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Batavia City Council

August 9, 2022 - 11:09am

The Batavia City Council on Monday night voted, 8-1, to hire a grant administrator, accepting City Manager Rachael Tabelski’s premise that the full-time, in-house position is essential and rejecting Council member Robert Bialkowski’s suggestion to explore grant writing/management services from an outside agency.

The position, which will report to the assistant city manager, has a salary range of $53,293 to $64,852, plus benefits.

Tabelski, reading from a memo to City Council, pointed to the city’s recent success in capital planning and receiving grants for strategic infrastructure projects – noting that city staff currently is managing more than $11.2 million in grant funds and has another $8.5 million in pending grant applications.

As a result, she is seeking a full-time grant administrator or compliance officer to manage the grant portfolio – a task that has, up until now, been handled by Tabelski and other department heads.

Her memo lists 14 new grants the city has received over the past four years in connection with key projects such as Ellicott Station, Jackson Square, City Centre, City Centre Feasibility, Richmond/Harvester street rehabilitation, Bank Street and Jackson Street water, water plant improvement, Brisbane Mansion reuse, Austin Park playground and fire truck purchase.

POSITION'S COMPENSATION TO BE SPLIT UP

Noting that the new grant administrator would be responsible for all aspects of grant management, including grant writing, Tabelski said the position would be funded through the water fund (60 percent), sewer fund (30 percent) and general fund (10 percent).

She said that expenditures in the general fund are anticipated to increase by $10,000 to fund this position.

During the discussion phase of this proposal – prior to the vote to send it to the Business Meeting (which immediately followed the Conference Meeting), Bialkowski moved to table the item as a result of his conversation with a representative of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council.

He said he spoke to Executive Director Rich Sutherland about the possibility of the GFLRPC providing grant writing/management services to the city, and found out that the agency does this “at little or no cost to communities, and they’re writing it right into the grants.”

Bialkowski said that Sutherland was willing to make a presentation to City Council, adding that he learned that Genesee County “is going that route (using outside agencies).”

“Today, I had two phone calls from constituents, who are a little put out with me, because their property taxes are going up and they don’t see any growth or job opportunities in the community, but they do see taxes going up and they have some serious concerns in the directions were going,” Bialkowski said. “If there’s anything we can do to not hire someone, I’d be in favor of that.”

TABELSKI: OUTSIDE AGENCY NOT THE ANSWER

Tabelski immediately responded, stating that “even if we do allow Mr. Sutherland … even if we did allow the Finger Lakes Regional economic development council to administer the grants, all of the emails from the state agencies would still be coming to me and you – and we would have to get that information over to Mr. Sutherland and his team.”

“So, the workload wouldn’t decrease at all in our offices – and the financial tracking part of this is why we really need it because if we don’t have someone in-house, it would still fall on all of us to get the cancelled checks and everything we need to submit for a grant.”

The city manager added that she “respects” Bialkowski’s investigation but didn’t “feel that would be an adequate way to go and I would not support that.”

Tabelski said the grant administrator would take a “massive amount of paperwork off our top staff so we can get back to high-level planning for our infrastructure and strategic planning in the organization.”

At that point, Council member Paul Viele said he agreed with Tabelski, before Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. admonished Bialkowski for going behind the city manager’s back by “calling other agencies and trying to work out a deal after reading our agenda.”

Jankowski also said he didn’t want to possibly give outside agencies “privileged information” and felt that enlisting an outside agency would result in a “duplication” of services.

CANALE: IT WILL BE COST-EFFECTIVE

Council member John Canale said he wasn’t a big proponent of adding another position but in this case, the new job “opens up a whole another world to us.”

“There’s a lot of grant money out there available as we’re finding out as a city,” he said. “… so, it’s extremely important that we utilize every grant dollar that’s available to us, whether it be statewide or federal-wide.”

Canale said he believes the cost of the position at that salary range would pay for itself.

“So, in the long run, let’s not trip over dollars to get to nickels,” he added.

Council member Rich Richmond concurred, adding that the city is capable of “doing it on our own – having full and direct control and not waiting for an answer … and doing it better than the Finger Lakes region.”

Council member Tammy Schmidt asked Tabelski if the new hire would write grant applications along with managing the grants that come in.

“There will be a writing grant component but first off, I see learning the management of all the grants that we have in the portfolio right now, and being fully responsible because there are different types of audits that go on as grants close out,” Tabelski replied.

Schmidt then said the position would cost closer to $100,000 when considering the fringe benefits.

SCHMIDT: MONEY HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE

Tabelski then pointed out that the city’s workers’ compensation and health insurance are separate funds, prompting Schmidt to say “it’s still money, it has to come from somewhere.”

The city manager explained that “the more money we can bring in to do these pipeline projects – to do Bank Street … is going to save money on our police building because there are things that we needed to do and it’s coming from water and sewer fund, and we’re able to raise the rate if need be.”

“The hope is that we continue to have good years and we continue to invest. But every dime we bring in for infrastructure projects is another reason not to raise rates in those funds as well on our citizens.”

The proposal then was moved to the Business Meeting where all except Bialkowski voted in favor of creating the position.

Following the meeting, Bialkowski said that he “was taken aback” by Jankowski calling him out.

“Where does it say that I have to ask the city manager for approval for doing outside homework and getting information,” he said. “The chain of command is that the city manager works for Council and that we represent the people.”

August 9, 2022 - 8:32am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, ReAwaken America Tour.

“Are you a white supremacist? Do you support fascism?”

Ross Street resident Danielle Clark, while protesting against the ReAwaken America Tour event scheduled for Cornerstone Church on Bank Street Road, directed those questions to Batavia City Council members at the outset of their Conference Meeting on Monday night.

Stating that she is “horrified” by the response of public officials in Genesee County regarding the tour, Clark said City Council should not be able to stand behind “plausible deniability” since the event isn’t taking place within the city limits.

“I’m here tonight to tell you and to tell the people of the city of Batavia, that that’s not true,” she said, before asking how much the city would be paying toward the deployment of the Emergency Response Team for the tour.

She said she spoke with a city police officer, who confirmed the ERT has been asked to deploy. She said she was not told the cost for security reasons.

“Therefore, leaving me not able to tell you exactly how much it will cost the taxpayers of the city of Batavia. But there will be a cost,” she said, adding that she was told the Batavia Police Department “shoulders approximately 60 percent of the cost of the ERT deployment.”

Clark said city leaders have an obligation to speak out against the RAT.

“I don’t delude myself with the idea that you guys, or any government agency, has the authority or the power to prevent events that are being held in a prime location,” she continued. “However, I do believe, and I am here to hold you to account for this belief, that as public servants it is your duty to clearly, vocally, loudly, express your opposition for an event like this coming to our community.

“It is your duty as public servants to let organizations like this know that this city does not stand for hate. The city does not stand for lawlessness. And we won't abide it.”

At that point she posed the “white supremacist” question to Council members and city employees in attendance, prompting Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. to tell her to direct her questions to the chair.

Clark then said, “Mr. Chair then, I would like you to ask the employees if they are white supremacists. Do you support fascism? The people of this city deserve to have answers to those very straightforward questions.”

She then said she would be “listening closely” to Council members’ response to her comments after the public comment period.

“In the days ahead, I will be listening carefully for the Council members — our Council as a whole — to publicly speak against this event coming to our area,” she said. “We await a statement expressing that you have heard our very valid concerns and to tell those attending the tour that though they have found a way around the law by holding their event inside a church, (that) outside the church, the law still stands and will be enforced.”

Later in the meeting, when no one on Council addressed her concerns, Clark darted off, blurting, “Each and every one of you, showed your true colors. You are fascists and you are on the wrong side of history.”

Then, as she walked out of the room, she used a four-letter word against the City of Batavia.

August 8, 2022 - 10:27pm

With despair in their voices, residents of three homes on Burke Drive tonight implored the Batavia City Council to do something to end the chaos being caused by several farm animals – along with five dogs and 20 cats – being kept by a neighbor woman who they claim has been abusive and unwilling to listen to their concerns.

Teresa Potrzebowski, John and Melissa Ladd, and Shannon Maute presented a united front during the public comments portion of Council’s Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room – each one of them speaking of the deplorable conditions stemming from the Jill Turner residence.

The governing body, according to Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., has been dealing with this situation for 18 months. After hearing from the Burke Drive residents and sharing their opinions on the matter, Council members voted, 8-1, to hold a public hearing on Sept. 12 to consider a revision to the City Code titled “Restrictions on Animals and Fowl.”

Potrzebowski said she had to put up a 6-foot vinyl fence “just to preserve my sanity” due to the horrendous smell and the constant noise from the ducks, goats and chickens. Maute said she counted six goats, four chickens and two ducks that are kept in a 5-foot by 7-foot shed when they’re not “running wild” or inside the house with Turner and her daughter.

Both women said they have been subjected to verbal abuse, including profanity, when they have tried to speak with Turner about the animals.

“What kind of parent encourages her 11-year-old daughter to swear at everyone, giving them the middle finger and chanting (expletives)?” Maute asked. “Then dumps chicken feed all over the side and front lawn as she looks at us smiling and saying, “Here, chickens?”

Maute said that Potrzebowski has been tormented to the extent that she won’t come out of her house when Turner is home because Turner and her daughter continually harass her.

John Ladd said he lives next door to Turner, who has been “nothing but trouble and violent” for quite some time. He said she claims the animals are for therapy but that Turner spends no time with them, other than to change the water once in a while.

“I live in the city; I don’t live in the country,” he said. “I never thought I would have to deal with this – living in the city. And grandfathering her in won’t solve anything.”

Melissa Ladd said she was concerned for the welfare of the animals, noting that they are outside for hours with little or no access to water.

The “grandfathering” term used by John Ladd is in reference to proposed revisions in the City Code, as presented by the City Planning & Development Committee, that include a provision to allow property owners that have registered individual animals and/or fowl (farm animals) prior to the effective date of the amendment to keep the identified animal(s).

City Manager Rachael Tabelski asked City Council to strike that stipulation from the code revision since she doesn’t have the staff or resources to create an animal registry and to tag and track pre-existing animals.

She did say she agreed with another PDC recommendation to limit the number of hen chickens to six as long as they are penned appropriately, do not accumulate feces, cause odor or an unsightly or unsafe condition.

The gist of the “Restriction on Animals and Fowl” ordinance is that no person shall own, bring into, possess, keep, harbor or fee farm animals, cloven hoofed animals, equine or fowl, including, but not limited to, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, swine, llamas, alpacas, ducks, turkey, geese, feral cats, ponies, donkeys, mules or any other farm or wild animal within the city limits.

Council members who addressed the public speakers said they sympathized with their plight, with Paul Viele and Kathleen Briggs taking a stand against allowing any farm animals in the city.

“There shouldn’t be any chickens,” Viele said. “If you want eggs, go to the store and buy eggs.”

“This is a city ... we shouldn’t have farm animals in the city,” Briggs said. “We should write a law. You break the law, there’s consequences.”

Robert Bialkowski voted against moving the matter to a public hearing because he said it violates federal and state law pertaining to the right of handicapped citizens to have a small horse or dog for therapeutic reasons.

He said that one problem homeowner shouldn’t infringe on others.

“Let just deal with the problem,” he advised.

Bialkowski urged the residents to contact the county health department, police, fire department, dog warden and the ASPCA for assistance, mentioning that the animals would be confiscated if they’re being mistreated.

Jankowski said the city manager has spoken to animal control and “that’s where we found the missing part of our code."

“We’re unable to regulate change at this point,” Tabelski added, hopeful that next month’s public hearing bears some meaningful fruit.

Previously: Got farm animals in the city? A mandatory registry may be for you

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