile considering recommendations from the New York State Education Department, Center for Disease Controls and incoming Governor Kathy Hochul, the superintendent at Oakfield-Alabama Central School said the district’s reopening plan released today primarily reflects the wishes of its staff and its residents.

The plan formulated by John Fisgus calls for five days of in-person learning when classes resume on Sept. 8, with the wearing of masks or face coverings for students and staff while in classrooms left up to the individual’s personal choice.

Per the document, “Students and District staff are ‘highly recommended” to wear masks while in classrooms during instruction and learning, but it is NOT REQUIRED regardless of vaccination status. This is a personal choice and decision.”

The protocols do, however, require mask wearing on school buses, entering the school buildings and reporting to classrooms, and while traveling in the hallways between classes and/or to different locations within the buildings.

Fisgus (photo at right) said results of a survey he sent out on Aug. 5 separately to district staff and separately to residents is at the heart of the directive.

“We were looking to get a feel for their thoughts on masking -- thinking that there could be quite a difference in philosophies as, obviously, the teachers and the district staff can have a difference in opinion from that of the community,” Fisgus said.

What he found, however, was that both groups – staff and residents – were “right in line with each other,” he said.


“Overwhelmingly, in summary, they (staff and residents) want the personal choice to wear a mask or not. It was 75 or 80 percent in favor of that,” he reported.

The O-A survey featured seven questions about masks, with respondents asked to rate their choices from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Fisgus said he received more than 400 responses.

The questions were as follows:

  • Students age 4-11 years old who cannot be vaccinated at this time should be required to wear masks at school at all times.
  • Students age 12 and older who can be vaccinated and are not should be required to wear masks at school at all times while indoors.
  • Students age 12 and older who can be vaccinated and are vaccinated should be required to wear masks at school at all times.
  • Adults who are not vaccinated should be required to wear a mask.
  • Adults who are vaccinated should be required to wear a mask.
  • The O-A district should require that all staff and students wear masks at all times while in school.
  • The O-A district should leave mask wearing for staff and students as a personal choice and decision.

“Knowing what our local community wants and what our district staff is favoring, that is what we’re going to base our decisions on at this time,” he said. “But also know that we will have flexibility as we will be watching the seven-day rolling average. If something comes down that we’re having an increase in spread or whatever, certainly these protocols can change.”


Other key points of the O-A reopening plan are as follows:

  • While we will try to maintain 3-6 feet of social distance, some classrooms and learning activities will return to group work with close collaboration among students and our teachers.
  • Physical Education classes, Band and Chorus Ensembles and lessons, will return to normal operations in their regular classroom environments.
  • Cafeteria operations will return to normal. Students will be seated at our original tables as assigned within each of our buildings.
  • If anyone prefers to wear a mask while on campus, they will have the ability to do so with the respect of all students and staff members.
  • The District will continue its high levels of ventilation, sanitation, and cleaning each day.
  • We ask that each student and District staff member continue the practice of good hygiene by washing hands frequently and maintaining the proper social distance from one another, whenever possible.
  • We ask that your child(ren) and our District staff members stay home when ill and  contact the appropriate school nurse.
  • It is NOT REQUIRED for families and District employees to fill out the daily health screening form in ParentSquare this year.
  • In the absence of any future school mandates regarding interscholastic sport competitions from NYSPHSAA, masks are *highly recommended* but NOT REQUIRED during practices and competitions. Players and coaches have the personal choice and right to wear a mask if desired.
  • Our extracurricular activities and events at school will take place throughout the year and the wearing of masks is *highly recommended* but NOT REQUIRED by students and advisors. Any outside visitors to our campus for school events are *highly recommended* to wear masks, but it is NOT REQUIRED, regardless of vaccination status. This is a personal choice and decision.

*Please be advised of the following regulations regarding “close contacts” and “quarantining”:

  •  A Close contact is defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes. Close contacts, along with the infected individual, will need to quarantine if identified in contact tracing efforts. In the classroom setting, the close contact definition EXCLUDES students who were within 6 feet of an infected individual if BOTH the infected individual and exposed student(s) were wearing a mask.
  • Fully vaccinated students and teachers ARE NOT required to quarantine, however, they should be tested 3-5 days after exposure, even if asymptomatic, and wear a mask until their test result is negative.
  • Quarantine period is 10 days.


The District will continue each day to monitor the health and wellness of our students and District staff, along with the localized spread rate of COVID-19 and the Delta variant in Genesee County and our surrounding towns and villages.

Please be advised that the above protocols and procedures could change within 1-12 hours if the District feels it necessary for the health and protection of our students and District staff. Decisions will be based upon our current health status within our buildings and may be based upon the 7-day rolling average of transmission in our area. As well, any future mandates from the NYSDOH or NYSED may alter these plans.

Fisgus said the district’s board of education signed off on the reopening plan and he met with the teachers’ union earlier today to share the guidelines. On Thursday, he participated along with other superintendents in a Zoom meeting with Genesee Valley BOCES District Superintendent Kevin MacDonald.

“We’re all working together to try to figure out what is best for our region but, more importantly, what’s best for our local school districts,” he said.

Fisgus expects that the reopening document “will be fiercely circulated around the area,” and decided to release it despite receiving NYSED’s guidance late yesterday afternoon. Also, on Thursday, Hochul came out in favor of universal mask wearing in schools.


MacDonald, speaking for the 22 schools affiliated with Genesee Valley BOCES, said most districts are in “a bit of a holding pattern” as recommendations continue to come out.

“We’ve heard now that incoming Governor Hochul is in favor of school masks, so I guess, right now, there’s not a rush. We know we have to communicate with our communities what’s happening, but in terms of a mask mandate, I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.

MacDonald said he plans to touch base with other administrators on a weekly basis until the first week of September, with the overarching goal of ensuring “we get all kids in school every day in the safest way possible for students and staff.”

“Each superintendent has the best feel and bead on their community and what they think is best, and in the end that’s what we all have to do – what we think is best,” he said.

Notre Dame High School Principal Wade Bianco said the private school’s plan is to follow the guidelines set by the state and the county in order to comply.

“We’re going to try to give the kids the least restrictive environment as possible, based on those guidelines,” he said, adding that he has scheduled a staff meeting for next Wednesday and expects a reopening plan decision to be made at that time.

August 13, 2021 - 12:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Norton Chizzelwood, Alexander, video.
Video Sponsor

Fran and Bobbi Norton celebrated the grand opening of their craft business on their property on Gilhooly Road in Alexander on Wednesday.  

The couple started in the woodworking business many years ago building various wood products and then added Amish-made goods to their inventory.  They've sold their goods at the former Norton Enterprise showroom in Batavia as well at events in the area such as the WNY Steam Show, AppleUmpkin, and Attica Furniture Days.  After Bobbi's retirement from Batavia City Schools, they decided to open a retail store attached to their workshop behind their house at 4309 Gilhooly Road, Alexander.

August 13, 2021 - 10:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Lockport, batavia, notify.

A 63-year-old Batavia resident was seriously injured in a single-vehicle accident at 11:47 p.m., Thursday, in Lockport.

John Kindig was found unresponsive in his vehicle after it struck a house at 7098 Chestnut Ridge Road, according to a release from the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.  He was extricated from the vehicle and transported by Mercy Flight to ECMC.

Three people were in the residence at the time and none were injured. Deputy Jacob Kenny assisted one resident who was trapped in a bedroom.

The accident is being investigated by the NCSO's Accident Investigation Unit.

Lockport's code enforcement officer Brian Belson declared the residence a total loss and ordered the residence demolished immediately. 

Responding volunteer fire departments: Wright's Corners, Terry's Corners, South Lockport, along with Niagara County's Technical Rescue Team.


August 13, 2021 - 10:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Bethany, Alabama, news, notify.

Pamela Lynn Palaszynski, 35, of Bank Street Road, Elba, is charged with felony DWI, driving with a felony BAC of .08 or greater, moving from lane unsafely, and speed not reasonable and prudent.  Palaszynski was arrested by Deputy Trevor Sherwood following a car-into-house complaint at 11:59 p.m., Aug. 7.  Palaszynski was released on an appearance ticket.

Teresa Marie Stephenson, 31, of Cedar Street, Batavia, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Stephenson was arrested by Deputy Trevor Sherwood at 2:54 a.m., Aug. 6, on Bethany Center Road, Bethany, for allegedly driving drunk.  She was released on an appearance ticket.

Keith Alan Stevens, 63, of Forest Edge Drive, Batavia, is charged with failure to report a change of address within 10 days as a registered sex offender. Stevens was released on an appearance ticket.

Lyndsay Taylor Young, 38, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Young is accused of stealing $206.03 in merchandise from Walmart at 4:04 p.m., Thursday.  She was released on an appearance ticket.

Ray Spencer-Lindquist Saile, 19, of Judge Road, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd. Saile is accused of violating a stay-away order after being found with the protected party at the protected party's house.  Saile was arraigned in Town of Alabama Court and ordered held on $2,500 cash bail.

August 13, 2021 - 9:39am

Updated 10:10 a.m. with village population. Note that town population numbers include the village population.


The director of the Genesee County Planning Department, the agency that coordinated the most recent census, said today that he is pleased that the number of people living in the county in 2020 was more than anticipated.

“I’m happy that we beat the projections, although I would have loved to have seen our population increase,” said Felipe Oltramari, reacting to the report issued Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The report reveals that Genesee County’s population for 2020 was 58,388 – down 2.8 percent from the 60,079 reported in 2010.

Genesee experienced the smallest drop of the four GLOW counties, however, with the others as follows:

  • Livingston, down 5.4 percent from 65,393 in 2010 to 61,834 in 2020;
  • Orleans, down 5.9 percent from 42,883 in 2010 to 40,343 in 2020;
  • Wyoming, down 3.9 percent from 42,155 in 2010 to 40,531 in 2020.

“I think we did a good job,” Oltramari said. “We beat the projections, and those were the 2019 projections. We were supposed to be at 57,808, and we ended up with 580 more than that.”

Western New York’s major counties, however, saw an increase in the number of residents, with Monroe going from 744,344 in 2010 to 759,443 in 2020 (up 2 percent) and Erie going from 919,040 in 2010 to 954,236 in 2020 (up 3.8 percent).

“I think that Erie and Monroe counties saw an increase for the first time since 1970,” he said. “We actually had an increase in the City of Batavia for the first time in a while.”

The U.S. Census Bureau report shows that the city population went up by 135 people – from 15,465 in 2010 to 15,600 in 2020.

New population figures in Genesee County towns, with the 2020 number followed by the 2010 number:

  • Alabama, 1,602; 1,869.
  • Alexander, 2,491; 2,534.
  • Batavia, 6,293; 6,809.
  • Bergen, 3,120; 3,120.
  • Bethany, 1,780; 1,765.
  • Byron, 2,302; 2,369.
  • Darien, 3,010; 3,158.
  • Elba, 2,164; 2,370.
  • Le Roy, 7,662; 7,641.
  • Oakfield, 3,145; 3,250.
  • Pavilion, 2,290; 2,495.
  • Pembroke, 4,264; 4,292.
  • Stafford, 2,424; 2,459.
  • Tonawanda Reservation, 241; 483.

Village population figures, with the 2020 number followed by the 2010 number:

  • Alexander, 518; 509.
  • Bergen, 1,208; 1,176.
  • Elba, 558; 676.
  • Le Roy, 4,300; 4,391.
  • Oakfield, 1,812; 1,813.
  • Corfu (part of Town of Pembroke), 689, 709.

Oltramari said the Census count “was no doubt affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This might explain the sudden 50 percent decrease in the Reservation population,” he said, adding that it could be an undercount caused by pandemic-related staffing issues at the Census Bureau. “The Census Bureau is responsible for outreach to tribal nations.”

The county planning department has received population data “right down to the block level,” Oltramari said, noting that he plans to dig into those statistics in the coming weeks.

More information on the 2020 Census can be found at this link:



As far as last night’s planning board meeting and referral recommendations, Oltramari said everything went as expected.

-- On the Healthy Living Campus in downtown Batavia site plan review, the board recommended that developers consider offering bicycle parking facilities adjacent to a major entrance to the facility, and, given the large amount of glass utilized in the façades, the facility install bird-friendly glass in order to minimize bird-strikes and reduce its impacts on local bird populations.

Oltramari said project managers are in the process of using special glass, including in the pool area for privacy purposes.

-- On the Brickhouse Commons mixed-use project in the Town of Pembroke, planners’ recommendations included a pedestrian connection between the development and the Tim Hortons to the east, completing a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and obtaining a Stormwater Permit for Construction Activity from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) prior to final approval from the town, and making sure signs comply with the town’s zoning regulations.

Previously: Genesee County planners to consider latest version of Brickhouse Commons plan at Route 5 and 77

August 13, 2021 - 8:07am

jessica_budzinack.jpgThe Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse is making a difference in the lives of women dealing with substance use issues while trying to raise a family, according to Jessica Budzinack, the agency’s parent/family support and project specialist.

“During the past year, we have been able to connect with parents or family members that need individualized support, putting a primary focus on pregnant and post-natal women and women who have children that were exposed to substances in the womb,” Budzinack said.

“Parents in recovery or parents that struggle with addiction have different needs and different barriers that they need to overcome.”

The initiative is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance awarded totaling $500,000, said Rosalie Mangino-Crandall, GCASA’s director of Project Innovation and Expansion.

Mangino-Crandall said the specific program is funded by an HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program-Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (RCORP-NAS) grant.

The HRSA RCORP-NAS program places emphasis on pregnant women, mothers, and women of childbearing age who have a history of, or who are at risk for, substance use disorder or opioid use disorder, and their children, families, and caregivers.

At GCASA, Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies specifically supports pregnant and post-partum women with substance use disorder and their partners and children as well as anyone caring for a child exposed to substances in the womb.

Services include case management (including connections to treatment, healthcare coordination, and assistance with social determinants of health), parenting peer support, recovery peer support, and transportation and childcare assistance.

Budzinack said the program offers “coach-like peer support to parents and their families.”

“We work with them to overcome obstacles, such as navigating the Family Court system, helping them find extra support for their children and helping them … connect to different organizations or resources that they need to help them be successful parents,” she said. “We also connect them with our Prevention team, which offers active parenting classes and other forms of education.”

She noted that she also has been able to assist mothers with children in foster care.

“We do what we can to help during the process of trying to bring them home. We help them navigate in that area to achieve those goals,” she said.

Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies staff are committed to lifting mothers and children with self-esteem issues as well.

“Another thing that they face is stigma,” Budzinack said. “They kind of feel like the world is shaming them for making that decision. Our job is to make them feel comfortable and responsible, and educate them to the best of our ability. Education is a big thing.”

Mangino-Crandall said the project utilizes the research-based Positive Direction Model created by Dr. Davina Moss-King to help pregnant women prevent and mitigate the effects of substances taken during pregnancy on their babies.

“This includes properly taking prescription medication such as MAT (medically-assisted treatment) medications as well as illicit drugs, alcohol and misused prescription drugs,” she said. “Women who receive medically-assisted treatment have different needs, and there’s much to consider in those cases.”

Budzinack mentioned the high level of uncertainty and fear faced by pregnant women on MAT who have just given birth.

“They have so much to think through,” she said. “How does this affect my pregnancy? What’s going to happen after I have the baby? Just to have someone that they can talk to without judgment, to make sure they know the importance of her health and the health of that child.”

She said she worked with a woman last summer who was pregnant and had two daughters in temporary foster care.

“We helped her to meet the criteria for the Office of Children and Family Services to bring her children back home while she underwent medically-assisted treatment to maintain recovery,” she explained. “Through support of a case manager, participating in The Recovery Station (on Clinton Street Road) and taking advantage of active parenting classes, things are working out for her.”

Budzinack said the woman has made a concerted effort to get her children back and that commitment has paid off. Her baby is going to be a year old in a couple months and both of her older daughters are back home with their mother.

Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies is backed by a consortium that includes the following original partners: Oak Orchard Health, Lake Plains Community Care Network, and Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

More recent partners include Oak Orchard WIC (Women, Infants and Children), Genesee and Orleans County Mental Health Departments, United Memorial Medical Center, UMMC Moms Program and Orleans Recovery Hope Begins Here.

For more information or to make a referral, go to https://fs9.formsite.com/DCn0ab/yxjhrj9pyu/index.html or call Budzinack at 585-813-8583.

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist for GCASA.

August 12, 2021 - 7:41pm
posted by Press Release in Bethany, Milestones.

Press release:

Sarah Herman of East Bethany, NY has earned an Award of Excellence at Western Governors University College of Business. The award is given to students who perform at a superior level in their coursework.

About WGU
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 133,000 students nationwide and has more than 210,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation's leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 24 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today's rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies, and was featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times. Learn more at www.wgu.edu.

August 12, 2021 - 5:30pm

Eighteen months and still no signs of slowing down.

Public Health Director Paul Pettit and his staff at the Genesee & Orleans Health Departments have worked tirelessly since February of 2020 to educate, test and vaccinate residents dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic that seemingly just won’t go away.

The Batavian spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Pettit this afternoon, picking his brain about the increase in cases, the Delta variant, community spread categories, face coverings, booster shots and natural immunity.

Q. With the number of cases increasing, do you plan to release information on a daily basis as was the case last year?

A. We’re discussing that; it is readily available as anybody can go to our website (www.gohealthny.org) and/or the dashboards to get all of the current data. We probably will be moving back to reporting at least once a week on the numbers.

We’re in the process of discussing that component of it. We have seen our numbers definitely pick up over the last eight to 10 days compared to where we were in July.

Q. When you talk about numbers, is it the same virus or is it the Delta variant? It seems like there is confusion over what people are coming down with now.

A. The reality is that every time you have a COVID test, there’s not a serotype done to see what strain of the virus it is. So, a lot of times we don’t have that level of detail. The state’s Wadsworth Lab in Albany does do that level of detail – they’ve been doing surveillance sampling of random samples from around the state and they’re also in the process of opening additional labs that will be able to do that. I believe the University of Rochester and one of the labs in Erie County are going to be able to do that.

It’s pretty much understood to be the Delta variant the way the cases are picking up. Samples that have been identified in the region are primarily Delta. It is presumed that it is the Delta strain by the way the numbers are picking up so quickly, but we don’t have the ability locally to analyze every sample.

Q. Do you think there will be some guidance out of Albany – either from the new governor coming in (Kathy Hochul) or from the New York State Department of Health?

A. We haven’t heard any updates on that beyond what the lieutenant governor commented on yesterday that she plans to meet with all of the cabinet members … ultimately it will be her decision on what direction they want to go with that.

(Since this interview, Hochul has announced that she wants students and staff to wear masks when school opens up next month. “My view is that people — children and everyone in the school environment — will be wearing masks,” Hochul said).

We’re going to continue locally to deal with cases through isolations and quarantines, and working in the community to keep the numbers down as best as we can.

Q. It seems like the categories that indicate the level of cases have changed. What are the actual categories now and how are they defined?

A. There’s low, moderate, substantial and high; four buckets basically that the CDC is using to essentially categorize community transmission of COVID. So, moderate is greater than 10 cases per 100,000 per week; substantial is greater or equal to 50 cases per 100,000 per week, and then high is greater than or equal to 100 cases per 100,000 per week.

From 10 to 50 is a pretty big jump, right, but then when you get to substantial, you have to double your weekly count of cases to get to high.

Q. Is it true that Genesee County currently is in the moderate range?

A. We have been in the moderate category but the numbers that we have seen over the past four to five days, averaging from seven to 10 cases per day, if those numbers continue over the seven-day period – which the CDC uses as their window – we’re definitely on the edge of potentially going to substantial.

Per the CDC guidelines, once an area is designated or classified by their chart as substantial spread, that’s when they would start to recommend that people consider masking indoors – vaccinated or unvaccinated – especially if you have certain underlying health conditions or are at high risk, so to speak.

It’s not a mandate – there are no local mandates – and, obviously, the state has not put out any mandates because the executive order/state of emergency has lapsed, but it is recommended due to the amount of spread that is occurring.

Q. How effective do you feel are the masks that people are wearing, especially considering the different types of materials the masks are made of?

A. We’ve talked about the mask question all along, from day one … we’ve heard that you should mask and that you shouldn’t mask from the federal side.

What we do know is that masks are effective in certain settings in reducing risk. People are not wearing, in most cases, N-95 – those are the gold standard masks in stopping viruses and bacteria, etc. But when it comes to what people are wearing in the community, you see many different types of masks.

Your medical surgical masks are probably the most effective outside of the N-95 because they are used in clinical, healthcare settings, and then you have cloth and buffs and all different kinds of barriers that people have created to try to meet the face covering requirements.

It’s a spectrum of how much protection they will provide depending upon the type of material of the masks. I will say that any type of barrier is going to provide some type of protection; depending on which one, more or less, and depending upon how it is worn. There are a lot of variables.

Is it foolproof, that if you wear a mask, you’re not going to get COVID? No. In the general setting, masks are a tool to try to reduce risk of getting the disease. The recommendation is that if you put it on, you’re protecting yourself and potentially others if you have COVID, and providing a layer of risk protection.

Q. Do you agree with Dr. Fauci that everyone will need a booster shot down the road?

A. The boosters are being studied on the federal level by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration), looking at the effectiveness of the current vaccines that we have out there. What we do know is that the vaccines are safe and effective; they’ve done a very good job of preventing illness and preventing disease in those who are fully vaccinated.

We have seen that there are some breakthrough cases occurring and the efficacy of all three vaccines is a little bit lower with the Delta variant than what it was with the original variant of COVID that we were dealing with since the beginning of the pandemic.

With that being said, they’re still very effective. Even with any of the breakthrough cases we are seeing, these folks have had very mild symptoms or asymptomatic, and none of them have gone to the hospital and none of them, obviously, have passed. We know the vaccines are working; they’re keeping people from getting sick. They may get COVID but they’re not getting sick.

As new variants come along, we need to give folks or encourage them to get a booster shot to match up better with the new strain and boost the antibodies and protection they may have. I think there will be a need for a booster shot at some point.

Q. What about people who have had COVID? Don’t they already have natural immunity, and do they need to be vaccinated?

A. Obviously, when you have a disease you develop natural antibodies, so there is some level of protection. But, again, what the data is showing is that those who have had COVID, their antibodies are not as high as they are when you get the vaccine. The recommendation still is that you get vaccinated even if you have had COVID.

The vaccine efficacy gives you better protection from re-infection than just having natural antibodies.

August 12, 2021 - 4:30pm

It's 8'oclock on a Friday....JOIN US DURING THE BILLS GAME (starts at 7 pm) THIS FRIDAY NIGHT where you can cheer on the Bills & win BIG! WE’LL BE GIVING RAFFLE TICKETS AWAY EVERY HOUR STARTING AT 8 PM, AND THE DRAWING FOR THE WINNER WILL BE AT 11 PM. (*Must be present at the time of drawing to win*). EVERY HOUR IS ANOTHER CHANCE TO WIN *TICKETS VALUED AT $800! "There's Always Something Happening at Brown's!

August 12, 2021 - 10:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news.

A Utility Terrain Vehicle was spotted by a Sheriff's patrol at 1:34 a.m., July 31, on Route 33, in the area of Seven Springs Road, in the Town of Batavia and when the deputy attempted to initiate a traffic stop, the driver failed to stop.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the drive took the UTV into harvestable crops causing significant damage to the crops and to fencing in the area.

The Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's assistance in identifying and locating the UTV.

The UTV is described as white in color and affixed with lights that change colors while in operation.

Anyone with information that may assist in the case can call Investigator Ryan DeLong at (585) 345-3000 ext. 3572 or Deputy Jordan Alejandro at (585) 345-3000 ext. 3257.

August 12, 2021 - 10:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Class of 65, Batavia HS, batavia, news.

Press release:

The Batavia High School Class of 1965 will gather for their 55 Plus 1 Reunion on August 27-28. The highlight of the celebration will be dinner on Saturday, August 28 at Terry Hills Golf Club. with a 4 p.m. Social Hour followed by a 6 p.m. dinner. Any classmate who has not made reservations should do so by sending a check for $45 ($25 for just the Social Hour) to BHS Class of 65 c/o Steve Hawley, 50 Main St., Batavia, NY 14020.

On Friday, August 27 classmates are invited to meet at 6 p.m. at TF Browns, where a Party Room will be open to the Class of 1965 to order from the menu. A cash bar will be available. Those planning to attend
are asked to notify Bill Hyatt at [email protected]. Since 1992, the BHS Class of 1965 has annually awarded a scholarship, the Freedom Award, to a graduating senior from Batavia High School. To date, the group has donated nearly $40,000.

August 12, 2021 - 10:22am
posted by Press Release in Batavia Downs, sports, harness racing.

Press release:

Misty Memory N made the four-hour drive from Saratoga to Batavia worth the trip after she captured the winner’s share of the $10,650 Fillies and Mares Open at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Aug. 11). 

Jim Morrill Jr. settled Misty Memory N behind Prairie Westerngal (Braxton Boyd) who easily led the field through fractions of :27.4, :58 and 1:27.1, encountering only one minor challenge from Xenia’s Chip (Justin Huckabone) at that third station. Coming off the far turn Prairie Westerngal got a bit rough-gaited and that’s when Morrill tipped Misty Memory N off the pegs. From there Misty Memory N was on her own as she paced away down the lane, passed Prairie Westerngal in deep stretch, and won by a length in 1:55.3.

It was the sixth win of the year for Misty Memory N ($9.70) who is owned by Stephen Picarazzi, Scott Petillo and Brett Derue, who also trains the winner.

Earlier in the $9,500 Fillies and Mares Open II, She Can Party (Dave McNeight III) sat second behind HP Sissy (Jim McNeight Jr.) until the top of the stretch when she ducked into the passing lane and lunged late to win by 1/2 length in 1:55.2, which was a new seasonal mark.    

She Can Party ($19.40) is owned and trained by Lee Dahn. 

Jim Morrill Jr. had a driving hat trick while Brett Derue led all trainers with two wins Wednesday. 

The carryovers continue at Batavia Downs as neither the Jackpot Pick-6 or Jackpot Hi-5 were hit on Wednesday. So when live racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Aug. 14) the carryover for the Jackpot Pick-6 will be $1,335 and the carryover for the Jackpot Hi-5 will be $1,903. Post time for the first race on Saturday is 6 p.m.

August 12, 2021 - 9:57am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, BOCES, pavilion central school.

“Masking is the big issue.”

In five words, Pavilion Superintendent Kate Hoffman this morning summed up what other high-level administration officials at Genesee County school districts are thinking as they contemplate their reopening plans when classes resume on Sept. 7 or 8.

The Batavian reached out to public school superintendents and Notre Dame Principal Wade Bianco to gauge their progress in articulating what restrictions, if any, will be placed on pupils and staff.

During discussions with the officials contacted, it was reported that a Zoom meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. today with Kevin MacDonald, Genesee Valley BOCES district superintendent, to communicate updates on COVID-19 case data and to try to reach a consensus regarding protocols and procedures.

School leaders also have been consulting with Paul Pettit, Genesee/Orleans public health director, for additional guidance on testing, vaccination and other health-related topics.

“We have gone over some guidance following CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations,” Hoffman said. “For us, I’m still formulating our plan. A couple things that I know are likely to happen – we will move to a 3-foot social distancing and we will not be offering a remote option this year.

“We do some opportunities for our high schoolers for a BOCES-run program, but that’s has limited slots for that, so we’re really working through things and trying to see if any guidance does come down from state ed (the New York State Education Department) to see what that entails.”

Currently, superintendents are indicating that they don’t expect any executive orders or mandates coming out of Albany, but things could change if there is a reorganization at the top of the NYS Department of Health.

“It’s my understanding that everything (from the state) are recommendations this time around,” Hoffman advised. “More local decision-making.”

All superintendents said they will be sending out information to the staff and community electronically on their websites and via letters, but none have scheduled in-person meetings with parents yet.

On masking, Hoffman said she’s aware that it is the primary concern of all involved.

“We have some families that are strongly against masking and we have some that are strongly encouraging masking,” she said. “Unfortunately, I’m aware that any plan that we put out is not going to satisfy every single person. My hope is that we do the very best for our students and we approach this with a good dose of common sense and we listen to the people who know the numbers.”

Hoffman mirrored what other superintendents said when it comes to putting out a plan that is flexible in case the landscape changes in either direction.

“I believe our plan will be flexible enough to adjust if the number of COVID cases in our area go up, then we adjust to that; if they go down, then we adjust in the opposite way.”

Comments from other superintendents are as follows:

Scott Bischoping, Batavia High School:

"We’re still in the development of those regionally; still meeting with other superintendents," he said. "As you have seen from the national sort of news how this is traveling – changing very significantly, so we’ve held off on finalizing any planning until we get a further view of it."

Bischoping said Batavia plans on returning with students' in-person learning, so at this point, it's down to the masking requirements.

As far as meetings with parents, he said it may be done on a school building basis.

“We may even do those on a building level rather than a full district level because there would be nuances of those requirements and expectations for different buildings," he offered. "Most would be the same and we will communicate that electronically in letter, but with meetings we have not decided yet whether to do one with the full district or with various groups. Obviously, athletics will be different and will have their own meeting."

He said local districts have the "benefit" of seeing what other states are doing.

"We want to get a good look at that over the next couple weeks before we settle on anything," he said.

John Fisgus, Oakfield-Alabama:

Fisgus said that he anticipates releasing O-A's reopening plan by Friday afternoon, which likely will be the first document that will go out to the public. Previously, he sent out a survey to both staff and the community to gauge residents' feelings on face coverings.

"We certainly will be back five days a week in person; we were that all last year, so that's not a question at all," he said. "The big question for us is the masking."

Gretchen Rosales, Elba:

"Our goal is to develop a plan that meets academic, social, emotional and safety issues of the students and the staff. We have to carefully balance the wishing of our community with the CDC guidelines," she said. "The process is pretty intensive but it's important so it will take a little bit of time. We're working collectively to come up with something."

Rosales said she is expecting to begin the 2021-22 school year with 100 percent in-person learning, but is aware of the public's concerns over masking.

"I think that everyone is just waiting for final guidance and then we can make our plan and go from there."

Merritt Holly, Le Roy: 

Holly noted the number of "moving parts" in the process, especially considering what has happened with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"The interesting part is that I don't know, with the administration change in Albany, if the DOH now will put something out at the 12th hour before we start in September," he said. "So, that's always hovering and hanging. Even though they said they wouldn't, was that Governor Cuomo telling them to do that?"

At the local level, Holly said that today's meeting with MacDonald will hopefully "piece some things together and to find out what other districts are thinking about."

He said he initially thought to release his plan next week, but may wait as more and different information is disseminated.

"Really, what I think that it comes down to is that the mask requirements will be the biggest thing," he said, reiterating the common theme.

Plus, students need to be in school five days a week, he said.

"We can't go back to a remote or hybrid learning model," he said. "That's just not good for kids."

August 11, 2021 - 5:49pm

The Le Roy Town Zoning Board of Appeals’ unanimous decision Tuesday night to disallow a solar farm on Thwing Road was more than a 3-0 vote -- it was a 3-0 vote times five, according to ZBA Chair Stephen Barbeau.

Barbeau returned a call from The Batavian seeking reasons behind the panel’s action pertaining to CleanChoice Energy’s application to site a 4.95-megawatt solar array on farmland owned by the Gary W. Clark family at 7120 Thwing Rd.


SEE ALSO: Solar company rep reacts to Le Roy ZBA's denial of community solar project proposed for Thwing Road


A former Le Roy Town supervisor, Barbeau said the application, in this case, had to meet five different criteria before the ZBA could issue the use variance necessary to place a solar farm in a district zoned other than either Industrial or Interchange (near the NYS Thruway).

The first one was whether the project could be considered a “public utility,” which was the contention of CleanChoice Energy, and the other criteria – in four parts – were contained in the standard use variance guidelines issued by New York State, he said.

“It’s not for the Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals to declare that commercial solar projects are akin to a public utility; that’s way above our pay grade,” Barbeau said. “That is not something that is supported in the law as it is known and we had no desire to make new law or try to make new law or set any new precedent.”

Barbeau said the ZBA sought out legal advice from multiple sources in order to make an informed decision.

“The applicants, their attorney, Ty (Baccile, project manager) and the Clarks are all good people,” he said, “but the elected board members of the Town Board set code and what these folks were asking for was an exception to that code.

“For us to grant an exception, there had to be some kind of overwhelming, unique, unusual circumstances as it is pretty rare that a use permit is granted.  It’s a very high bar.”

He said that the vote by the three voting ZBA members was 3-0 against categorizing the project a public utility and 3-0 on each of the other four criteria.

“Even if we had relaxed the standards (on the public utility issue) as they wanted us to, they still wouldn’t have cleared the other hurdles,” he said

The four criteria for a use variance for any town, according to Barbeau, are as follows:

1 – The applicant would not be able to realize a reasonable return (profit) as shown by financial evidence and that lack of return must be substantial.

“For example, 'I can’t sell this land for $2 because it’s landlocked or there’s poison on it or it’s an archaeological site so no one would want it. I can’t lease it … or a realtor determines that it’s valueless,'” he said. “They would have to show that they can’t make any money any other way through a permitted use on the property.”

2 – The alleged hardship relating to the property is unique.

“If there’s some kind of unique element to that property that doesn’t allow you (to use it), such as it’s all rock, and you can’t develop it for houses or to farm it or to mine it,” he said. “It’s just so unique that it’s a hardship.”

3 – The use that the applicant is requesting will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood.

“It’s wooded land, it’s farmland and there is some scrubland in there,” he said. “The only things that go on in that area is that people live there, people farm there and they hunt.”

4 – The alleged hardship has been self-created.

“In other words, ‘I inherited the property, I didn’t anticipate inheriting the property, I’m not a farmer, I’ve never been a farmer and I have no farm equipment, and a realtor said the property is worthless, so I can’t do anything with it,’” he said. “Even if that was the case here, you could potentially sell this land.”


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