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2023 general election

More votes come in for B-B library, support is strong for new tax, city school district

By Joanne Beck

Overall, citizens throughout Genesee County supported measures to keep incumbents in place, add a tax to ensure services at Byron-Bergen library, and include Batavia and all small city schools in removal from special constitutional debt limits.

The totals for Byron-Bergen Public Library’s proposition vote have changed, though citizens of the towns of Byron and Bergen are still leaning toward approval of a new tax, with votes of 689 yes to 618 no.

Results from the general election were not complete in the Town of Byron as of Tuesday night, according to the Board of Elections. 

The library vote for Proposition 3 to establish an annual 55-cent per $1,000 assessed valuation was supported at the time by a vote of 545 yes to 467 no. As of Wednesday afternoon, those numbers shifted to 689 yes to 618 no from the towns of Byron and Bergen.

Library board President Sally Capurso has not responded to requests for comment about what that will mean for the library as of Wednesday afternoon.

Genesee County Republican Committee Chairman Scott German stepped into the role for his first general election, filling the seat of resigning chair Dick Siebert.

Several Republican incumbents retained their seats, and German was “obviously, very pleased” with Tuesday’s results, he said.

“First, I’d like to thank our previous county Republican chairman Richard Siebert for providing us with excellent candidates. Then once in office, our Republican candidates do a great job, starting with our chair of the legislature Shelley Stein, who provides great leadership to our county government,” German said Wednesday. “Our legislators have led our county through some tough times while keeping our county taxes under the tax cap for several years. I think the voters of Genesee County appreciate what a great job Republicans do for the taxpayers of this great county.” 

Likewise, Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith was happy with the news that voters, not only locally but across New York State, approved Proposition 1, which will have a direct impact on small city schools.

The Batavian asked Smith a few questions about the vote and related new law.

Jason Smith

Are you surprised at the outcome? What does this mean for Batavia City Schools?
“Given the positive advocacy and support that occurred for this proposition, I am not surprised at today’s outcome. We at BCSD are grateful for the support of the voters of New York for supporting this important proposition,” Smith said. “The passage of this ballot will essentially place small schools on equal footing as our other district counterparts, where we are now allowed to borrow an additional 5 percent of our assessed value for future capital projects. However, this will not impact the current capital improvement project we recently proposed.” 

Why do you think voters went this way, given that it means small city districts can incur more debt to take on more/bigger capital projects?
“It is an antiquated law that needed to be updated, and again, we at BCSD are grateful that voters recognized that,” Smith said. “Small city school districts should have the same limits as others, and our students and programs will only stand to benefit.” 

What realistic impact will this have on future tax rates if school districts are acquiring more debt to do more projects?
“As with the project that we have currently proposed, which if passed will result in no tax increase, our Board and I recognize the need to be conservative in planning for budgets and capital projects,” Smith said. “That being said, had this law been in effect for this current project, we would have been able to borrow additional funds to support more improvements and upgrades while keeping our commitment to no additional taxes.” 

Do you already have ideas for what BCSD needs in terms of future capital projects? When could Batavia put this new debt limit change into effect, given you have a capital project on the books and up for vote right now?
“There are several items on our recently completed building condition survey that did not make it into the  BCSD Reimagined Project (our current proposal), and we will undoubtedly revisit those items again,” he said. “However, essential and critical safety items were included in this project. I would suspect it would be at least three to five years before we consider another capital project, assuming we have a positive vote on Thursday, December 14.”

Unofficial voting across the state showed that nearly 57 percent of residents supported the measure of Proposition 1 to allow for the removal of small city school districts from special constitution debt limits, with 1,381,911 voting yes and 31.4 percent, or 766,036 voting no.

Locally in Genesee County, district residents also approved, with 3,153 yes votes and 2,460 voting no. 

November 2023 election results

By Joanne Beck

The Democratic Party won a few seats in Tuesday’s election, all three local propositions on the ballot got a thumbs up from voters, Republicans held onto a number of incumbent seats, and a City Council newcomer received his first 158 votes for office during Tuesday’s general election in Genesee County.

Candidates Michelle Krzemien came out on top with a combined total of 334 votes for Darien town justice against  Republican candidate Jennifer Nunnery, with 258 votes, and, at the time of this article being published, Candace Hensel, running on the Democratic and Republican tickets, was winning with a total 168 to incumbent Peter Yasses’ 97 for Byron town supervisor. Byron's results were not completely in by the time this was published, according to the county's Board of Elections website. 

Genesee County Democratic Committee Chairman Michael Plitt said the committee spoke to several people about also running for City Council, but “it was just not the right time to devote themselves to running in an election,” he said.

“However, the next election starts now, and the Genesee County Democrats would love to talk with anyone who might consider running next time,” he said after unofficial results were posted Tuesday night. “Regardless if you want to run, we encourage people to attend local government meetings.”

Batavia resident Derek Geib received 158 total votes for Ward 3 on City Council, and he will take his seat on council on Jan. 1 to fill the spot to be vacated by incumbent John Canale, who opted not to run. All positions on the council were unopposed, as were all Genesee County legislator positions.

Other races:

Voters kept Thomas Sanfratello, with 234, and Gerald Krupa Jr., with 216, in Alexander Town Council seat, while Sarah Kohl had 132 votes.

Voters gave Joel Pocock the Bergen highway superintendent seat with 547 votes versus 198 for Chad Roggow, and Teresa Robinson 461 votes for town clerk versus 278 for Marcy Vanderstow. 

Republican candidates Alfred Klycek and Nathan Knickerbocker garnered votes of 179 and 167, respectively, for Byron town council, and Sarah Stockwell had 108.

Michael Grant came out on top with 432 votes for Darien town council, with Timothy Benton in second with 399 and Benjamin Kohlhagen in third with 191 votes. 

Pembroke Town Council candidate Kathleen Manne received 451 votes, Thomas Dix 350, Helen Trowbridge Haines received 239, and there were write-in votes of 118.

There were three candidates for Stafford Town Council, and Terry Young, with 253, and Robert Pacer, with 201, took the two seats, with Cathy Worthington receiving 150 votes.

Plitt thanked the poll workers and “folks who stepped up to run this year to give voters a choice.” The Batavian asked what he thought about this year’s voter turnout, which by early voting, seemed to be on the low side.

“Voter turnout is always lower in local election years, although an individual vote could change the results in the local election,” he said. 

Voters approved all three propositions on the ballot, which were: Prop. 1 to allow for the removal of small city school districts from special constitutional debt limits, 3,153 yes to 2,460 no; Prop. 2 to extend sewage project debt exclusions from the debt limit, 3,265 yes to 2,337 no; and Prop. 3 to establish an annual tax in the amount of $0.55/$1,000 (fifty-five cents per one thousand dollars) of assessed value in order to support the operation of the Byron-Bergen Public Library, to begin Jan. 1, 2024, 545 yes to 467 no.

Election results are unofficial.

Genesee County Republican Committee Chairman Scott German was not available for comment Tuesday night. 

Tuesday's general election has contested races, three propositions -- updated

By Joanne Beck

Tuesday is the general election, and here are the updated contested seats, two universal propositions and one specific proposition to the towns of Byron and Bergen. A prior article did not include all of the contested races.

The contested races are:

Town of Alexander Sarah Kohl is running for one of two seats on the Town Council on the Democratic ticket against Thomas Sanfratello, Republican, and Gerald Krupa Jr., on the Republican and Alexander People lines.

Town Supervisor incumbent David Miller apparently has a challenger with an unofficial call for write-in candidate Brian Farnsworth. The Batavian was contacted by a town council candidate and provided with the incorrect information about the town supervisor race. Brian Farnsworth is running for town highway superintendent.

Town of Bergen has a town clerk position with Teresa Robinson of the Republican Party versus Marcy Vanderstow of the Marcy for Town Clerk ticket; and Joel Pocock, Republican and Working 4 You party lines, is running for town highway superintendent against Chad Roggow, of the Conservative Party.

Town of Byron Supervisor position is pitting Democratic candidate Candace Hensel, who is also on the Republican ticket, is running against Peter Yasses of the Conservative ticket.

Sara Stockwell is running for Town Council as a Democratic candidate for one of two seats against Republican candidates Alfred Klycek and Nathan Knickerbocker.

Town of Darien Justice seat also has two candidates: Michelle Krzemien on the Democratic and Conservative, Common Ground party lines versus Jennifer Nunnery on the Republican ticket.

Benjamin Kohlhagen is running on the Democratic and Common Ground lines for one of two seats against Michael Grant, a Republican, and Timothy Benton, also a Republican candidate.

Town of Pembroke has three candidates for two seats on Town Council, with Helen Trowbridge Haines, a Democratic candidate, and two Republican candidates of Kathleen Manne and Thomas Dix, while Deborah Conti, Republican, is running unopposed for an unexpired term.  

Propositions are:

Proposal One: Removal of Small City School District from Special Constitutional Debt Limitation.

The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts. Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes or No.

Proposal Two is to extend sewage project debt exclusion from the debt limit. The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution extends for 10 years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes or No. 

Proposal Three is for voters in the towns of Byron and Bergen only: Shall the Town of Bergen  (Town of Byron) establish an annual tax in the amount of $0.55/$1,000 (fifty-five cents per one thousand dollars) of assessed value in order to support the operation of the Byron-Bergen Public Library, commencing in the fiscal year beginning January 1, 2024. Yes or No.

To view the entire Gensee County ballot and obtain voting information, go to Board of Elections.

City Council Ward 3 candidate: 'I just want to be involved and do what I can'

By Joanne Beck
Derek Geib
Derek Geib in a file photo taken shortly after he opened The Coffee Press on Jackson Street in Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Editor’s Note: In an article that ran on Oct. 24, (City, Genesee County races uncontested but one newcomer and three propositions), The Batavian inadvertently took an off-the-cuff remark made by Derek Geib as his response and published it, which was not the case. The Batavian regrets the misunderstanding, and Geib agreed to an interview just in time for the City Council election, which is Tuesday.

Who: Batavia resident and successful business owner Derek Geib. A 2001 Batavia High School graduate, he was barely out of Genesee Community College with his associate’s degree before his first business venture -- opening Main Street Coffee in 2002. He clearly remembers the opening day on Christmas in the City because it was followed by a blizzard that Sunday. 

Geib was also working at Matty’s, eventually buying into the pizza business from 2006 to 2010 until it closed. He then opened Bourbon and Burger in May 2011, followed by Coffee Press in 2019 and Roman’s in 2020, which made for another distinct memory.  They opened to the public on Friday the 13th in March of 2020, just as the state governor was about the announce a life-altering pandemic. 

In between all of that, Geib has been a landlord for multiple units for the last nine years or so. The 40-year-old has served on the downtown Business Improvement District Board for three years, including the last year as president; has been on the Batavia Development Corporation board the last couple of years; and the Genesee County Planning Board and the city’s Planning and Development Committee for about a year.

What: He’s running to fill the vacant seat for Ward 3 on City Council

When: The City Council election is on Tuesday, and Geib and each of his fellow council members will be running unopposed, including Paul Viele, Ward 1; David Twichell, Ward 2; Al McGinnis, Ward 4; Kathy Briggs, Ward 5; and Tammy Schmidt, Ward 6. 

Where: Ward 3 goes from Oak Street east to Bank Street and from Main Street over to the Thruway. Geib, his wife Jennifer and family, including the chihuahua Cedrick, live on Prospect Avenue, which has brought the entrepreneur back to where he first began as a kid growing up, he says.

Why have you gotten so involved in these boards, aside from the fact that you’re a business owner?
“Right from the onset of looking in it, it probably looks like there's a lot of self-interest involved because, obviously, we are completely invested in downtown. But I think being a business downtown, it made me realize that I should be involved in the goings-on, you know, not so we could have control over things, but just to help it be stronger downtown,” he said. “I’m not not saying my addition makes things that much better, but it's, you know, I think I have a pretty good view of what's going on being downtown every day. It's kind of, ‘what I can bring to the table.’”

What’s your interest in being on City Council?
“I think, really, I just want to be involved and do what I can to make Batavia as good as I possibly can. I mean, I think everyone should be involved as much as they can be, as much of their lives allow. Volunteering and participating in politics and government, and in local government, is the most important form of government because it's the one that actually makes a difference in your direct daily life,” he said. “And most people just overlook it and feel like they only need to vote for the president, when it's like, City Council is pretty in charge of everything that's going on right here. So, I think that's that.”

How do you feel things are going in the city? What would you say are the top three main issues in the city?
“I think things are going great. I believe there's the most construction improvement going on for as far back as I can remember, which is always a good sign. It shows investment,” he said. “I believe we need to work on housing. I think that would be probably one of the main focuses, which I know the city is already directly working on.”

What type of housing do you think is needed?
“Top to bottom. It's tough because I really don't want to speak out of turn because I'm not on City Council. So to talk about the goings-on of the city and what Council’s already working on, I don’t want to talk out of turn,” he said. “Infrastructure is also a big deal. And the city has been working on that as much as they can, sidewalks, streets. There’s just a lot going on. And it’s all for the benefit of the city and the people of it, as far as I can tell.”

There’s often the conversation about bringing more business to downtown. What would you like to see?
“I think the best way to increase business downtown is to increase downtown housing, and we need people living downtown, and we need to be creating as much downtown living space as we can. Because those are the people who will frequent the businesses the most. It's tough to continue to try and bring business downtown without first bringing people downtown. It kind of goes hand in hand,” he said. “I think we've done as good a job as we can realistically to fill all the empty spaces downtown. I mean, obviously, there are some that have been empty for a while that are projects that are being worked on, but if you drive around, there really aren't that many empty storefronts, on Main Street, on the side streets. So it's tough to open businesses without buildings to put them in. So we need more construction and more living spaces.”

How did you build your own business acumen, especially since you didn’t go to school for business? Did you have a mentor, or did you study somewhere on your own? Was it learned on the go?
“Realistically, we just opened and hoped for the best. And I learned a lot over the past 20 years, and I'm sure I'm still not even close to doing things the right way, but I'm doing them the way that I know best,” he said. “And, you know, it's working for now. But I had no business background whatsoever.”

So what will Derek Geib bring to the City Council table?
“From the outside looking in … the city is realistically just a business. You've got a budget and an HR and departments. And so it's just a business on a much bigger scale. And so, having now a business background, I think I can bring that to the table to help with budgets,” he said. “And I think, really, that's probably the most important thing that City Council does is setting the budget and keeping taxes where they need to be and making sure everything's paid for and fixed and working. And that's no different than the restaurant: the money comes in, and you have to figure out how to make everything work with what you've got. So that's really, that's my background.”

Some council members in the past have had coffee klatches in their wards to talk and get to know one another. Do you have any plans like that, since you're not knocking on doors or anything like that with this unopposed race?  Do you have any plans to meet with your ward residents to get to know their concerns?
“I’d like to get out eventually and talk to people and find out what their concerns are in the ward and see if we can figure out how to make everyone happy,” he said.

He does know at least two of their concerns now, he said: broken sidewalks and motorists that speed down Prospect Avenue. 

What do you think is the secret for a council to work?
“Does it not work?” he said. “Obviously, working in any group is difficult. But as long as everybody has a common goal, and they can put their egos and their personal goals aside, it's very easy to work in a group.”

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