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February 12, 2020 - 4:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, Alexander, batavia, Darien, Oakfield.

Adrian R. Laird, 18, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree rape. Laird's arrest stems from an alleged incident on Hutchins Street in Batavia at 8 p.m. on Jan. 10. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court on Feb. 10 and is to return there at 9 a.m. on Feb. 13. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Detective Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

Gregory Seppe (inset photo, left), 61, of Pringle Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree burglary. He was arrested at 11:39 a.m. on Feb. 8 in the 100 block of State Street by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post after he allegedly pushed his way into a local residence while attempting to sell drugs. Seppe allegedly refused to leave after being asked to do so multiple times by the tenants. Seppe was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Feb. 13. Batavia Police Officer Stephen Quider assisted in the case.

Alexis V. Finnin, 31, of Washington Avenue, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. She was arrested after an investigation of an incident on East Main Street in Batavia at 8:38 p.m. on Sept. 14. It is alleged that at that time she was intoxicated/impaired to the point of not being able to adequately supervise a 5-year-old child, thereby subjecting the child to risk of physical, mental and moral harm. She was released on an appearance ticket and was due in Batavia City Court on Feb. 11. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Ivison.

Tanya Lee Captain, 32, of Darien, is charged with: aggravated driving while intoxicated -- a BAC of .18 percent or more; DWI -- first offense; criminal mischief -- intentionally damaging property; and failure to stop at a stop sign. She was arrested at 11:57 p.m. Feb. 11 in Alexander after an incident was investigated that occurred on Pike Road in the Town of Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Alexander Town Court on Feb. 18. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Austin Heberlein, assisted by Deputy John Baiocco.

Michelle L. Sahr, 52, of North Main Street, Albion, is charged with second-degree harassment. She was arrested on a warrant out of Batavia City Court after she was located by Albion PD on an unrelated matter. She was processed at Batavia PD and released on an appearance ticket for Feb. 13 in city court. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Wesley Rissinger, assisted by Officer Miah Stevens.

Debra Lynn Mattoon, 40, of Batavia Oakfield Townline Road, Oakfield, was arrested and charged with petit larceny at 4 p.m. Feb. 7. It is alleged that she stole merchandise from Tops Friendly Market in Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Feb. 18. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Adam Tucker, assisted by Officer Mitchell Cowen.

February 12, 2020 - 12:48pm

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today scoffed at politicians on the Social Services Committee, many of whom are from New York City, who voted unanimously to block Hawley's bipartisan legislation (A.2251) that would institute a 90-day residence requirement before someone is eligible for welfare benefits in New York.

Republicans voted unanimously to report the bill to the floor for a full vote before the house.

“New York’s bloated welfare system has driven our state into fiscal ruin, causing a multi-billion dollar deficit that will likely fall on the middle class," Hawley said. "It is policies like these that perpetuate our reputation as the cradle to the grave capital of the nation, and attracts more visitors looking for a handout.

“In perilous fiscal times like these when we should be passing bills to root out fraud, waste and abuse in our social service system so that we can afford to help those who have fallen into unfortunate circumstances, instead of expanding an already wasteful system."

February 12, 2020 - 12:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, pembroke, oakfield-alabama, basketball, video.
Video Sponsor

Pembroke's young team, sparked by freshman Cayden Pfalzer, put up a good fight against Oakfield-Alabama at home Tuesday night, forcing the game to overtime before falling to the Hornets 66-57.

Pfalzer hit four three-point shots on his way to 16 points for the game.

For O-A, Gaige Armbrewster scored 17 points, Kaden Cusmano, 16, Travis Wiedrich, 15, and Joey Burdick, 11.

Pembroke's Garrett Totten scored 11 points, Adam Dulski, 11, and Noah Godzala, nine.

The Hornets are 14-4 on the season, Pembroke 7-10.

Also in boys basketball on Wednesday:

  • Alexander beat Attica, 59-50;
  • Notre Dame racked up 110 points to beat C.G. Finney, which scored 77 points;
  • Bergen beat Holley 71-42;
  • Le Roy beat Bath 67-47. For Le Roy, Cody Lytle scored 12 points and had 10 rebounds. Andrew Loftus 13 points, and Ethan Beswick, 12 points;
  • Elba beat Lyndonville 81-75;
  • Batavia beat Newark 48-47.

Photos from Le Roy's game by Caitlin Napper (This is a correction)

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February 12, 2020 - 10:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

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An Oakfield man is accused of fleeing from police after a deputy attempted a traffic stop for an alleged expired registration early yesterday morning in the Town of Batavia.

Jonathan F. Suggs, 37, of Lewiston Road, Oakfield, faces multiple charges in three towns after leading police on a chase through Batavia, Oakfield, and Alabama, where Suggs eventually stopped, according to a Sheriff's Office press release.

The suspect was released on an appearance ticket.

Deputy James Stack attempted to stop a 2016 Jeep Cherokee at 1:30 a.m. yesterday. Suggs was later identified as the driver. Once he stopped, he was taken into custody without further incident.

He is charged with: unlawfully fleeing a police officer; aggravated unlicensed operation in the third degree; failure to yield right of way to an emergency vehicle; speeding; and other vehicle and traffic violations.

He is scheduled to appear in: Town of Batavia Court at 1 p.m., March 12; Oakfield Town Court at 6 p.m., March 2; Alabama Town Court at 6 p.m., March 11.

February 12, 2020 - 10:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day, advertisement.

Reminders of how the Deal of the Day program works:

  • To make purchases, you must be registered. Deal of the Day uses a registration system that is not connected to the registration for commenting on The Batavian (the main user login in the upper left of the homepage).
  • Once re gistered you must sign in using the "sign in" link in this box.
  • You click on the orange button, which appears if the item is not sold out, and it takes you to a PayPal button. This allows you to pay either with your PayPal account or with a credit card/debit card. The login for PayPal is completely separate from our accounts.
  • The first person to successfully complete the PayPal transaction wins the gift certificate.
  • You are eligible to buy the same item only once in a four-month period. We use the registration system to track this for you so you don't have to.
  • Only one gift certificate from the same business PER HOUSEHOLD is allowed in each four-month period. We do not have a way to automatically track duplicate purchases within a household; however, if we notice such a purchase, we reserve the right to cancel the purchase and refund the purchase money. Each individual buyer must use his or her own PayPal account for purchases. It's important that participating businesses not be asked to redeem multiple gift certificates from the same person/family at the same time.
  • Gift certificates should be used within 30 days of receipt.
  • Problems, questions, concerns about the Deal of the Day? Email Billie Owens:   [email protected]

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February 11, 2020 - 10:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire services, batavia, DeWitt Recreation Area, video.
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Firefighters from four counties were in Batavia over the weekend to learn from NYS instructors how to handle cold water/ice rescues. On Sunday they put into practice the previous day's classroom training at DeWitt Recreation Area.

UPDATE: Press release from Genesee County Emergency Management:

Eighteen fire personnel endured the weekend’s cold temperature to complete 16-hour advanced level ice rescue training. The Ice/Cold Water Rescue Technician Level course included instruction in self-rescue, shore-based ice rescue techniques and on ice rescue techniques.

Effects of cold water on victims, ice rescue techniques, offshore techniques, and ice rescue equipment were also addressed. Students participated in a significant amount of hands-on ice time for skill practice.

Participants included:

ALABAMA

  • Michael Pfendler
  • Ryan M. Thompson
  • Joseph Uhrinek

TOWN OF BATAVIA

  • Joshua K. Boyle
  • Dwane J. Fonda Jr.
  • Clayton A. Gorski
  • Conor P. Wilkes

CORFU

  • Mitchell D.Bates
  • Jayden D. Eck
  • Tyler G. Lang
  • Matthew P. Lenhard

EAST PEMBROKE

  • David A. Martin

ELBA

  • Nicole M. Boldt
  • Michael J. Schad

HENRIETTA (Monroe County)

  • Patrick R. Kelly

SOUTH BYRON

  • Vito J. Muoio

TWIN DISTRICTS (Erie County)

  • Andrew R. Poreda

WRIGHT’S CORNERS (Niagara County)

  • Zachary W. Wodo

Visit your local fire department to find out more about volunteer opportunities.

February 11, 2020 - 5:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in American Warrior Festival, news, T.F. Brown's, veterans.

The American Warrior Festival -- a free show to celebrate our troops, veterans and American way of Life -- will be held at T.F. Brown's Restaurant in Batavia this Saturday (Feb. 15), starting at 4 p.m. and going until 1 a.m.

T.F. Brown's is teaming up with Strength in Numbers Entertainment for this special event with several live bands, including:

  • Lonesome Road
  • Tetness
  • Zackstreet Boys
  • Vette
  • Zynaptic Gap
  • Axton Landing
  • The Remediators
  • Joel Russlett
  • Old School

Sponsors are: The Original Red Osier Landmark Restaurant; Oliver's Candies; OrCon Industries Corp.; WMW Welding's Most Wanted; Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew; and The Firing Pin.

T.F. Brown's is located at 214 E. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

February 11, 2020 - 5:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Nate McMurray, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Nate McMurray, the Democrat running to replace disgraced felon Chris Collins, today blasted the newly proposed budget and vowed to protect programs like Social Security and Medicare from Washington’s financial mismanagement. The budget would explode the federal deficit and hurt seniors, while protecting massive tax cuts for the wealthy. 

“This is a bad budget, plain and simple," McMurray said. "I’ve been in business my whole life, and if I proposed a budget this poorly thought out, I’d get fired immediately. It will steal from seniors on a fixed income, give money away to the rich, and explode the deficit that our grandchildren’s children, as it already stands, will be paying for."

“Unlike my opponent, I didn’t grow up rich and I know how these programs provide a vital lifeline for working families here. But it’s clearer now than it’s ever been -- Trump lied when he said he’d protect Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. It’s all right there in the budget.

"The harsh reality is, people will die if there are cuts to these programs. Our local hospitals will close. The people of NY-27, and the media, need to ask Chris Jacobs why he supports these cuts that will hurt our elderly and devastate our communities.”

February 11, 2020 - 5:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in NY-27, news, Chris Jacobs.

Press release:

“I want to thank Rob for his hard work and dedication to the Party and the people of Western New York. It has been an honor serving alongside him in the New York State Senate and he has always conducted himself with the highest degree of professionalism and has always been a true fighter for the needs of his constituents. I have no doubt he will continue to serve the people of Western New York with steadfast dedication and honor.”

February 11, 2020 - 4:54pm

Submitted photo and press release:

Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties (TF-GOW) and Reality Check youth champions from Notre Dame High School were at the New York Capitol on Feb. 4, talking with lawmakers about the success of the state’s Tobacco Control Program.

Notre Dame freshman Morgan Wahl, junior Benjamin Streeter, and senior Maddie Payton joined a pair of Reality Check peers from Warsaw High School in the Albany rally, Shelby Pietron and Katie Pietron. Brittany Bozzer, Reality Check coordinator at TF-GOW attended, too.

They focused their messaging on lowering the average smoking rate to 12.8 percent and about the unmet needs in tobacco control efforts, particularly among youth and certain communities. They met with Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and Assemblyman David DiPietro.

During legislative meetings, the youth stressed that cigarette smoking among high school youth statewide declined 82 percent between 2000 and 2018, but e-cigarette use by high schoolers continues to rise, now at 27 percent. In contrast, only 3.8 percent of adult New Yorkers use e-cigarettes. Additionally, nearly 40 percent 12th-graders use e-cigarettes statewide.

Research shows that youth who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes than their peers who do not vape.

“Successfully reducing the average adult smoking rate to 12.8 percent in New York State is a significant achievement, but new and emerging nicotine products—like e-cigarettes—could reverse the substantial gains we’ve made in reducing smoking,” Bozzer said.

“We know that marketing attracts youth to e-cigarettes, and flavors are what gets them to try them. Nicotine is what keeps them addicted.”

Higher smoking rates among certain communities

New Yorkers with low education, low income and reporting frequent mental distress smoke at higher rates than the state average.

“Although the average smoking rate is down, cigarette smoking rates among certain communities are considerably higher than average," Bozzer said. "For example, throughout New York State, 25.5 percent of adults reporting frequent mental distress smoke cigarettes, as do 20 percent of those with less than a high school education and nearly 20 percent of those with an annual household income of less than $25,000.

“Income, education, and mental health status shouldn’t determine smoking rates, but they do, and our program has a local and statewide program in place to further tobacco-free norms."

While at the Capitol, the Notre Dame youth talked with lawmakers about work being done in their communities and provided an interactive display in The Well of the Legislative Office Building, revealing the true facts behind Big Tobacco’s misleading marketing.

More Facts: The Costs of Tobacco Use in New York State

  • Annual health care costs directly caused by smoking in the state are $10.39 billion;
  • This expense results in a tax burden of $1,410 for each household every year;
  • There are 28,200 deaths in New York State each year due to smoking, and thousands who are living with illnesses related to tobacco use;
  • The CDC recommends a $203 million annual investment in New York State’s Tobacco Control Program; the state’s investment is $39 million.

Reality Check New York empowers youth to become leaders in their community in exposing what they see as the manipulative and deceptive marketing tactics of the tobacco industry.

The organization’s members produce change in their communities through grassroots mobilization and education. Reality Check in this area is affiliated with Tobacco-Free Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming Counties (TF-GOW) program managed by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The NYS Tobacco Control Program is made up of a network of statewide contractors who work on Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities, which includes Community Engagement and Reality Check, the Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York, the NYS Smokers’ Quitline and Surveillance and Research.

Their efforts are leading the way toward a tobacco-free society. For more information, visit:

Photo: Back row (from left) Maddie Payton, Benjamin Streeter, as well as Notre Dame freshman Morgan Wahl (kneeling in front) took in the grandeur of the New York State Senate Chambers on their recent trip to educate lawmakers at the NYS Capitol. Earlier that day, they talked with Assemblyman David DiPietro, right, about tobacco control work being done in their communities and revealed the true facts behind Big Tobacco’s misleading marketing. Also pictured (middle row, from left) are Warsaw High School students Shelby Pietron, Katie Pietron, and Brittany Bozzer, Reality Check coordinator at TF-GOW.

February 11, 2020 - 3:52pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in bergen, business, Bergen Business and Civic Association.

Above, Mickey Hyde, left, and Charlie Cook, of Liberty Pumps.

BERGEN – The Bergen Business and Civic Association has put forth great effort to improve the quality of life within the Bergen community for many years. They also take the time and trouble to recognize those citizens of Bergen who donate their time and efforts to make Bergen a better place to live and work.

On Saturday, the BBCA sponsored a community recognition dinner at Batavia Country Club to honor those individuals who give above and beyond for the betterment of their community.

Honorees were Joe MacConnell, Marian Partridge, Sandy Partridge, Jennie Starowicz, Tom Williamson, Marty Dilcher, of Dilcher’s Excavating and Contracting, and Charlie Cook, of Liberty Pumps.

Mayor Anna Marie Barclay, president of BBCA, said it has been at least five years since the organization has publicly recognized its outstanding citizens. At a recent meeting, the membership decided it was time they paid tribute to those people who volunteer or do community service – sometimes quietly and other times when people are aware.

The committee accepted nominations and the honorees were selected.

Joe MacConnell was introduced by David Washburn. MacConnell has been a member of the Bergen Fire Department for more than 50 years and an avid supporter of all their functions. He is a school bus driver for Byron-Bergen Central School and is an advocate for the kids. He was overseer of Mount Rest Cemetery for many years. He is one of those people who, if you need a hand, he is there, Barclay said. She called him a good friend and a good neighbor.

Marian Partridge was introduced by former town supervisor Tom Cunningham. Partridge, 91, was a Home Economics teacher at Byron-Bergen. She is a member of the BBCA and the longest-standing member of the Triangle Club, having joined in the 1950s when it was formed as an offshoot of the YMCA. She started the library in Bergen and put the original monument in Hickory Park. She has been on the Village Planning Board for more than 20 years.

Sandy Partridge, who was presented her award by Anne Sapienza, works with Young Life, a youth organization from the Presbyterian Church. She regularly clears all the furniture out of her living room and makes dinner for up to 20 kids. She runs Food Link at her church, and arrives early to cook hot dogs for people as they wait in line.

Jennie Starowicz was recognized by Myrna List. Starowicz chaired Recycled Teens, a senior citizens group at the Catholic church. She was vice president of the Bergen Historical Society and has been involved in 4-H all her life. List, who like Starowicz comes from a farm family, said she has known Jennie all her life. Starowicz had eight sewing machines set up in her basement, where she invited girls to come in and work on their 4-H projects. She has been involved with the Genesee County Fair for 50 years. At one time she managed a 24-unit apartment house in Bergen, and although she only got paid for 15 hours a week, she spent much more time volunteering to do things for the residents.

Mayor Barclay chose to present Tom Williamson with his award. Several years ago when vandals stole or damaged all the bronze markers on veterans’ graves in Mount Rest Cemetery, Williamson replaced all the missing ones and cleaned and repaired the rest. While serving as the village’s code enforcement officer, if a resident had a problem, Williamson would go to their home after work and help them solve it. He has also been an active member of the American Legion.

Marty Dilcher, of Dilcher’s Excavating and Contracting, received his award from Karen Ely. Dilcher was honored for always helping people and businesses all over town. When a house next to the mayor’s home collapsed and dust covered the Barclay home, Dilcher came and gave them two books of car wash tickets. He loans golf carts free of charge for the Bergen Park Festival and other events.

Charlie Cook, of Liberty Pumps, was introduced by Mickey Hyde. Cook was praised for his community service and building a business that employs more than 250 people in Bergen. Cook stated, “I just do what I do.”

Sapienza, who is secretary of BBCA, said the recognition dinner was long overdue.

“We need to recognize people who contribute to our community,” she said.

Barclay said when she thinks of all the wonderful people in the community and all the wonderful things they do, she wishes they could honor them more often.

Each honored individual received a gift bag, and each one will have their name added to a plaque in the library building.

In addition to the recognition dinner, events which the BBCA supports in the community include the Bergen Park Festival for the past 26 years, and Children’s Easter Egg Hunt. They donate to community groups, such as Byron-Bergen Public Library, Mason’s Gift Basket Program, village Parks and Gillam Grant Community Center. They also publish the Bergen directory every two years.

There are three BBCA officers. In addition to Barclay and Sapienza, there's also Maria Rowland, who serves as treasurer.

The banquet committee for the recognition dinner was Maria Rowland, Myrna List, Connie Tiefel, Catherine Tater and Toby Cook.

Below, Tom Williamson and Bergen Mayor Anna Marie Barclay.

Below, Don Cunningham and Marian Partridge.

Below, Sandy Partridge, left, and Anne Sapienza.

Below, Karen Ely and Marty Dilcher, of Dilcher Excavating and Contracting.

Below, Myrna List, left, and Jennie Starowicz.

Below, Joe MacConnell, left, and David Washburn.

Below, Awards Dinner Committee, from left, Myrna List, Connie Tiefel, Katherine Tater, Maria Rowland and Toby Cook.

February 11, 2020 - 3:00pm

One act play festival celebrating Thornton Wilder. LOVE AND HOW TO CURE IT; QUEENS OF FRANCE; SUCH THINGS ONLY HAPPEN IN BOOKS.
One of America’s most prolific and honored playwrights. Thornton Wilder is known for his amazing stories and interesting characters. This one act play festival will delve into three of his most heartwarming and endearing one acts. 

By Thornton Wilder
Directed by Heather Ferris, Erin Hodge & Walker Kapral. Friday, February 28th & Saturday, February 29th at 7:30pm, Sunday, March 1st at 2pm.
Tickets: Adults $16; Students/Seniors $15. Click here to purchase tickets.

February 11, 2020 - 2:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in Basom, news, Tonawanda Indian Reservation, accident.

A single motor-vehicle accident with injuries is reported in the area of 340 Council House Road on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. Alabama Fire Department is responding along with Mercy medics.

February 11, 2020 - 1:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in genesee county, jail construction project, news.

Press release:

Genesee County will hold a Public Information Session regarding the Jail Construction Project at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Old County Courthouse Chambers, 7 Main St., Batavia.

The purpose of the informational session is to update the public on the process taken by the County in the design of the proposed new County Jail and where we are in the project time line.

The County invites citizen questions and inquiries on the jail design process, and looks to provide County justification and rationale for the steps taken to date and planned into the future. We welcome any and all citizen views regarding any aspect of the project’s scope, purpose and implementation.

The County will provide project information including, but not limited to, project timeline, bed need analysis, jail site and projected costs. County staff along with SMRT, the County’s architect and engineer consultants will be on hand to answer questions and receive feedback.

The session will last until approximately 8 p.m. and the public is encouraged to drop by at any time to speak with County and SMRT representatives.

The County has also created a page on its website dedicated to the jail project that we encourage citizens to check on over time for updates on the progress of the jail construction project, the site is here.

February 11, 2020 - 12:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, Le Roy, le roy hs.

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In Monday's lone boys' basketball game, Le Roy lost to Hornell 50-43.

Cody Lytle scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds. Ethan Beswick scored nine and Andrew Loftus scored eight. 

The Knights are 9-8 heading into the team's final regular-season home game tonight. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Girls basketball:

  • Hornell beat Le Roy, 82-52
  • Batavia beat Odyssey, 53-44

Photos by Tim McArdle.

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February 11, 2020 - 12:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in senator michael ranzenhofer, news.

From State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, 61st District:

As the 2020 Legislative Session continues, Legislators are discussing several major policy changes. It is extremely important for me to hear directly from residents about issues facing New York State.  

This year’s community survey includes topics such as criminal justice reforms, strengthening vaccination requirements, making New York more affordable and the current $6.1 billion budget deficit.

Many of these topics are being actively debated and time is running out for you to share your opinions about these matters before they come to the floor for a vote.

Please take a moment to share your opinions with me.

Click here to take my 2020 Legislative Questionnaire

February 11, 2020 - 12:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day, advertisement.

Reminders of how the Deal of the Day program works:

  • To make purchases, you must be registered. Deal of the Day uses a registration system that is not connected to the registration for commenting on The Batavian (the main user login in the upper left of the homepage).
  • Once re gistered you must sign in using the "sign in" link in this box.
  • You click on the orange button, which appears if the item is not sold out, and it takes you to a PayPal button. This allows you to pay either with your PayPal account or with a credit card/debit card. The login for PayPal is completely separate from our accounts.
  • The first person to successfully complete the PayPal transaction wins the gift certificate.
  • You are eligible to buy the same item only once in a four-month period. We use the registration system to track this for you so you don't have to.
  • Only one gift certificate from the same business PER HOUSEHOLD is allowed in each four-month period. We do not have a way to automatically track duplicate purchases within a household; however, if we notice such a purchase, we reserve the right to cancel the purchase and refund the purchase money. Each individual buyer must use his or her own PayPal account for purchases. It's important that participating businesses not be asked to redeem multiple gift certificates from the same person/family at the same time.
  • Gift certificates should be used within 30 days of receipt.
  • Problems, questions, concerns about the Deal of the Day? Email Billie Owens:   [email protected]

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February 11, 2020 - 10:22am


To apply send a cover letter and resume along with at least three news-related writing samples to [email protected]

February 11, 2020 - 9:17am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city council, video lottery terminal.

Batavia City Council Member Robert Bialkowski took a swipe at the state governor Monday night as he voted “yes” to setting a public hearing on Feb. 24 to override the property tax cap.

“I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo and his cronies for doing this to us,” Bialkowski said, referring to a proposed state budget that includes revenue generated by video lottery terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming – money that has always gone to municipalities, such as the City of Batavia, that host VLT gaming.

City leaders are scrambling to come up with ways to plug the gap caused by the potential loss of more than $440,000. A recommendation from City Manager to cut expenses and raise taxes in the 2020-21 budget (see Monday’s stories in The Batavian) currently is on the table.

Discussion during last night’s Special Conference Meeting centered on Moore’s recommendation and the governor’s action that, according to City Council President Eugene Jankowski, came as a surprise.

“Three years ago, we started using it (VLT money). “We were going to use it to offset taxes again this year and it got pulled from us without any advance warning,” Jankowski said.

He said that he hoped that pressure from state senators and assembly members would be able to change the governor’s mind about the VLT funds, but if not, thought the city would be in a better position to budget properly in 2021-22.

Moore said the loss of the VLT money is “fairly substantial” and credited the City’s department heads with delivering ways to cut expenses.

He warned against using unallocated cash tied to the workers’ compensation fund.

“We’ve got to be careful with that,” he said. “There’s a strong determination on my part … I needed to listen to them (staff) and to the data. We can not use those funds. They need to be there in case of claims, which could be $100,00, $200,000 or $500,000 in a single shot, and they come unexpected.”

Jankowski emphasized that Monday’s vote was just to schedule the public hearing – not to override the tax cap at this juncture.

He also made it a point to explain that the City was holding back on hiring an employee to handle additional paperwork caused by the state’s bail reform and discovery law changes and an additional school resource officer.

“We have no choice other than to take it out of reserves … and that is not a good idea,” he said.

On another front, Council members heard from Richard Unlauf, a city resident, who sought approval from the board to construct a skate park in the City and “hopefully within a City park.”

Umlauf said he has been in touch with the Tony Hawk Foundation and Ralph C. Wilson Foundation, which offer grants – one for $250,000 (a matching dollar-for-dollar grant) and another for ecological studies in the amount of $50,000.

“It’s a project that is close to me as I am one of the kids that benefitted from the previous park,” Umlauf said. “It kept me free and clear (of trouble).”

Umlauf volunteered to head a committee to look into such a project, adding that several residents have reached out to him to express their interest.

In response, Council Member Paul Viele asked about the liability to the City. Jankowski called for more information and Kathleen Briggs wanted to know more about the grant possibilities.

Moore said a skate park brings a number of different factors into play as far as insurance is concerned and was backed by City Attorney George Van Nest, who said that a skate park could add “different layers” to the insurability process.

“You need to make sure there is ample insurance and analyze the risk and cost associated with taking that on,” he said.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian suggested that Umlauf continue with his efforts and report back to Council next month.

On another matter, Moore reported that a committee formed to look into the deer overpopulation problem in the City has met twice and is looking at eight different areas or zones.

“They are looking at which ones to tackle first … to get the best bang for the buck – or probably the doe at this point,” he said, pun intended.

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