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Batavia City Council

July 17, 2021 - 3:26pm

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Learning that Batavia lawmakers apparently have squashed his vision of placing a disc golf course at Centennial Park is not sitting well with 27-year-old Phillip Boyd, the Hart Street resident who pitched the idea at a City Council meeting in late May.

This past Monday, Council members – responding to complaints from homeowners living near the tree-dominated park in the northwest quadrant of the community – agreed that Centennial Park is “off the table” as a potential location for a nine-hole layout for a sport that has gained in popularity in recent years.


SIDEBAR: Western New York: A Hotbed for Disc Golf


Boyd is an avid disc golfer who competes in a league at courses in the Buffalo/Niagara region and has played at courses closer to home, including one at Hartland Park in Bergen. He said he’s not giving up on his push to have a disc golf course in Batavia and sees the 14-acre parcel across from the New York State School for the Blind as the perfect place.

“I’m definitely going to still try to get it there,” he said on Friday. “The main thing that I’m disappointed in is that the argument that they have is ‘keep it a green park’ when it has never truly been a green park. And, also the idea of the traffic being around there.It’s a park. It’s not busy now and parks are typically busy.”

Boyd said numerous people have told him that Centennial Park is rarely used.

“That’s the thing that should be changed -- to actually use a giant open space, and actually use it in Batavia. We have no activities around here. There’s nothing to do; everyone has to go to Buffalo and Rochester,” he said.

“These smaller towns like Bergen, Pembroke; they can do these, but Batavia can’t. That’s why we’re so far behind and why Batavia is a declining city. We aren’t the true hub of Genesee County. Everyone’s leaving Batavia because there is nothing to do here.”

JANKOWSKI: FOLLOW THE PROCESS

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he and his colleagues do support events and activities, regularly approving requests from community organizations that are submitted to city management and staff.

“There’s a procedure and a process for these types of things and putting in a disc golf course at a city park is no exception,” Jankowski said. “Mr. Boyd was requested by Council to hand over his plans and documents to the city manager (Rachael Tabelski) for review and to get that process started, but he has yet to do so.”

Jankowski said Boyd appeared at two Council meetings, stating his case for disc golf during the public comments session.

“He was asked twice to submit the paperwork to the city manager, but instead he showed up at two City Council meetings and has yet to submit his written plans,” he said.

When this was mentioned to Boyd, he said he intends to hand in the information (sketches and a detailed course layout at Centennial Park) on Monday – July 19th, the deadline that he says he was given by Tabelski.

The Council president said his main issues with Centennial Park are that it has no facilities -- specifically bathrooms and amenities that are available at other city parks -- and that the only parking is along city streets.

“We’re willing to work with Mr. Boyd to find a better place, including working with our partners at neighboring towns and with Genesee County to try to make this happen,” Jankowski offered. “We’re not against disc golf, and are willing to look at other alternatives.”

BOYD: ‘SOME AREN’T OPEN TO CHANGE’

Boyd said he has walked the other parks in the city and finds that none of them, except maybe Williams Park (depending upon how much land the city owns at that location), would be acceptable.

“The Council president said that Centennial is off the table,” Boyd said. “If he is going to do that for 150 signatures and 12 people who showed up at the (July 12) meeting, that’s a problem. If I come with as much support as I have – a lot more than 150 signatures -- and he is still going to stand with that, then you’re not really being open to the idea of change in Batavia.”

“If Batavia is the hub of Genesee County, the lone city, we should be the one to lead the way for all the towns. Why do so many towns in our area have more activities than the city? There’s no reason for that.”

Boyd said he “feels comfortable with the amount of support he has and it’s building,” noting that he has reached hundreds of people through various social media platforms.

Jankowski questioned Boyd’s petition, which he said is on change.org.

“That’s open to anyone in the country,” he said. “How would that have anything to do with people who live here?”

DIFFERENCES OF OPINION

Residents of Ellicott Avenue and Park Place, two of the streets that border Centennial Park, came to last Monday’s meeting and urged Council to keep the park as it is – without any permanent structures other than trees – now and into the future.

Some brought up the “negatives” associated with disc park, but most were there to profess their affection for the park in its current state.

Before they had a chance to voice their opinions, however, Jankowski said that he had received information that Boyd had backed off on having the course at Centennial Park due to the neighbors’ concerns and was open to other locations.

When that was conveyed to Boyd yesterday, he said that he never agreed “with just dropping this.”

“I said if there was a good enough reason why they didn’t want it here other than it is a green natural park, which technically it is not, (then I would listen),” he said. “But it hasn’t been that at all.

"They say traffic. If you put anything in any public space, that public space will be used more. Therefore, there will be more traffic. If they have a better opposition except just those small things, I’ll leave it alone.”

He then said that a nine-hole pitch and putt golf course used to be at Centennial Park in the 1960s.

“No one wants to bring up that golf balls do way more damage than a disc could ever do,” he said. “The park used to have a fountain and a pond before things got changed over. Then, in time it was stopped and taken care of by New York State and then they gave it over to the city.”

CITY IS WAITING FOR INFORMATION

Tabelski said that an email from Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt indicated that he spoke with Boyd, who said he was willing to look at Kibbe and Williams parks if Centennial wasn’t available.

“The confusion stems from the fact that Phil has yet to submit the information that the Council president and staff has requested,” she said. “Even taking Centennial Park out of the mix, if you look to work with the city, there is a process to follow.”

She said that process includes review of any requests by the city manager, department heads and city attorney, considering financial and insurance implications. Once the review is complete, it then is brought forward to City Council for discussion and potentially to a vote.

“We’ve engaged with him and we’re waiting for his plans and documents,” she said, reiterating Council’s decision. “City Council will not consider Centennial due to its historic use and importance to the community.

“It was clear that it was the strong sense of Council that it is inappropriate. Phil has not reached out to myself or the Parks Department to further discuss an alternative location.”

DISC GOLFERS: A RESPONSIBLE GROUP

Boyd defended the disc golf community, one that he says is “very big on being as respectful as possible” and provided examples where disc golfers have won over those who initially were against them. He said disc golfers police each other and prioritize keeping the courses in top shape and free of debris.

“If somebody notices that someone does something not typical of our community, they’ll speak up to them and say, ‘Hey, that’s not what we do. Don’t make us look bad. Please refrain from doing that, and do it this way,’ ” he said.

He said disc golfers carry out the trash they carry in where no garbage cans are provided, and some disc golfers walk the courses to pick up trash left behind by other park goers.

“There’s plenty of room at Centennial Park,” said Boyd, comparing it to Pine Woods Park in North Tonawanda. “When they first started to put a course at Pine Woods, the residents in the neighborhood were so against it. They had picket signs in their front lawns that read, ‘No to disc golf.’”

“But eventually they got the course approved and they put in a nine-hole course. Two years after that, even after they had continued pushback from the neighborhood, the city approved an increase to an 18-hole course because the city realized how many people were coming to play. It was huge; the park was actually being used again.”

He said he mirrored his course layout after Pine Woods because it is similar to Centennial Park.

“The way I’ve set it up is that there will be room for other activities and still have disc golf,” he said, adding that it would take up about two-thirds of the park, stopping short of the hill used for winter sledding.

He said that he told Tourt that he walked all of the other parks and “there’s no other true park in Batavia other than Centennial that will give you a disc golf course that will bring anyone to it.”

CENTENNIAL? PAR FOR THE COURSE

Boyd said his nine-hole course works so well at Centennial Park because of the abundance of trees.

“You can set trees up in a fairway to make it more difficult hole. You can make holes so much shorter as long as the trees make it more difficult,” he explained, showing a printed Google map of the proposed course. “A few friends and I have placed portable baskets at the park and played the course a few times, and it works out great.”

He said the first hole starts at the corner of Park and Ellicott and is angled inward toward the park to avoid the road – a par 3, 300-foot shot. He said he tried keep everything away from the roads to avoid any possible danger.

“It works down Park Avenue for two of the holes and the third hole comes back toward the center of the park. The fourth hole goes about 50 feet short of the walkway and hole five brings you back down to the middle of the park,” he said.

“Six and seven are in the middle of the park, eight brings you to the outside and hole nine is up at the corner of Richmond and Ellicott and brings you down to where you first started.”

He said the average hole length is about 225 feet.

Hartland Park in Bergen has a nine-hole course that is similar to the one Boyd has drawn up. There, he said, disc golfers coexist with those walking their dogs and using the park for other purposes.

“There was opposition at first from people saying they didn’t want discs thrown in their backyards,” he offered. “That’s not the case anymore because people realize that the disc golf community is a good community, and there’s really no true harm in it. And people still walk their dogs there; I see them while I’m playing.”

COUNCILPERSON-AT-LARGE WEIGHS IN

Councilperson-at-Large Robert Bialkowski said he has been trying to educate himself about disc golf, talking to managers and officials at Darien State Park, Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, and Lincoln Park in Buffalo – places that offer the activity.

He said the consensus is to have these courses away from the general public.

“The manager at Darien Lakes State Park said they have it on trails that aren’t used much,” Bialkowski said. “And the discs aren’t Frisbees; they’re special discs for different uses – short range, long range. If you get hit by one, it’s going to sting.”

He also said courses should be equipped with trash cans and some need additional landscaping to make them work.

“The manager at Lincoln Park said they have an 18-hole course that used 16 to 20 acres and it works out pretty well, except for one part that is near a picnic area,” he said.

Bialkowski explained that Batavia’s smaller neighborhood parks may be able to support a disc golf course, but noted that baseball and other athletic fields have taken space that previously was used for walking and hiking.

GCC COULD BE A POSSIBLE SITE

As far as Centennial Park is concerned, he said citizens have spoken, they enjoy the park as it is and Council has rendered its decision.

“Being an at-large councilman, I represent all of the citizens of the city,” he said. “We have to do our homework. I’m disappointed that Mr. Boyd isn’t satisfied with our process, but that’s the way it is.”

Jankowski said that he heard there was movement toward putting a disc golf course at Genesee Community College and encouraged Boyd to look into that as well as other possibilities.

“There might be better options out there and I find it interesting that he is so focused on one area and not any other opportunities that might be even better,” he said. “Let’s look into it.”

Boyd, in response, said he is aware of a course proposed for GCC and is assisting those who are spearheading that effort as well.

"They were having problems with finding funding and I’m now working with them to get the funding and quotes for the baskets, tee pads and signs with the people I have connections with," Boyd said, adding that it opens up the prospect of having disc golf courses in both the town and city. 

Previously: Residents speak out against disc golf at Centennial Park

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Photo at top: Phillip Boyd, wearing his disc golf jersey, displays his plans for a course that he hopes will find its way to the City of Batavia. Photo at bottom: The course that he designed for his preferred destination -- Centennial Park, which has been removed from consideration by City Council. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

July 13, 2021 - 8:23am

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A frequent contributor to the Batavia City Council scene is suggesting that a package deal combining the current Batavia Police Department headquarters and Genesee County Jail parcels may be the ticket to attracting a potential developer in light of the city’s intention to build a new police station at Alva Place and Bank Street.

City resident John Roach, during the public comments portion of the board’s Conference Meeting on Monday night at the City Centre, asked if anyone was talking to Genesee County leaders about their plan for the jail at the corner of West Main Street and Porter Avenue.

The county is exploring its options as it faces a state mandate to build a new jail, with a site near County Building 2 on West Main Street Road as the proposed location.

“You might get a better deal as a combined parcel,” Roach said. “Find out what they’re going to do and it could have an impact on what to do with the Brisbane building.”

The Brisbane building that he referred to is the former Brisbane Mansion at 10 W. Main St. that sits next door to the county jail. That building -- which may be eligible for classification as a historic landmark -- has housed city police for many years but has deteriorated considerably.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, responding to Roach’s inquiry, said she thought it was a “great idea to speak with the county and understand their plans.”

“The front of the jail is certainly an amazing historic building that I hope would be preserved by the county through their transition, but I believe it hosts Genesee Justice and I don’t want to speak for the county and I’m not sure what they’re actually planning,” she said.

Tabelski also said she wasn’t sure if the timelines for a new county jail and new city police station would line up, but it was something worth looking into.

She pointed out the drawbacks with the Brisbane Mansion, notably that there is no American with Disabilities Act accessibility and there are problems with the layout that hinder the ability of the force to conduct day-to-day business.

“We went over the presentation two meetings ago and we looked at the timeline. The city has been wanting to address this for over 20 years,” she said. “We’ve come forward with a proposal and a feasibility study to use the parking lot at Alva and Bank Street.”

The city manager underscored the importance of finding a “reuse” for the building, adding that the city has no intention of moving staff into that structure.

“So, we’d like to pursue a path where we put it out for RFP to a developer to take that on and bring that on to the tax rolls,” she advised. “To do that in the best manner possible, you want to make your property attractive to the marketplace and by understanding all of the historical elements inside the building, and having technical assistance reports done of the structure itself and the historical elements …”

For those reasons, she forwarded a resolution – which was later passed by Council – to allow the Batavia Development Corp. to apply for a 2021 Consolidated Funding grant under the New York Main Street technical assistance program.

“I think it is City Council’s wish and I know it is the certainly the wish of many in our community to preserve that building as a historical element in our downtown,” she said. “… if (the grant is) awarded, we would go ahead and do that study. We had a plan to reuse the building at the time we move the police department.”

Tabelski said that the grant-funded study would uncover whether the building would qualify as a historic landmark.

If so, that could open the door for a NY Main Street grant, which the city has been successful in obtaining for the Eli Fish Brewing Co. building on Main Street and Theater 56 at the City Centre.

On another topic, Roach asked about the status of a road project to rehabilitate Harvester and Richmond avenues, which is scheduled for the summer of 2022.

Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt said it is currently in the design phase.

In May 2020, City Council appointed the engineering firm of T.Y. Lin International Group of Rochester to provide preliminary and advanced designs with the expectation that they would be completed by the summer of this year.

T.Y. Lin International Group was involved in the city’s Walnut Street Reconstruction Project, the Ellicott Street streetscape project and all of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District streetscape initiatives.

Batavian Robert Radley, PE, is the company’s senior vice president and U.S. East Region director.

Plans call for renovation of Richmond Avenue from State Street to Oak Street and for the entire length of Harvester Avenue (from East Main Street to Ellicott Street). City officials previously reported that 95 percent of the $2 million project will be covered by CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) and Marchiselli Funding* streams.

Tabelski also reported that Jill Wiedrick, the new assistant city manager, will be starting on July 21, and the city is advertising for a permanent Department of Public Works director.

*Given the significant backlog of preservation, rehabilitation and replacement of transportation infrastructure needs that exist at the local level, NYSDOT has initiated a process with metropolitan planning areas and municipalities to revise and align local transportation planning and project selection processes with engineering and economic-based preservation strategies. As part of this initiative, NYSDOT will provide priority consideration for State matching funds, under the Marchiselli program, to federal-aid projects that embrace the Department’s asset management based preservation strategy. Municipally sponsored federal-aid projects considered to be beyond preservation treatments may be considered for Marchiselli funding on a case by case basis. Municipal requests for projects that are considered beyond preservation will be reviewed by NYSDOT’s Comprehensive Program Team (CPT).

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Photo at top: Batavia Police Department station (former Brisbane Mansion); Photo at bottom: Front of Genesee County Jail, which currently houses Genesee Justice.

July 12, 2021 - 9:09pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Centennial Park, disc golf.

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Despite receiving prior assurances from several Batavia City Council members that Centennial Park was off the table as a possible location for a disc golf course in the city, representatives of the “Save the Park” committee weren’t taking any chances.

About 16 of them made their way to tonight’s City Council Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, with five of those people urging the board to maintain the aesthetics of the 14-acre natural setting by finding another place to put a nine-hole disc golf layout proposed by Batavia resident Phillip Boyd.

On May 24, Boyd attended a City Council meeting, hoping to persuade local lawmakers to let him and other enthusiasts of the sport set up a course at a city park. At that time, he stated that his group preferred Centennial Park, which is surrounded by Ellicott Avenue, Park Avenue, Richmond Avenue and State Street.

In recent days, residents in that area inundated Council members with emails and phone calls – and had “Letters to the Editor,” signs and other forms of communication ready to publicize their views.

Fast forward to tonight, even before they had a chance to protest, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. informed them that Centennial Park is “off the list … and not even a consideration.”

Council Member Rose Mary Christian quickly remarked, “I’ll second it.”

Jankowski explained that the process of attempting to accommodate Boyd had just begun and required the “vetting process” involving police, fire and the Department of Public Works to see if it was a good fit for the city.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski added that she had spoken to Boyd, who said he understood residents’ concerns about having it at Centennial Park and agreed not to pursue that location.

“We may not have a park big enough” for a disc golf course, Jankowski said, but added that they will work with Genesee County officials to see if it could be situated somewhere else.

Council Member John Canale acknowledged that his phone and email “were on fire,” and appreciated the feedback, and also commended Boyd for “realizing it wasn’t a popular choice.”

“I hope we can find a spot for him,” Canale said.

Still, the Centennial Park supporters had come there prepared to speak and five weren’t leaving until they had their say.

Communicating that Centennial Park was established about 150 years ago in conjunction with the New York State School for the Blind, Ellicott Avenue resident Carl DeLuca emphasized that putting a disc golf course would occupy about two-thirds of the park.

“Those who have the freedom to choose an activity would be restricted to use of just one-third of the park’s area,” he said. “The proposed installation of disc golf would be a permanent impediment to the freedom of use for the general community.”

DeLuca, a retired teacher, mentioned several “negative impacts” of disc golf, including safety issues from the hurling of hardened plastic discs, excessive car parking, noise and large crowds.

“Also of importance are city budget constraints,” he contended. “This could mean that taxpayers would be unfairly burdened by paying for potential damages caused by a few.”

He cited articles that spoke of the unintended consequences of disc golf courses in inappropriate settings, with the demographics of those who participate in the sport mostly unconcerned of its environmental impacts.

Linda Daviau, who lives on Park Avenue, thanked Council for responding to her emails – “I really didn’t expect to hear from so many of you,” she said – but added that she wasn’t convinced that the board would have taken Centennial Park out of play “without hearing from so many citizens.”

She then shared a bit of history of the park, mentioning the NYSSB and the influence of Dean Richmond, and pointed out that for “over 40 years … we still enjoy seeing people enjoy the park.”

“The face of the park is great the way it is,” she concluded.

Judy Sikora, another Park Avenue resident, also thanked Council members and Tabelski for responding to the residents.

Stating that she had a petition with 150 signatures, Sikora spoke of Centennial Park’s grass and trees and “lovely flowing terrain” and called it a “lifesaver for many of us during COVID.”

“It really is a treasure,” she said. “Many cities would be envious.”

Sikora urged Council to not change the nature of what makes the park unique, and to continue the freedom of its use by all citizens.

She suggested finding a nonresidential area with adequate parking for the disc golf course.

“We’re not here to oppose disc golf but to support a park that we love,” she said.

Judy DeLuca, Carl’s wife, spoke of the health benefits of the park’s green space.

She referred to a National Institute of Health report that indicated that the use of urban green space was important to community health during times of stress, and asked Council members to take green space into account when they consider policy issues.

Finally, Karen Vasser of Lincoln Avenue said that her family has been part of that neighborhood for 67 years and that she has participated in the seasonal activities, including Picnic in the Park.

“We love this park,” she said, “and it deserves to be as pristine as it is today.”

Photo: Word that a disc golf course could be placed at Centennial Park prompted about 16 residents of that area in the northeast section of the city to find their way to tonight's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 11, 2021 - 6:38pm

With it looking more and more as though a new City of Batavia Police Department headquarters will be constructed on the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street, city leaders are trying to figure out the best course of action for the current station at 10 W. Main St.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a memo dated July 2, is recommending that City Council pass a resolution to support the Batavia Development Corp.’s submission for a 2021 Consolidate Funding Application under the New York Main Street technical assistance program.

The item is part of the agenda for Monday night’s City Council Conference and Business Meetings at the City Hall Council Board Room, starting at 7 o’clock.

Tabelski wrote that the grant, if received, would be used to hire a design firm “to prepare building reuse analysis, renderings and cost estimates for the reuse and rehabilitation of the historic former Brisbane Mansion.” That report would set the stage for the application of a future NY Main Street building renovation grant.

Per the memo, the BDC is interested in helping ensure proper historical renovation and restoration of the building,

CLICK HERE for a history of the Brisbane Mansion written in 2015 by Larry Barnes, city historian. Relocating the police force has been a topic of discussion even before that year.

Tabelski wrote that the goal is to find a private developer to purchase the property, rehabilitate it and eventually return it to the tax rolls.

Deadline for the CFA grant submission is the end of this month.

Phone calls to Sharon Burkel, chair of the City Historic Preservation Committee, for comment were not returned by the time of the posting of this story.

In a related development, replacement of the current police station’s flat roof is moving forward in the form of a resolution that, although not complete, provides City Council with an update on the project.

According to a memo from Maintenance Superintendent Ray Tourt to Tabelski dated July 1, the roof sections over the 1960s addition and over the rear vestibule have deteriorated to the point that the roof is no longer waterproof and the insulation has become saturated.

Last month, Council approved the use of $100,000 from the facility reserve fund to replace these sections.

Tourt advised that the Department of Public Works is in the bidding process and will recommend a contractor in the near future.

The resolution would authorize Council to award the contract to the responsible low bidder.

Other agenda items:

  • Resolutions accepting a pair of awards from Genesee County STOP-DWI to the Batavia Police Department – one for $32,981 to fund enforcement nights, training, equipment/supplies and calibration/repairs related to driving while intoxicated enforcement and the other for $2,400 to fund high visibility checkpoints during the July 4 (which has passed) and Labor Day (Aug. 20 through Sept. 6) holiday periods.
  • A public hearing concerning the application of a Community Development Block Grant to help fund an estimated $1.36 million project to replace 4- and 6-inch water lines on Jackson Street with 2,250 linear feet of 8-inch water main. Tabelski previously indicated that the grant, if received, could fund up to 90 percent of the project cost. Council is expected to vote on the resolution during the Business Meeting.
  • A resolution to set a public hearing for Aug. 9 to formally (and finally) approve the rezoning of the 211 and 211 ½ E. Main St. parcels from P-2 (Planned Development) to C-3 (Commercial) to accommodate the Healthy Living campus project of the GLOW YMCA and United Memorial Medical Center. The City Planning & Development Committee recommended the rezoning for both properties on May 18 and June 15, respectively, stating that the C-3 designation is consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2017.
  • A request from Batavia Brewing Co./Eli Fish Brewing Co. for an Oktoberfest celebration on Sept. 18, starting at 4 p.m., at Jackson Square. A 20- by 20-foot tent with a dozen picnic tables will be set up for the event, which will feature food, beverages and the sounds of The Frankfurters, (photo below), a German music band out of Buffalo that also is known as “The Best of the Wurst."

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June 29, 2021 - 11:31am

With Assemblyman Steve Hawley already weighing in on her push to get New York State lawmakers to change the current bail rules and regulations, City Council Member Rose Mary Christian is hopeful that other municipalities will act as well.

Hawley penned a letter dated June 24 in response to hearing Christian’s concerns about what he writes, “the disastrous and dangerous 2019 Bail Reform” (that puts strict limits on the use of cash bail and pretrial detention).

The assemblyman’s letter points to a plan introduced by the Minority Conference to help combat the recent rise in violent crime across the state, and outlines seven areas of proposed legislation to counteract the 2019 Bail Reform act. The letter was entered into Monday night’s City Council meeting proceedings with City Clerk Heidi Parker reading the 14-paragraph statement aloud.

At Council’s meeting on June 14, Christian requested that the city draft a letter requesting a change in the bail reform laws – and her colleagues agreed – and sending it to state representatives in Albany.

Last night, the board reviewed a letter written by City Manager Rachael Tabelski, accepting a revision of the third paragraph to read:

“We commend the Legislature’s efforts to roll back some of the original reforms that were passed last year, such as allowing judges to set bail for more criminal charges that had eliminated bail. We respectfully request that the Legislature consider adding more crimes in which judges have discretion to set bail, including crimes against police officers, firemen and sexual assaults and burglary. We also support restoring bail for any crime involving the use of a gun.”

Christian was pleased with the changes, noting that the letter “has got some teeth in it now.”

“By us passing this – and not just by one person, not by just me but this whole board – is very important and it will show some credence to the fact that we really mean business and maybe other councils, maybe other towns, will follow and we might be able to change this law now,” she said.

It also was suggested to send the letter to Genesee Association of Municipalities in anticipation of it being sent to all Genesee County towns and villages.

Previously: City manager drafts letter from Council asking New York State lawmakers to 'revisit' bail reform laws

June 29, 2021 - 10:41am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Batavia FIre Department.

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As is his style, City of Batavia Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano humbly took a bow Monday night as he prepares to move on to a New York State-level position next month, while giving all the credit for his success to his employees and thanking city management and staff for the opportunity to serve over the past four years.

“It has been amazing times and tough times, but through it all I was successful because of my team over there,” Napolitano said, pointing to the 10 firefighters who came to the City Council meeting in honor of their chief. “I’m just the guy that signs the payroll -- I point a little bit and throw an idea out -- but it’s the staff here in the City of Batavia Fire Department that makes everything happen.”

Napolitano quickly endeared himself to city leaders and residents after accepting the position in April 2017, relocating after a productive career as deputy fire chief for the Village of Herkimer.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. called Napolitano, a Queens native, a great leader and said he will be missed.

“Hopefully, we’ll be seeing you back and helping out in our area, and I wish you all the best,” Jankowski said.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski thanked Napolitano for his work.

“I’ve only had the pleasure of working with you for about two years, but they’ve been great years,” she said. “You really are a true leader to your staff – and everyone here is a testament (to that).”

LEAVING IS ‘VERY BITTERSWEET’

Moved by a standing ovation from all in attendance, Napolitano quickly deflected any credit away from himself.

“They (his staff) allowed me to come in here four years ago; didn’t know anything about me, a transplant from 175 miles away,” he said. “They immediately accepted me and it’s been a great partnership – relationship. I’m fortunate to say that I know pretty much all of their family members.”

Napolitano said the situation is “very bittersweet.”

“This job is an opportunity to serve more firefighters at the state level, but it’s very bittersweet leaving my new home,” he said.

On July 19, he begins his new job as deputy state fire administrator, working out of an office in a building on the State University of Albany campus. The state position is affiliated with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. His final day in Batavia is July 9.

He said he expects to do a fair amount of traveling in his new position and likely will be back at some point. He then thanked city management and staff.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure and honor, and I thank everyone.”

HERBERGER TO STEP IN

Tabelski then announced the appointment of Capt. Dan Herberger as interim fire chief – a position that Herberger held for 16 months before Napolitano was hired.

Herberger has climbed up the ranks, joining the department as a paramedic in 2002 before being promoted to firefighter in 2005, lieutenant in 2012 and captain in 2013.

Contacted this morning, Herberger said he’s prepared to take the reins on an interim basis, but is in an exploration stage as far as the permanent position is concerned.

“There were two other captains that were interested and we did a lot of talking amongst ourselves … so, at this point I’m really exploring – again – the position,” he said. “You know, a lot has changed with me in four years but a lot hasn’t changed with me in four years, with family situation and the like.”

He said he’s looking at the full-time chief position “very critically and taking all points of interest in.”

Married with three children, ages 17, 13 and 11, the Lancaster resident said he’s coming in to the interim role objectively and was willing to “take another crack at it.”

Speaking of the two other captains, Herberger, 47, said they decided to talk to Tabelski individually and let the process play out. He said no timetable has been set as far as when the permanent position is filled.

“We have some meetings coming up with Chief Napolitano during the transition, but we haven’t got into anything much past that,” he said. “I’m sure that eventually Rachael and I will sit down and discuss the details (of the chief’s position).”

Herberger said he has always desired to be a part of the community he serves, never wanting his place of residence to interfere with his responsibilities in Batavia.

KEY IS TREATING PEOPLE RIGHT

“I always try to treat people like they’re my neighbors,” he said. “Just because I live in Lancaster … I treat people like I want my mother to be treated, and that has always served me well and people accepted that.”

Napolitano said he backed Herberger, stating that he’s “a strong captain supported by a strong group. The city is very well served.”

And Herberger had nothing but good things to say about Napolitano.

“I always said that coming into a department from a different part of the state has to be difficult because you don’t know all of the inner workings … but he – I think it’s his personality – came in and really took the bull by the horns and made a conscious effort of forging relationships and putting the fire department in a positive light,” he said.

“He was open and honest with us, and even though we might not have agreed with him every time, we always appreciated that.”

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Photo at top: Batavia Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano thanks city officials and staff for supporting him throughout his four-year tenure. Photo at bottom: Staff members, including Capt. Dan Herberger, second from right, attended the City Council meeting. Herberger has been appointed as interim fire chief. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

June 29, 2021 - 9:01am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Thomas Rocket Car.

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What’s going on with the “Rocket Car?”

City resident John Roach posed that question about the 1938 invention of former Batavia resident Charles D. Thomas to Batavia City Council members at their meeting Monday night.

The vehicle, with innovations such as a rearview periscope and independent suspension, is officially called the Thomas Rocket Car. It was designed by Thomas and put together by a friend and welder, Norman Richardson, in a rented garage near Main Street and Ellicott Avenue.

It has been in the hands of Dick McClurg of Old World Collision for more than five years. The plan is to have the car, once fully restored, placed on display somewhere in the city.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said the car was in the Memorial Day parade – on a trailer hauled by McClurg.

“Ninety-nine and a half percent of the exterior body work is done, the headliners in the interior panels are done, and I think they are waiting now to get a windshield and some other odds and ends, and it will be complete,” Bialkowski said.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski reported that, pre-COVID, there was a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce; Howard Owens, publisher of The Batavian, and McClurg, “and there was still a bit of fundraising to do – the last few parts and pieces of it – and we have not established the permanent home or location.”

She said people want to move it around to different shows, so she isn’t sure if the City Centre would be suitable in that case.

Bialkowski spoke of the independent suspension and unique periscope in responding to Roach’s query.

“It had a periscope, because back then if anybody remembers the older cars they were torpedo shaped in the back – you couldn’t see anything backing up – so a slow periscope went up and you looked in a mirror and you could see where you were backing up,” he said.

He said auto companies weren’t ready for something like that and that the car was way ahead of its time.

The car was cut up into pieces and almost scrapped, he said, before finding its way to Old World Collision for restoration.

“People from all over the country that aren’t from around here seem to know about it,” Bialkowski added.

Previously: Thomas Rocket Car nearly restored but another $4k needed to complete project

Photo at top: Picture of the original Thomas Rocket Car.

June 28, 2021 - 9:26pm

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There’s some serious stuff going on around Washington Avenue, Willow Street and State Street -- and at least one resident is imploring City Council to do something about it.

“I’m just here tonight because I’m concerned about the neighborhood,” said Lynne Geissler, (in photo at top), noting that she has lived at Washington and Willow for four years. “I understand that it’s a different neighborhood.”

Geissler, speaking during the public comments portion of tonight’s Conference Meeting at City Centre Council Board Room, mentioned the increase in “criminal action,” adding that it is “horrible” and is taking place at all hours of the night, causing her to lose sleep.

“There’s got to be some way that … I don’t know,” she said. “I was going to go to the police department to talk to the police chief but they’re not letting anybody in (or so she believed). So, I figured I’d come down here to talk, to see, because there’s a lot of things going on and it has to be taken care of.”

She brought up that she has health issues and understands that drugs and mental disorders are real problems.

“But when you’re having the police at your house 20 times in a four-day period, and our landlord can’t do anything (and) we as tenants can’t do anything,” she said. “There’s got to be some way – CPS (Child Protective Services), there’s mental health, everybody’s involved but nothing’s getting fixed.”

Jankowski advised her to talk with Police Chief Shawn Heubusch directly after the meeting and set up an appointment.

Council Member Kathleen Briggs said that she has received calls from people living on State Street “and they’re telling me that they do call police and police are responding.”

“I also told them that they should contact their landlords and they said the landlords aren’t doing anything,” she added. “Police are doing what they can but don’t you think we have to hold these landlords accountable?”

It was mentioned that these instigators should be evicted, but current laws against eviction have tied landlords’ hands.

Geissler said her landlord is sympathetic but indicated that “if he went to evict someone right now – if it was one of his houses – it would be nine to 12 months before that person would be out.”

Afterward, Heubusch acknowledged that officers are dealing with "some serious things" and, without getting into details, said that investigations are ongoing.

“We will look into this further,” he said.

BOYD RESUMES DISC GOLF PITCH

Last month, city resident Phillip Boyd came to a City Council meeting to promote the placement of a disc golf course at a city park.

He reappeared tonight, flanked by six other disc golf enthusiasts, and said he has mapped out a course that would take up about two-thirds of Centennial Park, the 14-acre natural setting located in the north-central part of the city.

Boyd said he also has prices for how much sponsorship would cost.

“Now, I’m just looking for it to be actually brought up as an agenda item,” he said.

With that, City Council President Eugene Jankowski advised him to turn all his documents over to City Manager Rachael Tabelski and work with her going forward.

Two of his friends, Doug Forsyth and Louis Ortiz, also went up to the podium, speaking briefly while indicating that they backed Boyd’s efforts.

Forsyth said he heard about the matter from reading The Batavian and wanted to let Council know that his group has secured some funding for the initiative.

Tabelski said Centennial Park is the preferred location. She added that she will review Boyd’s proposal with department heads with the expectation of providing a recommendation to Council at the July 12 meeting.

In legislative matters, Council approved:

  • A resolution to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to help fund an estimated $1.36 million project to replace 4- and 6-inch water lines on Jackson Street with 2,250 linear feet of 8-inch water main, and another setting a public hearing on the matter for 7 p.m. July 12. Tabelski said she thinks the grant, if received, could fund up to 90 percent of the project cost.
  • A resolution to award V.J. Gautieri Constructors $18,800 from the city’s Revolving Loan Fund Grant to help replace sidewalks at the Ellicott Place project at 45-47 Ellicott St. (Save-A-Lot building).
June 27, 2021 - 11:44am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, New York State Legislature.

Pending the expected approval by her colleagues Monday night, Batavia City Council Member Rose Mary Christian will get her wish: A letter to New York State legislative leaders asking them to “revisit” the bail reform laws currently on the books.

At Council’s previous meeting on June 14, Christian expressed – in no uncertain terms – her dismay with recent legislation that limits the use of cash bail and pretrial detention.

“This law harms police, public safety and it’s up to the judges to eliminate these laws,” Christian said at the time. “These laws need to be changed and revised. I’m asking us to send a letter to the governor, state legislators and the judges to repeal this law.”

She was supported by Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and, after some discussion, by the other Council members, who came to a consensus to have City Manager Rachael Tabelski draft a letter to send to representatives in Albany.

Tabelski did just that, and presentation of the letter to Council is on tomorrow’s agenda of the Conference Meeting at 7 p.m. at City Centre Council Chambers. A Special Business Meeting will follow.

The letter from all nine Council members, addressed to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes, reads as follows:

“On behalf of the City of Batavia, we are very concerned about the recent impacts of bail reforms passed by the New York State Legislature. While well intentioned, these reforms are having serious consequences regarding public safety across New York State, including smaller urban areas such as Batavia. In fact, criminal elements from both Rochester and Buffalo have an even more visible presence in Batavia.

“If criminals know there are no consequences for their actions because they will be right back out on the street, then it is only logical that crime is going to increase. That is what is occurring across New York, including Batavia.

“We commend the Legislature’s efforts to roll back some of the original reforms that were passed last year, such as allowing judges to set bail for more criminal charges that had eliminated bail. We respectfully request that the Legislature consider adding more crimes in which judges have discretion to set bail, including restoring bail for any crime involving a gun.

“At the end of the day, judges should be able to determine whether a violent criminal poses a dangerous threat to the community and can be held without bail.

“As representatives of the residents and taxpayers of the City of Batavia, we respectfully request that in your significant role in leadership in the New York State Assembly (and Senate), that bail reform be revisited by the New York State Legislature in due haste.”

Copies are to be sent to Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, Senator Edward Rath, Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt.

Also on the Conference Meeting agenda:

Tabelski will be forwarding a resolution to apply for a Community Development Block Grant to help fund an estimated $1.36 million project to replace 4- and 6-inch water lines on Jackson Street with 2,250 linear feet of 8-inch water main.

In a memo dated June 21, Tabelski wrote that work would entail replacing a 4-inch line from Ellicott to South Jackson on the western side of Jackson Street and a 6-inch line under the sidewalk between Watson and South Jackson on the west side of the road. A 6-inch line also runs from Central Avenue to Ellicott Street.

She wrote that the commercial section of Jackson, north of Ellicott, will be a separate project.

The project will include 58 service connections, 10 interconnections, installation of six fire hydrants and new valves at each interconnection plus two 8-inch line valves. It also will address elimination of lead water services if encountered, and set the stage for application of another grant for road rehabilitation, she wrote.

If approved, a public hearing will be scheduled for 7 p.m. July 12.

June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, city centre.

citycentrewhitestreaks.jpg

The white streaks on the facing of the City Centre are back – and City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski said this could be a once-in-a-decade problem.

In August 2020, according to a story on The Batavian, City Council approved spending $31,500 with a Buffalo masonry company to replace 46 windows and sills with material that won’t run and create new streaks.

All Council members at that time agreed it was an eyesore that bothered city residents.

Those white marks have returned (see the photo above) but Tabelski said the cause may be different this time around.

“DPW (Department of Public Works) is going to follow up with the white streaks appearing on City Hall again,” she said. “From my untrained eye, it looks like the mortar from the bricks this time and not the window sills, however, I will wait for a professional analysis.”

There’s a chance this could be a recurring situation.

“This might just be an issue the City has to deal with every 10 years or so at the City Hall building,” she said.

In August 2010, the city spent $31,000 to eliminate the white streaks on City Centre. Now they're back (see attached photo).

Previously: Council approves repairs to eliminate white streaks on City Hall

Photo by Howard Owens.

June 15, 2021 - 4:57pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, New York bail reform.

At the urging of Sixth Ward representative Rose Mary Christian, the Batavia City Council on Monday night agreed to take a stand against New York’s bail reform law that severely curtails the use of cash bail and pretrial detention.

Following a discussion that touched upon the legislation, failed attempts to revise it, and the impact upon communities and law enforcement, Council decided to ask City Manager Rachael Tabelski to draft a letter stating the board’s position and, after Council review, sending the letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other political leaders in Albany.

Council also made sure that a copy will go to the City of Batavia Police Benevolent Association and the Police Chiefs’ Association.

“This law harms police, public safety and it’s up to the judges to eliminate these laws,” Christian said. “These laws need to be changed and revised. I’m asking us to send a letter to the governor, state legislators and the judges to repeal this law.”

Christian said municipal governments need to step up to the plate to stem the rising tide of repeat offenders.

“Our city is not excluded from these violators either. I have people that feel they are prisoners in their houses because of being verbally abused, threatened and intimidated,” she said. “So, I am pleading with us that we send a letter to the judges, judicial department, whatever, so we can try to eliminate this. Coming from us as a body would mean a great deal.”

Tabelski informed Council that although a bill to reform bail reform was introduced in the just-completed state legislative session by minority Republicans, it failed to make it to the floor for a vote.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch concurred with Christian that bail reform “affects us all.”

“Luckily we live in a community where there is not a lot of violent crime that takes place so our numbers are fairly small compared to the larger metropolitan areas to our east and west and Downstate,” he said. “However, we do deal with issues of repeat offenders. As everyone is aware, there have been several of them featured in the news lately.”

Heubusch spoke of a couple cases that may have not resulted in repeat offenses if those individuals were held on bail in the first place.

He said there has been an increase in violent crime in Buffalo and Rochester, and called statistics from New York City “off the charts” – specifically that 19.5 percent of the people tracked were rearrested once they were initially arraigned for a non-bailable offense, and that 26 percent of the people arrested for burglary in 2020 were rearrested within 30 days of committing the first crime.

“I will tell you that officers are very frustrated with these new laws. They do feel that it is a catch-and-release, if you will,” he said. “It does have an impact on our victims and our witnesses coming forward … We do get a little more resistance when we ask victims and witnesses for statements to come forward and come on the record.”

The police chief expressed disappointment in legislation (not yet signed into law) that would raise the age of juvenile criminal responsibility from 7 to 12.

“So, in other words, you can not arrest anyone under the age of 12 (if signed into law). That’s kind of the state of affairs that this is,” he said.

He also mentioned a parole legislation package that will be brought up in a special session. He said the “compassionate release act” would set free any offender who has served 15 years and is at least 55 years old – no matter the crime.

Tabelski said the discussion on bail reform is important as it makes “citizens and legislators … aware of how this Council feels and how they want to protect the community against offenders.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said state leaders “don’t seem to be paying any attention to the problems” before Council Member Robert Bialkowski advised Christian that judges aren’t the ones who can change the law; that is in the hands of the state legislature.

Jankowski emphasized that City Council is behind its police officers.

“I think if I was in their position, as long as I knew that you were fighting for us on the national or state level, I think that would be a good step in the right direction,” he said. “We are very pro-police here. We support our police department … We’ve seen good, so far, retention. I mean we’re not driving officers away like some communities are by their comments and things.”

Heubusch agreed, adding that more and more police officers in larger communities are leaving the profession.

“They’re retiring at a 45-percent increased rate,” Jankowski said. “Hopefully, we can be stable and show our support in discussions like this and (let them) know that we’re behind them.”

June 15, 2021 - 8:53am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Casella Waste Systems.

Parking lots, trash collection and rezoning of a small parcel on East Main Street were among the subjects of resolutions passed Monday night by Batavia City Council during its Business Meeting in the City Centre Council Board Room.

Council members voted to use $70,000 from the appropriated parking lot reserve to resurface parking lots on Center Street, Ellicott Street and at Lions Park this summer.

Projected cost per lot is $50,000 for Center Street, $12,500 for Lions Park and $7,200 for the Canale lot, which is west of 240 Ellicott St.

Williams Park is on the city’s paving scheduled for 2022-23.

  • The board also formally approved an agreement with Casella Waste Systems of New York, which has offered to empty the trash cans at city parks and downtown at no charge.

The pact, set to run through Nov. 30 with the option to renew for up to two years, stipulates that Casella will empty the park receptacles on a daily basis and downtown containers on a weekly basis in return for painting the receptacles dark blue and placing a sign on them, stating “Serviced by Casella Waste.”

  • Council, in order to move the Healthy Living Campus project forward, referred to the City Planning & Development Committee a request from the GLOW YMCA and United Memorial Medical Center to rezone a small parcel at 211½ E. Main St. from P-2 (Planned Development) to C-3 (Commercial) to consolidate all the property into a Commercial zone.

The rezoning referral is on the agenda of tonight’s PDC meeting at the City Centre.

Previously, City Council and the PDC signed off on the rezoning of 211 E. Main St.

Project consultant David Ciurzynski said the UMMC/St. Jerome boiler house sits on 211½ E. Main St., which is north of 211 E. Main St.

“Because our building crosses the north property line of 211 into 211½, we need to have it rezoned as well,” he said. “After everything is rezoned we can start the process of combining the various parcels into one parcel for the project.”

In other action, Council approved:

  • The appointment of five residents to the City Audit Advisory Board through the end of the year. They are citizens Nicholas Harris, Marc Staley and Paul Battaglia, and Council members Bialkowski and Jankowski.
  • The release of $7,136.50 from the K-9 Committed Fund Balance to offset the costs of running the program. City Manager Rachael Tabelski reported that the city received $2,332.47 in donations for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, but had $9,468.97 in expenses for the K-9 program during that same period. As of March 31, the K-9 Committed Fund’s balance was at $4,92.02.
May 25, 2021 - 8:38am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, disc golf.

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According to Wikipedia, as of February 2020, the United States was home to 6,652 known disc golf courses – including 130 in New York -- on the official Professional Disc Golf Association course directory.

And more and more are on the way, says Batavia resident Phillip Boyd, who is hoping to persuade City Council to let him and other enthusiasts of the outdoor sport set up a course on a city park.

“Bergen has one and Pembroke has one. There are so many parks in the (Batavia) area where you could fit a nine-hole course,” Boyd said Monday night as he presented his idea at Council’s Conference Meeting at City Hall, “The popularity of the sport is on a huge rise. COVID might have destroyed a lot of things, but it made the popularity of disc golf insane.”

Boyd, 27, (photo above), played soccer, hockey and lacrosse while attending Batavia High School. He said he became hooked on disc golf about three years ago, but wished he would have started much earlier.

“But since then, I’ve fallen in love with the sport. Last year, I put over 100 rounds in just the summer alone. It’s just a great sport,” he said, adding that the walk through the course provides decent exercise.

A former regular golfer, Boyd said disc golf is a “cheaper way to do the same thing.”

He advised Council members that he and his friends could get a course up and running in about three weeks and it wouldn’t cost the city anything.

“At pretty much all of the courses, they go out to different restaurants or stuff to sponsor a hole. They (businesses) will pay the money for the actual basket … and then the people that want to do it will put it in,” he said. “So, pretty much I just need permission at whatever park is possible to install everything – the tee pads and the baskets.”

Boyd said Centennial Park would be the preferred location, noting there is room there for an 18-hole course but he would be satisfied with a nine-hole course.

“A nine-hole would be easier – not as in the way for people walking their dogs,” he said.

He explained that players toss a Frisbee-like disc from the tee area toward the basket (hole), which has chains on it.

“The object is to throw the disc into the chains and have it (disc) fall into the basket. That’s how you make the hole,” he said.

Scoring is similar to regular golf – the least number of throws, the better.

Boyd said that Buffalo and Rochester are putting up several new courses this year.

“They’re going up everywhere.”

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. suggested that Boyd work with City Manager Rachael Tabelski on the details and that she could report back to Council.

“Maybe that would be something we could consider,” Jankowski said. “I think it is a great idea – present it … and we’ll go from there.”

Boyd said his hope is that the course would be a permanent part of the selected park and offered as another benefit to residents.

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The basket with chains serves as a typical "hole" for disc golf.

May 24, 2021 - 10:16pm

The Batavia City Council is leaning toward the “let’s try it and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll end it” approach to an offer by Casella Waste Systems of New York to empty the trash receptacles at city parks and downtown at no charge.

Batavian Jeff Pero, Casella’s Batavia Division general manager, previously had reached out to City Manager Rachael Tabelski with the proposal that allows Casella crews to service the parks on a daily basis and downtown on a weekly basis in return for letting the company paint the receptacles (dark blue) and place a sign on them, stating “Serviced by Casella Waste.”

At tonight’s Conference Meeting at City Hall, the board agreed to move a resolution to enter into a contract with Casella to its June 14 Business Meeting for a formal vote. After a brief discussion on the matter, the consensus was to take the business up on its offer and if things don’t proceed as expected, it would use a clause in the pact to terminate it.

Council Member John Canale said he had three concerns with the plan.

“If we allow them to do this and we enter into this agreement … does that mean we’re not asking the citizens then to carry in and carry out? Does this cancel that out?” he asked.

Tabelski said the "carry in, carry out" policy will apply to use of the pavilions at the parks.

“So, when you use a pavilion on the weekends, we’re not doing rentals and we’re not approving overtime of DPW (Department of Public Works) staff or park staff,” she said. “However, we still have garbage cans in the parks around the playground areas and high use areas – which is what they would service.”

Canale that brought up the fact that Casella wants to label the trash cans with the “Serviced by Casella Waste” sign.

“I don’t have a big problem with that, I just don’t want to set a precedent that where other organizations may want to volunteer their services and put up some type of advertisement in the park as well … I don’t want our parks to become a billboard,” he said.

His final issue was what happens if things don’t go as planned.

“If we enter into this agreement and find out that it’s not what we thought it was, do we have a clause in there that we can cancel that agreement at any time?” he asked.

Tabelski said the contract could be cancelled without cause with a 60-day notice and immediately if either party defaulted in any manner.

Council members Rose Mary Christian and Patti Pacino shared that they have received calls from several residents who are against the idea due to poor service from Pero’s former business, Trash Away.

Council Member Paul Viele informed them that Casella is a separate company and that Pero works for the Rutland, Vt.-based enterprise.

“And I think it’s a great idea that they they’re picking it up for free. Thank you,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll figure something out.”

Canale agreed to not judge the new company on the past, stating if a problem does arise, Council will address it.

Christian said that she is a Casella customer and said “they’re very reliable.”

Casella’s offer will mirror what is currently being done by DPW staff at the parks and downtown.

Following the meeting, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said nothing has been finalized at this point.

“The process is still ongoing and there’s still now a two-week period of time for the public to weigh in,” he said. “It appears that the public has weighed in so far – and talking about the former company and the former concerns they had with the former company. This is not the same thing, It’s a different company now.”

He said that the impression he got from Council’s comments is that the new company should be given a chance.

“It’s not the same company that people are upset with. However, there still is time for the public to weigh in and if they have a concern, contact your Council member. We won’t be voting on it officially until next meeting.”

In other action, Council moved two other resolutions to the Business Meeting next month:

  • Using $69,700 from the appropriated parking lot reserve fund to pave the Center Street lot ($50,000), Lions Park lot ($12,500) and Canale lot west of 240 Ellicott St. ($7,200).

“For the record, that (the Canale lot) has nothing to do with me. It’s the old Canale’s bar,” Canale said, drawing a laugh.

When asked if COVID-19 relief funds could be used for this project, Tabelski said it likely wouldn’t happen for this one – “We don’t have all the rules and regulations,” she noted – but said the might be able to appropriate some of that money for future paving projects.

Williams Park is on the city’s paving scheduled for 2022-23.

  • Appointing five people to the City Audit Advisory Board through the end of the year. They are citizens Nicholas Harris, Marc Staley and Paul Battaglia, and Council members Bialkowski and Jankowski.

CALLING ALL PARADE PARTICIPANTS

Bialkowski issued a call for veterans groups and others to participate in next Monday’s Memorial Day Parade, which will start at 9:45 a.m. at the Eastown Plaza.

“We’ve sent out a lot of invitations but the RSVPs are very poor so far this year,” he said. “I’ve only got about a dozen back so far.”

He added that the Batavia High School band will be in the parade, with marchers including law enforcement and fire personnel. He said he believes there will be some pipers and is hoping for Mighty St. Joe’s Drum & Bugle Corps to take part as well.

“We have vehicles lined up for veterans who want to ride,” he said.

Bialkowski can be reached at (585) 409-3624 or at [email protected].

Previously: City Council to consider Casella Waste System's offer to pick up trash from parks, downtown business district

May 22, 2021 - 4:01pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Casella Waste Systems, Batavia City Council.

casella_2.jpgBatavia native Jeff Pero, in his position as general manager of Casella Waste Systems of New York’s Batavia Division, said he counts it a privilege to be able to support his community by offering free trash pickup at city parks and downtown.

“Being part of this community for 37 years, I’ve been given a lot and met a lot of great people, and I saw this as an opportunity for myself and Casella to give back in a small way,” said Pero, about the Rutland, Vt.-based company’s proposal to empty the trash at the city’s nine parks on a daily basis and throughout the downtown business district once a week.

Pero said he read that Batavia was going to a “take in, take out” policy and contacted City Manager Rachael Tabelski to extend Casella’s services at no charge.

“In my opinion, it takes time for the community to understand that new policy, so that’s kind of why I reached out to Rachael and the city,” he said. “Also, Casella is all about community involvement … and felt that this would be a nice gesture, and it’s a chance to let residents know that we are there for them.”

According to a memo dated May 17 from Acting Public Works Director Ray Tourt to Tabelski, in exchange for Casella servicing the parks on a daily basis and downtown on a weekly basis, the city would provide trash bags for the parks and allow Casella to repaint the trash cans in the parks and place a sign on the receptacles, stating “Serviced by Casella Waste.”

Tabelski, in turn, drafted a resolution that is on Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting agenda that would forge a partnership between the city and Casella through Nov. 30, with the potential for two one-year renewal periods after that date.

Should City Council agree with the plan, the resolution would be forwarded to its next Business Meeting in June.

Pero sold his Trash Away business (that he owned with his brother) to Casella in September 2019, and in the process, accepted the general manager position for Casella’s Batavia Division. He said that seven trucks, operating out of an office on Apollo Drive, handle refuse collection in the division’s two counties – Genesee and Livingston.

Also, on Monday’s agenda:

  • A draft resolution that would authorize using $70,000 from the appropriated parking lot reserve fund to pave the parking lots on Center Street, Lions Park (off Wallace Street) and Canale (west of 240 Ellicott St.).

The respective costs are $50,000, $12,500 and $7,200 for a total of $69,700.

In a memo to City Council dated May 15, Tabelski indicated that resurfacing of these lots is part of a strategic plan to maintain parking lot and sports surfaces. Paving of the Williams Park lot is scheduled for fiscal year 2022-23.

  • Several event requests for this spring and summer, including:

-- Just Kings BBQ (May 29 at Williams Park);

-- Blue Pearl Yoga in the Park (June 1-Sept. 30 at Centennial Park);

-- GLOW OUT 5K run (June 10 at Centennial Park) and parade (June 12 at Batavia City Centre parking lot);

-- Home to Home Concert (July 3 at Jackson Square);

-- Genesee Symphony Orchestra 75th anniversary kickoff (July 17 at Austin Park).

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On another City of Batavia matter, the Planning & Development Committee this week recommended changing the zoning of a parcel at 211 E. Main St. from P-2 (Planned Development) to C-3 (Commercial) to accommodate the demolition and subsequent construction of the GLOW YMCA/United Memorial Medical Center’s Healthy Living Campus.

PDC Chair Duane Preston said a letter was sent to City Council, which will vote on the zoning change at a future Business Meeting.

Council had referred the matter to the PDC for its opinion after receiving a request from the project manager to change the zoning so that it falls in line with the two other affected properties.

May 11, 2021 - 10:34am

The City of Batavia Police Department came through with flying colors last month while thwarting a suspected drug deal in the parking lot at the 400 Towers senior apartment complex at 400 E. Main St., but that’s what the executive director of the Batavia Housing Authority has come to expect from municipal law enforcement.

“I observed two different suspected deals, and the second one just after 5 p.m. seemed like it was just starting,” said Nathan Varland, who heads the agency that operates 400 Towers along with other locations in the city. “So, I called 9-1-1 and they sent a car over without lights and sirens to see what they could see and they jumped right into it. It was very responsive and helpful to us, and I very much appreciate the help and support of police and fire.”

The Batavian contacted Varland by telephone this morning, following up on a report by City Council Member Al McGinnis at Monday night’s City Council meeting about the way in which police officers handled the matter.

McGinnis, a commissioner on the BHA board of directors, said the housing authority “would like to thank Chief (Shawn) Heubusch and his people for responding quickly and professionally to the drug issues that occurred at 400 Towers.”

“The manager (Varland) was out for a run in the evening and came back to his place and noticed some individuals dealing drugs,” he said. “He immediately called the police chief and they responded with no lights and no sirens. They were able to contain them and stop the deal, and arrest the perpetrators.”

Varland said some of the residents have witnessed suspected drug deals “where people have met in our parking lot and did not live here – they were not residents.”

“It didn’t seem like there was a ton of activity going on but it seemed to be increasing. So, I contacted Chief Heubusch and a couple people on the police department, asking for some advice,” he offered. “They were super responsive, super supportive. I just can’t say enough good things about the help that they provided to us, and just how quickly they responded when we needed help.”

Varland said he is not aware of any suspicious activity at the location since then, and is grateful for city emergency services personnel’s continuing protection.

“We count on them,” he said. “Honestly, we wouldn’t be in business without Batavia police and fire. They’re just so supportive in helping to meet all of our needs here.”

May 10, 2021 - 11:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Healthy Living Campus.

A small additional fee on City of Batavia residents’ quarterly water bill is all part of a “master plan."

The surcharge, which is based on water consumption, was the subject of a brief exchange at tonight’s City Council meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski, after complimenting tax assessor Rhonda Saulsbury for explaining the property assessment process to citizens that he referred to her, reported that he has encountered “a lot of skepticism” over the home values – mostly increases – that recently were mailed.

“Everybody thinks that once that assessment has changed, we’re going to grab all that money,” he said. “I’ve explained how … the tax doesn’t go into effect until next year. It’s just one of those tough things.”

Then, he said he noticed that there is an additional fee on this year’s tax bill for water.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said it is a water surcharge imposed by Genesee County that is in the second year of the two municipalities’ 40-year water supply agreement.

Following the meeting, Tabelski explained that the actual surcharge is $1.20 per 1,000 gallons used.

“The charge that shows up on the quarterly water bill is 60 cents per 1,000 gallons and the other 60 cents per 1,000 gallons used will be on the homeowners’ annual city tax bill,” she said.

Tabelski said the rate is based on the water master plan of Genesee County, which sells water to the city on a wholesale basis.

Council passed four resolutions tonight:

  • The referral of a petition from the GLOW YMCA and United Memorial Medical Center to rezone 211 E. Main St. from P-2 (Planned Development/medical office building) to C-3 (Commercial) to the City Planning & Development Committee for review.

The zoning change is necessary to have all parcels designated Commercial before the construction of the two entities’ Healthy Living Campus.

Currently, Cary Hall (formerly McAuley School of Practical Nursing) sits on that land.

Council’s action moves the matter to the PDC for consideration at its May 18 meeting. The Genesee County Planning Board is scheduled to make its recommendation at its meeting on Thursday.

Once the PDC makes its ruling, the petition will go back to City Council, which will set a public hearing – likely next month.

  • A $161,890 contract with Grove Roofing Services Inc., of Buffalo, to perform the Phase II roof replacement at the City Centre. Grove Roofing performed the first phase of the roof repairs and replacement to the city’s satisfaction, Tabelski said.
  • A contract not to exceed $29,412 with AJ’s Tree Service of East Amherst to trim and remove trees in the city during the course of the 2021-22 fiscal year. Costs are determined on the size of the trees to be removed.
  • The closing out of a Mall Fund after the issuance of a check for $13,970.84 from the city to mall merchants. Tabelski said the check was cashed last month, leaving no other cash in that fund.

In other developments, Council approved an All Babies Cherished vendor event for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 22 at the City Centre mall concourse, and the Memorial Day parade for 9:45 a.m. May 31, starting on East Main Street.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian said that she attended tonight’s Batavia City School District Board of Education meeting prior to the City Council meeting, and let board members know that the school district has the highest tax rate in the county, followed by Genesee County and then the City of Batavia.

She said she asked them to reduce the rate, especially since students were not in school all year – resulting in savings in the amount of gas, electric, water and transportation used.

“They also presented their budget, which wasn’t that bad but it’s not that great either,” she said.

May 8, 2021 - 3:15pm

Before Cary Hall at 211 E. Main St. can come tumbling down, the land that it sits on needs to be rezoned, according to the consultant representing the GLOW YMCA and United Memorial Medical Center in their efforts to construct a new Healthy Living Campus in Downtown Batavia.

David Ciurzynski of Ciurzynski Consulting LLC, of Attica, has petitioned City Council to change the zoning of that parcel from P-2 (Planned Development) to C-3 (Commercial) in order to have all of the land involved in the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative project under the same zoning designation.

P-2 refers to the current office medical building that is on the site originally occupied by the Cary Mansion, which was demolished in 1964 after nearly 150 years as a historical landmark.

“We have to take three or four parcels and combine them into one for the new building,” Ciurzynski said today. “It’s a commonplace process in projects such as this.”

The matter is on the agenda of Monday night’s City Council Special Conference and Business meetings.

A $30 million venture, the building will provide integrated services of the YMCA and UMMC, which is part of the Rochester Regional Health system. Construction is scheduled to start this fall and is expected to last into 2023.

The two-story facility will be situated on a stretch of land between the current YMCA and Wiard Street, covering 211 and 213 E. Main St. The parcel at 213 E. Main St., which once was the site of the Batavia Elks Home, is zoned C-3.

In his letter to City Council, Ciurzynski wrote that 211 E. Main St. “was likely kept as P-2 given the use of the building at the time of the zoning map changes.”

“The property was most recently used as a medical office building storage (it is empty now) and will be demolished to make room for the new GLOW YMCA/UMMC Healthy Living Campus upon approval of this rezone request," he wrote. "Upon completion of the new campus, the existing YMCA will be demolished.”

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a memo dated April 29 to City Council, advised that Council has the authority to refer matters such as these to the City Planning & Development Committee for review and recommendation. Thus, Council will consider a resolution drafted to make that happen.

Some history of 211 E. Main St., per a story on The Batavian, from 2012.

  • The Cary Mansion was sold to St. Jerome Hospital in 1959 and it was taken down with about 30 days' notice five years later per orders of the hospital’s board of directors;
  • The hospital began building a nursing school on the back of the property and then with very little notice decided to tear down the mansion to expand the nursing school, which was called the Catherine McAuley School of Practical Nursing. The program ran from 1963 to 1981.
  • In 2012, a marker commemorating the mansion site was erected. The inscription reads: 1817-1964. A gift to his wife by Trumbull Cary, merchant, bank founder, NYS senator and first Batavia treasurer. The marker was paid for by the William C. Pomeroy Foundation.
  • The building is now called Cary Hall and is owned by UMMC.
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.
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