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Batavia City Council

February 25, 2021 - 9:05am

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

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

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

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

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

Christian said she doesn’t buy that reasoning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

arc_award_1.jpg

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

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

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

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 23, 2021 - 1:44pm

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

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

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

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

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

Rink Has Some Big-Ticket Items

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deferring Costs in a Tough Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey Players Return to the Ice

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

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

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

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

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

Roach: Public Safety Comes First

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

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

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

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

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

Tax Rate to Increase by 14 Cents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Living Campus Advances

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

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

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

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

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

ymca_leaders_1.jpg

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

February 22, 2021 - 9:04pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Absolutely,” she replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020-21

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

2021-22

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

2022-23

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

2023-24

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

2024-25

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

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

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

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

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

Pact with County No Longer Necessary

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2021 - 11:32pm

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

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

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

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

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

Police Advisory Stakeholders Group

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

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

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

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

Professional Search for a Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Works, Police, Fire Staffing

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

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

She said the police department is down two employees.

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

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

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

Funding Improvements at the Ice Rink

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

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

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

Other topics covered during Monday night's meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2021 - 11:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

On Monday night, the Batavia City Council is expected to schedule a public hearing on the municipality’s 2021-22 budget, a $16.79 million general fund spending plan that currently calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate.

While the tax hike is modest (the annual increase will be about $13 on a home assessed at $100,000), in Councilperson-At-Large Robert Bialkowski’s eyes it still is significant and could be a harbinger of things to come.

“Three of us are Councilman-At-Large and we have to look at the whole city for the budget, not just an individual area,” Bialkowski said today. “The individual council members are all in there, doing what they’re supposed to do by fighting for their neighborhoods and all that, but everybody has been cut in the budget. And I think that this is just the beginning of more to come.”

Bialkowski called out the state and federal government for mismanaging their finances.

“When you look at the state being millions of dollars down the rat hole, and the federal government spending money that we don’t have – borrowed money, I think it’s time for people to start doing more for themselves and getting use to not having some of the nice things that they’re used to having,” he said.

“This winter is good example. People need to get out and start shoveling their sidewalks, not expecting the government to do everything for them. Still, all the services are there – the police and fire departments’ shifts will be fully manned. We made cuts in every department; every department is feeling the pinch.”

Department Heads to be Commended

Bialkowski credited the city’s department heads for coming through “in stellar fashion.”

“They’ve sharpened the pencil and eliminated things that we can live without,” he said, “but as far as being a short-term problem, I don’t think so. Everybody is looking for grants but grants are from the people.”

On the tax increase, he said that people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 “don’t have $12 or $13 now (to pay their taxes), and they won’t have it next year. We’re very aware of the financial situation.”

He said he also is worried that owners of rental units in the city, some who haven’t seen any rent in close to a year, will walk away from their properties – creating another potential loss in revenue to the city.

In closing, Bialkowski said “overall, I’m comfortable with it (the budget), and if people have a real serious objection, they’ll have an opportunity for input at the public hearing (which is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 22 during Council’s Conference Meeting).

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a video interview with The Batavian on Friday, echoed some of Bialkowski’s sentiments, especially noting that the budgetary crunch could continue on for quite some time.

Tabelski: 'Can't Sustain This Forever'

“I would say the average home that’s (assessed at) $100,000 will have an increase of $13 on their city tax bill annually – a dollar a month increase. But, I will say that the city can’t sustain this forever, so we’re going to be looking at … how we do this moving forward,” she said. “The news on the sales tax was pretty good, only down 1 ½ to 2 percent. There are positive things that are happening but it’s still too early to tell.”

Tabelski said revenue is down about $800,000 compared to last year.

“I’d say the hardest part about this year is the loss of revenue plus the increase in costs,” she said. “Our best asset in the city is our personnel and we have great people that work on behalf of the city in public safety as well as clearing the roads and in our clerk’s office. It was very difficult to have positions that are going to remain frozen. We originally scheduled a layoff but now we don’t have to do that.”

She said not being able to fill every position puts an added burden on employees who work in the various city departments.

“This is a budget that I don’t like. I don’t like this budget but it is fiscally accurate and it doesn’t put a huge burden onto the property taxpayers, (the amount to be raised by taxes is $5.8 million) but just the uncertainty of the pandemic and the situation that our residents are in, exceeding the (state’s 2 percent) tax cap was not advised and certainly Council did not want that to happen,” she said. “So, we were able to deliver a budget that did not do that.”

Tabelski said city employees historically have “done a lot with a little,” and she is confident that all will pull together “to get through this crisis to get to more stable times.”

“And the state government is a factor in this, too, because that’s where some of our aid loss is coming from, and not just in sales tax.”

Options to View the Meeting

Monday’s City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the City Hall Council Board Room.

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

Options for viewing the meeting include Batavia News Service YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOdvZ9lGH0FiD9ADz6Cg6EQ

Livestreaming on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bataviany/

Spectrum Channel 1301 – 9 a.m. Feb. 10 and 8 p.m. Feb. 12.

The agenda also includes the following:

  • A public hearing to provide information on the Community Development Block Grant program through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. The city is hoping to obtain a CDBG grant to fund infrastructure projects.
  • Scheduling of public hearings on Feb. 22 to establish new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees, and to amend the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District Plan.

Water rates and quarterly meter service fees are projected to increase by 3.5 percent, with quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

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

January 30, 2021 - 11:34am

While pleased that the Batavia City Council voted to support the My Brother’s Keeper initiative designed to help boys and young men of color with their academic progress, Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. believes that some clarification about the program is warranted.

“Regarding the My Brother’s Keeper story (that was posted on The Batavian on Tuesday – the day following the City Council meeting where the measure was discussed at length before passage), I believe there was some unfamiliarity with what the grant was requiring and the tight timeline for submission to the New York State Education Department created some additional angst,” Soler said.

According to documents provided to Council members by Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, the school district came to the city, seeking a municipal partner in order to apply for the NYSED grant, with a Feb. 1 deadline being set for this year’s grant cycle.

Goals of the program, an extension of an initiative promoted by former President Barack Obama several years ago, include forging teacher/community relationships to address learning needs at every grade level; enhancing family relationships; creating a culturally diverse and engaging atmosphere for learning; and utilizing school, family and community to provide the best opportunities for academic, social and emotional growth.

As explained by Tabelski in a memo to City Council, the city’s role would include advertising the MBK program, providing public meeting room space, and providing mentors and homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program.

Soler said he followed up with City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. after the meeting to “clarify any confusion or answer any additional questions he may have had, and thanked him for his support.”

“The MBK grant is supplemental funds to support the district's efforts on increasing the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color by sustaining effective relationships with families,” Soler said. “The grant doesn't obligate the city for any services; it just allows them to endorse and or partner in our efforts to pursue this funding opportunity and if we receive this grant we would be able to supplement any city efforts on family and community engagement.”

Jankowski, during Monday night’s meeting, said he was concerned about the last-minute timing of the grant and also about the cost to the city, especially considering that city officials are in the midst of developing the 2021-22 budget.

The city council president ultimately voted in favor of supporting MBK as did the other Council members in attendance, except for Rose Mary Christian, who said she was going to contact the Civil Liberties Union about the legality of an initiative that targeted a specific group.

When asked why he voted in favor of it, Jankowski said he believes the program has merit, but needed “to understand how this would impact our community, and there was a tight time deadline.”

“After doing some research, getting some answers during the Council meeting and the reassurance of Council Member Patti Pacino, a retired teacher, I felt comfortable voting yes,” he said.

When it was mentioned that it seemed to be something that the school district and Genesee County were negotiating over originally, Jankowski said he wasn’t sure of that, but is “hopeful that the city/school partnership for this program will turn out to be a positive one.”

Christian, contacted this morning, said she did call the CLU but did not receive a response.

“I just felt bad because they didn’t include girls,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what nationality they are or what heritage, it just didn’t include them. Like (Council Member) John Canale said, it’s for Hispanic, people of color, the Black community – that’s fine – but what about Caucasian?”

Christian said students across the cultural spectrum need help “and our teachers should be available to give as much help as possible to all that need it.”

Previously: Council members voice objections but vote to support My Brother's Keeper school initiative

January 26, 2021 - 1:18pm

Batavia City Council members called out the Batavia City School District over the timing and the focus of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative on Monday night -- following a somewhat strained 25-minute discussion – before approving a resolution to support the program designed to enhance educational and vocational opportunities for boys and young men of color.

“What have we been doing for five years if we knew this and why haven’t we been helping these children five years ago?” asked Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. during the board’s Conference Meeting at City Hall Council Board Room.

Jankowski was referring to the My Brother’s Keeper program introduced by former President Barack Obama about six years ago.

“If I remember correctly, President Obama brought this to light in 2014-2015 and New York State adopted it in 2016, and now you’re telling me the studies already show that we have youth in our own community that are identified as having concerns or troubles, and they’re not at the same level?” Jankowski said.

“What are we doing in the school system right now to help these kids – persons of color or others that may need it – and why are we waiting a week before the deadline and trying to force this through without public input when we knew about this in 2016 since this grant was out there?”

Jankowski said his concerns centered upon the amount of money the city would be required to support the initiative through mentorships and homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program and if it was really necessary since the school district is responsible for educating its pupils.

“How did we drop the ball on this especially, although it’s not your concern, (since) I get complaints from people all the time about why their taxes are so high and the school taxes are a major part of it,” he said. “And they’re expecting a service for the children of our community and I’m a little upset that we’ve not done anything for five years for these kids.”

Christian: What About Girls, Other Students?

Prior to Jankowski’s observations, Council Member Rose Mary Christian objected to the program’s targeted focus on boys and young men of color.

“How come girls aren’t included in this and all students?” she asked, directing her query to Julia Rogers, assistant principal at Batavia High School, who was in attendance. “You’re singling out a group.”

Rogers said the program is based on data that shows that students of color – children, young men – do not have the same opportunities as other groups.

“It would be one of those programs that is focused for students of color but a lot of the ideology … for instance, the mentorship – we would be continuing with other students,” she said. “My Brother’s Keeper is a program that is offered through many districts, and basically, it shows a partnership to help these students in Batavia.

"Our numbers in the UPK (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) program are low for students of color. And to work with families from birth to school age to encourage that education and teaching how to educate your children at home. There are a lot of components to that mentorship.”

Rogers said services would be provided throughout students’ school years and could “lead to educational opportunities at the college level and also to business opportunities.”

“So, it’s basically bridging that gap – interagency possibility – for students to have opportunities,” she added.

While acknowledging Christian’s viewpoint, Rogers said that “in reality, those students are the ones who are having difficulties, and there are major gaps for those students.”

“So, what we’re looking for is to have this program and to be able to bridge from it so that our students in all aspects of school … can have a better opportunity.”

Christian wasn’t persuaded, however.

“You’re going to allow anyone to participate because if not, I find it discriminating and it bothers me,” she said. “I’m not a racist person by no means, and this bothers me. So, otherwise, I am going call tomorrow to the Civil Liberties (Union) because I want to make sure that there’s nothing that anyone is denounced in here for any person.”

Tabelski: Municipal Support Required

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski proposed the city join forces with the school district in a memo dated Jan. 22, and emphasized that the grant had to be submitted by the end of this month. That’s why it was on the agenda of both the Conference and Special Business meeting that followed last night.

She said that the district obtaining a municipal partner was one of the requirements set forth by the New York State Education Department.

“The program, from my understanding of it … is to support residents of color from birth to graduation of high school to achieve better outcomes through mentorship, through community involvement, through college preparation and all other aspects,” Tabelski said. “It is a targeted program; it’s new for Batavia. I don’t believe we ever had this before and we’re asking that the city sign on and say, ‘Yes, we support this and we think it’s a good idea.’ ”

Tabelski said that the city’s commitment would include advertising on its bulletin boards, introducing students to other community groups they might need to partner with, providing opportunities for students to meet with mentors at the Liberty Center for Youth and providing the homework assistance “that we do at our free afterschool program when it is running at Liberty Center for Youth.”

She also revealed that initial talks about the grant were between the school district and the Genesee County Youth Bureau.

“There was once a conversation with folks from the County Youth Bureau and the youth director. I came in last minute, so forgive me. I’m just trying to help them move this through,” she said. “But originally the plan was to partnership mainly with the county-run programs – the Youth Court and the Youth Leadership program … and to let them know that the city – we do direct programming, we don’t actually run those programs although we participate.”

Tabelski said the agreement was amended to highlight the city’s potential involvement.

“I am the one who suggested that these programs would be something that we would be willing – the City as we move forward, depending on COVID, depending on budget, depending on staffing -- to partner and to allow that center to be a place where the mentors and mentees, and homework can continue to happen.”

Bialkowski: Who Will Provide Homework Help?

Council Member Robert Bialkowski, citing the city’s role in the partnership that includes providing homework assistance, asked who would be providing this service.

Tabelski responded that the city already does this at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“So, whether we contract with the contracting agency in the (proposed) RFP (request for proposal) or we have our own city staff there, it’s already going on. It’s a continuation of what we already are doing,” she said.

Bialkowski then mentioned that city youth services are on hold at this point, and suggested language in the contract that shielded the city from financial obligations if the money wasn’t there.

“We could certainly add that language in there,” Tabelski said, but City Attorney George Van Nest disagreed, saying he didn’t think it was necessary because any private sector agency (or an entity such as a school district) would be subject to any government restrictions in place.

Jankowski said he thought it was “odd” that the school district is the fiscal agent but was asking the city for in-kind support.

Rogers replied that the district already has a “multi-care system approach” to education and mentioned its “great graduation rates.”

“This is another program that we felt would assist us as a school district and as a community to bridge that gap and offer more opportunities to students,” she explained. “It is a program that helps bridge the gap and enhance and cultivate those educational, workforce opportunities for students.”

Jankowski: Why is This Being Pushed Through?

Jankowski noted the school’s budgetary shortfall and, again, questioned why this was “getting pushed through tonight and we haven’t even done our budget yet. We’re voting on this resolution to partner in a grant and these things might not be here.”

Council Member Al McGinnis called it an important issue and encouraged public input before voting to support it.

““We need public input on this. I don’t think we can proceed without having public input, and I’d like the language changed to say all children,” he said.

Again, Jankowski voiced his displeasure with the last-minute notification that put Council on the spot.

“The timing is the problem here,” he said. “We don’t even know what our budget is like. As far as supporting it and moral support … I’m comfortable with that part of it. I don’t know where we’re going to end up from here (with the budget). I don’t what them to apply for that grant and then something comes up beyond our control, and now we’re not able to meet our obligations.”

Council Member John Canale asked Tabelski if there would be any additional cost to the city once the youth center gets up and running. Tabelski said there wouldn’t, prompting Canale to urge his colleagues (Jeremy Karas and Paul Viele were absent) to vote to support it, contingent upon available funding.

That seemed to change Jankowski’s mind as he then commended the program’s priorities and benchmarks, while noting that “people of color” encompasses a larger group of people than just those of African-American descent.

Pacino: If We Can Help, Then Let's Help

Then Council Member Patti Pacino, a longtime educator, spoke in favor of the initiative.

“For all this time, before this came along, we take care of kids who come from families who are Muslim, kids that come from parents who only speak Spanish, kids that come from Black families that have no money. That’s all been going on,” she said. “Now, we can say wait, here’s another program that we can add to our programs.”

“Yes, this one belongs to Black young men that happens to be one where these kids are having problems and these kids are getting into trouble. That does not mean that other kids aren’t. It’s an expansion – one more great thing to do for kids. I’m all for saying we support it and we’ll come up with the money if we can come up with the money. It’s not that we’re taking it over, and it’s not that they haven’t been doing it.”

After Jankowski asked how many students would participate in the program (Rogers said she estimated around 100), Canale said this was an opportunity to “invest in our youth to improve our youth in Batavia -- some of these underprivileged, underserved youth that will stay in Batavia, (and) will be more productive community members as they become adults.”

The resolution was then moved to the Special Business meeting where Christian tried to proposed an amendment to include girls and any students of any color.

That was dismissed, however, due to the parameters of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

A vote to support the school district was taken with all Council members except Christian voting in favor of it. McGinnis said he was voting yes, “with reservations.”

In other action, Council:

  • Forwarded resolutions concerning the 2021-22 budget ordinance and tax levy; establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees, and amendment of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District Plan to its Feb. 8 Business meeting, with expectations that public hearings for all these measures by scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 22.

Currently, the budget calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate, from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, with a tax levy of $5,864,597.

A budget workshop took place following last night’s Business meeting and another is scheduled for 6 p.m. next Monday.

Water rates and quarterly meter service fees are projected to increase by 3.5 percent, with quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Amendments to the BID Plan focus on three capital projects in the pipeline for 2021-22 -- downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000) – and the amount of the BID’s assessment charge to its members.

  • Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

Tabelski said the city is looking at obtaining grant funding for “several infrastructure projects,” specifically mentioning rehabilitative work at the fire station and bureau of maintenance, and a water line project.

  • Appointed Lydia Schauf, a former city youth bureau employee, to the City Youth Board advisory group for a term extending through Dec. 31, 2023.
January 23, 2021 - 9:17am

Update: Jan,. 25, 2 p.m.

Please be advised that Batavia City Council will be holding the 2021/22 budget work sessions on the following dates:

Monday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m. -- Conference Council Meeting, Special Business Meeting &  Budget Work Session (Department of Public Works)

Monday, Feb.  1, 6 p.m. -- Budget Work Session (General Gov’t, General Admin Services, Fire & Police)

Wed., Feb. 3, 7 p.m. --If needed – 3rdBudget Work Session

Monday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. --- Business meeting, introduce budget ordinance

Monday, Feb 22, 7 p.m. -- Conference Meeting, (Last opportunity to make budget amendments)

Monday, Mar 8, 7 p.m. -- Adopt Budget and Related Resolutions.

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The process of achieving a 2021-22 spending plan for the City of Batavia is expected to move forward on Monday night with the introduction of resolutions to schedule public hearings on the budget ordinance and establishment of new water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees.

City Council is scheduled to meet in Conference and Business sessions at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

In a memo to City Council dated Jan. 14, Interim Manager Rachael Tabelski indicated that public hearings are necessary prior to any execution.

Tabelski is proposing that the budget and water rates resolutions, along with a third resolution dealing with amendments to the Business Improvement District Plan, be considered at Council’s Feb. 8 Business Meeting and that public hearings be set for 7 p.m. Feb. 22 – the date of Council’s next Conference Meeting.

Earlier this month, Tabelski proposed a 2021-22 tentative budget – a $27.7 million all-funds spending plan – that calls for a 1.38-percent increase in the property tax rate (from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value). According to a resolution on the table for 2021-22, the amount to be raised by taxes is $5,864,597.

Tabelski has said that a combination of revenue losses due to COVID-19 and decreased sales tax and state aid have resulted in a $1.2 million gap compared to the previous fiscal year.

In the area of water and meter fees, the resolution introduces a local law to establish new rates, with water rates and quarterly meter service fees going up by 3.5 percent and quarterly capital improvement fees increasing by 10 percent.

Changes to the BID Plan, outlined in red in Council’s packet of information, indicated that the BID has about $260,000 in its capital infrastructure fund to be used for capital projects. Three such projects earmarked for 2021-22 are downtown marketing banners ($9,000), downtown music equipment ($30,000) and downtown Christmas decorations ($38,000).

Other amendments show that the BID’s district assessment charge (a revenue source) – excluding debt service – can’t exceed 20 percent of the total general municipal taxes levied in a year against the taxable property in the BID. Thus, it is currently estimated that that figure is $58,000, and the BID’s assessment is estimated at $1.810873 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Other items of note on this Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

Tabelski is suggesting that Council look over the plan and issue it for public comment, and then move it forward to the March 8 Business Meeting where she and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch will review the public comments with Council, prior to the board adopting the plan and sending a certified copy to the New York State Office of Management and Budget.

  • A request by the City of Batavia School District for the City to support the district’s application for funding that the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a NYS Education grant program.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski wrote that the partnership is designed “to increase the academic achievement and college and career readiness of boys and young men of color.”

The memo indicates that the City will support the program, provide “parent engagement and education, mentorship, college and career pathways, and other evidence-based strategies,” provide display space on bulletin boards and brochure racks, provide ADA-accessible public meeting room space, provide mentors at the City’s Liberty Center for Youth afterschool program, and provide homework assistance at the Liberty Center for Youth.

  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 to apply for a 2020 New York State Community Development Block Grant through the state Office of Homes and Community Renewal. Applications are due by March 5 for public infrastructure, public facilities and planning.

In a memo dated Jan. 22, Tabelski explained that proposals must meet at least one of two national objectives – at least 51 percent of the persons who would benefit from implementation of the plan are low- or moderate-income persons or the plan addresses a slum or blighted area in the community.

She wrote that the City is reviewing possible projects that align with its strategic plan, primarily infrastructure ventures related to water, wastewater and facilities.

Tabelski is suggesting that both the My Brother’s Keeper and the CDBG resolutions be moved to the Business Meeting this Monday night due to timing issues.

January 16, 2021 - 11:55am
posted by Lauren Leone in batavia, Batavia City Council, news, notify.

In the coming weeks, Batavia City Council members will engage in a review process to finalize the city’s 2021–22 budget based on Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski’s recommended cutbacks to municipal services amid COVID-19 financial challenges.

At Monday night’s City Council business meeting, Tabelski presented a proposed pathway to economic recovery that summarized city revenues and expenses. She said that despite her pride in generating a financially sound budget, it was difficult to put together a fiscal plan because of income losses related to pandemic shutdowns and the subsequent economic downturn.

“I can honestly say that none of us like this budget,” she said. “The restraints and restrictions forced upon us by reduced revenue and state aid will not allow the city to operate as business as usual. There are services that will need to be reduced or cut altogether if we are to achieve a budget within the tax cap.”

She said city budget shortfalls have been compounded by a projected 20-percent decrease -- $350,000 -- in aid and incentives for municipalities. State and federal relief measures have focused on providing businesses with loans and grants, and individuals with stimulus checks, unemployment benefits and eviction and foreclosure moratoriums.

“Within the latest stimulus bill that was passed, there was yet no aid to local governments,” she said. “There is potential for local government funding relief with the new administration, but at this time there are no guarantees and it is not reflected in the fiscal ’21–’22 budget.”

Resident service scalebacks include reduced staffing levels at the local police and fire departments, community policing, arts funding, academic development, special police details and community events. Administrative services, public works and government personnel expenditures will also experience significant cost reductions.

“Restorations of these services will ultimately depend on the economic recovery of the nation as a whole or re-examining priority services for the city,” Tabelski said.

Though cuts and hiring freezes have occurred across departments, increases in city employee wages and expenses, like Social Security and retirement costs, will leave a $1.2 million gap between revenue and expenditures in comparison to the previous fiscal year.

The prospective budget includes the layoff of an ordinance enforcement officer, a retirement incentive for a police officer and several unfilled jobs. Tabelski said the city remains committed to investment in workers compensation and health insurance, budgeted at $294,000 and $2.6 million, respectively.

The property tax rate increase is slated to be 1.38 percent, which would change the rate from $9.59 to $9.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value. This year, the city saw a $175,000 decrease in sales tax — its largest single source of annual revenue — and a general fund decline of approximately $800,000.

“The current conditions in the general fund are unsustainable,” Tabelski said. “Future budgets will depend on the ability of the economy ... to recover lost state aid, for us to find sources of revenue.”

Tabelski said the city should become less dependent on the fund balance, reserves and water fund revenue in budgets going forward. She suggested to council members that renovations to commercial and residential properties throughout the community could serve as valuable income streams.

“Despite these difficult economic times, the City of Batavia continues to see investment and economic development in terms of construction and building improvements,” she said. “There are many active developers looking at our city for market-rate housing projects that will draw new small businesses downtown.”

The interim city manager praised Batavia government leaders for their efforts and expressed confidence in their planning to deliver the services that city residents and employees require.

“I anticipate that our budget work sessions to follow will be extremely detailed and filled with proactive conversations so the city can achieve the budget that meets the needs of the organization, the employees and our residents,” she said.

In other action, City Council:

  • Endorsed a Batavia Business Improvement District application to the 2020 New York Main Street Anchor Grant for a multipurpose events and entertainment space. If awarded the state grant for up to $500,000, the funding would be used to renovate the external façade and interior of the Batavia Showtime movie theater at 6 Alva Place.

  • Approved a resolution that authorized Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. to sign the amended Dwyer Stadium leasing agreement. This is a five-year agreement in which the Batavia Regional Recreation Corporation will lease the stadium to CAN-USA Sports LLC. 

  • Heard from City Attorney George Van Nest that local code enforcement deadlines are being delayed by the state legislature’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act. The act extends New York’s eviction moratorium until May 1 for tenants who have endured pandemic-related hardship.

The first budget work session will be held after the council’s next conference meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Council Board Room on the second floor of City Hall, followed by a second session Feb. 1.

January 7, 2021 - 3:25pm

The Batavia City Council on Monday night will be asked to consider a proposal from the owner/operator of the Elmira Pioneers, a team in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, to place a PGCBL club at Dwyer Stadium for the 2021 summer season.

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski this morning informed The Batavian that Robbie Nichols will make a presentation during Council’s Special Conference session to take place via Zoom videoconferencing at 7 p.m.

It will be followed by a Business Meeting where the board – if it likes the idea – is expected to vote on a lease agreement with Nichols’ enterprise, known as CAN-USA Sports LLC. Nichols and his wife, Nellie, also own the Elmira Enforcers of the Federal Prospects (Ice) Hockey League.

“Robbie Nichols has been approved by the (PGCB) League to start and operate a team here in Batavia,” Tabelski said. “He has been interested in putting together a second team in the league and, with things happening the way they did with Major League Baseball, he actually had reached out to the (New York-) Penn league, and the NY-P put us in touch with him.”

Tabelski said representatives of other teams contacted her, “but none had league backing already -- nor a record of success in owning a team in this league.”

According to a memo from Tabelski to City Council dated Jan. 4, the terms of a new lease agreement to use Dwyer Stadium are as follows:

  • A five-year lease;
  • Rent from Year 1-3, $1; Year 4, $7,500 (placed into the Dwyer Stadium Capital Reserve Fund); Year 5, $10,000 (placed into the Dwyer Stadium Capital Reserve Fund).
  • Operator pays for the field maintenance and utility costs to operate.
  • Operator will allow use of the field, as appropriate, to community groups, Little League, high schools, etc.

The City has had long history with a Batavia professional baseball franchise, starting in 1939 with the Batavia Clippers as an original member of the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York (PONY) League.

The Batavia team later was named the Indians, Pirates, Trojans and Clippers (again) before taking the Muckdogs name in 1998 based on a fan poll that chose the nickname and logo.

In 2019, Batavia celebrated its 80th anniversary as the only founding member of the league still in existence.

Since then, MLB has taken control of Minor League Baseball and discontinued short-season competition, with the Muckdogs not among the teams invited to remain as a Major League affiliate.

Tabelski wrote that the PGCBL was founded in 2010 by eight summer baseball teams across Upstate New York in conjunction with Perfect Game USA, baseball’s premier scouting service. The league’s eight founding members were in Albany, Amsterdam, Cooperstown, Elmira, Glens Falls, Mohawk Valley, Newark and Watertown.

Per its website, current teams are located in Watertown, Adirondack (Boonville), Newark, Mohawk Valley, Utica, Oneonta, Albany, Saugerties, Geneva, Elmira, Amsterdam, Glens Falls and Jamestown.

Due to COVID-19, the league cancelled its 2020 season.

For more information about the league, go to www.pgcbl.com.

A telephone call to Nichols was not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

December 15, 2020 - 12:50pm

mall_entry.png

mall_concourse.jpg

Everything is coming together at the right time for the City of Batavia to embark on an ambitious revival of the City Centre Mall and surrounding area, according to Ed Flynn, director of planning for the consulting firm of LaBella Associates in Rochester.

“We think the stars are aligned at this point,” said Flynn, during a presentation at Monday night’s City Council meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room. “We’ve got the agreement in place, executed for the City Centre. We’ve got the $1 million in DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. And we’ve got a ton of other projects that are either in the pipeline or in the works downtown that are going to complement each other as they happen.”

Flynn, a Batavian, said LaBella Associates is the lead consultant for the state funded DRI project, working in conjunction with Underberg & Kessler LLP (legal) and Archer (graphic design).

An advisory committee also played a key role in pinpointing how the city will spend the $1 million, along with looking “at other things besides the mall property, and the mall building itself,” Flynn said.

Members of the advisory committee are Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, Public Works Director Matt Worth (recently retired), Water/Wastewater Superintendent Bill Davis, Batavia Development Corporation Director Andrew Maguire, City Council Member Jeremy Karas, Paul Gister of National Grid, Business Improvement District Director Beth Kemp, and Genesee County Economic Development Center President Steve Hyde.

The group’s proposal centered on creating a comprehensive package of information about the mall and the city – “getting that information into one place,” Flynn said – along with defining mall concourse improvements, providing cost estimates, exploring additional funding, reaching out to the public and stakeholders, preparing for future development and satisfying agreements with owners of businesses in the mall.

“We have been working to not only determine the best ways to use the resources of the $1 million DRI grant at City Centre, but also future components of what the interior of our City Centre Mall and the entire campus would look like,” Tabelski said.

Key points of Flynn’s presentation included a plan for concourse renovations and options for mall merchants to enhance the façades of their businesses.

It also brought to light a theoretical component outside of the scope of the DRI -- a three-story, 70,000-square-foot residential/commercial building on the east side of the mall at the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street, adjacent to where the proposed new police headquarters would go.

“That is conceptual based on the market,” Flynn said, adding that developers have inquired about opportunities for housing and, possibly, commercial ventures. “It’s a vision of what could work and what is deemed by the public as acceptable.”

Flynn said the DRI grant would just about cover the cost of concourse work, which would consist of removing and replacing the floor tile (which currently doesn’t match); painting walls, columns and crossbeams; installing low-level lighting, and removing and replacing the silo entryways “that never have been very attractive or functional.”

He noted that the city already has invested about $600,000 to repair the roof – a longtime problem, with that investment completing its DRI responsibility.

Private investment to upgrade individual storefronts (not a cost to the city) for mall business owners are optional, Flynn said, but incentives of up to 75 percent reimbursement may be available.

As far as Bank Street is concerned, Flynn said the mixed-use building has the potential to generate $19 million in private, new investment.

“Obviously, there would be a lot of tax revenue that would be created as part of that, but also with all of the new folks living downtown and some of the commercial activity – it would create a lot of vitality downtown and start to enclose Bank Street, which is pretty wide open right now,” Flynn said.

He also presented figures revealing that there will continue to be plenty of available parking – at least 590 spots -- even with the new building, when considering off-street parking lots and Alva Place and on-street parking.

“I think the takeaway from this is with the project, you’ll be able to satisfy both the DRI and the mall agreement objectives; also, be able to potentially develop some lots … at the City Centre and create some tax revenue … and also that you have enough funding to actually do what you need to do at the mall with the DRI funding,” he said.

At that point, Tabelski reminded Council members that one portion of the roof has yet to be completed – near Dan’s Tire Service – and bids for that work will go out this spring. That piece is part of the agreement between the city and mall merchants, she said.

Council Member John Canale asked about the Downtown Theatre 56 plan to complete its façade work with the DRI money it obtained, but Tabelski said the cost of all the interior work left no money for the outside renovations.

“Our intent is to look at a Main Street grant to complete that façade work,” she said.

In a related development, Council approved a resolution to apply, through the Batavia Development Corporation, for a New York Main Street grant for up to $500,000 to assist Theatre 56 with the completion of its project.

In a memo to City Council, Maguire outlined the BDC’s successful track record of obtaining Main Street, Anchor and Building Improvement Fund grants, and noted that matching funds for the Theatre 56 project would include money from the Batavia Players and its DRI.

Maguire, responding to a question from Council Member Rose Mary Christian about the return to the city in property and sales taxes, said he couldn’t provide an exact figure, but would research it and get back to the board.

bank_street_building.png

Renderings at top of the City Centre Mall entryways and concourse and rendering at bottom of a conceptual building on the Bank Street corridor, courtesy of LaBella Associates and the City of Batavia.

December 14, 2020 - 10:07pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Batavia City Court.

Batavia City Council members tonight voted in favor of appointing attorney Thomas A. Burns as the municipality’s part-time City Court judge and the lifelong Batavian said he couldn’t be more pleased.

“I’m very, very happy. And it’s kind of ironic that I was admitted to practice law 32 years ago this date, and in about 15 days, I turn 60, and I’ve been in this town my whole life and I love this community,” Burns said by telephone following Council’s Conference and Business meetings at the City Centre Council Board Room. “I’m just elated that Council has the confidence in me to do a good job.”

Burns will assume the role that became vacant with the death of David Saleh on Oct. 29. His term begins on Jan. 1 and runs for six years.

Burns, as he mentioned, was admitted to practice law in New York State on Dec. 14, 1988, after receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University at Buffalo and his Juris Doctor from Buffalo State University.

He has been practicing criminal defense and litigating civil matters from his Batavia offices since then. He and his wife, Kelly Donohue Burns, an attorney with the Genesee County Public Defender’s office, have a grown daughter, Elizabeth, who works in the commercial field in Boston.

Burns said it is his responsibility to make sure he is accessible when called upon to wear the robe.

“It’s the obligation of a person assuming a judicial position not to get involved in too many cases that are going to involve conflicts,” he said. “You have to be available for not only the time of the court, but the last thing in the world that you want is your conflict providing judge (cases where Rogers recuses himself) to have a boatload of conflicts.”

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said the board interviewed applicants and decided to move forward with Burns.

“Personally, I voted for Mr. Burns because I believe that at this point, he is the best applicant to serve our community and the people of Batavia,” he said. “Hopefully, that will continue on and he will do a great job.”

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said he had nothing against Burns on a personal level, but voted against the appointment due to previous friction between City Court Judge Durin Rogers and Burns.

“I know that in the past he has had a conflict with Judge Rogers,” Bialkowski said following the meeting. “He’s filed complaints with the judicial district against the judge, so I see there would be an animosity. And the other thing, today with there being so many court cases handled by the public defenders -- what happens? – somebody has to recuse themself.”

Bialkowski said he was thinking about “the smoothness of the court” in casting the “no” vote.

“Judge Rogers was the elected judge and he’s full time, so the part-time judge would have to work for the full-time judge. I just see a lot of conflict that’s all,” he said. “I know that Mr. Burns is an excellent attorney and I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, but I don’t like to see people put in a position of conflict.”

Bialkowski also noted mentioned that he could foresee Burns having to recuse himself in cases involving his wife in her role with the Public Defender’s office.

When he brought that point up during the meeting, Jankowski replied that there is a "similar situation right now (as Rogers' wife, Paula, also is an attorney in Genesee County) and it's working just fine."

Burns, when informed of Bialkowski’s comments, expressed a measure of surprise.

“Let me say this. We’re all grown people and lawyers are litigators and advocates for their perspective positions and I understand my function – my function is a part-time judge,” he said. “I am not the elected judge. I am there to adhere what the Office of Court Administration expects of me to be fair and impartial and to support the full-time judge and providing coverage of the court – dealing with conflict issues that the judge might have. And if he steers it my way, it’s my obligation to take care of those cases.”

Burns said it was “unfortunate” that Bialkowski feels that way, but “there certainly is no conflict from my perspective.”

In other action, Council passed the following resolutions:

  • Contracts with Empire Access for $3,500 to connect city facilities with fiber internet and $8,400 annually for a five-year service agreement;
  • Granting of access to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to perform environmental cleanup work at 267 Bank St., a small parcel of the Dwyer Stadium property;
  • $114,720 contract with Architectural Resources of Buffalo for engineering services in connection with the Jackson Square renovation project, one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative awards;
  • Appointments of Ryan Duffy and Connie Boyd to three-year terms as members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
December 14, 2020 - 1:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Batavia City Court.

Batavia City Council is expected to vote tonight to fill the vacant part-time City Court judge position.

Council President Eugene Jankowski said today that the board met on Friday in executive session to consider candidates for the position, coming to a consensus but not taking an official vote.

He said that is on the agenda for the Conference/Business meetings set for 7 o’clock at the City Centre Council Board Room.

“We did it the same way we proceeded the previous times (to fill vacant justice positions),” Jankowski said. “Then we made sure to check that the person was still interested, and we will conduct an official vote tonight.”

It is believed there were at least two persons interested in the post, but Jankowski would not reveal any names. The position carries a six-year term, effective Jan. 1.

The vacancy occurred upon the Oct. 29 death of David Saleh, who was appointed as part-time City Court judge in December 2019.

In other developments, Council is expected to consider:

  • A resolution authorizing a contract with Empire Access, headquartered in Prattsburgh, to provide the city with secure fiber internet to connect all facilities at a cost of $3,500 and for a service agreement for five years at an annual cost of $8,400.

Empire Access was one of nine companies to respond to a request for proposal from the city, which, according to Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, is experiencing slow connection speeds and connectivity problems with its current point-to-point/multipoint radio-controlled wireless system.

Tabelski said the other firms that submitted bids were First Light, Granite, NetWolves, Nitel, Marchese Computer Products, Spectrotel, Spectrum and TDSUSA.Net.

  • A resolution to give access to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to a small parcel of the Dwyer Stadium property at 267 Bank St. for environmental contamination cleanup in connection with remedial work at the Batavia Iron and Metal site next door at 301 Bank St.
  • A resolution to enter into a contract for $114,720 with Architectural Resources of Buffalo for engineering services for the $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative to renovate and enhance the Jackson Square entertainment venue.
November 30, 2020 - 12:22pm

The City of Batavia is taking a “fix it before it breaks” approach to upgrading the internet functionality at its facilities.

City Council, at its Dec. 14 Business Meeting, is expected to vote on a resolution to contract with an internet provider to equip the municipality with a secure, high-speed fiber connection.

Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski reported at last week’s Conference Meeting that she received nine proposals, including bids from local companies Empire Access, Spectrum and Marchese Computer Products (in tandem with another firm).

Tabelski, in a memo to Council dated Nov. 17, wrote that the current point-to-point/multi-point radio controlled wireless system that connects City facilities shows signs of aging (it is believed to be at least 12 years old) – and is beset by "sporadic internet connectivity and very slow connection speeds.”

She also emphasized that if a radio should malfunction completely, the cost to repair it could climb as high as $35,000.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said the City should “get ahead of it before it breaks down and we have to fix it.”

The resolution set to come before Council calls for the board to approve a long-term service agreement with the selected provider (to be determined). Originally, Tabelski planned for a capital cost not to exceed $25,000 to complete the internet fiber project.

In another development, Council forwarded a resolution to the Dec. 14 Business Meeting that grants the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation access to a small parcel of the Dwyer Stadium property at 267 Bank St. for environmental contamination cleanup in connection with remedial work at the Batavia Iron and Metal site next door, at 301 Bank St.

Previously, the DEC was given permission to access land at 299 Bank St., which also is part of the Dwyer Stadium property. Additional remedial work is scheduled for that parcel as well.

Tabelski, in a memo dated Nov. 16, wrote that the DEC expects minimal disturbance in the Dwyer Stadium parking area (267 Bank St.). She said the DEC plans to solicit bids for a contractor next spring and start work in the late summer or early fall.

City Attorney George Van Nest said that the city will be protected through insurance and access agreements with the chosen contractor.

A letter from the DEC to the city indicated that remedial activities generally will include “excavation and offset disposal of contaminated soils and sediment, soil sampling, backfilling excavations with clean soil, surveying and property restoration.”

The DEC is responsible for all expenses involved in the cleanup operation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

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

Looking Back at Specific Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

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

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

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

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

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

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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