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Batavia City Council

November 23, 2020 - 9:09pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, City of Batavia Youth Board.

Keep City of Batavia afterschool youth services in the same building. Provide the same service or better. And do it for the same money or less.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. cut to the chase tonight, starting a discussion about the municipality’s youth bureau with this clear directive to Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. He also said it is imperative that the City of Batavia Youth Board is involved in the process.

“I would request that she (Tabelski) pursue cost-saving measures involving the Youth Bureau – Youth Board and the Youth Bureau – to not cut any services and to not move the building,” Jankowski said at the Council Conference Meeting at City Centre Council Board Room.

“In other words, I want the same services and I want the same building on the Southside – the Liberty Center (for Youth) on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – where it is now. So, that’s your starting point, and if you could please explore options of finding alternative ways to provide that service for less money. And please include the Youth Board in your discussions, so they have some input on it.”

With that, city management and the Youth Board, which serves at the direction of City Council in an advisory role, will explore ways to continue to effectively and efficiently provide afterschool and summer programming for Batavia’s young people.

The future of City of Batavia youth services became a somewhat heated topic earlier this month when a resolution to dissolve, a year early, a longstanding joint agreement between the city and county to share a youth bureau executive director came before two Genesee County Legislature committees.

It was presented as a cost savings for the city, which shares the expense of the director, Jocelyn Sikorski. The county’s Human Services Committee passed the resolution, but the Ways & Means Committee tabled it after learning of objections outlined in a letter sent to the media by the Youth Board.

Youth Board members stated that they were not asked for their opinion and were wary of putting city youth services into the hands of an outside entity.  Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer voiced their concerns at the last City Council meeting, fearing that a contract for the Genesee Area YMCA to run the program was a “done deal.”

Tonight, it seems as though city leaders and the Youth Board have settled their differences, according to Fischer, who was at the meeting.

“I have been in a lot of phone communication today with Dave Twichell, our president of the Youth Board, and with President Jankowski,” she said. “Everything has been very positive. I guess I expect things to move a little bit quicker when somebody says ‘let’s set up a meeting’ but I talked with the Council president and I said that we will be patient and work together.”

Fischer said what Council agreed to tonight was “what we wanted after the last Council meeting, so I’m very excited to move ahead and work with City Council and the city manager to retain the same level of services – and ‘reimagine’ youth services as our governor says all the time.”

“So, we’re going to reimagine youth services and we’re going to keep the same level of services as dictated by Council. So, it’s all very positive,” she said.

Council Member Al McGinnis, liaison to the Youth Board, noted Twichell and Fischer’s 20 years of combined service to city youth as he relayed the former’s request.

“Dave has three suggestions, that’s all they are, suggestions from the Youth Board for us,” McGinnis said. “One is to sever as of Jan. 1 an agreement with the county as planned by Rachael and Jocelyn. We restore the full-time position from Lydia Schauf (who left city employment for another job following a hiring freeze) and plan the reopening of Liberty Center – and again, they are well aware of COVID and also well aware of the budget restraints that we will be facing.”

McGinnis said the Youth Board wishes to retain the Liberty Center and as many summer programs as possible.

“We’re not trying to massage any egos here; all we’re trying to do is what is best for the children – the youth of Batavia – and for the city taxpayers,” he said.

He also said that if the city did contract with the YMCA, the Youth Board would continue to exist and serve in an advisory capacity, and that City Council would continue to have a member on the Youth Board.

McGinnis said that a meeting of the Youth Board is scheduled for Dec. 15, and it was his hope that a “compromise” could be worked out.

Jankowski quickly reiterated that what he said is “just directing” and suggested scheduling a meeting of all parties prior to the Youth Board’s regular meeting on the 15th.

“I would just ask the public and the Youth Board’s patience because right now my main priority as a Council member is the safety of the community under this pandemic … and at best, there’s really not much that is going to happen with the Youth Board until spring. It doesn’t mean that we have to wait until spring to discuss it.”

After that, Council Member Robert Bialkowski requested to see a spreadsheet of all costs related to youth services (Fischer said the yearly budget is around $168,000). He also asked about the possibility of a 'request for proposal' to go out to interested outside organizations to avoid any preferential treatment.

Jankowski said the city already has a contract with the YMCA at the Liberty Center and questioned the feasibility of bringing in another company. In any event, he again emphasized that it is Tabelski’s responsibility to look into these aspects and that no plan is in place at this time.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian applauded City Church staff for the way it has run its youth activities in recent years and made it clear she is in favor of keeping city youth services at the Liberty Street location.

“I certainly, definitely do not want it to move from that area,” she said. “There’s a lot of children. Their parents don’t drive … We don’t need to have the kids out on the street. They need something structured for them so they can become … responsible young adults.”

Previously: Council member vows not to cut city youth services, assures advisory board that it will be involved

Previously: City Youth Board at odds with management over future of afterschool, summer programs; county takes a step back

Previously: County's termination of youth bureau agreement to save City of Batavia $20K next year

November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

Having a role in the successful completion of a municipal project has provided a sense of satisfaction to City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth, but it pales in comparison to his appreciation of and attachment to the people he worked with over the past 34 years.

“The people I have worked with I just can’t say enough about. I’m getting all choked up thinking about it, really,” Worth said during a telephone interview with The Batavian as he winds down a distinguished career with the city.

Worth’s official retirement date is Jan. 15, but his last day on the job – due to time earned – is Dec. 11.

His final City Council meeting is tonight’s Conference session at the City Centre Council Board Room, where he will receive a proclamation from lawmakers, honoring him for his dedicated service.

The 56-year-old lifelong resident of the Pembroke area said he has a special place in his heart for the people who believed in him and labored by his side.

“A lot of people gave me an opportunity or a chance, and I can’t thank them enough. I can name names, but I don’t want to leave anyone out,” he said.

Still, he first mentioned (the late) Dennis Larson, the former Public Works director who hired him back in March 1987 – “Dennis is someone I always thought the world of,” Worth said – and he thanked John Schaefer (former Water & Wastewater superintendent) and Len Walker (former Public Works director) for their expertise.

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

When it comes to his coworkers, Worth said they were like family.

“Those guys were special. When there was a water main break in the middle of the night and you’re out there in the freezing cold, you counted on each other to be there for each other,” he said. “Jim Ficarella and Bill Davis (retired and current Water & Wastewater superintendents, respectively), and the crews. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship and professionalism that I will always treasure.”

Worth began his career with the city – following a short stint with the Genesee County Highway Department – as an engineering technician and was promoted to deputy superintendent of water/wastewater in 1999. He took over as superintendent of that department three years later.

In July 2015, he was appointed Public Works director. The promotion put him in charge of the Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

During his tenure, he has been involved in numerous public works projects, including street reconstruction, water and sewer plant upgrades, and capital infrastructure planning.

“The projects that we’ve done over the years are the things that I’ve really craved,” he offered. “A project gets done and there’s a tangible change that happened – something that you can really see … the road got plowed, the road got paved, a new water line got put in, whatever that may be.”

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

He said he understands how important public works are to residents and doesn’t mind flying under the radar.

“If we’re doing it right, the people don’t notice you’re doing it. There’s a certain satisfaction in that,” he said.

“When the kids come through on tours of things, we tell them that Public Works is the department that you touch and feel every day. You’re using the streets, you’re walking on the sidewalks, you’re using the water, you’re flushing the toilet. That interaction is very real with the services that Public Works provides compared to fire and police and other big departments that really you don’t have to interact with them, even though they’re a higher profile profession.”

In January 2018, Worth took over as interim city manager after the departure of Jason Molino and served in that role for about 10 months.

“That year of me being upstairs as the interim city manager, I really missed DPW,” he said. “The city manager position is more of a higher-level planning, with stuff more in the future and not readily tangible, so that’s why I was quite ready to get back to Public Works.”

He did such a fine job as interim city manager that he was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year in the Administrative Management Category.

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

“I was very fortunate that I had really good people (department heads) when I was upstairs here – Ray Tourt (Department of Maintenance), Jim Ficarella, the two superintendents – they really ran the Public Works department for those 10 months, and did a really good job as there were projects still going on,” he said. “A lot of people pulled together, understanding that there was a vacuum and we all needed to help each other to get through it.”

Looking Back at Specific Projects

When asked about specific projects that stand out, Worth mentioned the new sewer plant construction, a $45 million venture that took place during his first year with the city.

“Being a young kid who doesn’t know a darn thing and walking into a huge project like that, I got exposed to so many different aspects of construction and large-scale projects,” he said. “What an opportunity to observe that and learn from that. That was on the very front end, but that sticks in my mind.”

He also said mentioned the Main Street reconstruction in 2003 and 2004 – “the road was in such bad shape,” he noted – and talked about some of the benefits of the smaller, residential street projects.

“You got to meet the people who lived there and you built relationships with them,” he said. “I remember some older people who lived on the street – by the end of the summer they were giving me canned tomatoes and offered to pray for you at night. That was a fun aspect of working in a municipality. You get to meet the people.”

As far as unfinished business, Worth remembers his first day on the job, performing survey work on Oak Street to prepare for a new street, Cecere Drive.

“It was a small subdivision with a few houses to be built there, but there ended up being a conflict over some property deeds or something, and that project never happened. That one never made it to the finish line.”

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

Worth acknowledged some “missed opportunities” in regard to building a new police station, but is pleased to see that it finally is on track.

“We always were going to do something, but something would come up and it got put off. The police need a new headquarters. The old City Hall (former Brisbane Mansion) is about 200 years old and trying to function as a police station.”

He said he is optimistic that a solution to the City Centre Mall dilemma is near. He called the initial concept of the Genesee Country Mall a mistake, “having all of these individual ownerships with this common hallway in the middle of it.”

“I was involved in that on several different levels over the years. I think frustration would be the word here, but I think moving forward there are opportunities that will be very positive – considering the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) redevelopment work.”

When it was mentioned that at least the roof has been repaired, Worth said the last section is scheduled to be done in the coming year … “and then all the buckets go away, right?”

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Worth deserves to enjoy his retirement, admitting “we’re going to miss him tremendously.”

“He’s done a lot of work; he’s involved in a lot of the projects. He stepped up even as assistant city manager for a time and was able to lead the ship for a couple months while we got things squared away so, he’s going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Jankowski said he is sure Worth has imparted his knowledge to put the city in position to promote his replacement from within.

“Hopefully, we’ve done our job and there are people in place to take over, but I know that Matt is that kind of guy -- a teacher and a mentor to a lot of the employees that he works with. So, I’m sure there will be somebody qualified to take the reins,” he said.

Tourt, a city employee for nearly 22 years, started out in the Engineering Bureau, working with Worth.

“They’re really going to miss him and they don’t realize how much yet. He’s been a real good boss and he’s been a great mentor and he’s been a good friend. He has really looked out for the operations of the city and always put the city first,” he said.

Worth said he intends to find another job, but is not sure of the line of work.

“I’m hoping to find somebody that has a need for an old, washed-up Public Works director, I guess,” he said, downplaying his experience. “I’m leaning toward something local. I really do enjoy living here and have lived here all my life.”

He also said that he and his wife, Joan, will have more time with the family – their grown children, Adam and Kathryn, and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3 – and continue to enjoy their walks at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s a chance to give the dog some exercise,” he said.

November 10, 2020 - 8:42am

Batavia City Council members vigorously defended themselves Monday night after a city resident called them out for not communicating effectively with their constituents.

Sammy DiSalvo, speaking during the public comments portion of the Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, said he was there to “talk about a larger issue that seems to be facing Council and city government as a whole – the lack of communication from city officials and from Council.”

“Elected officials are meant to represent and listen to citizens, not to ignore what citizens say," DiSalvo said. "Elected officials are meant to represent and listen to citizens, not to pursue personal interests. Elected officials are meant to represent and listen to citizens. This lack of communication from our City government is not acceptable.”

DiSalvo ran against incumbent Council Member Jeremy Karas last week for the unexpired term for Councilman-at-Large, but is trailing by 636 votes pending the counting of absentee ballots.

He gave examples of what he called Council’s “persistent refusal to listen to and communicate with residents” and said it was a “disgrace” that no Council member responded to a woman’s concerns when she spoke a couple weeks ago.

DiSalvo mentioned the problems with the deer committee over the summer and with the City Youth Board.

“These are two committees that Council has put together – both committees that Council decided not to inform of things happening until after decisions were made,” he said. “What’s the point of having a committee if you’re going to make decisions without them?”

He also criticized city leaders for their role in turning the farmers’ market situation “into a media and Facebook fight.”

“There’s also a lack of listening to the community over the construction of where the (new) police station should be and there is a lack of listening to the community over what to do with the mall when the entire community says, ‘Get that thing out of the city’s hands and stop investing money in it,’ and you all want to double-down on it,” he said. “People did not want that mall when it replaced beautiful Main Street back in the late '60s  and early '70s and they don’t want it in 2020.”

DiSalvo said residents have complained to him that no Council members have social media to share their real-time thoughts on Batavia.

“To which I have no response, other than it is much easier to be a mouse and hide than it is to speak out and risk being burned,” he said, before crediting the city for increasing its frequency of posts on its social media site.

Council members, in their responses, rejected DiSalvo’s scathing assessment.

-- John Canale: “I take offense to that Mr. DiSalvo. I listen to my city residents. I listen to the ones who contact me. I don’t go by what I’m reading on social media because I don’t believe most of what I read on social media. My constituents call me, as I am sure they do my colleagues, when they have concerns – or they send me an email or they show up at my front door, my front steps, and believe me that has happened quite often. So, the people that call me, I respond to. If I get an email, I immediately forward it to her to look into it for me and as soon as she gets an answer, she responds back to me and I forward that to my constituent.”

On the police station issue, Canale said Council took the task force’s recommendations and tried to purchase its first choice, but when that fell through, went with another one of its suggested sites (Alva Place parking lot). As far as responding to public speakers, he said he will respond if he has an adequate answer and, if not, will look into the matter further.

-- Paul Viele: “I have to agree with John, With the farmers’ market, we own the property. Why would we buy another piece of land and put the police station on there? That’s common sense. I coach hockey and I coach baseball, I’m all for the youth. When John said we’re not going to cut the youth (programs), we would never do that. And I also take offense to being called a mouse because I’m not on social media. Mr. DiSalvo, you have not a clue of what we do in here. What you do and what you see, when you sit back there, so I take offense to that.”

-- Kathleen Briggs: “I really take offense that I don’t listen to my constituents. I have a lot of problems in my (Fifth) Ward, and I’m telling you that my constituents, they know. They call me Monday through Sunday, anytime, I’ve gotten calls at 8 in the morning, and if I’m not home, I have a machine and they leave a message on my machine and I get back to them immediately and I listen to their concerns, I go to the proper department and I get back to them as soon as I can. I really take offense to the fact that we have someone saying that I don’t listen to my constituents. That’s appalling to me.”

-- Robert Bialkowski: “As far as not responding, I spent three hours on the phone yesterday discussing issues with various people … and today I spent two hours on the phone. Topics of conversation were about the youth bureau. The way it works, citizens are on top of the pyramid. Period. End of story. The individual citizens here, they call the shots. … We’re policy makers. We don’t run the city day-to-day. When it comes to the youth bureau, that’s policy … that’s up to us. And if we make the wrong decisions, then I guess some of us won’t be here in the future.”

He did acknowledge DiSalvo’s concerns about the deer committee, saying it “turned out to be a nightmare for everybody involved, and I apologize for that. It shouldn’t have happened.”

“My bigger concern is that when we use committees and we use boards, let’s treat them fairly and include them into the decision-making process. I don’t like making a decision and then telling the board about it after the fact. My concern is why would anybody even want to serve on boards?”

-- Al McGinnis: “I spent two hours over tea at my house with (Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Manager) Betty Carr talking about the farmers’ market, and Alva Place and the police (station). What a lot of people don’t realize or refuse to realize is that every single member of this Council spends an inordinate amount of time with their constituents in private – either a personal visit or a phone call. We don’t have to speak up in public; a lot of people would like to talk to you privately … which we do on our own time as part of the job.”

-- Patti Pacino: “Here’s what you need to know – I’m not offended in the least. You have the right to say what you have to say, so there you are. I learned from a great person, Mary Pat Hancock, who taught me to let it roll off your back, live with it, not everybody is going to agree. I want everybody to know that I also listen to everybody on Jackson Square, youth bureau, farmers’ market and all that, she said, adding that she is against the city youth programs being run by the YMCA.”

Another public speaker, city resident John Roach, sided with Council members in that they do listen.

“We just had an election and had two different points of view and the other point of view won (Jeremy Karas) by 600-something votes pending the recount of the absentee ballots,” Roach said.

Then he proceeded to give his thoughts on the farmers’ market and the location of a new headquarters for the Batavia Police Department.

“They’re over there at Alva Place by the good graces of City Council. You allow them to be there. They don’t pay user fees, they don’t pay property taxes or anything else,” he said. “And we’re going to put a police station somewhere and I know that wasn’t the first choice, it wasn’t the second choice, but it is the current choice. We already own the property. Environmental issues are going to be a lot less. There are already utilities there. Let the farmers’ market move.”

Roach said it would be unwise for the police department to move into the former JCPenney store.

“Well, that would mean taking property off the tax rolls and they also pay mall maintenance fees. Let the farmers’ market contact the owners of the Penney’s building. Let them pay rent. Let them move into Penney’s. It’s a huge place. Great place for a farmers’ market,” he said. “Why should the city have to foot the bill to relocate the police station somewhere else and maybe pay another $500,000 to buy another piece of property? It just doesn’t make any sense.”

November 10, 2020 - 6:22am

youth_board_.jpg

If City Council Member John Canale has his way, there is no way Batavia’s youth programming will be cut.

Canale, attempting to allay the concerns of City Youth Board representatives David Twichell and Paula Fischer, said he sees the city’s youth program as “an invaluable gem” and said he would do everything in his power to continue or expand offerings to its young residents.

Speaking at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Canale responded to public comments by Twichell, Fischer and Fischer’s son, Andrew, who are troubled about a proposal to contract with the Genesee Area Family YMCA for city youth services.

Currently, the city has a contract with Genesee County to partially a fund a youth bureau executive director, Jocelyn Sikorski, but a resolution – currently placed on hold by the County Legislature – would dissolve that agreement and compel City Council to devise a new plan for youth services.

“Much like Paula, (who) spoke about the youth programs in the city, I grew up every day of my life as a kid at MacArthur Park on Monday through Friday, all day there except for lunch because when I was a kid, they didn’t provide lunch,” Canale said. “The youth bureau is an invaluable gem that we have here in the city, and I have no intention of decreasing the services the bureau offers.”

Canale said the cost to run the youth programs in the city “is miniscule in the whole budget picture.”

“So, I can assure anybody that is here tonight that is concerned about Council doing away with the youth bureau or doing away with the services that we provide our local youth, I can guarantee if any of my Council colleagues brought that up, I would definitely be dead set against it,” he said. “And I don’t think there is anybody here tonight that is against that.”

He then warned people about reacting solely from what they read on social media as well as The Batavian and another local news outlet.

“Don’t believe everything that you read, number one, and try not to formulate your opinion as to what the City Council’s actions are going to be based upon what you're reading on social media,” he offered.

Canale: No Discussion about Cutting Services

Canale said he didn’t recall any discussion pertaining to doing away with the youth bureau or cutting any services.

“Correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe I misunderstood or missed something, Rachael,” he said, looking at Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. “Did Jocelyn not come to us as a county employee contracted with the city to share services? Did she not come to us and request that we cut that contract out?”

Tabelski replied, “That is correct.”

Canale responded that “for some reason, it seems like the public is under the impression that we in the city want to cut that out.”

“And the county manager (Matt Landers) also made public comment that I read that they were going to kind of leave it in our lap first to see what move we made first. I want the public to realize that this was the county that came to the city … and requested that maybe we could discontinue that contract.”

Canale said no decision has been made on the status of the contract with the county, stating that it is at the discussion stage.

“We’re looking at all possibilities and Rachael is looking into other possibilities as well as she approached the YMCA to see what they might be able to do to offer as good of services, if not better services,” he said.

He then aimed his remarks at Twichell and Fischer.

Advisory Board will be Involved

“For whatever reasons, the (Youth) board has not been in the communication circle yet, but I would only assume that at some point when the decisions are going to be made, that we would go to our advisory board and say that these are some of our thoughts (and) what do you guys think?” he said.

Canale urged people to not have a “knee-jerk reaction” to the situation based on social media or news accounts.

“This is all still in the talking stages. Nothing has happened. No programs have been cut,” he said.

The city’s youth center – the Liberty Center for Youth on City Church’s St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – has been closed due to COVID-19 and because the city doesn’t have any youth services employees at this time.

“Maybe, like (Council Member) Rose Mary (Christian) said, 'maybe it’s time to look at that,' ” Canale said. “I don’t know. That should be part of the discussion as well. As things start to open up, we could look at that. Or now, obviously on the rise again with COVID, maybe this isn’t a good time to look at that, I don’t know.”

Youth Programming: More than Meets the Eye

Fischer, a member of the City of Batavia Youth Board for 10 years, said she has “fond memories” of the city parks’ program having attended Kibbe and Pringle parks. She is the director of school-based health programs for the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

She said she has volunteered during city youth events, providing oral health education and giving out hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids and families. She called Batavia a great place to raise a family due, in part, to the services it offers to its young people.

Fischer emphasized that the youth bureau “is more than just the summer rec program -- although the rec program is well-known, serving hundreds of children every summer, providing safe, fun and educational programming – including lunch, which is a big help to many families.”

She mentioned several other events and programs under the city youth bureau, including:

  • The community garden;
  • National Night Out in conjunction with the city police;
  • The Liberty Center for Youth with services provided in conjunction with the YMCA;
  • Programs run by City Church at the St. Anthony’s campus;
  • A partnership with the Batavia City School District for busing to the youth center;
  • Summer safe carnival open to the community;
  • Youth and volunteer awards banquet at Terry Hills Restaurant;
  • A partnership with the Arc of Genesee Orleans for Saturday programs;
  • Visitation at nursing homes and the Senior Center;
  • Open gym nights and grants for summer recreation tennis programs.

“All of these programs provide a sense of pride in the community to the city residents,” she said.

Fischer said she was asking City Council to work with the advisory board to address budgetary issues and “come together to see if there’s a way we can be mindful of the city budget without decimating youth services.”

“A reduced level of service may be appropriate at this time with time to rebuild in the future,” she said.

Youth Board is ‘Open, Willing to Cooperate’

Twichell, the City Youth Board president, extended an invitation to all City Council members “that we are open and we are willing to cooperate with the city, and we are willing as an advisory board to help guide the process.”

“We know … with these COVID restrictions and the tough economic times we’re facing, we know the city is facing great challenges,” he said. “But there are times when we feel that there is somewhat of a disconnect between the board and the City Council.

"I’m here tonight to open and maybe knock down some of those barriers, and tomorrow I will be putting together an email for each and every one of you that will list all of our contact information.”

He then urged Council members to reach out to the advisory board if they have any questions about youth services.

Fischer’s son, Andrew, a former youth board vice president, said he worked for the summer rec program for five years during his summer breaks from Canisius College, where he earned an MBA in Accounting.

“A lot of our youth programs, specifically summer rec, are great ways for youth in our community to interact with one another and interact with the rec leaders,” he said. “It instilled in me a sense of leadership and a sense of empathy toward some of the kids, who obviously were from tougher situations.”

He said it didn’t “sit right” with him when he heard about youth services possibly changing, and noted that he looked at past city budgets on the website and saw that the summer recreation came in below budget last year.

McGinnis Objects to Sending Letter

Prior to Canale’s comments, Council Member Al McGinnis, the city’s liaison to the youth board, said he didn’t get a copy of a letter sent by the youth board to the media last week – a letter that objected to the resolution to terminate the city/county agreement and expressed the viewpoint that contracting with the YMCA instead was a done deal. (Fischer said that McGinnis and the other Council members did receive the letter).

“If you’re an elected or public official and you’re on a board, it is incumbent upon you to make sure that everyone on the board, whether they agree or disagree, knows that correspondence is going out to the public,” McGinnis said. “If not, the public gets confused when they hear two different sets of a thing. When you do it unilaterally, and basically conduct a rogue operation, without informing everyone, it looks bad for everyone concerned.”

He added, “At the time, the board members could have spoken to us at the meeting and said 'here are our points of view – we’d like to make sure that this is heard by the public.' No one is going to censure or stop a report … We owe it to the public to speak with a unified voice, or at least if it’s not unified, everyone gets a chance to say their piece.”

Christian asked how many kids attend the youth center on Liberty Street and if the city had any youth bureau employees at the center.

Tabelski said attendance ranged between 30 and 50 – “sometimes as low as five” – and that the city had no youth program employees, other than Sikorski, who directs city, Genesee and Orleans county youth activities.

“I look down the street and I see tons of kids out there,” Christian said, referring to the Liberty Center for Youth. She also asked about costs should the YMCA get involved.

Tabelski said that, pre-COVID-19, the city and the YMCA each supplied three or four staff members at the center, depending upon the number of children there, and that the YMCA did not charge the city for those employees,

She also mentioned that the city’s program coordinator, Lydia Schauf, recently took another job with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Could Youth Center Have Stayed Open?

Christian then questioned why the center has been closed for so long while school is in session.

“It was supposed to be because of COVID," she said. "I see people at Walmart, I see people downtown. I see them at the grocery store, I see people here. I see people everywhere in the city. Those kids could wear a mask like anyone else in the city and they, I’m quite sure, would stop anyone from coming in without a mask.

"And I’m quite sure they would be disinfecting that facility for the kids over there. And they’re playing basketball on Tuesday nights and I haven’t heard of a soul from that center who has COVID.”

After Tabelski explained that the city was unable to hire part-timers (due to a hiring freeze) and, as a result, she contacted YMCA leadership to see if that organization could provide youth services in an attempt to cut costs and “also provide the same level of service.”

“I engaged in a discussion with the YMCA if they could staff the center and until we come to any preliminary contract terms, you’ll have nothing (in the form of a resolution) in front of you,” Tabelski said. “At such point, you would have a presentation by the YMCA on the programming that they can provide for us that is the same or better than what we’re providing today at a lower cost to the residents.”

Christian’s response indicated that she wasn’t buying that explanation.

“Yeah, it was mentioned on The Batavian that we have to think of the taxpayers,” she said. “We sure as hell don’t think about the taxpayers when it comes to lights for Ellicott Street over there for the trail, especially when at 4:30 at night it’s going to be dark in the winter time and the summer time around 9 o’clock. We don’t think about salary increases either, now do we?”

At that point, Paul Viele, who was presiding over the meeting in place of City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was out of town, cut Christian off.

Tabelski: Let’s Give it Another Try

Minutes later, Tabelski directed her comments to Twichell and Fischer, stating that she came to them during an Oct. 27 meeting in “good faith with ideas on our situation and our strategy.”

“And when you attended the meeting, you sat there, you listened to what I had to say, you listened to my ideas, we had great dialogue. And I am willing to continue that dialogue with you. But I prefer we did it in a committee setting and not go around the committee setting with emails and letters outside of the people on that committee and to the media, so we can really achieve something,” she said.

Tabelski credited the youth board for its commitment to the cause, but said “we have to think differently about this.”

“I am willing to come back and sit with you guys. And this time at the meeting, please speak up because when I left that (previous) meeting, everyone was in agreement to the strategy that I was going to look into and bring to Council.”

After she finished, Fischer attempted to present a “rebuttal,” but was told that she was not allowed to do that. 

“Then I will give my rebuttal to the media and you can read it there,” Fischer said.

Following the meeting, Fischer repeated the youth board’s claim that Tabelski had indicated to them that the decision to dissolve the city/county contract had already been made, and that Sikorski had obtained a grant to direct a Safe Harbor program and “wrote herself into that and changed her job description.”

Fischer also said there is someone who was employed by the city at the youth center who is willing to return to work there.

“When Lydia resigned, they didn’t feel like they had to go back and readdress this,” Fischer said. “They said, ‘OK, great, everybody is gone, and now we can really go and outsource youth services.' ”

She said the youth board is “leery about that.”

“They outsourced the county youth director, and look where we are,” she said. “And I don’t think we’re going to have the same quality of services – and it was our feeling that we had to let the community know.”

Photo: City Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer speaking to the media following Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 3, 2020 - 11:02pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council.

According to unofficial results just posted on the Genesee County Board of Elections website, incumbent Jeremy Karas holds a substantial lead over challenger Sammy DiSalvo in today’s voting for the Councilman-at-Large seat on the Batavia City Council.

Karas tallied 2,474 votes on the Republican line and 281 on the Conservative line for a total of 2,755 votes while DiSalvo received 2,119 votes, all on the Democratic line.

“We did what we could and it’s in the hands of the voters,” Karas said earlier tonight prior to the Board of Elections’ reporting.

Karas, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Adam Tabelski in 2019, said he would be unavailable for comment after that, noting that he had to be in Buffalo at 6 a.m. for work. He is the service department manager for Temp-Press, a Rochester company.

DiSalvo did not concede as he pointed out there are around 1,172 absentee ballots yet to be counted.

“We’ll see what happens with absentee votes when they are counted in about a week and we’ll move forward from that point,” he said.

DiSalvo would have to take about 78 percent of the absentee ballots to overcome the 636-vote deficit.

Last year, DiSalvo was unsuccessful in a bid to capture the Ward 5 seat on City Council, losing to Kathleen Briggs, 215-157.

October 27, 2020 - 10:11am

With a boost from the Batavia Rotary Club and The Rotary Foundation, the City of Batavia Youth Bureau and Genesee County Parks, Recreation & Forestry are working together to provide an increasingly popular water sport for children.

Jocelyn Sikorski, youth bureau executive director, reported to City Council on Monday night that the pond at DeWitt Recreation Area on Cedar Street has been identified as a safe and secure place for a kayak launch, made possible through a $6,000 grant from Rotary.

Sikorski, speaking at council’s Conference Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, said officials looked at a section of the Tonawanda Creek near Kibbe Park, but determined it was “not really a safe place.”

She said the launch to be utilized at DeWitt Recreation Area will be easy and safe for youth to get in and out of the kayaks.

City Council considered a draft resolution to accept the grant from Rotary for the period of Oct. 1 through April 30, 2021 “to provide assistance to expand outdoor recreation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education.” After hearing details regarding the city-county connection, it forwarded the measure to its Nov. 9th Business Meeting.

The resolution also calls for the city to “gift” all equipment from the grant – kayaks, kayak launch, paddles and vests – to Genesee County, which will maintain and store it.

Sikorski also said county workers are building a trailer for hauling the equipment back and forth.

The youth bureau is planning to teach kayaking as part of its youth center and summer recreation programming, incorporating STEM learning methods into the curriculum, she said.

As far as the Liberty Center for Youth, the youth bureau’s afterschool social and educational location for students ages 9-16, Sikorski said it continues to be closed due to COVID-19 and likely won’t open until next year.

“The City of Batavia Youth Bureau and Genesee County YMCA need to ensure that the Liberty Center participants have a safe and fun experience with us,” she said. “Currently, we are working through reopening plans carefully and monitoring the potential spike in COVID-19 cases due to increased travel through the upcoming holiday seasons.”

Sikorski said as the reopening date nears, the agency will send out information regarding the registration process as well as COVID-19 protocol in accordance with Department of Health and Batavia City School District protocol.

In other developments:

  • No one from the public spoke at a public hearing to amend the Batavia Municipal Code to include public garages (auto repair stations) in I-1 (Industrial) zones with a special use permit.

Prior to opening the public hearing, council members were required to declare the city as the lead agency in the State Environmental Quality Review, which has determined there will be no significant adverse environment impact.

The zoning ordinance change is a result of a request in January by Batavia businessman Eric Biscaro, owner of Classic Home Improvements, to place an auto repair shop on his property on Ellicott Street. It is expected to be approved at the next Business Meeting.

  • City Council approved a Just Kings’ “Trunk or Treat” event for 6 to 8 p.m. this Friday, noting that all application guidelines – including a certificate of liability insurance listing the city as an additional insured – have been met.

“This is a great event for the kids,” said Council Member Rose Mary Christian, advising that city police will be participating. She said that she will be donating candy to Just Kings.

In other action, Council advanced the following resolutions:

  • Entering into an agreement with a consulting, engineering or design firm (or a combination of those types of companies) for engineering services for the $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Project at Jackson Square, a music venue located between Jackson and Center streets.

Public Works Director Matt Worth said a team including Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, Maintenance Superintendent Ray Tourt, a representative of the Downtown Business Improvement District and himself are in the process of scoring the 11 companies that have applied and would get back to City Council either next month or in December with a contract in hand.

Previously, Worth said that the project calls for upgrades such as decorative pavement, enhanced lighting, relocation of electrical utilities, planters, benches, tables, chairs for seating and a new stage. Funds have been provided through the $10 million DRI award from the state to the City of Batavia.

In response to a question from Council Member John Canale about the upgrade decision-making process, Worth said that all stakeholders, such as nearby businesses, vendors who have used the area, BID officials, city staff and the public, will have the opportunity to provide input.

Worth indicated that the design work is to be performed next spring, with construction next fall after the Jackson Square performance season.

  • Accepting public dedication of Carolwood Drive Extension, also known as Clinton Gardens Subdivision Part 21A, following city approval of Batavia Homes and Development’s completion of the installation of stormwater system, sanitary sewer system, water main, house services and street paving to add five more building lots on the street.

Worth said the developer, which was responsible for all project costs, followed the city’s engineering requirements. This sets the stage for the city to take over maintenance of the street, including plowing and fire and police protection.

“One of the houses is close to completion, and it is my understanding that there is some interest (in the other building lots),” Worth said, adding that the extension eliminates two dead-end streets in that northeast section of the city.

  • Contracting with New Wave Energy Corporation of Buffalo for the purchase of natural gas at a rate of $3.28 per dekatherm, which, according to Worth, is 8 cents less than what the city has paid in the past three years.

New Wave Energy, which also has a contract with Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., submitted the lowest of two bids. The pact is for three years, starting on Jan. 1.

  • Accepting a $5,000 award from Genesee County STOP-DWI for the police department’s to set up high visibility road checks, saturation patrols and DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) call out during impaired driving crackdown periods.
October 26, 2020 - 10:52pm

Batavia City Council members are so hungry for news that the Ellicott Station project is moving forward that even budget amendments pertaining to a couple of grants approved two and three years ago are cause for celebration.

At tonight’s Conference Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski introduced a draft resolution amending the budget to reflect a National Grid Urban Corridor grant of $250,000 on behalf of Savarino Companies LLC of Buffalo. That's the developer of the $22.5 million mixed-use brownfield project on the site of the former Soccio & Della Penna construction company and Santy’s Tire Sales on Ellicott Street.

Ellicott Station is one of several city ventures that have been awarded funds from the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program. Plans for the project were first announced more than four years ago.

Tabelski said the National Grid grant that was approved in 2018 along with a Restore New York grant for $500,000 approved in 2017 are “pass through” items that the City facilitates for the developer.

She said it was an oversight that the grants previously weren’t put into a resolution form and given expenditure and revenue account designations, and “will not affect our bottom line in any way.”

“The Ellicott Station project, which everyone has heard about for many years, was awarded two grants back in 2017 and 2018 – one from Empire State Development called the Restore New York grant and that is a $500,000 grant to rehab the old electric building that’s on that site,” she said following the meeting. “That will be rehabilitated to house a microbrewery business, and the city has had success with Restore New York grants in the past. That will come to Council at the next Conference meeting next month.”

She said tonight’s National Grid resolution recognizes the city as the applicant “but the work will be done by Savarino Companies.”

“The grant is for $250,000 to enhance the Ellicott Trail on the property area right behind the Savarino campus,” she said. “The trail will be enhanced with lighting, benches, (and) there will be parking areas there as well for people to utilize the trail starting in that area. The hope is that they will also use the restaurant and brewhouse that will be on that site.”

Tabelski said the grant funds won’t be turned over to Savarino Companies until the specific projects are completed.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian expressed that her patience (and apparently that of her colleagues) has been wearing a bit thin, waiting for some activity on the large parcel that is plagued by unsightly buildings with broken windows.

“We’re still up in the air (on this),” Christian said. “I just want to be sure it’s going to go through.”

Tabelski said that Samuel Savarino, the company’s chief executive officer, is looking to close on the entire project in November and December and will be required to have all of his ducks in a row at the closing.

On Sept. 16, The Batavian broke the story that Savarino Companies received nearly $5.7 million in low-income housing tax credits from New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

Savarino called the HCR award “a critical component, which all the other commitments of the project which are in place have been waiting for.”

He said he hoped to start construction “anywhere between the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year.”

Savarino’s plan is to construct a five-story apartment building with 55 new, modern workforce housing units, as well as a brewery, restaurant/beer garden and potential further development on 3.31 acres. It is expected to create 20 jobs in the city’s downtown area.

Cost Adjustment Necessary

Council also moved to its Nov. 9 Business Meeting a resolution approving a contract increase of $26,013 for the creation of Ellicott Trail, a 9.7-mile bike and walking route that snakes through the city and down from Williams Park to Seven Springs Road.

The $1.7 million project was mostly paid by state Department of Transportation funds, with the City of Batavia and Town of Batavia sharing about 10 percent of the cost.

A complete analysis of the final expense indicate that the city owes $196,763 -- $26,013 more than the budgeted amount. The resolution authorizes the city to use some of its Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program funding to make up the difference.

Public Works Director Matt Worth said the city has a large enough CHIPs balance to absorb the additional cost without affecting future scheduled projects. He also said that maintenance of the trail should be minimal – mostly labor to periodically regroom the trail (adding stone dust when necessary).

Council Member John Canale commented that Ellicott Trail is becoming “the gem of the community,” adding that its popularity has proved the “naysayers” wrong.

Other Items Move Forward

The board also advanced resolutions pertaining to the Jackson Square DRI project, Carolwood Drive Extension, natural gas commodity contract, amending the municipal code to include public garages in I-1 (Industrial) zones with a special use permit, acceptance of a STOP-DWI “crackdown” award and Rotary Club grant for kayaking activities at DeWitt Recreation Area on Cedar Street.

Watch for details on those projects on Tuesday on The Batavian.

Previous story: City Council set to receive update on Jackson Square project consultant selection process

October 26, 2020 - 9:30pm

Speaking on behalf of the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, Batavian Elizabeth “Betty” Carr tonight asked City Council to rethink its position on placing a new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot, proposed action that would force the market to – once again – find a new location.

“I’m here tonight to ask for your help. I’d like to find a path forward to keep the market at the current site, so I’m here to ask your guidance and consideration to agreeing that the police department should find a different home,” said Carr, manager of the downtown seasonal operation, during Council's Conference Meeting at City Centre Council Board Room.

Carr mentioned that the market has moved 11 times in the past 15 years and that it takes at least two years “to ramp back up to full capacity.”

Stating that she is “excited” to live in Batavia, Carr said she wants to help Batavia craft its “ideal market, which I see as a diamond in the rough.”

“I can help build strategic relationships and garner fresh funds. I’m asking each of you for open dialogue so we can work collaboratively together on this,” she said.

Carr also spoke about two New York State food stamp programs that are helping the farmers’ market gain new customers and helping residents -- especially those with low incomes -- buy fresh produce and other homemade items while stretching their food dollars.

“Each of you has in front of you survey results from Field & Fork Network, which is a New York State food stamp program,” she said to the council members. “Field & Fork is trending for doubling, even tripling, some numbers this year. These results show that 73 percent of our customers walk or bike to the market, including senior citizens who enjoy their independence by shopping at the market – using their walkers and motorized scooters.”

She said that food stamp recipients come to the market’s information booth where Carr electronically removes money from their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and gives them silver coins for fruits and vegetables only and wood coins for produce and everything else being sold.

The “everything else” items include meat, cheese, bread, honey, maple syrup, olive oil, flavored vinegar, baked goods, canned goods and jams and jellies, she said.

Carr also informed the board about the “Double Up Food Bucks” program that matches up to $20 a day so EBT customers can afford to buy produce.

“The wins are threefold,” she said. “Low income folks are eating better. Our local farmers are gaining new customers and they keep more money. The best part is our food dollars are staying in the region.”

She maintained that moving the market would hurt Batavia.

“Frankly, your farmers are weary of rebuilding from scratch,” she said. “Will you provide the guidance and help make the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street the market’s forever home?”

While no council member addressed her comments during the meeting, afterward Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he was surprised by Carr’s position on the proposed location of a new police station.

“We did a feasibility study on that lot months ago and at that time we notified the mall (merchants), BID (Business Improvement District) people and the farmers’ market – making sure we didn’t affect the mall’s parking spaces – and apparently everyone was on board until tonight,” he said. "We even said we would help the market find a new place."

Jankowski said city officials looked into a few privately owned locations in the city and found that the going rate to purchase those parcels was around $500,000.

“It makes more sense to put the building on city properly centrally located, which is what most people are calling for,” he said. "We save $500,000 right off the bat, the location makes it easy for police officers to access and is not on either side of the city.”

October 26, 2020 - 12:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Jeremy Karas, Sammy DiSalvo.

Incumbent Jeremy Karas and challenger Sammy DiSalvo are on the ballot on Nov. 3 for the unexpired term of Councilman-at-Large on the Batavia City Council.

Karas, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Adam Tabelski in 2019, is running on the Republican and Conservative lines while DiSalvo is running as a Democrat.

The Batavian reached out to the candidates for the answers to five questions pertaining to the City of Batavia and a sixth about a book that has had an impact upon them.

JEREMY KARAS

Biographical information:

A resident of Union Street, Karas and his wife, Andrea, have two children – Timothy, a student at Notre Dame High School, and Steven, a student at St. Joseph Regional School. Karas lived in Batavia through jeremy-karas-temppress-1_a.jpgthe seventh grade before moving to Elba, graduating from Elba Central School in 1998. He and his family have lived in Batavia for the past 15 years.

He said growing up on a family-owned farm (muckland) on the Genesee-Orleans county line instilled into him a strong work ethic, sense of values and resourcefulness.

Karas worked for Graham Corp. for seven years through 2016, before taking a job with Temp-Press in Rochester, managing its service department. For the past two years he has helped merge two separate service companies that Temp-Press acquired, while also adding to their existing customer base across New York State – providing service for all types of instrumentation and process control in industries ranging from food & dairy, wastewater, water filtration, and manufacturing.

He said that while on City Council, he has learned much about the city, participating in the budget process, Audit Committee and, currently, in the search for permanent city manager.

“My hope is to continue to serve the people of Batavia by using my experience and knowledge to help lead this city forward, while keeping Batavia a safe and affordable place to live,” he said.

What are your three favorite things about living in Batavia?

The people. Batavia residents have a very strong sense of pride in their community. With a population of 15,000, Batavia still feels like a small town in some ways with families staying here for multiple generations and maintaining close relationships with each other.

The future. Batavia’s future is definitely something to be excited about. With the plans that have been set in motion for the downtown revitalization, it is very exciting to see some of these projects taking shape. Having large employers like Graham, O-At-Ka (Milk Products), HP Hood, and, soon, Upstate Farms (a cooperative of more than 300 family-owned dairy farms) means that there will continue to be ample sources of employment for our residents.

The food is amazing! My family and I go out to eat every Saturday night and we love the variety of options we have that are all just a few short minutes away. There is definitely an abundance of great places to eat in Batavia. I will occasionally bring coworkers and clients to Batavia for lunch or dinner and they always leave with a full stomach and a smile.

What is the number one problem facing the City of Batavia and what is your plan to address it?

The financial shortfall caused by COVID-19 is without a doubt the largest problem that we currently face. I believe that we will be feeling the effects of this pandemic for much longer. Our acting city manager and department heads have done an amazing job adjusting their operating budgets thus far but it is yet to be seen how much of an impact the increased deficit that New York State has taken on will affect municipalities in the future.

Describe your vision for downtown Batavia in 10 years?

I would hope that in 2030, downtown Batavia would be a very lively place for people to just come and walk around for shopping, dinner, drinks and entertainment. I would like to see all of the first floor windows on Main Street be full of people inside stores and restaurants. I would also hope that events like Christmas in the City, Beertavia, Wine Walk and The Ramble continue, along with other new events for people of all ages to come down and enjoy.

Should the city build a new police headquarters and where?

Our officers deserve much better than the station that they currently work out of. I believe that all options need to be weighed as to where the new headquarters will be located. I have heard many different suggestions such as using the Genesee County Jail once the county has built a new facility, using the mall now that JC Penney has closed and, of course, the location on Alva Place that has been studied. Whichever site is chosen, a new facility for the police department has to be a priority.

What would you like to see done with the City Centre Mall?

Now that the roof has been completely repaired along with the concourse upgrades in the pipeline, I would hope that we could attract more business and foot traffic. I realize that the retail landscape is not what it was 30 years ago, and the Genesee Country Mall I knew as a kid unfortunately will never be the same. But there is opportunity for medical and service-based businesses to make the mall their new home. The plans that I have seen for the theater (Main Street 56 Theater) are very encouraging, and I hope that it serves as a catalyst for other developments in the mall.

What book first published in English since the Enlightenment has influenced your outlook on life the most?

I have to be perfectly honest, I would have to Google the Enlightenment because I have no clue what it is or when it was. I’m not what you would refer to as a scholar or academic-type person that would readily know the answer to this. Most of my time is spent reading emails, operating manuals, schematics, quotes, and spec sheets. I apologize if this is disappointing to anyone, but I would much rather be honest than submit a fabricated answer.

SAMMY DISALVO

Biographical information:

A fourth-generation Batavian, DiSalvo graduated from Batavia High School before attending Oswego State College, where he received a master's degree in Education and two undergraduate degrees in Math sammy.jpgand Writing. He worked three jobs on campus while a student and graduated cum laude.

After complete his higher education, he worked at Genesee Community College before being offered his current position at a Rochester area college, where he teaches and supervises students. He said he believes that education is our future and we, as a society, should invest more in education.

DiSalvo participates in numerous community events and used to co-own a pop-up board game night that traveled between the local library and a few small businesses around the city. As a runner, he applauds the creation of Ellicott Trail. He also looks forward to visiting his grandmother and hearing her stories about Batavia when she was growing up.

He also is an avid reader and is involved in mobilizing and bringing a voice to rural communities in my position on statewide boards.

DiSalvo said his family was involved with City Council decades ago, as well as the police department, Genesee Valley BOCES and were successful business owners in Batavia.

He said that he will bring “a fresh and dedicated voice to Council.”

What are your three favorite things about living in Batavia?

With the exception of the five years when I went to college for my undergrad and graduate degrees, Batavia has been my home. With that comes the relationships -- both familial and friendly -- that I've developed with high school friends (shout out to my local trivia team), friends I've made in the city through political and personal ventures, and friendships I've made with local business owners. This camaraderie is my favorite part of Batavia.

Secondly, as a runner and someone who loves outdoor activities, I love the new Ellicott Trail, the ability to kayak with my sister in the creek, and having a safe city to go on walks through.

Finally, the diversity that has started to grow in Batavia over recent years has made me feel more comfortable in Batavia and made me proud of my hometown. This includes things such as our first Pride Parade in 2019, the formation of Just Kings in 2020, and the success of nontraditional American restaurants.

What is the number one problem facing the City of Batavia and what is your plan to address it?

While meeting people as I walk the city leading up to Election Day, the No. 1 concern that almost everyone agrees upon is the issue of the mall. Most people want it gone and want to stop having their tax dollars pay for it. I fully agree with these sentiments. My grandparents owned a store in the mall for decades and grandma says that from the day the mall was built, nobody in the city liked it or wanted it. This is what happens when the government stops listening to people.

Tearing down the mall would unfortunately cost the city too much money. You can “put lipstick on a pig” but you need a plan for the next step, which neither Council nor the interim manager has talked about. First, we should get all parcels privatized. Government should not be in the business of playing landlord. A private entity should be spending money on the mall, not taxpayers. We should be working with organizations around the city and county whose job it is to help businesses (such as the Genesee County Economic Development Center) and see what can be done to attract businesses to buy mall parcels.

We need to grow humble as a Council and learn to start listening to experts. One such example of this is three or four years ago the developer who led the revitalization of Canalside in Buffalo came to Batavia and told the city what it needs to do to revitalize, and all of his suggestions were ignored, which included things from how parking is arranged on Main Street to how to utilize the parking lots more effectively. We should start listening to experts who have proven success and maybe our community would see the revitalization it should be seeing.

Describe your vision for downtown Batavia in 10 years?

With the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) projects starting to occur after three years of having the $10 million, I hope that the money will be invested wisely in projects that will sustain long-term results that will become downtown mainstays for decades to come. Some things that need to happen for downtown and the city to prosper: fill the (C.L.) Carr's building after too many years of it being vacant and a growing eyesore (also we need to fill the old bank on the corner of Jackson and Main, too, and the old Continental School of Beauty building), privatize all individual parcels of the mall like the mall used to be when it was built and a somewhat positive thing for Batavia, fill the other vacant storefronts with businesses people can walk into anytime rather than businesses like lawyer offices, doctors, or dentists, and finally create more grassy areas downtown for people to eat lunch or sit in during summer (downtown has too much concrete and blacktop).

I think of East Aurora and the thriving downtown and tourist area they have with Vidler’s 5 & 10, the restaurants, and the many locally owned businesses from an art store to a book store to clothing shops. What did they do right that Batavia's leadership has let deteriorate over the last 20 to 30 years? I hope to see more community investment, such as the mural behind GO ART! which is reminiscent of the beautiful murals that (Vincenzo) Del Plato painted back in the day on the Southside.

Should the city build a new police headquarters and where?

If the city is being mandated to build a new police headquarters rather than update the existing building, then we have no choice. If we have no choice, then we should appeal the mandate to the state and not stop until the state listens to us. We need to look at why we need a new one and move forward only if it's completely necessary. If we do move forward, we also have to make sure the current station's building will be utilized and not abandoned; we have enough empty buildings around downtown.

If we do build a new police station, there are two places I advocate for: the open lot on Swan Street next to the old Wiard (Plow) Company building (a few years ago, the city asked a group of citizens for recommendations and this was the citizens’ top recommendation), yet Council insists on filling the Alva Place parking lot currently used for the Farmers’ Market rather than using a location that is currently rubble, and the second location is to make use of the mall parcels the city owns (and perhaps acquire the parcel that JC Penney sadly vacated this week) and renovate it rather than spend the projected multimillion dollar price tag that has been talked about for that project.

What would you like to see done with the mall?

I've talked about the mall quite a lot already (it is Batavia’s No. 1 concern) but I'm happy to talk more about it. I do not understand why the city and City Council insist on doubling-down on it when most Batavians want it gone.

The first option would be to privatize all the parcels with individual business owners, returning the mall to the way it was intended to be – privately-owned and thriving with Mom and Pop shops. The City also gets out of the business of being responsible for any part of the mall other than where City Hall is.

A nice touch would be for the entire central roof to be taken off to make it an open plan and then utilize the central stage for the events and performances, similar to how Jackson Square is utilized. I remember spending hours in the mall watching these performances at holidays. A space with so much potential is being drowned by a decade-plus disagreement between parcel owners and the city and a lack of a clear plan forward to bring in businesses to revitalize the mall.

The second option is to use the parcels the city owns and acquire the JC Penney parcel to be refurbished into a police station, if we are forced to build a new station.

What book first published in English since the Enlightenment has influenced your outlook on life the most?

Brene Brown wrote a book titled, "Daring Greatly," that talks about the idea of needing to jump into the arena and advocating for what you believe in. This inspired me to get involved a few years ago when I first watched her TED Talk and then read her book. I recommend this book to anyone who needs inspiration to get be an advocate and jump into the arena of life. She's inspired me to become involved in so much from politics to personal ventures to living life in a more fulfilling way.

The books I first read that influenced me were the Harry Potter series. As a child, it was a series about magic, self-advocacy, anti-hate and the power of young people to make a difference. The series has influenced my perceptions on life and how I form relationships with other people. I still preach the quote, "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic."

October 24, 2020 - 8:33am

The City of Batavia is moving forward with the design and construction of the $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Project at Jackson Square, the popular music venue tucked in between Jackson and Center streets.

Public Works Director Matt Worth on Friday said his office has received 11 proposals from professional firms seeking to take the lead for the project that calls for the following upgrades: decorative pavement, enhanced lighting, relocation of electrical utilities, planters, benches, tables, chairs for seating and a new stage.

The cost of this work, $750,000, is the full amount of the grant issued as part of the state’s DRI program, and the expense of the design firm will be charged against the DRI grant as a project cost.

A draft resolution to enter into an agreement with an engineering or architectural firm is on Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting agenda. The meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Centre Council Board Room.

A letter from Worth dated Sept. 25 went out to consultants, inviting them to “provide a proposal of project understanding and qualifications” for engineering and design services. The letter indicated the city “strongly encourages participation of MWBE (Minority and/or Women-owned Business Enterprise) and SDVOB (Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business) firms.”

The state is stipulating a MWBE participation of 30 percent and an SDVOB goal of 6 percent.

Worth said a team is scoring the proposals and will announce its selection in several weeks.

“Because this project is a little different – not a straightforward, engineering street design (for example), this could end up being a team approach,” he said, advising that the consultant could be an engineering firm, design professional, landscape architectural company, or a combination.

As far as the timetable is concerned, Worth’s letter indicates investigation and design work to be performed next spring and progress through to construction in the fall – after the Jackson Square performance season. It also states that two public information meetings will be scheduled.

On another front, Worth said work on the City Centre Mall roof is complete.

“The warranty is in place, so we’re moving to the next phase,” he said. “The Mall Feasibility Study is wrapping up right now and we’ll be jumping into the DRI project with the mall concourse, which will probably include some additional roofing as well.”

Worth said specific plans for the mall project will be based on the feasibility report recommendations.

Other topics on Monday’s agenda include:

-- A public hearing to amend the Batavia Municipal Code to include public garages (auto repair stations) in I-1 (Industrial) zones with a special use permit. This action stems from a request by Batavia businessman Eric Biscaro, owner of Classic Home Improvements, to place an auto repair shop on his property on Ellicott Street.

-- A resolution accepting public dedication of Carolwood Drive Extension, also known as Clinton Gardens Subdivision Part 21A, as a result of Batavia Homes and Development’s completion (and municipal approvals) of the installation of storm water system, sanitary sewer system, water main, house services and street paving to add five more building lots on the street.

-- A resolution to accept a $6,000 grant from The Batavia Rotary Club and Rotary Foundation to the City of Batavia Youth Bureau to support outdoor recreation through the purchase of kayaks, kayak launch, paddles and vests. The youth bureau has indicated that it will teach kayaking as part of its youth center and summer recreation programming, and also will incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education through this activity.

October 13, 2020 - 12:19pm

The search for a permanent City of Batavia manager is progressing, according to City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who didn’t have much new information to report other than the Cincinnati, Ohio-based consulting firm assisting the board is now part of a larger corporation with offices across the United States.

“We’re setting up timetables to keep the process going and The Novak Consulting Group is scheduling their people to meet with the committee that has been formed by City Council,” Jankowski said today, adding that TNCG has been acquired by another company.

A click on the TNCG website indicates that as of January 2020, it now is part of Raftelis, a national leader in financial, rate, organizational, technology, and strategic business consulting services to the public sector and utilities throughout the United States.

Per the website, “Raftelis’ capabilities and resources mean we now offer clients a broader range of services, and can quickly connect our clients to experts who can deliver the analysis and insights they need.” It also stated that the entire TNCG staff is now part of Raftelis and the firm will maintain its headquarters in Cincinnati.

Last month, Jankowski announced the appointment of Council members Patti Pacino and John Canale, Public Works Director Matt Worth and Human Resources Specialist Dawn Fairbanks to a screening/search committee to set the wheels in motion for the hiring of a city manager to replace Martin Moore, who left the position in June.

Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving as the interim city manager for the past four months.

Jankowski said he didn’t know who will be coordinating the search for TNCG, noting that he expects the local committee to update Council as developments occur.

During the search in the spring and summer months of 2018 that resulted in Moore’s hiring, Catherine Tuck Parrish, executive search senior manager, was the key player for TNCG.

The Batavian placed a call to TNCG this morning to find out if Tuck Parrish was going to direct the search this time, but the person who answered said that she was out of the office until Wednesday.

Jankowski said Council has been in contact with TNCG “all the way back to June 20,” but the company wasn’t available to step in until sometime last month. Per a stipulation in the previous contract, TNCG agreed to provide a “free search” to the city should the city manager leave prior to completing two years on the job.

Moore’s tenure in Batavia lasted for 21 months.

The city reportedly paid $23,500 for the 2018 executive search, plus a few thousand dollars more for advertising, background checks and transportation costs for finalists to attend interviews in Batavia.

Moore received a starting salary of $110,000, with annual increases of $2,000 along with retirement benefits, paid family medical insurance, three weeks’ vacation, life insurance, and relocation reimbursement up to $10,000.

Jankowski said it is his understanding that the city will cover “what we did last time -- beyond their fee – which was advertising costs, interview costs and transportation costs to bring candidates here, and so on.”

He also said that all costs would come before Council prior to payment.

“If we’re going to bring X amount of people in for interviews and it’s going to cost approximately this much money, then Council has to appropriate that,” he said. “It’s not a major expenditure but these are expenses that weren’t budgeted for, so we would have to find the account where it would be legal to be transferred from – such as Administrative Services or the City Manager’s Office. When these costs become apparent, we will make that information available to the public.”

He also said Council will zero in on the qualifications and skills of its next city manager.

“Council will make it known what’s important to them and what’s important to our community. Are we advertising for a people person or a financial expert or a manager for major projects? It’s up to Council to set that job description above and beyond what is listed in the charter,” he explained.

Jankowski said TNCG will do all the screening and preinterviews and make sure the candidates meet all of the qualifications and verify that people are honest about their credentials.

“When that’s all done it comes to the committee and the committee does additional screening, narrowing down the candidates who will be interviewed by all of Council,” he said. “That’s how we did it last time and I expect the process to be pretty much along those same lines.”

As far as TNCG is concerned, Jankowski said it will be “a team approach.”

“There isn’t one or two specific people,” he said. “One of their people may be an expert in background investigations, another may be an expert in screening the actual individual. Now that they’re part of this other company, I believe they will bring more people to the table because they have a larger organization to tap into.”

Jankowski said regardless of who is sitting at the table, Council is committed to making sure the search “is done property, fairly, ethically and legally … and as open as we possibly can.”

While the job search may or may not come up for discussion at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting, a resolution to supplement Tabelski’s current salary with a $1,000 per month stipend for additional responsibilities is on the agenda. The increased pay would be retroactive to July 20 and continue until the city manager post is filled.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Centre Board Room.

September 28, 2020 - 10:44pm

The Batavia City Council is on board with a “bright idea” to convert the community-owned street lighting system to light-emitting diode (LED) technology and potentially cut costs substantially in the process.

At tonight’s Council meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Public Works Director Matt Worth presented the plan to contract with the New York Power Authority to purchase new street light fixtures for all 772 city-owned lights on the four arterial routes, emphasizing that the city could realize annual savings of $42,493.77 after paying off a 14-year loan.

The arterial roads are routes 5 (Main Street), 33 (Pearl Street), 63 (Ellicott Street) and 98 (Oak Street).

Noting that he and Water/Wastewater Superintendent Bill Davis have been working on this for almost two years, Worth said it would be best to start with the fixtures that are owned by the city.

“We’ve been looking at ways to be more efficient with the street lighting system,” Worth said, adding that the city owns the lights on the arterials while National Grid owns the lights on residential and side streets.

“We’ve looked at different methods to try to make it more efficient and less costly to the ratepayers, and what we’ve found is the Public Service Commission and some of the regulations you have to go through to try to obtain the utility-owned street lighting system or to depreciate it out so you can replace it with newer, higher efficient fixtures are somewhat – I don’t want to say convoluted, but it can be very difficult. There’s a little bit of lack of confidence in what that cost actually is and whether the city is receiving fair value to go that route.”

So, instead he proposes the city join forces with the NYPA, a nonprofit entity that operates the power grid across the state and also provides “low-cost energy solutions for municipalities along the way.”

He explained that the NYPA will change the fixture heads on the arterials, including decorative ones, to an LED bulbs – “so it won’t be the yellowish color of the high-pressure sodium to a less expensive power usage LED white light.

Worth said the cost of the project is $549,033.33 and would be paid off over 14 years. The city would save $3,277.12 each year over those 14 years, but after the debt is paid off, annual savings would jump to $42,493.77.

He said the city would have all new fixtures, lower operation and maintenance costs, better light quality and reduced energy consumption.

“The attractiveness of this program is NYPA really offers a turnkey program,” he said. “We are staffed so lean right now that is very difficult for us to dedicate time to hire contractors and to engage with the consultants to try to do this on our own. NYPA will engage the design professional and they will design the system. They have already estimated the cost.

“Most of the procurement contracts are already in place, so they know how much these fixtures are going to cost. So, they’re able to estimate this very tightly and have given us a very conservative estimate …”

Worth said he is confident in the project, and said NYPA will either extend or shorten the financing term depending upon the final cost.

“The idea is (the) cost of your street lighting system … remains as is until the financing is paid off and then you’ll receive a large savings,” he said. “But in the interim, you get the benefit of a whole brand-new street lighting system and the city isn’t maintaining older fixtures, replacing lamps, and the LEDs have a much longer life.”

Following his report, Council agreed to move to the Oct. 13 Business Meeting a resolution to execute an agreement with the NYPA in the amount of $549,033.33 for the replacement of the city-owned street lights with LED lighting.

Also moved to the Business Meeting for likely voting:

  • A resolution to transfer a foreclosed residence at 50 Oak St., to Habitat for Humanity for rehabilitation. The organization plans to invest between $58,000 and $62,000 to renovate the one-family house, which is assessed at $62,000. Council members Rose Mary Christian, Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Robert Bialkowski praised Habitat for Humanity for its continuing efforts to provide affordable housing in the city.
  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing on Oct. 26 to amend the Batavia Municipal Code to include public garages in I-1 industrial zones with a special use permit. This change stems from a January request by Eric Biscaro, owner of Classic Home Improvement, to construct an auto service station on the Ellicott Street property. Worth said Council would be charged with voting it into a local law, with adoption expected to take place in December.
  • A resolution to take $5,000 out of the Facilities Reserve Fund to close out the City Centre roof alterations and replacement project that was performed by Grove Roofing Services. Worth said the project has been generally successful with the new roof area being water-tight and structurally improved. He said the cost of the project increased due to finding an additional 3,700 square feet of decking that needed to be replaced. He said that all of the roof has been repaired or replaced except the hallway in front of Dan’s Tire Service.
September 28, 2020 - 8:50pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

A four-member screening/search committee has been appointed to execute the initial tasks necessary to find the next permanent manager of the City of Batavia.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. tonight announced that a committee of Council members Patti Pacino and John Canale, Public Works Director Matt Worth and Human Resources Specialist Dawn Fairbanks will convene in the next couple weeks to set the wheels in motion toward filling the position that was left vacant by the departure of Martin Moore in June.

Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving as interim city manager for the last three months.

Speaking at Council’s Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, Jankowski said the board has been working on developing a plan to replace Moore for quite some time but “due to private and personal information, (Council) was ethically and legally bound to safeguard that information.”

He said that Pacino, Canale and Worth (a department head who functioned as interim city manager for several months after Jason Molino left in January 2018) will act expeditiously to set a schedule pertaining to screening potential applicants, placing advertisements for the job both locally and nationally, and interviewing candidates.

He said Fairbanks will serve as a coordinator, with her duties to include contacting The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, the consulting firm that assisted in the search to hire Moore in August 2018.

The firm’s agreement with the city included a free search should Moore leave within two years of his employment date, but there will still be costs related to advertising and travel, for example.

Following the meeting, Jankowski made it clear that Council was "following the precedent" used in the search that resulted in Moore's hiring.

"We all were of the general consensus that we were at the point to form the screening committee, just like we did the last time," Jankowski said, noting that no vote was conducted during an executive session last week. "We have done our due diligence."

When asked if any Council members suggested hiring Tabelski, he said there has been talk in the public about that but would not disclose any internal discussions.

"Rachael has every right to apply for the job and I think she will," he said. "And she definitely is qualified to apply. She is doing a good job at this point." 

Tabelski has said publicly that she wishes to be considered for the position.

Ultimately, a vote of Council members will determine who is hired. The process is expected to take another four to six months, Jankowski said.

Jankowski also introduced a resolution to supplement Tabelski’s current salary with a $1,000 per month stipend for additional responsibilities in light of the absence of a city manager.

“I am requesting the same as what we gave Matt Worth (when he filled in as city manager),” Jankowski said. “I think it is fair to offer the same stipend.”

Council members Kathleen Briggs and Paul Viele said they supported the measure, and the resolution was moved to the Oct. 13 Business Meeting.

The additional pay would be retroactive from July 20 and continue until the city manager post is filled.

September 25, 2020 - 1:40pm

An update of the direction that the Batavia City Council will take in filling the vacant city manager position is on the agenda of Monday night’s Conference Meeting at City Hall Council Chambers.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. previously indicated that the board would make its plan public at Monday’s meeting.

The choices boil down to utilizing a stipulation in a contract with The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, to receive a “free professional search” or to hire Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, who has been serving in that capacity since the June departure of former City Manager Martin Moore.

The Novak Consulting Group assisted in the search to hire Moore in August of 2018. The firm’s agreement with the city included a free search should Moore leave within two years of his employment date.

City Council met in executive session earlier this week to, in all likelihood, discuss the city manager position.

Should Council decide to conduct a full search as it did in the case of the Moore hiring, it would consist of forming a screening committee to evaluate potential candidate resumes and, eventually, conduct interviews.

Jankowski has acknowledged there will be costs associated with the search that would not be covered by Novak’s guarantee, such as advertising in national trade publications and travel expenses.

The board could bypass a manager search and offer the job to Tabelski, who was hired as assistant city manager in August of last year.

In a related development, Council will consider a resolution on Monday’s meeting agenda to give Tabelski $1,000 per month in addition to her regular salary – effective July 20, 2020 – for assuming additional duties and responsibilities in the absence of a city manager. The stipend would continue until the city manager position is permanently filled.

Other agenda highlights include:

  • An application from the Downtown Business Improvement District to hold Christmas in the City from 2 to 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. A parade from Jefferson Avenue to Liberty Street is set for 6 p.m. Estimated costs for the event are $480 for police coverage, $276.42 for public works assistance and $1,425.71 for bureau of maintenance duties.
  • An audit presentation by Laura Landers of Freed Maxick concerning the city’s financial statements for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020. Landers and Tabelski met with the City of Batavia Audit Advisory Committee on Aug. 18 to review the documents, and answered questions pertaining to fund transfers, debt service payments, fund balances (including water and sewer), the city’s self-insurance plan and the impact of decreased sales tax revenue.
  • A resolution authorizing a foreclosed house at 50 Oak St. to be transferred (for $1) to Habitat for Humanity for rehabilitation. If approved, it would be the 11th home acquired by Habitat from the City of Batavia. A memo from Tabelski to Council indicates that Habitat plans to invest between $58,000 and $62,000 to renovate the one-family house, which is assessed at $62,000. The Batavia Housing Authority is partnering with the city in this venture.
  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing on Oct. 26 to amend the Batavia Municipal Code to include public garages in I-1 industrial zones with a special use permit. This change stems from a January request by Eric Biscaro, owner of Classic Home Improvement, to construct an auto service station on the property at 653 Ellicott St. The zoning text change has been approved by the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee and the Genesee County Planning Board.
September 18, 2020 - 12:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

A special executive session of the Batavia City Council has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Board Room on the second floor of the City Centre.

A media release from the city manager’s office indicates the session relates to employment matters.

It is believed the meeting will focus on the vacant city manager position, currently being filled by Rachael Tabelski, who was hired as assistant city manager in August 2019.

Previously, The Batavian reported that Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said the board is “gathering more information” and expects to decide on how it will proceed by its next meeting on Sept. 28.

Most likely, Council will interview with Tabelski (possibly on Tuesday) and offer her the job, or conduct a nationwide search – utilizing The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of former City Manager Martin Moore in 2018.

September 18, 2020 - 11:09am

The Batavia City Council passed four resolutions this week to accept just shy of $75,000 in grants for the City of Batavia Fire Department, continuing what Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano describes as placing a priority on maximizing taxpayer dollars, meeting community needs and operating as efficiently as possible.

“Absolutely,” Napolitano said this morning to a question as to whether there is a concerted effort to find grants.

“We work together as a team to secure grants and accept gifts and donations. Our goal is to stretch that one dollar of taxpayer money into a dollar fifty or two dollars – to be fiscally responsible.”

During Napolitano’s three-and-a-half-year tenure as chief, more than $400,000 in grant funding has found its way to the fire department.

He said these grants – ranging from Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program – are especially vital in the wake of budget cuts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All departments in the city have had to make cuts and, of course, any cuts in a budget can affect your operational readiness,” he said. “These grants, even as little as $800 for bicycle helmets, enable us to support young children and families that don’t have adequate bike helmets or have helmets at all. Then we work with local suppliers to try and stretch that $800 into $1,000 worth of equipment.”

An $800 grant for bicycle helmets from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee was one of the four accepted at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The others were as follows:

  • A grant for $68,880.95 from FEMA for the purchase of a fire and carbon monoxide alarm system and sprinkler fire protection system throughout fire headquarters on Evans Street and to fund specialize water rescue training materials and labor costs;
  • A grant for $1,638 from FM Global for the purchase of a high-tech camera, lens, lighting and security case for use at fire scenes as well as an iPad for the command vehicle for rapid uploading and sharing of photos with other investigative agencies;
  • A grant for $3,500 from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to purchase car seats.

“We get the car seat grant every year, but our firefighters have to recertify regularly to be certified safety seat technicians,” Napolitano said. “This grant is so helpful. You would be amazed how many people that don’t have means to get them.”

While he oversees the grant applications and submissions, Napolitano said that “every grant that we have received is a team effort.”

“In many cases, I delegate to individuals who specialize in the area of a specific grant,” he explained. “We wouldn’t be getting these grants without so many firefighters and officers doing the legwork.”

Napolitano announced that Christopher Shea is the department’s most recent hire, raising the staff’s numbers to 32 firefighters (two short of a full complement) plus the chief and administrative clerk.

Shea currently is classified as a recruit firefighter candidate and, after 14 weeks of training, will be promoted to probationary firefighter for the next 18 months.

The chief praised his firefighters, who belong to IAAF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 896, for their civic and community involvement.

“They support numerous organizations not only with their money but with their (volunteer) time as well,” he said.

In other action, Council:

  • Authorized the issuance of $420,000 in serial bonds to purchase a jet-vacuum truck for use in sanitary sewer, water system, storm sewer system and highway maintenance operations. The amount includes the purchase price of the vehicle ($380,000) plus the costs of the issuance as permitted by law.
  • Approved the acceptance of a $9,024 police traffic safety grant from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. About 20 percent of the funding is earmarked for seat belt enforcement with the remainder to support efforts to reduce speeding, aggressive and distracted driving and other dangerous driving behaviors.
September 15, 2020 - 8:36am

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is adamant that neither public speakers nor a petition signed by 161 residents will force the board’s hand when it comes to selecting a permanent replacement for City Manager Martin Moore, who left the position on June 20.

 “We’re going to do our due diligence – getting all the information necessary to make an informed decision,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. following Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

Since Moore’s departure, Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving as the acting city manager.

Council met in an executive session between a Special Conference Meeting and the Business Meeting last night to discuss personnel matters, with the city manager post at the top of the list.

Jankowski said Council is “gathering more information” and expects a decision of how it will proceed by its next meeting on Sept. 28.

In all likelihood, the choices boil down to interviewing Tabelski and offering her the job, or conducting a nationwide search – utilizing The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of Moore in 2018.

Because Moore left prior to completing two years in Batavia, the Novak firm guaranteed a “free” search for his successor. However, that doesn’t include costs such as advertising in trade publications, expenses incurred to set up interviews (travel costs, for example) and potential moving expenses for the person hired.

It is believed that those additional costs could reach as high as $15,000 to $20,000.

Previously, Jankowski had reported that The Novak Consulting Group would be available to assist the city at the end of this month.

During the public comments portion of last night’s meeting, Batavians Sammy DiSalvo and John Roach spoke on the matter, coming from opposite sides of the fence.

DiSalvo said he supported a full search, pointing to what he called “nepotism” when Tabelski was appointed to the assistant city manager position in August 2018 while her husband, Adam, was a member of City Council.

“Regardless of whether her husband abstained from that vote or not, that is called nepotism,” he said.

“Now I want to fast forward to September 2020 … and this is the first time we’ve heard from any of you about Novak, the company that did the manager’s search, which you get a free search through if city manager left within two years, which he did,” he added.

“They said they could not start until the end of September. Hopefully, they do start that search and you go down that road, rather than just appointing somebody that was appointed while her husband was in a position of power. I don’t think that is really a way that city government should be functioning and that is not a good way to represent the people of Batavia …”

After expressing his dismay with changes in the City Deer Management Plan, DiSalvo ended his five minutes by producing a petition of what he said was 150 signatures (actually 161) of Batavians “who would like a full city search and do not want somebody who is appointed to the position by City Council.”

Next, Roach stepped to the podium, stating that “I take the opposite view on the hiring of the city manager.”

“I think it’s kind of embarrassing that the nine Council people – five of you haven’t been able to say as a majority – ‘Let’s make a decision.’ By now you should have been able to say in executive session, ‘OK, we’re going to go with the headhunter group or we’re going to hire the current assistant city manager,’ ” he said.

Roach then credited Tabelski for moving city business along.

“Obviously, she must be doing a good job,” he said. “The city is functioning well and I cannot for the life of me understand why you people still have to go into meetings to decide to make a plan to have a plan. Either hire her or say no, ‘you don’t cut it, we don’t want you’ – and let her start looking at alternatives. It can’t be that hard to say yes, you’re our choice, or you’re not.”

He also said he heard that a City Council member placed petitions in some businesses.

“I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not,” he said.

Finally, he mentioned Council’s handling of authorizing more pay for those who have took on added responsibilities in the absence of a permanent city manager.

“I’m also a little disappointed that the last time we didn’t have a city manager, everybody voted to give the other staff that were pitching in to do extra work, extra money. And they were all men,” he said. “This time, the same thing – we don’t have a manager and people need a little extra money for doing extra work, and some of you voted no, but they’re women. Coincidence or not? I’ll let you all respond.”

September 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

The path to passing a City of Batavia Deer Management Plant plan -- fraught with controversy, changes and a bit of confusion – became much clearer tonight when City Council approved a proposal giving its police department oversight of the operation.

By a vote of 6-2, Council endorsed an archery-only plan that puts management in the hands of police – understanding there will be overtime costs involved – and also allows only city employees to hunt on two parcels of city property and restricts hunting to antlerless-only deer in those two zones.

Council members Jeremy Karas, Patti Pacino, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, John Canale (who was the liaison to the Deer Management Plan Committee that resigned in protest of changes to the original plan on Aug. 13) and President Eugene Jankowski voted in favor of the plan. Council members Robert Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted against the plan.

It was Jankowski who introduced an amendment to prohibit the taking of deer with antlers on city property. That passed by a 7-1 count with McGinnis, who objected to the amount of time (about an hour) spent debating the pros and cons of the plan, abstaining.

Council Member Paul Viele was not in attendance.

Apparently taking the advice of Canale, who brought up the board’s history of “kicking the can down the road,” Council decided to adopt the plan and worry about implementation later, especially in light of the Batavia City School District’s “hybrid” schedule that has some students learning remotely from home.

“I don’t see what else there is to discuss,” said Canale, adding that the police department is more than capable of deciding whether it is safe for people to hunt in any of the five pre-determined zones. “It’s not like we’re sending out people into the woods on October 1st with bows and arrows” if the police deem that it’s not safe.

Jankowski said he agreed with Canale, urging his colleagues to “approve this and (then) the implementation is up in the air.”

“Personally, I don’t think it would have worked well for the volunteer (committee) to take on that kind of work,” Jankowski said.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said he anticipates overtime charges of $4,000 to $5,000 annually, calling it a “conservative estimate depending upon the level of commitment.” He also said he will select an officer from the department to head the program.

Heubusch said he plans to reach out to Town of Irondequoit police officers, who run the program there, as well as talk to landowners in the three zones that aren’t city property, and attempt to get landowner agreements signed and set up the selection process.

“There’s a lot of work (to be done),” he said, noting that although the department is fully staffed, it isn’t at a point where he can take an officer off the road.

City Attorney George Van Nest reported that he has already spoken with people in Irondequoit, who indicated that the Monroe County town’s program “works well and is effective.” He also said state Department of Environmental Conservation officials support the “tweaks” made by him and Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The most significant changes were moving oversight from the Deer Management Plan Committee to the police department, giving city employees exclusive rights to hunt on city property – eliminating members of the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen – and, per tonight’s amendment, putting in a provision to cull antlerless-only deer on city property.

Jankowski said he received thirdhand information that someone saw a large buck on one of the properties and that “somebody has designs on those antlers.” His amendment, however, can not be enforced on land owned by private citizens who agree to participate in the plan to reduce the deer population.

Van Nest said a New York State hunting license gives hunters the authority to take a buck on private property.

Before the vote to pass or reject the amended plan, Bialkowski attempted to table the measure, stating that the latest plan (dated Sept. 14) was not presented in a Conference Meeting, it comes with increased costs and was subject to a review of the school’s scheduling.

“I’d like to refer it back to committee … back to a Conference Meeting,” he said.

Christian supported tabling it as well, with her comments indicating she thought the plan included hunting by guns along with bow and arrow.

That’s when Canale spoke up, noting that the Deer Management Plan Committee worked very hard and for a long time (eight months) to put together “a wonderful plan, working with (former City Manager) Dr. (Martin) Moore on the “meat and potatoes of the plan.”

He credited Tabelski for making necessary revisions.

“I don’t think kicking the can down the road will help us out,” he said. “Approve it tonight and implement it when it’s safe.”

As a result, a vote to table the plan was defeated by a 6-2 count with Bialkowski and Christian voting to table it.

The deer management plan subject came up right from the start of the Special Conference Meeting that preceded the Business Meeting where the resolution ultimately was approved.

Batavia residents Sammy DiSalvo, David Majewski and his son, Noah Majewski, spoke about the plan during the public comments portion of the agenda.

DiSalvo said he identified “at least 20 changes from the original proposal – at least five of which are entirely new.”

He said he took issue with “taking away power from people who are citizens and experienced hunters.”

“I am sure there are many police officers who do hunt and are very capable, but you are taking this away from people who have spent 50-60 years as the main thing that they do,” he said.

As far as private property is concerned, DiSalvo said that owners of the three non-city property areas have decided not to participate in the plan – something that took Council and city management by surprise.

“I find it suspicious that Mr. DiSalvo, whose father (Samuel) was on the deer committee, is saying that everybody but the city is not participating,” Jankowski said. “He’s making detailed responses about landowners that we don’t even know about yet.”

DiSalvo applauded the police department for the great job it does in law enforcement, but disagreed with putting the responsibility of the deer management plan upon the officers.

David Majewski said he was concerned about people coming on his son’s property (25 acres) off Alexander Road, which is adjacent to one of the city-owned parcels. He said his son manages the property for deer hunting, and is worried that deer remains left on his property would attract more coyotes to the area.

“I’m kind of curious as to why city employees will be allowed to hunt. There are plenty of other good hunters,” he said.

He said he was also concerned about liability and the possibility of a lawsuit should someone trespass onto his son’s land – which he uses for beaver trapping -- and suffer an injury.

Noah said he has encountered many people trespassing from city property onto his property.

“I’ve notified people in the City of Batavia building and nobody seems to care. They usually end up being friends of people,” he said.

He also mentioned liability and that he runs “nuisance beaver traps” with a nuisance beaver permit from the DEC. He said the traps are set around a swamp and he would hate to see someone step in one of those traps.

“I just feel like this is opening up a whole new can of worms to bring more people into an area that’s populated with people, that has people running around there," he said. "... and not knowing who’s going to be hunting back there or anything like that, it’s a big area of concern for me.”

August 11, 2020 - 3:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in notify, news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

If the Batavia City Council has a plan to fill the vacancy caused by the departure of former City Manager Martin Moore, it isn’t revealing it – at least not yet.

Acting on the advice of the city attorney, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. today sent an email to The Batavian, stating “it’s still very early in the process. (The) Novak (Consulting Firm) is available and is one of the options City Council is exploring.”

Jankowski said the board is “continuing the search process” but would not elaborate due to it being a personnel matter.

While Jankowski believes it is early in the process to find a permanent replacement for Moore, who left Batavia on June 22, another city resident said Council should have disclosed its plan by now.

John Roach, speaking during the public comments segment of Monday night’s City Council meeting, said council members knew that Moore was on his way out.

“You still haven’t decided what you are going to do about replacing him, and that seems kind of silly,” he said. “Once he said he was leaving, you should have had a meeting and said, ‘OK, let’s get a plan.’ You talk about having a plan and you talk about looking at a plan.”

Roach said he is in favor of hiring of Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, who was brought on last August as the assistant city manager.

“Obviously, the person has been around awhile … you think you’re going to find somebody better?” he asked. “Save a little money -- save a little time -- make a decision. It’s kind of embarrassing that it has been months (actually nearly two months), and you haven’t even decided what the plan is.”

Sammy DiSalvo, a Democratic Party candidate for a City Council at-large seat in 2020, followed Roach to the podium but had a different viewpoint.

“I support holding a full search for a new city manager,” DiSalvo said. “Nepotism is not a way to run a city.”

The Batavian has asked Jankowski on separate occasions if a full search will be conducted, and if so, will Council be contracting with the Novak group out of Cincinnati, Ohio, again to conduct the search.

Novak coordinated the search that brought Moore from Eunice, N.M., to Batavia in August of 2018, and reportedly gave the city a guarantee that the next search would be at no charge if Moore left before completing two full years as city manager.

In a related development, the Valencia County News-Bulletin, a weekly newspaper in New Mexico, reported that Moore is one of 13 candidates for the city manager job in Belen, a city of about 7,400 people about 35 miles south of Albuquerque.

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