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May 1, 2020 - 6:13pm

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley recently signed on with the Assembly Republican Conference to sponsor legislation that would divert state and federal funds received for COVID-19 relief to frontline firefighters and EMS workers who have been on the clock since the lockdown in New York started.

With these organizations relying heavily on donations and fundraisers to support their services, and with the lockdown draining them of their resources, Hawley wants to ensure these workers are protected and ensure their success.

“During these tough times, with a budget that is struggling to keep up, we need to be provide state and federal funding to those risking their health and safety on the front lines,” Hawley said. “There is just about $90 million that’s been generated from wireless surcharges that is deposited into the state’s General Fund and not used for emergency response purposes; my recommendation is to start there.

“Despite these trying times, it’s important that we keep in sight the health and safety issues that our frontline workers are facing. They need this funding to offset the costs they can’t make back otherwise during this pandemic. The legislation proposed addresses the need for state funding as a result of COVID-19.” 

To further support these frontline workers, Hawley is urging Speaker Heastie and the Chair of Assembly Racing and Waging Committee, Assemblyman Pretlow, to allow a full vote on his Assembly Bill A2250, which would legalize the selling of raffle tickets online for nonprofit organizations who fundraise, such as local firehouses, volunteer organizations, service clubs, or EMS operations.

May 1, 2020 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news, Andrew Cuomo.

Press release:

  • Directs schools and colleges to create Reopening Plans that reimagine facilities to be approved by the state;
  • State is partnering with Kate Spade New York Foundation and Crisis Text Line to provide 24/7 emotional support service for frontline workers; workers can text NYFRONTLINE to 741-741;
  • Department of Financial Services to require New York State-regulated health insurers to waive out-of-pocket costs for mental health services for frontline essential workers;
  • Announces new targeted efforts to further reduce number of new hospitalizations per day;
  • Five new drive-through testing facilities now open in Monroe, Erie, Broome, Niagara and Oneida counties;
  • Confirms 3,942 additional coronavirus cases in New York State -- bringing statewide total to 308,314; new cases in 48 counties;
  • Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: "Nobody can predict what the situation is going to be three weeks or four weeks from now, so we are trying to stage decisions at intervals that give us information, but also enough time for people to make preparations they need to make."
  • "We are going to be asking businesses to come up with plans that safeguard workers when they reopen. We need schools to come up with plans also that bring those precautions into the schoolroom. That is also for colleges, and the state will approve those plans."
  • Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo today announced all K-12 schools and college facilities statewide will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and will continue to provide distance learning during that time. The schools will also be required to continue meal programs and child care services for essential workers. The state will make a decision about summer school programming by the end of May.
May 1, 2020 - 5:34pm

It didn’t take Gail Tenney long to decide who she wanted to help when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

She works for her family’s businesses, McNickel’s Bottle and Can Redemption and adjoining RJ’s Washroom on Ellicott Street in the City of Batavia.

Given her family’s work at the Redemption Center, and because she knows that for most people “bottles and cans are a nuisance,” an empties drive was the perfect choice for an event to benefit hardworking medical providers at United Memorial Medical Center.

Thus was born "Community Strong with Cans." Tenney visited neighbors on Redfield Parkway, Bogue Avenue and Woodrow Road. They were happy to help!

She collected empties with a $200 redemption value initially, $120 with the next round, and then added $100 from her family. This $420 was used to purchase 55 meals for hospital workers at UMMC.

The meals were from local eatery Commit to Well (inside Eli Fish Brewing Co.) and delivered on April 13; the recipients were more than grateful.

“The ongoing support of our community is such an important piece in our fight against COVID-19," said UMMC President Dan Ireland. "As we all learn how to cope during these extraordinary times and rise to the challenge, our team members are working long hours away from their family—many accomplishing tasks they’ve never done before.

"Our community’s acts of kindness, large or small, keep us going. This outpouring of gratitude reminds us why we’re here, and that the community we care so deeply about, also cares for us. There are not enough words to express our sincere appreciation. We are all so thankful for the heartwarming generosity.”

Now Tenney would like to expand the scope of the project and share the benefits with the people who support their businesses as well, while increasing collection efforts throughout the community.

"Let’s support them, they support us," Tenney said. "…My heart breaks for them" because they are truly the people in need during these difficult times.

Along with the hospital staff, Tenney has selected Care-A-Van Ministries and Community Action of Orleans and Genesee to be recipients in the future.

Paul Ohlson of Care-A-Van said that contributions they receive are distributed according to needs, so it is most helpful to provide them with the funds directly.

Similarly, Lisa Wittmeyer of Community Action is anticipating that any money raised will help in upcoming months when many local residents need to catch up on unpaid rents from the early days of the pandemic.

The Tenney family hopes their efforts will bring a bit of much needed relief to those who need it, without overburdening the people they are asking to contribute. They intend to continue matching funds for money raised.

To donate your empties to "Community Strong with Cans," to arrange a pick up, or to help, please contact Tenney at:  [email protected] or call/text (585) 993-2060.

Visit Tenney’s Blog here.

Top photo, courtesy of UMMC.

Inset photo right, courtesy of Gail Tenney.

May 1, 2020 - 5:29pm

Alexander High School senior Lowell Chamberlain is John Mikulski Scholarship winner, presented by the Genesee Wyoming Music Educators Association.

His primary instrument is guitar. He also plays tenor sax, trombone and bass guitar.

Press release:

WHEN ASKED WHAT HIS GREATEST HS MUSICAL MEMORY IS, LOWELL RESPONDED:

"Being a part of the Alexander Jazz Experience was not only the most wholesome and fulfilling introduction to Jazz, but it also left me with a gratitude and sense of preparedness for performing in ensembles."

Lowell's goal is to work in the music industry as a composer/arranger, and songwriter. He currently enjoys spending time composing and producing using Abelton Live.

WHEN ASKED WHAT HIS FAVORITE PERFORMANCE AND VENUE WAS HE RESPONDED:

"The Riviera Theater in Buffalo in 2017 for the Music is Arts Festival with the Alexander Jazz Experience. We played a combination of jazz standards such as Cold Duck Time and St. Thomas as well as some Funk/Fusion jams such as Chameleon and Watermelon Man."

Lowell's main influences are: His teacher Dan Klinczar, Michael League of Snarky Puppy, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Stephen Sondheim.

Lowell will be attending SUNY Purchase in the fall where he will be studying Studio Composition! We wish him luck and are so proud of all of his accomplishments.

May 1, 2020 - 5:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, news, COVID-19, notify.

Press release:

Officials at Western Regional Off-Track Betting / Batavia Downs Gaming (WROTB/BDG) today announced they have received funds via the Paycheck Protection Program which will provide critical financial relief for costs including payroll, health benefits, rent, and other expenses related to job retention.

The funds will cover the next two months of expenses and were awarded April 30.

“When PPP funding was announced last month, the Board of Directors and I made the decision almost immediately to apply for relief,” said Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of WROTB/BDG. “What was most important was continuing to financially support our staff and their families during these uncertain times.”

The gaming facility was closed on March 16th and employees were paid their full wages for a period of one month. On April 16th they were furloughed for a period of two weeks. Once the PPP loan was secured, employees were recalled to begin work again on the next pay week.

Throughout the temporary closure, there have been employees working onsite including security and surveillance. Others are working from home. As a potential reopening date comes closer there will be new health, safety, and security protocols put into place.

Employees will be trained and made aware of whatever new safety regulations are implemented well in advance of opening in order to provide a safe environment for employees and guests.

“Once we reopen, we will look to continue to deliver revenue to our partners in local government," Wojtaszek said. “Once given the go-ahead by state officials we hope that through the gaming floor, our concerts, and events we can provide much-needed monies to local governments in order to fund critical services from first responders to food banks. We know it will take a lot of preparation on our end to meet those standards, but our dedicated staff will ready to take on the task.”

Western Regional OTB and Batavia Downs employs more than 450 hardworking Western New Yorkers.

May 1, 2020 - 5:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Devon A. Wright (inset photo), 18, of Highland Park, Batavia, is charged with: two counts of criminal sexual act in the second degree -- actor 18 years old or more / victim under age 15 -- a Class D felony; two counts of endangering the welfare of a child less than 17 -- a Class A misdemeanor; and resisting arrest. Wright was arrested and arraigned on the charges at 6:43 p.m. April 29 in Batavia City Court. His arrest follows an investigation into sex abuse involving children under age 15, which allegedly occurred the evening of Nov. 26 (location not specified). The investigation is ongoing and there are believed to be additional juvenile victims. Anyone with information is encouraged to come forward by reaching out to Detective Ivison of the City of Batavia Police Department at (585) 345-6312.

Alex Scott Dumbleton, 26, of Pearl Street, Batavia, is charged with: obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; second-degree harassment; and endangering the welfare of a child. The defendant was arrested following an investigation into a domestic incident at 2:46 p.m. on March 26 on Pearl Street in Batavia. It is alleged that the defendant subjected a person under the age of 17 to unwanted physical contact. Subsequently, Dumbleton allegedly became physically resistive and uncooperative during the course of the investigation. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and and released. He is due back in court on May 29. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider, assisted by Sgt. Dan Coffey.

Katrina Lynn Drake, 30, of Locust Street, Lockport, is charged with second-degree harassment and first degree criminal contempt -- violation of an order of protection -- physical contact. Drake was arrested on April 23 following the investigation of an incident that occurred at 8:06 p.m. on April 1 on Thorpe Street in the City of Batavia. Drake was released on an appearance ticket following arraignment in Batavia city Court and is due to return there June 15. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Officer Nicole McGinnis, assisted by Officer Marc Lawrence. The investigation was completed by Officer Sean Wilson.

Bryant Lee Evans, 39, Frost Avenue, Batavia, is charged with: aggravated unlicensed operation in the first degree; aggravated driving while intoxicated; DWI; drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle; and unregistered motor vehicle. Evans was arrested at 9:21 p.m. on Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia, following a complaint of a traffic offense. Evans was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia Town Court on June 4. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Brabon, assisted by Deputy Kyle Krzemien.

Lazavia McDaniel Price, 20, of Pearl Street Road, Batavia, is charged with: DWI -- first offense; DWI with a BAC of .08 percent of more -- first offense; open container of alcohol in a vehicle; speeding; window tint violation; no headlights. He was the driver and lone occupant of a vehicle stopped for alleged vehicle and traffic violations in the City of Batavia at 8:29 p.m. April 27 on West Main Street in Batavia. Price allegedly was speeding through the city, had illegal window tint, and did not have his headlights on when he was stopped and arrested on the charges. He was issued appearance tickets and is due in Batavia City Court on May 13. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen, assisted by Deputy Howard Wilson.

Lucretia M. Hayes, 49, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Hayes was arrested at 8:30 a.m. on April 24 at a business on Ellicott Street in the city. Hayes was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on June 2. The case was handled by Batavia City Police Officer Miah Stevens.

May 1, 2020 - 3:54pm

Public Notice

Emergency Order #6-2020

I issue the following emergency order(s) for the period of May 2, 2020 through May 6, 2020. This order continues the following issued under Emergency Order #5, which was effective April 27, 2020.

  1. All Public Parks within the City Limits of the City of Batavia, New York remain open to public use from 7 a.m. to dusk. During the times that public parks are open, State of New York declared restrictions on congregating will be observed. In addition, all playground areas, tennis courts, pickle ball courts, basketball courts, picnic pavilions, splash pads, and other park facilities that are used for activities that constitute congregating are closed to public use.

As a reminder to the public, City emergency orders are required to be reissued every five days. In addition, the City of Batavia has a separate document title Local State of Emergency Proclamation that is required, lasting up to 30 days.

Martin D. Moore, Ph.D.

City Manager

City of Batavia

May 1, 2020 - 3:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in COVID-19, news.
Video Sponsor

Written briefing:

New Cases

  • As of 2 p.m.
    • Genesee County received one new positive case of COVID-19, for a total of 150 positive cases.
      • The positive case resides in Batavia.
      • The positive case is in their 70s.
      • The newly positive individual was not on quarantine prior to becoming symptomatic.
      • Three of the previous positive cases have recovered and have been released from mandatory isolation.
      • Four of the total active positive cases are hospitalized.
  • Orleans County received one new positive case of COVID-19 for a total of 96 positive cases.
    • The positive case resides in Albion.
    • The positive case is in their 30s.
    • The individual had been on mandatory quarantine prior to becoming symptomatic.
    • Five of the total active positive cases are hospitalized.
  • Orleans County has lost two more residents to COVID-19. They were both residents at The Village of Orleans Health & Rehab facility. Both were over 65. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of these individuals during this very difficult time.
  • Please take a moment of silence to remember all we have lost in our counties, our state, our nation and around the world. These people are our parents, our grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors and coworkers. They have each been important to us and they have had an impact on all they have had contact with.

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Click here to view the Genesee and Orleans County online map of confirmed cases

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The facility breakdown is only showing those facilities from where we received a positive swab for COVID-19. Facilities will be added when and if there is a positive case of COVID-19. If a regulated facility from either of our counties is not listed, there are no positive cases of COVID-19 as of the release of this briefing. The local health departments do not have oversight with many regulated facilities, which may include nursing homes, correctional facilities, hospitals, etc.

  • In order to show community spread of the active cases, we have broken out the facilities and all active cases (mandatory isolation, mandatory quarantine and precautionary quarantine and recovery) will only be community cases. We will continue to include all confirmed cases, total tests administered, total negative results, ages and deaths cumulatively for both community and facilities. We found that because we are not the agency that follows non-county regulatory facilities we couldn’t report recoveries. We expect this will give a clearer picture of what is happening in Genesee and Orleans counties.
    • We are having conversations with our local facilities as appropriate to provide guidance and personal protective equipment (PPE) as it is available, but we are limited in what we can do because they are state or federal facilities and not under local oversight. If you have questions or concerns about a specific facility we encourage you to talk directly with the facility and the appropriate oversight agency.
  • The NYS Health Department will partner with the State’s Attorney General to investigate nursing home violations. A hotline or online form can be submitted where residents, families, or members of the public can share complaints about nursing homes that have not provided required communications with families about COVID-19 diagnoses or fatalities, nursing home abuse, and neglect including failure to follow rules to keep residents safe. The hotline number is (833) 249-8499 or click this link for the online form.
  • Swabbing and antibody testing is becoming increasingly available in the WNY region.If you are experiencing symptoms, contact your primary care provider and they will determine if testing is right for you. If the counties receive an increase in swabbing supplies and the protocol for testing is changed, we will notify the public. The Health Departments are not providing public swabbing due to lack of supplies. For more information on testing click here.
  • There is still no cure or vaccination available for COVID-19. Be alert to scams or home remedies. Contact your primary care provider if you have any symptoms and follow his/her instructions.
  • Prepping for Re-opening Our Region: Although there currently isn’t any guidance on when WNY will be allowed to reopen, we are optimistic we will have guidance soon and encourage everyone to be prepared in our preparations with our goal to protect the health and safety of our residents. Conditions will be monitored to limit and lessen (mitigate) any rebounds or outbreaks by restarting a phase or returning to an earlier phase, depending on the severity to protect the most vulnerable. Reopening will be data driven to determine the viability of the process. If there is a sharp increase of positive swabs and antibody results we need to determine if it is related to increased testing, lack of following guidance or a combination of the two.
    • For all businesses: Develop a plan to limit the risk of infection of employees and the public. Monitor workforce for symptoms, do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider. If possible continue to encourage telework whenever possible.
      • The Health Departments encourage stores and businesses to set guidelines that include not allowing patrons to enter if they are not wearing a face covering or are not wearing it correctly (covering the mouth & nose). For those who cannot wear masks for legitimate breathing issues, ask someone else to run errands for your or call ahead to see if you can have curbside delivery. Make sure you have proper signage noting your policy and that it is visible to your patrons.
      • Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
      • Ensure 6 foot buffer zones when dealing with the public and between work stations. Prioritize online payments over cashiers when possible.
      • Provide handwashing / hand sanitizing stations for employees and the public.
      • Consider making properly worn face coverings (covering the mouth and nose) mandatory for staff and customers. For those unable to wear masks due to legitimate breathing issues, reassign them so they don’t interact with the public or have close contact with fellow workers.
      • Review your sick leave policy and enforce it so no on exhibiting symptoms is allowed to report for duty. If someone becomes ill at work, have disinfecting protocol in place to clean the area(s) the employee has been in.
    • For everyone: Wearing Masks and Social Distancing is paramount to preventing flare-ups and mini-outbreaks. Everyone needs to be compliant. Correctly wearing cloth masks (covering the mouth and nose) is part of a multipronged approach to stop/slow the spread of COVID-19. We know wearing a face covering is inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it can limit transmission of respiratory germs. The mask traps the droplets before they spread into the environment. Remember wearing a face covering helps to protect others from your potential germs. Since many have been asymptomatic, this will help limit the spread…"My mask protects you, and your mask protects me!" Wearing face coverings is a way of strengthening social distancing.
    • Minimize nonessential travel and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
    • Continue the following:
      • Continue frequent handwashing / hand sanitizing if soap and water are not available.
      • Continue frequent sanitizing / cleaning of shared surfaces.
      • Continue Social Distancing – staying 6 feet away from others (non-household members)
      • Continue Wearing face coverings
      • Stay HOME if you are sick!!!

Mental Health

  • Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and having to socially distance yourself from someone you love can be difficult. Below are resources that can help you connect to a professional that can help you through these challenging times:
    • Care + Crisis Helpline is available 24/7 at 585-283-5200 or text "Talk" to 741741;
    • New Yorkers can call the COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314 for mental health counseling.
  • Domestic Violence: For New Yorkers in need of help or assistance, they can text 844-997-2121 or can go to the new confidential online site to reach a professional. The new text program and confidential online service will make it easier for victims who are isolated with their abusers to get help. Both the text and online service are staffed 24/7 by the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Staff who are experts in the area of domestic violence.
May 1, 2020 - 2:54pm

Press release:

WESTERN NY — The U.S. Postal Service Western New York District, which includes service to all addresses beginning with ZIP Codes 140 through 149, is providing this information to help customers connect with their mail if they are temporarily displaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we are providing details on Hold Mail.

Our Hold Mail service is designed for customers who plan on being away from their home or business for up to 30 days. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Postal Service suspended the 30-day time frame and extended all Hold Mail requests until May 30, 2020.

Business and residential customers can rest assured knowing their mail and packages will be held safely at their local Post Office until that date. On or before May 30, 2020, customers can either pick up accumulated mail at their Post Office with proper identification or request redelivery.

In these unprecedented times, the Postal Service understands that some customers may need their mail held beyond May 30, 2020. Therefore, the Postal Service will institute a two-week grace period, beginning June 1, 2020, during which customers can contact their local Post Office to make arrangements to have their mail held longer.

We also understand that different parts of the country will be reopening at different times based on local conditions. If customers live in one of the areas reopening, we encourage them to contact their local Post Office as a part of their return to business and make arrangements to collect their mail on hold or make arrangements to restart regular delivery of mail including mail still being held.

On June 15, 2020, the Postal Service will revert back to its normal policy that allows for customers to have their mail held for 30 days. Customers with questions regarding Hold Mail requests can contact the Postal Service at 1-800-ASK-USPS (275-8777).

For the latest information on Postal Service service updates, please check about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

May 1, 2020 - 1:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in VA Hospital, veterans, batavia, news.

This morning a veteran who was treated at the VA Hospital in Batavia for COVID-19 was discharged today, recovered from the disease.

Video submitted by VA Western NY Healthcare System.

May 1, 2020 - 1:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in VA Hospital, batavia, news.

On Tuesday, Robin Grandin from Music to Remember WNY made a visit to the VA Hospital in Batavia along with her sister-in-law Jackie Volk to perform "Rockin' Robin" for patients at Spruce Lodge.

The performance was shared with a tablet computer so that proper social distancing could be maintained. 

Submitted by VA Western NY Healthcare System.

May 1, 2020 - 1:10pm

Press release:

The Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) today announced that farms and co-ops located across Upstate New York have donated more than 34,000 pounds of milk, beef, fruit and vegetables to fellow New Yorkers in need. 

In addition to the NY-sourced milk and food, packets of crayons and coloring books for kids have also been donated, and were made available to families today, May 1, at Senator Jessica Ramos’ district office in East Elmhurst, Queens.

The following donations were made possible by a partnership between Senator Ramos and a number of New York State farms:

  • 300 pounds of beef donated by La Casa De Leche Farm (Livingston County) and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association.
  • 1,700 gallons of milk donated by Dairy Farmers of America.
  • 20,000 apples equaling 5,700 pounds donated by Farm Fresh First Inc., which markets NY apples from more than 100 apple growers throughout the state.
  • 14,000 pounds of onions, 8,000 pounds of potatoes and 4,000 pounds of cabbage donated by Torrey Farms Inc. (Genesee County) and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association
  • 2,880 pounds of blueberry and vanilla parfait yogurt donated by Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., a dairy cooperative located in Western New York.
  • 575 packs of Prang Crayons made with soybean oil donated by the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association, along with coloring books sponsored by New York dairy farmers and donated through American Dairy Association North East.

On Wednesday, a truck left Western New York packed with beef, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, crayons and coloring books. The truck stopped at Dean Foods in Rensselaer County to pick up 1,700 gallons of milk and arrived in Queens yesterday.

Many areas in Senate District 13, including Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona and parts of Woodside and Astoria — are considered food deserts, making it difficult to obtain fresh meals. Additionally, there are few local food pantries that remain open in the area as many residents have fallen ill with COVID-19. 

The donations of food, milk, crayons and coloring books were distributed to families in need today. A hot meal distribution will also take place on Saturday, May 2 at Senator Ramos’ office. 

“In addition to the unspeakable loss of life caused by the coronavirus pandemic, two additional devastating tragedies are unfolding during this crisis — a spike in hunger as the economic pain takes its toll, and the breakdown of our food supply chain,” Senator Ramos said.

“We cannot have hungry families in New York City, and farmers Upstate dumping their product because they cannot sell it. Together with our farmer partners, we created our own network, and we will convert our district office into a food distribution hub to provide our neighbors with fresh produce and meals.” 

Northeast Dairy Producers Association Vice Chair and Owner of La Casa De Leche Farm (Livingston County) Keith Kimball said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all -- our families, our businesses and the greater New York community.

"By pooling resources and working together to adapt to unprecedented market disruption, we’re able to get milk, beef and produce in the hands of those in need. I’m proud to partner with farmers, co-ops and processors across the state to make this donation a reality, and thankful to Senator Ramos for hosting the event for families in Queens.”

Maureen Torrey, co-owner of Torrey Farms Inc. in Genesee County, said, “Thanks to the passionate employees on our family farm and our dedicated truck drivers, we’re able to donate 26,000 pounds of vegetables to families in need, including onions that Senator Ramos helped us plant last year.

"This public health crisis has changed life as we know it, but what we’ve learned is that no matter where you live -- Buffalo, Plattsburgh, New York City and everywhere in between -- we’re all New Yorkers -- and together We are New York Tough.” 

(File photo of Maureen Torrey taken in 2013.)

Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) is an organization of dairy producers and industry partners committed to an economically viable, consumer-conscious dairy industry dedicated to the care and well-being of our communities, environment, employees and cows.

May 1, 2020 - 1:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in water, infrastructure, news, elba.

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Construction is under way of a new 750,000-gallon water tank in Elba that will serve both the village and the town.

Town Supervisor Donna Hynes said planning for the project began in 2015. In 2016, the Town of Elba received a grant and low-interest loan from USDA Rural Development to fund the project in a single phase. The grant is for $3,854,000 and the loan was for $13,658,000.

Hynes said it then took a year to complete SEQRA and all the necessary permits. Project construction began in mid-2018.

The project also includes approximately 248,000 linear feet of 8-inch and 12-inch water mains serving approximately 500 water users.

Construction should be completed this summer, then painted, and in service by early fall.

Photos: Submitted by a reader last week.

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May 1, 2020 - 12:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Tompkins Insurance Agencies.

Submitted photo and press release:

Tompkins Insurance Agencies is pleased to announce that Nick Mroz has been recently hired as a commercial insurance account executive.

He will serve the Western New York region out of the agency’s Batavia office at 90 Main St. 

Mroz has 17 years of experience in the financial services and Insurance industry. He was formerly employed by Five Star Bank.

Mroz holds his Life & Health and Property & Causality insurance licenses, and FINRA series 6 and 63 securities licenses. 

He attended Pierce Community College in Tacoma, Wash., and served in the Army.

Mroz and his family reside in Medina, where he is a member of the Medina YMCA, American Legion, and VFW.

May 1, 2020 - 12:31pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, City Schools.

New York State schools are officially closed for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.

Despite the news that students won’t populate school buildings, the educational process and plans for a meaningful commencement experience continue.

“We’ll stay the course and hope that we'll get better guidance from the governor in the coming weeks,” said Anibal Soler Jr., Batavia City School District superintendent, moments after the governor’s announcement.

Distance learning will remain in place, while a decision on summer school is expected to come at the end of May.

Soler said his district will continue to provide meals, remote instruction to those who have internet access and dropping off packets of school work for those who don’t.

“We have to graduate kids and we have to provide grades; we still have those expectations regardless of traditional brick and mortar, coming-to-the-building experiences,” he said. “We will continue to try to keep our kids motivated and excited about school even though it’s such a weird time for everybody.”

Commencement was supposed to be on June 27, and Soler is holding out hope that Batavia’s seniors will “get a ceremony that they deserve.”

“I think time is in our favor here. Hopefully by then we’ll have some guidance on what we’re supposed to do, such as keeping everybody six feet apart,” he said.

He said having the ceremony at Van Detta Stadium, even if it’s late in the summer, would work well.

“We want to do it right and make sure people are protected and healthy as much as possible,” he said.

May 1, 2020 - 12:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in VA Hospital, batavia, news, COVID-19, PPE, Personal Protective Equipment.

Earlier this week, Richard Stone, the nation's head physician for the Veterans Administration, said that the VA is facing a shortage of personal protective equipment.

We asked Evangeline Conley, public affairs officer for the VA Western NY Healthcare System, and here is her response:

VA Western New York Healthcare System stopped using crisis capacity guidelines weeks ago and is currently adhering to the same CDC contingency capacity postures the CDC recommends all health care facilities use.

VA Western New York Healthcare System’s PPE practices have helped limit its COVID-19 employee infection rates to .6 percent of the workforce. Other health care systems such as University of Washington Medicine report 4.4 percent of employees have tested positive and 2.1 percent of Henry Ford Health System’s workforce has tested positive.

Supply levels are being monitored every day to make sure facilities have adequate PPE for the number and types of patients they are seeing. If a facility were to fall below stock levels, the facility would be cross-leveled by another VA facility or region.

May 1, 2020 - 12:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, tompkins financial corporation, COVID-19.

Press release:

ITHACA -- Tompkins Financial Corporation (NYSE American:TMP), parent company of Tompkins Bank of Castile, Tompkins Insurance Agencies, and Tompkins Financial Advisors, has reported record year-to-date and first quarter earnings.

Tompkins Financial Corporation Reports Cash Dividend

Tompkins Financial Corporation announced today that its Board of Directors approved payment of a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.52 per share, payable on May 18, 2020, to common shareholders of record on May 11, 2020.

Tompkins Financial Corporation Reports First Quarter Earnings

Tompkins Financial Corporation announced net income attributable to common shareholders of $7.9 million, or $0.53 per diluted common share for the first quarter of 2020, compared to $21.0 million, or $1.37 per diluted common share, for the first quarter of 2019. Results for the first quarter of 2020 were negatively impacted by current economic stress resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to the $16.3 million provision for credit losses recognized during the quarter under the new current expected credit losses (CECL) accounting standard. Refer to "Asset Quality" section for further discussion of the impact on the Company's financial statements upon adoption of this new accounting guidance.

"These are clearly unprecedented times for our country and our communities. I am extremely proud of the exceptional way the Tompkins team has stepped up to the current environment by addressing the specific challenges of our clients and communities who are facing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though these are unprecedented times, Tompkins enters this environment well prepared to face the many challenges and difficulties we are all dealing with as a result of the pandemic. Over recent years, we have invested significantly in digital technologies to improve capabilities that allow our customers to bank remotely. We have also invested significantly in our internal systems, which allowed nearly 100 percent of our non-retail employees to transition quickly and securely to remote working environments with limited disruption to our business. Furthermore, we entered 2020 with a strong financial position, coming off a year of record earnings per share in 2019, and with our 2019 Risk Based Capital Ratio at its highest level since 2014."

SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE FIRST QUARTER:

Despite the decline in earnings from the prior year, there were several favorable trends noted during the first quarter of 2020, including:

•       Total loans of $4.9 billion were up 3.1 percent over March 31, 2019

•       Total deposits of $5.4 billion increased by 8.4 percent over March 31, 2019

•       Noninterest bearing deposits of $1.4 billion increased by 5.6 percent over March 31, 2019

•       Net interest margin was 3.44 percent for the first quarter of 2020, up from 3.34 percent for the first quarter of 2019, and 3.43 percent for the fourth quarter of 2019

NET INTEREST INCOME

Net interest margin was 3.44 percent for the first quarter of 2020, up compared to the 3.34 percent reported for the first quarter of 2019, and 3.43 percent for the trailing quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019. The improved net interest margin year-over-year was largely driven by lower other borrowing balances and funding costs, primarily in other borrowings. Net interest income of $53.0 million for the first quarter of 2020 was up 2.0 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019.

NONINTEREST INCOME

Noninterest income represented 26.4 percent of total revenues in the first quarter of 2020, compared to 27.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Noninterest income of $19.0 million was down 2.3 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Noninterest income in the first quarter of 2019 included a one-time incentive payment of $500,000 (pre-tax) related to our card services business.

NONINTEREST EXPENSE

Noninterest expense was $45.7 million for the first quarter of 2020, which was up 3.5 percent from the same period in 2019, and in line with the fourth quarter of 2019. The increase in noninterest expense from the same period last year was mainly related to higher salaries and wages in the first quarter of 2020, largely reflective of merit increases awarded in 2019.

 INCOME TAX EXPENSE

The Company's effective tax rate was 19.4 percent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to 21.0 percent for the same period in 2019.

ASSET QUALITY

Asset quality trends remained strong in the first quarter of 2020. Nonperforming assets represented 0.46 percent of total assets at March 31, 2020, down slightly from 0.47 percent at Dec. 31, 2019. Nonperforming asset levels continue to be below the most recent Federal Reserve Board Peer Group Average1of 0.56 percent.

Net charge-offs for the first quarter of 2020 were $1.2 million compared to $3.5 million reported in the first quarter of 2019. Net charge-offs of $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2020 was largely related to a single credit, while the first quarter of 2019 included a $3.1 million write-down of one credit, both in the commercial real estate portfolio.

The Company adopted Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) 2016-13, “Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments” (“CECL”), effective Jan. 1, 2020. The Company recorded a net increase to retained earnings of $1.7 million upon adoption of the new standard. The transition adjustment at Jan. 1, 2020 included a $2.5 million decrease in the allowance for credit losses on loans, and a $0.4 million increase in the allowance for credit losses on off-balance sheet credit exposures, net of the corresponding $0.4 million decrease in deferred tax assets. The provision for credit losses for the first quarter of 2020 was $16.3 million, increasing the allowance for credit losses to $52.4 million at March 31, 2020. The increase in the first quarter of 2020 was not a direct result of specific credit risks currently identified in the loan portfolio; rather, the increase was largely a result of the impact of the current economic shutdown related to COVID-19 on economic forecasts and other model assumptions relied upon by management in determining the allowance.

The allowance for credit losses represented 1.06 percent of total loans and leases at March 31, 2020, compared to 0.81 percent at Dec. 31, 2019, and 0.84 percent at March 31, 2019. The ratio of the allowance to total nonperforming loans and leases was 170.74 percent at March 31, 2020, compared to 126.90 percent at Dec. 31, 2019, and 175.51 percent at March 31, 2019.

CAPITAL POSITION

Capital ratios remained well above the regulatory minimums for well capitalized institutions. The ratio of Tier 1 capital to average assets was 9.53 percent at March 31, 2020, down slightly from 9.61 percent at December 31, 2019, and improved from 9.24 percent at March 31, 2019. Consistent with the Company's capital planning practices, during the quarter ended March 31, 2020, the Company repurchased 71,288 shares of common stock at an average price of $78.83 per share. On March 19, 2020, following the announcement of the national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Company suspended the purchase of shares under the Company’s share repurchase program. During the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019, the Company repurchased 35,821 shares of common stock at an average price of $80.25 per share. There were no shares repurchased during the first quarter of 2019.

IMPACT OF, AND RESPONSE TO, COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Economic Environment

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to government-mandated closures and stay at home orders across the nation, which have resulted in deteriorating economic conditions throughout the U.S. The various government orders issued in response to the pandemic are significantly impacting the U.S. labor market, consumer spending and business investments. During March 2020, in response to the deteriorating economic conditions, the Federal Reserve reduced the federal funds rate 1.5 percentage points, to .00 to .25 percent. The Federal Reserve also provided a pandemic-related stimulus package estimated at $4.0 trillion, in order to ease the stress on financial markets. In addition, the United States Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act"), which would provide approximately $2.5 trillion of support to U.S. citizens and businesses affected by COVID-19.

Company Response

During the first quarter of 2020, the Company designated a Pandemic Planning Committee, made up of members of Senior Management, to oversee the Company’s response to COVID-19. The Company implemented a number of risk mitigation measures designed to protect our employees and customers, while maintaining services for our customers and community. These measures included restrictions on business travel and establishment of a remote work environment for all non-customer facing employees. The Company also implemented drive-up only or by appointment only operations across its branch network.

Currently, over 85 percent of our workforce is working remotely and we have imposed social distancing restrictions and provided premium pay for those employees who are required to be on premise to complete essential on-site functions. Due to the significant uncertainty of the current economic climate, and the Company's ongoing response to the pandemic and related shutdowns, annual pay increases for our Company's executive officers (which is comprised of our Senior Leadership Team members) have been deferred indefinitely.

As previously announced, Tompkins has initiated and participated in a number of credit initiatives to support employees and customers who have been impacted by the shutdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For non-executive employees affected by COVID-19, the Company implemented a low interest loan program. The Company also implemented a payment deferral program to assist both consumer and business borrowers that may be experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The current standard program allows for the deferral of loan payments for up to 90 days and customers will be able to request a payment deferral until the middle of May 2020. As of April 20, 2020, the Company had granted payment deferral requests for approximately 2,800 loans to individuals and businesses.

The Company is participating in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). This program provides borrower guarantees for lenders, as well as loan forgiveness incentives for borrowers that utilize the loan proceeds to cover employee compensation-related expenses and certain other eligible business operating costs, all in accordance with the rules and regulations established by the SBA. The Company began accepting applications for PPP loans on April 3, 2020, and has approved approximately 2,900 loans totaling about $500 million.

Mr. Romaine added, “We enter the second quarter of 2020 in a period of significant uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic shut-downs. Our long held philosophy of maintaining Tompkins as a sustainable high performing company, supported with prudent risk management practices, is now more important than ever. We believe our healthy capital and liquidity positions will provide flexibility to respond to current challenges. The overall impact of COVID-19 on our consolidated results of operations for the three months ended March 31, 2020 was limited, with the exception of our provision for credit losses. We did see some slowdown toward the end of the first quarter in other areas of our business, including reduced transaction volumes in our card services business, a decrease in wealth management fees due to the decline in financial markets, and decreases in certain other fee related income. However, the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will affect our business, results of operation and financial condition going forward is difficult to predict and depends on numerous evolving factors.”

There is currently a great deal of uncertainty regarding the length of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of the extraordinary measures being put in place to address it. If efforts to contain COVID-19 are not as successful as anticipated, if restrictions on movement last into the third quarter or beyond, or if the federal government's economic stimulus packages are ineffective or delayed, the current economic downturn will likely be much longer and much more severe. The deeper the economic downturn is, and the longer it lasts, the more it will damage consumer fundamentals and sentiment. Similarly, an extended global recession due to COVID-19 would weaken the U.S. recovery and damage business fundamentals. As a result, the pandemic and its consequences, including responsive measures to manage it, have negatively impacted, and may continue to negatively impact, demand for and profitability of our products and services, the valuation of our assets, the ability of borrowers to satisfy obligations, and our ability to meet the needs of our customers, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial performance.

ABOUT TOMPKINS FINANCIAL CORPORATION

Tompkins Financial Corporation is a financial services company serving the Central, Western, and Hudson Valley regions of New York and the Southeastern region of Pennsylvania. Headquartered in Ithaca, NY, Tompkins Financial is parent to Tompkins Trust Company, Tompkins Bank of Castile, Tompkins Mahopac Bank, Tompkins VIST Bank, Tompkins Insurance Agencies Inc., and offers wealth management services through Tompkins Financial Advisors. For more information on Tompkins Financial, visit www.tompkinsfinancial.com.

May 1, 2020 - 10:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in buffalo federal detention center, batavia, news, notify.

When a detainee at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center is ordered released on bond by an immigration court judge, Immigration and Customs Enforcement must release the detainee at the time specified by the court, said Tom Feeley, field office director for ICE, overseeing New York State.

Feeley was responding to recent news reports that accused ICE of treating detainees inhumanely. 

When detainees are released, if they're able to pay for their own transportation, they are taken to the Trailways/Greyhound bus stop at 48 Deli Express on Park Road in Batavia. There is no bus shelter at that location and busses stop infrequently, but on a daily basis. 

"I don't know what people expect us to do," Feeley said. "We don't have the authority to hold them once they're bonded out."

A nonprofit online news site in Buffalo, the Investigative Post, first reported about detainees being released three days ago.

Matt Thompson has seen it happen over and over since he started working at the station four months ago.

“The way they treat them, I don’t agree with,” the 20-year Army veteran told Investigative Post. “They drop them off and they treat them like animals. They kick them out of the van, pretty much, and that’s it.”

Though the reporter said the Post tried to contact ICE for comment, Feeley said he is unaware of any such attempt. 

Once the story was out, Feeley issued the following statement through an ICE public information officer:

The suggestion that ICE would abandon people upon their release is unfounded and is a clear fabrication that takes away from the professionalism of the men and women that work at the facility. ICE detainees who are bonded out of custody at Batavia are transported to an area transportation hub at no cost. If they are unable to cover the costs of transportation to their final destination, the agency will cover the costs. Detainees are transported to the transportation hub consistent with existing route times and schedules. The agency routinely coordinates detainee releases with family members and attorneys.

When detention facility staff becomes aware that a detainee will be bonded out, they suggest the detainee contact family or friends to get a wire transfer of funds for transportation to their intended destination. If the detainee doesn't have that resource available, they ask the detainee to contact his or her attorney. If the detainee is truly indigent, ICE staff will transport the detainee to Rochester or Buffalo with enough money for a train ticket to an intended destination.

Feeley noted that ICE is working with taxpayer money and therefore can't responsibly transport detainees who have the funds for their own transportation to Rochester or Buffalo.  

He also said that ICE isn't responsible for a shelter at the bus stop, or lack of one. It would be up to one of the bus companies or the gas station to build a bus shelter, not ICE, he said.

May 1, 2020 - 9:50am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, City Schools, Batavia Teachers' Association.

The Batavia Teachers’ Association has postponed a vote on a proposal to modify the school day at the four Batavia City School District buildings.

BTA President Mark Warren on Thursday night said that the vote – actually four separate votes by those who work at Batavia High, Batavia Middle, John Kennedy Intermediate and Jackson Primary schools – will not take place today as originally planned.

“We want to work out some of the wrinkles and provide answers to the questions that some of our members have before voting,” Warren said. “We haven’t set a new date yet, but it will not be before the next Board of Education meeting on May 5th.”

School Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. raised the possibility of changing the school day schedules earlier this week as a cost-cutting measure as the district maneuvers to close what once was a $1.6 million budget gap.

Soler said that $200,000 in transportation costs would be achieved by the following:

-- Putting Batavia High and Batavia Middle on a 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

-- Putting John Kennedy and Jackson on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This would enable the district to use fewer buses across the four schools, a tiered approach that also would give every student in the district the opportunity to ride a bus if they so desired, Soler said.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Education authorized the cutting of 30 positions to slash more than $1.5 million in expenses.

A favorable vote on the school day schedule – in all likelihood all four buildings would have to pass it -- would enable the district to wash away a $47,000 budget shortfall and meet the state-mandated property tax cap, thus avoiding a 60-percent plus one supermajority vote of the public to pass the budget.

Contacted this morning, BOE President Pat Burk said he hadn’t heard about the vote postponement, but didn’t think that would affect the board’s plan to vote on the budget on Tuesday.

“Actually, we have been looking at areas other than personnel to find another $47,000 to cut,” Burk said. “The vote to change the school day schedule, if passed, would provide extra funding that we likely will need down the road not knowing what is going to happen with state aid.”

Burk said he thinks changing the schedules could help attendance, since all students would be able to get a ride to school, and have little impact upon extracurricular afterschool activities such as sports and music.

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