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Batavia City Council

April 4, 2022 - 3:19pm

Update: 7 p.m. with legislators' insurance premium information

Time is money – and during 2022-23 budget talks, members of the Batavia City Council emphasized that it was about time for them to get more money for their public service.

The nine members of the lawmaking body voted healthy pay increases for themselves, effective April 1, noting that they hadn’t received a salary hike for about nine years.

The new salary for eight of the Council people is $5,000 – a jump of 43 percent from the $3,500 in the previous budget – while the new salary for City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is $7,000 – also up 43 percent from his previous stipend of $4,900.

Section 3-4 of the City Charter stipulates that “Council Members shall receive compensation with the Council President receiving 40 percent above the rate for the other Council Members.”

The combined total of the increases is $14,100.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, when asked about the impact on the budget, said, “Since the introduction of the budget, the proposed tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value has not changed.”

Contacted by The Batavia, Jankowski and Council member Robert Bialkowski said the increases are justified when considering how long it has been since the last raise and the amount of time and effort put into running city government.

“There’s a lot of work involved in being on Council -- from keeping up with all of the business on the agenda and addressing the concerns of our residents, who have put their trust in us,” Jankowski said. “I know that in my case, I have many more obligations beyond the monthly meetings.”

Bialkowski said he takes the job “very seriously” and believes that the pay should be even more than it is when compared to the Town of Batavia and Genesee County Legislature.

“If you do the job correctly, there’s a lot of hours involved,” he said. “I am averaging 20 hours a week on City of Batavia business and put in 40 hours alone just on organizing the Memorial Day parade.”

Bialkowski also pointed out that Council members receive no additional reimbursement for their cell phones, mileage or office expenses, such as copying documents.

Jankowski said he understood that some people believe it should be voluntary, but stands firm to his belief that “if people do a good job, there should be some compensation.”

“Plus, the fact that it is getting harder and harder to find people to serve on boards and committees,” he said.

GENESEE COUNTY LEGISLATURE PAY

The nine members of the Genesee County Legislature received a 2 percent increase for 2022, said County Manager Matt Landers.

All of them will earn $14,225, except Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, who is paid $19,890 in consideration of her additional responsibilities. Each one also receives full health insurance (their share of the premium is 15 percent) or can take a “buy-back” of $2,600 if not accepting the insurance.

Legislators are required to attend about a half-dozen regular and committee meetings per month, plus all of them are county liaisons to “special assignment” committees.

Those special assignments include the Office for the Aging, Ag & Farmland Protection Board, Audit, Board of Health, Community Services Board/Mental Health, Cooperative Extension, County Park. County Planning Board, E911, Fish & Wildlife Management, Genesee Community College, Holland Land Office, STOP-DWI, Youth Board and Water Resources Agency.

“The legislators spend a considerable amount of time outside of legislature meetings at these at these committee assignments, and then there's also volumes of information that they have to prepare and read and review before meetings,” Landers said. “Beyond that, they are very involved (in day-to-day matters). I poll legislators on a variety of different RFPs (request for proposals) that we send out and they are involved in the hiring process, in many cases.”

Landers mentioned several task forces that are meeting now, such as fire protection, the new county jail and broadband.

“They are putting in plenty of time. They’re definitely not getting rich with the hours they put in,” he added.

TOWN OF BATAVIA BOARD PAY

Pay for Town of Batavia government officials is at the following levels:

Supervisor -- $40,000, same as in 2021.

Deputy Supervisor -- $18,000, same as in 2021.

Three Council members -- $12,000, an increase of $2,000 from 2021.

March 28, 2022 - 9:22pm

If all goes according to the plan laid out by City Manager Rachael Tabelski, the date April 11, 2022 will be one for the record books.

That’s when the Batavia City Council will vote on a resolution introduced by Tabelski to compensate Larry Barnes for his work as the city historian – a job that he has performed with zest on a volunteer basis since 2008.

Speaking at Council’s Conference Meeting tonight at the City Centre Council Board Room, Tabelski acknowledged the fine work by Barnes, a retired educator who has written several books about local history. If passed at the next Business Meeting on April 11, Barnes would receive an annual stipend of $5,000 for his efforts.

“(Barnes) is an author who is working on a book now about Batavia during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Tabelski, noting in a memo to Council that Barnes recently was reappointed to a four-year term.

Council member Robert Bialkowski threw his support behind Barnes, noting that he is “a very conscientious person, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Barnes has been or currently is involved with several history groups, including the Landmark Society of Genesee County, Batavia Historic Preservation Committee, Genesee County Historians Association, Government Appointed Historians of Western New York and the Association of Public Historians of New York State.

In other developments, Council moved the following resolutions to the April 11 meeting:

  • An extension of the School Resource Officer contract with the Batavia City School District for two more years, through June 30, 2024, with Officer Miah Stevens expected to continue in that role. Provisions of the agreement call for the school district to pay 100 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits, including overtime.

“I believe the program has gone exceptionally well,” said Tabelski, referring to the communication with school officials over parking and traffic issues. “The officer (also) provides services to the students, administration and faculty.”

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said that Stevens “loves her job … and they love having her. It’s a win-win on both sides.”

  • Creation of a temporary full-time detective position to keep the police department fully staffed when a current detective retires, likely this summer.  The temporary post carries an increase in pay of $15,000 to cover the promotion, Tabelski said.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. applauded the idea, stating that “it will save us time, effort and money” while the new detective works along side the current one to learn the ins-and-outs of the job and create a smooth transition.

Another resolution – awarding a contract with Pace Analytical for analysis of potable water and wastewater -- was approved during a Special Business Meeting tonight.

Pace, the lone bidder, will receive $9,414 for laboratory services at the Water Treatment Facility and $10,010 for similar services at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

March 25, 2022 - 2:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, City Schools.

Update: March 26, 9 a.m. with comment from City Manager Rachel Tabelski:

Public safety takes center stage at Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting with resolutions for an extension of the city’s School Resource Officer contract with the Batavia City School District and the creation of a temporary detective position on the agenda.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Hall Council Board Room.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a memo dated March 18, is recommending that City Council continue the SRO program with the BCSD for two more years, through June 30, 2024. The current agreement is set to expire this June.

Per the memo:

  • The city will provide a full-time Batavia Police Department officer to the school district, someone with “excellent communication skills, ability to relate to children and students, and planning skills.”
  • The school district will reimburse the city for 100 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits, including overtime, for a work schedule that starts on the first day of the academic year through the final day of the academic year.
  • The city will provide a vehicle, uniform, equipment and training for the SRO.

Officer Miah Stevens, a graduate of Pembroke High, Genesee Community College and Brockport State College, has served in that capacity since Feb. 2021.

As far as the detective post is concerned, Tabelski recommends creating the temporary job as part of the city’s succession planning, noting that a full-time detective is retiring soon.

“By promoting an existing City of Batavia police officer, we will ensure the new detective will have time to work alongside the other detective to learn the functions and responsibilities of the job and create a smooth transition,” she wrote.

Her memo indicates that the new position – tentatively to be hired after April 1 -- would add $15,000 to the police department’s expenditures budget and would be funded by the 2022-23 fiscal year operating budget.

"The detective position, if approved by City Council, would be filled through the Civil Service hiring process," Tabelski said.

In other developments, Council will be asked to approve:

  • An agreement with the Genesee Country Farmers Market to operate on the former JC Penney parking lot off Bank Street on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 3 through Oct. 28;
  • A request from the First Presbyterian Church of Batavia to conduct a Good Friday Blessing Service at noon on April 15 outside the City Centre on Main Street. Rev. Dr. Roula Alkhouri, pastor, stated that the prayer service will consist of a blessing for the community’s public servants and a blessing for Batavia and Genesee County
March 15, 2022 - 10:44am

engine_12_b.jpg

It seems as though fire truck No. 12 is the “little engine that can’t” – for very much longer.

City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski reported at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting that the city fire department’s Engine 12 (photo above) is 20 years old and is just about ready to be retired from service.

“We have in our capital plan a fire truck replacement for Engine 12 and we are looking at getting grant funding from CDBG (Community Development Block Grant),” Tabelski said. “And before we submit a full application, they ask that municipalities go through a pre-application process.

“It’s a 2002 (model) that we will be replacing and the estimated cost is 700,000 dollars.”

From there, she turned it over to Interim Fire Chief Dan Herberger, who provided more details about Engine 12, including its shortcomings in the area of technology.

“We’re looking at replacing it with something very similar to our frontline engine, which is Engine 11,” he said. “It’s a rescue, fire engine-type style; basically, think of it as a fire engine with rescue capabilities.”

Herberger explained that the department operates with two main pieces of apparatus – one for the on-duty staff, “so we basically have to take everything with us, all the time.”

He said Engine 12 doesn’t have the safety features that come with today’s fire trucks, such as lighting and the ability to hook generators to the trucks. He also said the current vehicle has signs of rust.

“Right now, we’re in the design phase – looking at various vehicles from around the region to see what best fits our needs,” he said.

Tabelski, answering a question from City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., said she is hoping to receive $200,000 from the grant. Coupled with $400,000 that is in reserves, the city would be close to covering the full cost of the new truck – likely in 2023-24.

Herberger said there would be little trade-in value for Engine 12, noting that it would be 22 years old by the time a new truck was delivered to the city.

He said he remembers the sale of an old ladder truck to a tree trimming company in North Carolina but the monetary return “really didn’t offset anything too much.”

When asked if the cost of the new truck was a bottom line price, Herberger said the department may have to purchase “a few miscellaneous pieces of equipment for it.”

“In the past years, we’ve really tried to standardize all of our vehicles, so hose complement, rescue tools and hand tools, they’re pretty much the same throughout everything, so that bottom line price would be with equipment,” he said.

March 14, 2022 - 9:01pm

zinni_farmers_market_1.jpgJust in case the Batavia City Council was having second thoughts about supporting the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market, the president of the organization and one of the downtown market’s best customers touted its benefits at tonight’s Business Meeting.

Jan Goodenbury of Oakfield, in her second term as the GCFM president, encouraged council members to “support the market and make a timely decision to approve our application” at the board’s next meeting on March 28.

A former Batavian, Goodenbury emphasized the market’s value to the community, with locally-grown produce fresher than what is available in supermarkets and by keeping money in the GLOW region, which helps the local economy.

A flower, vegetable and chicken farmer, herself, she said the current location at the former JC Penney parking lot is ideal for customers, many who have to walk or ride their bicycle.

“With the Healthy Living (campus coming), it ties all in,” she said.

Goodenbury said the sooner the application to operate is approved, the better, because “vendor applications need to go out and go before the GCFM board for review.”

Pending City Council backing, the market will run three days a week for the seventh consecutive year on city-owned property in downtown Batavia. In 2021, it was open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 4 through Oct. 29.

City resident Christine Zinni followed Goodenbury to the podium, stating that the market is important “because I've been the recipient of some of the wonderful food that is offered at this market, and I teach food and culture classes at the State University of New York at Brockport.”

“So, I talk to a lot of young people about what that means and about healthful produce – to be out in the open air and be able to connect with others on a face-to-face basis,” she said. “And it’s helped me to have that resource so close; to be able to walk or bike and get the healthy benefits of fresh food.”

Drawing a chuckle, she said, “What I usually say to my students, well look what’s happened (to me) -- I’m 110 years old.”

Zinni proposed that the Batavia market take a page from what is happening at similar venues in Clarence, Le Roy and Rochester by adding music, for example.

“I don’t know what’s currently on the table – (but) more of an investment in the farmer’s market. It would definitely help the image – Batavia’s image; the kind of image that I think would be beneficial to the city,” she said.

Her suggestions prompted Council member John Canale to urge GCFM officials to partner with the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council to line up artists in various genres.

“Artists, music artists, fine artists – incorporate some of that (into the market), Canale said, noting that GO Art! is right across the street (at the corner of Bank and Main).

Canale also put in a plug for his favorite pastry.

“If you offer donuts from Sweet Ally’s donut shop in Oakfield, which are phenomenal, I will be there every week,” he said. “This is coming from a guy who knows donuts.”

Council member Patti Pacino assured Goodenbury and Zinni that the market is “well appreciated.” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. agreed.

“We understand. It brings a lot of people downtown,” he said. “But we have an aging (police) building that we have to replace (a reference to the new station that will be going up on the GCFM’s former location on the other side of Alva Place). I don’t see any problem. We usually welcome the application.”

Photo: Christine Zinni speaks to City Council about the benefits of the Genesee Country Farmers Market. Jan Goodenbury is in the background. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

March 14, 2022 - 1:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, O'Lacy's Irish Pub.

The Batavia City Council has a full agenda for its Business Meeting tonight – 13 resolutions to vote on, a couple community events to approve and an application from a Batavia entrepreneur to obtain a liquor license for an establishment at 5 School St., currently operated as O’Lacy’s Irish Pub.

As required by the New York State Liquor Authority, Roger Christiano on Feb. 23 filed the standardized notice form for providing 30-day advance notice to the City of Batavia.

Contacted today, Christiano, who owns two sports bars in Rochester, said he is looking to purchase the popular bar/restaurant.

O’Lacy’s owner Kent Ewell did not wish to comment about the liquor license application or about the future of the pub that he opened 25 years ago – on April 15, 1997.

The two events on the agenda are the Batavia Concert Band Summer Concert Series, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesdays from June 22 through Aug. 3 at Centennial Park, and the Living Waters Community Outreach from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Austin Park.

Key resolutions are the adoption of the 2022-23 budget ordinance, water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees; a contract with HUNT Engineers for services for the City Centre Mall Downtown Revitalization Initiative project, and to accept a $1 million Community Development Block Grant and authorize a $414,017 local match for the Jackson Street water main project.

February 15, 2022 - 10:53am

snowremovalfeb2022.jpg

With a couple of 50-plus degree, rainy days forecasted for Wednesday and Thursday, most of the snow that has accumulated as a result of a couple of nasty winter storms earlier this month likely will be washed away.

While it may serve as a welcome break from plowing and shoveling, there’s bound to be more snowfall (and the dilemma it creates) in the coming weeks.

Coming into last night’s City Council meeting, Council member Robert Bialkowski said he had received complaints about piles of snow and ice on city streets and he requested that “snow removal and sidewalk plowing” be put on the agenda.

Bialkowski’s key points -- no plowing of snow onto the street or sidewalks and no parking of cars on sidewalks – triggered a 20-minute discussion that focused upon the responsibilities of residents, independent plowing services and business owners to clear snow in a legal and proper manner.

Armed with a few photographs of problem areas, Bialkowski said he wasn’t blaming city workers for not doing their jobs, but mentioned that it was time “to re-educate some people in the community (as) they don’t seem to get it.”

PICTURES TELL THE STORY

He said the pictures showed snow from a driveway on Union Street plowed about seven feet into the street and about four feet high, causing motorists to have to swerve to avoid hitting it.

Another photo showed snow from a West Main Street business plowed onto the sidewalk “and now that’s a big block of ice about six foot high,” Bialkowski said, adding that this and similar situations led to complaints from mail carriers.

Bialkowski also mentioned buildup of ice on sidewalks, some of it resulting from city sidewalk plows.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. asked Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt about the condition of the sidewalk plows, with Tourt responding that they are 19, 39 and 43 years old and are susceptible to breaking down.

When Bialkowski suggested forming a citizen committee to look at the issue, Jankowski quickly said, “I was following you until you said committee and then I was, like, do we really need to make it that complicated?”

Then Bialkowski mentioned distributing a pre-printed handout for residents, informing them of their responsibilities when it comes to snow removal.

CITY MANAGER WEIGHS IN

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said a police officer sent to the scene where the snow was piled in the road determined that it wasn’t a hazard … “so I have to go with their judgment that it was not a hazard.”

“I think there’s a lot of snow this year compared to the last few years, and there’s a lot of clearing of sidewalks and roads and driveways that needs to be done,” she said. “And a lot of times neighbors have figured out where they’re going to place their snow and other times, people just move in and don’t really know where to place the snow and how to do it.”

She then thanked the Department of Works crew “for the tremendous job they’ve done,” adding that they haven’t stopped working since the beginning of January when “all of this snow came down.”

DPW workers are continuing the snow removal process this week, concentrating on some of the narrower streets, Tourt said.

Tabelski said residents are responsible for clearing in front of their house and, in many cases, the sidewalk plow operator will come through afterwards, leaving tracks from the machine in the snow.

“We do have an ordinance and we do ask residents to take care of their snow removal,” she said. “I know some residents can’t get to it – they may be elderly or disabled – but you plan for it, just like you plan your garbage service or your cable. You plan to get Johnny down the street to come for 20 dollars when it snows over a few inches, and do that for you.”

MESSAGE TO INDEPENDENT PLOWS

Jankowski said it is up to independent and commercial plow services to make sure the snow is moved so that it doesn’t cause further problems.

“We shouldn’t have to be in the awkward position of having to chase them down and make them come back and move it,” he said.

Bialkowski said he thinks many people “just expect the city to do everything and they don’t even shovel a path to their house for the mailman.”

“They have to get away from the computer for a while, go outside and get some fresh air.”

Council member Patti Pacino asked if residents could be informed of what snow services the city provides.

Tourt said the priority route is the main arterials – Main and Oak Streets – and priority school (walking) routes, which have been designated by the school district.

“We hit those first,” he said. “If we still need to go ahead and do sidewalks, we have two distinct routes – one for the northside and one for the southside. And we start working our way through the city.”

Photo: City of Batavia worker plowing the sidewalk along East Main Street. Photo by Howard Owens.

February 14, 2022 - 8:29pm

The Batavia City Council is throwing its support behind an Oneida County-initiated pitch to Gov. Kathy Hochul to provide state funding for “necessary repairs and enhancements” to municipally-owned baseball stadiums across New York State.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., at tonight’s Business Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, asked for – and received – authorization from his colleagues to put his name on a letter written by Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League President Robert F. Julian, asking Hochul to set aside $250 million in her state budget for improvements at these facilities, which include Dwyer Stadium in Batavia.

Dated Jan. 27, the letter is in response to state lawmakers’ consideration of appropriating $1 billion in taxpayer money to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills and proposing more than $100 million for Lake Placid to host the World University Games.

“… we believe there should be equity for other communities that are owners of municipal baseball stadiums throughout the state,” the letter reads. “These stadiums have a rich history and are part of the fabric of our communities. While they are not profit centers, they are a critical part of the public infrastructure providing recreational opportunities and civic engagement that enhances the quality of life in our communities.”

The letter also touches upon Major League Baseball’s “sudden abandonment” of minor league affiliates in 2020 that negatively affected operations in small cities and towns.

“New York has a proud history as a home to amateur and professional baseball, and that has continued as the PGCBL and other Independent leagues have quickly stepped up to fill the void left behind,” it reads. “However, we need assistance to make the transition into this new paradigm.”

Dwyer Stadium continues to be the home of the Batavia Muckdogs, a summertime club that is part of the PGCBL. Muckdogs’ owner Robbie Nichols also has signed the letter.

Other signatures are from representatives of the communities of Auburn, Boonville, Altamont, Amsterdam, Elmira, Geneva, Glens Falls, Jamestown, Little Falls, Niagara Falls, Newark, Oneonta, Saugerties, Utica and Watertown.

Picente and Julian wrote that the level of funding being requested “would provide adequate funds to allow for each of our communities to invest in necessary repairs and enhancements to protect and stabilize these stadiums.”

They also indicated they are reaching out to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, “seeking a partnership to bring to life their vast offerings in our facilities throughout the state.”

The letter also will be sent to state Senate and Assembly Majority and Minority leaders and State Budget Director Robert Mujica.

Council member Paul Viele, apparently thinking about the Batavia Ice Arena, asked if the letter could be modified to include arenas, but Jankowski said that it was focused on stadiums.

In other developments, Council approved the following resolutions:

  • Scheduling of a public hearing for 7 p.m. Feb. 28 on the city’s 2022-23 budget, water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees. The $17.7 million spending plan calls for a tax levy of $5,986,000 – up $121,403 from 2021-22. The property tax rate, however, would decrease by 78 cents to $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed value. Water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees are set to increase by 1.5 percent from last year’s rates.
  • Re-naming the Batavia Ice Arena on Evans Street to the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena as a result of a contract with Pellegrino Auto Sales and the David M. McCarthy Memorial Foundation that would pay the city $3,100 annually for 10 years. Council member Robert Bialkowski applauded the decision. “I really appreciate the citizens coming forward and doing this. I think it’s a good move forward,” he said.

Previously: Council sends favorable signals to Batavia duo seeking to acquire ice arena naming rights

January 21, 2022 - 11:56pm

136932461_104300151620785_8012738598735997461_n.pngWith the approval of City Council, a Batavia-based charitable organization that has done so much for youth sports in Genesee County over the past 14 years will be honored by having its name attached to the city-owned ice arena on Evans Street.

Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, in a memo dated Jan. 24 to City Council, stated that Pellegrino Auto Sales and the David M. McCarthy Memorial Foundation have submitted the most competitive bid -- $3,100 annually for 10 years – to purchase the naming rights for the Batavia Ice Arena.

In October 2021, city management put out a Request for Proposal, seeking “a forward-thinking community leader” (business or organization) to present a proposal indicating at least a five-year commitment. According to the RFP, proceeds from the naming rights will be used to make improvements to the arena.

A draft of a resolution to formally accept the Pellegrino/McCarthy Foundation offer is on the agenda of Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting at 7 o’clock at the City Hall Council Board Room.

The resolution stipulates that the facility will be renamed The David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena during the 10-year term of a formal naming rights agreement and any renewals thereafter.

In her memo, Wiedrick wrote that the agreement grants the prospective sponsors the following rights:

  • Erect signage on the ice arena’s façade;
  • Place one sign (painted) on an interior wall for Pellegrino Auto Sales;
  • Hold two events for up to two hours each at the arena annually;
  • Inclusion in all promotional material and other media (press releases, etc.) in cooperation with the city and Firland Management, the company that oversees operations for the city.

It goes on to note that the sponsors will pay for the installation and removal of the façade sign and major maintenance of the sign, and that Pellegrino Auto Sales, located at 4060 Pearl St. Rd., will pay for the painting and removal of the interior wall signage and the sign’s maintenance.

The rink formerly was known as the Falleti Ice Arena for many years.

The David M. McCarthy Memorial Foundation was formed in 2007 in honor of David McCarthy, who died in a motor vehicle accident in November 2006 at the age of 29.  He was a 1995 graduate of Batavia High School, where he excelled in baseball and hockey.

Since then, the foundation has donated more than $70,000 to numerous youth athletics’ organizations and individuals – including Batavia/Notre Dame hockey, Batavia Minor League Baseball, Le Roy Youth Softball and, last summer, to Batavia wrestler Casper Stewart, who competed in the USA Wrestling Nationals in Fargo, N.D.

It also sponsors the annual David McCarthy Memorial Christmas Hockey Tournament at the Batavia Ice Arena.

Fundraisers throughout the year, primarily a golf tournament at Batavia Country Club and bowling tournament at Mancuso Bowling Center, sustain the foundation, which is led by David McCarthy’s brother, Brian, president; father, Michael, treasurer; and Matthew Meyer, vice president.

December 13, 2021 - 8:17pm

schmidt_sworn_in_1.jpg

Tammy Schmidt received an enthusiastic endorsement from her predecessor tonight as she was sworn in as the Batavia City Council's Sixth Ward representative.

"I'm here on behalf of Tammy Schmidt, who will do an outstanding job for the Sixth Ward," said Rose Mary Christian, who stepped down last month after nearly 30 years as a city lawmaker. "She's articulate ... and certainly knows lthe budget process (as Schmidt works in the financial management field). I want to thank her for taking my position."

The appointment of Schmidt through the end of next year was reported first on The Batavian.

Photo: City Clerk/Treasurer Heidi Parker, right, swears in Tammy Schmidt as Rose Mary Christian and City Republican Committee Chair Rich Richmond look on. Schmidt was unanimously approved by City Council prior to the board's Conference and Business Meetings. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: Batavia City Council set to vote on appointment of Republican Tammy Schmidt as Sixth Ward representative

November 9, 2021 - 10:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Grove Roofing, genesee county.

See the source image

The City of Batavia is staying with Grove Roofing Services of Buffalo as it embarks on replacing the flat roof portions of its police station at 10 West Main St.

City Council, at Monday night’s Business Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room, approved a resolution awarding a $102,890 contract to Grove Roofing and also to expend an additional $25,000 from the Facility Reserves fund as a contingency to the project, which is being managed by Architecture Unlimited of Clarence.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski reported that six bids were received, ranging from Grove’s price listed above to $190,000.

According to a memo from Maintenance Superintendent Ray Tourt updated on Nov. 2, Grove Roofing has successfully completed the City Centre Roof I project and is almost done with the City Centre Roof II project.

“We have generally been satisfied with their work and are confident they can perform the work on the PD Flat Roof Replacement,” Tourt wrote.

He advised that the existing roof sections over the 1960s addition and over the rear vestibule are in need of replacement at the current police station in the Brisbane Mansion (pictured above). His memo indicates that the roof is no longer waterproof and the insulation is saturated.

In other developments, Council:

  • Approved an amended fee schedule to adequately compensate the city for the cost of inspection and processing of construction permits and related licenses. The changes will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, who coordinated the process, said the bulk of the changes focused on establishing flat fees to make these types of costs “more predictable.”

The fees cover construction, additions, alterations and renovations for both residential and commercial projects in areas such as roofing, window and door replacement, driveways and parking spaces, siding, fences, utility sheds, pools, central air conditioners, electric generators and heating systems.

Other covered areas are demolition, dumpsters, commercial and residential building permits, engineering cost recovery, certificate of occupancy/compliance, signs, zoning, land subdivision, a variety of plumbing fees and permits, and contractor licensing.

Council member Robert Bialkowski said the changes are necessary as an “equalization” measure and to bring the fees in line with the time spent by city staff. He added that the city’s new computer software will make the process more efficient.

All Council members except Rose Mary Christian voted in favor of the amendments. Christian reiterated what she had said at a previous meeting that now was not the time to put more financial burdens on residents.

  • Approved resolutions that put the city in position to partner with Genesee County to apply for a Water Infrastructure Investment Act grant that would pay up to 40 percent of needed improvements at the Batavia Water Treatment Plant. The measures stipulate that the city would be the lead agency in the grant application process.

Tabelski said the grant would allow the city and county to apply for the full amount of the project, which actually is many projects rolled into one at an estimated cost of $3.4 million. If awarded, the grant would cover about $13.6 million of the total expense.

She also said the county will fund the WTP projects in cash on a quarterly reimbursement basis to the city per the municipalities’ 2019 Operation and Maintenance agreement. City staff currently operates and maintains the facility, while the county assumes responsibility for those costs.

  • Heard that Tabelski will be getting together with a work group on Nov. 23 to go over submissions received in regard to naming rights of the Batavia Ice Arena on Evans Street. She said that she knows of at least one entity (business) that responded to the request for proposal. The timetable calls for a recommendation to be made to City Council in December or January.
November 8, 2021 - 9:58pm

The City of Batavia’s police force needs to be at full strength because “it’s getting terrible out there,” a longtime civil servant said tonight at what looks as though will be her last meeting as a member of City Council.

Sixth Ward Council member Rose Mary Christian, when she heard that three officers have left the Batavia PD for policing jobs in other communities, asked City Manager Rachael Tabelski for the reasons surrounding their departure. Then, at the end several minutes of discussion, she encouraged city leaders to do what they could to hire and retain new recruits.

“I hope my colleagues will give a raise to hire more police … they do deserve it,” Christian said.

While providing Council with a list of updates from Batavia Ice Arena door replacements to the opening of bids for renovation of Jackson Squarer to software updates for utility and tax collection, Tabelski mentioned that the police department is close to evaluating Civil Service test results to hopefully fill the open spots.

(By the way, the city is looking to hire four firefighters as well, and in both instances, navigating through the Civil Service process.)

That touched a nerve with Christian, a staunch advocate for the police and fire departments.

When Christian asked why they left, Tabelski replied that is was for “multiple reasons,” including more money and benefits and the ability to be closer to their families. The city manager did note that Batavia police officers do not receive lifetime healthcare – something that was a benefit in years past.

Tabelski said that once Civil Service test scores are published, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch will be able to determine the number of qualified candidates.

Council member John Canale said he agreed with Christian, but suggested that the board work with Tabelski to look at the current pay and benefits package, and compare that to other similar size cities. He noted that metropolitan cities are a “completely different environment.”

Christian responded by saying that she believed “the majority of (criminals) are coming from Buffalo and Rochester” and blasted the current bail reform law as “ridiculous.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. asked if the city would be able to recoup any of the money it spent on the training, including enrollment in the police academy, for those who left the department.

Heubusch explained that if someone was hired as a lateral transfer that would apply and, in this case, one of the three fit into that category. He said he has made a request for reimbursement from the Town of Greece and is waiting for a response. The other two were hired off the Civil Service list, so there is no option for any return of city expenses.

Following the meeting, Heubusch said the Civil Service “bureaucracy” actually restricts the hiring of potentially successful officers. He said that of the about 120 who signed up for the most recent test, he’ll be fortunate to get one or two that complete the process of testing well, and passing the physical agility, psychological and other tests.

The chief mentioned that all police agencies across the state called for an overhaul of Civil Service during their work with community partners on former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NYS Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative initiative.

Currently, the Batavia PD has 29 officers with the three vacancies and one position frozen as a result of negotiations with the union.

November 8, 2021 - 9:52pm

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With Rose Mary Christian stepping down after a nearly 30-year career as a member of the Batavia City Council, the question becomes, “Who is going to replace her, even if it’s on a temporary basis?”

Speaking by telephone following tonight’s City Council Business Meeting, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. believes that Chapter 3, Section 3 of the City Charter is clear: Christian’s seat should be filled by a Republican who lives in the Sixth Ward (southeast portion of the city).

Batavia resident John Roach, however, in a memo dated Nov. 5 to City Clerk Heidi Parker – and obtained by The Batavian – said he believes that the person should be a registered Democrat. Roach was involved in the drafting of the City Charter several years ago.

A call to City Republican Party Chair Rick Richmond was not returned by the time of the posting of this story.

The reason for the difference in opinion is because Christian was a Democrat when elected to her most recent term and then changed her affiliation to a Republican.

For the record, the City Charter reads as follows:

“Pending such election and qualification of a Council member to fill a vacancy, Council shall fill the vacancy temporarily by appointment of a qualified person who shall be of the same political affiliation as the Council member whose place has become vacant and, if he or she was a ward Council member, a resident of the same ward.”

Jankowski emphasizes the part where it states “of the same political affiliation …” as the basis for his belief that a Republican is next in line.

“And that's pretty specific,” he said. “It tells me, what are you now and your seat just became vacant. It doesn't say what you were five years ago when you ran one time? It doesn't say anything like that. It doesn't say the party of which you are elected under. She has been a Republican for the majority of her recent term.”

Roach’s memo indicates that “the intent of the Charter was that the affiliation at the time of taking office should be the one to make the temporary appointment, and that would be the Democrat Party. Unless there is a NY State law that states differently, I think the intention of the voters two years ago should prevail.”

That’s just a citizen interpreting the Charter, Jankowski said, “but he (Roach) has no authority to interpret the charter to do anything about it.”

“He's just an outside observer who once worked on the commission that says he thinks this is what the intent was,” Jankowski added. “But that doesn't say that. Our marching orders are pretty specific. It says replace them from the party of which they were when they left. It's pretty specific. It doesn't talk about in the beginning of their term; it talks about what they are today when they resigned.”

Most likely, this issue will be the topic of debate in the near future as Christian said she hopes to relocate this week, making tonight’s meeting her last. City officials previously announced that a farewell party for her will take place from 5:15 to 7 p.m. Nov. 22 at the City Hall Council Board Room.

When it comes to Christian’s contributions to city government, Jankowski said he admired her tenacity despite not always seeing eye-to-eye on the issues.

“She'll be missed. I mean, she's a big advocate,” he said. “She's my ward councilperson … and she’ll be missed by the Sixth Ward. She's been a fighter for our ward for as long as I could remember.  And she's always done her best to represent the public and to, you know, do her best on Council. So, she'll be sorely missed.”

When asked if he was going to miss the times when they butted heads during the meetings, Jankowski said, “I will, because I like a spirited debate.”

“I think it's a good thing if people disagree and respectfully hash it out. I don't have a problem with that part of the process. I welcome that.”

Pressed about the fact that he has had to rebuke her at certain times, Jankowski said it was his job to keep the meeting moving in the right direction.

“Sometimes things get off track and you've got to bring it back. I understand and I respect her opinions, but if it’s not appropriate at the time, and if it's not on the agenda, I mean, we’ve got to move forward. We can only go so far. We've got to come back to the meeting.”

Photo: Rose Mary Christian, right, speaks with Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, left, and Council member Kathleen Briggs prior to tonight's City Council Special Conference meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 2, 2021 - 11:28pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Batavia City Council, council-at-large, notify.

 

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Batavia City Council-at-large incumbents Bob Bialkowski, Jeremy Karas and Eugene Jankowski Jr. celebrate their unofficial win Tuesday night at O'Lacy's in Batavia. Photo by Jim Burns

About 15 people sat chatting at Republican headquarters while repeatedly checking their phones and awaiting the final election results Tuesday night. Unofficial results were posted online a few minutes past 10:30 p.m., declaring the three incumbent councilmen-at-large the re-elected winners.

Eugene Jankowski Jr. was on top with 1,143 votes, Jeremy Karas received 1,118 and Bob Bialkowski had 1,032.

Pointing out that they were only unofficial results, Jankowski was cautiously happy.

“I’m really relieved right now. I’m pleased that what we’ve been doing on council has been approved by the people of Batavia,” he said at O’lacy’s, the designated spot for Republicans to gather. “It’s important as a council member to get that feedback. We’re on the right track. I work for everyone from Batavia, no matter what affiliation they are.”

The turnout was “disappointing,” Jankowski said, although incumbent Bob Bialkowski had a different view.

“I’m surprised; I think there was quite a healthy turnout,” he said. “The message is to keep up the hard work. I am very happy, I will be happy to serve another term. It was a lot of hard work and lot of campaigning.”

Having someone new run for the seat gave him pause for reflection, he said.

“It makes you sharpen your pencil a little bit,” he said.

Karas was equally in good spirits.

“I was very pleasantly surprised at the outcome,” Karas said, looking ahead to planning projects without a pandemic. “It’s going to be nice to get back to normal … we have a budget coming up and some other irons in the fire, and the new police station. I can’t wait to get out there and move forward on these things.”

Democrat Erica O’Donnell, a newcomer to the election, received 609 votes. She congratulated Jankowski, Karas and Bialkowski in her comments to the Batavian. She spoke by phone from her home, as the Democrats had no designated meeting place Tuesday night.

“I’m feeling all right,” she said. “I’m proud of the campaign we ran. It’s on to the next one.”

Jankowski said he would like feedback from residents about “various issues” and if they have questions or concerns.

He encourages city residents to call him at 585-343-3337.

November 2, 2021 - 9:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Genesee County elections, Batavia City Council.

Preliminary (unofficial) results per the Genesee County Board of Elections -- contested races:

Batavia City Council-At-Large  (Top three are elected)

Eugene A.Jankowski Jr., Republican - 1,143                

Jeremy W. Karas, Republican - 1,118            

F. Robert Bialkowski, Republican - 1,032                 

Erica B. O’Donnell. Democrat, Families of Batavia - 609                   

Bethany Town Justice  (Top two are elected)

Joseph Nowakowski, Republican, Legal Party - 248                  

Jeff Wolak, Republican  - 226              

Peggy Johnson, Justice - 106        

Nichole Szymkowiak, Justice -- 81           

Town of Bergen Town Council  (Top two are elected)

James S. Starowitz, Republican - 561               

Teresa F. Whalin, Republican  - 511 

Anne M. Sapienza, Democrat, Conservative, WOR - 232                     

Town of Byron Town Supervisor  (Top vote getter is elected)

Peter N. Yasses, Republican - 283                

Gerald L. Heins, Byron Ind. - 248                 

Le Roy Town Council   (Top two are elected)

David R. Paddock, Republican, Conservative -- 930                

Bill Fox, Conservative - 792       

Robert E. Fussell, Democrat - 528                 

Ronald B. Pangrazio, Republican -- 501   

Sarah Krzemien, Democrat - 329            

Le Roy Town Justice (Top vote getter is elected)

Tom Feeley (write-in, Republican) -- 700

Carol DiFrancisco, Democrat -- 638          

Town of Pembroke Town Council   (Top two are elected)

Edward G. Arnold Jr., Republican - 687             

K. Warren Clark, Republican - 588

Helen Trowbridge Hanes, Democrat, Independence - 247

Uncontested Genesee County vote totals:

County Judge & Surrogate -- Melissa Cianfrini -- 8,037

District Attorney -- Kevin Finnell -- 7,490

County Coroner -- Wade Schwab -- 7,076; John Peck -- 6,793

County Legislature -- 1st District Chad Klotzbach -- 630; 3rd, Gordon Dibble -- 1,266; 5th, Rochelle Stein, 1,262; 9th, Gary Maha, 412

CLICK HERE for complete Genesee County election results -- marked as unofficial. 

October 31, 2021 - 5:15pm
posted by Joanne Beck in New, Batavia City Council, council-at-large.

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Erica O’Donnell is a newcomer to the race, but not to having particular goals for the city, she says. She has a vision for Batavia and how City Council can improve upon some of the many things she believes are going well right now. She is the lone Democrat seeking a council-at-large seat on the Republican-heavy council and thinks that her presence would add some fresh thinking to the nine-member group.

Erica and her husband Patrick purchased their home on Batavia’s southside in 2012, and soon after welcomed a dog named Gatsby, followed a few years later by a daughter Lila, 7, and a son Connor, 4.  Both children attend City Schools. She has been involved with the local Democratic Committee, helped out with her grandfather’s campaigns for Alabama Town Board and clerk, and Genesee County Legislature, and has since volunteered for and organized campaigns for races at every level of government. She served as secretary of the Genesee County Democratic Committee in 2016 and Second Vice Chair in 2017 and was elected Chair of the City of Batavia Democratic Committee in late 2017. 

Q: What do you feel is your responsibility as a council person-at-large?
A:
In my mind, the biggest job, and definitely the main responsibility as a city council member, is to represent the city of Batavia You’re at large, so you represent the entire city, so it’s my responsibility to take the concerns, questions, desires, hopes, and dreams, all of that, of the residents of the city of Batavia to council and to city officials and try and execute that to the best of my ability.

Q: What’s going right in Batavia?
A:
We’re definitely seeing great growth downtown, with new restaurants and businesses opening, it’s super exciting, just different activities for families and kids. I’m raising my two kids here, I think it’s a wonderful place to raise a family. We get a bad rap sometimes … that’s not been my experience at all. And we’re not perfect, certainly, there are challenges in the city, but the best way to remedy those is to get involved in and around your community. So I’ve seen great things growing for kids, for families to do something. Usually, when I wanted to do something with my kids you have to go to Buffalo or you have to go to Rochester, and now there are places to go and things to do almost every week in Batavia, and I think that’s awesome.

Q: What could use some improvement?

A: We can definitely do better with those things as well. I grew up in Alabama, and my husband grew up in Oakfield and works in Rochester, and we could have shortened his commute by quite a bit by living in Monroe County, but to be perfectly honest it was way more affordable to live in Batavia. The home that we bought on the south side would be triple what we paid for in Henrietta, Brighton, Penfield … it gives us a lot of freedom to be able to stay home with my kids. During COVID I was able to stay home with them. When you talk to people my age, they maybe don’t think of Batavia as a great place to purchase a home and raise a family, and I think just promoting what a great place this is, and geared toward families to come in. And restaurants and bars are great, but you can only do that so many times. I love going to Eli Fish and O’Lacy’s, but it’s probably not the best place for my 5- and 7-year-old.

Q: What would be your top priority for 2022 if elected?
A:
I have a couple of pet projects and an overarching vision. My overarching vision is to bring a fresh perspective and new thinking to the council. I’ve been told many times ‘this is the way it’s always been done,’ and I think there are ways we can come to compromises, and things can be difficult and still be achievable. You might not get 100 percent of what you want all the time, but you can make progress, and you can try your very best, and get there little by little. A couple of my little pet things, parking in city lots and city streets overnight. Right now, if I were to go to one of our establishments downtown, have a couple of drinks, and decide, you know what? I need to take Uber home, I need to catch a ride with a friend, I need to walk and do the responsible thing and leave my car overnight with a parking ticket. Yeah, and that's one of those things that I think there could be a compromise.

Obviously, we need to remove snow. Well, is it possible that snow removal can happen on a Tuesday or Wednesday and then Thursday through Sunday it's ok to leave your cars overnight in certain lots? I think there's a solution there. I think there's something that can be done. Same thing for parking overnight … if you're having family functions and if you're doing work on your house. I know at one point our neighbors were siding their house and it was right on our driveway. Well, it took a couple of days. I didn't want to get a nail in my tire, so we parked on the street and had to make a special arrangement with the city so we didn't get a ticket. I still think it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, you know, and that can be fixed easily. It's something that doesn't cost much. And you know, we can find a solution.

The other thing is the city website. That's something that we could walk in, and in a week, fairly cheaply have it fixed. I was looking for someone for the city manager and they'd ask for the city manager's email address and they couldn't find it. It's got to be on the website. And I found Jason Molino's address. And this list, you know, was earlier on in the summer. It can be hard to find the information that you need to either get a hold of someone in the city or just to, you know, maybe you just have a quick question and it should be easier to find on the city website. I just think that that's something that would be an easy fix.

Q: How will you contribute to city operations?
A:
I think that I have a different perspective than most City Council members right now. I call myself an older millennial … I just think I'll bring a fresh perspective. I think I would come at things from a different angle than other City Council members. I would also, if elected, be the only Democrat on City Council. And that might not make a huge difference in day-to-day operations. I don't think that matters much too, you know, average citizens when it comes to, you know, they want the streets plowed down, the leaves picked up, the whole spectrum. But I do think it makes a difference to have people who are cut from a different cloth to at least have a different side of things.

I'm not a stranger to City Council. I don't have a problem reaching out. I mean, for as long, really, for as long as I've lived in Batavia, if there's something bothering me, I'll call my City Councilperson. And 99.9 percent of the time, I'm treated with the utmost respect and I get a response.  I don't think it would be a hindrance at all being a Democrat in Genesee County, we're in the minority and I wouldn't get real far if I wasn't willing to work with people who are from the other political parties.

Q: Why should you get a resident’s vote for this position?
A: 
Well, I mean, everything that we've discussed already. I think I'd bring a fresh perspective to the city. I think that I'm a hard worker and a creative thinker. I also believe in doing things proactively. I think we've got a bad habit of kicking the can down the road and, even just the police station. That's something that's been going on and been discussed and drawn out for ages, and we still haven’t broken ground. So I think we need to deal with things head-on, and before it becomes a bigger issue.

Just to bring new ideas, creative ideas, thinking outside the box. I'm involved in a lot of different community organizations. I volunteer all the time and I think just by talking to people and just listening to what people have to say, I'm putting it into action. Being involved and hearing from different groups, I think, is something that's needed.

Q: Does there need to be more housing in Batavia?
A:
I think there needs to be more affordable housing. I think that. We own our home. But the two houses to either side of us, which are almost identical in square footage, happen to be single-family rentals. And I know the rent of both homes is double my mortgage. OK, so not everyone is able to get a mortgage. Not everyone is in a position to buy a home and maybe doesn't want to buy a home. Maybe they know they need to be mobile for their job, or they're only here temporarily. But they shouldn't be punished with such a huge burden for their rent, so I don't know what the answer to that is. But I do think there needs to be more affordable housing and affordable rentals in the city.

Q: Do you think there should be more downtown businesses, and if so, what types?
A:
Absolutely. I think there should be more downtown businesses. And I hope that in the near future, there will be more of a variety of downtown businesses. I mean, restaurants are great. Barbershops are great. You know, I would love to see more retail on the street.

Q: City Council already voted for a new police station. How do you feel about a new police station and its location?
A:
I think it’s absolutely necessary for everyone involved. The location they chose wasn't my favorite location, but we spent a long time researching. They put together the task force and this was what they chose. So I think that, you know, you don't ask people's opinions and ignore them if that's what they think is best. And that's, you know, where it should be done.

Q: Do you think the police department needs more, less, or the same funding for what it needs to do?
A:
I think things are going well with our police department. Personally, I haven't heard a lot of complaints. I know all of my interactions with the police, and I know I'm saying that a huge amount of privilege as a white woman, has been positive. That being said, I mean, nobody gets a blank check, right? So you need to be responsible for the funding of all of our departments and the police department. No exception.

Q: Do you feel that city taxes are fair for the amenities that taxpayers receive?
A: 
I do. Maybe this is going to be an unpopular answer for some people. No, I mean, nobody likes to pay taxes, let's be honest. Yeah, but that's the price we pay to be a part of society. I know that we have a bad snowstorm. I've got to dig out my driveway, but my street's going to get clear. I've got a big pile of leaves out front that my husband dragged out there, that the city can come to pick up. It's my responsibility to pay my fair share. It's the price we pay to be a part of society.

Q: Have you said everything you wanted to about running for council-at-large?
A:
Yes.

October 31, 2021 - 5:06pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Batavia City Council, council-at-large.

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Elba native Jeremy Karas and his wife Andrea have two boys, Timothy, 14, and 12-year-old Steven. Karas was appointed to serve out the remaining year term when Adam Tabelski resigned from the position, and then Karas served another two-year term. The demands of his service manager position for Temp-Press prevents Karas from participating in a lot of civic organizations, he says, but, aside from giving quality time to his family, he would like to devote himself to serving again on City Council.

Q: What do you feel is your responsibility as a councilman-at-at large?
A:
I mean, obviously, we can be responsible for all of the wards throughout the city, not just one single one. So many voters, any constituents within the city of Batavia, can come to us with any concerns or if they have anything that they'd like to see changed with the city. Or, you know, once in a great while we get to hear what we're doing well. But yeah, usually, for the most part, it's something wrong. But, you know, occasionally we get some pats on the back here or there, which is nice. But yeah, I mean, we're just here to listen to anybody and everybody that's willing to talk to us. And I've got some friends and family throughout the city that, you know what? We have some things coming up or, you know, I'll just I'll reach out to them or just when I'm walking my dog in the neighborhood, just say, Hey, you know, what do you think about, you know this or that, that they've been talking about? Or what direction would you like to see us go? And basically, I view their role as just, we have to kind of use your best judgment based on the input you get from the people around you and Batavia. And, you know, help advise city management in a direction to go based on that, then just stay as objective as possible and reach out to as many people as you can.

Q: What's going right with Batavia?
A:
I believe a lot of things are OK.  I definitely got in on an interesting time, with the pandemic hitting, and yeah, seeing a lot of the financial restraints that we have and question marks and even uncertainties with, you know, some of the downtown revitalization. I mean, a lot of developers and everybody, everyone just kind of hunkered down and nobody really knew what was going to go on. And it really is nice to see. I mean, Savarino definitely looks like they're finally moving forward on the station there. You know, I mean, it's really great to see some of these projects taking form and moving forward. And we were able to keep baseball on the table as well.

You know, we're looking at options for the ice rink long-term too. I really think the city's got a lot going for it. They just said that, just on the outside of the city, HP Hood is putting up their new facility, upstate Niagara building on the old Alpina plant, Graham is still doing well, Chapins is still here. O-At-Ka is still here. I mean, we have the jobs here to give and support the community as well. You know, it's not just where people have to go to Buffalo and Rochester … we have the jobs, we've got the downtown that's growing and there really is a lot this area has going for it.

Q: What could use some improvement in Batavia?
A:
Oh, as far as improvement? Oh, that's a tough one. I mean, nothing is perfect, right? I would like to see more of a focus start heading down towards like the Ellicott Street area for the revitalization, and not just downtown. I think it's great that Main Street is doing what they're doing, but I think that's another area that, you know, once these get taking off, that needs to be another area of focus. I haven't been on long enough to see in the past, but I would like to see some of the facilities being kept up better, more being replaced. And like I said, I just know there's some aging equipment that the fire department has that need to be repaired or replaced, the police department as well. I mean, the fact that they've been in that building, as long as they have, is shameful as far as I'm concerned. Yeah, it really is. I mean, I'd really like to see us stay ahead of stuff a lot more rather than getting to the point where everything's crumbling down around you and you have to move on it, you know? Yeah. And I mean, that's something I like to do, you know, with my job or to help customers with that. We're trying to stay ahead with staying on a replacement plan and keeping things running smoothly. So, yeah, I mean, I would like to see that as far as something I think that could be improved upon. It's just trying to get better, better replacements in line and possibly or even just better purchasing.

Q: What is your top priority for 2022 if you are re-elected?
A:
Should I be fortunate enough to get re-elected, I would like to just continue with what we're doing, honestly, like I said, with moving forward with some of the projects downtown. This year's budget should be much easier for management to do. As I said, I know last year we had to make some really hard choices on some cuts and things that we had to push off reserves that didn't get nearly as much as they probably should have. And, I mean, some of the tax revenues and what we've been looking at so far, for all intents and purposes, it looks like the same for this year’s coming budget. Next year, we should be getting back on track where you could start building towards those things and putting a little bit more away. That's really the big thing that I would like to see coming through next year.

Q: How would you personally contribute to city operations?
A:
I think all of us on the council, we all come from a little bit different walk of life and we've all got definitely different professional backgrounds that we come from. And I think there have been some instances where I've been able to lend some of my background and expertise with some of the businesses that I deal with where, you know, some of them may have not been exposed to some of that stuff, unfortunately. But yeah, there definitely have been a few issues here. And there were things that were right up my alley.

Q: Why should you get a resident’s vote in this election?
A:
I've proven to be a good member of the council. I've had, you know, a handful of residents who have contacted me for some things throughout the time I've been on council, and have helped them to find resolutions to their issues. You know, I know I'm not the loudest one there. I don't jump up and scream and shout out a lot of things. But you know, I'm always willing to listen. Always willing to help out anyone that stops and talks to me or calls me. I always try to make myself available as much as I can, and I really do enjoy the time I spend on council and trying to help make the city a better place.

Q: Do you feel that the city of Batavia needs more housing?
A:
I believe it does. I mean, I like to look at, like, a couple of the Realtors’ websites every once in a while just to see. And it seems to me, just from what I've heard from people around my age group, and that it is fairly difficult to find something. And once you know, like if the average family size home does go on the market, it seems like they don't last long. I've seen some in my neighborhood over on Union Street. I mean, they'll only be there a week or two weeks and it's already gone. Sometimes they don't even make it to market. And I know, like when we purchased our house back 15 years ago, it had been on the market for, I think, six or eight months somewhere in there and it was just sitting there. Nobody seemed like anybody was buying that. But yeah, I mean, just from how quickly I see some of them selling now. I believe, yes, the city could benefit from more housing or either maybe some sort of incentive to repair some of the older properties that are here.

Q: Do you feel that downtown needs more businesses, and if so, why types?
A:
Oh, absolutely. There's still plenty of empty storefronts there. You know, places for, you know, expansion and places to be repaired and fixed up. I'd definitely love to see more business downtown. As to what they are, that's yet to be seen, but I would absolutely love to see more downtown. I mean, we've already got some very nice restaurants downtown. I don't know if more shops would be feasible. I know some of them to seem to struggle this day and age with the coming out of Amazon and all the online sales. I know it's very tough for those types of businesses. Yeah, it is. I would love to see more of those types of stores. I just I don't know realistically, you know, at this day and age, it's tough to open those kinds of places. It is. I get it. I'm realistic about that. As much as I would love to see more of them down

Q: How do you feel about a new police station and where it’s to be located?
A:
It's very shameful that they've been stuck in that building as long as they have. That was when I first came on council. I was able to tour all the departments in that and I did. I spent about half a day with (Chief) Shawn (Heubusch) and he took me through the whole station and showed me everything, and I just I couldn't believe the condition of it. I couldn't. I felt very bad that they are there. I, without a doubt, believe that we need to build them a new station.

As far as the location, I do like talking to Rachel and talking to other members of council and previous studies that they have. They have another one going through, apparently, because of course, those ones were years ago when it was on the plate then and for whatever reasons, that didn't move forward. Yeah. You know it does look like the best location. The utilities are already there. It's city-owned property, which reduces our costs. We don't have to buy property. It's got a lot of checkmarks and positives for it.

The only concern that I mentioned, you know, when we were looking at that and they had some rough sketches, is I just I don't want it to hamper the businesses that are already in that area by taking up too much of that parking lot. The way they had it drawn out, you know, that was the one concern they did raise. I just want to make sure all those buildings along Washington, you know, whether or not you get the movie theater up and going again, depending on what happens with the old Penneys in there, even though they've kind of got their own parking, you know, I think we need to look long term as well once we start to finalize plans for that and just make sure everyone's going to have enough breathing room if they're able to function. And especially when it snows.

Q: Do you feel that the police department could use more, less, or the same funding for what it needs to do?
A: 
I believe, you know, that the status quo is ok. As far as the feedback we have received from the chief they are, they're finally up to the full staff, which I know when I first came on council, I believe they were maybe four or five officers short. And that, of course, was causing additional overtime. But yeah, they definitely need the station. But I think once you get them in there, get out of the old building and that, yeah, they seem to have a fairly good replacement plan for the vehicles. I believe they're pretty well set from what we’ve been told.

Q: Do you believe that city taxes are fair for the city amenities that taxpayers receive?
A:
Yes, I do believe they are. I mean, they’re only around, I think it's $9.25 per thousand of assessments. I believe that is pretty fair for I mean, considering public safety when you're talking about paying for the fire department and police department and then your DPW as well as all the roads and sidewalks, parks, and that's a lot that's taken care of for that little bit of money.

Q: Why should residents give you a vote?
A:
 I guess I'm not somebody to jump up and down and scream and shout and I don't like, you know, I'm not one of those people that's going to go up to, you know, to start patting myself on the back, telling you all the great things that I did. But no, I mean, not always open to anybody coming to talk to me, and I'm going to try to stay as objective as possible with anything and everything. We all come from different walks of life. And, you know, I think we can all find a good path forward for the city. You know, if we're all just willing to work together at it, keep a level head.

Q: Have you said everything you wanted to say about running for council-at-large?
A:
Yes, I think so.

October 29, 2021 - 2:51pm

It’s not exactly trying to “steal the election,” but the removal of a couple political signs supporting Erica O'Donnell in her bid for an at-large seat on Batavia City Council has an Ellicott Street resident hopping mad.

Diana Kastenbaum is reporting that both of her O'Donnell for City Council yard signs – one on Ellicott and one on Richmond Avenue -- were stolen in the last 24 hours.

“And it’s not even Halloween yet,” she stated in an email to The Batavian.

O’Donnell is the lone Democratic Party candidate in a four-person race for three at-large positions. She is running against incumbent Republicans Eugene Jankowski Jr., Robert Bialkowski and Jeremy Karas.

“The Republican signs for Council are all still standing on Ellicott.  This has happened in the past to Dem signs, but not the Republicans signs in the City of Batavia,” Kastenbaum said.

“Someone left a note in my mailbox today to say Erica's signs were no longer in my front yard. I didn't notice if they were there this morning, but when I came home from work only the stakes were left.  Of course, I will replace them, but every year we have to deal with this nonsense and no one seems to do anything about it.”

When informed of Kastenbaum’s predicament, Jankowski said he could understand why she would be annoyed.

“I don’t understand what people gain by that,” he said. “I know that in past elections, a few of my signs went missing.”

He also theorized that it could be an O’Donnell supporter who wanted a sign to put up somewhere else.

“I mean, in a couple of days, they’ll all be coming down so if you want one, just ask and you can get one for free,” he said.

Assistant Police Chief Chris Camp said that the Batavia PD has received no reports of political signs being removed from yards in the city thus far this election season.

October 26, 2021 - 9:31pm

rosie.jpg

Depending upon the closing date of the home that she and her daughter, Raelene, have purchased on Holmes Avenue, Rose Mary Christian is about to close the door on a nearly 30-year career as a member of the Batavia City Council.

Because Christian (in file photo above) is moving from her Williams Street home of 22 years in the Sixth Ward, which she represents, to the First Ward, she will be ineligible to continue on the governing body.

“I would think that we will close on the house within a month,” she said earlier this evening.

If the transaction is finalized before Council’s next meeting on Nov. 8 and Christian is in her new residence, it would mean that Monday night’s meeting was her final hurrah.

During her tenure, she was known for her willingness to speak her mind – ruffling feathers along the way – and fought valiantly to keep taxes down and for her constituents in the Sixth Ward.

The Sixth Ward covers the area south of Main Street and east of Liberty Street, extending to the Genesee County Fairgrounds on East Main Street.

Christian said she will miss the interaction with the residents and her colleagues.

“You know what I’m going to miss is the people in this ward. Am I going to miss Council? Yeah, I’m going to miss some of those people – quite a bit,” she said. “I might have not been able to override them that many times, but I gave it my best. I voted what I believe, you bet I did. And if I voted for four budgets, that’s saying a lot.”

According to the City Charter, someone will have to be appointed to replace Christian and complete her term, which is up for election in two more years, she said,

Christian switched affiliations from Democrat to Republican about 18 months ago, and thinks that could be an issue.

“There will be a problem with it because of the fact that I was a Democrat when I won the last election – and that was my eighth term to be elected,” she said, noting that she served the community for 29 ¾ years.

A check of the City Charter, Chapter 3, Section 3, reads as follows:

“Vacancies in the office of Council member shall be filled by election for the remainder of the unexpired term at the next general election occurring not less than 60 days after the occurrence of the vacancy. Such election to fill a vacancy where it occurs after the last day to file nominating petitions for the primary election shall be filled upon nominations made in the manner provided by law for the filling of vacancies in primary nominations occurring after the primary election.

“Pending such election and qualification of a Council member to fill a vacancy, Council shall fill the vacancy temporarily by appointment of a qualified person who shall be of the same political affiliation as the Council member whose place has become vacant and, if he or she was a ward Council member, a resident of the same ward.

"In the event that Council shall fail to appoint within 30 days after the vacancy, such appointment must be made by the Council President. This appointment must be made within 10 days under the same conditions as to political affiliation and residency noted in the paragraph above."

Going by the paragraph in boldface -- but yet to be confirmed by the city attorney, City Republicans would make the appointment since Christian now is a registered Republican.

Christian said that city leaders have scheduled a farewell party for her on Nov. 22 at City Hall Council Board Room. At the conclusion of that event, which runs from 5:15 to 7 p.m., City Council will present her with a proclamation in recognition of her service.

October 25, 2021 - 10:01pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, Batavia City Council.

symphony_75.jpg

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. reads a proclamation from the City of Batavia in commemoration of the Genesee Symphony Orchestra's 75th year as Sherry Mosher, left, GSO board member, and Melzie Case, symphony musician, look on at tonight's City Council meeting. Founded as the Batavia Civic Orchestra in 1947, it is one of the oldest civic orchestras in New York State. The proclamation credits the GSO for "enriching the community through high quality performance, educational opportunities, guest artists and partnerships." Photo by Mike Pettinella.

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