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Batavia consolidation receives state funding, poised for next steps

By Howard B. Owens
Aug 24, 2010, 11:11am

Efforts to get a better look at what consolidation of  the city and town might look like is moving forward with the award of a $49,500 Government Efficiency Grant from the state.

City Manager Jason Molino said that the city has not yet received official notification of the grant, but once it does, city and town officials will meet to discuss the next steps.

According to a prior agreement between the city and town, officials must appoint, within 30 days of funding, an interview committee charged with recommending members for a Consolidation Charter Task Force.

Once a charter is written, the city and town will need to seek legislation in Albany to allow a referendum vote in both jurisdictions.

Molino said it's still the feeling in the city that consolidation is "worth looking at."

"That's been the mentality of everybody involved in the process," Molino said. "The mentality has been we have a chance to be handed a clean sheet of paper, so let's understand what can be put on that piece of paper."

The funding for moving forward with consolidation comes just a week after voters in the villages of Sloan and Williamsville in Erie County overwhelming rejected dissolution initiatives -- part of a statewide effort to, at least in theory, reduce the size of government.

Molino said he doesn't know why voters rejected dissolution, but he suspects a lack of information had a lot to do with it.

One of the flaws of the dissolution legislation, Molino said, is that it doesn't require any study or planning. Voters in towns and villages (the legislation doesn't apply to cities) aren't exactly told what will come next if their local government is dissolved.

"There was no plan in place," Molino said. "Whatever you do, whether it's put in sewers or sidewalks, you have to have a good plan in place in order to understand what you're getting into. That's true for dissolution or consolidation, too."

While conventional wisdom around the county is that residents in the Town of Batavia will never agree to consolidation, Molino said the only thing to do is develop a plan, educate the public and let the voters vote.

"It's not my job to predict how voters will react," Molino said.

The interview committee will consist of the city council president and two council members as well as the town supervisor and two town board members. The committee will select eight charter task force members -- four from the city, four from the town -- and each member must be unanimously approved by the selection committee.

Charter task for members cannot be a city or town elected official, a member of planning or zoning boards, an employee of the city or town, and spouse of any such person.

The task force will be asked to submit a draft charter by July 30, 2011 and a final proposed charter by Dec. 31, 2011.

UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: We were finally able to talk with Town Supervisor Greg Post today. Post echoed Molino's "clean sheet of paper" remarks.

"I’m interested in seeing what a new charter looks like," Post said. "That’s been my interest from day one. This is the first opportunity in my experience, and probably in more than 100 years, where a group of citizens from the local smallest entity there is can collaborate on a new charter."

Gary Diegelman

The city gets a "clean sheet of paper"? As I see it at the town residents expense. Why would't the city vote for it they're so messed up it would be their bailout. Town residents will have new codes and rules forced on them. Town residents would be forced to have all plumbing inspected and wouldn't be able to change their own toilet or faucet like the city now. A new council or board would never be representative of the town. Stop this ridiculous process now.

Aug 24, 2010, 1:35pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

There will never be a plan presented that will benefit the city at the town’s detriment.

This is just like you and your friend sinking in a small boat. Since your end of the boat is higher in the water, you refuse to help bail. Some in the town feel they are in a good position living in a community with no growth and no opportunities. The whole county is tied together. In the end, the whole community will either start working together or you are all going to drown.

Good luck in your own little fiefdom.

Aug 24, 2010, 2:19pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Gary, if consolidation is such a bad idea for the town (to listen to some town residents, it's so bad, it's not even worth considering) why is the town's leadership so keen on looking at what a new charter might look like? Why do the people who live and breathe town management every day and are charged with looking at the long-term prospects of the town think that merger is something that should be seriously considered? I mean, if it was such an obviously bad idea, don't you think the people who are experts in running the town (by mere fact that they do it, and by all accounts, do it well) would oppose it as vehemently?

Also, you seem to assume that the new entity would be a city. I'm not sure that's the case. The charter task force could wind up recommending a town structure.

BTW: I think you would be an interesting person to throw your hat in the ring for a seat on the charter task force.

Aug 24, 2010, 5:22pm Permalink
Gary Diegelman

Charlie, why would I bail a boat that I didn't help set sail. Also open your eyes all the growth and opportunity is in the town now. The city wants a piece of that. Howard, everything I have heard said we would be better off being a city. There are a lot more restrictions on city residents, look at the Batavia Municipal Code book. I don't think a new charter would eliminate these codes just because it will be more rural. At least our town board cooperates and discusses issues not like city council who just argue and always have. How can a proposed three level system be fair for anyone?

Aug 24, 2010, 5:56pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Gary, big box stores don't create local wealth and are far from economic growth in my mind. Those big box stores are dependent on the city's population, that's why they were built on the city line. Big box stores do not represent growth or opportunity, they are the circling buzzards. Declining population and decreasing opportunities in this area will spell the end.

This is a very important time in this areas future. There are two paths, work together and prosper or die. Your argument about a plumbing inspector or bickering politicians distracts from the real meat of this issue. Our area needs to be competitive or we are going to continue to backslide. I'm sure that half the population doesn't even have a clue where the town line is much less cares...

Aug 24, 2010, 7:45pm Permalink

City this, town that.

Without the city the town doesn't exist. Without the city the town does not have the infrastructure to support their growth. Without the city and its population the retail stores and other businesses wouldn't have come. Get over yourselves.

The town can afford everything for so little because they did not have to pay for all of the things that allowed the its growth.

The city is a mess right now, but every town resident better get it through their heads that without the city of Batavia, the town will falter too.

I'm going to support the Dogs now while I still have em. I'm sure I won't see anyone there, so enjoy your night all.

Aug 24, 2010, 6:41pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Gary, as for the city wanting a piece of the pie. They already have it. Whether you buy something in the town or city, the same slice of that pie goes to the city budget through the way of sales tax.

Aug 24, 2010, 6:44pm Permalink
John Roach

Charlie is right. The city gets its share of the sales tax no matter where the sale is made in this County.

That study group recommended that the Town keep its codes and ordinances for things like noise, cars and the like. There would be code "zones" for urban and rural areas.

And, it was not all that long ago that the Town Board made the City Council look good and Council has gotten a bit better lately.

Aug 24, 2010, 7:38pm Permalink
cj sruger

I thought there was a go around already with this and it looked like the voters in the town are not going for it, are we now in the stage of figuring out how to get around that part?

Aug 25, 2010, 1:01am Permalink
Jack Dorf

Posted by Charlie Mallow on August 24, 2010 - 7:45pm

"Gary, big box stores don't create local wealth and are far from economic growth in my mind. Those big box stores are dependent on the city's population, that's why they were built on the city line. Big box stores do not represent growth or opportunity, they are the circling buzzards. Declining population and decreasing opportunities in this area will spell the end."

"Big box stores don't create local wealth"
What is you definition of wealth? Anyone that has a job and gets paid is creating wealth. I think you are confusing wealth with being rich.

-"Far from economic growth."
So you don't consider all the development on the cities west side economic growth??

-"Those big box stores are dependent on the city's population."
I'm pretty sure this applies to any business, but yes more so to a large retailer.

"That's why they were built on the city line."
Where do you expect them to build? There is no room within the city limits.

"Big box stores do not represent growth or opportunity."
You have got to be kidding right? So all the people that are employed at any big box store in the City of Batavia or Town have not realized any growth or opportunity. So the money these people make that gets spent back within our city or town, be it food, clothing recreation etc. does not help grow or create other jobs. I disagree. That's economics 101.

Aug 25, 2010, 11:08am Permalink
Tony Ferrando

I think you have it quite backwards. Rich people want to become wealthy... as wealth is the abundance of riches. Sustainable riches, mind you. Minimum wage jobs do not make anyone wealthy... unless they can live for about 500 years to accumulate wealth. For a locality or region to become "wealthy," it would also need an abundance of "riches." These riches could be something tangible, like our new Court House, The Holland Land Office Museum, etc. It could also be something measurable, like population growth, average income, consumption. And let's be serious here... those buildings aren't anything special, they aren't historical landmarks, they won't ever become one... and nobody, in great number, is moving to Batavia to work at Wal Mart - unless they're a manager that got assigned here.

It's sort of like Yahoo... a multi-billion dollar company. They're coming to Pembroke - great win right? Not really... they're going to offer what? 10 jobs, around 40-50 grand each for that data center? The deal, though, is that they get free electricity from the Niagara Power Project. With the amount of electricity a data center certainly consumes, do the gained assets offset the liabilities? Highly doubtful.

Aug 25, 2010, 1:18pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

No combine governments cause that would be awesome two completely disfunctional local yocal small town good old boy bickering governments constantly beating heads over hickville plumbing inspections and trash pick up.

Aug 25, 2010, 12:33pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Jack, Let me get this straight. You’re trying to convince me that the town is doing GREAT because you have at Wal-Mart? I’m sure if things stay the way they are there will always be a WalMart in Batavia.

A community without white collar or industrial jobs will never prosper in any real sense. Tony is right wealth isn’t created with a minimum wage job. Jack, if you are truly happy with the state of our area’s economy then there is nothing I can say to change your mind.

Batavia (Town and City) will never prosper, grow or be anything more than it is now. A small town with little work, wealth or opportunity.

Aug 25, 2010, 12:47pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Jack, something I've posted about before, but:

In 1995, Levi manufactured 95 percent of its pants in the United States. Because of the pressure for ever-lower prices from the big boxes, Levi moved all its manufacturing overseas and 14,000 good-paying jobs were lost forever.

Rubbermaid refused to lower its prices any further, and Walmart, which represented 20 percent of Rubbermaid's sales, stopped selling Rubbermaid, and Rubbermaid was forced into bankruptcy. It was bought out of bankruptcy by a foreign conglomerate, willing to make inferior products for lower prices, and all of those jobs went overseas.

The last thing Walmart does is help the economy. It's been a major factor in turning us from a nation with good-paying manufacturing jobs into a nation of low-wage service-sector jobs.

For $100 spent in a locally owned store, $47 stays in the local economy. For every $100 spent at Walmart, only $17 stays in the local economy.

Walmart workers often don't have benefits and must rely on government programs to sustain themselves, something Walmart management encourages.

Also, locally, the big boxes benefit from no town tax, so their sole contribution is to the county sales tax.

Charlie is right - Walmart makes no real contribution to the local economy and is likely a net drain locally.

(BTW: I need some undershirts, so guess I'll be going to Walmart or Target in the next week or so <sigh>).

Aug 25, 2010, 1:31pm Permalink
Jack Dorf

I posted specific to your remarks. I never said Walmart. You said Big Box stores,Ie. Walmart,Kmart,BJ's,Target,Lowes,Home Depot. You stated "big box stores don't create local wealth and are far from economic growth in my mind. Those big box stores are dependent on the city's population, that's why they were built on the city line. Big box stores do not represent growth or opportunity, they are the circling buzzards."

How much money from all the people that work at these places turn around and go back into our town. Eliminate all those jobs and then come back and tell me how better off we would be.

I agree 100% that we need high paying manufacturing jobs, that's why I work in Rochester. I am stating that all the development made on the west side is over all better for us that not having any.

Aug 25, 2010, 2:06pm Permalink
John Roach

Before Wal Mart got big, this country had already lost much of its garment industry. And what was still around went down South, like Miltons finally did.

Why did they leave the Northeast? Was it union salaries and benefits? High business and corporate taxes? Why did we lose them to the South before big box stores?

Aug 25, 2010, 2:09pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

How much higher would our school taxes be if it were not for Walmart,Kmart,BJ's,Target,Lowes and Home Depot.They all have to pay school taxes on their property value..Howard does that figure into how much 100 dollars stays here.The land that all those stores sit on has a higher assessed value than if it was all farm land....The city of Batavia's problem it that it has too many tax exempt properties,not paying for all the city services they use..The town doesn't have that problem...

Aug 25, 2010, 2:13pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Jack, think about how many local business would spring up if Walmart, Target, Kmart, etc were not here. Think about what that real wealth would do to our local economy.

Jack, we both drive very far to work every day because we can’t earn a living near home. That is a problem that needs to be dealt with. There is no way things will change if we keep doing the same things with our local government.

BTW, I do shop at Target and Wal-Mart at least once a week. It’s not that I dislike the stores but, that doesn’t change the fact that they do not create wealth and our local economy would be far better off without them.

Aug 25, 2010, 2:20pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Charlie, while we're on the same page regarding big boxes, I don't see the solution being governmental. By and large.

It would be helpful to the American worker if our government would not enter into free trade agreements with countries that do not share our values.

On a local level, I'm not sure consolidation or not is going to solve or harm the economic issues. Except, maybe, a new government can institute a tiered property tax system so that retail outlets over XX number of square feet pay a premium. That would help level the competition field with local businesses.

Other than that the only way we're going to have a growing local business community is for local residents to make the conscious and consistent effort to patronize locally owned businesses first. We also need some more entrepreneurial types willing to start businesses. Over time that could shift the balance of power from the big boxes to locally owned, maybe even making it unprofitable for the boxes to operate here, and simultaneously creating tremendously more wealth for the local community. But until local consumers make the decision to put local first in any meaningful way, the big boxes will continue to sap wealth from the community.

And note: I'm saying local first, not local only. Local only here is impossible, but there are a few hundred great local businesses that deserve our support first.

Aug 25, 2010, 3:25pm Permalink
Tony Ferrando

Wal Mart, the most illustruous dodger of local taxes in the nation, pays school tax? Sure, but not anywhere near what they should be. There was once a Governor named George Pataki that tried to close the loopholes they exploit, shot down of course; then another one named Elliot Spitzer succeeded in closing the tax loophole they use; one where out-of-state corporate affiliates own the buildings and the store "rents" from them, thus, lowering their earnings and their overall tax bill. Looking up their assessment on OARS, it's roughly 9.3 million. Looking at the same assessment, they pay taxes on a value of 7.3 million. What's that, a ~25% break? If every other business in the area that they have taken business from, or simply put under so that people can save 3 whole pennies on each item, were added up (including K Mart, Tops, etc), I think there'd be a higher tax revenue, thus lowering the peoples role even more...

And if you think your property assessment has ever gone up too much... just imagine what a few billion dollars spare change and a bunch of lawyers could do, arguing on your behalf, to lower it. Because the day anyone tries to collect on the full assessed value of that building, is the day that assessment will get dropped about 50%.

Aug 25, 2010, 3:31pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

Howard your no financial wizard. Here is how Walmart creates wealth for millions of share holders and employees.

Wal-Mart has raised its dividend every year for the past 33 years. This year, it raised it 11%. Next year, it'll raise it again… probably by a similar amount. It'll raise it again the year after that, and the year after that...

People look at Wal-Mart's dividend yield – currently 2.2% – and they don't see anything special. What they don't appreciate is the effect of double compounding. On one hand, you reinvest your dividends every year, so your dividends pay dividends and so on. On the other hand, the dividends get bigger every year by 10%.

Combine these two forces together – the double compounding effect – and you create a powerful money machine. For instance, if you'd invested $10,000 in Wal-Mart 20 years ago, your investment would be worth $210,000 today.

Aug 25, 2010, 3:42pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

Right Richard, because all those minimum-wage part-time Wal-Mart employees spend their time off day trading in corporate stocks.

Of course all that money is being reinvested into the American economy by way of manufacturing and textile production jobs...oh, wait..

Well, on the bright side, the cheap toys Wal-Mart imports from China almost never have lead in them...shit...we'll get there I promise...

Aug 25, 2010, 4:06pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

No need to trade..... automatic dividend re-investment drip accounts, and 401ks Chris. How many millionaires do you think the WALMART has created? Better get started drip, drip, drip.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:18pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

No need to trade..... automatic dividend re-investment drip accounts, and 401ks Chris. How many millionaires do you think the WALMART money machine has created? Better get started drip, drip, drip.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:20pm Permalink
Tony Ferrando

No, no, Lori... you're wrong. It isn't plagiarism because he multiplied the numbers in that article by 10, therefore, it's clearly a totally different sentence. No need for him to cite that, naturally.


Aug 25, 2010, 4:27pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

OK, Wal-Mart employees, report in here. How many of you have drip accounts? How many of you have company matched 401k's.

Now, how many of you got sick this week from eating the listeria filled deli meat?

Aug 25, 2010, 4:28pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

If Walmart were required to compete fairly with small businesses -- no tax breaks, give back all the subsidies its received, no legislative favors, etc. -- it couldn't do it. It's business model would collapse.

I can't see how any so-called conservative can possibly stomach Walmart, one of the biggest benefactors of socialism in the history of the United States. Though in Walmart's case the redistribution of wealth involves stealing from the many to give to the few.

Walmart is not a triumph of capitalism. It is a perversion of it.

For now, we're stuck with it, and shopping there is nearly unavoidable in some cases, but whatever few individuals have benefited because they bought a few shares of stock, etc., pales in comparison to the wealth Walmart has stolen from the citizens of the United States.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:29pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

Liberals should hate Wal-Mart as well, Howard. They ship American jobs overseas and they refuse to let their employees unionize.

I watched an hour long special on MSNBC a few months back titled "The New Face of Wal-Mart." Their CEO's reason for not allowing employees to join a union was this: 'Wal-Mart values the personal relationship it has with employees and we don't want to lose that.' I laughed so hard i fell out of my chair.

There was also a particularly hilarious segment where a Wal-Mart 'inspector' toured one of their chinese factories.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:36pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

Howard millions of individuals own and have created an enormous amount of wealth as Walmart stockholders. Can you say competitive advantage, stop whining and just buy Walmart stock your kids will be millionaires. Warren Buffet seems to think so, Walmarts one of his top ten holdings, he only owns 39 million shares. The funny thing is most of you Walmart haters, are Walmart shareholders and you don't even know it. Check the holdings of any of your mutual funds or the funds in any of your 401k plans.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:57pm Permalink
Tony Ferrando

Chris, I hope you mean they toured an American factory which must've employed an extraordinary high number of Asian individuals... Everything in there has a "Made in USA" sticker on it...

... or maybe it's just the sticker that was made in the US....

Aug 25, 2010, 4:53pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

Of course, how could I have forgotten that people who make millions in the stock market are just regular folks. Better than 20% of people in Batavia live below the poverty line just because they forgot to call their stock broker. Let's get a press release out immediately.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:56pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

"millions of individuals"

Utter nonsense and factually untrue. Only a handful of people have benefited from stock ownership to any substantial degree.

Tens of thousands more have seen their earning power diminished substantially by Walmart.

"competitive advantage"

Cheating is not a competitive advantage.

Aug 25, 2010, 4:56pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Richard got so rich from his Walmart stock that he had to move back to Batavia to keep those Texas oil men from beating down his door looking for loans.

Aug 25, 2010, 5:00pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Howard is it Wal Mart fault they get tax breaks or is it governements fault for giving it to them..Those big box stores as you call then in the town of batavia pay alot in school taxes..So they do help keep my school taxes under control..Population growth will drive the creation of more locally run businesses .Not getting rid of Wal Mart..

Aug 25, 2010, 5:29pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

I let Warren Buffett manage my investments Howard through the purchase of Bershire Hathaway Stock. The greatest investor of our time seems to think Walmart is a good investment, thats good enough for me. Here is the latest update as of February 2010 from Berkshire.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is an increased position at just over 39 million shares versus 37.8 million a quarter ago and well above the 19.9+ million shares two quarters ago.

Listen to the Oracle of Omaha Howard, he knows a little sumpin sumpin about asset allocation I've heard.

Aug 25, 2010, 5:49pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Richard, Walmart's stock performance or Warren Buffet's opinion of Walmart is completely irrelevant to any discussion of the damage Walmart does to local communities and the nation. Walmart stock's could perform 100 times better than it does and it just wouldn't mean a thing. None of that information does anything to change the fact that Walmart rapes local communities.

Mark, see the remarks above about how big boxes run a shell game to reduce property taxes. Also, a community of thriving local businesses would generate substantially more in property and sales tax than the current big boxes.

Aug 25, 2010, 7:22pm Permalink
kevin kretschmer

As bad as Walmart is in your opinion, JC Penny's must be downright evil in your mind. You'd rather drive out to Walmart or Target for underwear rather than walk across the street to purchase the exact same item.

Aug 25, 2010, 7:38pm Permalink
bud prevost

Which goes to show what a shitty location Penneys is in. You can't see it from main st, and who in their right mind would think that there is a mall on main st. Town or city, issues abound in Batavia.

Aug 25, 2010, 8:32pm Permalink
Frank Bartholomew

I just had a crazy thought, wasn't there at one time a thriving local economy, I think it was there, and then a bunch of lunatics had it torn down. Maybe urban renewel was just a bunch of undercover wal mart spys. And then they talked the city fathers into building the genesee country eyesore, wal mart espionage at its finest.

Sep 12, 2010, 10:25pm Permalink

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