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Howard B. Owens's blog

April 18, 2021 - 2:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, thruway.

Emergency responders have been dispatched to the eastbound lane of the Thruway near mile marker 393.

A male reportedly suffered minor injuries after the female driver crashed the car. She has exited the vehicle and is in "the weeds" and on her phone and armed with a Taser, according to dispatchers. 

Law enforcement has arrived on the scene.

Town of Batavia fire dispatched. Mercy EMS also dispatched.

UPDATE 2:29 p.m.: The female says the male has the Taser. It is in the glovebox, she said.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: Town assignment back in service.

April 16, 2021 - 4:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia HS, batavia, arts, entertainment, news.

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Batavia High School's Production Club presents the musical comedy "Sister Act" this Saturday, April 17, in both a limited in-performance and an on-demand video, which will be available April 24.

For this Saturday's live performance, each member of the production is allowed to distribute only two tickets due to COVID-19 restrictions. The performance will be recorded and available for a limited time starting a week from tomorrow.

The stage production is based on the 1992 movie with original music by Tony- and eight-time Oscar winner, Alan Menken. The musical was nominated for five Tony Awards.

To purchase tickets for the recorded performance, click here.

Photos by Howard Owens, except full cast photo at bottom, by Steve Ognibene.

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April 16, 2021 - 3:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Yngodess Shop, news, Batavia Players, arts, entertainment.

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Jilian Helwig won a large, wine-filled gift basket in a drawing yesterday in a drawing at The YNGodess Shop as a fundraiser for Batavia Players, which is moving its theater on Harvester Avenue to a Main Street location in City Centre in Downtown Batavia.

YNGodess owner Chris Crocker drew the winning ticket.

The raffle raised $5,800 for Batavia Players.

April 16, 2021 - 9:50am
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]
April 15, 2021 - 11:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, video, nici johnson.
Video Sponsor

Nici Johnson, radio personality with WBTA, reads "Flamingo Watching" by Kay Ryan.

April 15, 2021 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, elba.

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A motor-vehicle accident in the area of 62 S. Main St., Elba, is blocking traffic in the Village of Elba.

The location is by the Central School and Crosby's convenience store. 

It is apparently a noninjury accident but the car ran up the guy wire of a utility pole. A tow will be required.

Elba fire and Mercy EMS responding.

Reader-submitted photos.

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April 15, 2021 - 3:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Ed Rath, veterans, news, video.
Video Sponsor

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley was joined today at the Genesee County Veterans Service Agency by Senator Ed Rath, Genesee County Legislator Gary Maha, Genesee County Veterans Services Director Bill Joyce, and Chris Kreiger and Lynn Magistrale of WNY Heroes, the organization that operates the Dwyer program in Genesee County, to discuss funding of the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program and the impact the program has on local veterans. 

The final enacted budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year included $4,505,000 for the Dwyer Program across New York State, with $185,000 allocated for Niagara County, $185,000 for Monroe County, and $185,000 for Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties. This funding was secured even as Governor Cuomo proposed eliminating it entirely in his executive budget proposal.

“As a member of the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and being a veteran myself, I am proud to have secured this funding for our service members after yet another attempt by the governor to eliminate it from our state budget,” Hawley said. “This funding saves lives, and operating programs such as the Dwyer program is the least we can do for those that risk their lives to defend our liberties.”

"I was pleased that the Dwyer Program funding was included in the final 2021-22 budget,” Senator Rath said. “The services that the Dwyer Program provides to our veteran community are critical. The State has continuously tried to cut or delay this funding, so I am happy that it was included in full."

“We are honored to take care of veterans and assist their families,” said Chris Kreiger, president of WNY Heroes and Iraq War veteran. “Our programs are about providing a hand up, not a handout. It takes more strength to ask for help and even more strength to accept it.

"Here at WNYHeroes, we are no different than you, the veteran. We don’t dress in fancy clothing, we don’t drive fancy cars, we simply just want nothing more than to provide support while sustaining your dignity at the same time.”

April 15, 2021 - 3:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, news.

A child has reportedly been bitten in the face by a dog on Wolcott Street in Le Roy.

The caller has secured the dog.

Mercy EMS and law enforcement responding.

April 15, 2021 - 12:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in livestream, covid-19, coronavirus, video.
Video Sponsor

Genesee County COVID-19 Briefing April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021 - 10:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, Batavia HS, football.

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Batavia had little trouble scoring against winless Midlakes on their way to running up their season record to 5-0.

The final score was 56-0.

Terez Smith carried the ball 13 times for 217 yards. He scored two touchdowns. Ethan Loarza ran nine times for 57 yards and a TD, and Aidan Anderson, 11 times for 55 yards and a TD.

Jesse Reinhart was 10-13 passing for 188 yards and four TDs. 

Alex Hale caught two TD passes, of his five receptions, for 87 yards. Tyler Budzinack also hauled in a pair of TD passes and gained 69 yards.

Anderson had seven tackles, Kaden Marucci and Mathew Mcwethy, six each, and Jayden Osborne, three.

To view or purchase prints, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene.

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April 15, 2021 - 10:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, football, oakfield-alabama, elba.

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Oakfield-Alabama/Elba ran all over York/Pavilion in their game on Wednesday, gaining 460 yards on the ground on their way to a 54-0 win.

"This was a great bounce-back win for our guys after last week," said Head Coach Tyler Winter. "They came out of the gate fast and played well for four full quarters. We set some goals for our squad to clean a few things up on both sides of the ball, and I think we accomplished those goals tonight. We'll go back to the drawing board tomorrow and look to continue improving this week as we prepare for a big challenge in Avon."

Ty Mott ran 22 times for 211 yards and four touchdowns. Mott has now rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season.

Gaige Armbrewster, three carries, 105 yards, one TD. Ty Kornow, five carries, 70 yards, 1 TD. Jayden Hughes, three carries, 35 yards, one TD.

Bodie Hyde completed a 64-yard TD pass to Zach Howard.

Peyton Yasses and Dontrell Jenkins each had 12 tackles.

Photos by Kristin Smith. For more, click here.

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April 15, 2021 - 9:54am
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]
April 14, 2021 - 6:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in poetry, arts, entertainment, video.
Video Sponsor

For National Poetry Month, David Reilly reads "Nostalgia" by Billy Collins.

April 14, 2021 - 5:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, news, notify.

The adoption of a proposed 2021-2022 school budget for Batavia nearly brought Board of Education President Alice Ann Benedict to tears on Monday night.

She wasn't upset. If anything, she was overjoyed.

The budget doesn't increase the district's tax levy one penny over the 2020-21 budget. With rising property values and commercial properties that were previously covered by tax abatements known as PILOTs* rolling out of those programs, most property owners should see the education portion of their property taxes going down next year.

Superintendent Anibal Soler said a rough guess right now is that a home assessed at $100,000 will pay $64 less in school taxes.

He called that a win for the community and in remarks at the end of the meeting, Benedict agreed and thanked Soler, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski, and the rest of the board of education for their work on the budget.

"I just want to say how pleased I am that we got to zero percent because I think it is quite important for our community," Benedict said before fighting back tears. "This has been a tough year. I just wanted to say I appreciated it."

Rozanski said it was possible to balance the budget because of additional state and federal aid being provided to local school districts.

The tax levy this academic year is $19,493,958 and under the proposed budget will be exactly the same in the coming year.

The total budget will increase from $51,470,726 to $52,096,661, a 1.22-percent increase in spending, which is just below the consumer price index increase of 1.3 percent.

The tax rate based on the proposed levy has not yet been set.

"The tentative PROJECTED tax rate (using the current assessed values) is $20.65," said Rozanski in an email to The Batavian. "This amount WILL change because all the information (assessed values, equalization rates, omitted taxes, and removed exemptions are NOT finalized until the summer. The OFFICIAL tax rate will be calculated in August/September 2021."

There will be a public budget presentation on May 10 and the budget will go before voters on May 18.

*PILOTs -- Payment(s) In Lieu Of Taxes.

April 14, 2021 - 4:34pm

A federal bankruptcy judge in Buffalo has ruled that three debts of former funeral director Michael Tomaszewski cannot be discharged under bankruptcy law.

The three debts are part of more than $3.2 million in liabilities Tomaszewski listed when filing for bankruptcy in February 2020. He initially filed for Chapter 11, a reorganization of debts, but changed the filing to a Chapter 7, forgiveness of all debts not covered by available assets, last month.

Yesterday, in a separate criminal matter, Tomaszewski entered a guilty plea to grand larceny, scheme to defraud, offering a false instrument for filing, and untimely burial. Over the summer, the 40-year-old Batavia native was charged with more than 200 counts of criminal conduct stemming from a scheme to divert deposits made on prearrangements for funeral services to his own personal use.

The amount of restitution he will owe former clients will be set at his sentencing on July 13. He faces a possible sentence from two and one-third to seven years in prison. The restitution order could approach $500,000.

In his ruling, Judge Carl L. Bucki cited a section of federal bankruptcy law that says a debtor cannot discharge any debt that was the result of fraud or misrepresentation. 

According to the ruling, Tomaszewski will remain liable for prearrangement deposits from individuals for $10,500, $8,000, and $8,000. Under bankruptcy law, the three individuals are entitled to priority repayment for the first $3,025 of each debt.

The bankruptcy proceedings only include debts listed in the filing. Not all victims of Tomaszewski are listed as claimants in the case.

April 14, 2021 - 4:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, covid-19, coronavirus.

Previously: School districts responding to new COVID-19 guidance from state

While working on a story today about new state guidelines for local schools, we emailed questions to the Public Health Director, Paul Pettit, and asked him about the new guidance, which makes local health departments (LDH in his response below) responsible for ensuring local school districts are adhering to state guidelines.

We asked if this was an additional burden for his department. We asked about what guidance he's offered superintendents given the seeming confusion the new guidelines may have created. Here is his response:

Yes, the shift of putting the LHDs into the role of compliance with the new state guidance was not discussed prior to the release of the document last Friday. This again is an example of the state adding additional requirements on the local agencies without notification and recognition of the current burden and lack of capacity for additional work with the current pandemic response needs.

Up until this guidance came out, LHDs have been in a guidance role and focused on case investigations and dealing with COVID cases in the school populations. Currently, as this was just released, there has been no clarification or process developed for ensuring compliance with these guidelines.

We have had weekly meetings with our superintendents and have discussed this new guidance and are seeking clarification from the state on several areas that are shifts from the previous guidance including, the 100-percent masking mandate, the use of barriers as a mitigation strategy for reducing distance and the data sources for determining community transmission.

Currently, based on the CDC data, our county is in the high transmission category (Red Zone), which restricts distancing below 6 feet for middle and high school students unless they are able to cohort the students.

Many of these shifts have created barriers and challenges for increased in-person instruction in many of our districts. Each school is required to seek their communities risk tolerance to reducing distancing prior to changing their plans with their stakeholders and adhering to the new guidance.  

The LHD has not currently received or reviewed any school plans to date, nor are we planning to. The new guidance does also not require this review/approval component. Similar to all reopening plans (for businesses etc.) we do not review/approve them but would reference for compliance if complaints were brought forward.

The schools are responsible to adhere to the guidance and ensure their plans incorporate and follow the new guidance. This is to be posted and available public included submitted/filed with the department of education and the LHD. We are working to get further clarification.

April 14, 2021 - 3:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pets, animals, pembroke, news, crime, notify.

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A dog breeder in Pembroke who is accused of neglecting and abusing 15 animals on her Akron Road property is prepared to negotiate the future of the animals with Genesee County officials, her attorney told Justice Donald O'Connor today during her appearance in Town Court.

Lori Ann Adolf, 47, is charged with 26 counts of torturing or injuring animals and failure to provide proper sustenance along with one count of endangering a child.

Today, in her first court appearance, she entered a not guilty plea.

Her attorney, Michael Guarino, said that of the 13 dogs and two cats that were taken into the care of the Genesee County Animal Shelter, three of the dogs are the property of other people, and Adolf is ready to sign over seven of the dogs to the shelter so they can be put up for adoption. 

She would like to keep three dogs and two cats.

"The situation was not the way she intended it," Guarino said. "She's now receiving mental health care."

He said his client would like a chance to prove to the county that she can improve her situation and take proper care of her animals.

She has no prior record of animal neglect or abuse and no other criminal record.

The animals have been in county care for four months and sources say are now in good health. When The Batavian visited the shelter last month, the dogs we observed seemed to be in good spirits.

Assistant District Attorney Kaitlynn Schmidt said she and she and Guarino will discuss the disposition of the animals between now and Adolf's next court appearance at 2 p.m., May 5. She said what becomes of the animals will be part of a plea agreement negotiation. She told O'Connor that the prosecution has made no plea offer at this point and has made no commitment that the county will agree to regarding the animals.

O'Connor also signed a no offensive conduct order of protection in regard to the minor who was apparently at Adolf's house while these animals were allegedly being mistreated.

Previously: Pembroke woman arrested after deputy allegedly finds 13 dogs, two cats in deplorable conditions

April 14, 2021 - 12:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, covid-19, coronavirus, news, notify.

New guidance from the NYS Department of Health instructs school districts to set rules for social distancing based on transmission metrics for COVID-19. But with the state and CDC providing data that can seem contradictory, area superintendents are trying to come up with the best approach to educate students while following state requirements.

By and large, the superintendents seem to be relying on one statement in the 23-page document that gives local school boards latitude to make local decisions.

"Ultimately, the school/district’s decision to move to shorter physical distances will come down to a local community’s risk tolerance based on its unique circumstances," the guidelines state.

That is certainly the approach Superintendent Anibal Soler is taking with Batavia city schools, which are scheduled to go back to full-time in-class learning on Monday.

This week, he sought the Board of Education's approval to continue with the reopening plan, which the board agreed to do.

Soler pointed out that with 131 new cases in the past week (as of Monday), Genesee County is in the state's Red Zone for transmission rate. The state says our testing positivity rate is 6 percent and the CDC says it is 3 percent, both numbers below the threshold that would require 6 feet social distancing in all circumstances.

At 6 feet in all circumstances, Batavia's reopening plan would be difficult to pull off. The district is relying on allowing students in certain situations, such as sitting in classrooms, to be able to mask up and be within 3 feet of each other.

The guidance affects both districts like Batavia that are moving back to full-time in-class learning and those that have already made the transition or started the academic year with in-person attendance.

Mary Kate Hoffman, superintendent in Pavilion, informed her board of the new guidance at Monday's board meeting. Currently, Pavilion schools are five days per week for elementary school and in-person five days a week with in-person classes for sixth through 12th grades, with Wednesday being a fully remote day for the middle and high school.

The policy to this point has been to require masks only when people can't maintain 6 feet of social distancing. The new guidance requires students, teachers, and staff to wear masks at all times. Hoffman said the district will make that policy change.

Elba is open five days a week for in-person learning after starting with a hybrid model in September and gradually moved to full-time, in-class learning. 

"Our approach and plan have worked to keep kids and staff safe," said Superintendent Ned Dale.

Pembroke has been in session with students on campus full-time since the start of the school year. Superintendent Matthew Calderon said the new guidance will not change much for the district.

"We added classroom sections to spread students out 6 feet apart and installed 1,500 desk shields," Calderon said. "We're not inclined to change from 6 feet to 3 feet, and despite the CDC backing off the need to use desks shields (which in part I believe they did due to the great cost incurred by schools, which was hindering many from opening), we will probably continue to use them as well."

"The new guidance states that if schools are going to reduce physical distancing to less than 6 feet between students, decisions must be made with input from parents, community members, teachers, staff, and local departments of health," Calderon added.

"We will carefully review the updated guidance and tweak our plan as needed, but as mentioned, I don't think we need to change anything, and we would like to maintain our plan as is. The initial response from our local DOH in that regard was positive. Nonetheless, we have an upcoming meeting with the local DOH and will certainly adjust our plan if needed."

Merritt Holly, superintendent in Le Roy, which went back to on-campus full-time learning on April 6, said he is seeking clarification on some of the requirements in the new guidance but is maintain the current plan for now.

"It won't complicate anything until I get clarification," Holly said. "When will that clarification come in? I am not sure yet."

Superintendents indicated they are working with Public Health Director Paul Pettit to ensure their education plans are in compliance with guidelines and that Pettit has been helpful and responsive. The new guidance doesn't require the districts to file modified plans with the state but to publish them on their websites and gives local health departments the tasks of ensuring compliance.

We attempted to reach Pettit for comment but have not yet heard back from him.

To read the state's guidelines, click here (PDF).

April 14, 2021 - 9:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia HS, batavia, news, schools, education.

Teachers at Batavia High School, looking to pursue relevant topics in fresh ways have proposed three new courses that were approved by the city school's Board of Education on Monday night.

The courses, two in Social Studies and one in English will only go forward if students show sufficient interest in taking the elective classes.

The courses are:

  • Sports and Race Relations through Digital Media, which will explore pivotal moments in American History in an effort to understand how they contribute to modern laws, policies, systems and culture. 
  • Law and Justice in America I and II will provide students an overview of the various areas of Civil and Criminal Law in our American legal system, along with time to discuss contemporary issues pertaining to justice in America. 
  • 1960s Literature, Lyrics and Culture will examine influences between our current times and the '60s. 

Superintendent Anibal Soler told the board it's important to recognize that these are teacher-driven initiatives and Molly Corey, director of curriculum and instruction, said, "Teachers are passionate because they were eager to see some changes in the courses they teach."

She added, "What we’re looking to do is provide more choice and some relative and timely topics.”

Existing teachers will lead the classes. There is no need to hire additional staff. They don't replace core classes.

Trustee Shawna Murphy, herself a teacher at Genesee Community College, said, "That’s what teachers are constantly doing, coming up with new ways at teaching concepts and making it relevant and easier to understand and, you know, ‘why does this matter to you as a student.’ I think that’s the fun part of being a teacher."

April 14, 2021 - 8:45am
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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