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Council president fears city's $170K investment in improving Batavia at risk

By Howard B. Owens

In a sometimes testy discussion, Councilman Kris Doeringer wasn't the only official in Vibrant Batavia's corner during a budget workshop Monday night, but he was the most passionate.

He's not arguing, he said, for a bottomless well of money to fund the upstart community improvement group, just another year or two of seed money to ensure it can survive on its own.

"Two years ago, I said I wanted Vibrant Batavia to be self-funded, and I still believe that," said Doeringer (top photo).

The fact that the Centennial Committee, a subcommittee of Vibrant Batavia, was able to raise $125,000 for the city's 100th anniversary celebration is a sign Vibrant Batavia can flourish, but being only 18 months into the venture, and 12 of those months spent on Centennial fundraising, simply hasn't given the group enough time to establish itself, Doeringer said.

"You have to give us time for these things to happen," he said.

That doesn't seem likely to happen. At least five council members sound like they're ready to cut all funding.

John Deleo, Eugene Jankowski (bottom photo), Patti Pacino, Kathy Briggs and Rose Mary Christian all expressed outright opposition to continued funding or indicated they were leaning against further funding.

Vibrant Batavia is asking for $50,000 for 2015 and City Manager Jason Molino recommend an expenditure of $45,000.

The funds are channeled through RochesterWorks, a community organization group, which takes a 5-percent cut and pays for Leanna DiRisio to run Vibrant Batavia.

After the meeting, Council President Brooks Hawley said he feared, without funding, Vibrant Batavia would wither on the vine.

"I believe once that leadership is gone it disappears and there no more vibrant at all," Brooks said.

Adding up the $90,000 paid to consultants at czb to do a needs assessment for Batavia, and $80,000 already committed to Vibrant Batavia to help get it started, if it dies, Hawley acknowledged, that $170,000 investment to try and build a more vibrant future for Batavia goes down the drain.

"From that report that we did, the council spent a lot of money doing that, and they gave us recommendations on how we can improve our city," Hawley said. "That's where BDC came from, that's where Vibrant came from, that's why I don't want to cut the legs from underneath them, but I would like to see, Vibrant, like I said, not do a three-year contract, but do a year-by-year, look at it, gauge it and see. I would like to reduce the funds eventually so they're self-sufficient."

Leading the opposition to continued funding are Deleo, Briggs and Christian, with Jankowski and Pacino professing a degree of neutrality but asking skeptical and doubtful questions.

"The thing I get from my people when they come in is they all think it was great, but they say don't take the money out of my pocket to pay for it," Deleo said.

Briggs said, "They've done a wonderful job, but the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for it. They don't have to want to pay for it. They want these people to be able to go on their own."

Christian said she's also hearing from constituents on the issue.

"I like Vibrant Batavia, but I've had too many calls and too many complaints," Christian said. "I don't want to give $50K for it and have it go to Rochester, too."

Jankowski said people are concerned about keeping up with the cost of living and therefore want to cut out government expenses.

"It's tough when raising kids," Jankowski said. "The cost of living increases, bills go up and they cut out something, whether it be cable TV or newspaper delivery. They cut what they can possibly cut. This is where people are coming from, those affected by this tax increase, proposed, are getting here and they're reacting emotionally to it and they're saying, 'Do we really need this $50,000 going here? Can't we offset my taxes and save me some money?' I think it's a legitimate question."

Pacino said she was just asking questions to help clarify how the money going to Vibrant Batavia was being spent.

"What are they doing with that money?" Pacino asked. "(Taxpayers) are not going to accept, 'well, it's all coming back to the community.' I believe that. I love this group, but I can't just say it's going back to the community."

Pierluigi Cipollone expressed support for Vibrant Batavia.

"This is an investment," Cipollone said. "It's an investment in our community. It's an investment in our people. Like Kris said, we're not going to see a dollar-for-dollar return on our investment. We're going to see a return in the form of more pride in the city. People cleaning up their streets a little better, helping out their neighbors. That's where the benefit comes from this. To look at this as a mere expense is missing the picture. You have to look at it as an investment in the community."

John Canale said he's heard from one constituent on this issue -- the only time, he said, a constituent has ever come forward on his or her own to express an opinion about anything. That constituent loves Vibrant Batavia, wants to see it continue, but believes funding should eventually be cut off and the group should make it on its own, he said.

In his defense of Vibrant Batavia, Doeringer didn't back down from the debate.

In response to questions by Jankowski and Pacino that seemed to indicate the only money coming back to the community was the money spent on block parties, Doeringer tried to make the case that 100 percent of the city's investment in Vibrant Batavia comes back to the community.

The salary for DiRiseo, though an administrative cost, is money that is being invested in the community, just as the administrative cost of paying council salaries is money invested in the community.

That led to the following exchange between Deleo and Doeringer, with the two council members talking over each other at times.

"Doesn't 5 percent go to RochesterWorks?" Deleo asked.

"Right, we're hiring them to send one of their employees to us."

"So we're down to 95 percent."

"We are paying for their expertise," Doeringer said over Deleo's comment. "We are paying for their training of their employee to benefit our community, so it's 100 percent of the money that comes back to the community."

Christian said she was making her plea to cut funding on behalf the middle class (which apparently includes people who make minimum wage).

"Basically, what you're forgetting is the middle class, and the middle class is really strapped and they really can't afford much more of anything," Christian said. "That's my concern. I mean these things are just out of control. I mean, the minimum wage around here is, what, $8.50 an hour or whatever. You're lucky if they make $30,000. We have all these increases and everything else and nobody has the concern it seems like for the middle class. I'm middle class. Don't you have any concern for me?"

Doeringer said he also was middle class, which prompted the start of a retort Doeringer didn't let Christian finish.

"I hardly think living on Naramore versus living --" with Doeringer cutting her off with a tart, "I don't live on Naramore."

Hawley would like to find a way to continue funding Vibrant Batavia so that the group can continue its work on behalf of the residents and business owners of the community, but he doesn't see funding as something that continues indefinately.

"I don't want to put a timetable on it," Hawley said. "At the most, this year and next year and then that would be it for me. I wouldn't vote in favor after that, but they've only been around for two years. I think City Council needs to invest in them for four years to make sure they have solid footing and go from there. I don't want to see them disappear at all because they do great things in our community."

Before the Vibrant Batavia discussion, Fire Chief Jim Maxwell and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch both discussed their budget requests.

The fire department proposed budget is $3.9 million, with: $2 million in base salaries; $125,000 in overtime; $139,390 in holiday hours; a $35,000 one-ton utility vehicle; $21,000 in professional development and training; a $549,190 contribution to the state retirement fund; and $188,430 for Social Security taxes.

The police budget is $4 million: $2.1 million for base salaries; $220,000 for overtime; $12,000 for the emergency response team overtime; $85,000 for holiday pay; $63,360 for two patrol vehicles; $61,000 for gas; $44,870 for uniforms and body armor; $19,000 for travel and training; $38,000 for new officer training; $539,980 for the state retirement fund; $194,340 for Social Security tax; and $434,610 for medical insurance.

Christian said she would rather see more money go to police.

"I myself would like to see more policemen," Christian said. "I really wanted to have more body cameras for our officers. It's really crazy out there. I don't know if you're familiar with the streets, but I am. I want you to know anything can happen at any time, but I really want them protected and the ability for us to know what's really going on out there."

UPDATE: Here's a breakdown of how the czb report was funded: $25,000 from a state grant for sustainable neighborhoods; $30,000 from a federal CDBG for community planning; $25,000 that came out of a housing loan program in the 1990s (income from that program); $7,000 from the city's 2010-11 budget, for a total of $87,000 -- plus $8,000 of staff time support of the consultants.

John Roach

Vibrant Batavia itself is not the issue. It's the money paid to run it. Let the Assistant City Manager run it and save the money going to Rochester and for payroll. The VB committee itself will still be here and will still do the job they have been doing.

Feb 3, 2015, 12:09pm Permalink
Thomas Mooney

it's all trash talk , or is it. So we eliminated trash pickup at the expense of the taxpayer that was going to save money but we hired an assistant manager at the expense of the taxpayer and now we are supposed to support a group that is supposed do what ? have a celebrations at taxpayers expense?

So much is wrong with the City council and the city managers that many citizens are sick of hearing the white lies .

We now pay for our trash pickup and the taxes have gone back to where they were .

We pay Rochester works 5% to hire a city resident (we could have done that )to coordinate a group that in return throws parties .(how many people drank and bough Alcohol at The City Center (Liability to consume any alcohol in a government owned building)

We give pay raises to under performing city management after we say we have zero money available .

We raise water rates because in return we are taking he money made from the water dept. and putting it into the general fund, to offset more mismanagement .

The Fie and Police have identified close to $400,000 planned Overtime that could be reduced with more officers or part time .

I am sorry but if city council and the management lived in the real world and they were running a business a , the business would be closed and bankrupt .

Its time to start walking and stop talking .

If the council truly wants change and reform . Start a different mind set and change management to work for the people and not their resume .To many people are complaining about the assistant manager that we do not need along with our manager being to powerful and having everything revolve around him . Anytime transparency is at stake , change is evident , if indeed we do not change management then in return its the taxpayers at fault for voting in the council we have

Feb 3, 2015, 12:10pm Permalink
Thomas Mooney

Term Limits on City Council, City School Board will help to straighten the boat .

A Mayor elected(with term limits) and competent educated compensated city council could do wonders but then again the "old boys club would have to move over" for the good of the city

Feb 3, 2015, 12:13pm Permalink
Thomas Mooney

Common sense speaks volumes. I agree John, If we are going to have an assistant manager then that's her puppy. Do we need an assistant ? We have half million tied into salaries for five people . My question is how involved is Sally Kuzon with day to day operations , she has three below her that run the DPW as is . Could we have a joint DPW and Assistant manager , our city clerk is making what the our manager should be making . Yes the study shows they are under paid to the national average but are they also under performing , those two figures should mirror each other. How many studies have we paid for that are pocket surveys by management to boost their intentions.

Feb 3, 2015, 12:26pm Permalink
John Roach

Thomas, we did have that. Up until Molino said she wasn't, Sally Kuzon was both the Assistant Manager and DPW head. Rose Mary Christian still has paperwork with Ms. Kuzon listed as the Assistant. Councilman Jankowski has related how he was told he was to refer to her as the Assistant when he was still a police Lt.

Then one day, Mr. Molino declared that Ms. Kuzon was never really the Assistant and the Jason 5 agreed. Now we have another city employee.

To be accurate, the "study" you mention was for County management, not City.

Feb 3, 2015, 12:45pm Permalink
cj sruger

all this over a 45K a year job? please, cut a small amount of over time out of the fire and police, or reuse the the police body armor another year, or reuse the old police crusier another year or two, this is such an insignificant amount of money compared to overall budget.

Howard, are there any strings attached to to the grants for "community develompent, and "sustainable Living?

Feb 3, 2015, 5:09pm Permalink
Rich Richmond

To the average reasonable person (taxpayer) trying to make ends meet and save for retirement; an investment is money put into stocks or bonds to make a profit.

To the average person (taxpayer) trying to balance their check book and make ends meet; to be in debt or be indebted is to owe money.

When average people (taxpayers) invest their money in stocks and bonds; they receive an inclusive financial statement detailing revenues and specific expenses.
No reasonable informed person will invest $50,000 plus yearly without a financial statement to chart progress.

This is compounded by the fact Molino continuously delays and delays to give a detailed financial statement about Vibrant Batavia as requested by Councilman Jankowski. This raises questions; what are the City Manager and his supporters hiding and why?

Taxpayer money spent on a nonprofit group such as Vibrant Batavia is not an investment; it is a debt.... plain and simple.....regardless how Councilman Doeringer passionately or angrily spins it.

Councilman John Canale offered an e-mail from his first constituent who is in favor Vibrant Batavia. Just one....really? This anonymous constituent suggested at some point Vibrant Batavia should be self-sustaining with council’s help. Really at what point Councilman?

I live in the third-ward and I’m one of your constituents? I say “some point” is now!

Let the new Assistant Manager take over where Leanna Di Risio left off.

Feb 3, 2015, 7:13pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

CJ, I double checked with Jason, but it's kind of what I expected.

The grants were used within the scope of their intended purpose. A consultant was hired. A report was received. Recommendations were made. The city is of course under no obligation to act on those recommendations.

Feb 3, 2015, 9:50pm Permalink
Brian Graz

$90,000 paid to consultants at czb to do a needs assessment... and $80,000 already committed to Vibrant Batavia to help get it started, and now they are considering $45-50K more!!! There must be a common sense deficiency among the council folks.

Speaking of another common sense deficiency among the city council members... that would be their continued willingness to spend an outrageous amount of [taxpayers] money to fund a full time, paid, fire department! Why??!!!!!!

The City of Batavia is roughly 1/10 the size of the Town of Amherst. The population of Amherst is 122,000 vs the population of Batavia at 15,000. Amherst is served by ALL VOLUNTEER Fire Departments!

There are some/several City of Batavia fireman who earn more than the BPD officers. Why???

Vibrant Batavia needs to survive on their own... just as the Batavia Fire Dept needs to become volunteer or privatized... like the ambulance service has been done.

Feb 4, 2015, 3:16am Permalink
Lori Silvernail

I'm not interested in what other cities/towns have for their fire department makeup. I like the security of having a paid fire department. Our houses are so close together in the city, if one goes up and there isn't staffing here promptly, more are at risk. We're looking at a pool of 15,000 residents vs 122,000. I don't think we have the population to get a volunteer fire department together as easily as a more populated area such as Amherst

Feb 4, 2015, 10:25am Permalink
Mark Potwora

Mr.Hawley said....

Adding up the $90,000 paid to consultants at czb to do a needs assessment for Batavia, and $80,000 already committed to Vibrant Batavia to help get it started, if it dies, Hawley acknowledged, that $170,000 investment to try and build a more vibrant future for Batavia goes down the drain..

Did he not read the report..Starting a neighborhood group was just one small idea in the report....His point the somehow we have invested 170,000 dollars in a round about way to VB and that if we don't throw more money at we will be wasting 170,000 dollars doesn't add up....Typical big government thinking..Keep throw government money at it and it will work....Mr.Hawley needs a reality check....

Feb 4, 2015, 11:41am Permalink
Emma Morrill

Exactly, Lori Silvernail! Who cares what Amherst is doing with their fire department? We are NOT Amherst. With the older houses situated closely together in this city, fires can quickly escalate into neighborhood-wide disasters. Couple that with the fact that we not only have a much smaller population from which to draw a volunteer force -- AND an aging population at that? No, thanks! It's extremist crazy talk.

Amherst has a long tradition of having a volunteer fire department (it was formed in 1919); Batavia does not. It's a fact, all over the nation, the number of people willing to train and serve as volunteer fire fighters has drastically declined (for all sorts of reasons); even in Amherst, they are constantly battling shortages of volunteers. Many towns and cities with long histories of volunteer fire departments are now moving toward mixed volunteer/paid fire departments or all paid departments, out of necessity. You will find VERY few, if any (I couldn't find any) departments that are successfully moving from a paid force to a volunteer force. Today, in most cities and towns, there simply are not enough volunteers available to safely and effectively staff volunteer fire departments.

I'll tell you this much, if anyone actually tries to replace Batavia's excellent, highly trained, paid fire department with a volunteer or private force, I will pack up and leave this city so fast, it will make your heads spin... and I know that I won't be alone. Volunteer fire fighters are great folks, and they do excellent work in certain regions... but Batavia is not that sort of region. I will NEVER vote for any politician who would even suggest such a plan (a plan that would surely jeopardize public safety), and I would actively and vociferously work to defeat any such candidate, no matter what party he or she is in.

Feb 4, 2015, 4:03pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Emma and Lori

The town of Ogden where I grew up has more people (19,000), a decent sized section of old, tightly spaced homes, a main street in Spencerport with buildings sharing walls, and a volunteer fire fighting force. The fire department covers a larger area than the City of Batavia's does, by about 7 times. Only about 100 less homes than Batavia as of 2010 (Ogden has built many more since). They man 3 stations to cover the larger area.

At least twice in my lifetime they have prevented the spread of fires in downtown Spencerport to the adjacent buildings that shared walls.

It is completely conceivable to have a volunteer fire department in Batavia and not lose any coverage, professionalism, or ability of the force.

Your fears are unfounded.

Feb 4, 2015, 5:02pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

Clearly, you didn't read my comments above, because your post really doesn't address most of the serious problems that I noted. The suggestion that we should move to a volunteer fire department, here in Batavia, also doesn't reflect the reality today. How long has Ogden had a volunteer fire department? I'm guessing that, like most volunteer departments, it's very old (at least in some form, even if it, more recently, merged with other departments); thus, it has a history.

Again, there is a problem today -- across the nation -- finding volunteers who are willing and able to provide the time and dedication necessary to staff volunteer fire departments safely. This has been a growing problem over recent decades, and it's not changing (it's getting worse). Where do you propose that we are to draw all of these volunteer firefighters from Batavia's aging population? There are very few, if any, fire departments in this nation that are now moving successfully from paid to volunteer fire service. It's not happening. Many departments, in fact, are being forced to shift in the OTHER direction to provide adequate staffing and public safety. To deny those facts is to engage in a very dangerous pipe dream.

This article is from 2005, but the problems highlighted in this piece have only gotten *worse* in the past decade.…

Feb 4, 2015, 5:35pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

Just doing a quick search, I immediately found three stories, like this one, just from the past week. This is Chambersburg, PA. A similar article about problems securing enough volunteer firefighters in Bucks County PA was published just a couple of days ago. I also found a story about the same problem in the Louisville, KY area, published yesterday. And there are more such stories. Lots more.…

Feb 4, 2015, 6:15pm Permalink
Jack Dorf

Spencerport Fire District has 110 members and yet they do not cover their entire district.

The Spencerport Fire District was formed in 2002 after The Village of Spencerport Fire Department and the Ogden-Parma Fire District merged to provide more efficient and cost effective fire service to the community.

The Spencerport Fire District covers The Town of Ogden, The Village of Spencerport and the southern portion of The Town of Parma in Monroe County, New York.

The Spencerport Fire District contracts with The Chili Fire Department to cover the southeast corner of Ogden and contracts with The Churchville Fire Department to cover the southwest corner of Ogden. This is due to the closer proximity of their fire stations to these areas resulting in a quicker response to emergencies.

Feb 4, 2015, 6:24pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

In fact, the Village of Spencerport Volunteer Fire Dept. was founded in 1890. The *merger* occurred in 2002, but they'd already had more than 100 years to establish their volunteer fire department. That's not the same as starting up a brand new volunteer fire department in 2002 -- nor is it comparable to converting a paid fire dept to a volunteer fire dept.

Feb 4, 2015, 6:28pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

"Clearly, you didn't read my comments above, because your post really doesn't address most of the serious problems that I noted."

My comment addresses your fear mongering

"With the older houses situated closely together in this city, fires can quickly escalate into neighborhood-wide disasters. Couple that with the fact that we not only have a much smaller population from which to draw a volunteer force -- AND an aging population at that? No, thanks! It's extremist crazy talk."

Feb 4, 2015, 10:08pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

Fear mongering? Hardly. In fact, you completely (and conveniently) ignored the very real and growing nation-wide shortage of volunteer firefighters. I offered extensive info and evidence. You, however, also ignored the fact that many formerly volunteer forces are now having to revert to hiring more and more paid fire fighters to fill those public safety gaps.

Anyhow, such a shift (to a volunteer fire dept) will not happen in Batavia, because it's completely naive, fringe-y and counter-intuitive to suggest that it would be a "simple and safe" transition in a city, like Batavia, with a rapidly aging population. Again, where are you going to find the volunteers? However, if, by some unlikely chance, it did happen, I gather that you will be first in line to sign up as a volunteer?

Again, I give you this article (and this phenomenon has only gotten worse, in the ensuing years).

"Number of Volunteer Firefighters Is Declining":…


"Fire Departments Feel Pinch of Lack of Volunteers "…

"Many fire and rescue squad stations are closing throughout the country or at least consolidating because they can’t get members, he said.
'I think the handwriting on the wall is sooner or later the county is going to have some paid people during the daytime. I think that is coming quicker than most people think,' he said."

"Fire Departments Struggle to Attract Volunteers":…

"Volunteers Tougher to Come By for Colorado's Fire Departments":…

"Coatsville Fire Bureau Lacks Volunteers, A National Issue":…

And on... and on... and on... and on...

Feb 5, 2015, 12:52am Permalink
Bea McManis

There is more to becoming an active member of a volunteer fire department than just signing up.
Volunteer Firefighter Training Requirements
Requirements for becoming a volunteer firefighter vary by fire department. Most departments require firefighters to be 18 years of age or older and hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Candidates are generally required to pass written and physical exams, drug screenings and background checks. Some departments may require volunteer firefighters to hold a valid driver's license and live within a department's service area. Many prefer applicants who demonstrate strong decision-making skills, dependability and bravery.
Career Training
After being recruited, new volunteer firefighters typically enter department-run training academies or similar programs. According to, firefighters are required to complete at least 110 hours of training in programs certified by the National Fire Protection Association. Training programs are comprised of both practical application and in-class instruction. Trainees learn to handle various rescue tools, such as extinguishers, axes and ladders. Along with firefighting techniques, they're instructed in preventing fires, handling hazardous materials and performing emergency medical procedures.
Firefighters continue training in their departments after graduating from training academies and are typically subject to probationary periods. Many firefighters participate in apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships can take up to four years to complete and provide trainees with hands-on experience under the supervision of skilled fire protection professionals.
Postsecondary Training
Volunteer firefighters only need a high school diploma; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a growing number of firefighters have completed some postsecondary coursework ( Volunteer firefighters may be more likely to advance to a paid position if they hold an undergraduate degree in fire science or fire safety engineering. Associate's degree programs in fire science typically take two years to complete and are geared toward firefighters seeking advancement in the occupation. Courses may cover arson investigation, protection systems, prevention, firefighting strategies, building construction and hazardous materials.…

Feb 5, 2015, 2:42pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Can't do anything like that while my knee is healing. Torn ACL and Meniscus. Haven't been cleared by the doctor yet.

Being a full time student on top of a part time job and internship it would have to wait till Summer anyways at which point I will be traveling in a new job.

Feb 5, 2015, 6:19pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

That makes my point, Peter. You're not special. Lots of young adults work and go to school these days -- and, many of them are also raising families. The type of people who are needed to staff volunteer fire departments are no longer volunteering for such service, for a whole host of reasons (many are enumerated in the article links that I posted above). The world has changed, and this is a type of volunteer service that requires such incredible time and dedication that not many young people, these days, are willing or able to do it. The number of available volunteers has plummeted (read the article links that I posted above!); and those numbers will only continue to go down.

There is, as I noted extensively above, a severe shortage of volunteers for volunteer fire departments all over the nation. That is why many volunteer fire departments, in every part of the nation, are closing... or consolidating... or having hire PAID firefighters. That is precisely why it's a ridiculous notion that the city of Batavia could suddenly recruit the numbers needed to staff an adequate volunteer fire department, particularly with the aging population that we have here; it's completely contrary to the trends as they are shaping up across the rest of the country, and it just isn't going to happen. It's a naive proposition that flies in the face of ALL evidence.

If you're really interested, however, I hope that you'll give it a shot, once your knee heals. As Howard mentioned above, I'm sure that the Town of Batavia could use additional volunteers, AFTER you go through the extensive (and time consuming) training that Bea outlines above.

Feb 5, 2015, 7:08pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Every volunteer I know works at least one job, several two. I know a volunteer who is a full-time college student and has a full-time job. He's got one of the best response rates in his department. Another chief I know owns his own business, which is successful and most people would think would keep them busy enough, and he has a full-time job.

Call me a hypocrite for not volunteering myself, but it would create a conflict of interest in my job.

But the "too busy" or "too much travel" excuse doesn't wash with many of our dedicated volunteers.

Even with an injury, there's still jobs to be done in support roles.

Feb 6, 2015, 9:24am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Year before I was traveling for work

Year before that was being on call with work to cover airport security equipment from Niagara Falls down to Erie during the week and as far out as Albany on select weekends.

My brother served with the Spencerport Vol. FD for a few years, I served in the Navy. My lack of current civic responsibilities are not the issue.

Feb 6, 2015, 11:07pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Yes down vote my injury, thanks everyone. Luckily I don't need you to earn my 4.0 gpa. Nor do I believe I am above menial tasks as this year my pay went from $20/hr to minimum wage, which at $8.75 is ridiculously high.

Feb 6, 2015, 11:09pm Permalink
John Roach

Peter, stop the bull. Nobody down voted your injury. They downvoted your lame excuse. You could have volunteered to be a fireman years before your injury. You did not. Your current condition had nothing to do with it. Your being is school is bogus also as a reason not to volunteer. Just as an example, my nephew was working at a job, working on his Masters in engineering (4.0 gpa also) and became a volunteer fireman in Amherst

I currently know a high school senior who not only is in school but works, is in sports and is a volunteer fireman here in Genesee County.

Man up and just admit, you did not want to volunteer.

Feb 7, 2015, 7:02am Permalink
Bea McManis

Peter, taking a look back.
3/4/2009 Peter wrote: "I never made minimum wage in my life. My first job was a dime more than minimum. I then leverage my good attendance and punctuality and work ethic to earn more. That was as a dishwasher.
Why didn't I ever earn the minimum? Because I didn't accept the fact that I was worth the bare minimum. If you are stuck in a minimum wage job, that is because of your choices, there fore you should suffer the consequences.
I now have my dream job. My boss is 2 hours away in Syracuse, my closest coworker is in Rochester and I set my own work hours. How did I get here? Making good choices, paying attention, and having marketable skills. I continue to impress my superiors on a daily basis and I am not afraid to learn or ask questions. I did this all without a college degree. I make enough money that if my wife lost her job we could live comfortably. I will have all my debt besides my car and house paid down to zero by the end of the year and the car will be paid off the following year. All because I chose to make success a priority in my life.
Some of it was being in the right place at the right time, but most of it was my hard work."
Interesting that you are now going to GCC, did you receive financial assistance?. When you were relieved on your position did you receive unemployment benefits?
Even more interesting, you are advocating an all volunteer fire department for a community you are planning to exit as soon as possible. The consequences of your suggestions will have no impact on you.

Feb 7, 2015, 10:29am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

I was put on disability at $170 a week for 2 months, then offered a job with the same company for $144 a week before taxes. I did not receive unemployment when I left two days into that $144/week job. I did receive unemployment when I lost my dream job due to decisions that were beyond my control (government contract decisions) for one month before I found a new job.

I am not getting assistance as I see it. I am getting my GI Bill benefits that I invested in with time and money.

John I would volunteer for my local fire district (City of Batavia) if they were volunteer and my community was a place that welcomed me. At every turn I feel either pushed away by government decisions at every level or made to suffer (stealing my money in unneeded tax raises) by bureaucrats.

You can think they are excuses, but the only three organizations in the county that I feel welcome at are GCC (because of the people in my program), HLOM (because Jeff is a great guy), and the Batavia Muckdogs (because the deck crew welcomed my wife and I with open arms).

The Libertarian Party would welcome me, but my politics don't align. (Kind of important in a political party).

The GOP locally treated me as nonviable when I interviewed for the congressman nomination.

Assuming when I move out of town, I may well volunteer with the FD in whatever town. Its a great way to meet people and be welcomed. But there is no reason for me to volunteer for an organization to which I have no affiliation other than its name is shared with the city in which I live.

Feb 7, 2015, 11:31am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

And one more thing Bea, as long as I am paying my taxes. My voice in this town, whether I am leaving or not, is just as important as everyone else's. My future plans don't mean that I won't advocate for what I think is best for this city while I am still part of it.

Feb 7, 2015, 11:45am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Your local fire district does take volunteers, Peter. It's called the Town of Batavia Fire Department. City residents are more than welcome to volunteer for that department.

The point being, if you truly believe the city be volunteer, the only way to make the case for that to be sustainable is for enough city residents to take advantage of the volunteer opportunity that currently presents itself. It's rather disengenous to advocate for a volunteer department and not take advantage of the opportunity to volunteer. The door is open. There's no reason for you not to take it other than an excuse-shorn "I don't want to."

Feb 7, 2015, 11:50am Permalink
Peter O'Brien

If it was I don't want to I would say so. But I don't give my time to people or organizations that attack me. Telling me I am getting a large reduction in taxes by privatizing garbage collection, then stealing it back the next two years is an assault on my freedoms.

The Fire Department, is a Department of the City government that stole that money from me. The city government doesn't value me anymore than I can pay them. They couldn't even speak to me when I went and commented at a council meeting about budget decisions, they just ignored my comments. It was then I saw my value to this community. It was one of the major points of being disillusioned of what it means to serve. To serve in government means self service and nothing more.

Let me ask you a question John, why don't you volunteer with the town FD? You attack me and my ideals saying I wouldn't back them up. That I won't "Put Up and Shut Up". But I don't see you doing anything extra to serve them.

Feb 7, 2015, 12:01pm Permalink
Bea McManis

" I did receive unemployment when I lost my dream job due to decisions that were beyond my control (government contract decisions) for one month before I found a new job.
I am not getting assistance as I see it. I am getting my GI Bill benefits that I invested in with time and money."
I wasn't aware that the GI Bill covered unemployment insurance. Once again (didn't we go through this once before) you did not invest in unemployment insurance. That is paid by the employer.
I guess, at this point, it is a moot (or mute) point. I'm sure, by now with the 4.0 gpa, you learned that they are not homophones.

Feb 7, 2015, 12:42pm Permalink
Brian Graz

I don't go about chasing ambulances or fire trucks, in fact the last major fire in the City of Batavia that I happened to observe personally was the large old house at 33 Ross St. The first thing that caught my attention was seeing the volunteer firefighters from Alexander and Elba rushing thru the city. Then later I read the report that Darien and the Town of Batavia also were on scene helping. Why? If the previous posts above are justified in stating the case that the City of Batavia needs/deserves better protection than what a volunteer FD would offer, and thus it's necessary for maintaining a sizable, highly paid, full-time, professional FD, then why when crunch time comes, volunteers from surrounding towns need to come to help?

Feb 7, 2015, 1:12pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

So, Brian, you think the City of Batavia should hire about 50 more firefighters and buy a dozen more trucks so it can handle any major fire on its own?

I guess you like paying taxes.

Feb 7, 2015, 1:53pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

I don't think it is realistic to assume any emergency department is staffed, funded or outfitted to independently manage every emergency. Not only would the current fiscal climate force most departments to function with bare-bones funding, one must also consider the likely limitation of available water sources to fight a large fire- particularly in a residential area. A pumper has only so-much hose and so-many proximate fireplugs to draw from. That is the whole point of mutual aid: to combine resources for maximum effect. Most rural fire departments have tankers to compensate for the lack of available water in rural settings. Likely those outside responders were providing additional water and manpower to protect the adjoining properties.

A city fire department has unique challenges that most rural departments would rarely (if ever) encounter. The buildings are generally larger and taller in a city, The layout is more condensed and varied in terms of structural design and access to those structures. Additionally the structures include residences, retail stores, industrial buildings and large capacity material, fuel and chemical/gas storage. Specialized equipment and training is necessary to handle that diversity. There are also the demands of managing larger numbers of displaced or injured people, utilities and traffic.

Feb 7, 2015, 1:55pm Permalink
John Roach

Gee Peter, the world just doesn't appreciate you. Poor boy.

Peter, the reason I am not a volunteer fireman is that I do not and never did want to be one. No lame excuses like yours.

But I did serve another 30 years in the Reserves after active duty, have served on 3 City Committees, ran for office twice (lost both times) and have been a volunteer in a youth group for the past 21 years.

Feb 7, 2015, 3:40pm Permalink
Rich Richmond

Peter, a clarification please; you said “The GOP locally treated me as nonviable when I interviewed for the congressman nomination”.

Are you a registered Republican and were you a registered Republican when you were interviewed for the congressman position.

What congressman position and where?

What year were you interviewed and by whom?

Who received the nomination in your place? Did he or she run and win?

How do you know the Libertarian Party will welcome you with open arms and why are your politics so dissimilar?

Perhaps the Democrat or the Conservative Party is more to your liking?

Feb 7, 2015, 5:43pm Permalink
Emma Morrill

Also, John, you are not one of the people who (at least, on this thread) has been suggesting that the city of Batavia should move to a volunteer force, while ignoring the very real fact that there is a growing and well documented nation-wide shortage of volunteer firefighters. Sadly, it's a dying "art."

Ergo, John, by NOT signing up with a volunteer fire department, you are NOT being a hypocrite, unlike a few other folks on this thread, who keep talking about how we ought to move to a volunteer force, while also failing to contribute to such work. By the way, thanks for your service to the nation and to the community.

Obviously, not everyone is cut out to serve as a volunteer firefighter. I sure am not, even though I greatly admire the difficult work that such volunteers do: fires terrify me, I'm a hopeless clutz -- and, admittedly I'm a rather girly wimp. I am, however, also more than happy to have a portion of my taxes -- even a significant portion -- go towards paying for such important public safety endeavors. I happen to think that our current paid/professional fire department, in concert with nearby volunteer forces, does fantastic and very admirable work.

Howard is right; those folks who keep talking about moving towards an all-volunteer force, here in the city of Batavia (again, this is highly unlikely to happen, since such a movement would buck all nation-wide trends), should begin by volunteering themselves. It's a pretty sure bet that the Town of Batavia Volunteer Fire Department is always in need of capable new volunteers.

Feb 7, 2015, 4:39pm Permalink
John Roach

Emma, to be upfront with you, in the 1980's, I did support the idea of the City going to a volunteer force or combination of full time and volunteer firefighters for the City.

But since then NYS took a major drop in businesses and jobs. More and more in Genesee County left. Then big companies in Rochester and Buffalo also left. The population in the City dropped. We now have a very large part of the population that is too old or too young to volunteer.

Not enough of the people who could and would volunteer work near enough to respond in a timely manner.

I no longer think a volunteer force is a viable idea. I do think we could have a volunteer auxiliary fire fighting force to help in large fires like the one about 4 years ago on Swan Street.

Feb 7, 2015, 5:20pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien…

Yes I was and always have been a registered republican. I wasn't told I had to give a speech before being interviewed. I was given softball questions.

The dems don't like what I have to say and I know no one in the conservative party. My wife serves on the board of the local Libertarian party and I have been to several functions and spoken with the members and founder.

Feb 7, 2015, 9:31pm Permalink
John Roach

Since when do you have to know anyone to be in a political party? Or when do they have to like what you say or don't say to be a member of any party?

And unless you are really off the wall, you knew you would not be the Congressional candidate back then.

But there is nothing but yourself stopping you from running for office this year. You can even run as an independent as you know.

Feb 7, 2015, 9:41pm Permalink
Brian Graz

No Howard, quite the contrary... I'm saying if volunteer fire departments are good enough to handle the needs of the surrounding towns, [and an excellent job they do at that], and then have to come into the City of Batavia to help the OVERPAID [some making $80-100+k/yr] professional FD, there is a real problem with that formula. I'd say those who support the BFD at a budget cost of $4million/yr to service a "city?" of 15000 are the ones who like paying taxes.

Feb 7, 2015, 10:05pm Permalink
Rich Richmond

Thank you for the clarification for all of my questions but one.

What is it about the Libertarians you don’t like?

Are you that far apart from your wife politically?

Feb 7, 2015, 10:05pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Specifically I disagree with their stances on abortion, the military, fair trade, international affairs, and immigration,

Economically we are quite aligned

Feb 7, 2015, 10:39pm Permalink
Brian Graz

John, I'm sure the same decline applies pretty much to all of the Genesee County region. What if all the towns in Gen Co said 'a volunteer force is no longer a viable idea'?

Rather they dealt with the problem with a common sense alternative... Mutual Aid.

The outrageous aspect with Mutual Aid is that the City of Batavia with a $4M/yr professional FD can participate and benefit from this program which supplies aid from surrounding FDs that are all volunteer. WHY should city fireman [many earning $80-100k/yr] need/expect aid from other firemen who are volunteers???

As for a "volunteer auxiliary fire fighting force to help"... there already is one - Mutual Aid!

Yep, just maintain the staus quo, government services, increase spending to do so if necessary, and raise taxes. The 3 newest Council members told us in advance that this is what they would do...

The people get the government they deserve.

Feb 8, 2015, 2:21am Permalink
Kyle Couchman

Brian do you ever read more than a few words into these "mutual aid" situations? 90% of the time the Volunteer FD comes in and stands in the station of the Professional FD to respond to any other fires that might occur. After all we have enough to handle a big fire but not two or three at the same time.

To be honest I agree with some on here, unless you want to step in and BE a volunteer then just sit down and shut up. Because if your not part of the solution then you are part of the problem...

There is alot more to firefighting than pulling out hoses and spraying water on a fire.

Feb 8, 2015, 7:34am Permalink
John Roach

Lets see what the voters want. This November, there will be 6 ward elections in the City of Batavia. There will be Democrats and Republicans of course. And there is a good chance of one or two Libertarians and one Conservative.

Let's see if any will run on eliminating the paid fire department to go volunteer.

Peter, here is your chance.

Feb 8, 2015, 9:20am Permalink
Bea McManis

In 2009, Peter’s answer for why he wouldn’t run for city council was, “I would gladly run if it didn't interfere with my sports schedule. It will have to wait till I am old and broken”. Well, now you are older and ‘broken’. Maybe this is the year. I, for one, would love to see him run.

On another note, after reading the article Peter posted, it almost seems as if Supervisor Napoli and Batavian Peter O’Brien were mere footnotes to the interview process and never taken as serious contenders.
In 2011, his sports schedule cleared and he felt he could represent the 26th Congressional District. I have always wondered why he felt he was more qualified to serve in Washington than others vying for a spot on the ballot.
State Assembywoman Jane Corwin of the 142nd District
Business owner Jack Davis
Amherst Town Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein
Kathy Weppner, who hosts a local radio talk show
David Bellavia, is an Iraq War veteran
Gary Wheat a town councilman in the community of Avon, Livingston County.
Town of Ridgeway Supervisor Brian Napoli from Orleans County

Feb 8, 2015, 9:53am Permalink
Rich Richmond


In retrospect; you should run for Council on the platform of a volunteer fire department.

The Libertarians are for less government and having a volunteer fire department certainly qualifies as such.

You have an “in” with the Libertarian Party through your wife and as you said; the Libertarian Party will welcome you with open arms. No doubt it will make your wife very happy.

Being a Libertarian on Council, local government won’t interfere with your core beliefs on the military, fair trade, international affairs, and immigration because they won’t come up for discussion or a vote.

Feb 8, 2015, 10:52am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Just to be clear: I am the chairperson of the Genesee County Libertarian Party. There is no such thing as an "in". Each and every candidate seeking our endorsement for any office in Genesee County has to go through the exact same process, member or not. Our party membership votes during an open meeting to endorse a candidate that has received the recommendation of our Vetting Committee. I repeat, That process is the same for everyone. Anyone thinking to run for any office in Genesee County, whether a member or not, is encouraged to contact me or Mark Potwora, or Jim Rosenbeck (if a city of Batavia position) we will be happy to explain the process in detail.
is a private e-mail only for the purpose of corresponding with potential candidates.
I consider Peter and Chelsea to be friends of mine and he knows he would have the same opportunity as anyone else to present his case.

Feb 8, 2015, 11:42am Permalink
John Roach

Dave makes a good point. Want to run, contact your party.

But if you want to run and do not want to go through the party, you can do it. You just get your petition forms and go and get the required signatures. But you are on your own since you did not want party assistance. You can also do this if the party interviews you and endorses somebody else. You then run a primary for your party's spot.

And of course, you can skip being with a political party completely and just run as an independent. Same process. Get a petition form, get signatures to get on the ballot and go for it

Feb 8, 2015, 11:50am Permalink
Brian Graz

Looks like running for City Council on a volunteer FD platform might not be all that bad an idea...

Today's Poll: Should Batavia consider switching to a volunteer fire department?…

Maybe I'll run and seek the endorsement of both the Conservative Party and the Libertarian Party... a Conservatarian... I like the sound of that!

Feb 8, 2015, 12:26pm Permalink
Rich Richmond

I stand corrected Dave and of course you are right about the vetting process that is used by all Political Parties. “In” was a poor choice of word/words on my part and I apologize for the misunderstanding.

By “in” I meant Peter is familiar with and knows people in the Libertarian party.

Feb 8, 2015, 12:37pm Permalink
Tim Miller

Peter (and others well versed in Libertarian philosophy) - given the significant impact trade has on the economy and economics, how can one "disagree with...fair trade policies" while "aligning with economic policies"?

I'm not attacking, nor trying to be a wise guy or contrarian - I am seriously curious about this.

Thanks in advance for the explanation.

Feb 9, 2015, 7:58am Permalink

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