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Batavia City Council

April 29, 2021 - 1:39pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

The City of Batavia offers nine parks for citizens to enjoy, starting at 7 a.m. until dusk each day.

All city officials are asking in return – at least for this recreation and picnic season – is for users to take out any and all trash that they take in.

“We are not accepting pavilion rentals this year, which means that the park is open to the public and anyone is free to use it,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. “If residents use the pavilions we are asking them to ‘carry in and carry out’ (their trash) at this time.”

Tabelski added that trash receptacles will be placed in high use areas for patrons to use, especially around the playgrounds.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, she emphasized that trash containers will continue to be available on Main Street as well.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said that he wasn’t sure why comments found on social media sites indicated that the city would not be placing trash cans along Main Street.

“It wasn’t a city official spokesperson that even mentioned Main Street,” he said.

Tabelski said that Council, during budget discussions, decided to reduce overtime for the parks department “and one of those ways was to ask citizens who use the pavilions to carry in and carry out.”

The city’s nine parks are as follows:

  • Austin Park, 15 Jefferson Ave.;
  • Centennial Park, 151 State St.;
  • Farrall Park, 101-111 Otis St.;
  • Kibbe Park, 105-111 Kibbe Ave.;
  • Lambert Park, 100 Verona Ave.;
  • Lions Park, 108 Cedar St, and 8 Wallace St.;
  • MacArthur Park, 252B State St.;
  • Pringle Park, 14 Pringle Ave.;
  • Williams Park, 101 Pearl St.

More information about the parks can be found by clicking HERE.

April 26, 2021 - 10:27pm

The implementation of New York’s recently passed legislation allowing the recreational use of marijuana for residents 21 and over is a year or two away, but the Batavia City Council believes it’s not too soon to gather as much information as possible and to gauge the pulse of its citizens.

At their Conference Meeting tonight at City Hall, Council members and City Attorney George Van Nest engaged in a 33-minute back-and-forth discussion about the new state law, officially known as the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski asked to have the topic placed on the agenda and Batavian Sammy DiSalvo, during the public comments portion of the meeting, said he wanted to know if the board has taken a position – either for it or against it.

“With the passage of the MRTA about three or four weeks ago, municipalities have until December 31st of this year to opt out of allowing – I think it’s either the sale or places to pop up to either use drugs, specifically pot, in a recreational kind of way,” DiSalvo said. “Is the city leaning toward banning all of that? Because you can opt out up until December 31st -- after December 31st you can no longer opt out, but can opt back in.”

Van Nest concurred with that assessment, adding that municipalities can opt out “through a local law adoption” and they have to do so before the end of 2021.

“If that local law is filed, basically it doesn’t become effective for 45 days, giving the public to file a referendum or a petition seeking to have that question brought before the voters,” he said. “So, essentially what is required is a trigger of 10 percent of the electorate – the voters for the last electorate, rather – and then, if a sufficient petition is filed with sufficient numbers, the question of whether or not the opt out would go before the public in a subsequent election.”

Bialkowski kicked off the discussion, inquiring about the effects of secondhand smoke from marijuana on children. That prompted Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. to point out that, like cigarettes, marijuana use would not be allowed at city parks. But, under the new law, adults would be free to smoke cannabis in their homes and on a public street.

Jankowski said he learned from a webinar with the New York Conference of Mayors that businesses would be limited to being either a grower, seller or an on-premise place of consumption. He added that the state has set up a Cannabis Control Board, a five-member group that will be working with an advisory committee to create the Office of Cannabis Management.

According to published reports, the CCB is expected to be in place within a few months, and will get the process rolling for the granting of licenses to dealers and formulating rules and regulations.

After Council Member Al McGinnis said that federal laws on marijuana will supersede state laws, specifically mentioning federally operated housing and the inability to purchase a gun, Jankowski said he thought it would be wise to wait until regulations are adopted and then for Council to direct City Manager Rachael Tabelski to “get involved in the code enforcement planning process.”

Jankowski said he believed the city would be limited in what it could do, other than define the location of a dispensary and possibly the hours of operation. He said he liked the idea that the law adds to the control, regulation and safety aspects of marijuana, which would stop juveniles from getting their hands on it.

He also indicated that he was keen about the fact that municipalities with a dispensary will receive 3 percent of a 13-percent excise tax on marijuana sales.

Jankowski’s contention was that if Batavia was to opt out, a dispensary could be set up just outside the city limits and the city would miss out on revenue that could go toward increased police patrols or other measures to mitigate any negative effects of legalized pot smoking.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian wasn’t buying that reasoning, however. She said that it’s “absolutely correct that it (marijuana) is already out there” and the law was passed only because the state needs the money.

“They really don’t give a damn about kids or adults, and the fact that they would be loaded all the time and cause accidents like they are in the state of Colorado,” she said, calling for Council to opt out as soon as possible.

Van Nest then weighed in, noting that while the use is authorized at this point, the actual sales likely won’t happen until 2022 or 2023 as it will take that long to set up the regulating agencies and parameters concerning consumption, growing and sales. The attorney also said that cannabis will be treated in the same manner as cigarettes and vaping when it comes to secondhand smoke.

“Relative to the zoning issue, it’s going to be up to the municipalities whether or not they want to regulate time, place and manner,” he said.

Jankowski said he was advised that people will not be able to grow marijuana plants until all the regulations are in force.

“I think a lot of people are thinking, ‘Hey, in a couple of months I’ll have my own supply – it’s legal now.' But technically, they’re not allowed to grow it because if you grow it and give it away … it becomes a violation …,” he said.

The council president then asked his colleagues how they felt about opting out.

Christian said she was in favor of that, while Bialkowski brought up the possibility of a public hearing to get residents’ opinions. Van Nest said no to a public hearing but stated that a public information meeting would be in order.

After Jankowski said an opt out wouldn’t really solve anything because people could purchase marijuana and transport it back to the city, Christian said she wasn’t worried about other areas, just the kids in Batavia.

Jankowski said it wasn’t his responsibility to tell adults how to live their lives before Bialkowski suggested having someone from the outside – a professional – come to a Council meeting to educate the board members.

Again, on the opt out, Jankowski said, “I personally think it’s a waste of time and we’re cutting ourselves short by not at least regulating it and keeping an eye on it, and keeping it close so we can pay attention to what’s going on. If we have a problem, then at least we have some money (from the excise tax) to compensate for that problem."

Council members Patti Pacino and Kathleen Briggs said they would support “an expert” coming in to advise them about the provisions of the law, leading Jankowski to say he didn’t want to have 500 people at a meeting with half against it and half for it, “and not really resolving anything.”

Council Member John Canale compared the situation to that of alcohol sales, concluding that opting out won’t accomplish much by disallowing sales in the city because people will “walk in and buy it (pot) and walk out with a bag in their hand.”

Canale then suggested getting public input, asking residents to contact their councilperson with their thoughts on the matter. He added that he didn’t think there will be much of an outcry either way.

In the end, Jankowski said the issue would be “tabled for now” and reconsidered when Council hears more from the state. He then asked Tabelski to keep Council informed as new developments occur, once again mentioning that the city would receive 3 percent of the excise tax generated by cannabis sales.

New York State officials are indicating that marijuana sales are expected to generate $350 million in revenue to the state per year, and around 50,000 jobs will be created.

Previously: Marijuana use debate takes new twist now that NYS has legalized recreational use for adults

During a Special Business Meeting after the Conference Meeting, City Council passed resolutions, as follows:

  • Hiring of a police officer and two firefighters and funding special police details after learning that an additional $262,656 was coming to the city in state Aid and Incentives for Municipalities’ funding. Tabelski noted “the stability of AIM money” in her recommendation to unfreeze these positions, which were left vacant during budget deliberations.
  • Contracting with Keeler Construction Co. Inc., of Albion, to replace an old and inefficient air header – a key component for providing oxygen back into the ponds to digest waste at the wastewater treatment plant. The amount of the contract is $777,425. The air header replacement is part of a $1 million wastewater treatment plant project.
  • Applying for a grant for $328,000 from the Northern Border Regional Commission, which would cover 80 percent of the cost to upgrade water lines on Bank Street between Main Street and Washington Avenue in support of future development projects as well as improving water pressure for fire suppression. The City would be responsible for 20 percent – or $82,000 – of the project’s total cost.
April 23, 2021 - 5:10pm

Updated, April 24, 9 a.m., with comments from City Manager Rachael Tabelski:

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The City of Batavia is “AIM-ing” to fortify its public safety personnel roster.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a memo to City Council dated April 16, is proposing the restoration of a police officer and two firefighters to the 2021-22 budget and the funding of overtime for the Neighborhood Enforcement Team and community policing special details.

This action is possible, she wrote, as a result of New York State passing a budget that includes the full amount of Aid and Incentives for Municipalities’ funding to the city. The city now will receive $1,750,975 in AIM money -- $262,656 more than it had budgeted.

"These vacant positions are now able to be hired if City Council approves the budget amendment," Tabelski said. "AIM aid is an annual reoccurring revenue, and was only adjusted down by the state because of COVID. Once restored in the final state budget, I am comfortable using it to restore positions."

She added that the city workforce would still be short one police officer, one firefighter and one laborer position even after these other three posts are restored.

As far as the overtime funding, Tabelski said, NET and community policing are "special overtime police details normally funded each year via the city budget, but were cut due to COVID revenue challenges."  

"These details include increased neighborhood and community patrols, and community engagement assignments," she said.

Tabelski will be recommending that Council amend the city’s budget to account for the additional funds, allocated as follows:

Police Salary -- $66,464;
Police State Retirement -- $12,033;
Police Social Security -- $6,503;
Fire Salary -- $124,197;
Fire State Retirement -- $23,563;
Fire Social Security -- $12,240;
Police NET Salary -- $7,070;
Police NET Social Security -- $586;
Community Policing Salary -- $9,235;
Community Policing Social Security -- $765.

This proposal is on the agenda of Monday night’s Conference Meeting and, if forwarded, to a Special Business Meeting afterward. The Conference Meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Hall Council Board Room.

Other items on the Conference Meeting agenda:

  • Superintendent of Maintenance Ray Tourt will report that bids solicited for a contractor to replace a portion of the City Centre roof will be opened at 10 a.m. on April 29.

In a memo to Tabelski dated March 30, Tourt said the project will involve work not included in the Phase 1 roof replacement – the hallway nearest Dan’s Tire & Auto, the west side loading dock and the utility area. The entranceways (silos) will be part of a future project.

  • Tourt also advised that AJ’s Tree Service of East Amherst submitted the low bid for annual trimming and removal of city trees as budgeted in the 2021-22 city budget. The contract expires on March 31 but can be extended for up to two years if both parties agree.

The amount of AJ’s Tree Service’s bid was not disclosed in the memo.

The Special Business Meeting agenda includes:

  • A resolution to award a contract to Keeler Construction Co. Inc., of Albion, to replace an aging and inefficient air header at the wastewater treatment plant.

Keeler’s bid of $777,425 was considerably less than the next lowest bidder, Village Construction Co., of Victor, which submitted a bid of $1,263,175.

In a memo to Tabelski dated April 19, Tourt wrote that the project will cost an additional $854,000 for engineering work.

As previously reported on The Batavian, the air header is operating at 20 percent of capacity, forcing city officials to move up the timetable to get it replaced. The air header is essential to providing oxygen back into the ponds to digest waste.

Replacement of the air header is part of a $1 million wastewater treatment plant project.

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Monday’s meetings are open to the public with appropriate facemasks, social distancing and temperature screening upon arrival.

Options for viewing the meeting include streamed LIVE on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bataviany/ or Spectrum Channel 1301 at 9 a.m. April 28 and 8 p.m. April 30.

April 14, 2021 - 1:49pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, City of Batavia assessor, Batavia City Council.

In light of the frustration expressed at Monday night’s City Council meeting by two Batavia residents over the assessment letters they had received earlier in the day, The Batavian reached out to the city’s assessor for insight into the process of determining a home’s fair market value.

Rhonda Saulsbury, assessor for both the City and Town of Batavia, responding to an email, said that while many factors are considered for comparison purposes, all of a home’s information is run through a computer program prior to conducting a field review.

“The City of Batavia strives to maintain a 100-percent equalization rate -- sale price to assessment ratio -- which means that we keep our assessments at market value,” Saulsbury said. “To accomplish this, we do yearly revaluation and make adjustments accordingly. Values can adjust due to physical changes and/or market changes.”

Saulsbury said each property is placed into an appraisal software system, comparing the building style, square footage, year built, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and lot size against the recent sales data.

“We then do field review to determine the fair market value based on the aforementioned data,” she added.

She said that each neighborhood within the city is reviewed annually, but “we only update values in those that have experienced an increase in market values, thus we end up ‘rotating’ the neighborhoods.”

“This year we sent out just over 4,300 change-of-assessment notices throughout the city,” she said.

As mentioned at Monday’s meeting, the city canceled this process in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, sales of homes in the $100,000 to $200,000 have been extremely brisk.

“Now, as sale values have continued to climb upwards 20-plus percent above assessments, we are again adjusting assessed values in accordance with New York State Real Property Tax Law guidelines,” Saulsbury advised.

She said property owners have opportunities for assessment review if they believe they could not sell their property for the new assessed market value.

“The procedures to request the review are included with the change-of-assessment-notices (see the link to the previous story below). As at any time, we encourage an open-door policy to anyone with a question or concern,” she said. 

Property owners can call 1-866-910-1776 to inquire about the valuation process or informal assessment review process, Saulsbury said, and they also can receive an email with the individual market document that includes the specific sales used for any given property. 

If a property owner does not have access to a computer, printer or scanner, all relevant forms can be picked up at the City Clerk’s Office Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Saulsbury also said that the City of Batavia sale and inventory books used to calculate the new assessed values can also be viewed any time in the City Clerk’s Office or at Richmond Memorial Library to help in preparing an Informal Review Application. 

To access the above-mentioned information online, go to: https://cityofbatavia.prosgar.com/ and look for the RED links. 

To submit the Informal Review Application, email it to:   [email protected] or bring it into the City Clerk's Office.

Previously: Council advice to angry homeowners: Take your concerns to 'Grievance Day'

April 13, 2021 - 10:31am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, assessment review board.

walker_and_sherman_1.jpg

City Council Member John Canale relayed some “fatherly” advice Monday night to a pair of Batavia residents who came before the lawmaking body to express their aggravation after receiving notification of significant increases in their home assessments earlier in the day.

“My father gave me this advice years and years ago, and I’ve used it,” said Canale, addressing Wendy Walker of Otis Street and Karen Sherman of James Street – homeowners who spoke about their struggles during the public comments portion of Council’s Business Meeting at City Hall.

“I would definitely sign up for grievance day but don’t go in there and say I can’t afford this raise, please help me out. It’s not going to work,” Canale said. “You’ve got to do your homework. If you’re able to go online, you can access the Genesee County site, you can access houses in your neighborhood, you can access houses in other neighborhoods that are similar to your house and compare the assessed values of those houses to the assessed value of your house. Go in with the ammunition of why your house is being assessed higher than other people’s houses, if that’s the case.”

Canale said that a “booming” housing market is driving assessments up, mentioning that houses are going for $25,000 to $30,000 over the asking price “and people are coming in with cash.”

Walker said she came to the meeting to “protest and contest” the increase in the assessment of her house.

“I don’t know how that was made or why the increase to such a dramatic amount. The problem being is that we live on the Southside. I don’t know where this money is going that you’re going to be using because the Southside has not been improved,” she said.

Walker said there is a lot of crime in that area and “nothing has been cleaned up; nothing has been done.”

'What About My Justice?'

“The last time I checked, even in the pledge of allegiance, we say liberty and justice for all. What about my justice? Where are my taxes going? We pay the highest taxes in the nation, and there’s nothing to show for it. Not where I live, not on the Southside – no improvements. If I’m wrong, I surely would be willing to acknowledge my error in saying that, but I don’t believe it – I don’t.”

She said that her neighbors feel the same way and many people are moving out of New York for these reasons.

“And I think we should take that into consideration in the small, little town of Batavia,” she said. “I don’t understand this. If we’re getting all of this money from the government and I don’t know what that money is necessarily earmarked for – I don’t understand all of it – but it would seem we could help the little people in Batavia.”

Walker mentioned that her husband is disabled and on a fixed income, and his allowance barely goes up.

Sherman said she is a single mom who is providing for her daughter without any public assistance.

“You guys have raised my taxes every year since I bought my house. I get when you buy a house, it comes with a lot of maintenance and stuff, but every single year something has gone wrong – new roof, my windows have broken, gutters have come off,” she said.

She said her assessment went up $19,000 last year, and this year it is going up $30,000.

It's Getting Tougher and Tougher

“This is becoming very hard for me as a single parent and I do not get assistance,” she said. “I own my own business … I had to pick up two other little odds-and-ends jobs to make ends meet. Again, I just want to know why, where this is going and answers.”

In response, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said there was no reassessment last year.

“When you reassess a home, you assess it on value of comparable sales of like homes,” Tabelski offered. “And that’s all done through formulas and data. I don’t even see what reassessments are done in our community, just so everyone is aware. We do know that there were assessment letters that did go out this week.”

She, too, encouraged homeowners to call the assessment office for an informal review, adding that the assessor (Rhonda Saulsbury) will “gladly speak to you over the phone, on Zoom or through email to discuss the level of assessment and why.”

“And you can explain and challenge why that happened. If you don’t find that as a remedy, you can move to Grievance Day, which is the first Thursday after the fourth Tuesday in May (the 27th), and you could have assessment formally grieved in front of a board of your peers rather than the City of Batavia.”

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., also an Otis Street resident, said that he received his assessment letter just prior to the meeting and explained that reassessment is a regular process.

“They don’t just pick houses randomly. They use sections of the city and they try to rotate it around every so many years,” he said.

The discussion then shifted to Tabelski and Council Member Robert Bialkowski defending the city’s budget and tax rate.

Tabelski: City Taxes Less Than Others

“The city actually has the lowest percentage of taxes we pay,” said Tabelski, noting that taxes pay for police, fire, snowplowing, parks and recreation and other services. “The county is slightly higher and then the school district, so it’s an ‘all in’ rate."

Bialkowski said the city doesn’t raise taxes (it did raise the tax rate by 1.38 percent this year, however) and doesn’t determine the assessments, but sets a tax levy that is distributed among property owners.

At that point, Viele expressed his frustration over the school tax rate.

“What I really want to complain about is the school because the (Batavia City) school (District) is out of hand. They need to have their head examined.”

Bialkowski compared the taxing entities, mentioning that taxes levied by the school district were more than $19 million compared to the city’s $5.25 million.

Jankowski said in recent years the city did not increase the property tax rate.

Christian: People Are Hurting

Council Member Rose Mary Christian proceeded to sympathize with Sherman and Walker.

“It’s fine and dandy what everyone is saying but government is out of control,” she said. “We’re not doing anything to help these people. Here’s a single mother by herself, taking care of her daughter. There is a mother, a woman, a wife taking care of her husband. Some of you have two incomes coming in; that’s fine and dandy for you. But there’s people out here that are really hurting and they need help.”

Christian, too, said they should take their concerns to Grievance Day.

“There’s no doubt about it -- schools are out of control. I would like to go to the next school meeting and I want to know if any of you want to join me,” she added. “And as far as our budget goes and everything else, we’re down $400,000 … and when May comes you’re going to see that people are really hurting because they’re not going to be able to pay their taxes.”

Photo: Karen Sherman, right, makes a point about her home's assessment as Wendy Walker looks on at Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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Information from the assessment letter:

If you disagree with your new Full Value Assessment:

  • Go to https://cityofbatavia.prosgar.com
  • Print an Informal Review Application
  • Email your completed Informal Review Application to: [email protected]
  • All Informal Review submissions must be received by April 23, 2021 for consideration
  • For questions or more information, please call 1-866-910-1776 no later than April 21, 2021.
April 13, 2021 - 9:04am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Ellicott Trail, Batavia City Council, town of batavia.

As the Batavia City Council voted Monday night to consider accepting five easements from the Town of Batavia toward the maintenance of Ellicott Trail, its members encouraged residents to take pride in the 9.7-mile recreational walking and bicycling path by picking up trash along the way.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he was on the trail recently and noted that “the part from Jackson to Pearl Street is pretty rough.”

“It’s pretty washed out and there’s debris – there’s surgical masks laying on the side of the road,” he said. “Now, that’s the new thing. (With) COVID, everybody’s throwing their masks away; they’re falling out of their pockets and this waste is laying around on our streets now, and there are some on the trail itself.”

Jankowski said he realizes that it is spring and outside has that “look to it,” but wanted to know the city’s timetable for cleanup and suggested rounding up some volunteers to help out.

City Manager Rachel Tabelski said the process starts with accepting the transfer of the easements at 665 E. Main St., Batavia Gardens, Ellicott Station (two) and Elmwood Cemetery.

The city then would be responsible for maintaining these areas as they are located inside the city limits form Pearl Street Road to Cedar Street, but the county will maintain the DeWitt Recreation Area on Cedar Street.

During planning and construction of the trail, the town acquired various easements for real property in the city but, per a resolution to be formally voted on in two weeks, these parcels will be transferred back to the city.

Tabelski also reported that a volunteer group led by John Roche, owner of Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle on Center Street, is willing to help pick up trash along the trail, and that the city will schedule “ongoing maintenance” to coincide with the park schedule this spring and summer.

Officially opened last year, the 10-foot-wide trail consists of crushed stone along 4.9 miles of old railroad beds. When you add in sidewalks, bike lanes and bridges, the entire trail is 9.7 miles, with the eastern entrance on Seven Springs Road and the western entrance on Industrial Boulevard (off Pearl Street).

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said he was looking for the city’s annual cost to maintain the trail.

Tabelski said it would cost about $7,000 in materials every five years and that city Department of Public Works employees would take care of the maintenance.

Interim DPW Director Ray Tourt said “to figure on eight to 10 times per year for additional mowing.”

“As for materials, we’ll have to kind of figure it out – it is new,” he said. “The town’s idea is that we should be able to go five years without putting a new top on it – another layer of stone dust – but there are some washed out areas that they’ve committed to repair this year.”

Bialkowski then asked for an annual labor cost, to which Tourt replied, “About $4,000 annually, and we’re going to have a bump when we do that recap at around five years. And we’ve got about a week’s worth of work there, also.”

Council Member Paul Viele then asked about security on the trail, mentioning that college campuses have put up blue lights for illumination and for emergency situations.

“Do we have anything back there for these young girls walking the trail? There are a lot of idiots out there, you know, that could be hiding in the woods. I’m just concerned with safety – girls jogging, running, walking, whatever …” Viele said.

Jankowski said most people have a cell phone with them, the trail is “pretty open” and that he feels safe walking the trail because he has a view of 100 yards in each direction. He added that developers didn’t include the expense of having emergency lights, but Tabelski said Viele had a “valid point” as she has considered that as well.

Bialkowski then said he wanted to get back to his original point, calculating that the annual cost to the city for materials and labor would be about $5,500. He said that because the city’s DPW crew is already stretched, he urged residents to pick up trash when they see it and “to pitch in.”

Jankowski then brought up that he considered the trail’s crossing point on Cedar Street as dangerous.

“You can’t see that traffic from that location, and I know enough to cross down the road more. But if you follow the trail, it wants you to cross on the downslope, near the overpass where the train tracks are, and your blind spot is that left side,” he said.

He asked Tabelski to look into possibly moving it closer to the entrance of DeWitt Recreation Area. He said it was a “marking issue” and suggested moving it over about 30 feet to make it safer, especially for those riding bikes.

Calling it a “nine mile park,” Jankowski said the trail is very popular. He said he must have seen a couple hundred people along the trail recently.

Council Member John Canale then suggested an “adopt a highway” program where certain community groups commit to maintaining a section on an annual basis.

“We might somewhere down the road, may want to look at offering some various local groups, especially groups of young people, that might want to take on a project like that and say, ‘This is our portion of the trail that we’re going to adopt and every spring we’re going to go and do cleanup,’ ” he said.

April 12, 2021 - 11:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, batavia police department.

The Batavia City Council tonight asked City Manager Rachael Tabelski to look into getting a police report of a vehicle-pedestrian incident last Thursday afternoon involving a Batavia woman and her grandchildren.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian made that request on behalf of the board, calling it an “unfortunate” situation.

“I would ask that the individual involved be the one that we release information to,” said Tabelski, following Mary Ellen Wilber’s account of what happened to her sister and her three grandchildren at the intersection of Main and Ross streets.

Wilber, an Attica resident who grew up in the city, was speaking at Council's Business Meeting on behalf of her sister, Batavian Michelle Gaylord.

Gaylord was walking on the north side of Main Street with her 15- and 11-year-old grandsons and 11-month-old granddaughter, who was in a stroller. They were en route to Gaylord’s home on Fisher Park around 3:30 p.m. after spending time at the mammoth sale at Resurrection Parish.

According to Wilber, a woman driving an SUV on Ross Street, heading south, approached the intersection and made a right turn onto Main Street while Gaylord and the children were in the intersection. The vehicle struck the buggy, knocking the 71-year-old Gaylord to the ground.

“The reason I am here, correct me if I’m wrong … is when we took our road test and took our driver’s ed – please understand I am not trying to be facetious – as I recall that we all learned … we were told that drivers must have complete control of their vehicles at all times,” Wilber said. “It was the number one rule I was taught. And I took my course and I took driver’s ed, and ever since I’ve been driving for almost 50 years.

“We also were always told that pedestrians had the right of way, especially when they’re in the crosswalk. And we were always supposed to be cautious. My greatest fear was ever hitting a child. It scares the heck out of me, even now.”

Wilber went on to say that the Gaylord family waited for the light to turn red and began crossing Ross Street (which is marked at the intersection by a no right on red sign from Ross onto Main).

Showing a diagram that she had made as she spoke, Wilber said “a woman came to the stoplight, stopped for a second and proceeded to go through the light – striking my sister as she moved the – thank God it was an Eddie Bauer* -- stroller away because it had shock absorbers. She fell onto the road, the kids jumped back and the lady just, oh my goodness – she hit my sister.”

The driver, according to Wilber, asked Gaylord if she was OK and “proceeded to go on her merry way.”

She said people in two cars behind the driver in question saw the incident and called the police.

“My sister was so shaken, she was so worried about the kids; she waited on the side until her son, Joshua Gaylord, came to pick them up,” Wilber said. “Nevertheless, to say, the police in our City of Batavia chose not to ticket the woman who drove; chose not to believe my sister; chose not to believe the two witnesses; and chose not even to talk to the 11-year-old boy, who when he told his teacher at Robert Morris (actually the Middle School) today, confirmed – ‘Oh no, drivers are always supposed to be in control and you never, ever, ever hit a pedestrian and pedestrians always have the right of way.’ ”

Wilber said the boy has had nightmares over the incident.

She also said that the two witnesses called the police department and then Gaylord called and spoke to Officer (Sgt. Mitchell) Cowen “who said to her, there is no report, there were no damages, and you didn’t go to the hospital.”

“My sister, who has been a nurse and served this community for 35 years at the VA Hospital – helping veterans – and you all know me, I served the city on the City Charter Review Commission and as a Youth Board member for six years,” Wilber said.

She said that Sgt. Cowen told Gaylord, that “we know your sister (Wilber). She called to speak to Chief (Shawn) Heubusch; he’s not going to talk to her anyway.”

“You see, there’s a resentment from what happened to my brother (the late David Zanghi, who was forced out of his Liberty Street apartment in November 2019 as a result of a police standoff with the upstairs tenant),” Wilber said, adding that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch looked down upon Zanghi, who had obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wilber said her niece, who is an attorney in Livingston County and the baby’s mother, has tried to get an incident report but was told that she would have to file a Freedom of Information Law form to get it.

“Her daughter was involved in this accident – couldn’t get a report. My sister can’t get any information. Ridiculous. You know the law; drivers have to be in control of their cars. Pedestrians have the right of way. This woman was not given a ticket,” Wilber said.

“My family can’t do anything about finding any information. What is wrong with the police department in the City of Batavia? And why do kids not respect the police? Here is clear evidence. I don’t know. You tell me what is going on in the City of Batavia?”

Contacted by telephone later tonight, Gaylord corroborated Wilber’s account.

“The lady said ‘I didn’t even see you.’ Here I am, lying flat on the ground,” Gaylord said.

Gaylord said she asked the grandsons to call their dad to pick them up because she couldn’t walk as she was banged up.

“Even the lady who witnessed it was shook up, but before I could say anything, the driver said that I was all right and took off,” Gaylord said.  “She never looked our way, and out of the clear blue sky, she pulled out and started to turn right. She hit the front of the stroller. I pulled back and got it out of the way a little – in the crosswalk – and when I did, I fell and hit my head on the curb. The baby’s so tiny, just 18 pounds. I screamed because I was so scared for these kids.”

Gaylord said she contacted police, who had already learned about the incident from witnesses. She said she is disappointed that the driver wasn’t ticketed for making an illegal right turn on a red light or for striking pedestrians in a crosswalk.

“I don’t want to sue or anything, but I can’t believe she didn’t get a ticket,” Gaylord said. “When I asked for an accident report, the police said it is an accident only if there is $1,000 damage. What, people don’t count anymore?”

Chief Heubusch said he had no comment.

After the meeting, Christian called it “unfortunate what Mary Ellen said, that the police didn’t respond to her.”

“I did ask Rachael if she would have the police respond to her (Wilber) because she certainly does deserve that and so does her sister, and thank God nobody was killed.”

*Eddie Bauer is a retail sporting goods maker in business since 1920.

April 9, 2021 - 4:52pm

erica_odonnell.jpgErica O’Donnell said she learned at an early age the importance of community participation and hopes to have the opportunity to impart her views as a member of the Batavia City Council.

“I’ve been involved on the sidelines in local politics for a long time. I grew up in the Town of Alabama and my grandfather, Joe Cassidy, was on the town board for a number of years,” O’Donnell said. “I spent time with him when I was very young -- stuffing envelopes and helping out with fundraisers and things like that – and kind of caught the bug that way.”

That was about 20 years or so ago, said O’Donnell, now a Batavia resident who has been the chair of the City of Batavia Democratic Party for the past three years.

She has completed the petitioning process and will be on the ballot in November seeking one of three open Councilperson-At-Large spots. She will be facing three Republican incumbents: Jeremy Karas, Robert Bialkowski and City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr.

The current makeup of City Council is 100-percent Republican, a fact not lost upon O’Donnell.

“I think it is time to get some diverse and fresh ideas, and I think I would bring that to Council,” she said, noting that she is all for supporting businesses and activities that will attract young families to buy homes and settle in Batavia.

She said she has been “very lucky” that her husband, Patrick, is able to commute to his job in Rochester because it is affordable to live in Batavia. The couple bought a home in the city’s Fifth Ward in 2012, and since then have had two children, Lila, 7, and Connor, soon to be 5.

“When we purchased the house, I said to a good friend, ‘You sent your kids to the school district here. You lived here your whole life. What do think about raising kids in the city?’ ” she recalled. “And she said the best advice I can give you is to get involved. Get to know your neighbors, go to meetings – get involved. That’s what I have been trying to do and encourage everyone to do.”

O’Donnell said she realizes that Genesee County and Batavia have an aging population, and would love to see millennials purchase some of the “beautiful historic houses being chopped up into apartments or just crumbling.”

“I think we could do more to attract young people,” she said.

Along those lines, she said she is happy the city received the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award from New York State – “that is a huge success and I give a lot of credit to City Council and former City Manager Jason Molino for that,” she offered – but had hoped more of the funds were directed elsewhere.

“I would like to have seen more of that money put towards retail and things to attract people downtown,” she said. “The YMCA and Healthy Living Campus are going to be wonderful -- and both of my kids have benefitted from preschool at the Y -- but that was a big chunk of money that went to nonprofit groups. There are other things that would have been my favorites for that money.”

O’Donnell said she is in favor of an expansion of the city-owned ice arena on Evans Street, possibly including an indoor recreation facility nearby.

“I think the city should make some type of investment there,” she said. “Not necessarily take it over but give some support to encourage (the use of the facility).”

She pointed to the outdoor soccer fields off Bank Street Road as a prime example of a successful venture for youth that brings revenue into the city.

“If you drive by there during a soccer tournament, there are vehicles everywhere. If we put some sort of indoor sports facility in the city – maybe near the ice rink -- the businesses would no doubt benefit hugely from those types of tournaments and events. People come from all over and it’s packed,” she said.

Her thoughts on some other issues in the city:

Construction of a new police station

“It was actually when I started getting involved several years ago when they formed the police task force. At the time, that was such a huge deal and it was covered so heavily in the media. I understand that their first choice is no longer an option (Swan Street), so that certainly was my first choice. Obviously, I think it would be beneficial to have more police presence on the Southside. Alva Place, which is where they’re looking at now, was their second choice. I think that is the best thing to do – listen to the citizens – and go where it was recommended.”

COVID-19’s impact on city finances

“I’m concerned more about the ability to spend compared to the (Council’s) willingness to spend. So much of what we’re going to be able to do is going to depend upon aid from the state and aid from the federal government. COVID really through a wrench in everybody’s plans going forward, and who knows for how long – probably generations. We’re going to have to come up with some pretty creative solutions to be able to spend.”

Government meetings via Zoom, YouTube

“We’ve learned a lot in the past year as a society and I think there are some things that we can take away and keep, including the transparency that allows us to have those meetings streamed live or even a couple hours after the fact. It’s difficult to make it to all those meetings, whether it’s the legislature or board meetings. Also, there is so much going on with my kids at school that it’s nice to be able to watch the school board meetings to keep up with everything.”

The city manager hiring process

“While I think Rachael Tabelski is doing a good job and was the obvious choice for city manager. I am glad that we went through the whole process of interviewing. I think that is the correct and transparent way of hiring someone for a position such as that. But I’m glad that she ended up with the job, and am sure she will do a great job going forward.”

O’Donnell said going door to door to get signatures for her petition was a valuable experience and she’s looking ahead to meeting more people in the coming months.

She conceded that the past two years have been a bit hectic with “nonstop elections” but thought “that the best way to get other people involved was to lead by example and jump in myself.”

In closing, she shared that Joe Cassidy is still the chair of the Town of Alabama Democratic Committee and is her biggest supporter.

“He’s definitely a proud grandfather,” she said.

March 19, 2021 - 1:07pm

The Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, pending approval from the Batavia City Council, is moving across Alva Place this year.

The event summary for this Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting includes an application submitted by Sharon Brant, farmer’s market treasurer, to conduct business beginning June 4 and running through Oct. 29.

The proposed location is in the former JC Penney parking lot across the street, just south of where the market has operated for the past five years.

Brant said tents and tables will be set up “more towards the corner that goes up to the Bank of America drive-through from what I understand from the pictures (renderings).”

She said this year’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The market offers fresh produce, baked goods, flowers and crafts, as well as beer and wine tastings, and a food vending truck.

Brant said she is working with potential vendors and plans to issue a press release once all of those applications have been received and approved.

Asked about a location beyond this year -- due to the city looking to build a new police station at the previous Alva/Bank site, Brant said she been communicating with City Manager Rachael Tabelski on a monthly basis.

“There’s nothing definite yet, but we are talking,” she said.

In other developments:

  • The Batavia Concert Band has applied to the city for permission to offer seven performances at Centennial Park.

The first one is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, June 19. The others will take place at 7 p.m. on consecutive Wednesdays, starting June 30.

  • Tabelski will be asking Council to create a temporary position of superintendent of water & wastewater in light of current Superintendent Bill Davis’ wish to retire within the next eight to 12 months.

“The goal in creating the temporary position is to ensure that the knowledge, skills and abilities of the current superintendent … are transferred to a successor,” Tabelski wrote in a memo dated March 16.

She also indicated the job is a Civil Service competitive position, and requires someone with specialized training and experience in water plant operations, wastewater and water treatment distribution systems.

Per the memo, the temporary job’s $76,000 non-union salary to be split equally between the water and wastewater funds. When Davis does retire, the temporary appointment would move into the permanent position.

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

Monday’s meeting in the Council Board Room on the second floor of the Batavia City Centre is scheduled for 7 p.m. It is open to the public with appropriate facemasks, social distancing and temperature screening upon arrival.

It will be streamed live on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bataviany/ and also can be viewed on Spectrum Channel 1301 at 9 a.m. March 24 and 8 p.m. March 26.

March 8, 2021 - 10:58pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Rachael Tabelski.

still_rachael_3.jpg

While the focus was on Rachael Tabelski as tonight’s Batavia City Council Business Meeting drew to a close, she preferred to keep her eyes on the task at hand – working to find the best ways to "move forward” in her new role as the municipality’s permanent city manager.

In an 8-0 vote, Council approved a resolution appointing Tabelski as city manager following her eight-month stint as acting/interim manager. Council Member John Canale was unable to attend the proceedings (a Special Conference Meeting preceded the Business Meeting).

Council and Tabelski agreed on a three-year contract with a starting salary of $110,000 plus benefits.

“I feel very, very excited. I obviously have a big passion for the City of Batavia – for the residents, for the work that Council does,” she said. “I think they’re a great body and I think they get along really well and they make really good policy decisions.

“So, I can’t wait to see and keep the planning that has been done in years before, that started through many members of this Council and (former City Manager) Jason Molino to move forward.”

When asked if she had any personal goals, she instead talked about: neighborhood issues; a strategy for the Batavia Ice Rink; the economic activity on Main Street; the impact of the state’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative awarded to Batavia; and the importance of bringing on an assistant manager.

“I was asked to do kind of your first 90 days and, first and foremost, I’m going to be hiring an assistant city manager and I think that will really be helpful … in terms of moving forward some neighborhood priorities and getting some community members that are interested out there in cleaning up their community -- because we know how many passionate residents we have,” she said. “And I think that is one thing the city just hasn’t had the personnel to help with.”

Tabelski, a 2000 graduate of Byron-Bergen Central School, said she couldn’t support a push to privatize the ice rink on Evans Street (formerly Falleti Ice Arena) until “coming up with a strategy – kind of figuring out where we are today and what is the strategy.”

She noted the validity of comments at tonight’s meeting from Stafford resident Bob Gray and Council members citing the importance of the facility as a community recreational outlet.

“We do have a great ice rink but it’s aged and there’s infrastructure investment that needs to go in there. We need to really strategize on how to do so,” Tabelski said, adding that a potential option could be finding a buyer or developer to purchase the rink and tie it in with residential property on a parcel (Creek Park) behind it.

Building owners in downtown Batavia have capitalized on grant funding to make improvements in recent years – enhancements that are ongoing.

“The businesses on Main Street and the buildings have been doing a great job improving with all the grant programs we have, and they’ve invested their own capital. That attracts new business to the building and downtown residents also,” she said. “So, once you start building the density of downtown residents, you’re going to start seeing businesses open on their own. I think that’s the only way we get there, and so I’d like to see more of that happen.”

Tabelski, who previously worked for the Genesee County Economic Development Center and the Batavia Development Corporation, said seeing the DRI projects advance means a great deal to her.

“I was very fortunate to be on the front end of that, writing the grant in conjunction with the city back when I worked for the GCEDC, and I can’t wait to see the projects that happen and how they transform our downtown,” she offered. “And when you start to transform the downtown and have more activities for people and youth, you’re going to start to transform your neighborhoods in positive ways as well. I think it’s all cumulative. So, each investment we make here will continue to spur new investments in our community.”

She said she envisions the assistant city manager working through some of the DRI grants that the city is coordinating and work on extra project tracking, grants, software projects and project management. The assistant also will assume the role of administrative department head.

“That’s important to oversee the clerk’s office, youth services as a whole, and (being able) to interact with the residents – like I said the neighborhood and housing issues,” said Tabelski, who was hired as Batavia’s assistant city manager in August 2019.

Tabelski predicted that Council’s decision tonight to contract with the GLOW YMCA to run the city’s afterschool program and summer recreation youth services will turn out well. She proposed that idea a few months ago after the city had to close the Liberty Center for Youth due to COVID-19 and also as the city was looking to save money in its budget.

“It was an option for Council to consider and I think they did very good due diligence in considering the options and determining how to move forward and serve residents still, and children – youth of our community – and choosing an agency that already is in that business to do the job well,” she said.

Tabelski recalled working for Assemblyman Steven Hawley’s office, answering the phone and listening to constituents’ requests.

“I understand how important your concerns are and when it comes to the city, I hope you always feel free to call Council members, to call City Hall and let us work with you. If it is a city issue, we’ll try to fix it. Also, we love people who want to volunteer and do certain things as we have numerous boards.”

Before the roll call to make Tabelski’s selection official, a few Council members commended Tabelski for excelling under difficult circumstances. One of them was Robert Bialkowski, who publicly voiced his opinion to conduct a thorough nationwide job search while some of his colleagues had hoped to promote Tabelski at the time.

“I would like to thank Rachael because as the acting city manager she really has gone the extra mile. You’ve been doing a great job and we all appreciate that,” Bialkowski said.

That prompted Jankowski, a Tabelski supporter all along, to quip – and draw a few laughs – “(City Clerk) Heidi (Parker), you want to make sure you get that whole statement there. And I feel the same way.”

Photo: Rachael Tabelski at tonight's City Council meeting where she was officially appointed as permanent city manager. Photo courtesy of Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

Previously: Council set to appoint Rachael Tabelski as city manager on Monday

March 6, 2021 - 9:46am

A contract to execute a grant for $193,500 for the City of Batavia to secure engineering and other related services at the City Centre and Harvester (Avenue) campuses is “complete and ready for execution,” according to a memo to City Council from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

In preparation for Monday night’s City Council sessions (a Special Conference Meeting followed by a Business Meeting) at City Hall Council Board Room, Tabelski updated Council on the Brownfield Opportunity Area Pre-Development Grant that the municipality applied for in July 2019.

The New York State Department of State awarded the grant to the city in December 2019 and now that contract awaits approval through the passing of a resolution on Monday’s agenda.

Tabelski’s memo indicates the grant will cover the majority of the project budget of $215,000, with the remainder coming from in-kind staff support from the city manager’s office, public works director, maintenance supervisor and the Batavia Development Corporation director.

Pre-development activities at both sites include preliminary engineering and architectural studies; legal and real estate services; zoning updates; marketing, and developer communication.

She wrote that the grant will set the stage for utilization of the $1 million state Downtown Revitalization Initiative award to renovate the City Centre.

“This will include a full infrastructure review to accommodate more development on the campus, parking reviews, potential redesign of Bank Street … and a full Generic Environmental Impact Statement that will allow future pre-permitted development,” she wrote.

As for the Harvester Campus, engineering work will target potential site layouts, subdivision plans, and legal, real estate and demolition strategy and analysis.

“This work could allow a systematic redevelopment of the 23-acre site into a vibrant campus of commerce in the city,” she wrote.

Other resolutions to be considered at the meetings, include:

  • Adding the GLOW YMCA to the building space lease agreement with City Church at 114 Liberty St. if City Council approves, as anticipated, a resolution to enter into a contract with the YMCA to provide services for the city’s afterschool and summer recreation youth program beginning April 1.
  • Adopting the 2021-22 budget ordinance as well as a local law to establish new water rates, meter fees and a capital improvement fee.

As previously reported, the spending plan of $27.78 million ($16.855 million general fund) calls for an increase in the property tax rate of 14 cents per thousand of assessed value – from $9.59 to $9.73.

Water rates and meter fees would increase by 3.5 percent while capital improvement fees would go up by 10 percent.

  • Extending the lease agreement with Firland Management LLC to operate the Batavia Ice Rink through March 2023 with downward adjustments to the lease and rink capital improvement fund payments paid by Firland to the city.
  • Adopting the city’s police reform plan under the governor’s executive order No. 203, which mandated that localities with police departments assemble a stakeholder advisory group and develop policies and procedures that address “the particular needs of the communities served by such police agency and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.”
  • While not official resolutions, approving requests for the Living Waters Apostolic Ministries’ community outreach on July 18 at Austin Park and the GLOW YMCA Corporate Cup 5K Run on Aug. 5 at Centennial Park.
March 5, 2021 - 2:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Rachael Tabelski.

tabelski.jpgThe Batavia City Council has selected lifelong Genesee County resident Rachael Tabelski, who has been serving as the interim city manager since June 22nd of last year, as its permanent city manager, and is prepared to offer her a three-year contract starting at an annual salary of $110,000 plus benefits.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. today said he has been impressed by Tabelski’s job performance, especially during a difficult time.

“I supported Rachel for the position because she is doing a great job under extraordinarily tough circumstances, and she’s also a local person who has been in the community for many years and is familiar with Batavia and the surrounding area,” Jankowski said today. “And she has served as our assistant city manager since August 2019.”

Jankowski said Tabelski has worked hard to deliver a budget for 2021-22 and was instrumental in the success of the City of Batavia Police Collaboration Stakeholder Group.

“She’s doing well with getting the city back on track, hitting goals, on strategic planning, and all that important stuff we look forward to as a community,” he added.

Council is expected to formalize the selection at its Business Meeting on Monday night at the City Centre Board Room. A Special Conference Meeting will precede it, starting at 7 o’clock. The resolution on the agenda of the Business Meeting stipulates that Tabelski's employment as city manager will begin on that date.

Contacted minutes ago, Tabelski said she would comment on the appointment during Monday's proceedings.

Tabelski's experience in the public sector arena includes serving as a Bergen Town Councilwoman, legislative aide to Assemblyman Steven Hawley, director of marketing & communications for the Genesee County Economic Development Center for eight years and director of economic development for the Batavia Development Corp. for a year before beilng hired as assistant city manager. 

Jankowski shared details of the search process coordinated by a committee of Council members Patti Pacino and John Canale, (former DPW Director) Matt Worth and Human Resources specialist Dawn Fairbanks, working in conjunction with The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio.

The city had contracted with Novak for the search that brought Moore to Batavia in August 2018.

“The committee met with Novak and they started the process, which consisted of advertising and setting up the job requirements,” Jankowski said. “Initially, there were 35 applications and all applicants were screened to make sure that they were qualified. At that point, it came down to three people for final Council interviews, but one of the three people dropped out.”

That left two finalists – Tabelski and another candidate.

“I’m not at liberty to mention the other person’s name.

Council and three city department heads -- DPW Director Ray Tourt, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano -- conducted extensive interviews in executive session last Thursday (Feb. 25) with the two candidates, Jankowski said.

“While Council members were interviewing one candidate, department heads were interviewing the other candidate, and then we switched candidates – with the entire interview process taking about four hours. All told, the executive session went from 8:30 a.m. to 1:42 p.m.,” he said.

Additionally, Council engaged in a phone conference with the city’s psychologist, Jay Supnick, Ph.D., who had previously met with Tabelski and the other candidate to conduct a character/temperament evaluation.

“This is normal procedure during the hiring process for key positions of the city,” Jankowski advised.

After final discussions among Council members and the department leaders, Council decided to direct Fairbanks to start contract negotiations with Tabelski.

“The offer we are making is the same one that we made to Martin Moore when he started in 2018,” Jankowski said, noting that the contract will commence on Monday after the final vote by Council. “The agreement includes a salary increase of $2,000 in 2022 and again in 2023.”

Canale said that he preferred to comment after Monday's meeting, but did say that the residents of Batavia will be pleased to learn of the process used by Council to reach a decision.

Moore and the city departed ways on June 20, 2020, prompting Tabelski to move up from her assistant city manager role while a professional search for a permanent manager was taking place.

Advertising and other costs to the city came to approximately $5,000, he said, noting that expenses were kept in check because prior interviews and meetings were held via Zoom videoconferencing and there were minimal travel costs.

Previous: Acting city manager's deep roots, varied past converge in path to make a better, brighter future

Previous: Acting City Manager Tabelski: A prepared, in-tune team player working toward a common goal

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As the Yellow Zone restriction was lifted from Batavia, this meeting will be open to the public with appropriate facemasks, social distancing and temperature screening upon arrival.

Options for viewing the meeting:

Batavia News Service Youtube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOdvZ9lGH0FiD9ADz6Cg6EQ

Streamed LIVE on Facebook: 

https://www.facebook.com/bataviany/

Spectrum Channel 1301 – Wednesday, March 10th  at 9:00 a.m. and Friday, March 12th at 8:00 p.m.

The agenda is posted on the City website under the City Council page.

The Batavian file photo of Rachel Tabelski.

February 25, 2021 - 9:05am

Anyone who follows the activities of the Batavia City Council is fully aware of the fact that longtime Council Member Rose Mary Christian – in her unique brusque and outspoken style – strongly advocates for her Sixth Ward (the Southside), fully supports the city’s police and fire department, and constantly looks out for the taxpayer.

On Wednesday, she contacted The Batavian to share her views on a few items currently on Council’s docket, starting with the management situation at the Batavia Ice Rink on Evans Street.

Christian said she is not on board with a recommendation before the city’s governing body to allow Firland Management, the company that operates the rink, to make a lease payment nine months after the original due date and to contribute a reduced amount to the rink’s capital improvement fund.

Council, at Monday night’s Conference Meeting, agreed to forward the proposal to its March 8th Business Meeting for a formal vote.

A memo from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski to Council spells out a reworking and extension of the lease agreement with Firland, reducing and deferring the firm’s payments due to the impact of COVID-19 upon its bottom line in 2020. The rink was closed for most of the year and just recently has welcomed back youth league and high school hockey teams.

Christian said she doesn’t buy that reasoning.

“There are numerous businesses in the City of Batavia that are hurting,” she said. “Are we going to defer anything for them – property taxes, school taxes, anything? I don’t think so, and that’s why I’m not voting for the resolution coming in two weeks.”

Tabelski, through negotiations with Firland, introduced a plan to let Firland make its next lease payment of $25,000 on Jan. 1, 2022 instead of the current due date of March 1, 2021, and also to reduce its contribution to the rink’s capital fund for 2020-21 from $32,958.30 to $5,000.

She also is proposing to extend the contract from its current ending date of March 31, 2021 for two years through March 2023.

Therefore, Firland’s lease payments will be $20,000 annually for 2021-22 and 2022-23 and its capital fund contribution will be $5,000 annually for the next two fiscal years.

Christian said the city has seen its revenue decline and, noting the costs involved with maintaining the rink, feels it would be unwise to go this route.

“Rachael sent me an email stating that the annual cost for keeping the refrigeration system at the rink is $11,500, and the city pays for that,” Christian said. “So, in reality, taxpayer money is used to cover that expense.”

Tabelski explained that the intent of the lease and capital payments (paid to the city by Firland) covers the costs of maintenance at the facility and contributes to the Ice Rink Reserve for Capital Improvements.

The city currently has $370,000 in ice rink reserves. If the refrigeration system was to fail, it could cost up to $750,000 to purchase and install a new one.

“That’s a far cry if it comes to $700,000 and we have to replace it,” Christian said. “And that becomes another burden upon city taxpayers.”

In a story posted on The Batavian on Tuesday, Tabelski suggested the manager’s office – within a year or so -- conduct an analysis and study, and present a strategy to Council “with the goal of bringing it back to full capacity and to potentially attract a buyer.”

Christian said she hopes someone or an organization would purchase the facility.

“We do not belong in business. I, myself, would like to privatize that all the way so someone can own it and take care of the responsibility,” she said. “Not every child in Batavia is afforded that ice rink. They can’t afford the fees charged to play hockey; it’s just the elite.”

Christian sounded off on a couple of other recent City Council agenda items:

-- On having vacant public safety positions in the 2021-22 budget:

“I’m sorry that we have to not fill a couple positions with the police department and the fire department. Safety is my No. 1 concern,” she said.

Christian said city funds used to support the Batavia Development Corp. should go back into the general fund, and potentially could be used to hire public safety personnel.

Tabelski, in response to an email from The Batavian, stated that the city is paying $95,000 to the BDC this year – down from the usual amount of $110,000 -- “via an agreement that was established years ago to provide economic development services in the City.”

She explained that the BDC is a public authority and has its own budget and operating costs, and can bring in its own revenue at times from grants, project fees or real estate sales. Recently, the entity has been successful in obtaining New York Main Street grants and money from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative for several building renovation projects in the city.

The BDC employs a full-time director of economic development at a current salary of $65,000.

Christian said the corporation should be at a point where it can sustain itself.

“Do you know where that salary belongs? It belongs with the BDC. They should be paying for it,” she said.

-- On the strong possibility that the city will contract with the Genesee Area Family YMCA for its after-school and summer recreation programs:

“I’m happy that (District Executive Director) Jeff Townsend is going to be in charge of it for the YMCA. I think they are going to do an outstanding job for the kids,” she said.

Christian said the $1,100 rent payment to City Church for the use of the Liberty Center for Youth (the former St. Anthony’s School building) on Liberty Street is fair.

“It’s a good fee for that building. It will serve the kids well and also it will be used on Tuesday nights for their open gymnasium.”

February 23, 2021 - 2:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Arc of Genesee Orleans, Batavia City Council.

arc_award_1.jpg

On Monday night, Batavia City Council Member Robert Bialkowski presents a proclamation to Donna Saskowski, executive director of the Arc of Genesee Orleans, denoting March 2021 as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Saskowski said the local ARC has had a long relationship with the city – even before 1987 when President Ronald Reagan made Development Disabilities Awareness Month a nationally recognized event – and continues as one of the leading employers, with 450 workers in the two counties.

“Thank you for the support and when you see people with development disabilities think about the contributions that they make … they are significant,” she said.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 23, 2021 - 1:44pm

As Batavia City Council members ponder giving the company that manages the city ice rink a break on their lease and capital improvement fund payments, they also realize they can no longer skate around the need for renovations at the Evans Street facility.

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski on Monday night introduced a resolution that would amend and extend the lease agreement with Firland Management, the Virginia-based firm that has operated the Batavia Ice Rink (formerly Falleti Ice Arena) for more than a decade.

Speaking at Council's Conference Meeting at the City Centre Council Boardroom, Tabelski explained that Firland’s finances have taken a severe hit due to COVID-19 as the rink was closed for most of 2020 and just recently saw the return of youth league and high school hockey.

She is recommending that Council let Firland make its next lease payment of $25,000 on Jan. 1, 2022 instead of the current due date of March 1, 2021, and also to reduce its contribution to the rink’s capital fund for 2020-21 from $32,958.30 to $5,000.

Furthermore, she is proposing to extend the contract from its current ending date of March 31, 2021 for two years through March 2023. As a result of negotiations, Firland’s lease payments will be $20,000 annually for 2021-22 and 2022-23 and its capital fund contribution will be $5,000 annually for the next two fiscal years.

Rink Has Some Big-Ticket Items

Currently, $370,000 is in the rink’s capital improvement fund, Tabelski said. That may seem like a large amount, however, a new refrigeration system could cost around $500,000 and a Zamboni dasher board could cost up to $250,000.

Contacted this morning, Tabelski said the time has come for the city manager’s office to conduct a study and analysis, and present a strategy to Council to “move that facility forward.”

“This should be done within the next year with the goal of bringing it back to full capacity and to potentially attract a buyer,” she said.

Council did put $19,500 into the 2021-22 budget to fix the front doors and the locker rooms, both “minor repairs,” Tabelski noted.

Another issue at hand is finding a business or organization interested in having its name affixed to the building. Falleti Motors is not interesting in renewing its “naming rights” agreement with the city, said Tabelski, suggesting a request for proposal will be forthcoming.

During the meeting, Council Member Robert Bialkowski asked about events scheduled for the rink, noting that he couldn’t remember if the activities stated in the contract actually took place.

Tabelski said that events were added during the last negotiation period with Firland “because we’d like to see more done with the facility” and mentioned that the home show is held there and she hopes to see indoor soccer events there.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian asked how much the city is paying to take care of the ice-making system (refrigeration) per year. Tabelski said the city contracts with a separate firm and estimated the price tag at $2,500 to $5,000 annually, but believed that is billed back to Firland. She said she would check on that and get back to Council.

Deferring Costs in a Tough Time

After hearing that the locker rooms have been painted recently, Christian said it was important to know about the refrigeration contract since she believed the city was reducing Firland’s lease payments.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said lease payments were being reduced for the one year, but the city was giving Firland more time to make its payments.

“They’re paying the same amount, right?” he asked, and Christian replied, “Only for this year?”

Van Nest entered the conversation, stating “we’re deferring the lease payment that would have been due in March, based on the COVID shutdowns that affected all hockey rinks as Councilman (Paul) Viele and I are well aware because we don’t see each other at the rinks anymore.”

“Deferring it and then basically reducing the capital contributions … so that gives them a little bit more flexibility as Council president indicated to get the operations back to a normal level of service and normal level of programming.”

Christian said she heard that the rink is doing well now, with the Genesee Amateur Hockey Association and the adults leagues in action once again.

Viele said officials are “trying to lump a lot of games in a short amount of time, so what you would play in October, they’re trying to get everything in February and March, and that’s why they’re deferring the payment to get the money.”

Jankowski noted that the rink was closed for many months, and that’s why the city is looking at deferring the payment until Jan. 1, 2022.

Hockey Players Return to the Ice

Van Nest said hockey wasn’t permitted until Feb. 1 of this year, and only skilled-based practices were allowed. Viele said that open skate sessions also were closed to the public.

“It will be the same amount but only the capital part will be reduced dramatically for the two years (since the city has some money in reserves),” Jankowski said. “That will give them two years – one year to get back on their feet, one year to assess and then we’ll be back, talking to them about an extension or whatever we need to do after that. It’s only a two-year agreement.”

Council agreed to forward the measure to its March 8 Business Meeting, where a formal vote will take place.

Van Nest said that Firland would be interested in participating with city officials about future capital projects at the rink.

“Firland has significant experience with capital planning for rinks, development of rinks, renovation of rinks,” he said. “They actually assisted the Buffalo Sabres with development of their practice facility, so in talking to Firland … they indicated they would be happy to look forward to assisting with general capital planning discussions for the facility.”

Roach: Public Safety Comes First

In other action, Council held public hearings for the 2021-22 budget; water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees, and a local law amending the Business Improvement District plan. All three resolutions were forwarded to the March 8 Business Meeting for a final vote.

City resident John Roach was the only public speaker, expressing his view that the city should not pay the salary of the Batavia Development Corp.’s director since that is not a city position.

“As long as you have any public safety positions vacant, then I think it's wrong that you pay the BDC money to pay for their employee, no matter how good a job, how worthy,” he said. “It’s not a city employee and I think public safety should come first.”

He also questioned giving money to GO ART! for Picnic in the Park and said if the agency doesn’t hold the summer event, the money should go back into the city coffers.

Council Member Patti Pacino responded that there is no money in the 2021-22 budget for that event, and Tabelski said that appropriation was not paid out in 2020-21 as Picnic in the Park was cancelled.

Tax Rate to Increase by 14 Cents

Concerning the budget, Tabelski reported a 2021-22 spending plan of $27.78 million, with $16.855 million of that in the general fund.

The property tax rate would increase by 14 cents per thousand of assessed value – from $9.59 to $9.73. That would cost a homeowner with a $100,000 house about $13 more per year in property taxes.

She said Council has approved reductions in purchasing, overtime and training, and are keeping three firefighter positions, two police officer positions and one laborer position vacant.

Water rates and meter fees would increase by 3.5 percent while capital improvement fees would go up by 10 percent – numbers that have been the norm in recent years.

Amendments to the BID Plan will include three proposed capital projects -- downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000) – and spell out the amount of the BID’s assessment charge to its members.

February 22, 2021 - 10:58pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, GLOW YMCA, Genesee Area Family YMCA.

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See a statement from the City Youth Board below this story.

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City Council members tonight reminisced about their childhood days “hanging out at the Y” as they sent out positive vibes about a proposed four-year contract that would put the Genesee Area Family YMCA in charge of running city youth services.

After hearing from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski that “the YMCA came in with the best price” and that cost savings to the city are projected at more than $60,000 annually over the next four years, Council Member John Canale and President Eugene Jankowski Jr. strolled down memory lane.

“I heard the YMCA is dying to build a brand-new outdoor city pool like we used to have when I was growing up,” Canale joked.

That prompted Jankowski to endorse the Y, illustrating his support by displaying his YMCA membership card from 1971 that he said he found during “COVID clean-out.”

“So, I was a member as a teenager myself. And now they mention they’re building a large new facility right in the middle of our downtown. So, they’re investing here,” Jankowski said. “This is like a win-win for all of us, including the most important people who are on my list for this whole project is the children themselves – our future – so they can have a place to go, like I had a place to go.”

Canale countered by pointing out that this offers “year-round availability to our local kids.”

“When you and I grew up, I remember distinctly hanging out at the Y, when it was the old building, and you’d just go there and hang out after school or on Saturday (and) shoot pool. They used to have three pool tables downstairs.”

Today, the YMCA is making plans to partner with United Memorial Medical Center for a Healthy Living Campus, a project supported by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. It has expanded its services over the years and seems to be in excellent position to operate the city youth program efficiently and effectively.

City leaders decided to not staff their afterschool and summer recreation programs anymore after having to close the Liberty Center for Youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also due to budget constraints. They reached out via a request for proposal process to organizations that might be interested in providing these services and the YMCA got the nod.

A resolution outlining the formal agreement with the YMCA and another to dissolve a pact with Genesee County to provide a youth bureau executive director were forwarded to Council’s Business Meeting on March 8th for a vote.

“I believe this is the right way to provide the residents and youth and families this service, and I think that collaborating with the YMCA for the afterschool program (at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus) has worked out very well thus far,” Tabelski said. “They have been an excellent partner to us in the city.”

Jeff Townsend, district executive director for the GLOW YMCA, said the plan is “to incorporate all of our YMCA services into this new relationship with the city, including swimming at the Y … at our Liberty Center gymnastics center (on Liberty Street near Ficarella’s Pizzeria). We could incorporate gymnastics at the Liberty Center (for Youth) site that we’re currently partnering with the city on for school year programming.”

He said the Liberty Center could host summer programs as well.

“So, the parks could travel throughout the community and participate in some of our other area locations as well as traditional field trips – walking and busing – that’s already in the RFP plan,” he said. “I think that our plan is pretty robust and covering and ensuring that no less services will be provided and probably more services, in fact.”

Jankowski mentioned that other partnerships geared toward youth, such as the National Night Out, already are in place, and Townsend said the YMCA is willing to participate.

Townsend also answered “yes” to a question from Council Member Robert Bialkowski about the possibility of applying for grants to fund additional programs.

Tabelski, responding to a question from Council Member Rose Mary Christian on whether children from outside of the city can participate, said the city receives financial support from the Town of Batavia so its young people – as long as they attend Batavia City or parochial schools – would be able to take part.

Christian said she wouldn’t object to opening the city’s program to youth in surrounding towns and villages in Genesee County as long as the county pays an annual fee.

Following the meeting, Rob Walker, chief executive officer for the GLOW YMCA, said he is excited to partner with the city to deliver summer recreation program at four city parks – John Kennedy, Farrall, Lambert and Williams – and continuing to provide services at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“We bring a tremendous amount of abilities and talents from our organization. We are the leader in youth development and we’re looking forward to a great relationship,” he said.

Walker said the YMCA can offer “enhancements” beyond the scope of the contract because they have a complete facility and the gymnastics center.

“We’re going to take full advantage of all the resources the Y has to enhance what currently has been done in the past," he said.

Healthy Living Campus Advances

Asked about the status of the Healthy Living Campus, Walker said Clark Patterson Lee has been hired as the architect, and the hospital (United Memorial Medical Center) and the Y are moving forward.

“We’ve crossed the $11 million mark in fundraising (the goal is $14 million) and plan on moving forward this fall with construction,” he said. “The community has been amazingly supportive of our project.”

He acknowledged that the coronavirus set the project back a bit.

“Obviously, COVID slowed our efforts down as we had to shift to the needs of the community, which we did, providing emergency childcare and other programs like Y Academy. But we’re back, focused on the project and the goal is to have it open at the end of next year,” he said.

Previous: Interim city manager touts major savings should Council go with Genesee YMCA to provide youth services

ymca_leaders_1.jpg

Photo: Leading the GLOW YMCA's effort to contract with the City of Batavia to provide youth services beginning April 1 are, from left, Charitie Bruning, childcare and camp director; Jeff Townsend, district executive director; Rob Walker, chief executive officer. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 22, 2021 - 9:04pm

Batavia City Council members say they will report the amount they have spent in a search for a new city manager as quickly as possible after the process has been completed.

Council is scheduled to interview the final candidates for the permanent position at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in a special executive session (closed to the public) at the City Centre’s Council Board Room.

City resident John Roach, speaking during the public comments segment of tonight’s Conference Meeting, asked – for the second time -- if any money has been spent in the search for a new city manager.

“Will somebody tell me why I have to actually FOIL (file a Freedom of Information Law request) over a simple question of taxpayer money?” he said. “Have you had to spend any money on this search so far?”

Roach mentioned a story on The Batavian that reported Council’s intention to interview two people, with Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believed to be one of them.

“Is there any cost associated with those interviews? As a taxpayer, I’d like to know. We were told that this was going to be free. I know the Council president did warn that nothing is ever really free. But, yet we were told that this would be free,” he continued.

Council Member John Canale and President Eugene Jankowski Jr. responded, with both assuring Roach that the total cost will be determined and released to the public soon.

“I know we have that exact information,” Canale said. “I do believe that Geno alluded to the fact that there would be a very minimal cost in that the search was being provided as a second search (following the search that resulted in the hiring of Martin Moore) free of charge, but there would be additional, small costs for advertising for the national search.”

Canale said he would make sure the numbers are provided after Thursday, adding that he thinks they will be “very, very minimal.”

Jankowski noted that travel costs were minimized because of COVID-19 and the utilization of Zoom videoconferencing to conduct preliminary interviews.

“We didn’t have to fly people around and put them in hotel rooms,” he said. “That process should be finalized very soon and then we’ll have the actual numbers …”

At that point, Council Member Rose Mary Christian asked how many people were interviewed via Zoom, but was quickly reminded that Council was not at liberty to discuss that in a public setting.

“You will be in that process on Thursday, correct, Ro? You will have all those answers then,” Canale said.

“Absolutely,” she replied.

February 22, 2021 - 1:59pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, city manager candidates.

The City of Batavia issued a press release this morning advising of a Special Conference Meeting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the Council Board Room on the second floor of the Batavia City Centre.

The Batavian has learned from multiple sources that Council will interview finalists for the vacant city manager position at the meeting, which will go into executive session immediately and is closed to the public.

The meeting agenda, per the city’s website, is as follows:

  • Call to Order.
  • Executive Session ... Employment Matters to Discuss the Potential Appointment of a Particular Person.
  • Adjournment.

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski has publicly announced her intention to apply for the position.

Council members, citing confidentiality issues since a potential candidate is currently working for the city, have not revealed any information about the number of applicants or the professional search process.

Tabelski has been serving in the interim role since June 22, two days after the city and Martin Moore mutually agreed to terminate his contract.

February 19, 2021 - 4:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Genesee Area Family YMCA.

Tear up the contract with Genesee County and sign a new one with the Genesee Area Family YMCA.

That is what Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes is the best course of action when it comes to providing services to Batavia’s young people, beginning with the start of the 2021-22 fiscal year on April 1.

Tabelski, in memos to City Council, points to significant cost savings by letting YMCA staff run the city youth program and additional savings by ending the intermunicipal agreement with the county that provided an executive director to oversee both county and city youth programs.

Both measures are on the agenda of Monday night’s Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 o’clock.

Council charged Tabelski, in conjunction with the City Youth Advisory Board, to send out a request for proposal for organizations interested in delivering youth services, specifically at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s Campus at 114 Liberty St. and during a summer recreation program at city playgrounds.

In a memo dated Feb. 15, she said the city received two proposals and one “no” bid. After scoring the two and interviewing YMCA personnel, the selection committee gave the nod to the YMCA, which received the top score.

The proposed agreement with the YMCA, per the memo, stipulates that the YMCA “will provide (services) equivalent or better than the youth services the city has provided in the past, the term … is for four years and matches the lease terms (with City Church) to use the Liberty Center for Youth, and the agreement can be cancelled with 60 days’ notice by any party.”

Tabelski wrote that the city will save $69,639 in expenses for the first year and approximately $261,461 over the life of the agreement, assuming an annual 2.5-percent increase in cost to the city via wage increases, etc.

A chart showing the cost to the city was included in the memo, and reads as follows:

2020-21

  • City provided service, $239,516, Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000. Total, $253,716.

2021-22

  • City provided service, $245,504; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $259,704.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $175,865; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $190,065; Savings, $69,639.

2022-23

  • City provided service, $251,641; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $265,841.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $184,658; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $198,858; Savings, $66,983.

2023-24

  • City provided service, $257,933; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $272,133.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $193,890; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $208.090; Savings, $64,043.

2024-25

  • City provided service, $264,381; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $278,581.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $203,585; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $217,785; Savings, $60,796.

The total savings from 2021-2025 add up to $261,461.

While the “City provided service” line increases by 2.5 percent each year, the “YMCA Cost per agreement” line increases by 5 percent each year.

When asked why the city would experience a 2.5-percent annual increase in costs and the YMCA contract was going up by 5 percent annually, Tabelski said that is what the YMCA is requesting.

As far as the annual costs for running the two programs, services at the Liberty Center for Youth will cost the city about $35,000 more than what it will pay for summer recreation.

Pact with County No Longer Necessary

Furthermore, Tabelski wrote that the city will save $21,711 over the 2021-22 fiscal year by terminating the agreement with Genesee County – a pact that began in 2011 and enabled one person to direct both the county and city youth programs.

Jocelyn Sikorski resigned as executive director late in 2020, a year that saw the Liberty Center for Youth having to close due to COVID-19 concerns and the city to cut youth program staffing due to budget constraints.

In her memo, Tabelski reported that there would be no need for an agreement with the county if Council approves the YMCA taking over, and that the city manager would oversee the youth services contract.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., contacted today, said he is pleased to see the cost savings and added that he had confidence in the YMCA, which currently has a shared services agreement with the city at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“As it appears now, it would be very difficult to turn away the large savings for the same service,” he said. “I can’t speak for other Council members, but in my mind, saving a quarter of million dollars over five years and have the Y do it at the same location, is definitely something I have to consider.”

February 8, 2021 - 11:32pm

Between the interim city manager’s report and public comments, the Batavia City Council tonight heard about and touched upon several topics beyond the nuts and bolts of scheduling public hearings for the 2021-22 budget, water rates and amendments to the Downtown Business Improvement District Plan.

The Business Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, which lasted only 25 minutes by the way, included:

  • Discussion of the City of Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group, which is wrapping up its tasks as required by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 on community policing reform;
  • Staffing of the Department of Public Works, and the police and fire departments in light of the city’s fiscal constraints;
  • Budgeted funds for improvements at Falleti Ice Arena, which are sorely needed, according to a longtime “hockey mom”;
  • And, barely, an update on the search for a permanent city manager, a process that was prompted by the departure of Martin Moore almost eight months ago.

Furthermore, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski’s report provided some insight on the police station feasibility study (and its effect on the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market), Community Garden on MacArthur Drive, Jackson Square improvement project, and the City Centre feasibility study.

City resident John Roach, a frequent contributor to Council meetings, posed questions regarding the future of the police stakeholder group, city manager search and essential services’ staffing.

Police Advisory Stakeholders Group

On the police advisory group, Roach applauded the city’s intention to continue meeting after the final report is submitted to New York State by April 1, but wanted assurances that any committees would include only city residents.

“I don’t want anyone else outside the city telling us how to run our local police department,” he said.

Tabelski’s response indicated that a “subcommittee” or “focus group” has planned to meet on its own with Chief Shawn Heubusch and the Batavia City School District as needed, so she didn’t think the recommendation would be “to keep that as a standing committee on behalf of the city.”

She and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. agreed that a concerted effort would be made to make sure city residents only would participate on any ongoing “community engagement committee.”

Professional Search for a Manager

Roach then asked about the status of the manager search, noting the amount of time that has elapsed.

His specific questions: “Have we got any updates on the search headhunter group? Did they find any candidates yet? And while the search is supposed to be free, there are always costs. Have we incurred any costs yet related to the search for the city manager?”

Council Member John Canale, part of the search/screening committee, offered very little in return, continuing an exercise that has been kept away from the public eye. Previously, The Batavian reached out to Canale for a few more details about the search but he did not respond to a telephone call or email.

“In regards to the manager’s search, I will not comment on specifics, but just to let you know that we are engaged with the recruitment company (The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio) and we’re moving forward with our national search and we’re in that process right now,” Canale said in response to Roach. “There will be more to come.”

The search/screening committee advertised in national publications prior to a Dec. 30 deadline – about six weeks ago -- for candidates to submit their resumes.

Moore and the city mutually agreed to part ways on June 20. At that point, Tabelski, who was the assistant city manager, moved into the top spot until a permanent manager was found. She has since revealed that she has applied for the job.

Moore’s leaving prior to serving two full years also triggered a provision in its contract with Novak to obtain a “free search” for his replacement. Nonetheless, the city is anticipating some expense, including the cost of placing job vacancy notices.

Public Works, Police, Fire Staffing

On DPW, police and fire staffing, Roach said he wanted to know the number of employees and vacancies in each department, and asked, “If there are future vacancies, do you intend to fill them or just keep letting the numbers drop because of the budget?”

Tabelski replied that there are four vacancies in the fire department, with one to be filled and three to remain vacant “to achieve our budget number.”

She said the police department is down two employees.

“Contractually one of the vacancies will stay frozen for three years through a retirement incentive and the other, if and when there is funding to fill that, we’ll look forward to doing so,” she said.

DPW Superintendent Ray Tourt said there are 16 employees in his department – down one position (which is frozen this year) at the Bureau of Maintenance. He added that DPW has 14 primary pieces of equipment with one in the process of being repaired.

“One is kind of part-time,” he said. “That’s the old girl that broke down this weekend, but we’re putting her back together for the next one.”

Funding Improvements at the Ice Rink

Council heard from two city residents who wrote letters of support in favor of implementing budgeted capital improvement funds for upgrades at the Falleti Ice Arena on Evans Street.

One was from Mary Ellen Reardon, a “hockey mom” who noted that she has seen no improvements in many years and called the facility “the most poorly maintained rink in the Western New York region.”

She wrote that she has worked at the rink, her husband played in the Genesee Amateur Hockey Association as a youth and then in the Batavia Men’s Hockey League, and their three sons currently play hockey at various levels.

Other topics covered during Monday night's meeting:

  • Police station feasibility study -- Tabelski said Heubusch has provided much information and is prepared to work on preliminary items that “may require us to be on that site (Alva Place parking lot) over the summertime, leading into the meetings that I’ve had with the Public (Farmers’) Market Treasurer Sharon Brant.”

The Farmers’ Market has operated at the Alva Place parking lot for the past five years.

Tabelski said she hopes the market will be able to find a site downtown this summer and a long-term location downtown as well, but they need to identify the appropriate place.

“At the end of the day, it is their choice where they operate,” she said. “If there are only one or two city locations and they are not – they don’t see those as valuable – they may not be in the downtown, but I hope that we can find a way to make it work.”

  • Community garden on MacArthur Drive -- She said the project is going forward this year, adding that Tourt and the DPW are coordinating communications with the garden board.
  • Jackson Square DRI project -- Tabelski said a public engagement meeting for the $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative project at Jackson Square, located between Jackson and Center streets, is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Feb. 18 via Zoom videoconferencing.

“It’s an opportunity for citizens to hear about the project and help shape what that project would look like. It’s probably one of the best community spaces we have and we want to use it more often with more events,” she said.

In December, Council voted in favor of a $114,720 contract with Architectural Resources of Buffalo for engineering services to renovate and enhance the Jackson Square entertainment venue.

  • City Centre feasibility study -- “The City Centre feasibility study is being finalized and will be posted on the city website very soon, and we will be submitting for reimbursement for that grant,” Tabelski advised. “That will help inform us on how to move forward with the City Centre DRI $1 million project.”

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As expected, Council scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 22 on the budget, a $16.79 million general fund budget spending plan that currently calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate. The annual property tax increase on a home assessed at $100,000 will be about $13.

Public hearings to establish new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees, and to amend the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District Plan also were scheduled for Feb. 22 at the same time.

A public hearing about the Community Development Block Grant, a program of the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal, took place tonight, but no one from the public or Council commented. The city seeks to obtain a CDBG grant to fund infrastructure projects.

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