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Batavia City Council

City of Batavia seeking a city resident for Board of Assessment opening

By Press Release

Press Release:

The Board of Assessment Review currently has one position to fill. The term is a five-year term and will expire on September 2028. The Batavia City Council is seeking a City resident who is interested in volunteering as a member of this committee and has knowledge of property values.

Residents interested in applying for this position can obtain a Committee/Board Volunteer Application from either the City Clerk’s Office or on the website at, Find It Fast. The deadline to submit applications to the City Clerk’s Office is April 22. 

For further information, please contact the City Bureau of Assessment at 345-6301. 

New city workgroup revs its thinking cap to generate ideas, revenue

By Joanne Beck

A city revenue workgroup brainstormed several potential strategies in the past few months for ways to infuse the city’s coffers, including boosting the tax base with new developments; encouraging legal retail cannabis shops; pursuing voluntary public service contributions from nonprofits; selling off city properties; and enact a stormwater user fee.

Out of the myriad suggestions and ideas, they’re all on the table, with not one seeming to be the magic solution just yet, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said during a review of the process so far. 

rachel tabelski
City Manager Rachael Tabelski
Photo by Howard Owens

“So the workgroup wanted to find new revenue sources to continue to assist the city in keeping a low tax rate while providing critical services to the residents, as current major revenue sources are limited, and rely heavily on property and sales tax,” Tabelski said during City Council’s business meeting Monday at City Hall. “And just to note, the aid from the state has not increased nor decreased in the last five-plus years. But I want to point out that our group didn't find a single silver bullet. 

"There's no one answer to give us a sustainable revenue source that's going to allow us to pay our employees the wages they deserve to do the work that our residents require," she said. "So it's going to be an amalgamation of many different strategies, some that are one-time revenue sources, some that we might be able to count on an ongoing basis, like the cannabis tax.”

The goal of the group, first and foremost, was to understand the current sources and trends of revenue, and then to draft new ideas for how to bring in more of it, she said.

She noted that the property tax levied in the city “has grown slowly over time, as has sales tax revenue that has remained flat,” including the cable franchise fees, utilities and state aid. Fines, forfeited, and parking ticket revenues have decreased significantly, though new software has allowed for online parking ticket payments, tracking — and even an opportunity to dispute them, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said.

That new system will be a way to bring those numbers up to estimated revenues of $25,000 in 2024-25, he said.

Tax-exempt properties make up 32 percent of the tax base in the city, which is a lower number than some council members expected, they said. And it’s about half of the nonprofits in other municipalities such as Salamanca, Rensselaer, Albany, and Ithaca, according to group findings.

eugene jankowski
Newly reelected City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr.
Photo by Howard Owens

“I think it’s important that you put that stat in there, because it seems like more, you know what I mean? I mean, compared to the feedback I received from the public, it seems like we're being overrun with nonprofits. I kind of thought the same thing. That perception was off from the reality of this statistic. Because when you look at this statistic, we're not going to be as bad,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said. “So maybe we should be aware of it early. It's a good thing. So that we can keep an eye on that, so we don't get overwhelmed. Like 60 percent, that's a lot.”

The point was that other municipalities, many with larger portions of non-taxpaying property owners, have approached these owners and asked if they would be willing to pay something for their police, fire and any other public services received.

In one case, a university agreed to help out and paid a regular, and "lucrative" fee -- only after being asked for it.

Tabelski also reviewed a stormwater user fee that would be paid for by all property owners.

“So any building or parcel that is a sewer or water user today, pay sewer and water fees to the utility. While they may not pay property taxes, they still have to make those utility payments,” she said. “If we were to continue to explore sectioning out stormwater as a utility, which I do feel is a very good idea because we have multiple different unique characteristics of stormwater in our city, including the big ditch and the Grand Canal that we certainly could formulate capital plans for. We wouldn't be able to spread that user fee across anyone who has an impervious surface area. And we might be able to reduce that fee. Now, it would not be part of the general levy. For our property owners, it would be a utility user fee. So the more square feet or surface area you have, the more you would pay in a runoff stormwater type fee.”

This involves a complete analysis of the maintenance of the stormwater system to determine whether existing operation and maintenance gaps exist, Tabelski said. If gaps are identified, the analysis will provide an estimate of additional tasks necessary to rectify these gaps and how that would impact future revenue requirements for the Stormwater Fund and capital improvements. 

Stormwater currently functions as a department within Public Works and is supported by the taxpayer through property and sales tax and other revenue generation.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski said that he is against this suggestion for individual homeowners, especially in a time of inflation. Fellow member Al McGinnis, who first raised the issue of increasing revenue by tapping nonprofits to contribute something toward their public services, said it's a fair system for everyone.

al mcginnis
City Councilman Al McGinnis
Photo by Howard Owens

“This was a revenue enhancement that overall helps us lower taxes … We've got 32 percent of the city that doesn't pay taxes. They don't pay for fire. Nothing for DPW, they don’t pay for police. This is a way of leveling the playing field, and having skin in the game,” he said. “There's nothing wrong with having tax-exempt pay their fair share. And this is part of that. It is morally wrong to have them get services and not pay for them.”

That wasn’t the point for Bialkowski and his constituents, he said.

“I’m sorry, I know what you’re trying to do. I agree with you. But there might be a need to look at other ways, other methods, “ he said.

He routinely gets phone calls from people who are leaving New York because of the cost of services, he said. 

One of the newest ways to raise revenue has been legalized cannabis sales, and resulting sales tax for the city, Assistant City Manager Erik Fix said. 

A pop-up retail cannabis shop at Empire Hemp on East Main St. this past fall was able to take advantage of the city’s opt-in with the state, and two dispensaries have completed documents with the intent to open retail locations for a projected $750,000 in sales in this next year, Fix said. That’s to bring in about $33,000 in sales tax revenue.

“So that is a little spot that we're hoping to see some help in the current year going forward,” he said. “So kudos to council for opting in on that as an opportunity to grow some revenue.”

The workgroup explored other options of selling defunct and brownfield city properties and a possibility having to do with Climate Smart Communities that “has just come to our attention,” Tabelski said.

"If you garner enough points, they are giving communities $10,000. So we need to look into that and see if we'll qualify and what activities Council might need to take if we need to become a climate-smart community,” she said. We also looked at public safety payments from corporations when they enter into PILOT agreements as an option, but again, these are one-time revenue payments, not something that would be operationally sustainable in the long run, like your sales tax or your levy. 

"So, I reminded you the document is still under review. The first strategy explored is continuing to grow the city's tax base through new investment and the continuation of market rate assessed value," she said. "Additional revenue is only created when the tax levy increases, not when assessment increases. However, additional growth is created when the overall assessment of commercial and residential property increases.”

Group member Matt Gray said that, given his background as a business owner and property developer, “I think increasing the property value across the city through economic development is our easiest way to go.”

“We have to be behind new projects and make development, I feel, as turnkey as possible or as easy as possible so that we not only benefit from an increased tax base, but the community itself, benefits from just having development here,” he said. “So a great example right now is Carrs Reborn. We are months away from that beginning. That's an increase in property value through development. I think those are the things that I think are the lowest hanging fruit for the city in order to increase our tax base.”

Fellow member RaeAnn Engler had similar sentiments about increasing overall investment in the city, and both also said it was fair to approach nonprofits for a contribution to help pay for public services and stormwater user fees. 

“And I think it's a very good point that they made that it's an ethical and moral, correct move for them to participate in the community, essentially,” Engler said. 

“I agree with Matt on strategy one, which was to increase the value of the community, whether that's through increased value in the market values or developing projects that bring new businesses and thus new taxpayers into the community, which helps to build revenue for the town to continue to grow,” she said. “I think all of these strategies were good approaches. I don't know how much money they're going to make. They're going to hopefully help distribute the tax burden among the residents more equitably.”

The group and council are to continue the research and discussion as to which strategies to choose and how to proceed.

Getting organized for a New Year in the city

By Joanne Beck
City Council swearing in
Taking their oaths of office are, from left, Tammy Schmidt, David Twichell, Derek Geib, Paul Viele, Kathy Briggs and Al McGinnis during City Council's organizational meeting Monday at City Hall.
Photo by Joanne Beck

During City Council's 2024 organizational meeting Monday evening, reelected members Tammy Schmidt, Sixth Ward, left, David Twichell, Second Ward, third from the right, Paul Viele, First Ward, Kathy Briggs, Fifth Ward, and peeking out from behind Briggs, Al McGinnis, Fourth Ward,  take their oaths, while newly elected member Derek Geib, center, who ran unopposed for the Third Ward seat, joins his new colleagues in the official swearing-in ceremony by City Clerk/Treasurer Heidi Parker at City Hall. 

Briggs nominated Eugene Jankowski Jr. to serve as president again based on his ability to maintain "well-organized" council meetings, and he was duly voted in by the council, which also included members Bob Bialkowski and Rich Richmond.

Viele was voted in for the position of president pro tempore.

Future council meetings have been approved for 7 p.m. on the following dates:

Jan. 22; Feb. 2 and 26; March 11 and 25; April 8 and 22; May 13 and 28; June 10 and 24; July 8; August 12; Sept. 9 and 23; Oct. 15 and 28; Nov. 12 and 25; and Dec. 9.

The group adjourned for two more meetings, several resolutions and a discussion about how to raise more revenue for the city. 

City Council approves $11M in first round of new police station bids during special session

By Joanne Beck
New police station rendering
The City of Batavia's new police station is one step closer after City Council approved the first round of bids for construction work Thursday. File Photo of facility rendering. 

Two special meetings, a few pointed questions about contractor obligations, and nine votes solidified a move that City Council members, management and members of the police department celebrated Thursday at City Hall.

Council unanimously approved contracts worth $11,185,898 for the construction portion of the new police station to go up on the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place in downtown Batavia. 

“I’ve just gotta say this, going out after 12 years. This has now become probably one of the major accomplishments of my career in government,” Councilman John Canale said during the specially scheduled business meeting. “And I am just so very, very happy to finally see this happen.  Unless you go through that building, you have no idea what our police department has worked under, the types of conditions that they have worked under.”

Canale opted not to run for reelection to his Third Ward seat during this year's general election, and this was likely his last official piece of business for his term. He was one of nine yes votes for the following bids:

  • Building Innovation Group was chosen as the lowest of seven bidders for the general contracting portion of the police facility with a bid of $5,468,698.
  • Kaplan Schmidt Electric, Inc. was lowest of five bidders for electrical work with a bid of $1,365,500.
  • HVAC mechanical contracting went to Crosby-Brownlie, Inc. out of four bidders, with a bid of $1,897,200.
  • MKS Plumbing Corp. was the low bidder out of three proposals for plumbing and fire contracting, with a bid of $895,000.
  • Seven bidders pitched for site contracting, and Ingalls Development was the low bidder with $1,559,500.

Council members Paul Viele and Bob Bialkowski asked questions about the contract, including if it was “written in stone,” and whether the city would be hearing months from now that a mistake was made and a vendor needed more money.

“We do have contingency in the overall project budget,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. “But these are the contracts that we will be executing for the work that was in the bids.”

Viele also wanted to know about timeline: Is there one and is the contractor made to abide by it?

There is an 18-month time period for the project completion, Tabelski said. 

Bialkowski also wanted some assurances about the contractor — what happens in the event a main or sub contractor stops working or files for bankruptcy? 

“I don’t want to see a building half completed,” Bialkowski said. 

There are provisions in the standard contract for such situations, City Attorney George Van Nest said, though “we’re not sitting here expecting that to happen.”

“Not that it’s never happened, obviously,” he said. 

The public works and architectural team has checked references and feels comfortable with the lowest bidders chosen, Van Nest said, and there are bond claims in case a contractor becomes insolvent, he said. Should a contractor cease working on the job, it goes to another contractor, he said. 

“I understand Mr. Bialkowski’s concerns,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said, referencing the situation at Ellicott Station, where the contractor walked off the job after closing his company. 

The total police facility project is estimated to be $15.5 million, paid for with a $13 million loan at 3.75 percent interest from the USDA and a $2.5 million grant, Tabelski said. 

“We would love to deliver on budget or under budget,” she said, later adding that “we’re really excited to see these bids awarded today.”

After the vote, which also included members Kathy Briggs, Al McGinnis, David Twichell, Rich Richmond and Tammy Schmidt, the audience with police department staff representation applauded. 

Jankowski, a retired lieutenant, once worked at the current station on Main Street also known as Brisbane Mansion. He said that “it’s been a long road” to get to this point.

“I want to thank you for sticking through this project, it’s been 10 years, probably more,” he said. “Thank you for doing the right thing.”

Bialkowski shared some history that there was a former police station on School Street, and recalled how “you walked up the stairs, and right at the top of the hallway was the desk sergeant."

Presentation offers lessons, urges residents to test homes for radon

By Joanne Beck
Sherri Bensley and Allysa Pascoe
Sherri Bensley, left, and Allysa Pascoe, of Genesee and Orleans Health Department, give a presentation about radon during this week's City Council meeting at City Hall. Free test kits are available at the health department to find out your home's level for this odorless, tasteless radioactive gas.
Photo by Howard Owens.

If you were asked to name the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, it may surprise you that the answer is not second hand smoke, often portrayed as perhaps the most dangerous substance to lungs for those exposed to the fumes of others.

The top cause of lung cancer is actually radon for nonsmokers, and overall is the second leading cause of lung cancer for the general population, Public Health Educator Sherri Bensley of Genesee and Orleans Health Department says. 

Not often something discussed at the dinner table or thought about in the home, radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year, according to GO Health statistics. 

Although the topic up to now has been a quiet one, Bensley and Environmental Health Specialist Allysa Pascoe have been taking a presentation on the road — including to City Council this week — to review the basics of radon and remind folks about the importance of what to keep in mind with this radioactive gas.

"The GO Health Departments would like residents to know that radon is the leading environmental cause of any cancer and it is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking," Bensley said to The Batavian. "Radon can enter a home through cracks in the foundation, cracks in basement walls, holes, joints, dirt floors, sump pump holes, suspended floors and in the well-water supply. 

“Any home (new or old), that has contact to the ground has the potential for radon to enter the home," she said. "Testing your home is the only way to know if high levels are present and corrective action is needed.”

Tests were conducted in Genesee County, and Stafford was found to be the area with the highest levels of radon in the lowest living area of the home, which was the basement.

Levels were at greater than 10 pCi/L (that is picocuries per liter), with several areas reaching greater than 4 and less than 10, including Byron, Bergen, Batavia, Le Roy, Darien, Bethany, Pavilion and Pembroke. Towns and villages of Alabama, Oakfield, Elba and Alexander had the lowest levels of less than 4.

When testing was conducted on first floors in the county, Stafford remained at 10, and was joined by Darien; whereas the 4 to 10 levels were only in Batavia, Bethany and Le Roy and remaining municipalities had levels of 4 or lower.

The health department distributed radon test kits from Jan. 17 of this year to June 30, with 37 elevated readings out of 174 total kits, Bensley said. From July 1 to now, there were 73 more kits distributed, and 23 elevated readings. 

GO Health has been able to do this through a New York State Indoor Radon Grants Program meant to increase public awareness about th risks and health hazards of radon exposure.  It’s a sneaky inert gas that’s colorless, odorless and tasteless that cannot be detected by one’s senses.

Exposure to radon can damage tissue and may cause lung cancer since it is a carcinogen. It also can be found anywhere, since it’s produced by the decay of uranium in soil, rock and water. 

So now that you may be sufficiently scared, or at least concerned, what to do about it? 

“With funding provided by the New York State Department of Health, the Genesee County Health Department has free radon test kits available to residents of Genesee County,” Bensley said. “If someone finds that their home has a high level of radon, we would recommend that they hire a certified mitigator to install a radon mitigation system to reduce radon levels in their home.”

The department has also proposed that all new homes be built with radon-reducing features, which would be more cost effective, eliminate potential exposure and is currently a requirement in 11 other states, she said.

The test is made of charcoal, and it is uncapped for at least 12 hours during the test period. It will be placed on the lowest level of the home that is frequently occupied. Once radon is detected, certification is not required in New York State, but is recommended, she said.

She also recommends that, when pursuing mitigation, obtain several estimates, check references, and obtain a guarantee that the mitigator will reduce the radon to below 4.0 pCi/L. Go here for more information about mitigators.

 For more information about radon or obtaining a test, email or or call 585-344-2580, Ext. 5528.

City Councilman proposes fee for nonprofits that use city services

By Joanne Beck
Al McGinnis

Al McGinnis would like to see a little more equity amongst those receiving services in the City of Batavia. 

And the City Councilman has proposed establishing a group of a few fellow council members and citizens to make it happen.

“My idea, council president, city manager, is that we form a group of three council people, and two to three people from the outside skilled in finance, to get together, and I’d like you to be the spokesman as council president, and we’ll decide how we will approach revenue enhancement,” McGinnis said during council’s business meeting Monday. “My idea is to look at individuals and organizations that currently do not pay property tax at all, and are nonexempt status, not to pay property tax but to pay a fee to reside in the city to help cover police, fire, DPW, overall. I’m not asking for a fortune, just asking for a fair share, some sweat equity from those individuals who use those services and rely on them."

According to Tax Exempt World, there are 209 tax-exempt organizations listed for the City of Batavia, though not all of them have a physical address listed. 

Those nonprofits would have paid a user fee, for example, to help offset expenses of last year’s extra $296,220 in the three-year police contract, the $800,000 for a new E12 fire department pumper, or the total $3,038,830 for police personnel expenses, plus snowplowing, road maintenance and water treatment upkeep expenses.

Councilman John Canale agreed with McGinnis about the idea, adding that “it’s always been a concern of the public” about a lot of tax-exempt organizations, such as nonprofits and religious entities, not paying for costly city services.

“And can we look at possibly have them pay to compensate for the services that they do use,” Canale said. “I think it’s worth exploring, I think it’s a great idea.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. also agreed, and said that he would be available for what City Attorney George Van Nest carefully termed a “work group,” since it could not be an official committee of council members. 

Van Nest also said that once there’s more concrete information for what the group wants to implement, it would have to be reviewed, per New York State standards, because there may be certain restrictions involved. 

“We will come up with the ideas and review it with legal and make sure what we can do and can’t do,” Jankowski said. 

Muckdogs owner eager to strengthen 'marriage' with city by long-term contract

By Joanne Beck
robbie nichols muckdogs
Batavia Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols, his wife Nellie and General Manager Marc Witt sit in the audience during a City Council meeting as they wait for the city leaders to discuss an updated contract for Dwyer Stadium Monday evening at City Hall.
Photo by Joanne Beck

These past two years may have seemed like a honeymoon phase for Batavia Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols and the City of Batavia, but he and his CAN-USA Sports team are ready to take it to the next level, he says.

“You know, we've had great success here in Batavia with the Muckdogs and all the different things that take place at the Dwyer Stadium. And we're willing to make a long commitment to the city. And I think the city's willing to make a long commitment to us,” Nichols said after getting the City Council’s nod of approval for a lease renewal Monday evening. “It's been a great marriage. And we've really enjoyed working with the city. And I think they enjoy working with us. So we're ready to make a long-term commitment.”

Nichols, aka CAN-USA Sports, took over the lease for Dwyer Stadium in January 2021 and operated for three seasons as part of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. 

Due to the success at the stadium — which features local favorite Batavia Muckdogs, live concerts, a dance team, high school baseball, festivals, and kid-friendly events, including the upcoming blow-out for Halloween, a trick-or-treat night — city leaders offered a longer contract this time around.

Beginning in April, there will be a rent payment of $7,500, which will increase to $10,000 in 2025. Then in 2026, the rent is to increase to $11,500, along with a capital payment of $5,000. Rent and a capital payment will gradually increase from there for a total rent of $17,758 and a capital payment of $9,900 on April 1, 2040.

Capital payments will be placed in a reserve fund for use on facility improvements, per agreement between the landlord and tenant for projects of more than $25,000. 

Part of the lease includes targeted capital improvement program projects, including painting and installing new flooring in the home and visiting team locker rooms; replacing home and visiting team locker room signage; installing new and upgrading sound equipment; repairing and or replacing outfield fencing; redesigning Dwyer Stadium landscaping and repairing or replacing home and visiting team bullpen areas.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski recommended that the council move a resolution forward for a vote to approve the updated lease agreement. Nichols has pledged “to make aesthetic improvements at the stadium and to pay rent in each of those years as listed in the contract and capital fees,” she said. The extension is in three terms of five years each.+

“I just want to say thank you for all you've done out there. I mean, I see signs all over the place, fireworks, Fourth of July, you're really doing a great job,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said. “Thank you very much. Are we in consensus?”

Council members gave an unofficial thumbs up, with the official vote to come during the next business meeting on Oct. 10. 

Nichols, his wife Nellie, and General Manager Marc Witt patiently sat through the entire meeting to get that good news since the agenda item was near the end. As per their usual, the Nichols and Witt were dressed in red and white Muckdogs gear, representing the team they have fully come to embrace as part of the Batavia community.

There have been many different events at the stadium, from various types of musical groups and entertainers to the latest annual Halloween fest, which last year drew a line of ghosts and goblins that wrapped around the corner. The Batavian had heard that the stadium might host a future Italian festival and asked Robbie if there was any truth to that.

“There's a rumor going around that we're looking at that. So we're always looking. We've always said it's the city's building, you know, the citizen’s building. Whatever we can do there that attracts more people, we’d love to do,” he said. “We definitely want more events and different events, and we're open to a lot of different things. We've already had a lot of different things there. The Halloween event has had huge success, and so whatever we can think of, we'll try it.”

Retiring detective honored for 'outstanding police work'

By Joanne Beck
Thad Mart retirement
Retiring Batavia City Police Detective Thaddeus "Thad" Mart receives a proclamation from City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. after 17 years of service during Monday's conference session at City Hall.

Photo by Joanne Beck

With several of his uniformed colleagues seated nearby, Batavia Police Detective Thaddeus “Thad” Mart was honored for his 17 years as a police officer, sergeant and lastly as a detective with the city department during the City Council’s conference session Monday evening.

Council President Eugene Jankowski read a proclamation listing the retiring Mart’s experience, which included serving as an operations specialist E-5 in the U.S. Navy and a border patrol agent at the U.S.-Mexican border.

He then began his local career in Batavia in August 2006 as a Batavia Police officer, distinguishing himself as a field training officer, general topics instructor, serving as a department liaison to the Veterans Treatment Court and as a crisis negotiator, the proclamation states. 

He was promoted to sergeant before becoming a detective in 2013, during which time he assisted in many high-profile investigations and became certified as a polygraph examiner. Mart has been part of investigations with everything from bank robbery and stabbings to burglaries, sex abuse by a teacher and murder.

Mart has been recognized for his “outstanding police work by multiple agencies citing his professionalism, attention to detail and steadfast approach,” Jankowski said, reading from the proclamation.

“He served his country, his community and the department with honor and dedication, and his approach to investigations was methodical and unrelenting. He demonstrated professionalism and courage, and he has been an outstanding trainer to many officers,” Jankowski said. “He has never sought out the spotlight but has worked tirelessly to keep the community safe by thoroughly investigating every crime and call for service he was assigned.”

So it was in a “true spirit of appreciation for 17 years of dedicated service” to the city,  that City Council drafted and presented the proclamation, Jankowski said, as a way to sincerely thank Mart for his unwavering service to the community and to wish him well in retirement. 

In turn, Mart was “proud and thankful” for having had the career and honor to serve the people of Batavia, he said, and the opportunity to “work with all these officers over the years.”

City Council appoints new part-time judge to fill remaining term

By Joanne Beck
andrea clattenburg
Andrea Clattenburg

City Council approved a part-time City Court judge Monday to fill the remaining term of Tom Burns, who retired from his post with less than three of his six years served.

Andrea Clattenburg, a Genesee County assistant public defender since 2021, will now be the part-time City Court judge, a role established per the Uniform City Court Act. That act provides for the appointment of a City Court judge who acts in the temporary absence or inability of the city judge to exercise the power of said judge. 

The part-time judge will serve a term of six years, which in this case will expire on Dec. 31, 2026, the end of the original term of Burns.

Upon his retirement, Burns told The Batavian that there weren’t enough cases flowing through City Court to justify his time there, so he stepped down effective July 14. 

City Council approved Clattenburg by a vote of 8 to 1, with Bob Bialkowski, Rich Richmond, Eugene Jankowski Jr., Paul Viele, Kathy Briggs, Al McGinnis, Kathy Briggs and Tammy Schmidt voting yes, and John Canale abstaining because of his “close personal ties” to the candidate.

The Batavian asked Jankowski for his thoughts about filling a position that Burns had left because there wasn’t enough work to warrant the job. 

“In my research, my research has learned that the court is pretty much backed up with cases. So I have no idea what Mr. Burns, his comment was about. I'm not familiar with it. I do know that after looking into it, as part of this process, there is a definite need for many small claims actions, civil actions and such. And that's what a lot of the part-time job does, as well as overflow and recruitment. When the full-time judge has recused himself, then those criminal cases are passed on to the part-time judge. So from what they tell me, there are standards, 90-day standards for these cases that need to be resolved. That's a state recommendation, and they really pay attention to it,” Jankowski said. “So given that short timeline, there's a lot of work over there, and they need the extra help. And plus, the part-time position, if I'm not mistaken, is required per the state. So we're gonna have it one way or another. And I believe we will make good use of it over there.”

The part-time City Court judge is paid by the state, though the position is appointed by City Council. Durin Rogers is the current full-time City Court judge. He is also paid by the state but is an elected position.

The minimum qualifications for the part-time judge require candidates to be an attorney admitted to practice law in the State of New York for at least five (5) years as of the date he or she commences the duties of the office and must be a resident of the City of Batavia. 

Clattenburg is a Genesee County assistant public defender who received a Leadership Achievement Award from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, where she obtained her Juris Doctorate in general law practice in 2014.

She lists arts and culture, children, education, poverty alleviation and social services as her causes of interest. 

New playground, ice chiller, water meters, streets in city's future

By Joanne Beck
Austin Park playground
City Council has agreed to pursue a grant for up to $500,000 to upgrade the playground equipment and pavilion at Austin Park in Batavia. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

For a 40-minute meeting, City Council got the ball rolling for some major spending Monday, including a minimum of $2.5 million for an ice chiller at the McCarthy ice arena, a $650,000 capital project for several city streets, pursuit of a $500,000 grant to outfit Austin Park with an inclusive playground and a $1.73 million water meter replacement effort.

Council also agreed to submit an application for a $1,235,000 grant of matching funds to upgrade the ice rink chiller system as part of a state Climate Smart Communities Grant Program and transfer $12,500 of video lottery terminal money (Batavia Downs Gaming revenue) for use by LaBella Associates for grant-writing services.

The ice chiller has been an issue since at least last year when council approved emergency spending for a refrigerant to keep the equipment operational. During a City Council meeting in June, members of the ice arena world, including a Batavia Ramparts coach, Friends of the Rink, and rink operator Matt Gray detailed the many activities that have reinvigorated the Evans Street facility.

Gray also outlined the difficulties of continuing an ice rink with a piece of equipment that was failing, costly and time-consuming to maintain. No one on council argued that the rink has vastly improved this past year, and all agreed they wanted to see it continue as a city recreational resource.

Council’s hope is to obtain a matching grant for bond financing to purchase the new ice chiller; otherwise, the total cost, with interest over time, will cost about $4 million, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

Council’s approval to pursue an environmental protection fund grant of up to $500,000 would be part of an Austin Park Master Plan renovation. The money would go toward new, inclusive playground equipment and upgrades to the current pavilion at the park that’s adjacent to the city police station parking lot. 

Hart Street road work
State CHIPs money is going to work on Hart Street, along with Norris, Fairmont and Madison avenues, in the City of Batavia this summer. 
Photo by Howard Owens.

Work began shortly before council officially approved the $650,000 capital project for four streets on the city’s north side. Traffic cones, dust, and those grooved, wavy lines in the pavement were evident from grading work Monday afternoon on Hart Street, between Bank and State streets.

The work, paid for with state Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program funds, is targeted for Fairmont, Madison and Norris avenues and Hart Street.  

Council will also be pursuing two more grants: one to offset the cost of replacing customer water meters and a $500,000 New York Main Street grant for building and streetscape improvements.

The city will be replacing water meters for the remaining two-thirds of customers that have not yet gotten new meters as part of a climate change mitigation effort.

The local match for the project is $434,000, to be paid for through Water Fund Reserves, out of a total expense of $1.73 million, Tabelski said. Council is to apply for a grant from the state Environmental Facilities Corp., which has up to $15 million available through its Green Innovation Grant Program.

Recruiting by the numbers, councilman asks for salary details

By Joanne Beck

In early January, council members approved a one-time salary adjustment, three years of increases, an extra holiday, and a $1,500 stipend as part of negotiations for the city police contract that was set to expire on March 31.

In an effort to retain employees and become more competitive with cities comparable to Batavia, the deal was struck to bump up salaries with a 3 percent increase the first year, followed by a 2.5 percent for each second and third year, Assistant Manager Erik Fix had said.

The total budget impact for the three-year deal is an extra $296,220.

At that time, Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked if the extra holiday would cause any issues with overtime for officers, and Chief Shaw Heubusch didn’t believe it would. During this week’s meeting, Bialkowski said that he’s been waiting for a list of police salaries and has not received them yet.

Councilwoman Tammy Schmidt told him about the online site of seethroughny, which lists salaries for any government position in New York State. Bialkowski still wanted to obtain a current list from management, he said.

"Remember why we did this,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.

Jankowski wanted to remind Bialkowski and others that the reason they approved the raises was to align the salaries with comparable areas to attract quality candidates for vacancies and retain current employees.

The city of Geneva has been previously used by officials and consultants for comparison to Batavia. Geneva has a population that is smaller -- just under 13,000 -- and a median yearly wage larger -- $44,000 -- than Batavia. Top pay in Geneva for the police/fire departments is $125,633, with many salaries falling within the $70,000 to $90,000 range.

Batavia’s population is about 15,000, with a median yearly wage of $33,000.

Batavia’s highest salary is $141,275, and has a few in the $50,000, $60,000  range, and several in the $70,000, $80,000, $90,000 and $100,000 range.

More specifically, a longtime, upper level position of sergeant is in the $140,000 range, and a police officer that began in 2020 makes $68,382. Another officer that began in 2022 makes $50,815.

With the new contract in place, that new officer will go to $52,339.45 in the first year, to $53,647.94 the second year, and $54,989.13 by year three, for a total raise of more than $4,000 over three years. For an officer making $68,682, that will put him at $73,999.16, or $5,317 more, by year three. Obviously, the higher the salary is, the more the cumulative raise will be.

This part of the 2023-24 budget has already been sealed with council's vote to approve the contract. A public hearing for the budget and related tax cap override has been set for 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at City Hall.

Filel Photo of Councilman Bob Bialkowski by Joanne Beck

For second time in three years, city faces possible tax cap override: budget presentation Monday

By Joanne Beck

Citing reasons of double diesel fuel costs and rising supply, health care, retirement and employee wage expenses, City Manager Rachael Tabelski is calling for a move to exceed the state-regulated tax cap -- which would be the second override in three years for the city -- during this budget season.

“The 8 percent inflation the economy is facing challenges this budget, forcing the city to consider overriding the tax cap,” Tabelski said in a memo to City Council. “To balance the fiscal year 23/24 City of Batavia budget I recommend that the City Council of the City of Batavia consider overriding the tax cap.

“According to New York State’s property tax cap legislation, if a city government decides to adopt a budget with a property tax levy that exceeds the level set by the state, the city government must pass a local law to override that cap,” Tabelski said.

Tabelski is to provide a budget presentation and Council is expected to review and discuss her recommendations during its conference session next week. The session is set for 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Board Room at City Hall.

The proposed levy of $6.6 million would help to cover costs of a total $33.5 million budget and $19.4 general fund budget that includes a flat tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, a flat sewer rate, and a water rate increase of 30-cents, Tabelski said. The levy is raised from all real properties subject to taxation by the city based on the assessment roll for the fiscal year 2023-24.

She has also recommended a required public hearing to be set for Feb. 27.

Materials including salt, gas and electric are on the rise between 15 and 40 percent, while employee wages are at $400,000; retirements at $300,000; and health care just under half a million dollars, she said. Those are some of the rising costs imposing the need to ask for an override — unfortunately, not an unprecedented ask in city history.

Batavia City Council members voted to override the state’s 2 percent property tax cap just two years ago, passing a 7.5 percent property tax increase as part of the City’s 2020-21 budget. Part of the blame went to then Gov. Andrew Cuomo for withholding some of the video lottery terminal money from Batavia Downs revenues, though this year a similar portion was earmarked for the police department’s request for guns and equipment.

Other sections of the budget are up for discussion during future work sessions slated each for 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 for Public Works, general government and administrative departments; Feb. 7 for police and fire departments; and Feb. 9 for an as-needed session.

There is time allotted for public comments during this meeting. Speakers need to sign up prior to the start of the meeting.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski by Howard Owens.

Can you hear me now? City to consider new phone system for $23K annual fee

By Joanne Beck

Assistant City Manager Erik Fix has proposed a new form of communication for his colleagues.

While they weren’t using anything like rotary phones, Fix said the current phone system is “antiquated” and in need of a boost. Also, the current phone system is no longer being provided by CISCO Systems, he said.

He had met with a committee comprised of the city manager’s confidential secretary, Angela Dickson, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch, Manager Rachael Tabelski and KI Consulting and Bolder IT Strategies to ferret out the best options for a new phone system.

Four vendors submitted applications, and the committee scored each one according to weighted cost, functionality, and usability, plus five other criteria, he said.

“In the end, all members agreed that Ring Central, Inc. scored the best out of the four proposals,” Fix said during City Council's Monday meeting.

The cloud-based phone system would cost $22,920 per year for five years, or 60 months, according to the contract. That includes the phones, training and installation, he said.

One of the committee’s tasks involved talking to Steuben County’s IT staff regarding that county’s usage of Ring Central. There were also conversations with the city’s own IT staff to ensure that staff members could assist with Ring Central’s installation if necessary.

All that is to say that Fix recommended that council go with this new company, which is based in California. A vote will be on council’s future business meeting, and, if approved, the new phone system would mean a budget amendment of $22,920 of contingency funds, to take effect Nov. 8.

Another spending vote to be on the next business agenda is the purchase of a new Pitney Bowes folding machine, used for automatic folding of letters, bills and other written materials being sent out from the city.

A current Pitney Bowes folding machine that was purchased in 2000 is no longer in working order, Deputy Finance Director Lisa Neary said. She recommended a machine that is a step down from a top model, but can do the required work at a savings, Neary said.  The top model was priced at $10,435.80, whereas the next one down is $6,841.58.

City Council approves creation of full-time grant administrator position by 8-1 vote

By Mike Pettinella

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

City resident calls Council members 'fascists' for not speaking out against ReAwaken America Tour

By Mike Pettinella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burke Drive residents say they're fed up with woman's farm animals; Council sets public hearing for Sept. 12

By Mike Pettinella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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