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Batavia City Council

October 10, 2018 - 2:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, City Church.

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski said he is confident that the Batavia Planning & Development Committee will come up with the best way to rezone parcels of the former St. Anthony’s Church/School campus on Liberty Street and Central Avenue in order to create a much-needed “community benefit” on the City’s south side.

Jankowski, speaking after Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, took the planning committee’s recent inability to pass a zoning change from its current R-3 Residential to the requested C-3 Commercial in stride, noting that the planners generally are in favor of it.

 “I think that the planning board, from my observation, somewhat recommended it, and I think it’s a great idea for the community to rezone it because that’s exactly what it’s been used for anyway,” Jankowski said. “So I think that rezoning it for its proper use so that we can relocate the youth center there and to put more programs over there is a great idea.”

At a PDC meeting on Sept. 18, the vote was two in favor, one opposed and one abstention, but three votes were needed for passage (one board member was absent).

PDC Chairperson Duane Preston said one committee member was adverse to “spot zoning” so the board is looking at its options, including the recommendation of an alternate zoning district or new district classification. He said the complete packet of information will be provided to council members prior to the next City Council Conference Meeting on Oct. 22.]

Jankowski said he wasn’t so sure that it was a case of “spot zoning.”

“If you look at it, it’s not really a spot … it’s not an island in the middle of a residential area,” he said. “It basically redraws the lines to create like a cutout for an area that’s pretty much a big parking lot, a school building, and a community center. It’s pretty much been treated like a commercial-type property all these years anyway, but it was exempt because it was a church, I believe. I could be wrong on that.”

He added that the parcels in question have become “more of a community center” and “it just makes sense to make it zone properly so they can now offer more services.”

“I think it’s the best thing that can happen there. Do something with it, get it fixed up and make it a community ‘benefit’ instead of a community ‘nothing’ because it’s improperly zoned. In the future, if the planning board recommends a special zone. By all means, if it fits, then why wouldn’t we do it?”

The property was purchased by City Church in 2016, and is hoped to become a destination for commercial ventures such as a dance school, art school and community education classes, as well as the future home of the Batavia Youth Bureau (Teen City).

The Rev. Martin Macdonald, pastor, was at the City Council meeting and said he thinks City Council is on board with the plan and he is “certainly appreciative of that.”

“I hate to go ahead until this is accomplished because I don’t want to talk about something that can’t be a reality until it is approved,” he said, “but we were just over there tonight, and there are 150 kids there right now.

“It’s something that was empty for nine years and is now full of life, and we just want to expand that. We’re just going to complement what’s already happening, and come alongside the City in any way we can, and do what we’re called to do – help people of all ages.”

October 9, 2018 - 9:40pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county legislature.

The Batavia City Council is on board with a one-year extension of a tentative new sales tax agreement with Genesee County as long as county legislators also act to facilitate the “special legislation” necessary to secure a 40-year deal.

During a Special Conference Meeting tonight at City Hall, council members opted to move a resolution calling for a 12-month extension agreement to its Conference Meeting on Oct. 22, but want assurances that Genesee County lawmakers will be taking up the measure as well.

“The one-year extension is consistent with the 40-year agreement … and the special legislation hopefully will lead to (the passage) of the 40-year agreement,” Interim Manager Matt Worth said. “It would not have been approved by the state Comptroller’s Office (without the special legislation). So, the county will meet concurrently and then it will go to the Comptroller.”

City Attorney George Van Nest explained that the county attorney was advised in mid-September of “feedback he got from the state Comptroller’s Office that there was a little discomfort (with the 40-year term).”

Van Nest said pursuing the special legislation through the state legislature is the “best approach and the most cautious approach.”

In a memo to City Council dated Oct. 2, Worth referred to precedent for such a move, citing previous agreements in Wayne and Ontario counties.

The City and Genesee County have reached a deal giving Batavia 16 percent of the county’s 50 percent share of the 8 percent sales tax through the end of 2018 – with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year. In future years, the City’s share will depend upon sales tax revenue growth, eventually being no less than 14 percent.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said he was in favor of the special legislation because “it will protect us. It becomes not just an agreement, but one approved by the state legislature.”

County legislators deemed that a change in the current agreement was necessary due to pending large expenditures, primarily a new county jail and several bridge replacements/repairs.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said he wanted to know how much the county actually needs for these big ticket items.

“What do I tell my constituents?" he asked.

Worth said he wasn’t sure of the numbers, but said the county jail cost is expected to be around $50 million.

The county is expected to act on the extension on Oct. 17, Worth said, noting that the extension will expire on Dec. 31, 2019.

Jankowski said the ruling from the state Comptroller’s Office came as a bit of a surprise.

“The county attorney had been in contact with the state all along and at the last minute, it was like somebody finally read it, and said, ‘Oh, it’s a 40-year agreement,’ ” he said.

During the Business Meeting held before the Conference Meeting, Council:

-- Voted 8-1 to continue extra compensation for Worth ($1,000 per month), and James Ficarella, Ray Tourt and Lisa Neary ($750 per month each) through the pay period ending Jan. 4, 2019, for their additional work during the time the City has been without a city manager and assistant city manager.

The lone “no” vote was cast by Rose Mary Christian, who previously stated that she believes the additional pay should end when the new manager, Martin Moore, assumes his duties on Oct. 15.

-- Voted 9-0 to support the Fire Department’s implementation of an external Emergency Medical Technician class to be offered on an annual basis and to accept a $1,500 state grant to continue a child safety seat initiative.

The EMT class is for citizens interested in becoming EMTs for their own personal benefit as well as those who offer their services to other fire, rescue or Emergency Medical Service agency.

October 8, 2018 - 10:41am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, City Church.

A revision to the time period of a new sales tax agreement between the City of Batavia and Genesee County is scheduled to be discussed by the Batavia City Council at a Special Conference Meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

In an Oct. 2 memo to City Council, Interim City Manager Matt Worth wrote that the state Comptroller’s office likely would not approve the agreement with its current 40-year term without “special legislation” from the state legislature.

“Genesee County, with support from the City, will be requesting through our state representatives, that this special legislation be introduced for approval during the next available session,” Worth wrote, adding that there is precedent for such a move as Wayne and Ontario counties previously secured similar agreements.

 As a result, Genesee County has offered a 12-month extension agreement – through Dec. 31, 2019 – to provide time for the “special legislation” to go through the legislative process and pave the way for the signing of a 40-year pact, Worth wrote.

In September, Worth reported that the City and Genesee County reached a deal giving Batavia 16 percent of the county’s 50 percent share of the 8 percent sales tax through the end of 2018 – with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year.

Per the memo:

“If future sales tax growth exceeds 2 percent annually, the County will retain the amount above 2 percent, resulting in the City’s overall share changing even though the City received additional funds. Assuming that there will be growth above 2 percent during some years, eventually the City’s share of sales tax will become 14 percent of the total – which then removes the 2 percent maximum growth cap. The City will remain at 14 percent thereafter for the remainder of the contract.”

County legislators deemed that a change in the current agreement was necessary due to pending large expenditures, primarily a new county jail and several bridge replacements/repairs.

Also on the Conference Meeting agenda is a recommendation from the City Planning & Development Committee concerning a request by City Church to rezone several parcels on Liberty Street and Central Avenue from R-3 Residential to C-3 Central Commercial.

According to a letter dated Sept. 19 from Duane President, PDC chairperson, a vote to rezone five Liberty Street parcels and one Central Avenue parcel resulted in two in favor, one opposed and one abstention. Three votes were needed for it to pass, however, and the issue remains on the table.

Preston, speaking today by telephone, said his committee now has decided to approach the matter with a focus on creating an alternate zoning district or establishing a new district classification.

“We don’t want to do spot zoning in the city, but we want to work with City Church to come up with the right zoning,” Preston said. “We need to protect residents on the street in case the property is sold in the future and we don’t want to hurt what City Church is doing for the city.”

Preston said the PDC has called upon the city attorney to make changes that would satisfy both residents and the church.

City Church purchased the former St. Anthony’s Church campus, which included a sanctuary, school and residence, in 2016.

The Rev. Martin Macdonald, pastor, has indicated that the church wishes to offer activities such as a dance school, art school and community education classes that, according to city planners, could be considered a business activity and nonconforming use in an R-3 district.

More recently, it was reported that City Church is negotiating with the City to relocate the Batavia Youth Bureau from its current location on MacArthur Drive to the Liberty Street property. The proposal is supported by the United Way of Genesee County and other agencies, and is contingent upon the zoning change.

October 4, 2018 - 4:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Kathleen Briggs.

briggs_2.jpgA pending affiliation switch from Democrat to Republican is a matter of “returning to my roots,” Batavia City Council Member Kathleen Briggs said today, using a phrase that was echoed by the City’s Democratic and Republican chairpersons.

Briggs, Council’s Fifth Ward representative, has served on the board since 2000.

When asked for the reasoning behind the move, Briggs, who has been a registered Democrat for the past 17 years, she said it was a matter of her “philosophy” reflecting a Republican-Conservative tone and had nothing to with any future endorsement.

City Democratic Party chair Erica O’Donnell supported that claim, stating that “up to this point, we haven’t discussed endorsements.”

O’Donnell said she is “sad to see Kathy go.”

“She has been a great councilwoman. She sent me an email over the summer stating that she previously was a Republican … was a registered Republican out of college … and is returning to her roots.”

When asked about future endorsements, O’Donnell said that “anyone who wants to run should be given a chance to run,” she said, mentioning that at least two people – including someone in the Fifth Ward – have indicated their willingness to run for City Council.

David Saleh, chair of the City Republican Party, agreed.

“Kathy is coming back home to her roots, and we’re very happy to see her come back,” Saleh said. “Her viewpoints are much more consistent with those of the Republican Party.”

According to a Genesee County elections’ office employee, any party change would take effect a week after this year’s November election. Briggs is not up for reelection until November 2019.

Currently, four of the six Ward council members are Republicans – Paul Viele (First Ward), Patti Pacino (Second Ward), John Canale (Third Ward) and Al McGinnis (Fourth Ward).

Briggs, for the time being, and Rose Mary Christian (Sixth Ward) are Democrats.

Saleh said he thinks that all of the Republican ward council members will run again.

“It’s a bit early,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.”

September 26, 2018 - 10:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Keeping tabs on trash collection dates has become bit of a messy situation in the City of Batavia.

In an effort to make sure residents are in compliance with the City Code that governs refuse pick-up, Interim City Manager Matt Worth has been doing some research into other communities’ policies and has offered some recommendations moving forward.

Worth addressed the issue at Monday night’s City Council meeting, supported by a memo to City Council dated Sept. 19.

According to Worth, the City Code provides flexibility for residents in regard to designated pick-up days, the number of bags and the time period for placement at the curb. The City Code allows for trash to be placed at the curb after 3 p.m. the day before scheduled collection and for containers to be removed with 24 hours after collection.

He said that on streets where refuse pick-up occurs several days of the week, it has become difficult for city staff to enforce the time restrictions. Furthermore, he said that enforcement officers have discovered that, in many cases, new tenants have moved into apartments and didn’t know their trash pick-up day or that the landlord has changed refuse collection vendors.

Worth reported that four primary refuse collection vendors operate in the City, picking up trash primarily on Monday through Friday. Currently, all City residents and businesses contract directly with independent vendors.

City Council Member Robert Bialkowski said his goal was to develop a four-day pick-up schedule (Tuesday through Friday) with regulations governing the type of vehicle that can be used.

“Right now, you can put garbage out every day and say a friend is picking it up the next day – and it would be completely legal,” Bialkowski said.

Worth reported that he looked at trash collection policies of neighboring communities, specifically the towns of Greece and Henrietta and the Village of Brockport. All three have licensing requirements (including fees, proof of insurance and vehicle compliance standards) on refuse collection vendors and have restricted pick-up days.

He added that he plans to continue the dialog with the vendors to find a viable solution before looking at the imposition of licensing.

“Imposing regulations upon a vendor with existing collection routes without hearing their concerns and recommendations would be problematic,” he said, noting that free-market practices minus government interference “helps to keep the rates and service levels competitive and should be a consideration …”

Following the discussion, City Council directed Worth to move forward with his communication with the vendors and provide updates.

September 13, 2018 - 6:19pm

If Genesee County cuts out or reduces the amount of sales tax revenue it distributes to its towns and villages, it likely will result in increased property taxes to those living in those communities.

That’s the view of Darien Town Supervisor David Hagelberger as he keeps a watchful eye on the situation while representing the Genesee Association of Municipalities on a committee working with Genesee County and City of Batavia leaders.

“Towns and villages are saying that if the county keeps all of the sales tax money, they would have no alternative but to raise local taxes to compensate,” Hagelberger said today. “If the county keeps all of it, you will see an increase in property taxes, slashing of services, depletion of fund balances or a combination thereof.”

Hagelberger said he is concerned over a couple of key issues:

-- That a new sales tax agreement between Genesee County and the City of Batavia does not include towns and villages – unlike the previous agreement that expires at the end of 2018;

-- That the County Legislature has indicated that it will forge separate agreements with the towns and villages based on a fixed dollar amount – and not a percentage that previously applied.

On Monday night, the Batavia City Council moved to vote on its agreement with the county at its next meeting on Sept. 24.

The new 40-year agreement calls for the city to receive its current 16 percent of the county’s share (Genesee County gets to keep half of the 8 percent sales tax, with the rest going to the state) through this year with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year.

If future sales tax growth exceeds 2 percent annually, the county will retain the amount above 2 percent, resulting in the city’s overall percentage share changing even though the city received additional funds. In any event, the City’s share will be no less than 14 percent for the remainder of the 40-year contract.

Meanwhile, towns and villages, which currently split 34 percent of the county’s share based on full taxable value of real property, are left out in the cold going forward, said Hagelberger, who reported that legislators on Wednesday night tabled voting on the agreement with the City of Batavia based on new information from the State Comptroller’s office.

“We have learned that the county has decided not to include us in the sales tax agreement, but will be replacing that with ‘Payment Distribution Agreements’ with the individual towns and villages,” he said. “Their proposal caps the sales tax distribution at the 2018 number – a fixed dollar amount and not a fixed percentage as in the past.”

What this means, according to Hagelberger, is that towns and villages would get the same dollar amount as they received in 2018 for the next 40 years. In the Town of Darien's case, for example, he projects sales tax revenue to exceed $1 million for this year.

“And we all know what happens with inflation and fixed incomes,” he said. “This is not good for towns and villages.”

County Manager Jay Gsell confirmed that the county is offering a fixed amount to towns and villages -- instead of a percentage – via what he termed a “Revenue Distribution Agreement.”

“The county is looking at building a new jail and spending $120 million on bridges and roads,” Gsell said. “Genesee is one of three counties in the state, by virtue of a 1938 statute, totally responsible for the maintenance, upkeep and replacements of bridges and culverts – anything going over a body of water that a vehicle can drive over.”

Gsell acknowledged that towns and villages may have to look at other revenue streams.

“Darien and Pembroke, for example, have zero town tax rates,” he said. “They have been budgeting a lion’s share through sales tax revenue.”

He also said the legislature is prepared to act on its agreement with the City of Batavia at its Sept. 26 meeting, noting that a procedural point brought up by the State Comptroller’s office forced the board to table it last night.

Hagelberger said that town supervisors are under a time crunch to submit their preliminary budgets later this month – fiscal plans that include property tax projections.

“We may not know in enough time to properly work up a budget. We have no guarantee if revenue from sales tax will go into the budget. It creates a lot of uncertainty,” he said, adding that any sales tax contract has to be approved by the State Comptroller’s office and that could impact the accuracy of final budgets which need to be completed by Nov. 28.

Hagelberger said he hopes the county will “clarify its position” soon and expects the issue to be a major part of the next GAM meeting on Sept. 20 at Genesee County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

September 10, 2018 - 9:12pm

Acting on Interim City Manager Matt Worth’s analogy that the City will benefit from “a thinner piece of a larger pie,” the Batavia City Council on Monday night agreed to set a special business meeting to vote on a new sales tax agreement with Genesee County.

A revised sales tax arrangement with the county is necessary since the current 10-year pact – which gives the City 16 percent of the county’s 50 percent share of the 8 percent sales tax -- expires at the end of this year.

County legislators, looking at future big ticket items such as bridge replacements and a new county jail, balked at extending the existing agreement, setting the stage for negotiations between the two entities.

The proposed deal calls for the City to receive its current 16 percent of the county’s share through this year, with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year.

“This allows the City to increase in growth by up to 2 percent a year until the City’s portion of the pie becomes 14 percent,” Worth said. “So we go from 16 percent to 14 percent as that pie gets larger and larger.

At that point, once that floor of 14 percent hits, all the restrictions go off and there’s no more restriction of 2 percent growth. So if the sales tax goes up by 5 percent, and we’re at 14 percent, the City gets a 5-percent increase as well.”

In any event, the City’s share will be no less than 14 percent for the remainder of the 40-year contract, Worth said.

“The 14-percent floor is an additional safety net for the City to share in good years above 2 percent, once that threshold is reached,” he said, noting that historically sales tax goes up by 2.5 percent annually.

The County Legislature is expected to vote on the matter on Wednesday of this week, while City Council scheduled a business meeting to address the agreement in conjunction with its conference meeting on Sept. 24. From there, it goes to the state comptroller’s office for approval. If approved, it would go into effect on Jan. 1.

The new agreement, unlike the current one, does not include wording about allocations to Genesee County towns and villages because, according to Worth, the towns have no taxing authority and are not a “sign-on” to the contract.

“It is my understanding that the comptroller was not comfortable with the towns being referenced in the agreement, and that the county will have separate agreements with the towns and villages,” he said.

Responding to questions from Council Member Adam Tabelski and Interim City Manager Worth, Council President Eugene Jankowski said the new agreement should be a “stabilizing” factor in annual budget preparation.

“We’ve been in a holding pattern for the last couple years, not knowing if the agreement would go through,” Jankowski said. “We’re in a better position now.”

In other action, Council:

-- Voted to send a resolution calling for the rezoning of the St. Anthony’s Church area on Liberty Street from residential to commercial to the City Planning & Development Committee.

City Church, which purchased the former Catholic church in 2016, filed a petition to reclassify the campus to allow for some activities (dance school, art school, community education classes, etc.) that could be considered a business activity and a non-conforming use in an R-3 district.

Should the planning board approve, a public hearing will be scheduled.

-- Approved the placement of 10 bicycle racks and six trash cans in downtown locations per a request from the Batavia Business Improvement District.

-- Voted in favor of two resolutions pertaining to the Ellicott Station project coordinated by Savarino Companies of Buffalo.

One grants a stormwater easement due to the fact that a major city storm sewer lies within the boundary of the project; and the other distributes a National Grid Urban Center/Commercial District Revitalization Grant in the amount of $250,000 to enhance the Ellicott Trail Project, which will run along the southern boundary of the Ellicott Station site.

-- Voted to submit an application for Transportation Improvement Program funds for the rehabilitation of four city streets – Harvester Avenue, Jackson Street, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue – that qualify under federal guidelines.

August 15, 2018 - 10:24am

The Batavia City Council on Monday night voted to move several resolutions forward, including measures to rezone the St. Anthony’s Church area on Liberty Street from residential to commercial and to install bicycle racks and trash receptacles in several locations within the Downtown Business Improvement District.

A memo from Interim City Manager Matt Worth suggests that seven parcels on Liberty Street and Central Avenue surrounding the St. Anthony’s Church campus – which was purchased by City Church in 2016 – should be reclassified from R-3 to C-3 to allow for some “ancillary activities (dance school, art school, community education classes, etc.) that could be considered a business activity and a non-conforming use in an R-3 district.”

City Church, on July 19, filed a petition to rezone this campus of parcels that would annex the property into the adjacent C-3 district, thus bring the property into conformance with zoning regulations, Worth wrote.

Council’s action moves the resolution into the hands of the Genesee County Planning Board for a recommendation and then to the City Planning and Development Committee for review and to schedule a public hearing in accordance with zoning laws.

In late July, the BID sent a request to the City to install 10 bicycle racks and six trash cans at downtown locations.

A memo from Ray Tourt, superintendent of maintenance, listed the sites as follows:

Bicycle racks – Tim Hortons, Save-A-Lot, Court Street (near the former Coffee Culture); outside JCPenney/Batavia Showtime; near the Christmas Tree between the Bank of America and Tompkins Insurance; in front of Game On on Main Street; in front of Southside Deli on Ellicott Street; in front of Pok-A-Dot on Ellicott Street; in front of Bourbon & Burger Co. on Jackson Street; and in front of Glass Roots on Center Street.

The BID has four more bicycle racks that can be used as replacements when needed.

Trash receptacles – Two on East Main Street and four on Ellicott Street from Court Street to Goade Park.

Tourt said the bicycle racks are of a hoop design marked with a feet motif to go with the BID’s “Feet on the Street” promotion. The trash cans are similar to ones installed by the city in 2004.

Council also agreed to consider a pair of resolutions dealing with the Ellicott Station project coordinated by Savarino Companies of Buffalo.

One is the granting of a stormwater easement due to the fact that a major city storm sewer lies within the boundary of the project.

Worth wrote that this is a requirement of the site approval issued by the City Planning and Development Committee, and would serve as an “important legal document giving the City access for maintenance of this storm sewer in the future.”

The other focuses on the distribution of a National Grid Urban Center/Commercial District Revitalization Grant in the amount of $250,000 that has been awarded to the City to enhance the Ellicott Trail Project, which will run along the southern boundary of the Ellicott Station site.

Based on preliminary construction estimates, Savarino Companies has identified $183,477 worth of improvements (landscaping, lighting, seating, etc.) that would be reimbursed by the grant. An agreement with the City would allow Savarino to access up to the full amount of the funds provided by National Grid.

Council is expected to vote on the BID and Savarino resolutions at its Business Meeting on Sept. 10.

August 14, 2018 - 8:52am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Batavia Softball League.

Mike Jamil wants a lighted field for his softball league.

Kenneth Wolter and Aaron Alwardt want a stop sign on Watson Street.

Batavia City Council heard from these three people on Monday night prior its Conference and Business Meetings at City Centre Council Chambers.

“I need lights,” said Jamil, director of the Batavia Softball League, that he says will field 17 teams for his fall league that starts next week and runs until November. “We can only get four games in at Kibbe (Park). I have facilities looking right at me; there’s a public park over there (Williams Park on Pearl Street).”

Jamil said he asked city officials about the possibility of using the lighted baseball field at Williams Park for his softball league, but was turned away.

“No discussion. It’s a baseball field, for baseball” was the response, Jamil said.

He said that his group would take responsibility for the condition of the field, and noted the only modifications would be that the pitcher would toss the ball 10 feet in front of the baseball pitcher’s mound, and that the bases would be 65-70 feet instead of the 90-feet distance for baseball.

Jamil has at least two council members in his corner at this point.

“I don’t understand why the league can’t use Williams Park when no one else is using that field,” John Canale said.

“If no one is using it, why can’t they use it?” Paul Viele asked.

Council, after being advised by Attorney George Van Nest that the different layout could create “potential ramifications,” said it would look into Jamil’s request in a timely fashion.

Jamil said he ran three leagues in the spring/summer with a total of 27 teams, using Kibbe Park and the unlit softball diamond at Williams Park.

Wolter and Alwardt spoke of issues stemming from the amount of traffic and rates of speed in the vicinity of Watson and Thorpe streets and called for the placement of a stop sign on the Watson Street side.

“Traffic goes by way too fast in my eyes,” Wolter said, noting that there are many children in the neighborhood and they run out in the street for a ball at times. “Why is it a big issue for a stop sign? Could someone tell me why we don’t need a stop sign?”

Both Watson Street residents also mentioned the need for increased police patrol, citing recent disturbances and drug dealing.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said that a traffic study was done, but “did not call for a stop sign at that time” and Maintenance Superintendent Ray Tourt added that a stop sign can’t be used for speed control.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said the solution could be “something else as traffic could be confusing at that intersection.”

“We need to address something over there,” he said.

Council Member Kathleen Briggs said that she and city officials have been contacting landlords, and both Jankowski and Briggs suggested calling Child Protective Services in cases of children not being supervised.

Alwardt agreed.

“The problem is the parents; there is no supervision,” he said.

August 13, 2018 - 9:46pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

Discussion about the selection of Martin Moore as the new manager of the City of Batavia turned a bit nasty tonight when City Council Member Rose Mary Christian made disparaging remarks about the in-house committee in charge of the vetting process and the consulting firm that was hired to steer the governing body in the right direction.

After Council President Eugene Jankowski and councilpersons-at-Large Adam Tabelski and Robert Bialkowski spoke about the process -- outlining their extensive interviewing, background checks and objectivity, Christian jumped in, first criticizing the Novak Consulting Group and then her three colleagues.

“I thought the Novak Consulting Group did a lousy, lousy job,” she said. “I had asked how many resumes came in and I was told 20 to 25. And from that five were chosen, one was sick, the other had personal problems, and the third person picked another municipality.  All we had was two people to interview.”

Christian also said that there were travel and training expenses as a result of the contract with Novak that she wasn’t aware of and added that she had hoped a current city employee (“an assistant”) would have applied for the job because “the salary ($110,000) was a big challenge for me.”

“I told you guys that I wasn’t going to vote for it. It won’t be unanimous; you’ll have eight yesses and my no.”

All three members of the steering committee responded to Christian’s comments.

“Everyone is entitled to a vote, but to insinuate that Novak was not truthful to us … is very misleading. Novak did a good job,” Tabelski said.

“We received three dozen, not 20, applications and eight to 10 candidates made it to the initial vetting. We then whittled the list down. It’s not the quantity of applicants, but the quality, and we have that.”

Bialkowski agreed, stating that Novak did a “stellar job.”

“They gave us the 10 best and we went from there,” he said.

Jankowski addressed the contract with Novak, noting that “it was all there in the open and you should read the whole packet before you vote on it.”

He then called out Christian (but not by name) for leaving an interview session early.

“I would think you would stay for the whole meeting and not leave for your other job," Jankowski said. "You wouldn’t say 'I don’t have time for this; I have to go to work.' This is one of the most important things that we do.”

Christian took the floor again, saying that she was told there were 20 to 25 applicants and clarifying to say she meant just travel expenses, not training.

It was then she called Jankowski, Tabelski and Bialkowski “the Three Stooges and Frick, Frack and Frank,” or something close to that.

Council Member Al McGinnis defended the trio – “You three did an outstanding job” – and Bialkowski responded, “You don’t resort to name-calling. That’s about as childish as you can get.”

After that, Council voted 9-0 to move the measure to a vote. The decision in favor of Moore was 8-1, with Christian casting the lone “no” vote.

Following the meeting, Jankowski explained why Moore, city manager of Eunice, N.M., for the past seven years, was the last man standing.

“We looked at many applicants and Dr. Moore rose to the top based on his educational level, his experience level, his personality and his experience in his present job,” he said. “He did really well in the interview. Most of Council really found him very favorable, and he just really rose to the top very quickly.”

Jankowski said although Moore is coming from a smaller community, he does have a “lot of education and a lot of background, and he has experience in other communities in his earlier career.

“He went through some really tough times in Eunice, N.M., where they had a serious income (problem) based on the oil industry. Some things dropped off from underneath them, their budget was cut dramatically. He was able to work through that, which I thought, with some very innovative ideas.

“It minimized any loss of jobs, and they were able to keep services continuing even though they took a big hit on their community income. That was very impressive. I liked that thought process and how he was able to handle that.”

Jankowski said that experience gave Moore “a good education” and made him a good fit for Batavia.

“We (Batavia) kind of went through something similar ourselves … and he knew all about that. He had done some research on us as well. I think he found other projects that are going on presently as a very big challenge, and he likes that challenge. And I think he’s going to do very well here.”

As far as Christian’s remarks are concerned, Jankowski said he found it “kind of odd, the combative nature of that whole exchange, and I agree with Councilman Bialkowski when he said that we really shouldn’t (resort to) name-calling.”

In a related matter, Jankowski suggested that the City continue to provide a stipend through the end of the year to the handful of city employees who have been doing extra work since Molino’s departure, including Interim City Manager Matt Worth.

Moore begins his tenure as the City’s manager on Oct. 15.

August 10, 2018 - 1:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

The Batavia City Council is prepared to extend a three-year contract to the new City Manager, with a starting salary of $110,000 and increasing by $2,000 annually afterward, at its Business Meeting on Monday.

According to an employment agreement posted on the City of Batavia website, the new manager's term of employment will commence on Oct. 15 and continue until Oct. 14, 2021, or until sooner terminated by the employer or employee subject to specified terms of the contract. The person's name was not included in the posted document.

Other perks include:

-- Retirement benefits through the NYS and Local Retirement System in step with other non-union City employees;
-- Medical insurance paid by the City for the new manager, "his spouse and his dependent children in accordance with the rules and requirements applicable to all other non-union employees of the City of Batavia.";
-- Three weeks vacation, plus accrued sick time, personal time or bereavement leave;
-- Reimbursement for city-related business expenses:
-- Relocation reimbursement of up to $10,000, verified by receipts;
-- Life insurance in step with other non-union City employees.

The contract also addresses suspension and termination, outside activities and performance evaluations.

The new hire will replace former manager Jason Molino, who left in January for a similar position for Tompkins County. Public Works Director Matt Worth has been handling the city manager responsibilities on an interim basis since Molino’s departure.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said today that he had hoped the person's name would have been included in the document, but he was advised otherwise, citing a confidentiality agreement.

"I wanted to have that in there and I thought it would be in there, but I was told you can't release the name until the day of the meeting -- because of confidentiality -- until the person is ratified," Jankowski said. "When you walk in the door on Monday at 7 p.m., the agenda given to the public will have the name on it."

Jankowski said the new manager will not be able to attend due to a family wedding, but that a meet-and-greet is being set up for either Tuesday or Wednesday by video conferencing.

April 9, 2018 - 11:04pm

A New York State comptroller’s audit of the City of Batavia’s relationship with the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District mandates City Council to assume greater control of the agency’s financial matters.

That was the word from both Council President Eugene Jankowski and Interim Manager Matt Worth at tonight’s City Council business meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“Basically, the state has supported what we said in the past (that Council needed more oversight of the BID) and lays down some ground rules going forward,” Jankowski said. “This has been going on for a couple years; we should have caught it sooner.”

See NYS Local Government and School Accountability audit summary findings posted above this story.

Worth said the audit addresses several procedural issues, particularly in the areas of budget oversight and retention of the BID’s funds.

“It deals with who should take possession of the funds and requires that a more formal contract between the City and the BID needs to be created,” Worth said.

The City and the BID were at odds for some time into the second half of 2016, stemming from the City’s contention that the agency’s 2016-17 assessment budget exceeded the General Municipal Law limits for district assessment charges used for operations.

Jason Molino, city manager at the time, also urged the BID to follow Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws, and to post its bylaws and meeting notices and minutes on its website.

The dispute simmered in a public forum, eventually prompting Laurie Oltramari to resign her position as BID director (although she said the budget flap did not enter into her decision).

Since then, the BID Board of Directors has changed as has the director, with Beth Kemp taking over the lead role in November 2016. Additionally, the City -- in a move supported by the audit -- has more than $200,000 in a special account (BID taxes that were levied inappropriately) that will not be used until the agency plans a capital improvement project.

A call to Kemp this evening had yet to be returned when this story was posted.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved a contract with R.A. Haitz Co. Inc., of Batavia, for $49,838 to replace two roofs at Dwyer Stadium, with the intent of having the work done prior to the opening of the Batavia Muckdogs’ season in mid-June.

“I think it’s great that we finally found someone from Batavia that can do some work in Batavia,” Council Member Rose Mary Christian said.

The cost comes in at $1,838 over the projected budgeted amount, but Worth said he thinks the City could save money on some other projects at the baseball park “so it comes out in the wash, so to speak.”

The Haitz bid was not the lowest of the three received, however. A $28,800 bid from Dan & D.J.’s Reasonable Contracting, of Elba, was not considered because that firm miscalculated insurance costs related to the project, Worth said.

-- OK'd a liquor license request by the Muckdogs to offer beer and cider during the New York-Penn League games.

-- Voted to contract with Labella Associates in the amount of $12,000 for administrative services in connection with a Communities Development Block Grant to replace 900 linear feet of water mains on a portion of Brooklyn Avenue.

-- Passed a resolution designating four eligible census tracts – in Ward 2, 3, 5 and 6 – as federal qualified opportunity zones.

This gives developers federal tax incentives to reinvest capital gains in areas designated as “disadvantaged” by virtue of having 20 percent or higher poverty and a median family income 80 percent less than the area’s median income.

The resolution states that “coupling opportunity funds with the locally enacted Pathway to Prosperity tax increment financing program may assure cleanup of brownfield sites, gain new investor commitments to Batavia, and will ensure that our region can be an attractive economic driver creating jobs, building tax base and increasing population …”

-- Was informed that two part-time janitors have been hired to work at the City Centre Mall but a full-time maintenance worker has not been hired yet.

Council Member John Canale reported that a mall merchant commented that she noticed people working in the mall and “appreciated” the City’s effort to improve what has long been a tenuous association between the merchants and the City.

March 28, 2018 - 9:57pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

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The Batavia City Council can expect the process of hiring a new city manager to take at least three months and it should be prepared to pay a salary of at least $110,000, according to a representative of the recruitment firm contracted by the municipality to find someone to replace former City Manager Jason Molino.

Six of the nine council members took part in a meeting at the City Centre conference room tonight with Catherine Tuck Parrish, executive search practice leader for The Novak Consulting Group, which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Tuck Parrish’s office is in Rockville, Md.

“The market for city managers is what it is … you’re not competing against nonprofits and the private sector,” Tuck Parrish said. “I’ve seen your salary, and you’re going to have a hard time (finding someone at that level).”

Molino ended a nearly 12-year association with the City on Jan. 26, and started his new job as Tompkins County administrator three days later. He left Batavia with a salary of about $94,000; his pay at his new position increased to around $130,000.

Tuck Parrish, during her 60-minute presentation, outlined her company’s proposed recruitment plan – touching on key points such as job postings and outreach, timeline, interview process, and confidentiality and public information. She also distributed a one-pager that set the qualifications for the optimal candidate.

“We’re looking at three deliverables,” she said, calling them a main document, working document and recruitment plan memo.

The main document is a recruitment brochure that “highlights the best of Batavia – the great things about your community,” she said. It also will include the requirements for the job, preferred qualities and how to apply for the position.

The working document is a list of 12- to 18-month goals that “helps me know what is most important to you (City Council) and helps the next manager to say ‘Here’s what I need to do.’ The manager can only focus on so many things and do them well, so this identifies your top priorities.”

The third document, a memo, is the basic recruitment plan that pinpoints where to post the jobs – such as the International City/County Management Association newsletters and the League of Women in Government website, for example – and the related costs, as well as the recruitment schedule and proposed interview process.

Tuck Parrish said her firm will use social media and links, and also “customizes” outreach for each position, including targeting particular individuals.

“If you have an individual or organization (in mind), let me know and instead of you recruiting them, let me handle it,” she said, speaking directly to the council members. “It is my job to protect you.”

As far as the schedule is concerned, Tuck Parrish said telephone interviews with council members, department heads and bureau chiefs were conducted prior to tonight’s briefing. She said she expects drafts of the recruitment plan, brochure and first-year goals to be submitted by April 3 with the board’s final comments on those three items due by April 10.

On April 17, the firm will post the position, place ads and begin outreach to prospective candidates, she said.

“From April 17th through May 29th, that time is our work,” she said, to which Council President Eugene Jankowski replied, “Our goal is to let you do your job and come back to us when you have some candidates.”

That could happen around the week of June 18 when Tuck Parrish will meet with City Council to review the top candidates and select those to be interviewed (in a session closed to the public).

She said that the process must be “completely confidential” to protect both City Council and prospective candidates who, likely, will be employed in similar jobs at the time.

“It’s not that you can’t share names and information during the process, but also after that as well,” she said. “It comes down to a code of silence forever.”

Council members present – John Canale, Rose Mary Christian and Paul Viele were absent – said they would leave it to the recruitment subcommittee of Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski, Adam Tabelski and HR Specialist Dawn Fairbanks to whittle a large field of candidates down to about three, and then the entire board would get involved.

The Novak Group personnel will conduct reference and background checks at the end of June, Tuck Parrish said, with the goal of City Council conducting interviews in early July.

The exact dates are up in the air due to Jankowski having to be in Texas from July 7-27 to film “Shot to the Heart TV,” a shooting competition show involving couples of which he is the host.

Tuck Parrish’s timeline calls for negotiation with the top finalist and approval of the employment agreement happening sometime after July 13, and for the new manager to begin his or her employment within 60 days after that.

Required qualifications include a bachelor’s degree, minimum of five years of local government experience in progressively responsible positions, and supervisor/executive level experience (including time as city/county manager or assistant manager or department director).

Preferred qualifications include a master’s degree, budget development/financial management, grants administration, labor relations, project management, economic revitalization, intergovernmental relations, business/community engagement, strategic planning and credentialed manager.

Tuck Parrish said City Council should expect the new manager to relocate to the City within a “reasonable time after appointment” and set the compensation package at $110,000 to $135,000 (depending upon qualifications), with an excellent benefit package.

She said the expected hiring salary range will be included in the advertising pieces for the position and that she will collect salary information of the finalists.

The contract with The Novak Group calls for the City to pay $23,500 for the firm to "complete the city manager recruitment," plus $1,000-$1,500 for advertising, $175-$300 per top finalist for background checks, and travel costs for finalists to attend interviews in the City.

Photo at top -- Catherine Tuck Parrish, right, makes a point at tonight's city manager recruitment plan meeting; at left is Dawn Fairbanks, City of Batavia HR specialist. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

March 12, 2018 - 11:11pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

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Batavia City Council breezed through two dozen resolutions tonight, including the unanimous passage of the City budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins on April 1.

“The budget has passed with a 3-percent tax decrease for the current year,” Interim City Manager Matthew Worth said matter-of-factly before exiting Council Chambers to take part in the board’s Executive Session.

The $26.9 million budget, of which $16.7 million comprises the general fund, calls for a tax levy of $5.25 million, and also includes a 2-percent salary increase for 10 supervisors and department heads.

Council also passed Local Law No. 1 for 2018 which establishes 3.5-percent increases in water rates and meter fees, and a 10-percent increase in capital improvement fees. The vote on that measure was 7-1 with Robert Bialkowski casting the “no” vote.

Bialkowski abstained on a 7-0 vote to adopt Local Law No. 2 that allows the City to collect mall concourse maintenance fees from merchants as a result of the litigation settlement between the City and mall merchants.

The annual user fee schedule is $2 per square foot April 1, 2018-March 31, 2021; $2.04 per square foot April 1, 2021-March 31, 2022; and $2.06 per square foot April 1, 2022-March 31, 2023. After the last date, the user fee shall be determined by the revenue needed from the user fee to support the total annual costs of operation, maintenance, management and improvement of the concourse.

In another matter related to the mall, Bialkowski voted with the majority in an unanimous tally to hire a full-time building maintenance worker at $14-18 per hour and benefits and four part-time custodians without benefits.

Three resolutions dealing with the issuance of general obligation bonds were passed by 8-0 counts (Rose Mary Christian was absent).

The first one is a $2.5 million bond for a combined 3.5 miles of pavement milling and overlay on Clinton, Liberty, South Liberty, Swan and Vine streets, and East Avenue. The second is for $800,000 for sidewalk improvements on Washington and Tracy avenues and Liberty Street. And the third is a $750,000 to buy and install a management systems computer software package.

“Most of the bonds are -- with the exception of the software -- major construction projects that we’re actually receiving federal monies for,” Worth said.

“However, with those projects you have to expend the money on the front end of it and then you get reimbursed. These bonds are really just a cash flow to bridge until we’re reimbursed by the federal government.”

Council also passed resolutions to adopt a revised purchasing manual, updated strategic plan and retooled investment policy that, Worth said, affords the City more flexibility.

“When the city as a municipality invests its money into the bank account, the bank has to basically get collateral for our money – to ensure that ours is covered,” he said.

“This flexibility allows the bank to instead of having collateral, (for it) to buy essentially the insurance policy through FDIC to insure the city’s money. That allows them to free up some of their other assets. That being the case, they can offer the City a better return on their invesetment – essentially a higher interest rate on their savings.”

Other resolutions that passed, all unanimously:

-- The purchase of a CAT Loader with a plow and wing for $226,300 from the DPW equipment reserve account. The City is financing it via a “municipal lease,” a tool that keeps the “tax levy somewhat flat and spreads the cost over several (in this case, seven) years,” Worth said. “Once the financing is complete, it is owned by the City.”

Worth said the attachments to the new loader and one bought last year are interchangeable.

“This is very useful … in plowing parking lots, in particular. This is a critical piece of equipment.”

-- An intermunicipal agreement with Genesee County for the City to pay 20 percent of the Genesee County Youth Bureau director's time providing administrative services for the City Youth Bureau, and a revision of the Youth Bureau bylaws.

-- A bid from The Tree Doctor, based in Clarence, for annual tree trimming and removal. Depending upon the size of the tree, costs range from $200 to $3,290 per tree, with trimming costs set at $310 per tree.

-- The transfer of $45,000 from the employee benefit accrued liability reserve fund to meet obligations of accrued benefits due to employees upon termination. Included in the list of payments are a $3,800 payment to the former city manager and $27,000 in payments to former fire department personnel.

-- A contract with Layne Inliner, LLC, of Fairfield, Maine, for $145,212 for the pipelining of 21 segments of sewer mains on portions of Vine Street, Swan Street, Burke Drive and South Main Street. Layne was by far the lowest of six bids received, and is about $45,000 less than the budget amount for the project.

“With Layne’s bid coming in as it did, it will allow us to do more than we anticipated,” Worth said.

Council approved two community events – Z-Club of Batavia High 5K run/walk downtown on April 29 and GLOW Progressives rally and walk at Williams Park on March 24.

Photo at top -- Batavia Middle School fifth-graders Cristian DeSalvo, left, Cooper Crowley and Anthony Licata attended tonight's City Council meeting, observing local government in action as part of their Cub Scout Pack 6069's "Building a Better World" adventure project. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 27, 2018 - 8:27am

Batavia’s slo-pitch softball “renaissance man” was back in front of City Council on Monday night, this time with a group of players and fans from his league at Kibbe Park as well as representatives of the Batavia Girls Softball League at Lions Park. Both organizations are seeking funds to improve their respective fields.

“I’ve finally rounded up a bunch of players,” Michael Jamil said during the public comments of the meeting. “We have a wide demographic – age 18 to 60s … and it seems like everything is heading in the right direction. In time, (working) hand in hand, we will have a solution.”

Just two weeks ago, Jamil addressed Council as part of his continuing quest to have the City provide a sand/clay mix to keep the Kibbe Park diamond from flooding after it rains and to fix the lights.

Two league members spoke of their time in the New Batavia Softball League – Aaron Osterman of Wyoming, who says he comes back to Batavia after working a full day here three times a week “just to play softball,” and Andrew Ernst of Batavia, who said he used to play softball in Pavilion and Brockport before joining the Batavia league and having an “awesome experience the past three seasons with these guys.”

Osterman said he has observed Jamil working many hours on the field to get it in good enough shape for games to be played there, and running an extension cord from the park pavilion to power a scoreboard that Jamil paid for out of his own pocket.

Ernst pointed out the field’s problems, stating that the “infield sometimes can be terrifying (with all of its ruts and holes).”

“I’ve witnessed Mike Jamil working from dusk to game time to make the field playable, barely playable,” he said. “I believe the City is looking into upgrades to the field. Anything will be put to use and will be appreciated.”

Both men said the league, which has around 33 teams, attracts many fans and provides an economic boost to the City.

Before those three had their time at the microphone, Stan Kaus of Batavia, coach of the Batavia Stingers 12-and-under girls’ softball team, spoke on behalf of the Batavia Girls Softball League at Lions Park on Edward Street.

Kaus, who has been affiliated with the league for 23 years, said about 75 girls participate in the summer recreational program that has “no tryouts, no cuts and where no one is turned away if they can’t pay.”

He thanked the City for cutting the grass and picking up the trash, but said additional help is needed with the backstop, outfield fence (there is none), smoothing the outfield and improving the infield.

“We need clay topping on the field; regular dirt doesn’t work, it turns to mud,” he said. “The clay acts like a shield. The water will pond, but eventually dry.”

Following their pleas, City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that the board, at Interim Manager Matt Worth’s urging, has agreed “to find the money (in this year’s budget) to buy dirt and get the fields as best as we can.”

He then mentioned a city parks’ “master plan” that is being prioritized for consideration in the 2019 budget.

“Thank you to Michael for bringing this to our attention and it has steamrolled into helping girls’ softball as well,” Jankowski said.

While there is no money in this year’s budget for fences, he said, it will be discussed – looking at the pros and cons of having outfield fences.

February 26, 2018 - 11:29pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

Extensive experience in the recruitment for city manager positions, including a successful search for the Oneonta (N.Y.) city manager in 2016, gave The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, the edge in the City of Batavia’s quest to find someone to replace former City Manager Jason Molino.

“You know really, honestly, with references and what was contained with all proposals – they were pretty even, even with the pricing that they were going to charge it was pretty close, so it really came down to their New York State experience,” said City Human Resource Specialist Dawn Fairbanks following tonight’s City Council meeting at the City Centre’s Council Board Room.

In a Special Business Meeting that took place after the regularly scheduled Conference Meeting, Council members voted 9-0 to enter into a contract with Novak to conduct an executive search that, according to officials, could last as long as five months.

Fairbanks said that she will immediately let the other two vendors know that they were not selected and attorneys will prepare the contract for City Council President Eugene Jankowski to sign.

“Tomorrow I will be making contact with all the proposals, with the vendors that submitted proposals and let them know the outcome,” Fairbanks said. “Legal will finish up reviewing the contract so that Council President Jankowski can sign it and then we’ll get the ball rolling.”

Fairbanks was part of the City’s search committee along with Jankowski and Council members Adam Tabelski and Robert Bialkowski.

Tabelski said they received seven proposals and whittled it down to three companies. After reference checks and telephone interviews, Novak was selected.

“One firm rose to the top and that was Novak Consulting Group out of Ohio,” Tabelski said. “They have the most experience and while most (firms) had relatively the same fee, Novak was in the low range.”

Jankowski said Novak’s recruitment team will be interviewing all Council members plus some staff and private citizens. The search – which is estimated to cost the city upwards of $26,200 – will consist of advertising, marketing, identifying and screening potential candidates and interviewing by both Novak and City Council.

Both Jankowski and Fairbanks mentioned Novak’s guarantees that the person who is hired will stay in Batavia for at least two years and that they will not try to recruit that person for a job somewhere else.

Jankowski, partially in response to a question from city resident John Roach, said salary that has not been paid to a city manager or assistant city manager (since both positions are vacant) could be used to offset the cost of the executive search.

In other action, Council moved several agenda resolutions to be voted upon to its next Business Meeting, which is scheduled for March 12:

-- The 2018-19 budget of $26.9 million which calls for a tax levy of $5.25 million and a 2-percent salary increase for 10 supervisors and department heads, effective April 1.

-- Increases in water rates and meter fees (3.5 percent) and capital improvement fees (10 percent).

-- Establishing user fees for City Centre Mall merchants as a result of the litigation settlement that gives the City maintenance responsibilities of the concourse. They also will vote on whether to hire a full-time building maintenance worker (at $14-$18 per hour) and four part-time custodians to work in the mall.

-- Renewal of an agreement with Genesee County to pay 20 percent of the Genesee County Youth Bureau director's time providing administrative services for the City Youth Bureau, and revising the Youth Bureau bylaws.

-- Securing Bond Anticipation Notes for $3.3 million as up-front funds to complete street and sidewalk improvement projects, and another $750,000 to finance an upgrade in the municipality’s software system. The street and sidewalk funds will be reimbursed to the city as they are federal projects.

-- Accepting a bid from The Tree Doctor, based in Clarence, for annual tree trimming and removal. Depending upon the size of the tree, costs range from $200 to $3,290 per tree, with trimming costs set at $310 per tree.

Council also approved six events:

-- Care-A-Van Ministries cookouts, Thursdays, June 7 through Aug. 30, 5-8 p.m., Austin Park.

-- Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union 5K/10K Walk/Run, May 6, 9-11 a.m., starting at the credit union property on Jefferson Avenue.

-- Kiwanis Club Easter Egg Hunt, March 31, 9 a.m., Centennial Park.

-- GLOW Corporate Cup 5K, Aug. 2, 6 p.m., Centennial Park.

-- Batavia Concert Band series, June 27 through Aug. 8, 7 p.m., Centennial Park.

-- Living Waters Apostolic Ministries outreach, July 22, noon-3 p.m., Austin Park.

February 25, 2018 - 11:51am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

The City of Batavia's search committee that has been formed to fill the vacant city manager position is recommending that The Novak Consulting Group conduct the professional search at an approximate cost of $26,200.

The commitee, consisting of Council members Eugene Jankowski, Adam Tabelski and Robert Bialkowski along with HR Specialist Dawn Fairbanks, will be asking Council to consider the Cincinnati, Ohio, firm during Monday night's Conference Meeting at the City Centre's Council Board Room with the goal of the board casting a positive vote at a Special Business Meeting immediately afterward.

According to a memo from Fairbanks dated Feb. 21, the search commitee received seven responses from executive search services for the recruitment of a manager to replace Jason Molino, who resigned effective Jan. 29.

Fairbanks wrote that the committee narrowed the field down to three finalists, and each of those companies were interviewed via a conference call.

"After careful review, the Search Committee recommends The Novak Consulting Group for the search services ...," Fairbanks wrote.

The proposed contract calls for the City to pay $23,500 for Novak to "complete the city manager recruitment," with additional costs as follows: $1,000-$1,500 for advertising, $175-$300 per top finalist for background checks, and travel costs for finalists to attend interviews in the City.

The Novak Consulting Group was founded in 2009 by Julia D. Novak, whose resume lists 30 years of experience working with and for local governments. A consultant, trainer and facilitator, Novak's local government career includes positions in Fort Collins, Colo.; Lexington, Mass.; Rockville, Md,; and Rye, N.Y. (where she was the city manager).

She is a noted author and speaker on a variety of public administration management topics. Her staff includes consultants with decades of collective experience.

Details of the executive search contract's work plan for the City of Batavia, as provided by Novak, are as follows:

-- Develop candidate profile. Tasks include speaking with each member of City Council to learn individual expectations of each elected offical, in addition to discovering the shared goals for a new city manager -- utilizing focus groups and/or online surveys. From those meetings, etc., Novak promises to develop a tailored marketing and recruitment plan that includes New York, the region and the nation, preparing a position profile that is unique to Batavia. Also, the firm says it will develop first-year organizational goals for the successful candidate so he or she knows what will be expected.

-- Conduct active recruitment and screening. Tasks include conducting an advertising campaign -- using social media, phone and email contacts -- to identify and solicit potential candidates. After that is completed, the firm will market the position and identify qualified candidates for assessment, utilizing networks such as the International City/County Management Association, New York State City County Managers Association and other state and regional organizations pertinent to the recruiting process. The recruitment plan includes seeking candidates who are minorities, women and those who have worked in similar communities.

-- Support interviews and selection. Tasks include facilitating a customized, multistep interview process, which could consist of writing and role play exercises and/or a community reception. Novak will help arrange travel logistics for each candidate, and review candidates' strengths and backgrounds. The firm also is able to assist in salary negotiations.

The contract would be good for two years, with the guarantee that if the new hire leaves the position within two years time, Novak would conduct a new search for no professional fee. The City would then be responsible for billed direct expenses only.

Novak has assigned Catherine Tuck Parrish, who has conducted more than 100 searches for city manager/administrator jobs, and Jenn Reichelt, who has 16 years of experience in local government management, as the executive search practice leader and associate, respectively.

Other items on the Conference Meeting agenda include:

-- Public hearings for the budget ordinance; water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees; establishing a user fee for the City Centre Mall, and amending the Business Improvement District Plan.

-- Creation of a full-time building maintenance worker and four part-time custodians as part of the City's Public Works Department to cover the operation and maintenance of the Mall concourse as a result of the City's agreement with the mall merchants association.

-- A resolution for an inter-municipal agreement with Genesee County for the City to pay 20 percent of the Genesee County Youth Bureau director's time spent providing administrative services for the City Youth Bureau.

February 12, 2018 - 11:35pm

To lease or not to lease … that is the question.

Batavia City Council members answered that line with a resounding yes tonight, approving by a 7-1 margin a resolution to enter into a lease agreement with Batavia Players that opens the door for the theatrical troupe to make a new home at the downtown City Centre.

“I cannot wait until they come into the mall,” said Council member Patti Pacino. “It’s just a wonderful way to bring people downtown where they will get into the habit before we open Eli Fish, before we fill the Carr’s department store (so) we’ve already got people down there. It’s just a delightful idea.”

Pacino joined Adam Tabelski, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, Paul Viele, John Canale and Council President Eugene Jankowski in voting in favor of the agreement to allow Batavia Players to lease space at parcels 2, 35 and 39 Batavia City Centre (sharing space in one of the parcels with Dent Neurologic Institute). Rose Mary Christian was at an out-of-town conference.

Robert Bialkowski cast the “no” vote, contending that the lease contains inaccuracies and loopholes, and that it keeps the City in an unenviable position as a landlord.

“My position is you draw a lease and you draw it properly – you don’t have all these errors in it, and I’ve never heard of a lease saying, ‘We don’t include utilities, you go work it out with the other guy who is paying for it,’” he said. “This is how you end up in court with lawsuits.”

Bialkowski disputed the monthly rent figure in the lease for months seven through 12, stating that it should be $2,243.76 instead of the $1,223.86, based on $3 per square foot for the 8,975 square feet to be rented by Batavia Players.

Interim City Manager Matt Worth acknowledged that the original draft had the wrong amount, but said that it had been corrected.

Bialkowski also questioned whether the City would be responsible for repairs and utilities, and pushed for his colleagues to put the space up for sale.

“I don’t believe in the City sitting on property and being the landlord. It’s not the job of government to be a landlord,” he said afterwards. “It’s the job of government to take repossessed property from taxes or whatever, put them on the auction block and sell them.”

He also said the low rent per square footage ($1 per square foot for the first six months, $3 per square foot in months seven through 12, and $4 per square foot in months 13 through 60) created “an unfair competition” situation.

“There are plenty of places to rent downtown; they cannot rent for $2 a square foot – it’s impossible. So for the City to be renting below cost is ridiculous, and it’s unfair competition, I would say.”

Worth noted that the mall operation user fee charged to tenants is $2 per square foot, so – including property rented by Dent, “the total (rent collected) exceeds that amount (user fees).”

The lease calls for Batavia Players to be responsible for everything except structural repairs. As far as utilities are concerned, Dent is currently footing the bill.

In the end, Council took the view that the Batavia Players organization is a community asset and would be in a stronger position to recieve some of the $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative money by being able to stake its claim downtown.

Pacino said Batavia Players has a solid track record and is a popular family entertainment option – just what is needed downtown.

“Batavia Players has everybody acting from 5 years old to 100 years old,” she said. “Every one of those has a family that comes to see every one of their plays. Every time they come to a rehearsal, every time they have a play, they’re downtown where we’re trying to get people.

“Then they’re going to a place to get something to eat. On their way there, they’re putting gas in their car. They’re (Batavia Players) doing everything positive …They’ve already proven themselves where they are. They’re dependable, and they take responsibility.”

In other action, Council:

-- Voted unanimously to take $17,400 out of the former Vibrant Batavia funds to pay for the engineering and architectural costs to design a flood-compliant home for Genesee County Habitat for Humanity at 116 Swan St., but only after amending the resolution to make sure the City has full use of those plans for future home building in a flood zone.

Bialkowski wondered aloud if the City would take ownership of the documents, or if they would belong to Habitat for Humanity.

“I think that since the City is paying for the engineering, we should own the design. Then it would be public domain,” he said.

After a brief discussion, Council agreed, voting 8-0 on an amendment making the resolution contingent upon Habitat for Humanity sharing the plans (and making copies available to the City) for the public domain. Then the board voted 8-0 in favor of the resolution.

-- Scheduled public hearings for Feb. 26 on the 2018-19 budget, water rates, meter fees, capital improvement fees, and City Centre concourse user fees and to amend the Business Improvement District plan.

The $24.3 million budget comes with a tax rate of $8.99 per thousand of assessed valuation, down from $9.27 a year ago.

Water rates are set to go up by 3.5 percent -- Bialkowski cast the lone “no” vote on water rate increases, citing high poverty rates in the City -- and the capital improvement fee is set to go up by about 5 percent.

The City Centre Concourse user fee is in play due to the recent settlement between the City and the Mall Merchants. The fee is $2 per square foot, effective April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2012, and goes up to $2.04 in 2021-22 and $2.06 in 2022-23.

-- Voted to accept a low bid of $721,566 from Roman Construction Development Corp. of North Tonawanda to complete construction of 12,300 linear feet of sidewalk as part of the Healthy Schools Corridor Project.

-- Heard from Jankowski that the city manager search committee will be meeting Wednesday afternoon to look at proposals from seven search firms and is prepared to share its recommendation at the next Council meeting (Feb. 26).

January 22, 2018 - 10:49pm

Batavia City Council members voiced their support of Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County tonight as they agreed to consider a proposal to back to a building project in the flood zone on the City’s south side.

“Habitat for Humanity does an outstanding job, and the best thing about this project is that it’s going to be in the Sixth Ward,” said Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who represents residents of that district.

Habitat for Humanity leaders are seeking a $17,395 grant from the City to cover engineering and architectural costs to design a flood-compliant home at 116 Swan St.

Mike Fahey, Habitat for Humanity board president, said the funds are needed because the property is in the 100-year flood zone – and a complete demolition of the existing home is the only way the organization can make the project work.

“Habitat, about a year ago, acquired the property and we were not aware at that time that it was actually in the flood plain,” Fahey said following the Council meeting. “Because of that, we are required to meet FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) requirements to have the property acceptable to everyone, and to make sure that flood insurance can be obtained on the property at a reasonable cost to the homeowner.”

Calling it a “unique challenge” (as it is the first Habitat project in the City’s floodplain), Fahey said it also presents an opportunity “because we’ve always been concerned that the south side of the City of Batavia has not been usable for Habitat or allowed us to go in there and look at home sites because of the floodplain problem.”

The proposal before Council calls for the City to take money from the former Vibrant Batavia fund (there is $48,000 left) – paying half to Habitat when the building permit is obtained and half when there is a certificate of occupancy.

Matt Worth, interim city manager, said that the engineering and architectural design study would become “a blueprint for future (Habitat) homes.”

Fahey said that the design work would be the “property” of Habitat for Humanity, but the group would be willing “to use those plans on any property in the City needing FEMA requirement.”

The total cost of the project is $104,000, an amount that “would be too much for a homeowner,” Fahey said.

“It would exceed any mortgage that they could comfortably handle. So we’re asking for some money to offset the cost to Habitat for the engineering,” he said.

Fahey said the property is in terrible condition and has to be demolished.

“We attempted to see if we could elevate the property, but it’s structurally unsound so that is an additional cost that Habitat, itself, is going to accrue,” he said. “That will not be handed off to the homeowner.”

He said that the structure is only about two-tenths of a foot below the floodplain, but still has to come down in order to meet FEMA regulations.

“The concrete slab has to be engineered in such a way so that if there is a flood, the water can escape from the building and not cause any future damage,” he said.

“Once we bring the building – the new build – to FEMA compliant, that reduces the cost of the flood insurance by two-thirds. Flood insurance will still have to be obtained for the property, but at a much more reasonable cost.”

City Council moved the resolution to its Business meeting on Feb. 12.

January 8, 2018 - 9:56pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, JC Penney, Jason Molino.

citycounciljan82018-2.jpg

Update: Tuesday, Jan. 9

Concerning negotiations between the City of Batavia and the Mall Merchants Association, Dr. Marlin Salmon this morning said that he is concerned over the parking situation in proximity to his dental practice located at the City Centre Mall, calling it a "significant issue" that has prevented him from signing the proposed agreement.

"I have talked with Jason (Molino) in the past and expressed my concerns," said Salmon, who is seeking consideration for parking spaces near his business. "The initial agreement gives us a pedestrian easement, but really what does that do?"

Molino said that the City has offered to restripe a portion of the east lot to have two-hour parking instead of all-day parking for "quicker turnover," but added that "there are only so many parking spaces close to his storefront."

The matter is on the docket in Erie County Supreme Court at 10 a.m. Wednesday with Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto presiding.

------------------------

No one questioned his suggestions and no one shot down his recommendations. Jason Molino's final meeting as Batavia city manager was a smooth one.

At tonight's special conference meeting at City Centre Council Chambers, Batavia City Council members unanimously signed off on Molino’s advice to appoint Department of Public Works Director Matthew Worth as the interim city manager and to contract with a recruiting firm to find Molino’s long-term replacement.

The meeting culminated a nearly 12-year association with the City for Molino, whose last day on the job is this Friday. He starts his new position as Tompkins County administrator on Jan. 29.

Council members -- after re-electing Eugene Jankowski as president and Paul Viele as president pro tempore for 2018 -- thanked Molino for his service through an official proclamation, which pointed to his budgeting and strategic planning expertise and his “leadership and creativity,” while also acknowledging his “integral” role in Batavia receiving a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from the state.

Molino accepted the proclamation from Jankowski, quipping that “I bet you would have never predicted 12 years ago that you’d be giving me this,” referring to a situation where Jankowski’s position on the police force was eliminated midway through Molino’s tenure.

“It has been a fun time … quite the roller-coaster ride, with a lot of ups and downs,” Molino said. “The staff has been remarkable to work with, and you’re in good hands as you look for your next leader.”

The reins, at least temporarily (it could take up to six months to hire a new manager), are being handed over to Worth, who along with Ray Tourt, maintenance superintendent; James Ficarella, water and wastewater superintendent; and Lisa Neary, deputy director of finance, will be taking on additional responsibilities.

Council approved these appointments, which will come with additional stipends of $1,000 per month for Worth, and $750 per month each for Tourt, Ficarella and Neary.

Worth said he's ready to do what's needed to keep the City running efficiently.

"It’s really just a matter of need," he said. "There’s a gap and they felt that I could help to move forward until they could get that permanent solution for the city manager. The City has been awful good to me over the years, and if I can help them get through this interim area, I was happy to do it."

Molino’s departure means that both key leadership positions in the City will be vacant as Batavia also has been without an assistant city manager for some time.

As reported previously on The Batavian, Molino suggested that due to several major infrastructure projects on the table, Council would be wise to postpone a water line replacement project and a sanitary sewer design project on several streets until 2019 and 2020, respectively.

“From a construction perspective, it would be best to postpone them to next year because you won’t have the manpower available,” Molino said.

Worth said there will be plenty of construction work in the months ahead.

"The priorities, of course, are first and foremost are to assist Council in getting the new city manager search started, and get that moving forward," he said. "After that, the big tickets items that are outstanding are the few capital projects that were discussed – the TIP project and TAP project, which are sidewalk and large resurfacing. Hopefully, (there will be) a resolution to the mall issues and the sales tax/water agreement with the county are the big items that need all of our attention."

When asked if he was onboard with putting off the water line replacements projects on Union Street, Brooklyn Avenue and South Main Street, Worth said a year delay won't make much of a difference.

"Well, I can say I dug more holes in Union Street that I care to think about over my career, so I very much am looking forward to replacing that water main, but then again, that water main’s close to 100 years old -- so one more year, it seems that it’s a reasonable step to take," he said. "We want to do it once, and do it right. Those projects are projects that will be in place for 100 years ... so let’s make sure we spend the time and do it right."

Molino said he was confident that Worth, Ficarella, Tourt and Neary would be able to navigate through the projects, which include an overhaul of the city’s entire software system, sidewalk construction, street resurfacing, facilities capital plan, City Centre concourse improvements and the Ellicott Trail bicycle and pedestrian pathway.

“The budget probably will be one of the easiest things to get through since the department heads are involved in this,” he said.

As far as the search for the new manager is concerned, Council agreed with Molino’s contention that hiring an executive search firm – which could cost up to $20,000 – would be the best way to “recruit the best talent with a fresh perspective and not placing a huge responsibility on the staff.”

He made a point of stating that candidates at this level “are interviewing you (City Council),” not the other way around.”

“The reality is that they are interviewing you to see what you have to offer,” he said.

After some discussion, Council formed a committee of Jankowski, Robert Bialkowski and Adam Tabelski, which will reach out to three or four recruiting firms and get proposals prior to its Jan. 22 meeting.

Jankowski said he liked the idea of “formulating a hybrid committee” of Council members, business people, citizens and department heads to conduct the initial screening, but Kathleen Briggs said she was in favor of department heads and council members.

“No business leaders at this point,” she said, adding that Council was responsible for the hire.

It was agreed that the committee of three would work with human resources specialist Dawn Fairbanks to contact search firms and report back as soon as possible.

“I’ll make sure everyone is informed every step of the way,” Jankowski said. “We want to act on this as quickly as possible.”

In other action, Council:

-- Voted in favor of two resolutions dealing with the JC Penney store at the City Centre Mall, continuing the practice of having unique agreements with the department store – the mall’s anchor tenant.

The resolutions granted an easement for JC Penney, formally known as 40 Batavia Centre LLC, for its use of the loading dock which actually sits on city property. Last week, Black Equities transferred ownership of the property to 40 Batavia Centre LLC.

This latest action is “one of the final pieces of the settlement documents in getting them passed by Penney’s and their new property owner.”

Molino said just one property owner – Dr. Marlin Salmon, DDS, Salmon Orthodontics  – has refused to sign the settlement agreement that calls for the city to retain ownership of the downtown facility's concourse, pay 100 percent of capital improvements, and take care of mall maintenance and operations.

Dr. Salmon’s business is located on the north side of the mall, next to Batavia Family Dental.

Molino said that Dr. Salmon’s case will be reviewed by a judge in court on Wednesday.

Molino said JC Penney owners have “given their affirmation of wanting to stay in this community, which is good for our dialogue with them. They confirmed they want to be here; having that good anchor tenant is always a good thing.”

citycounciljan82018_a.jpg

In photo at top, Jason Molino receives a farewell hug from Council member Rose Mary Christian. "You're the best manager we've ever had," Christian said, adding that she promised to "be good to these guys (his interim replacements) for the next six months."

Photos by Howard Owens.

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