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Batavia City Council

September 25, 2020 - 1:40pm

An update of the direction that the Batavia City Council will take in filling the vacant city manager position is on the agenda of Monday night’s Conference Meeting at City Hall Council Chambers.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. previously indicated that the board would make its plan public at Monday’s meeting.

The choices boil down to utilizing a stipulation in a contract with The Novak Consulting Group of Cincinnati, Ohio, to receive a “free professional search” or to hire Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, who has been serving in that capacity since the June departure of former City Manager Martin Moore.

The Novak Consulting Group assisted in the search to hire Moore in August of 2018. The firm’s agreement with the city included a free search should Moore leave within two years of his employment date.

City Council met in executive session earlier this week to, in all likelihood, discuss the city manager position.

Should Council decide to conduct a full search as it did in the case of the Moore hiring, it would consist of forming a screening committee to evaluate potential candidate resumes and, eventually, conduct interviews.

Jankowski has acknowledged there will be costs associated with the search that would not be covered by Novak’s guarantee, such as advertising in national trade publications and travel expenses.

The board could bypass a manager search and offer the job to Tabelski, who was hired as assistant city manager in August of last year.

In a related development, Council will consider a resolution on Monday’s meeting agenda to give Tabelski $1,000 per month in addition to her regular salary – effective July 20, 2020 – for assuming additional duties and responsibilities in the absence of a city manager. The stipend would continue until the city manager position is permanently filled.

Other agenda highlights include:

  • An application from the Downtown Business Improvement District to hold Christmas in the City from 2 to 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. A parade from Jefferson Avenue to Liberty Street is set for 6 p.m. Estimated costs for the event are $480 for police coverage, $276.42 for public works assistance and $1,425.71 for bureau of maintenance duties.
  • An audit presentation by Laura Landers of Freed Maxick concerning the city’s financial statements for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020. Landers and Tabelski met with the City of Batavia Audit Advisory Committee on Aug. 18 to review the documents, and answered questions pertaining to fund transfers, debt service payments, fund balances (including water and sewer), the city’s self-insurance plan and the impact of decreased sales tax revenue.
  • A resolution authorizing a foreclosed house at 50 Oak St. to be transferred (for $1) to Habitat for Humanity for rehabilitation. If approved, it would be the 11th home acquired by Habitat from the City of Batavia. A memo from Tabelski to Council indicates that Habitat plans to invest between $58,000 and $62,000 to renovate the one-family house, which is assessed at $62,000. The Batavia Housing Authority is partnering with the city in this venture.
  • A resolution to schedule a public hearing on Oct. 26 to amend the Batavia Municipal Code to include public garages in I-1 industrial zones with a special use permit. This change stems from a January request by Eric Biscaro, owner of Classic Home Improvement, to construct an auto service station on the property at 653 Ellicott St. The zoning text change has been approved by the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee and the Genesee County Planning Board.
September 18, 2020 - 12:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

A special executive session of the Batavia City Council has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Board Room on the second floor of the City Centre.

A media release from the city manager’s office indicates the session relates to employment matters.

It is believed the meeting will focus on the vacant city manager position, currently being filled by Rachael Tabelski, who was hired as assistant city manager in August 2019.

Previously, The Batavian reported that Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said the board is “gathering more information” and expects to decide on how it will proceed by its next meeting on Sept. 28.

Most likely, Council will interview with Tabelski (possibly on Tuesday) and offer her the job, or conduct a nationwide search – utilizing The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of former City Manager Martin Moore in 2018.

September 18, 2020 - 11:09am

The Batavia City Council passed four resolutions this week to accept just shy of $75,000 in grants for the City of Batavia Fire Department, continuing what Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano describes as placing a priority on maximizing taxpayer dollars, meeting community needs and operating as efficiently as possible.

“Absolutely,” Napolitano said this morning to a question as to whether there is a concerted effort to find grants.

“We work together as a team to secure grants and accept gifts and donations. Our goal is to stretch that one dollar of taxpayer money into a dollar fifty or two dollars – to be fiscally responsible.”

During Napolitano’s three-and-a-half-year tenure as chief, more than $400,000 in grant funding has found its way to the fire department.

He said these grants – ranging from Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee funding to the Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program – are especially vital in the wake of budget cuts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All departments in the city have had to make cuts and, of course, any cuts in a budget can affect your operational readiness,” he said. “These grants, even as little as $800 for bicycle helmets, enable us to support young children and families that don’t have adequate bike helmets or have helmets at all. Then we work with local suppliers to try and stretch that $800 into $1,000 worth of equipment.”

An $800 grant for bicycle helmets from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee was one of the four accepted at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The others were as follows:

  • A grant for $68,880.95 from FEMA for the purchase of a fire and carbon monoxide alarm system and sprinkler fire protection system throughout fire headquarters on Evans Street and to fund specialize water rescue training materials and labor costs;
  • A grant for $1,638 from FM Global for the purchase of a high-tech camera, lens, lighting and security case for use at fire scenes as well as an iPad for the command vehicle for rapid uploading and sharing of photos with other investigative agencies;
  • A grant for $3,500 from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to purchase car seats.

“We get the car seat grant every year, but our firefighters have to recertify regularly to be certified safety seat technicians,” Napolitano said. “This grant is so helpful. You would be amazed how many people that don’t have means to get them.”

While he oversees the grant applications and submissions, Napolitano said that “every grant that we have received is a team effort.”

“In many cases, I delegate to individuals who specialize in the area of a specific grant,” he explained. “We wouldn’t be getting these grants without so many firefighters and officers doing the legwork.”

Napolitano announced that Christopher Shea is the department’s most recent hire, raising the staff’s numbers to 32 firefighters (two short of a full complement) plus the chief and administrative clerk.

Shea currently is classified as a recruit firefighter candidate and, after 14 weeks of training, will be promoted to probationary firefighter for the next 18 months.

The chief praised his firefighters, who belong to IAAF (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 896, for their civic and community involvement.

“They support numerous organizations not only with their money but with their (volunteer) time as well,” he said.

In other action, Council:

  • Authorized the issuance of $420,000 in serial bonds to purchase a jet-vacuum truck for use in sanitary sewer, water system, storm sewer system and highway maintenance operations. The amount includes the purchase price of the vehicle ($380,000) plus the costs of the issuance as permitted by law.
  • Approved the acceptance of a $9,024 police traffic safety grant from the NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. About 20 percent of the funding is earmarked for seat belt enforcement with the remainder to support efforts to reduce speeding, aggressive and distracted driving and other dangerous driving behaviors.
September 15, 2020 - 8:36am

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is adamant that neither public speakers nor a petition signed by 161 residents will force the board’s hand when it comes to selecting a permanent replacement for City Manager Martin Moore, who left the position on June 20.

 “We’re going to do our due diligence – getting all the information necessary to make an informed decision,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. following Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

Since Moore’s departure, Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving as the acting city manager.

Council met in an executive session between a Special Conference Meeting and the Business Meeting last night to discuss personnel matters, with the city manager post at the top of the list.

Jankowski said Council is “gathering more information” and expects a decision of how it will proceed by its next meeting on Sept. 28.

In all likelihood, the choices boil down to interviewing Tabelski and offering her the job, or conducting a nationwide search – utilizing The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of Moore in 2018.

Because Moore left prior to completing two years in Batavia, the Novak firm guaranteed a “free” search for his successor. However, that doesn’t include costs such as advertising in trade publications, expenses incurred to set up interviews (travel costs, for example) and potential moving expenses for the person hired.

It is believed that those additional costs could reach as high as $15,000 to $20,000.

Previously, Jankowski had reported that The Novak Consulting Group would be available to assist the city at the end of this month.

During the public comments portion of last night’s meeting, Batavians Sammy DiSalvo and John Roach spoke on the matter, coming from opposite sides of the fence.

DiSalvo said he supported a full search, pointing to what he called “nepotism” when Tabelski was appointed to the assistant city manager position in August 2018 while her husband, Adam, was a member of City Council.

“Regardless of whether her husband abstained from that vote or not, that is called nepotism,” he said.

“Now I want to fast forward to September 2020 … and this is the first time we’ve heard from any of you about Novak, the company that did the manager’s search, which you get a free search through if city manager left within two years, which he did,” he added.

“They said they could not start until the end of September. Hopefully, they do start that search and you go down that road, rather than just appointing somebody that was appointed while her husband was in a position of power. I don’t think that is really a way that city government should be functioning and that is not a good way to represent the people of Batavia …”

After expressing his dismay with changes in the City Deer Management Plan, DiSalvo ended his five minutes by producing a petition of what he said was 150 signatures (actually 161) of Batavians “who would like a full city search and do not want somebody who is appointed to the position by City Council.”

Next, Roach stepped to the podium, stating that “I take the opposite view on the hiring of the city manager.”

“I think it’s kind of embarrassing that the nine Council people – five of you haven’t been able to say as a majority – ‘Let’s make a decision.’ By now you should have been able to say in executive session, ‘OK, we’re going to go with the headhunter group or we’re going to hire the current assistant city manager,’ ” he said.

Roach then credited Tabelski for moving city business along.

“Obviously, she must be doing a good job,” he said. “The city is functioning well and I cannot for the life of me understand why you people still have to go into meetings to decide to make a plan to have a plan. Either hire her or say no, ‘you don’t cut it, we don’t want you’ – and let her start looking at alternatives. It can’t be that hard to say yes, you’re our choice, or you’re not.”

He also said he heard that a City Council member placed petitions in some businesses.

“I don’t know if that’s appropriate or not,” he said.

Finally, he mentioned Council’s handling of authorizing more pay for those who have took on added responsibilities in the absence of a permanent city manager.

“I’m also a little disappointed that the last time we didn’t have a city manager, everybody voted to give the other staff that were pitching in to do extra work, extra money. And they were all men,” he said. “This time, the same thing – we don’t have a manager and people need a little extra money for doing extra work, and some of you voted no, but they’re women. Coincidence or not? I’ll let you all respond.”

September 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

The path to passing a City of Batavia Deer Management Plant plan -- fraught with controversy, changes and a bit of confusion – became much clearer tonight when City Council approved a proposal giving its police department oversight of the operation.

By a vote of 6-2, Council endorsed an archery-only plan that puts management in the hands of police – understanding there will be overtime costs involved – and also allows only city employees to hunt on two parcels of city property and restricts hunting to antlerless-only deer in those two zones.

Council members Jeremy Karas, Patti Pacino, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, John Canale (who was the liaison to the Deer Management Plan Committee that resigned in protest of changes to the original plan on Aug. 13) and President Eugene Jankowski voted in favor of the plan. Council members Robert Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted against the plan.

It was Jankowski who introduced an amendment to prohibit the taking of deer with antlers on city property. That passed by a 7-1 count with McGinnis, who objected to the amount of time (about an hour) spent debating the pros and cons of the plan, abstaining.

Council Member Paul Viele was not in attendance.

Apparently taking the advice of Canale, who brought up the board’s history of “kicking the can down the road,” Council decided to adopt the plan and worry about implementation later, especially in light of the Batavia City School District’s “hybrid” schedule that has some students learning remotely from home.

“I don’t see what else there is to discuss,” said Canale, adding that the police department is more than capable of deciding whether it is safe for people to hunt in any of the five pre-determined zones. “It’s not like we’re sending out people into the woods on October 1st with bows and arrows” if the police deem that it’s not safe.

Jankowski said he agreed with Canale, urging his colleagues to “approve this and (then) the implementation is up in the air.”

“Personally, I don’t think it would have worked well for the volunteer (committee) to take on that kind of work,” Jankowski said.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said he anticipates overtime charges of $4,000 to $5,000 annually, calling it a “conservative estimate depending upon the level of commitment.” He also said he will select an officer from the department to head the program.

Heubusch said he plans to reach out to Town of Irondequoit police officers, who run the program there, as well as talk to landowners in the three zones that aren’t city property, and attempt to get landowner agreements signed and set up the selection process.

“There’s a lot of work (to be done),” he said, noting that although the department is fully staffed, it isn’t at a point where he can take an officer off the road.

City Attorney George Van Nest reported that he has already spoken with people in Irondequoit, who indicated that the Monroe County town’s program “works well and is effective.” He also said state Department of Environmental Conservation officials support the “tweaks” made by him and Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The most significant changes were moving oversight from the Deer Management Plan Committee to the police department, giving city employees exclusive rights to hunt on city property – eliminating members of the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen – and, per tonight’s amendment, putting in a provision to cull antlerless-only deer on city property.

Jankowski said he received thirdhand information that someone saw a large buck on one of the properties and that “somebody has designs on those antlers.” His amendment, however, can not be enforced on land owned by private citizens who agree to participate in the plan to reduce the deer population.

Van Nest said a New York State hunting license gives hunters the authority to take a buck on private property.

Before the vote to pass or reject the amended plan, Bialkowski attempted to table the measure, stating that the latest plan (dated Sept. 14) was not presented in a Conference Meeting, it comes with increased costs and was subject to a review of the school’s scheduling.

“I’d like to refer it back to committee … back to a Conference Meeting,” he said.

Christian supported tabling it as well, with her comments indicating she thought the plan included hunting by guns along with bow and arrow.

That’s when Canale spoke up, noting that the Deer Management Plan Committee worked very hard and for a long time (eight months) to put together “a wonderful plan, working with (former City Manager) Dr. (Martin) Moore on the “meat and potatoes of the plan.”

He credited Tabelski for making necessary revisions.

“I don’t think kicking the can down the road will help us out,” he said. “Approve it tonight and implement it when it’s safe.”

As a result, a vote to table the plan was defeated by a 6-2 count with Bialkowski and Christian voting to table it.

The deer management plan subject came up right from the start of the Special Conference Meeting that preceded the Business Meeting where the resolution ultimately was approved.

Batavia residents Sammy DiSalvo, David Majewski and his son, Noah Majewski, spoke about the plan during the public comments portion of the agenda.

DiSalvo said he identified “at least 20 changes from the original proposal – at least five of which are entirely new.”

He said he took issue with “taking away power from people who are citizens and experienced hunters.”

“I am sure there are many police officers who do hunt and are very capable, but you are taking this away from people who have spent 50-60 years as the main thing that they do,” he said.

As far as private property is concerned, DiSalvo said that owners of the three non-city property areas have decided not to participate in the plan – something that took Council and city management by surprise.

“I find it suspicious that Mr. DiSalvo, whose father (Samuel) was on the deer committee, is saying that everybody but the city is not participating,” Jankowski said. “He’s making detailed responses about landowners that we don’t even know about yet.”

DiSalvo applauded the police department for the great job it does in law enforcement, but disagreed with putting the responsibility of the deer management plan upon the officers.

David Majewski said he was concerned about people coming on his son’s property (25 acres) off Alexander Road, which is adjacent to one of the city-owned parcels. He said his son manages the property for deer hunting, and is worried that deer remains left on his property would attract more coyotes to the area.

“I’m kind of curious as to why city employees will be allowed to hunt. There are plenty of other good hunters,” he said.

He said he was also concerned about liability and the possibility of a lawsuit should someone trespass onto his son’s land – which he uses for beaver trapping -- and suffer an injury.

Noah said he has encountered many people trespassing from city property onto his property.

“I’ve notified people in the City of Batavia building and nobody seems to care. They usually end up being friends of people,” he said.

He also mentioned liability and that he runs “nuisance beaver traps” with a nuisance beaver permit from the DEC. He said the traps are set around a swamp and he would hate to see someone step in one of those traps.

“I just feel like this is opening up a whole new can of worms to bring more people into an area that’s populated with people, that has people running around there," he said. "... and not knowing who’s going to be hunting back there or anything like that, it’s a big area of concern for me.”

August 11, 2020 - 3:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in notify, news, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

If the Batavia City Council has a plan to fill the vacancy caused by the departure of former City Manager Martin Moore, it isn’t revealing it – at least not yet.

Acting on the advice of the city attorney, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. today sent an email to The Batavian, stating “it’s still very early in the process. (The) Novak (Consulting Firm) is available and is one of the options City Council is exploring.”

Jankowski said the board is “continuing the search process” but would not elaborate due to it being a personnel matter.

While Jankowski believes it is early in the process to find a permanent replacement for Moore, who left Batavia on June 22, another city resident said Council should have disclosed its plan by now.

John Roach, speaking during the public comments segment of Monday night’s City Council meeting, said council members knew that Moore was on his way out.

“You still haven’t decided what you are going to do about replacing him, and that seems kind of silly,” he said. “Once he said he was leaving, you should have had a meeting and said, ‘OK, let’s get a plan.’ You talk about having a plan and you talk about looking at a plan.”

Roach said he is in favor of hiring of Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, who was brought on last August as the assistant city manager.

“Obviously, the person has been around awhile … you think you’re going to find somebody better?” he asked. “Save a little money -- save a little time -- make a decision. It’s kind of embarrassing that it has been months (actually nearly two months), and you haven’t even decided what the plan is.”

Sammy DiSalvo, a Democratic Party candidate for a City Council at-large seat in 2020, followed Roach to the podium but had a different viewpoint.

“I support holding a full search for a new city manager,” DiSalvo said. “Nepotism is not a way to run a city.”

The Batavian has asked Jankowski on separate occasions if a full search will be conducted, and if so, will Council be contracting with the Novak group out of Cincinnati, Ohio, again to conduct the search.

Novak coordinated the search that brought Moore from Eunice, N.M., to Batavia in August of 2018, and reportedly gave the city a guarantee that the next search would be at no charge if Moore left before completing two full years as city manager.

In a related development, the Valencia County News-Bulletin, a weekly newspaper in New Mexico, reported that Moore is one of 13 candidates for the city manager job in Belen, a city of about 7,400 people about 35 miles south of Albuquerque.

August 11, 2020 - 11:38am

In what amounted to a protracted exercise in damage control, a few members of Batavia City Council and the acting city manager on Monday night accepted some responsibility for miscommunication with the Deer Management Plan Committee that has spent the past nine months working on ways to reduce the deer population in the city.

Council as whole, however, stopped short of approving the plan, instead opting to table it for further discussion and a possible vote at its Sept. 14 Business meeting at City Hall Council Chambers.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski’s question, “We’re there some changes made that didn’t include the committee?” triggered a 20-minute discussion – mostly a back-and-forth between Council Member and committee liaison John Canale and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., with some input from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

Bialkowski’s query stemmed from a story on The Batavian last Friday indicating that the five-member committee believed that changes to the plan they had largely crafted were made without its knowledge or involvement.

Speaking for the committee in that story, Russ Nephew said they had been left out of the loop, and accused management of going behind closed doors to modify wording in the 21-page document. Other committee members are Samuel DiSalvo, Fred Gundell, Gus Galliford and Kent Klotzbach.

Phone Call to Committee Member not Returned

For his part, Canale said that he didn’t return a phone call from Nephew to provide an update, action that could have prevented hard feelings.

“To Bob’s point, this (the process of city management and attorney review and insertion of legal wording) was all going on and I had not gotten back to one of the committee members (Nephew) who has taken on one of the lead roles of the committee,” Canale said. “Because of that, and I had all intentions of calling him on the weekend, but what came up is I got a call from The Batavian, asking for comment on this because one of the committee members, Russ Nephew, had called and felt that they were being left out of the process.”

Reportedly, the committee took exception to not being informed of the following changes that were outlined in an Aug. 4 memo from Tabelski:

  • Nobody other than city employees who qualify for the program will be allowed to hunt in areas 4 and 5, which are predominantly city-owned parcels located near the wastewater treatment plant and yard waste station.
  • While supporting approval of the plan, “all activities related to (its) implementation” will be prohibited “until schools in Batavia are fully reopened.”

School Situation Changes Things

Canale addressed the school situation, stating that he brought the Batavia City School District’s hybrid schedule – some days in school and some days learning remotely at home – to Tabelski’s attention, putting safety first, and recommended holding off on any culling activities.

The plan stipulates that hunting in any of the five identified zones could take place only when school is in session.

“The wording as it stands now will not allow us to do the hunt,” Jankowski noted.

As far as the communication issues, Canale said he takes full blame “because I did not have the opportunity to get back to the committee and let them know what was going on.”

“It was also part of Rachael and I trying to work this thing out so we could get this thing approved and get it in motion,” he added.

Bialkowski said he wasn’t looking to blame anyone, but felt that the deer committee should have the opportunity to discuss the revisions.

Jankowski said he spoke to DiSalvo and Nephew earlier Monday.

Different Takeaways from Conversation

“He (Nephew) said he got a little overzealous and he got angry and went to the paper (The Batavian) instead of calling one of us and finding out what was going on,” Jankowski reported. “So, he was sorry about that, and said that he made a poor choice there. But he didn’t want that to cloud the issue of all the important work they have done.”

Contacted this morning, Nephew disputed Jankowski’s interpretation of their conversation.

“I did not say that I was sorry, I did not say that I made a poor choice in calling The Batavian and I never got emotional,” Nephew said. “Jankowski said, 'Gee Russ, I wish you would have called me first,' and I said "If you remember right, I did call you about John Canale not calling me back and you did nothing. And that’s why I went to the paper and I would do it again.' ”

During last night’s meeting Jankowski put forth two options – voting for the plan and amending it later, or tabling it.

“They (the committee) have a meeting scheduled for Thursday of this week (9 a.m. at City Hall),” Jankowski advised. “That was going to be more of an implementation meeting, but now it could be a ‘clean up that wording’ meeting, and all the miscommunication can be aired out at that meeting. Then we can bring it back to Council and have the final product then .. or we can vote on it now and amend that wording so that it works.”

Jankowski said that hunting will not be allowed until school “goes into a full-blown normal mode” (all students in the school buildings),” adding that no one knows how long the hybrid schedule will be in force.

Bialkowski: Stick with Our Committees

Bialkowski said his priority was to make sure committees comprised of city residents were treated with respect.

“My bigger concern is that when we appoint citizen committees we stay interactive with the committees and follow the committees through,” he said, citing past instances where committees worked hard and made progress before suddenly being disbanded by management.

As he did in the previous story on The Batavian, Canale explained that the committee did its job, and now the time had come for Tabelski and City Attorney George Van Nest to do theirs “for legal purposes and operational purposes.”

“(Former City Manager) Martin Moore would have had to do that same thing at some point and time … and that is what Rachael did in conjunction with George, the attorney. I explained that to Russ,” Canale said. “Unfortunately, it was Rachael Tabelski, a new player in the picture … and the appearance was she was making changes to the plan without notifying them.”

Canale said the committee will continue to be a “key player” in the city’s effort to thin the deer herd – charged with reporting back to Council with the plan’s progress – but Jankowski interjected that would be the case “at least in the beginning.”

“Eventually, we will need to take it over,” he said. “This can’t go on indefinitely.”

Nephew, responding today, said that the deer committee is designed to be a perpetual group, unlike other city committees.

“I told Jankowski that this is a committee that continually serves, year after year,” he said.

Areas 4 and 5 for City Employees Only

Tabelski said that she had set up the Thursday meeting with the committee to start implementation work.

“We are in a quiet period between legislative matters between one meeting to another – it’s a quiet period, nothing happens, and I think the committee, and maybe I didn’t communicate that well enough, but nothing happens right now,” she said. “This plan, Council looked at it in Conference, it’s coming to Business, we’ll move that forward and then will work on implementation.”

She said that there is only one change from the draft plan – the part about deer management areas 4 and 5, which are largely city property.

“… this plan would allow for city employees who qualify for the program to access the city-owned property only. So that is the only change, to be clear, in the actual plan document,” she said. “Originally, there was no intent of having anyone hunt on city property, so this is actually expanding the ability to hunt on that property.”

Jankowski said he communicated that to committee members on separate occasions.

“I talked to them tonight about it and they were OK with it. Like you said, it was a misunderstanding. I know they were warned in May or June about that but somehow ‘in one ear, out the other,’” he said. “They didn’t click on that and when it came down to the implementation and they read it, they said, 'Where did this come from?' ”

He said he hoped that things will get ironed out on Thursday at the meeting, which he plans to attend.

An Oversight or an Afterthought?

None of the deer committee members were at last night’s meeting, but all are expected to take part in Thursday’s meeting. But even that became a bone of contention as Nephew believes his group was invited as an afterthought.

“I found that there was going to be a meeting on August 13th at 9 in the morning, so I called John Canale and also wanted to ask him if he heard that and if the attorney and Rachael were going to allow just city employees to hunt on areas 4 and 5,” Nephew said. “He said he didn’t know about that.”

Nephew said that Canale shared the email that he had received about the meeting on Thursday.

“He sent it to us and we weren’t included on the email; it was only Canale, Van Nest and Lisa Casey, their secretary. I emailed Lisa and she said your names were not on there. We will be sending an email to invite you,” he said.

“When somebody sends an email and it’s only two people, you would also say, "Let me know if you can make it.' I would think that you would send it to everyone and ask if they can make it. That’s the normal thing to do.”

Previous story: City proposes changes to deer management plan

August 11, 2020 - 7:52am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, covid-19.

By a 7-2 vote Monday night, the Batavia City Council granted $750 monthly stipends to three City Hall employees who have been taking on additional responsibilities during the absence of an assistant city manager.

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski requested that Human Resource Specialist Dawn Fairbanks, Director of Finance Lisa Neary and Confidential Secretary Lisa Casey be compensated beyond their normal pay at that monthly rate until City Council fills the city manager and assistant city manager positions.

In a July 30 memo, Tabelski reported that all three have incurred an increased workload because they have been performing tasks originally assigned to the assistant city manager. Tabelski moved up from the assistant position to acting city manager following the June 20 departure of former City Manager Martin Moore.

Council members John Canale, Jeremy Karas, Paul Viele, Kathleen Briggs, Al McGinnis, Patti Pacino and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. voted in favor of the stipend, which would take effect retroactively to July 1, while Rose Mary Christian and Robert Bialkowski voted against it.

Canale summed up the majority’s feeling by saying that Council has been asking them to do part of the work of another office (assistant manager).

“That’s quite a job that Rachael stepped into,” he said. “I know as much as we want to keep an eye on how we spend taxpayer dollars, we also have to keep an eye on are we paying these employees the proper amount for the job they are doing?”

Jankowski agreed, noting that the trio has been doing two to three times the amount of work beyond their job descriptions. He also said that if they were union employees, they would be in a position to receive more pay.

“We’re trying to reward them for taking on additional responsibilities. It’s not like we’re using up the whole salary (of the vacant position),” he said. “It’s a small token for additional responsibility. I think it’s a valuable thing and a worthwhile thing … and it keeps us moving forward.”

Tabelski said they have been working long hours, including Saturdays, as they tackle key projects such as: the management and implementation of a $750,000 new Enterprise Resource Program solution for all software applications; a $390,000 information technology hardware project and Windows 10 upgrade; a fiber project to connect all city facilities to a fiber network; flood zone issues; and other internal and committee tasks.

Christian said she objected to the proposal due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the city in a projected “almost half a million dollars” shortfall, and that Fairbanks and Neary are salaried employees. Casey is an hourly employee.

She said she calls City Hall after 4:30 and gets an answering machine – to which Tabelski responded that the recording comes on at that time, but the employees are still on the job – and also brought up that they recently received a raise – Tabelski said it was 2.75 percent – in the new budget.

“I just can’t do this,” Christian said.

Bialkowski mentioned that Casey could put in for overtime and that Fairbanks and Neary are two of many salaried city employees.

“We have other employees who are salaried department heads and, boy, they work a lot more than 40 hours, and they don't come in and ask for extra money...,” he said. "When you sign onto a salaried job, it's whatever needs to be done."

Citing major unemployment, he said, “I just don’t support this.”

In other developments, Council:

  • Approved a one-year contract extension with Client First at a cost not to exceed $87,856 for external project management services and a contract with Systems East Inc., for a tax collection software package at a cost of $42,921 and for annual training at a cost of $6,240 in connection with the Enterprise Resource Planning software project.
  • Moved to its September Business meeting resolutions to accept four grants that will benefit the city fire department.

The grants are: a Federal Emergency Management Agency award for $68,880.95 for enhanced monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarm system at fire headquarters; sprinkler system and specialized water rescue training (with a 5-percent city match); a NYS Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee grant for $800 to purchase bicycle helmets; a similar grant for $3,200 to purchase child passenger safety seats; and a donation of $1,638 from FM Global Insurance Co. to purchase a new fire investigation camera and accessories.

  • Moved to the September Business meeting a resolution to solicit the lowest bid for lead services construction work on Swan and Hutchins streets – work that will require engineering expertise prior to the construction. The city previously received a grant for $554,112 to cover the replacement of lead services.

Public Works Director Matt Worth said bids will go out next week, with mid-November as the flexible cutoff for completion.

  • Approved a $189,462.75 contract with Sunshine Concrete Co. of North Tonawanda for the replacement of 3,150 linear feet of sidewalks, including handicap accessible ramps, on portions of Franklin and North Spruce streets and Roosevelt Avenue.
  • Forwarded to the September Business meeting a resolution to borrow up to $420,000 to buy a combination jet/vacuum truck for use in the city’s sanitary sewer system, water system, storm sewer system and highway maintenance operations.

Purchase of the 2019 demo unit with approximately 4,900 miles on it would replace a truck that has been in use since 1994 and has undergone multiple repairs, Tabelski said.

  • Authorized Jankowski to sign a contract with the Batavia City School District for a school resource officer for 2020-21.
August 10, 2020 - 11:53pm

If you’re going to form a committee to build a plan that addresses community policing issues and encourages trust between residents and law enforcement, it has to include people of color – those who are speaking out for equality and racial justice.

That is the position stated by Batavia City Council members tonight as they approved the formation of the Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group as mandated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order No. 203.

“I think it’s very important to have diversity in the committee because that is the people, and some of the people just like everyone else in the community, who are being affected,” City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said following the board’s Conference and Business meetings. “So, every stakeholder from every diverse demographic that we can come up with, I’d like to see on that committee – so that everyone has a say, to a point.”

Jankowski said filling the committee with people of the same perspective is not the answer.

“If we end up one-siding it or lopsiding it, we’re not really going to solve the problem,” he said. “We need to have legitimate conversations from all the stakeholders – all the people that might or might not be involved – so we can get as much input as we can.”

As previously reported on The Batavian, the advisory group, per a memo from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, was set up to consist of 15 members – including the city manager, three police department representatives, three attorneys, one Council member, a faith-based leader, Batavia Housing Authority director, not-for-profit representative, Batavia City School District superintendent, business leader and two citizen representatives.

Prior to a vote, Council member Robert Bialkowski made a motion to amend the list to include four citizen representatives to ensure minority input. The amendment was accepted and the measure passed unanimously.

The advisory group came up at the outset of tonight’s proceedings when Batavia resident Sammy DiSalvo used the public comments segment to say he opposed the makeup of it.

After reading off the list of proposed committee members, DiSalvo said, “And finally you’re rounding out this 15-person committee with two citizens, which is atrocious.”

“I hope everybody remembers why this entire executive order was proposed by Cuomo in the first place. And if you’re only going to put two out of 15 positions as citizens to help discuss how police can better police citizens, then this is a moronic proposal put forward,” he said. “This was started because of police brutality nationwide against people of color. And there is also nothing in this resolution about including those disadvantaged groups in this conversation.”

DiSalvo suggested having just one police officer and one attorney – not three of each – and called for half of the group to be “citizens,” with at least two people of color.

“Make sure your citizens are represented and right now they are not,” he said.

Council member Rose Mary Christian said she disagreed “with most of the things that DiSalvo said, and I will not sit here and think that our police department has abused anyone. I will not defend, I will not defund, our police and, as a matter of fact, I stand behind them.”

She said she has a flag at her home with a blue line for the police and a red line for the fire department.

“Safety is number one to me, and I’ll be damned if somebody is going to tell me anything different,” she added.

Fellow Council member Robert Bialkowski offered that the City doesn’t have a lot of the problems that occur in larger cities, punctuating that with “it’s simple – don’t break the law.”

Wording in the governor's executive order does not specifically stipulate the actual members, but mentions that stakeholders should include “but not (be) limited to membership and leadership of the local police force, members of the community with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police and community interactions, interested non-profit and faith-based community groups, local office of the district attorney, local public defender and local elected officials.”

Tabelski said that she and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch used the information in the previous paragraph to analyze “the members listed to make up the group, and then applied it to local conditions here in Batavia to form the parameters of our local group.”

“Our intent was to have good representation from all sides and to comply with the executive order,” she said.

During a presentation to Council, City Attorney George Van Nest outlined eight recently enacted pieces of legislation, including an anti-chokehold act and providing medical attention to persons in custody act.

Heubusch, meanwhile, reported that his agency has achieved all but a couple of the dozen or so standards spelled out in the governor’s executive order, and cited statistics showing a downward trend in crime in the city over the past five years.

Tabelski said that persons seeking to serve on the committee should send a “letter of interest” via email to her at [email protected] or call 585-345-6300 by Sept. 1.

Regular meetings will be scheduled starting in September, followed by a draft presentation to Council in January, public comments in February, final version of the plan in March and submission to the state by April 1.

Previous story: City Council agenda includes resolution to create Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group

August 8, 2020 - 10:22am

In compliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order on policing reform, the City of Batavia has set the wheels in motion to form a 15-member Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group that will assist in drafting a plan based on community input by April 1, 2021.

The executive order, “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative,” stipulates that police departments must adopt a plan by the April date to be eligible for future state funding.

The topic is on both the Conference and Business agendas of Monday night’s City Council meeting at City Hall Council Chambers. The Conference meeting will begin at 7 o’clock.

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a July 30 memo to City Council, wrote that the governor’s mandate is in “direct response to incidents involving law enforcement officials whereby actions of particular officer(s) resulted in the death of unarmed citizens.”

“The City of Batavia stands in deep sadness and grief over the actions of a few officers who have contributed to a culture of mistrust and divisiveness,” she wrote. “No one deserves to be abused, or treated unfairly, by members of their community and especially not by law enforcement officials.”

In boldface type: “All individuals should be held to the same standard, with no one above the law – whether civilian, law enforcement or government official and those that break the law should be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent.”

Tabelski continued, praising the Batavia police force as “a world-class police department comprised of men and women who take the job of protecting and serving our community very seriously. The Batavia Police Department has and will continue to uphold a high standard of professionalism in themselves and those that serve with.”

According to the resolution to be considered by Council, the advisory group will consist of the following:

  • City manager;
  • Police chief;
  • Assistant police chief;
  • City attorney;
  • One City Council member;
  • Two citizen representatives;
  • Batavia Housing Authority director;
  • Director of a not-for-profit that serves human interests (i.e. YWCA);
  • District attorney representative;
  • Public defender representative;
  • Batavia Police Benevolent Association representative;
  • Batavia City School District superintendent;
  • Community religious leader;
  • Business leader representative.

The role of the advisory group, per the memo, is to review current police department policies, procedures and training initiatives, and to recommend improvements in areas such as community policing, response, crime prevention through environmental design and training enhancements.

“The goal of the Group will be to build upon the current policies adopted by the Department, that meet or exceed industry standards and best practices, and to build further relationships within the community,” Tabelski wrote.

According to supporting documentation for Monday’s meeting, the Batavia Police Department has already met or exceeded about a dozen standards or initiatives spelled out in Cuomo’s executive order.

Those include updates of use of force policy, standards of conduct/community relations/biased based policing and training, law enforcement diversion programs, restorative justice practices, community outreach, hot-spot policing, focused deterrence (specialized patrols) and violence prevention, and the department is in the process of being accepted into the NYS Accreditation Program.

The timetable for advisory group activities lists Sept. 1st as the deadline for the committee’s formation (applications will be accepted at the city manager’s office), schedule regular meetings beginning in September, draft presentation of the plan to Council in January, public comments in February and final version of the plan in March.

In other developments, Tabelski:

-- Will share details of a July 29 memo to Council that projects a $1.18 million loss to the City of Batavia due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shutdown in the state. That number is significantly less than the April projection of a $2.5 million loss in sales tax and other revenue sources.

“(After the first quarter) sales tax and property tax losses were not as severe as originally forecasted,” she reported.

The memo indicates that the city has the potential to save $641,388 as a result of a spending freeze, layoffs and hiring freezes that began in April and the potential to gain $185,524 in revenue when considering Video Lottery Terminal funds ($352,631) and other sources ($79,000) which “will assist in offsetting the anticipated reduction in AIM (Aid and Incentives to Municipalities) aid in the amount of $246,107.”

Subtracting the potential receipts from the $1.18 million in projected revenue loss, the current shortfall comes to $357,585.

-- Will recommend paying $750 per month stipends, effective July 1, to Dawn Fairbanks, human resource specialist; Lisa Neary, director of finance, and Lisa Casey, confidential secretary to the city manager, for additional duties they have taken on since the departure of former City Manager Martin Moore.

Tabelski moved from Assistant City Manager into the Acting City Manager role on June 22.

As a result, she wrote in a memo dated July 30, Fairbanks, Neary and Casey assumed some of the duties assigned to the assistant manager, including implementation and management of projects pertaining to software applications, information technology, fiber network connections, flood zone communications, risk management and Bond Anticipation Notes for future capital projects.

August 7, 2020 - 4:55pm

In light of a couple of proposed changes and despite some recent miscommunication, the City Council liaison to the municipality’s Deer Management Plan Committee says he is confident the documented strategy to reduce the deer population will be approved Monday night.

City Council has scheduled both a Conference and Business meeting, starting at 7 p.m., at City Hall Council Chambers, with a resolution to approve the City of Batavia Deer Management Plan as the last item on the Business meeting agenda.

“We have a good, solid plan in place, everybody is on board and I am very confident that this will pass,” said Council Member John Canale, speaking of the 21-page document stemming from the efforts of the five-person committee that worked with city leaders and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials.

Canale said that he agrees with a pair of recommendations not in the draft of the plan presented at last month’s Council meeting as they specifically address liability and safety issues -- aspects of the plan deemed as priorities.

The changes, spelled out in an Aug. 4 memo from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, are as follows:

-- Nobody other than city employees who qualify for the program will be allowed to hunt in areas 4 and 5, which are predominantly city-owned parcels located near the wastewater treatment plant and yard waste station.

-- While supporting approval of the plan, “all activities related to (its) implementation” will be prohibited “until schools in Batavia are fully reopened.”

Concerning the first suggestion, the committee identified five acceptable hunting zones: (area 1) parcel north of Clinton Street; (area 2) land in the Naramore Drive area and north; (area 3) property west of State Street (in vicinity of BOCES) and proceeding north from Lambert Park; (area 4) Route 98, south of Walnut Street area; and (area 5) Law Street area stretching almost to Kibbe Park.

Where private property is involved, hunting will be permitted only after the landowner signs a cooperation agreement form. But, in the case of hunting on city property, Canale said that “comes under a different umbrella” when liability is considered.

“That will come up in the discussion on Monday, I am sure of that,” he said.

On the second recommendation, the Batavia City School District previously announced that it will be going with a “hybrid” reopening schedule – students are in school some days and are learning remotely on other days.

Safety is the Cornerstone Element

In the memo, Tabelski wrote that “many students will be home between two and five days a week for remote learning attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic reopening protocol. As you are aware, safety of the community is the cornerstone element of the plan and explained in detail in section 6, safety considerations.”

Canale said he is the one who brought the Batavia school situation to her attention.

“I am concerned about hunting during school hours, as is the committee which set it up to hunt only on days and times when school is in session,” Canale said. “Both of these changes have everything to do with liability and safety at this point.”

He said hunting may not start until after the first of the year, effectively wiping out Plan A, which allows for archery-only hunting from Oct. 1 through mid-December in accordance with the NYS hunting season.

Canale noted that Plan B and Plan C grants extended archery-only and extended archery-only using bait, respectively, from Jan. 2 through March 31. Both of those plans would require Deer Damage permits from the DEC.

Nephew: 'Something has Gone Haywire'

Deer Committee Member Russell Nephew, who reached out to The Batavian on Thursday night, said his group is upset over what he called a breakdown in communication over the past three weeks. According to Nephew, the committee was not informed of any potential changes.

“Something has gone haywire. We seemed to have been left out of the loop,” said Nephew, who said he was speaking on behalf of fellow members Samuel DiSalvo, Fred Gundell, Gus Galliford and Kent Klotzbach.

Nephew said he tried to set up another committee meeting with city management but was unsuccessful and telephoned Canale for an update but did not receive a return call. He also said an Aug. 1 deadline for hunting tags has been missed, although there had been talk of a special Council meeting to expedite the process.

“The bad thing about this is you’re going behind closed doors with the city attorney and not involving the deer committee, which has done all this work for about nine months. And you go and just not add language, you changed it,” he said. “If that type of thing would have happened with (former City Manager) Marty Moore, he would have called us all in, and said ‘Hey, I want to go over this with you. This is why we want to do this and how do you feel about it?’ ”

Canale said he is taking responsibility for the misunderstanding.

“I didn’t get back to Russ, but I didn’t realize that he was waiting for a return call,” Canale said. “We have worked well together and talked numerous times … and I had planned to call him this weekend. I am the liaison – the go-between (the committee and City Council) and I have always told Russ that I’m your man.”

Tabelski 'Thrown into the Process'

He also defended Tabelski, pointing out that she was “thrown into the process at the tail end, and had a difficult task of getting acclimated and trying to act in his (Moore) place as city manager.”

Canale has publicly praised the committee – “It was an experience that I never had in my eight years (on Council),” he said – but explained that now the ball is in the city’s court, so to speak.

“We’ve come to where the legalese has to be interjected into this plan,” he said. “If Moore was still here, he would be the one making these changes along with the DEC and city attorney. I understand how the committee may feel the way they do, but the new acting city manager has done what had to be done.”

Nephew also said he believed the committee was not going to be invited to a follow-up meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Aug. 13.

Canale said Tabelski sent an email on July 25 about the meeting to him along with City Attorney George Van Nest and Confidential Secretary Lisa Casey, “but only to see if we were OK with the date and time. Once we said it was good, then another email was to be sent to the committee.”

That email was sent from Casey to committee members on July 28 – the day after Nephew emailed Casey notifying her that he had learned about the meeting. Nephew provided the emails to The Batavian.

All Have to Pass the Test

Getting back to the provision that only city employees will be able to hunt on the two city property areas, Nephew said they will have to pass a test – hitting a target five consecutive times. He also said the committee takes exception to the fact that members of the 12-club Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen will be left out.

“The plan puts the sportsmen at the top of the list,” he said. “We went to the clubs because that’s where the experienced hunters are – they have to have at least five years’ experience. We all agreed to that. Now, they won’t be able to hunt Sections 4 and 5 unless they work for the city.”

And he said he’s not completely in agreement with a shutdown of the program due to the school schedule.

“If school is in session, then the other kids have to be at home, remotely on the computer at home, and if they are, that’s like being in school – not out running around,” he said. “They’re at home. They can’t be running around because the school is going to know.”

Nephew said not being part of the discussion hurts more than the changes themselves.

“If they had come to us and given us reasons and things of that nature, we’re not hard to get along with,” he said. “We probably would have said, ‘Well, if that’s what the city wants, we’ll have to go along with it' -- but that’s not what we came up with.”

August 6, 2020 - 10:08am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, The Novak Consulting Group.

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. today said that the next formal discussion about the vacant city manager position will take place in executive session following Monday’s Conference and Business meetings at City Hall Council Chambers.

“We’re in a unique situation where we have an employee who is interested in the position, and would be affected by a public discussion before several important topics are covered,” Jankowski said, speaking of Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski. “In our previous search two years ago (that resulted in the hiring of Martin Moore), no city employee wanted the job.”

When asked about the progress of a potential job search for Moore’s permanent successor, he said the nine members of City Council “will come together and decide – it’s not up to me, I’m just one person and my personal opinion doesn’t matter.”

“If Council decides to conduct a search, that will made public, and if the decision is different (such as offering the job to Tabelski, who had been the assistant city manager), then that will be made public, too,” he said.

Jankowski said he expects to learn by Monday the status of contracting, once again, with The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that conducted the search in 2018.

Novak reportedly guaranteed a “free” search if Moore left the position within two years of his hiring – which did occur, but Jankowski said he wants to know about other expenses such as advertising in trade publications and possible moving expenses for an out-of-town hire.

At July’s Council meeting, the board requested that Novak be contacted for the answers to those questions.

Tabelski, who has been serving as acting city manager since June 22, then suggested that Human Resources Specialist Dawn Fairbanks make the call since Tabelski has expressed interest in staying on as the city manager and wanted to avoid any conflict of interest.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski has gone on record in favor of a new search, emphasizing that the board should capitalize on Novak’s two-year warranty.

Jankowski said that he has received emails from residents who are on both sides of the issue.

“We welcome the public’s input and I am confident that Council will proceed in the best interests of the community,” he said.

July 15, 2020 - 4:44pm

The Batavia City Council member who requested that the “process to hire a new city manager” item be placed on this past Monday’s meeting agenda says it is the board’s duty to invest the time and effort necessary to hire the right person for the job.

“I’m a firm believer that we owe it to the citizens of Batavia to do a search and find the most qualified person, and anyone that wants can submit an application. I think that’s important because if we don’t, then the innuendo and rumors will be flying,” Robert Bialkowski said by telephone on Tuesday.

Council discussed the matter for about nine minutes during its Conference Meeting at City Hall, exploring its options as it looks to find a permanent replacement for departed City Manager Martin Moore.

Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski has been serving at acting city manager since June 22, two days after the City and Moore severed their relationship.

Bialkowski said he put the topic on the agenda because “I wanted Council to make a decision – let’s move forward.”

He said he wasn’t pleased with the placement on the agenda, being that it wasn’t positioned as an item that would result in a resolution.

“If you look at the Conference agenda, it was under the Council president explaining the process,” he said. “I’m noticing some unusual things.”

The councilperson-at-large said the board should take advantage of a “warranty” offered by The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that conducted the search that resulted in Moore’s hiring in August 2018.

“The company offered a full warranty if the manager either was terminated or left on his own accord within two years, and they will stand behind that warranty,” he stated. “You’re not going to find another company to do it any more reasonable."

When the subject came up during the meeting, Council Member Kathleen Briggs asked if a hiring freeze in effect would pertain to filling the position at this time.

After both Council President Eugene Jankowski and Tabelski said it was for part-time employees and didn’t apply to a vacancy, the former suggested contacting Novak to inform its leadership team of the City’s situation.

“Let’s see what kind of feedback we get from them and move forward,” Jankowski said. “It’s only been a few weeks but we don’t want to wait too long.”

At that point, Tabelski indicated that she is interested in the position.

That prompted Jankowski to mention some options – starting a new search and following it through or putting the matter on hold for a month. He then said more details would be discussed in executive session after the Aug. 10 meeting.

“I think we should reach out and see what our option is with that other agency first and once we have that information, we’d have more to decide,” he said.

Council Member John Canale concurred, adding that “most likely we will reach out to them at some point; so, kind of put them on notice.”

“I agree with Bob that it’s important to start the process and then we can, in executive session at some point, get together and start to talk about the candidates,” he said.

Jankowski, choosing his words carefully, then said there were three options.

“If you think about it there are only three options – you can do a whole search and hire somebody, keep what we have in place and make that offer or a combination of both … there’s only three choices there,” he said. “We need to know if that other option (Novak) is off the table for some reason – the company’s no longer in business or they don’t see it the way we see it – that would be an important thing to know.”

Bialkowski said he did an internet search on the company and found that it not only is still in business, but it has expanded.

“The contract we signed with them … the guarantee for this position is two years,” he said. “Should the selected candidate leave or be terminated from the position within two years of being hired, The Novak Consulting Group will conduct a new search for no professional recruiting fee.”

Jankowski said it behooved the board to find out what expenses the City may incur by conducting a new search.

“At a time when things are tight, I want to know exactly what kind of money we’re going to be talking here. … Let’s get some more information and bring in back for August,” he said.

He then asked Tabelski to contact Novak Consulting Group, and she, in turn, said she would assign Human Resources Specialist Dawn Fairbanks “to make those inquiries … so I would not have any knowledge of the process you may or may not entertain as you move forward, working with the city attorney.”

Bialkowski was known to be a supporter of Moore, and he acknowledged that he did vote “no” during the executive session that followed Council’s June 8th meeting. Less than two weeks later, Moore was gone.

Asked on Tuesday if he had hard feelings over Moore’s departure, he said, “I can’t comment on that because it was in executive session. But what I can comment on if you look at the minutes, I did vote “no.” (The vote was 8-1). That’s all I can say.”

Bialkowski then was asked why a vote was necessary if Moore had indeed resigned, which is what he had been quoted as saying in a story in a local newspaper.

“What do you want me to tell you? I know what you want me to tell you but you’re on a fishing trip with no bait,” he responded. “Everything else, we are bound by lawyer, attorney-client privilege in executive session."

He said that finding Moore's replacement is “totally impersonal.”

“I don’t care who applies,” he said. “I can only encourage people to apply.”

July 14, 2020 - 2:16pm

A young woman who resides on State Street in the vicinity of Lewis Place and Hutchins Place says she is concerned for her safety due to the ongoing incidents in the neighborhood, and she wants Batavia City Council to do something about it.

Speaking during the public comments portion of Monday night’s Council meeting, the woman (whose name is not being published by The Batavian) said she’s “pretty much at my breaking point with this community.”

She said she has lived on State Street for about 12 years and has volunteered her time to several organizations. She said she is dismayed by the lack of respect shown to police officers by some of her neighbors and worn out by the things she has had to endure.

“That’s why I’m here today to reach out and see what we can do about this situation,” she said.

She said she has had her garden destroyed, car windows smashed and trash dumped onto her property (which she had to pay to have removed), and has had to put up with fireworks at all hours of the day and night as well as constant commotion.

“People working at home (as in her case) have to deal with this 24 hours a day,” she said, adding that she has sent dozens of videos of these incidents to City officials. “We put our jobs and our livelihoods at risk because there are so many altercations outside – you can’t have a conversation with a customer service rep on the phone.”

She said that when she called and sent the videos, the “answer to that was to open the spray park (at Austin Park).”

“But that’s not enough. That spray park has been open for years and it has not stopped anything,” she said. “I live in constant fear. I’m afraid to be here – what if somebody sees that I was here, what’s going to happen to my house and my garden, my livelihood at that point.”

She also said she has been sexually harassed, but despite all of this, she continues “to try and try and try” and asked, “What can we do to solve this?”

The woman also talked about the declining property values in the area, specifically a neighbor whose home was assessed for $71,000, but ended up selling for $11,000.

Council members Rose Mary Christian and Patti Pacino responded to the woman’s pleas.

“I’m ashamed that people have to be harassed,” Christian said. “I want something done about it. The lady and her family shouldn’t have to be fearful.”

Pacino said she was “appalled (to know) that she is afraid to go home after coming to this meeting.”

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said that he has added a new detail of two officers who are in that area five days a week for eight hours a day – and plans to run that detail through the end of the summer. He also said street surveillance cameras are operational in that area, and encouraged residents to continue to call the police department to report problems.

Council President Eugene Jankowski said this type of “bullying” can be stopped with the community’s help while Council Member John Canale, who acknowledged receiving a lot of phone calls and emails about the neighborhood, vowed to “get the situation under control.”

On another topic, city resident John Roach inquired about the plan for Dwyer Stadium now that the Batavia Muckdogs won’t be playing this year – and maybe not again.

“Are you going to give it away? Knock it down and put something else there? Keep it as a memorial?” Roach asked.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said Public Works Director Matt Worth has spoken with the teams and the (New York-Penn) league.

“They do have a lease and they are working to get a straight answer,” Bialkowski said. “We do have some other plans, such as college baseball. There are some other options to look into. It is on all of our minds.”

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski said she wasn’t aware of recent developments, noting that she has spoken to Worth many times about college or semi-pro teams that could come in to fill the void left by the departure of Minor League Baseball.

Tabelski said she understood that the lease runs through next season.

“If someone like a community group wanted to use that field or another team wanted to use it, they would still have to go through the (NY-)Penn League to get permission to do so. The city couldn’t grant that type of access to the stadium due to the lease that they have,” she said.

July 14, 2020 - 11:44am

As expected, the Batavia City Council passed two resolutions Monday night to restart its investigation into constructing a new police station to replace the department’s current headquarters at the old City Hall, a structure built in 1855 as the Brisbane Mansion.

After approving a transfer of $50,000 from the Facility Reserve, the board voted to contract with Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville, to conduct a feasibility study and review for the new station’s potential landing space – the parking lot on Alva Place now being used by the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market.

The $41,200 contract with the architectural firm is set up to provide the City with the recommended square footage, design and layout, ability to expand, regulatory requirements and projected costs for design and construction for both the site work and the actual facility.

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski presented tentative goals as follows:

  • 2020-21 -- conduct the feasibility study;
  • 2020-21 -- conduct financial analysis and bonding capacity concurrently with the feasibility study;
  • 2021-22 -- design and engineering;
  • 2022-24 -- construction.

“We’re looking to devise a plan where we can afford it with the goal of not having to increase taxes to do so,” Tabelski said.

Talk of constructing a new police station started more than 20 years ago and seemed to take hold about six years ago with the formation of a Police Station Task Force. However, the task force’s recommendation of building on Swan Street failed to materialize and little action has ensued.

In other developments, Council:

-- Approved a $328,200 contract with Keeler Construction for the Franklin Street-Richmond Avenue sewer rehabilitation project.

The City is saving nearly $500,000 as a result of changing its plan from a complete sewer line replacement on Franklin Street to an excavated repair of one section and relining of the rest of the line. From there, crews will reline the Richmond Avenue sewer ahead of its rehabilitation project in 2022.

-- Moved to its Aug. 10 meeting a resolution to contract with the Batavia City School District to provide one full-time School Resource Officer (SRO) during the school year, with the position to be paid for by the school district.

The City will be responsible for the SRO’s vehicle, uniform, equipment and training. The agreement, set to run through June 30, 2022, is on the agenda for approval by the BCSD Board of Education at its July 20th meeting.

July 14, 2020 - 9:39am

nephew_and_disalvo_1.jpg

Two citizen members of the City of Batavia’s Deer Management Plan Committee on Monday night effectively used the spoken word to support a 21-page proposal to reduce the deer population within the City limits.

“I explained the whole management draft that we had worked on for the past eight months – I explained the highlights of that plan and what to expect for the citizens of Batavia. It was very transparent and very clear,” said Russ Nephew, who – along with Samuel DiSalvo – provided details and answered questions about the report at the City Council meeting.

The committee also included Batavia residents Gus Galliford, Fred Gundell and Kent Klotzbach, and was assisted by Council Member John Canale, state Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife specialists, former City Manager Martin Moore and Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

A previous story about the archery-only deer management plan appeared on Saturday on The Batavian. The committee’s first-year goal is to eliminate up to 60 deer.

Nephew and DiSalvo said motivating factors in the committee’s work were not only trying to prevent property damage caused by an overabundance of deer, but also by ticks and diseases that whitetail deer carry, such as Lyme disease, chronic wasting disease and tuberculosis.

The committee met frequently in person and via telephone, and also surveyed areas of the city where deer have been settling. Canale said he was impressed by the group’s commitment.

“It was an experience that I never had in my eight years (on Council),” Canale said. “They took what we tasked them (to do) very seriously... It proved to me that if we can do this with one city problem, we can do this for other city problems.”

Nephew went over the three phases of the plan that deal with dates and times for hunters who opt into the program and also talked about the five designated hunting zones recommended by the committee – private and city-owned land in the areas of Clinton Street, Naramore Drive, State Street (near BOCES), Route 98 south of Walnut Street and Law Street.

He noted other restrictions and requirements pertaining to landowner agreements and DEC setbacks and mentioned that landowners must sign a form authorizing hunting on their property. Furthermore, hunters must have at least five years’ experience and have to pass a test to qualify, he said.

“There are enormous safety guidelines in that plan,” Nephew said. “I think it speaks for itself and I think we got a very good response. So, we’re looking forward, now, to next month and hopefully see this thing approved.”

DiSalvo, a former hunter safety instructor, said deer herds tend to double every year, and for the program to be effective it has to continue on a yearly basis. He said that the committee counted about 83 deer in just two of the designated areas.

“This needs to go forward,” he said. “It would be a shame if we don’t.”

He also talked about the state’s permit process, prompting input from Council President Eugene Jankowski, who is familiar with hunting regulations.

DiSalvo said that members of the 12 clubs that are part of the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen would be excellent candidates for the program because they have “the proper morals and values, and are experienced.”

Discussion also touched upon where the deer would be dressed after harvesting, hunting on city-owned land, communication among the hunters, enforcement and how and when to approach the landowners.

“I don’t see any of the landowners saying no,” DiSalvo said.

Canale said he hoped that would be the case but “if we lose one area, we can still go forward.”

Jankowski said the “whole plan is pretty much solid except for a couple of minor details” and urged Council to move it to the Aug. 10 meeting for an official vote. In the meantime, he said the public is welcome to send emails and make phone calls to Council members to express their opinions.

Nephew thanked Moore, who departed as city manager last month, for doing a great job -- never missing a meeting and attending a sportsmen’s club meeting, and Lisa Casey, the City’s confidential secretary, for making numerous changes as the plan evolved, as well as Canale, Tabelski and City Attorney George Van Nest.

Photo: Russell Nephew, left, and Samuel DiSalvo addressing City Council on Monday night about the work of the Deer Management Plan Committee. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 13, 2020 - 11:36pm

The Batavia City Council is asking the owner of a popular downtown restaurant to go back to the drawing board after deciding not to support his plan to place a tent for outdoor dining in a parking lot next to his building.

Council, at its Conference Meeting tonight at the City Hall Council Board Room, determined that the obstacles identified by City management to the proposal by Vic Marchese of Main Street Pizza Company were valid reasons to reject his “COVID-19 2020 Temporary Outdoor Dining on City Property Program” application.

However, Council members and management said they are willing to work with Marchese on an alternative, possibly exploring the placement of tables behind his building or on the sidewalk in front of his building at 206 Main St.

“I understand that the restaurant business is an extremely competitive business and Vic does not have a lot of area to expand on,” Council Member John Canale said. “He’s at a major disadvantage … outdoor dining is almost imperative. We need to find an option for Vic Marchese to be able to compete with other restaurants who are basically eating his lunch right now.”

Marchese’s proposal was to put up a 15-foot by 75-foot tent, with lighting, in the parking lot on the east side of the restaurant – utilizing seven to eight parking spaces. He then would set up eight to 10 tables, accommodating up to 60 guests, under the tent.

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, referring to her July 7 memo to City Council, read the reasons she and departmental leaders felt the plan would not be feasible.

She cited state building code’s prohibiting tents in a parking space, the fact that the City does not own the entire lot, the removal of prime parking spaces (including handicap spaces) and traffic issues in an already congested parking lot between Main Street Pizza and the building owned by City Church.

The Rev. Martin Macdonald, pastor of City Church, expressed his view of the situation during the public comments portion of the meeting.

“I love Main Street Pizza and I love Vic, but I’m concerned with having an outdoor tent (that would) make traffic more hazardous,” he said. “Batavia Bootery would not have enough parking spaces for their business and I’m very concerned about the square footage being taken away.”

Macdonald also mentioned that it’s already dangerous since cars parked in front of Main Street Pizza block the view of traffic coming from the west.

Canale said he understood the legalities involved, but said “as a council person, I need to protect businesses as well.”

Council Member Paul Viele was the only one to speak in favor of Marchese’s idea.

“Just put the tables up there, let the guy do it and get over it,” Viele said.

Following the meeting, Viele expounded on his thoughts.

“It’s a temporary thing here. Let the guy make some money like every other restaurant’s doing downtown and when the COVID is over, then you’re all set,” he said, adding that motorists would adjust to the tent being there.

“People would have adapted. It’s only a three-month or four-month (situation), however long it takes, and let people enjoy Main Street Pizza,” he said. “I understand Marty’s concern and I understand the Bootery’s concern, but if you look at it, Vic’s going to be taking parking spots from his own place because it’s on the side of his building. And people would adjust to it. It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion.”

Viele called it “unfortunate” that nobody else saw “Vic’s vision” but was pleased that Council is willing to work with Marchese on possible alternatives.

Marchese did not speak during the meeting, but communicated his plight with reporters as he was walking out.

“People aren’t coming in. People don’t like to eat indoors right now; they advise against it. What are you going to do? It’s all over television. Eat outdoors,” Marchese said. “I’ll give you an example. Three Saturdays ago, I left there (his business) at 8 o’clock at night and had one table. I went by Roman’s and I went by Batavia’s Original – packed in the patio, packed.”

Marchese said he’s taken “a big hit” – losing a considerable amount of the business that had elevated him to a lofty place in the pizzeria industry.

“I was named the one of the top independent pizzerias in the United States last year – number 68 in the country,” he said. “I do a big volume and every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, there’s 20, 30 people at the door, and it’s not there right now. Which is understandable. My wife doesn’t want to go out and eat in a restaurant. I need outdoor dining.”

He said he wasn’t in favor of putting tables behind the building (where the exhaust fan is located), but might be open to placing tables on the sidewalk in front.

“But the thing is they want you to keep the tables as close to the building as possible,” he said. “If I can put a table close to the building and right towards the curb, that could work. I could possibly fit eight tables, 10 tables out there, but they don’t want them close to the curb.”

During the early stages of the discussion about outdoor dining, there was some confusion over the “parklets” concept that was featured in a story on The Batavian following a recent Batavia Development Corporation meeting.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said he was taken by surprise by the City’s approval of having parklets (enclosed outdoor dining areas) in the parking spaces along Main Street. It was then explained by Tabelski and BDC Executive Director Andrew Maguire that the parklets story was a separate issue – something discussed as a possibility in the future.

Bialkowski also questioned the process of developing the temporary outdoor dining permit and balked at the $250 fee attached to it.

Tabelski said she received feedback from Business Improvement District members who believed it would be unfair not to collect a fee and also cited costs involved with the program, including attorney’s fees for drafting the legal documentation.

Council President Eugene Jankowski encouraged Marchese to get together with Tabelski and City staff to explore options.

“It’s not our place to redesign the plan here … but we can’t approve the plan as it is now,” he said.

City Attorney George Van Nest mentioned that the State Liquor Authority carries a lot of weight when it comes to arrangements such as this one and puts an emphasis on safety, even to the point of requiring material barricades to prevent traffic accidents.

Council Member Rose Mary Christian disapproved as well, mentioning that the tent would take away some of the handicapped parking spots.

The debate ended with Jankowski stating he would call a special meeting to approve an acceptable plan, telling Marchese that “we’re not going to give up on you, Vic.”

Meanwhile, Council – during the Business Meeting afterward -- did approve an application by Eli Fish Brewing Company at 109 Main St. for a temporary outdoor dining license agreement.

Eli Fish’s application indicated that 12 tables, serving up to 52 guests, will be placed in Jackson Square, with hours of operation set at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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

In another development, City Council spoke favorably of the Deer Management Plan Committee's recommendations to cull the deer population in the City, forwarding the draft to its Aug. 10 meeting for an official vote. Watch for more details on Tuesday on The Batavian.

July 11, 2020 - 12:10pm

Watch out, Bambi. The City of Batavia is coming for you.

A three-phased plan intended to harvest up to 60 deer per year with archery-only hunting is expected to be presented to City Council at its Conference Meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

According to memo dated July 6 from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski to Council members, the City’s Deer Management Plan Committee, formed in November, has completed its task in the form of a 21-page plan to reduce the deer population within the City limits. The committee was created in response to numerous incidents of property (landscaping/garden) damage, auto accidents and other problems caused by deer.

Working with Robin Phenes, state Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist, and Council Member John Canale, the five-member committee, per the memo, has drafted a proposal that “provides a streamlined program experience and ensures programmatic compliance, program metric tracking and stakeholder/City Council communication.”

In simpler terms, the plan specifies the time frame, five designated hunting zones, and rules and regulations, and includes permit applications, landowner cooperation agreement, hunter applications, waivers and release forms and a proficiency test.

Tabelski spelled out several highlights of the plan:

-- Plan A, hunting during the New York State regulated hunting season; Plan B, an extended hunting season (Jan. 2-March 31); Plan C, archery hunt utilizing bait (subject to Council approval). Times for hunting will be from sunrise to 2 p.m., with no hunting when schools are closed.

-- Five designated hunting zones as identified on an included map, as follows: (1) parcel north of Clinton Street, (2) land in the Naramore Drive area and north, (3) property west of State Street (in vicinity of BOCES) and proceeding north from Lambert Park, (4) Route 98, south of Walnut Street area, and (5) Law Street area stretching almost to Kibbe Park.

-- Hunting will be permitted only after the landowner signs a cooperation agreement form.

-- Tree stands must be used and all hunters must shoot downward. Hunters must be properly qualified and licensed and apply to the City of Batavia to be admitted into the program.

-- The plan is subject to NYS DEC setback requirements pertaining to the proximity of bow hunting to schools, playgrounds, public buildings, etc.

-- The program will run for three years and can be terminated at City Council’s discretion.

Citizen members of the committee are Russell Nephew, Gus Galliford, Fred Gundell, Kent Klotzbach and Samuel DiSalvo.

Council will be asked to vote on forwarding the resolution to a future Business Meeting.

Other topics on Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

-- A draft resolution to grant approval to Eli Fish Brewing Co. at 109 Main St. for a temporary outdoor dining license agreement as part of the City’s COVID-19 2020 Temporary Outdoor Dining on City Property Program.

Eli Fish’s application specified that 12 tables, serving up to 52 guests, will be placed in Jackson Square, with hours of operation set at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A memo from Tabelski dated July 7 indicated that while the Eli Fish application qualified for consideration, an application from Main Street Pizza at 206 Main St. did not and is not recommended for approval.

Vic Marchese, owner of Main Street Pizza, had proposed to put up a 15-foot by 75-foot tent, with lighting, in the parking lot on the east side of the restaurant – utilizing seven to eight parking spaces. Eight to 10 tables, accommodating up to 60 guests, were to be placed under the tent.

Tabelski spelled out several reasons why the plan would not be feasible:

-- Per the state Building Code, a tent can not be put up within 20 feet of lot lines, a parking space, buildings, etc.;
-- The City does not own the entire parking lot;
-- The application removes several prime parking spaces, including handicap spaces;
-- The one-way street would require a traffic order and, for a temporary dining basis, the City would not be able to facilitate a Local Law change in a timely fashion;
-- A traffic safety issue would occur due to cars coming into the lot off Main Street and backing out of parking spots.

Tabelski wrote that she advised the applicant of the potential problems, but he “was not interested in modifying the application.”

A draft resolution for the Main Street Pizza request is not included in the meeting document packet.

-- A pair of draft resolutions concerning a feasibility study for the construction of a new police station at the Alva Place location and corresponding contract with an architectural firm to conduct the study.

The first resolution asks City Council to transfer $50,000 of the $242,820 in the Facility Reserve fund to an expense account.

The second resolution seeks execution of a contract for $41,200 with Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville, to provide the recommended square footage, design and layout, ability to expand, regulatory requirements and projected costs for design and construction for both the site work and the actual facility.

-- City Council will conduct a Business Meeting after the Conference Meeting. Agenda items for that session include a resolution to enter into a $328,200 contract with Keeler Construction for the Franklin Street-Richmond Avenue sewer rehabilitation project.

The cost is significantly less than the original estimate of $806,000 because the City altered its plan from a complete sewer line replacement on Franklin Street to an excavated repair of one section and relining of the rest of the line, and then to include relining of the Richmond Avenue sewer ahead of its rehabilitation project in 2022.

July 10, 2020 - 1:47pm

The City of Batavia has received a “B” grade for its handling of meeting documents and accessibility during the month of June from the New York Coalition for Open Government following the nonprofit organization’s review of the websites of 20 municipalities across the state.

According to the report that took a look at local governments with populations between 10,000 and 32,000, the minutes of Batavia City Council meetings have not been posted on its website since April 27 although three meetings took place in June – a Business Meeting on June 8 and a Conference Meeting and Special Business Meeting on June 22.

The coalition report, titled “Local Governments Struggle with Timely Posting of Meeting Minutes,” did acknowledge that the City’s meeting videos are posted on Facebook and/or YouTube, but recommended that “it would be helpful if the City website directed people to where videos can be seen or provided a link to the Facebook/YouTube page.”

Criteria used to grade the towns and villages:

-- Are all meeting documents posted online prior to the meeting?
-- Are meetings being livestreamed on the local government’s website?
-- Are meeting videos/audio posted on the website after the meeting?
-- While not required by the Open Meetings Law, are local governments posting meeting minutes online in a timely fashion?

Batavia (population: 14,400) earned the “B” grade by performing three of the four actions (all except the fourth one listed above). 

Contacted today, Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski explained that the meeting minutes are posted to the website following review and approval by City Council.

“The minutes from the June meetings will be posted after July 13 (the next Council meeting) so that Council members have the ability to approve them,” she said, adding that the City is committed to being “transparent and open.”

The City’s policy concerning the posting of the minutes doesn’t rise to the level of the New York Coalition for Open Government’s recommendation, however.

The coalition’s opinion is that “meeting minutes are timely if the minutes of the last meeting are posted before the next meeting is held. This can be done, by posting draft minutes or at the very least including the minutes from the prior meeting in the next meeting agenda packet.”

Tabelski concurred with the report that all meeting documents can be found on the website prior to the meeting. She also advised that the meetings are broadcast on Spectrum’s government access channel and on Video News Services’ YouTube page.

“There is no law requiring livestream (but) during COVID we tried livestream as it was specific to guidance during COVID because we restricted access to the meetings to the public, per Executive Order 202.1 and 202.48,” she said.

Ten other municipalities also received “B” grades while three – Geneva, Plattsburgh and Rotterdam – got an “A.” On the low end of the scale, Olean received a “D” for performing one of four standards and the Town of Lockport got an “F” (zero of four).

The study revealed that 80 percent of the municipalities surveyed, including Batavia, posted their meeting documents online before the scheduled meeting date, but Batavia was one of 12 to be more than two weeks behind in posting meeting minutes.

In conclusion, the coalition called for the New York State Open Meetings Law to be amended to require that meeting minutes be posted online within two weeks of a meeting occurring. Currently, the law in New York is that meeting minutes must be made available if requested within two weeks of a meeting.

Per its website, the New York Coalition For Open Government is a nonpartisan charitable organization comprised of journalists, activists, attorneys, educators, news media organizations, and other concerned citizens who value open government and freedom of information.

Through education and civic engagement, the coalition advocates for open, transparent government and defends citizens’ right to access information from public institutions at the city, county and state levels.

June 25, 2020 - 11:53am

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Expanded outdoor dining opportunities in the short term; parklets in the long term.

Andrew Maguire, executive director of the Batavia Development Corporation, touted both ideas this morning as he emphasized the importance of providing opportunities for local restaurants to generate as much revenue as possible.

Speaking at the BDC Board of Directors meeting via Zoom, Maguire followed up on what was supported by City Council earlier this week: providing a way that restaurant owners can use City-owned property for outdoor dining purposes as they deal with the adverse effects of COVID-19.

“I think this is awesome and I think our restaurants are really going to benefit from this,” Maguire said.

Calling it a “cool new concept,” the temporary measure has been embraced by an economic development task force consisting of representatives from the City, Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, BDC, Genesee County and the Chamber of Commerce.

“(There are) under-utilized or municipal-owned areas, like Jackson Square, where unfortunately we’re not going to be having concerts there this year. So, it’s pretty much open and available,” Maguire said. “We would like to allow our local restaurateurs to consider areas around their buildings that might be viable options for them to set up some outdoor seating.”

Currently, per mandates from New York State, indoor seating is limited to 50-percent capacity.

“If we can find a way to get them more tables outside, to seat more patrons and to attract more people to our downtown for outdoor dining, that’s really our ultimate goal,” Maguire said, acknowledging City leadership’s role in getting this initiative started.

Maguire encouraged restaurant owners to fill out the Temporary Outdoor Dining on City Property Application and submit it (along with a $250 fee) to the City of Batavia as soon as possible. The application is posted on the BDC’s website.

Turning his attention to future goals, Maguire introduced the directors to the parklet model (see rendering above) where existing parking spots are turned into curbside cubicles for outdoor dining.

“Some big cities, more cutting-edge cities, have these concepts where they allow restaurants or businesses to take areas that would typically be on-street parking (to) design and engineer what they consider a parklet … that’s flush to the curb, ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant and (has) outdoor seating,” he said.

Maguire explained that a restaurateur could build a deck and/or structure in front of his or her business, make sure it is protected from traffic by barricades and place some tables and chairs on the parcel. He sees it as a way to attract people to downtown and keep them there a bit longer.

“The goal is to get people to slow down in our downtown,” he said. “A lot times people beeline to where they’re going. If they walk by a parklet, we’re hopeful that they might actually stop or have a cup of coffee, sit in the parklet, read a newspaper … have some outdoor seating and enjoy some fresh air.”

He said that he is working with County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and BID Director Beth Kemp on a template to present to City Council and, hopefully, get the go-ahead to put the plan in place.

BDC directors asked about the logistics of using existing parking spaces and what streets could be used, noting that Main Street (Route 5) may not be an option because it is a state road.

Maguire said the proposal is in its early stages and details would have to be worked out. He did say that a license agreement would be drafted between the owner and the City, with the stipulation that the owner have proper liability insurance and that the City is not liable in any way.

Director Derek Geib, a downtown restaurateur, said he likes the idea, considering that “50 percent (occupancy) doesn’t cut it to pay the bills.”

“I would like to say that I would start building a parklet tomorrow if I had the opportunity,” he said.

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