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Batavia City Council

October 1, 2019 - 5:09pm

Press release from the City of Batavia Republican Committee:

With election season here, Batavia’s Republicans are gearing up for five City Council races this fall. Stressing their ability to work together in promoting the City’s interests while keeping local taxes in check, Batavia’s Republican City Council members are all seeking reelection.

They aim to provide much needed continuity in City Government, especially as new City Manager Martin Moore has settled into his position and is working with Council to set priorities and programs in place to continue to improve the City’s finances and development for the benefit of local residents.

Kathy Briggs -- Fifth Ward

Educator and Fifth Ward Councilperson Kathy Briggs has had a valuable long-term presence on City Council during her five terms as councilperson.  Her knowledge about the City’s ongoing needs and her commitment to Fifth Ward residents have helped accomplish many positive developments throughout the Fifth Ward and the City.

“I’ve fought hard for the people living in the Fifth Ward," Briggs said. "My recent success in getting additional cameras placed in this Ward and my work along with Councilperson Al McGinnis to bring the residents of the Fourth and Fifth Wards together with our City leaders to listen to their concerns at our regular “town hall” meetings at the Holland Land Office are recent examples of my commitment to the residents.

"I also plan to continue my efforts to improve the sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines throughout the Fifth Ward. I look forward to sharing concerns with the residents of my ward this election season and seek their support in my effort to continue to work for them as their elected representative.” 

John Canale -- Third Ward

Businessman, local music instructor and Third Ward Councilperson John Canale is seeking a third term on Council.

“Being on City Council for the past eight years, I have had the opportunity to be part of a group of city leaders that have accomplished monumental achievements," Canale said. "We have worked to increase our bond rating to A1, secured more than $20 million in grants to improve existing industrial areas, upgrade infrastructure, improve our downtown area, including settling the Mall issue and moving forward with redevelopment, and studying ways to improve our longtime stagnant community.

"Most importantly, we’ve turned a multimillion dollar deficit into a balanced budget with capital reserves for future city improvements. All this and more has been accomplished, while keeping the city property tax rate level, over the past seven years. My plans are to continue moving the city forward in redevelopment and revitalization, in order to create a ‘Better Batavia.' "

Paul Viele -- First Ward

First Ward Councilperson, local developer and businessman, Paul Viele said his focus in his upcoming term, if reelected, will be to: work with City Administration and his fellow Council members to continue their efforts to reduce crime in the City; revamp infrastructure throughout the City; focus on our local youth; and continue to keep taxes down.

“I encourage all the residents of the First Ward to continue to reach out to me with their concerns," Viele said. "I’m firmly committed to make the First Ward and the entire City of Batavia a better place for all of us to live, work and raise our families."

Viele is seeking a second four-year term this November.

Patti Pacino -- Second Ward

Second Ward Councilperson Patti Pacino, who is retired and an active volunteer with local organizations, including being a past president and current director of the local Zonta Club, stresses several ongoing issues that she will be focusing on if elected to a third full term on Council. She has been on the Council since 2010.

“Safety is my first concern for City residents," Pacino said. "We have had some real trouble (stabbing, etc.), which needs to continue to be addressed. Happily, the Police Department and the City are working together to get a handle on how to best deal with this. I am aware of two neighborhoods that are in the process of organizing groups similar to the Summit Street Neighbors who work together to keep police and each other in the know about trouble on their streets and what they can do about it. I will continue to support these efforts.

"Second, we need to continue to work on the ‘Zombie House' problem in the City, (caused by absentee landlords), to ensure our neighborhoods are not on a downfall. We have proportionately too many rentals compared to homeowner-held houses, often by landlords not willing to take responsibility for their properties.

"Third, I will continue to work with the BID organization to upgrade the business district, organizing community activities and work with business owners to upgrade our downtown area, hopefully bringing in more businesses to fill those empty buildings and make Downtown a more welcoming and prosperous area.

"Fourth I will continue to promote fiscal responsibility throughout City government. All these ideas that we’ll continue working on require financial support; my hope is to improve our area without burdening the area taxpayers.” 

Al McGinnis -- Fourth Ward

Retired military veteran and Fourth Ward Councilperson Al McGinnis is seeking a second four-year term. If reelected, Councilman McGinnis has expressed his commitment to continued efforts to enhance the quality of life for Batavia’s residents.

“We need to continue our efforts to make Batavia’s streets safe for our residents, to do all we can to increase and encourage home ownership, to renew our efforts to enforce our local codes and to continue our sidewalk and street replacement programs," McGinnis said.

"I will also continue to work with Councilperson Kathy Briggs to bring the residents of the Fourth and Fifth wards together with City Administration on a regular basis at the Holland Land Office to give our local residents an enhanced opportunity to be heard and to air their concerns to local officials.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5th. All eligible residents are encouraged to vote.

September 24, 2019 - 12:45pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, trash pickup schedule, Batavia City Council.

City Council members on Monday night took a defensive stance after a resident inquired into why his trash pickup schedule had been changed.

John Roach, speaking during the public comments portion of the Conference Meeting at City Hall, said his trash day was moved from Wednesday to Monday and when he asked the (Waste Management) driver, he was told that the change came from City officials.

“Whose idea was it to mandate (change)?” Roach asked. “Did City Council direct anybody to do this? What did they mean by required or made to do it?”

Since he was the only speaker from the public, Council’s response came quickly.

“Since we privatized garbage pickup, people complain that there is trash pickup every day of the week,” John Canale said. “We charged the city manager (Martin Moore to look into it) so we don’t have garbage picked up every day.”

After Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that this issue was discussed at a public meeting, Moore provided additional details.

“We were approached with concerns that several streets had pickups four to five days a week,” he said. “The public works director and I sat down (to see) what schedules can help reduce that down to a couple days per week.

Moore said his communication with the four trash companies was positive with three of them indicating that something could be worked out.

He said that Waste Management stated they “will handle it with their customers, and hopefully other companies will be contacting their customers. The closer we get to one or two days a week on each street, the better off we’ll be.”

Jankowski said that the people on the trucks may not be aware of what their company has done.

“At this point, the complaining will continue and we’ll address them as we can,” he said. “We’d rather not have to make an ordinance … let them (trash collection businesses) manage themselves.”

Following the meeting, Roach seemed to be taken aback by the abrupt response, telling this reporter that he wasn’t really complaining but was looking for an explanation.

September 23, 2019 - 10:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, batavia.

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Batavia City Manager Martin Moore’s recommendation to City Council to allocate $175,000 into the Facility Reserve fund tonight has put the municipality’s intention to construct a new police station back into the public eye.

Moore, reporting at Council’s Business Meeting at City Hall, presented his proposal on where to distribute $1.3 million in unassigned fund balance, targeting eight different general reserve funds – Police Equipment, Fire Equipment, Public Works, Sidewalk, Compensated Absences, Parking Lot, Administrative and Facility.

Calling the practice of funding reserves “a critical part of sound financial and project planning,” Moore centered his reasoning on a simple premise – “the more money we have on hand, the less we have to borrow.”

In the case of the Facility Reserve fund, he called for $175,000 to be added to the current balance of $123,400 in anticipation of a new police facility at a cost of $6 to $8 million, to be paid for with a mix of reserves and municipal bonding.

“There are a number of steps involved … expenses leading up to construction,” he said.

Following the meeting, City Council President Eugene Jankowski was asked to provide an update on the status of the new police station. While not identifying the property specifically, he said Council is looking a parcel in the center of the City that already is owned by the City.

A reliable source indicated that the property is the city-owned parking lot bordering Alva Place and Bank Street, the current site of the Downtown Batavia Public Market.

Back in June 2015, the parking lot was the second choice of a task force of several City residents charged with exploring sites for the new police station; a privately owned parcel at 35 Swan St. was the first choice. Task force members, at the time, said that businesses in the vicinity of the Alva Place lot opposed the idea of putting police headquarters there.

Jankowski said Council is "working to make sure that property is going to fit our needs and not affect other properties in the area, so we’re doing a study on that – an internal study."

He added that the City’s debt situation is a major factor in the timeline.

“We’ve done research on our debt and we know that a lot of our debt is going to come free – we’re going to be paying off the City Hall, we’re going to be paying off the stadium, Muckdogs (Dwyer) Stadium,” he said.

“All those things are going to be off debt and that will allow us now to take on the new debt of the police department. So, as debt comes off, the police department will go on, and we’ll have pretty much an even balance. We’re not going to borrow more money while we still owe money.”

Jankowski said the process will take about two years.

“About that time when we’re able to borrow that money, we’ll be ready to go, (and) we can start that construction,” he said. “It’s going to take another 18 months to actually build the building, so we’re talking a minimum of maybe two to two and a half years from today before we start seeing an actual building in place – hopefully.”

He said he didn’t want to disclose the site because “it would probably get people concerned that don’t need to be because we don’t know if we’re even going to do that yet. But we have a good idea where we’d like to build.”

In the meantime, Moore said that part of the Facility Reserve money would be used to repair heating, wiring, plumbing and structural work at the current police station in the old City Hall to keep the current building usable for the next five years.

“We’re planning for the worse-case scenario,” Moore said.

Summarizing his recommendations for the other reserve funds:

-- Police Equipment: Add $20,000 to the balance of $12,761 for aid in the purchase and equipping of an armored vehicle for the emergency response team (to replace its current non-armored vehicle).

-- Fire Equipment: Add $35,000 to the balance of $190,180 to support the department’s fire apparatus replacement plan (which can cost up to $1 million).

-- Public Works: Add $220,000 to the balance of $194,013 to fund a $300,000 purchase for a heavy-duty snowplow and pickup truck with a plow and spreader.

-- Sidewalk: Add $50,000 to the balance of $1,869 to facilitate replacement of more than 500 linear feet of broken sidewalk during the 2020-21 fiscal year. Moore said City crews installed 24,000 feet of sidewalk this past year.

-- Compensated Absences: Add $400,000 to the balance of $18,567 due to an expected cost of $306,000 to compensate a large number of planned retirements this fiscal year and five more who become eligible through 2023.

-- Parking Lot: Add $100,000 to the balance of $46,721.97 as the City plans to spend $135,000 on parking lot improvements from 2020-22.

-- Administrative: Add $300,000 to the balance of $4,136 to address upgrades of the City’s information technology, telephone system, computer network distribution system and cyber security needs as well as management of the City’s software conversion and repayment of a short-term bond anticipation note (BAN).

Moore also said the City plans to increase its Workers’ Compensation self-insurance fund, with a goal of in excess of $1 million due to a deductible of $750,000 per incident.

City Council agreed to move Moore’s proposal to its Business Meeting on Oct. 15, where a vote on the resolution is expected.

The board also advanced to the Business Meeting the following resolutions:

-- Acceptance of a pair of grants to the fire department – one for $4,762 to purchase outside noise-cancelling wireless communication headsets and the other for $3,200 to support the child safety seat program.

-- Permanently keeping four 400-watt light fixtures, at an annual cost of $700, on Central Avenue, Watson Avenue and State Street – lights that originally were rated at 100 watts. DPW Director Matt Worth said that National Grid requires City Council action to make this happen, noting that the wattage was increased to deter criminal activity and with the safety of officers in mind.

-- Authorizing an easement for Charter/Time Warner to install underground communication cable in the Court Street parking lot, along the property line of businesses on Main Street that currently do not have high-speed communication access.

-- Amending the zoning code to include self-storage facilities in I-1 and I-2 zones and setting a public hearing for Nov. 12. This became an issue about eight months ago when Peter Yasses (54 Cedar St. LLC) requested to erect a self-storage business on Cedar Street, across from the DeWitt Recreation Area.

The City Planning & Development Committee and Genesee County Planning Department reviewed the request and recommend permitting public storage units/building in the Industrial zones with the issuance of a special use permit.

-- Authorization of a lease agreement with Batavia Players theatrical troupe for three parcels at the City Centre, an agreement that calls for the nonprofit organization to pay rent on a scale ranging from $1 per square foot to $4 per square foot over the life of the (renewable) five-year contract.

Batavia Players is looking to lease 11,000 square feet downtown, fulfilling plans outlined in the City’s 2012 Community Improvement Plan and 2017 Comprehensive Plan and, more recently, as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said that the City would receive $187,884 in rent over the five years, but would lose $77,364 in mall merchant fees that would be passed on to taxpayers. The net amount coming into City coffers would be $110,520.

The lease calls for Batavia Players to pay for any improvements and utility bills and to purchase liability insurance.

Jankowski said he understood Bialkowski’s concerns over the loss of mall merchant fees but was in favor of the deal.

“As long as we are breaking above even,” he said. “In five years, we can always re-evaluate it.”

Council Member John Canale said he heard that Batavia Players may be interested in buying the property, a move that would be welcomed by City Council.

Photo at top: Council Member Robert Bialkowski reads a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12) as members of the City Fire Department look on. Chief Stefano Napolitano, in white shirt at left, said he is "blessed to have an amazing group of people" in the department and thanked the City water, police, and building codes employees for the work they do in supporting the firefighters. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

September 10, 2019 - 9:26am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

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Byron resident James Thorman has seen the adverse effects of mental health issues, having lost two of his children to suicide in 2011.

“I am a surviving parent of teenager suicide; in our case, the suicide death of our 14-year-old daughter led to the suicide death of our 23-year-old daughter,” Thorman told Batavia City Council members Monday night during the public comments portion of the board’s meeting at City Hall.

The tragic events took place within six weeks of each other, Thorman told this reporter. His daughter, Caroline, 14, died on May 3, and his daughter, Amber, 23, succumbed on June 14.

He has a son, Adam, who is Amber’s twin.

Now, Thorman, via what he calls a Planning Committee of Parents and Teenager teams, is reaching out to the public and business sector to “discuss strategies for a set of projects, including enrichment and suicide prevention.”

Thorman informed Council members that he wishes to advance this committee into school districts and mental health systems in an effort to bring to light the ever-increasing grip of mental health disorders.

“Our goal is to have this committee represent parents and teenagers (to) organize projects they would like to see given community support,” he said. “There are good strategies which will end with being a help to other families and provide added resources for the mental health and well-being of persons in treatment plans.”

Thorman’s hope is that the community – not only, Batavia, but Genesee County as well -- will partner with his committee through governmental, civic and business support.

“I am looking for small business owners to display this sign (about the committee meeting times) for two weeks, then change the location to a different small business,” he said. “I have tried to get help from the franchises and corporations, with no one willing or able to do this.”

He said the planning committee is scheduled to meet every third Thursday at 6 p.m. at Richmond Memorial Library, adding that all – including those who have no family mental health history – are welcome to attend.

Thorman also has drafted a letter to the Genesee County Legislature that also includes reaching out to veterans with mental health needs.

“The delivery system that should work well with teenagers but (also with veterans) in the same way because there are the same relationships within the family,” he said. “It conveys the motive or intent of saying ‘you mean a lot to us’ to the person suffering with mental health issues."

Thorman also noted that any projects put forth by the planning committee could be used by mental health agencies in their programming.

“Hopefully, this will provide future value to social workers,” he said. "It's along the lines of mining the data."

His comments at Monday’s meeting were well-received by City Council.

“Please bring your projects in front of Council, case by case, and we will do what we can to help you,” said Council President Eugene Jankowski.

Photo: A sign that currently is being displayed at The Spa at Artemis on Main Street, Batavia. It will be moved to another business in two weeks.

[[email protected] planning committee -- 4 teenaged issues solutions]

September 9, 2019 - 9:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Redfield Parkway pillars.

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The Batavia City Council tonight, with new Councilman At-Large Jeremy Karas on board, voted to accept a $46,000 bid from Catenary Construction Corp. of Rochester to repair the deteriorating pillars at the south end of Redfield Parkway.

The vote was 8-1 in favor, with Rose Mary Christian casting the negative vote.

The accepted bid from Catenary is $24,000 less than what Council set aside to rehabilitate the city-owned structure.

Matt Worth, Department of Public Works director, reported that Catenary will remove about 30 percent of the existing stone and all of the border work.

A memo to Worth from Kurt Schnarr of In.Site: Architecture of Perry indicates that a third of the existing stone is damaged and will be removed and replaced with new stone to match. The existing exposed electrical conduit will be removed and rerouted to be concealed within the pillar cavity, and the existing light fixtures will be removed, salvaged and reinstalled.

Schnarr recommended Catenary, as did Councilman Robert Bialkowski, who said the Catenary is a “highly respected masonry company … and I feel they’ll do a good job.”

Christian said it was “wrong taking taxpayers’ money for this” and suggested that Redfield Parkway residents should pay for it, noting that they receive free tickets from Batavia Downs.

Council President objected, questioning that “because they get income from some private entity” they should have to pay?

“It is city property … we own it and are responsible for it,” he said.

Before official business commenced, Karas, a resident of Union Street, was sworn in to replace fellow Republican Adam Tabelski, who recently stepped down after his wife, Rachael, was hired as the assistant city manager.

Following the meeting, Karas, service manager for Temp-Press Inc. of Rochester, said he moved to Batavia about 15 years ago. Prior to that, as an Elba resident, he said he was involved in local government committees and the volunteer fire department and hoped that eventually he could become a public servant.

Karas, 40, said he is “very excited to see a lot of the downtown revitalization initiatives that have been coming into light recently … as a fairly young member of the community with young children as well, I plan on being here a long time and I look forward to helping them out, trying to shape the future of Batavia and make this a great place for many other families to live for years to come.”

Karas and his wife, Andrea, a kindergarten teacher at Oakfield-Alabama Central School, have two boys, both of them pupils at St. Joseph’s School in Batavia.

In other action, Council:

-- Voted unanimously to approve a pair of $20,000 grant request from the City’s Revolving Loan Fund to assist projects of Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, and Stephen Valle and Carrie and John Lawrence, owners of a hair salon/apartment building at 242 Ellicott St. (at the corner of Liberty Street).

Clark is expanding his business with a building across the street from his existing business and the grant money would be used to add an attractive and functional front porch façade to the new bulding, while Valle/Lawrence is renovating their 3,400-square-foot building, with the City grant to be used to complete the entire façade and renovate one of the two upstairs apartments.

-- Voted 9-0 to waive the residency requirement for City Firefighter Ferdinando Papalia, citing circumstances that would create an undue hardship for the employee.

Photos at top -- The Batavia 9-10-year-old Little League team was honored with a proclamation for winning the district and sectional titles and advancing to the state tournament. In back row are coaches Paul Viele, Mark Fitzpatrick and Scott Nemer; front from left, Chase Antinore, Champ Buchholz, Dominic Viele, Parker Lazarony, Casey Mazur, Ty Gioia, Grady Hemer, Julius Santiago, Connor Malone, Evan Fitzpatrick and Finn Davies. Unable to attend were players Will Stevens and Jonah Motyka, Head Coach Sam Antinore and Assistant Coach Ben Buchholz. In second photo, Charles "Chuck" Neilans is honored upon his retirement after 30 years of service as the chief operator of water for the city. Council member Kathleen Briggs reads the proclamation. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

September 9, 2019 - 2:36pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

jeremy-karas-temppress-1_a.jpgThe Batavia City Council tonight is expected to appoint Jeremy Karas, a longtime active member of the City Republican Committee, to the Councilperson-at-Large seat recently vacated by Adam Tabelski.

Karas, service manager for Temp-Press Inc. of Rochester and a former field service technician for Graham Manufacturing, was selected by the committee last month.

The seat became available when Tabelski resigned due to the hiring of his wife, Rachael, as the city’s assistant manager.

“Jeremy has been a member of the Republican Party and City (Republican) Committee for quite a while and has been very active,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski, who served on the selection committee. “He’s just a hard-working guy.”

City Republican Committee Chair David Saleh concurred.

"I've worked with Jeremy over the last several years and was really excited when he said he was interested in the seat," Saleh said. "He is a very thoughtful person -- with a very good mind -- and he will make a great addition to City Council."

Upon his appointment, Karas would be eligible to serve on the board until the November 2020 election. With a victory next year, he then would have to run again in November 2021 as all three City Council at-large seats will be up for election.

Tonight’s City Council Business meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Centre Council Board Room.

August 13, 2019 - 10:12am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Ellicott Station.

March 15, 2016.

That was the date when community leaders gathered excitedly at the former Soccio & Della Penna Construction and Santy’s Tire Sales properties at 56-70 Ellicott St. to hear Samuel J. Savarino, CEO of Savarino Cos. of Buffalo, share details of a $20 million development featuring office, retail, residential and entertainment space.

The project has come to be known as Ellicott Station and it is the centerpiece of the City of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative effort in its 366-acre Brownfield Opportunity Area.

Fast forward to today and – although much may be going on behind the scenes – nothing has been done at the site. City officials are still waiting for that shovel to be put into the ground.

The lack of progress has prompted City Manager Martin Moore to write a letter of support to the commissioner of the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal and has some City Council members scratching their heads. Their disillusionment was apparent at Monday night’s Council meeting.

“I’m very disappointed in the developer,” Council Member Robert Bialkowski said. “There’s broken glass, windows missing … the property is becoming worse by the day. It’s an eyesore. What kind of landlord is he going to be?”

Council President Eugene Jankowski agreed that he is concerned, saying that “we have given him enough leeway.”

He also noted that there are many components to be considered and thought that one area of red tape involved funds tied up by HCR.

The board voted, 6-2, in favor of Moore sending the letter to Ruthanne Visnauskas, HCR commissioner. Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted no.

Moore’s letter points out that the project “will positively impact the City by providing mixed-income (including affordable) housing, brownfield remediation and reuse of a blighted site, right in the heart of the City.”

It goes on to state that the site “has been directly noted in the (DRI) as a high priority project that should be fully supported” and that it “aligns with the HCR’s mission to build and support affordable housing.”

The letter ended with Moore writing “I hope that you will seriously consider ensuring that this project proceeds with the support of HCR.”

Following the meeting, Christian said that the inactivity has gone on for much too long.

“He’s (Savarino) received millions already – the property is a disaster – and he wants more money,” she said. “Where is the money that he has received? Is there any accountability?”

August 13, 2019 - 8:58am

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Grants – acceptance of, consideration of and application for – were the order of the day (actually, night) at Batavia City Council’s joint Conference and Business meeting on Monday at City Hall.

Resolutions pertaining to various grants, including a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative award to make the Jackson Square entertainment spot more attractive, as well as those dealing with the repair of the Redfield Parkway pillars and the filling of vacancies on the police department kept things moving during the 90-minute session.

Department of Public Works Director Matt Worth reported that the City is required to enter into a detailed contract with the Department of State in order to release the three quarters of a million dollars from the $10 million DRI award bestowed on the City.

Plans call for the funds to be used to “enhance the enjoyment of the area (by) improving the street surface, lighting and other amenities during events,” Worth wrote in his Aug. 3 memo to City Manager Martin Moore.

Worth said the project has a “five-year window” for completion and added that he hoped that the design phase could take place next summer with construction completed sometime in 2021. This will be the first in what should be a long list of DRI projects in the City.

Council voted unanimously to move forward with the Department of State contract.

The board also approved acceptance of a National Grid Urban Center/Commercial District Revitalization Program grant of $165,000 to improve the City Centre Campus.

According to Rachael Tabelski, who is transitioning from economic development director to assistant city manager, the project will consist of a feasibility study, architectural services, roof replacement in separate areas, energy-efficient indoor lighting, painting and other repairs.

The award is a 3:1 matching grant, Tabelski said, that will be matched with committed City money along with funds from New York State Empire State Development Feasibility Grant, ESD DRI City Center Grant and Department of State DRI Grant for Harvester Theater 56.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved Police Chief Shawn Heubusch’s request to add two more officers to the staff, authorizing the recruits’ training ahead of a pair of anticipated retirements in order to shorten the time period between the retirements and their replacements.

Heubusch (in his memo to Moore) proposed hiring two officers this fall and sending them to the police academy next month.

“This way, the officers will be near completion in their field training process during the spring/summer of 2020,” he wrote.

He said currently three recruits are at the police academy and four are in field training, which leaves a shortage on the streets.

Considering the two impending retirements, Moore advised that there would be no additional cost to the city but could result in a savings of up to $13,000.

-- Accepted a $10,500 grant from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles for police traffic services, specifically to increase seat belt usage; agreed to Heubusch applying for a federal grant supporting an additional detective position for four years to address narcotics issues, and voted in favor of establishing a police K-9 program with support from business and individual donations.

-- Received an update from Worth on the rehabilitation of the pillars on the south end of Redfield Parkway. The City’s budget includes $70,000 out of the facilties reserve to repair the structures.

Wroth said bids went out on Aug. 1 and will be opened on Aug. 27. He expects Council to act on the matter at its Sept. 9 Business meeting, and said construction could start either this fall or next spring.

At least one Council member said she may vote against it.

“If it’s over $70,000, I’ll disapprove of it,” Rose Mary Christian said. “I disapproved of it from the beginning because it is taxpayer money.”

-- Moved to the next business meeting a pair of $20,000 grant requests from the City’s Revolving Loan Fund by Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, and by Stephen Valle and Carrie and John Lawrence, owners of a hair salon/apartment building at 242 Ellicott St. (at the corner of Liberty Street).

Clark is expanding with a building across the street from his existing business and the grant money would be used to add “an attractive and functional front porch façade to this new building,” Tabelski said.

She reported that Clark has received tax incentives ($37,000) from the Genesee County Economic Development Center, including Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), which will result in Clark paying $28,000 into the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity (BP2) fund over the next 10 years and another $28,000 to the three taxing jurisdictions (City of Batavia, Batavia City School District and Genesee County).

Tabelski said the project will retain 10 employees and add one or two employees while generating an estimated $16,000 in additional sales tax revenue.

The Valle/Lawrence projects centers on renovation of the 3,400-square-foot building, with the City grant earmarked for completion of the entire façade and renovation of one of the two upstairs apartments.

Previously, the trio received $22,050, about a third of the project cost, in grant funds from the Batavia DRI-Building Improvement Fund.

Tabelski noted that the property is in the flood plain, where it is “difficult to reinvest” and the project “encourages downtown living.”

While Council members Kathleen Briggs and Paul Viele stated their support for this plan, Christian disagreed.

“There are a couple apartments in that building … why can’t they take care of their own?” she asked. “We have to take care of our houses.”

Tabelski responded that the City is advancing its homeowner assistance program and that about 70 residents have expressed interest in it, to which Christian nodded affirmatively.

Photo at top -- Police Chief Shawn Heubusch congratulates Joshua Girvin after the recruit's swearing in at Monday night's City Council meeting. Girvin, an Albion resident, starts the second phase of the police academy today and is expected to join the police force in a few months. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 26, 2019 - 8:27am

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The opportunity to put some underutilized property back on the tax rolls and spur additional economic development has Batavia City Council members reacting positively to a proposed zoning change that would recognize public storage units within the Batavia Municipal Code.

Council, during Monday night’s Conference meeting, voted to move forward to its July 8 Business meeting a resolution that would include public storage units in Industrial zones contingent upon obtaining a special use permit.

Back in January, Peter Yasses, of Byron, had requested the change in order for him to construct a storage unit facility on vacant property at 54 Cedar St.

His petition was reviewed and supported by the Batavia Planning & Development Committee, which issued a definition of public storage units as a building or buildings comprised of separate rental units of varying size, with or without outside storage, for private storage of personal property by the general public.

Curiously, public storage units were not included in any zoning regulations currently on the books.

“The zoning change is to include public storage units as an allowed use,” said Matt Worth, Department of Public Works director. “They had not been identified in any of the zones prior to this.”

Worth said that City Council can proceed in one of three ways – accept the PDC recommendation “as is” and forward to the Genesee County Planning Board for review, make changes which can be sent directly to county planners, or send the proposal back to the PDC for its review and comment before going to county planners.

Once signed off by all, a public hearing and local law resolution would be the final steps to adopting the zoning modification, said Worth, adding that public storage units would have to be at least 100 feet away from residential property.

Contacted by telephone on Tuesday afternoon, Yasses said he formed 54 Cedar LLC for the purpose of placing six or eight storage units over time on the 7-acre lot across from the DeWitt Recreation Area.

“I bought the land last year and we plan to clean it up and make it look really nice. We want it to look good for the city,” he said.

Yasses, who also owns Yasses Trucking & Construction, said he is waiting for permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation – he believes that remedial work will not be necessary – and for final approval from Genesee County and City planners and Council.

“I would like to put two or three out there to start,” Yasses said, adding that he thinks he will name the business Cedar Street Self-Storage. “With Guy Clark (owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rental) putting up a warehouse next door, the area will look much nicer.”

Yasses said his investment will surpass a half-million dollars when considering that he has to remove numerous trees, strip the topsoil and bring in gravel and stone for the base before starting construction of the units.

“It will be something that in two or three years the City will be proud of,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

He also is planning a similar project for Route 237 in Byron -- north of Route 262.

In other action, Council moved the following items for consideration next month:

-- Resolutions to contract with Grove Roofing Services Inc. of Buffalo in the amount of $664,080 to replace the leaking City Centre Mall concourse roof and to use an additional $100,000 from the Facility Reserve fund to cover both the base bid ($509,680) and the alternate 1 bid ($154,400).

According to Worth, the base bid includes the central, east and north concourse areas and is within the existing budget funds while the alternate 1 bid covers the south and southwest concourse.

“We’re looking at a full transformation, except for the hallway near Dan’s Tire Service and the entryway silo,” Worth said.

The City received four bids for the project, with Grove Roofing coming in at more than $100,000 less than the next lowest bidder. Worth said he is confident in Grove’s ability to tackle such an extensive project.

Council President Eugene Jankowski expressed the sentiment of the entire board when he stated, “We want to see those buckets go away!”

-- Scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. July 8 for the City to act as a “pass through” for Genesee Dental to apply for a NYS Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant.

Patrick Krough, DDS, Genesee Dental owner, is looking to relocate from the City Centre Mall to the former Continental Beauty building at 215 E. Main St. and expand his practice.

According to Rachael Tabelski, Batavia Development Corp. director of economic development, Genesee Dental plans to invest $1.3 million in rehabilitation of the vacant structure and create 18 new full-time equivalent jobs.

Tabelski said the City is eligible to apply CBDG funds to support economic development project that create jobs in low-to-moderate income areas, and this Genesee Dental project fits into that scheme.

The relocated Genesee Dental office would be next to the proposed Healthy Living Campus (YMCA, United Memorial Medical Center offices) that is targeted to receive funding through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative).

Tabelski said the City will not have to pay for the CBDG application since Genesee Dental is funding the preparation of the paperwork on behalf of the City. The BDC will assist by providing in-kind services, she noted.

-- A resolution to contract with LaBella Associates to submit an application for a $250,000 Brownfield Opportunity Area Pre-Development grant to fund environmental and engineering studies, real estate services, and marketing and research, etc., for the City Centre, Bank Street/Healthy Living Corridor and Harvester (Avenue) Campus.

Tabelski said the BOA Pre-Development Grant is being offered by New York State for the first time, adding that the City will have to pay $3,500 for professional grant writing services and would be responsible for a 10-percent match of the awards (to be covered by in-kind services such as project management, meetings, marketing and communications).

In a related development, Council will consider providing grants from the BDC’s Revolving Loan Fund to go toward projects in the BOA, City Priority Economic Development and Building Improvements.

That resolution calls for two-thirds of the fund to be available for grants of a maximum of $20,000 and one-third of the fund to be available for small business loans. Currently, there is around $400,000 in the RLF, with about $250,000 of that in cash.

Photo: View looking south on Cedar Street, with the tree-laded lot owned by Peter Yasses on the right and the sign for the DeWitt Recreation Area on the left. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 25, 2019 - 9:09am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Batavia Community Garden.

The chair of the Batavia Community Garden advisory board called into question City Council's policy decisions in light of a proposed amendment to the Batavia Municipal Code pertaining to residency requirements for new municipal employees.

Speaking during a public hearing at Monday night's City Council meeting at City Hall Council Chambers, Deborah Kerr-Rosenbeck spoke of a double-standard as she compared the rules that govern advisory board membership with the proposal to relax residency requirements for those who work for the City.

“It seems like talking out of both sides of our faces,” she said. “The Community Garden (at 12 MacArthur Drive, next to the Batavia Youth Bureau) was started by people who don’t live in the City. You need to be consistent in your policies.”

Kerr-Rosenbeck was referring to the fact that a couple members of the Community Garden advisory board had to give up their positions after it was discovered by City Manager Martin Moore that they were not City residents, which is in violation of the City Charter.

One of those members is Robert Gray, a Batavia native who moved to Stafford in 1996. He was a cofounder of the Community Garden in 2011 and has been instrumental in its success.

Gray, speaking after Kerr-Rosenbeck, said he was offended by his removal (he and Carol Boshart, of Corfu, since have been allowed to continue as nonvoting "advisory" members).

“I have put in over 100 hours per year as a volunteer and now I can’t be on the committee,” he said. “Really? Really?”

He pointed out that the group was unable to conduct official business on a couple occasions because it didn’t have a quorum (of voting members) and requested that City Council review its policy as it is “detrimental” to the City.

The public hearing was necessary since City Council wishes to amend the City Municipal Code pertaining to the residency of new municipal employees. Changes focus on expanding the geographical area around the city where new employees may live to include any adjacent town to Genesee County within six months of the date of conclusion of the probationary period for the City.

The employee also would be required to live within these areas for the duration of his or her employment.

City Attorney George Van Nest pointed out that City Council has the power to amend the Municipal Code, which governs employees, but has no authority when it comes to amending the City Charter, which covers volunteer boards.

Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that a Charter review is a separate, more extensive process, but it could be “something we might want to consider” as it is his hope to rectify the situation with the Community Garden advisory board.

Council Member Patti Pacino said she understood that the rules of the City Charter were drawn up by City residents, but disagreed with the outcome.

“I don’t like it,” she said.

(As an FYI, John Roach, of Batavia, who once served on the City Charter Commission, said that residency requirements were instituted for advisory boards because “we didn’t want people from Cheektowaga, for example, serving on our Zoning, Planning, Housing or Audit advisory boards. The Community Garden is a casualty of this.”)

Council Member John Canale said he was concerned over how the decision to remove Gray and Boshart was communicated to them, which prompted a response from Jocelyn Sikorski, Youth Bureau director and Community Garden coordinator.

“When Marty realized that two members lived outside of the City, we had a meeting with them to explain the circumstances, and made them both advisory members, liaisons,” she said. “This left two vacancies and changed their roles.”

Sikorski said both have been “key players” and noted that “we call Bob ‘the Almighty’ when it comes to the committee.”

The conversion then turned back to the proposed amendment to the City Municipal Code with Council Member Rose Mary Christian stating that employees should have a vested interest in the community and should live in the City or in Genesee County.

“In case we need them, if an emergency, they’re not so far away,” she said.

Jankowski said the amendment allowing for employees to live a few minutes outside the county is “kind of a compromise … which the department heads took into consideration.”

Public Works Director Matt Worth confirmed Jankowski’s view, noting that one employee lives in Attica – “the edge of where we are comfortable (to have employees live).”

June 24, 2019 - 11:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

paladino_honored.jpg

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The Batavia City Council presented proclamations to the family of Michael Paladino Jr. and to Ralph Bush for their heroic acts earlier this month.

In the top photo, Council Member Patti Pacino reads the proclamation extolling the action of Paladino, who "gave his life for another" when he went to the aid of a woman who was being assaulted by a man in the City on June 1. From left are his daughter, Tea; son, Sonny; partner Rebecca Fili; sister, Macy; and mother, Mary Jo Fay.

In the bottom photo, Council President Eugene Jankowski reads the proclamation honoring Mr. Bush as Officer Darryle Streeter looks on. Bush, a former Military Police, was cited for his "quick action that saved the life" of Officer Streeter when he managed to free a gun from a would-be assailant during a traffic stop early in the morning on June 5.

Bush had just finished his shift at O-At-Ka Milk Products when he saw the suspect and the officer engaged in a physical altercation.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

June 24, 2019 - 10:21pm

The Batavia City Council tonight agreed to consider a proposed five-year agreement to provide School Resource Officer services to the Batavia City School District -- something Police Chief Shawn Heubusch believes is long overdue.

Heubusch elaborated on a recent memo he sent to Council about the Memorandum of Understanding that he and City School District Superintendent Christopher Dailey developed, with the hope of the board’s approval at its next Business meeting on July 8.

Tonight’s meeting was a combination Conference and Business meeting at City Hall Council Chambers and set the stage for a pair of public hearings for the July 8 meeting – one to support a NYS Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant requested by Genesee Dental and the other to advance $25,000 in funds earmarked for Dwyer Stadium repairs a year earlier than originally appropriated.

On the subject of an SRO for Batavia, Heubusch said he was a bit puzzled as to why the largest district in Genesee County was the only one not to have a designated officer.

“Yes, it does surprise me a little bit. In speaking with Sheriff (William) Sheron over at the county, our actual agreement kind of mirrors what they’re doing with their different school districts so it only makes sense,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of calls for service at the school, just because there’s a large population in the City when school is in session. It is a little surprising that we haven’t had an SRO until this time, but it is much needed.”

In his memo, Heubusch outlined numerous benefits to having an SRO for Batavia schools, including: student/faculty safety, of course; along with enforcement; relationship building and communication with law enforcement; counseling services; tackling issues involving substance abuse and peer pressure; conflict resolution; and crisis training and response.

The chief said he has applied for grants and tried to fund the position through the budget process, but has been unsuccessful.

“So this year, the superintendent and I sat down and put our heads together and came up with a pretty good Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding, I believe, where the school district and the City share the cost of the school resource officer proportionately,” he said.

Heubusch said the MOU calls for the school district to pay 83 percent of the cost of an entry-level police officer and the City to pay 17 percent. That 83/17 split would remain the same for the life of the contract.

“It stays with that percentage throughout the life of the agreement (five years), so it kind of guarantees some longevity to the program,” he said. “The hopes would be that in five years or four years we renegotiate that contract, come up with another contract that will take us out another five years.”

The agreement starts with one SRO in year one, but increases to two in year two, and three in year three, Heubusch said.

“The idea is to get the three school resource officers for the district – one being assigned to the high school, one being assigned to the middle school and the third one floating between the elementary and parochial school,” he said.

Since the SRO would be a City Police Department officer, he or she could be recalled by the Chief if needed.

“As the agreement calls for, if there is an emergency situation and we need to recall that officer for whatever it may be – our staffing is short or we have a major incident – there is some notification that takes place with the school district, but we’d be able to recall that officer in an emergency situation,” Heubusch said.

“The intent is to make sure that officer is present (in the school) as much as possible – 100 percent of the time, quite honestly, (from September through June) in the school district to do the job that they’re there to do. I don’t foresee us having to recall that officer on a regular occasion.”

City Manager Martin Moore reported to Council that the SRO would have a vehicle, adding to the department’s inventory.

Council unanimously moved the proposal to the July 8th Business meeting.

In other action, Council approved a National Night Out event for 6-8 p.m. Aug. 8 at City Church at St. Anthony’s on Liberty Street. Part of a community-building campaign that promotes police/community partnerships and neighborhood relationships, it is free to the public. Food and refreshments will be provided.

Watch for more coverage of tonight's City Council meeting on Tuesday.

June 12, 2019 - 5:17pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, National Grid, Batavia City Council.

The Batavia City Council may consider exploring a “brighter” future for its residents through participation in the National Grid LED Streetlight Conversion program.

At Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Hall, the board heard from Paul Gister, customer and community management manager for National Grid, who presented three options designed to save money and direct more light upon city streets.

Gister said the power company offers three options for towns and villages in Upstate New York.

In this case, the City can:

-- Purchase the lighting system owned by National Grid;
-- Opt-in when a high-pressure sodium fixture fails and replace it with an LED;
-- Pay the net book value of its remaining high-pressure sodium fixtures on roadway lighting only (not decorative or post-top lamps) and change it to LED.

“There are currently 946 fixtures owned and maintained by National Grid that could be converted to LED, with the net book value of about $1.50 per head,” Gister said. “That puts the value at around $1,500.

“Since the value is less than the energy efficient dollars that National Grid would pay out (that would be a viable option for Batavia).”

Gister said that National Grid pays in the $50 to $100 range per fixture for LED conversions, which translates into at least $47,000 in incentives to the City.

He also noted that National Grid would provide the labor for the conversions while City officials would choose the wattage (or strength) of the LED bulbs, which provide better lighting more efficiently.

The program started in Massachusetts about four years ago, Gister said, and came to Upstate New York in 2016 after authorization by the NYS Public Service Commission.

The Town of Batavia was one of the first municipalities to sign up for the program (in 2017) and since then 10 towns and villages in this area have converted, Gister said.

“And the remaining 40 or so are somewhere in the process – either considering it or getting ready for conversion,” he said.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski touted the savings, improved lighting and incentives as reason to discuss the matter further.

Council Member Adam Tabelski noted that many communities are buying back the complete light fixtures from National Grid and finding significant savings.

“I’d like to look at both options, and if any analysis has been done, I’d like to see it,” he said. “If we owned the infrastructure, maybe we would realize more savings.”

To which Jankowski replied that Council should look at all the options.

Gister said he hopes that Council would eventually provide National Grid with a recommendation and move forward with the LED conversion. If that happens, the utility would bill the City for the net value of the fixture heads, approximately $1,500.

June 10, 2019 - 11:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, GO ART!, GO OUT!.

City Council gave its blessing to a GO OUT! parade and picnic on June 28th in conjunction with Pride Month 2019, challenging the views of a Batavia resident who addressed the board during tonight's (Monday) Business meeting at City Hall Council chambers.

“I request that you deny the license for the permit,” said the Rev. Henry Pokrywa, pastor of Faith Community Chapel on Rose Road. “I don’t feel that public streets should be used to display anyone’s sexuality, whatever that may be.”

Gregory Hallock, executive director of Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!) and leader of the GO OUT! group that promotes LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) causes, filed the application for the event, which will run from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

The parade is set to begin at Austin Park and proceed on Washington, Ellicott and Richmond avenues before ending on Bank Street, near the GO ART! building.

Following the parade, activities will take place on Bank Street near Alva Place. A DJ will provide music and there will be games. Alcoholic beverages will be available, but only on GO ART! premises, according to the application.

Hallock thanked City Council for approving the festival and then listened as Pokrywa questioned its validity.

“The gentleman (Hallock) said that this (local Pride movement) has grown,” Pokrywa said, noting that the parade will include floats. “I don’t know the standards, but I’m pretty sure there should be public decency and morality standards. There will be children there.”

Pokrywa said he was “not against anybody” but when it comes to “public morality, we have to decide where we draw that line.”

Lauren Berger, of Mount Morris, a training coordinator for RESTORE sexual assault services, followed Pokrywa to the podium, reporting statistics that indicate an increase in sexual violence and harassment against those who identify as LGBTQ+ and calling for Batavia to assist in getting the word out to help these people.

“Batavia can be the answer to the LGBT desert,” she said.

After that, four Council members spoke in favor of the parade and picnic.

“I don’t want to deny any group,” Rose Mary Christian said. “Thousands of people (enlisted men and women) have died for us to have this freedom.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski said “we know what (gay pride parades) look like, and we’re going to be better than that (and not discriminate),” adding that any violence would be addressed.

“We’re not going to single out people,” Kathleen Briggs said. “We always give our approval.”

And Patti Pacino advised that “you don’t have to be part of the LGBT community to be part of the parade.”

“I will be in the parade, and I’m very straight.”

The GO OUT! event was one of several items discussed by Council, preceding the board’s passage of seven resolutions on the meeting’s agenda.

City Manager Martin Moore reported that, after meeting with Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and department heads, that he is forming a crime task force to tackle the recent spate of violence.

“Our goal is that we don’t want these types of individuals (criminal element from outside the area) in our city and decisive actions will be taken,” Moore said. “The bottom line is that it is unacceptable for our citizens to not feel safe to walk out of their front doors.”

Residents have been on edge in recent weeks as a result of several incidents, including the fatal stabbing of a man outside his home on Ross Street after he went to the aid of a woman who was in a physical altercation with a man.

Moore said that the task force will get started within the next couple and is expected to include leadership from Genesee County, including the district attorney’s office.

“There is going to be a lot of work. We don’t have a committee just to do committees,” he said, adding that he will keep City Council informed throughout the process.

In a related development, Heubusch informed Council members that he is hoping to fill a void in his department by hiring three new police officers by early July.

He said he has a substantial list of candidates who scored well on the Civil Service exam, with an eye of sending the top three – after an extensive interview and background check process – to the police academy in Erie County on Aug. 5.

“Still, even if we hired three officers today, it would be about a year until we could put them on the street,” he said, noting that the academy runs for five months and is followed by four months of field training.

Currently the department lists 33 officers, including the chief and assistant chief.

Moore also reported that a request by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to provide a social gathering place for recovering addicts at the former North Pole Restaurant at 241-243 S. Swan St. “does not fit within an R-2 (Residential) zone.”

Moore said a letter stating as such was sent to GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, but he has not received a response.

Several Council members (as well as residents in that area) went on record last month against GCASA’s proposal, and Council Member Rose Mary Christian reiterated her opposition tonight, applauding the Code Enforcement office’s conclusion.

Council also heard from North Spruce Street resident Anita Tolejko, who urged the board to do something about motorists who drive the wrong way on the one-way street, primarily from Chase Park to East Main.

She called for a “traffic study, big signs and flashing lights” to put an end to this illegal practice.

“I really don’t know, but I would like something done” (before a head-on collision takes place),” she said.

In other action, Council:

-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. June 24 (the date of the next City Council meeting) on a resolution that would relax the residency requirements for new municipal employees per the Batavia Municipal Code.

Jankowski said the amendments focus on expanding the geographical area around the city where new employees may live to include any adjacent town to Genesee County within six months of the date of conclusion of the probationary period for the City. The employee also would be required to live within these areas for the duration of his or her employment.

-- Entered into a contract with a company called three+one, of Pittsford, for cash liquidity and treasury analyses that would lead to increased returns on investments and bank accounts for the City.

The City’s cost to enter the program is $9,900, but that would be returned by three+one if the company fails to find at least $50,000 in additional savings.

The Pittsford firm previously teamed up with the Town of Batavia and Genesee County, with the county reporting significant additional income.

-- Approved agreements with the Batavia City School District that calls for the school to provide transportation of students to the new Teen City site at the former St. Anthony’s School on Liberty Street and to maintain the former City Youth Bureau at 12 MacArthur Drive.

Teen City is partnering with City Church, which owns the Liberty Street property, and the Genesee Area YMCA to offer an after-school youth program. It is expected to begin operation during the week of Aug. 19.

-- Authorized the appointment of City residents Nicholas Harris, Marc Staley and David Leone and Council members Robert Bialkowski and Paul Viele to the Audit Advisory Board.

May 13, 2019 - 10:00pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, GCASA.

While it doesn’t have any legal right to stop the sale of property, City Council is keeping its collective finger on the pulse of the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s proposed offer to purchase the former North Pole Restaurant at 241-243 South Swan St. and use it as a social outlet for recovering addicts.

And at least four Council members publicly stated their opposition to the potential sale tonight following comments from two neighborhood residents during its monthly meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“I would not support it,” said Council Member Paul Viele, as colleague Kathy Briggs nodded in agreement, to applause.

Moments later, Council Member Rose Mary Christian and President Eugene Jankowski also stated that they were against it. Christian brought the issue to a public forum last month at a town hall meeting at 400 Towers.

“We’re going to do everything we can to stop this,” Christian said, despite word from City Attorney George Van Nest that, at this point, “there is not a role for Council to play” in this matter.

Van Nest said that Council is “not in the business to stop a project because it may be unpopular.” He advised that it needs to play out to see if any rezoning or variance issues would materialize, and those would be handled by the proper committees (Batavia Planning & Development or Zoning Board of Appeals).

City Manager Martin Moore said that GCASA Executive Director John Bennett told him that the building, which for many years served as the St. Nicholas Social Club, would be repurposed as a “retreat or private getaway” for those recovering from substance abuse.

“Still, we have to as a City take a look at it,” Moore said, noting that the area currently is zone as R-2 Residential. “The city attorney and Department of Public Works Superintendent (Matt Worth) are requesting information regarding the use.”

Moore said the specifics of the project weren’t spelled out, and that he is pursuing a written determination to be given to City Council and to be shared with the public.

Comments from council members and management came after David Fasano and Jack Chmielowiec, longtime Southside residents, voiced their strong opposition to the plan.

“These are court-ordered drug addicts and alcoholics (and they) force them onto our neighborhood,” Fasano said. “It’s not a good fit.”

Fasano said he was against it for two primary reasons – it puts addicts in a residential neighborhood and takes property off the tax rolls.

“GCASA is not a church; GCASA is a business,” he said. “With St. Anthony’s (Church on Liberty Street), it was already off the tax rolls when City Church bought it. They’ll be using our emergency services, DPW, city attorney … and we’re paying for that.”

Chmielowiec said he was “upset that it got this far without our neighborhood knowing about it” and was surprised that anyone would even consider the location with a school (Jackson School) two blocks away and a park (Farrall Park) “less than 200 paces away.”

He called negotiations a “sneaky kind of deal right from the get-go” and said he was “offended” that neighbors weren’t notified in advance.

Earlier reports indicate that GCASA received a state grant to fund the gathering place and had about a three-month window to complete the deal, and that the current owners of the property have accepted the agency’s offer.

March 12, 2019 - 7:43am

A frequent contributor to the newspaper “Letters to the Editor” section, Town of Alabama farmer Sam Scarborough took to the spoken word at the Batavia City Council meeting Monday night to express his opposition to the New York Reproductive Health Act.

The RHA, which expands abortion rights in the state, was passed into law in January. Provisions of the measure include permitting abortions after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or the health of the mother is at risk. It also allows trained medical professionals, not only doctors, to perform abortions.

The law prompted hundreds of people – mostly pro-life advocates -- to attend recent City Council meetings and sparked an emotional debate on both sides of the abortion issue.

Ultimately, Council members decided against sending a letter drafted by Council Member Rose Mary Christian in opposition to the law to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, instead calling for residents to send individual letters to Albany.

Last night, Scarborough, who said he was unable to make the previous Council meetings, noted that 95 of the state’s 102 Democrats in the Assembly and 38 of 39 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the law.

“It is disgusting that one of the first things they did after taking over power was to make sure abortion is legal in this state all the way to birth,” he said. “Aborting after that (24 weeks) is basically killing a baby that would live (on its own).”

Scarborough stated he was a registered Republican who was “proud” of the fact that no members of his party voted for the law. He then wondered aloud if “that is what the vast majority of the Democratic party stands for we need to remove those who voted for this as soon as possible …”

He then quoted II Chronicles 16:9 from the Bible and thanked Christian for taking a stand, to which she replied, “Thank you.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski responded to Scarborough’s comments by mentioning that he spoke with Congressman Chris Collins at a function in Niagara Falls last Saturday and said that Collins “agreed that this is out of control.”

Jankowski said that Collins told him that bills are being introduced to protect the unborn but “they just blow them off.” However, Collins said, they (Republicans) don’t intend to stop.

Collins said that the best way to get a lawmaker to take notice is to show up at his or her office.

“When there’s 50 or 60 people on a bus and they all want to talk to their congressperson, it makes them very nervous,” Jankowski said. “Some of them sneak out the back door. Some of them will speak with the people. That’s how to get their attention.”

Christian reported that a Right to Life march is scheduled for May 1 in Albany, and that she is attempting to organize one for this area.

March 11, 2019 - 9:13pm

City Manager Martin Moore optimistically proclaimed that the City of Batavia is “open for business” following the passage of the municipality’s 2019-20 spending plan tonight.

“We need to be able to send a message to the rest of the state of New York and the rest of this area of the United States that we’re open for business – and I think that this budget does that, and I think very successfully,” Moore said after City Council voted 8-1 in favor of the $27.4 million budget.

The budget calls for $5.2 million to be raised by taxes, but keeps the property tax rate at $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation – the same as last year’s rate. At that rate, owners of a house assessed for $70,000, for example, would pay an annual city tax bill of $627.20.

Moore said no tax increase “was really, really important, and the other thing that I felt good about was our ability to sustain services by not increasing taxes.”

While holding the line on taxes is admirable, it isn’t good enough, said Council member Rose Mary Christian, who cast the lone “no” vote.

“I am hearing a lot of opposition … some people are against the nonprofits that we’re contributing to, the celebrations and (repair of) the pillars on Redfield Parkway,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been hearing from people.”

Christian also was the only dissenter when it came to voting on the water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Water rates and meter fees are going up by 3.5 percent and capital improvement fees are increasing by 10 percent – the same as last year’s increases.

She said her quarterly water bill, for two people, is $142 and mentioned that some single families are paying over $100.

When Council President Eugene Jankowski said that “the bill for my wife and I is $90 every three months,” Christian responded by saying “we must be washing too much or something.”

Moore responded to questions from The Batavian about Batavia’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant and the status of the Ellicott Station project – two ventures that have been in the works for quite some time.

“Five of the eight (DRI) projects are moving forward with either agreements in hand or being reviewed by the various parties,” he said. “I know that a couple of them are in design right now.”

Regarding Ellicott Station, he spoke in generalities, saying that the parties involved “are working on the financial proposals and they’re very close” and that he will be meeting with them in the next week or two.

The city manager said he was excited about the micro-grant program with the Batavia Development Corporation, noting that they’ve received 23 or 24 applicants for Main Street (downtown) grants.

“Some of those applicants BDC will take and try to get Main Street money and hopefully get even more capital improvements on Main Street,” he said. “I’m feeling very optimistic that our first set of projects will be ready to go and start construction sometime this summer.”

City Council passed a number of resolutions, including:

-- Authorizing the City to apply for a pair of National Grid grants – an urban center/commercial district revitalization grant of up to $250,000 to assist in the repair and renovation of the City Centre and a Main Street grant of $100,000 to assist in the rehabilitation of a City Centre parcel to be used by the Batavia Players.

-- The awarding of three contracts relating to the Water and Wastewater Treatment facilities.

One is for Daniels Farm of Waterport, which will pay the City $114,000 over the next three years to harvest fathead minnows from the facility at 5 Treadeasy Ave.

Another is with seven different companies which will supply chemicals needed for the operation of the water plant.

And the third is with A.D. Call & Sons of Stafford to remove and dispose of liquid lime sludge from the plant over the next two years at a cost of $6,850 per each of the two times it is required.

-- Permitting a shared services agreement with the state Department of Transportation that would allow for the City and DOT to assist each other with equipment, materials and manpower on a limited basis (maximum value of $10,000) with an emergency declaration by the governor.

Council also approved the All Babies Cherished 5K walk/run set for 9 a.m. to noon on June 8, starting and ending at Northgate Free Methodist Church’s city facility at 350 Bank St.

Moore reported that the City has received word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Insurance Services Office that it has been approved to continue participation in the Community Rating System at its current Level 7 rating.

February 26, 2019 - 8:54am

connelly_2_25_19_a.jpg

Pro-life advocates are mobilizing across the nation as many states enact laws expanding abortion rights, even to the point of fetal viability.

And their numbers are increasing, according to a new Marist poll that revealed that more Americans are identifying themselves as pro-life – with the split at 47 percent for pro-life and 47 for pro-choice compared to 38 percent pro-life and 55 percent pro-choice just a few weeks earlier.

The debate intensified in the City of Batavia over the past month following the state government’s passage of the New York Reproductive Health Act.

Numerous Batavia residents and several from out of Genesee County and even from as far as Arizona spoke out on the issue as City Council debated whether to send a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in opposition of the RHA. In the end, the board decided not to do so (see story below).

The overwhelming majority of speakers, many identifying themselves as pro-life and “followers of Jesus Christ,” urged Council to stand up for the unborn, to obey the Word of God and to send the letter.

Others contended that city officials weren’t elected to weigh in on national and state issues, especially in light that the RHA has already been put into law.

On Monday night, 17 people – a few of them for the second or third time -- addressed City Council during the public comments portion of the Conference meeting.

Following are excerpts of their speeches:

Erica O’Donnell, Batavia – A self-described political activist, she said the most effective way (to get change) is to “coordinate our actions” – getting 20-50 like-minded people to write letters, make phone calls, conduct rallies and demonstrations.

As for Council’s involvement, she said it shouldn’t be.

“This is the third meeting where the topic is taking up the time of City Council. If you send a letter, it opens up a can of worms. Let’s put this issue to bed tonight … stick to city business.”

Jim Russell, Batavia – Stating that abortion is a moral issue, he called out New York, a state that doesn’t allow capital punishment for convicted criminals, for “saying that it’s OK to have capital punishment (against) babies.”

“I believe the majority of people in this community believe in eternal life, will (someday) meet their creator and have to answer for their life.”

Ann Marie Scalia, Batavia – She implored Council to “speak for the babies who have no voice inside the womb … babies (that) are very much alive … and 100 percent they feel pain (when an abortion is performed).”

She talked about other choices – counseling and adoption – and called for Batavia to be the first sanctuary city for the unborn.

She also railed against Albany, saying the state wants to protect un-vetted illegal immigrants and that Cuomo “has done nothing for us but tax us to death.”

Raelene Christian, Batavia – Calling the RHA “disgusting,” she said that once a woman becomes pregnant, it no longer is just her body anymore – “it’s two bodies, hers and her baby’s.”

She spoke about states that have passed a “heartbeat” law to put restrictions on when an abortion can be performed and said that “pro-lifers have been ignited like never before and their voices are being heard.”

Finally, she said the question was simple. “Do not take a stand for pro-life or pro-choice, but do stand for the unborn.”

Beth Cerminara, Lancaster – Contending that Roe v. Wade is “unconstitutional and antiquated,” she said the RHA was passed “under the guise of health care but is neither health nor care … Batavia can be the first to stand against a tyrannical state governor.”

Showing photos of fetuses at 10 weeks and one week, she said they are “beautifully and wonderfully woven together by the hand of God. This is 100-percent human …. Valuable and made in the image of God.”

Then she urged Council to “repent before the Lord who can save you from your sins … no more excuses; stop murder in Batavia.”

Susan Sherman, Batavia – The director of All Babies Cherished on Ellicott Street said her staff supports 300 clients annually with maternal needs, mentoring and other services. “We’re here to help women and girls who are dealing with unwanted pregnancy by offering “life choices.”

She also said that it’s a law that “you can’t touch a feral cat but we can kill an infant through nine months of pregnancy.”

In closing, she asked “how do we deal with these women who go through these procedures? Some had abortions 40 years ago and they’re still hurting (emotionally).”

Mona Doyon, Batavia – An employee at All Babies Cherished, she credited a teacher at Notre Dame High School for her pro-life stance, which gave her the courage to “choose life” when she became pregnant.

“God is calling each of you to take a stance … a chance to make a real difference,” she said to Council.

“When you say the Our Father (prayer before Council meeting), you can’t just say those words. It’s 'His kingdom come' not ours.”

John Speed, Syracuse – “I believe that you guys have the courage to do the right thing … make Batavia a sanctuary city for the unborn,” he said.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and we need to fear God more than we fear men, more than we fear Cuomo, some guy on Facebook or Planned Parenthood. Fear the One who you will stand before in judgment. “

He then quoted Bible passages from Proverbs 28:1 and Rev. 21:8, concluding that “I believe you can stand against this evil.”

His son, Charlie, then spoke briefly, stating “your parents chose life or you wouldn’t be here” and then quoted Romans 3:15 – “Their feet are swift to shed blood.”

Sarah Cleveland, Ohio – As someone who works in emergency room and medical situations, she said that “people across the country are watching what you are doing and praying for you.”

She said she is a foster care parent and abolitionist against abortion.

 “This is our duty as Christians – to rescue those who need saving … I never hear the words ‘emergency abortion.’ You can take a baby out without murdering the baby. There is no reason to ever murder a baby to end a pregnancy.”

Marcus Pittman, Mesa, Ariz. – Saying he is a documentary filmmaker, he called upon Council to “stop the madness” and noted that in “Arizona, Washington, D.C., and in Oklahoma people are rising up.”

He asked why people this issue is even being debated because “you guys know that a baby in the womb is a baby.”

He said he was against sending the letter – not because he was pro-choice, but that it would result in being ripped up by Cuomo.

Alex Feig, Medina – Prefacing his remarks with the Biblical view that “we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” he spoke of the “compassion, hope and help” provided by All Babies Cherished in Batavia and Care Net Center of Orleans County.

“We need to present young mothers with all of the options available (including life options),” he said.

He then said that while U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer takes a pro-choice stance for our nation, the New York representative also aligns himself with the Israeli pro-life, anti-immigration group EFRAT.

EFRAT’s mission, according to its website, is to empower women to make an informed choice about the future of their pregnancy by providing them with personal counseling, prenatal medical consultation and postnatal family support.

Judy Piscitello, Batavia – She said that Batavia has an “advantage” over other communities in becoming a sanctuary city for the unborn because United Memorial Medical Center is “a safe haven for babies and does not do surgical abortions.”

She shared several points about what a sanctuary city of this nature would mean, including:

-- All preborn babies could realize their full citizenship.
-- No doctors (etc.) could perform surgical abortions in Batavia from this day forward.
-- No minor should be taken out of the county for an abortion.
-- Law enforcement would not be compelled to cooperate (with state or federal laws re: abortion).
-- The entire city would get together for education of all ages and work with All Babies Cherished and with adoption agencies.

Chris and Brittany Connelly, Batavia – They said that Council had the “authority to do this” under the Constitution and New York Bill of Rights.

“Being a sanctuary city, the personhood would be returned to that child,” Brittany said. “There are no consequences for our actions any more … the world is going down. We support you in writing this letter … it’s a start.”

She then thanked Rose Mary Christian, the only Council member who voted to move the resolution forward to the next Business meeting, and called her “a true feminist” – sparking a loud round of applause from the crowd.

Kathy Stefani, Batavia – Addressing each Council member by first name, she said she contacted all of them by phone a few weeks ago and said that seven members “shared with me that you’re strong pro-life believers and agreed that this law is abhorrent.”

She then quoted II Timothy 1:7 (God has not given you a spirit of fear … but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind), and added that “this mighty God of the universe is a loving God … is for you, and if God is for you, which he is, who could be against you?”

Diana Kastenbaum, Batavia – Stating that she was born and raised in this city, she said that she “felt as if I am not welcome here (because) my views are different than those people.”

“I am Jewish and I am a religious person but yet I don’t feel this is Council’s place to have this theological discussion,” she said. “I think I’m a very moral person. I don’t think I am an immoral person because I am pro-choice.”

She said “we voted for you to vote on local issues” and that the laws (Roe v. Wade, RHA) are the laws and “we are all expected to uphold it.” She said she thinks that the separation of church and state was being “intermingled” here and it is “our moral imperative to keep the two separate.”

In closing, she said “I don’t think you want this to be a constant gallery to national issues …. Do your job as City of Batavia Council members and do not write this letter.”

Photo at top -- Chris and Brittany Connnelly of Batavia speak out against abortion during Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 25, 2019 - 10:53pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Reproductive Health Act.

The Batavia City Council tonight – after a second emotion-filled 90-minute public comment session at the outset of its monthly Conference meeting -- decided by an 8-1 vote not to consider a resolution drafted by Council Member Rose Mary Christian opposing the recently passed New York Reproductive Health Act.

Christian cast the only vote to move the resolution to the board’s next Business meeting, much to the chagrin of the overwhelming majority of the 125 people in attendance at the City Hall Council chambers.

The resolution, if it had been forwarded and eventually passed, would have then been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, the Supreme Court of the United States and “all others deemed necessary and proper.”

Passed into state law in January, the Reproductive Health Act: removes abortion from the state's criminal code; allows for medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions; and legalizes abortion after 24 weeks in cases where it would protect a woman's health or where a fetus is not viable. Previously, state law allowed abortions after 24 weeks only if the woman's life was at risk.

Seventeen people – 11 of them from Batavia – spoke on the issue, with 15 in favor of Council sending the letter and/or making Batavia “a sanctuary city for the unborn” and two expressing the opinion that the Council, as a local governing entity, should not be compelled to weigh in on such a polarizing debate.

Several pro-life speakers invoked Biblical passages and stern warnings of God’s judgment upon Council members while others focused on the premise that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder.

Tonight’s turnout was slightly less than the Council meeting of Feb. 11, where about 200 people turned out and 18 people spoke (with 14 in favor of the letter and four against it).

Council President Eugene Jankowski -- after hearing impassioned speeches on both sides of the issue and dousing a brief shouting match following the public comment session between Christian and Batavia resident Diana Kastenbaum, who was against the resolution – addressed the audience by stating it was his responsibility to represent the entire city and noted that the city was divided.

“It would be no difference if pro-choice people came to us and asked us to write a letter (supporting the RHA),” Jankowski said.

His words were quickly followed by someone who yelled out “coward” from the audience.

“So you don’t agree with somebody, you’re a racist or a coward,” Jankowski responded, adding that he wrote his own letter. “Packing the council room is not an indication that a majority (is in favor of the resolution).”

Council Member John Canale said he is “absolutely” opposed to the law and called it an “atrocity,” but agreed with Jankowski that it wouldn’t be prudent to send a letter that represents the entire city.

“Do we send the letter? My feelings are the same as yours, Geno,” he said. “If the pro-choice said to send a letter saying the City of Batavia and its residents support it (the law), I would be upset as well as most of the people in this room. I will write a letter as a citizen (of Batavia, not as a council member).”

Christian then said Canale “was correct in a lot of what you said except,” circling back to her convictions when it comes to abortion, “you are not standing up for the unborn.”

To which, Jankowski said there is a better way to proceed – “as individuals we have more power.”

Moments later, when Jankowski asked for his colleagues to publicly state whether to move the resolution forward to the March 11 Business meeting, and only Christian said yes, Batavian Kathy Stefani, one of the last speakers, shouted “I’m ashamed of every one of you” as she walked out of the room.

It wasn’t much longer before the rest of the pro-life crowd filed out of the meeting, visibly upset and dejected.

(Another story, featuring some of the speakers’ comments, will be filed on Tuesday).

February 11, 2019 - 10:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Batavia residents will get their chance to weigh in on the 2019-20 city budget in two weeks per a resolution passed by City Council tonight.

Following a long and heavily attended public comment session over whether it should send a letter to Albany opposing the state’s recent Reproductive Health Act (watch for a detailed report on The Batavian), Council voted on several measures, including the setting of a public hearing on the budget for 7 p.m. Feb. 25.

The proposed $27.4 million spending plan calls for $5.2 million to be raised by taxes and a tax rate of $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation, which is the same as last year’s rate.

As a result, owners of a house assessed for $70,000, for example, would face a city tax levy of $627.20 for the year.

A separate public hearing, also at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 (the date of Council’s next Conference Meeting), will address a 3.5-percent increase in water rates and meter fees, and a 10-percent increase in capital improvement fees.

A third public hearing is on for that date and time, this one dealing with the adoption of a local law amending the city sign code.

City Council also passed a resolution requesting that State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley sponsor bills that would allow Genesee County and the City of Batavia to enter into an amended and restated sales tax allocation agreement for a period not to exceed 40 years.

Other resolutions passed by unanimous vote include:

-- A measure referring the review of the zoning of public storage rental units in the Batavia Municipal Code to the City Planning & Development Committee in response to a petition from Peter Yasses, 54 Cedar Street LLC, in relation to the lack of permitted zoning use of public storage rental units.

-- A supplemental agreement with New York State that paves the way for the city to receive “back pay” along with an annual increase in payments from the state through an arterial maintenance agreement that will extend through 2049.

This agreement stems from the discovery that the City was underpaid for work it did to maintain state highways (Routes 5, 33, 63 and 98) dating back to June 1994 and is not being reimbursed enough to cover its costs going forward.

As a result, the City will receive a one-time payment from the state for $218,539.88 to take care of the underpayments and now will be paid $183,017.40 annually, an increase of $6,500.

-- The endorsement of two bonds financing installation and construction of sidewalk and traffic signal improvements on State Street, Centennial Park, Washington Avenue, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue (pathways to schools), and water system and drainage improvements along South Main Street, Brooklyn Avenue and Union Street.

Seventy-five percent of the estimated $1.1 million sidewalk project will be paid through federal funding and the previously budgeted cost of the water system project is set at $913,000.

-- An order appointing Dwight Thornton to the city’s Board of Assessment Review for a term ending on Sept. 30, 2023.

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