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Batavia City Council

December 9, 2019 - 10:40pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Batavia City Court.

david_saleh.jpgLongtime attorney David Saleh was appointed as part-time City of Batavia court judge tonight, filling the vacancy created by former part-time justice Durin Rogers’ election to the full-time post in November.

City Council members, at the close of their Business meeting at City Hall Council Chambers, unanimously voted in favor of Saleh’s hiring, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020 for a six-year term.

“First of all, I’m honored and very grateful to the City Council for having selected me to this position,” said Saleh, who noted that he will preside over the court primarily on Wednesdays and Fridays. “I am very excited to work with Judge (Durin) Rogers and to follow the direction this court has been going for many years under Judge (Robert) Balbick and Judge Rogers.”

Saleh, 66, has been a lawyer for more than 40 years and has experience in various disciplines, including being both a defense attorney and prosecutor as well as practicing corporate and municipal law.

He lived in Corfu for many years before relocating to the City in 2013.

Saleh, vice president/general counsel for Inlighten Inc. of Clarence, also has been involved in community and civic organizations, most notably as president of the Batavia Lions Club.

He has served as the City Republican Committee chairperson in recent years, a position that he will have to relinquish to avoid any conflict of interest issues. It is believed that Richard Richmond will assume the committee chair post.

Saleh said fairness and professionalism are the cornerstones of a successful judge.

“I think the main thing that has always been my focus -- and I’ve had a lot of experience in the courts – is to be very fair and professional with the people that come in front of me,” he said.
“I have a lot of experience and I hope to impart some of that to the attorneys who come to court with their clients to seek justice and deal with various problems that come up to people who are using the system.”

In other action, Council unanimously approved resolutions:

-- Authorizing an additional police officer position that will allow for the new hire to be trained in light of the January 2020 retirements of Assistant Chief Todd Crossett and Det. Sgt. Kevin Czora, and the City’s agreement with the Batavia City School District to provide a School Resource Officer beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

-- Appropriating $50,000 from the Facilities Reserve Fund to conduct a feasibility study – including pre-design work – for a new police station at the northwest corner of Bank Street and Alva Place. Currently, the reserve fund has a balance of $298,000.

-- Acceptance of a $1 million Empire State Development Corporation Downtown Revitalization Initiative reimbursement grant to renovate the City Centre concourse, with improvements to be made to the roof, floor tiles and entrances.

City Manager Martin Moore said the state will reimburse the City at the end of the project, which means that short-term bonds may be needed to cover the ongoing costs.

“This is a major piece of the City’s efforts to upgrade the concourse and create positive economic opportunities for micro-business enterprises,” Moore wrote in a memo to City Council.

-- Ratifying the new 40-year sales tax allocation agreement with Genesee County, per requirements set by the state Comptroller’s office. The amended contract begins on Jan. 1, 2020.

-- Appointing citizens to the Youth Board (David Twichell, Paula Fischer and Kathryn Fitzpatrick) and Deer Management Committee (Russell Nephew Jr., Kent Klotzbach, Frederick Gundell, Samuel DiSalvo and Gus Galliford).

-- Contracting with Genesee County for prosecutorial services with the City paying $73,719 for 2020 and $76,219 for 2021.

Additionally, Public Works Director Matt Worth reported that crews are targeting this Thursday and Friday, depending upon the weather, to continue residential leaf pickup. Worth also said that the City yard waste station will remain open through Dec. 16.

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City Council President Eugene Jankowski, right, reads a proclamation commending local and regional law enforcement personnel for their cooperative efforts during a 20-hour standoff on Nov, 18-19 on Liberty Street in the City. The proclamation thanked all agencies that assisted City Police and for resolving the situation in a safe manner. From left are City Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano, Monroe County Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Wagner, NYS DEC Officer Fay Fuerch, DPW Director Matt Worth, Genesee County Dispatch Deputy Director Frank Riccobono, State Police Capt. David Forsythe, State Police Sgt. Ben Fasano, City Police Sgt. Chris Camp, City Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and Jankowski. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 12, 2019 - 9:52pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Rejected in his bid for a landlord’s assistance, a Ross Street man tonight appealed to City Council to help him resolve an ongoing situation with his next-door neighbors.

“I’ve never been the squeaky wheel, but I’m hoping for a little bit of grease,” said Robert Cook of 172 Ross St. as he spoke during the public comments portion of the Business Meeting at City Hall Council Board Room.

Cook, who said he purchased the house last June, said he and his children have been subjected to intoxicated, verbally abusive and combative neighbors at 174 Ross St. (on the southeast corner of North Street). He added that he has learned that police have been called to that address more than 24 times since 2014.

“My children aren’t comfortable sitting on the porch or playing in the front yard,” said Cook, who noted that two or three families are renting at 174 Ross St.

Furthermore, he said that the property owner, Duane Preston, not only was unwilling to assist but sent Cook a letter that “was very dismissive and condescending.”

That left him no choice but to come before City Council, where he said he “humbly is asking for guidance to resolve this” and to set the wheel in motion to hold landlords responsible for their tenants’ behaviors.

His predicament spurred varied responses from council members and City Manager Martin Moore, ranging from Moore’s touting of the success of neighborhood watch groups in the City, to Council Member Paul Viele’s pointed words: “It looks like Mr. Preston doesn’t give a crap about Mr. Cook and that’s a shame.”

Council Member Kathleen Briggs asked if Moore had contacted Preston, who owns numerous properties in the City, (Moore answered "No") and urged someone to talk to the tenants and tell them that they’ve “become a disturbance.”

Council Member Patti Pacino confirmed that City police officers have been there many times, while Rose Mary Christian -- putting the blame on the tenants -- called for increased police surveillance in the area.

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said his department’s efforts have been hampered by the lack of complainants to go on the record and by the fact that there hasn’t been an issue when police have arrived.

“We will reach out to him (Preston), but we can’t put a car there 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “We are aware of the property and have increased our presence there.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski suggested that several neighbors band together and also noted that if Cook’s neighbors are under public assistance, the bad behavior could put them “in jeopardy of losing the apartment and being moved out.”

“We need to let the police handle it and work with other agencies – parole, probation, HUD,” he said. “(Speaking with) the landlord is the other avenue.”

Following the meeting, Cook said he was disappointed in Preston’s response.

“He (Preston) said he was taking the same position as other landlords in the City – he’ll keep the properties up to code and let the police handle the tenant issues,” Cook said. “He said that I should have done more research before buying the house. I say that he should have done more research before renting to these tenants.”

November 12, 2019 - 8:59pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, genesee county, Batavia City Council.

Approval of a 40-year water supply agreement between the City of Batavia and Genesee County is a win-win situation for both municipalities, according to a City official who has played an integral role in the negotiations.

Speaking after tonight’s Batavia City Council meeting – at which council members unanimously approved the amended agreement through the year 2059, Public Works Director Matt Worth said the new pact equally benefits both entities.

“The important parts of it are, from the City point of view, is the City (last month) entered into a 40-year agreement with the sales tax with Genesee County -- which gives it stability as a financial revenue long-term – and, in addition, the City now does not have to build a new water plant,” Worth said.

Worth estimated the cost of a new water plant at $35 million, expressing relief that the city no longer has that responsibility.

From Genesee County’s perspective, Worth said the agreement’s additional 60-cent surcharge (per 1,000 gallons) gives the county the long-term stability to fund necessary improvements.

“Over the 40 years, the county can go for long-term bonds and has the ability to say ‘Yes we have the revenue stream to pay for those bonds’ (and that leads to) better rates and long-term stability to do those improvements and bring the additional water in,” Worth noted. “Hopefully that spurs all the economic development and growth that usually comes along with public water.”

Worth said the prior agreement -- an extension of the original contract from 2000 -- runs through Dec. 31 and included a 60-cent surcharge to help pay for water improvements. This new agreement goes out to Dec. 31, 2059 and tacks on another 60-cent surcharge to the City.

He said it could provide the impetus to get water into other areas of the county.

“It could mean getting public water into some of those towns and areas that have not had it – Bethany being a prime example,” he said. “Alabama didn’t have water for quite a while, now they’re starting to get water into that town as well.

“That’s kind of the avenue that has been put forward for long-term stability financially and long-term stability as far as providing safe, public drinking water to an awful lot of the county.”

City Council also passed, by 9-0 votes, a restated lease with Genesee County for water treatment facilities that would transfer the plant to the county once it is no longer being used, by mutual agreement, and a restated operations and maintenance agreement for the water treatment plant that takes into account actual costs compared to budget costs, with the City and County equally splitting any surplus end-of-the-year funds.

Both of these agreements are for 10 years.

October 29, 2019 - 3:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Traffic congestion at Richmond Avenue and Union Street – adjacent to the new Van Detta Stadium – and along the S-curve between Jefferson Avenue and Main Street has struck a nerve with at least one Batavia City Council member.

Speaking at Monday night’s meeting at City Hall, Council Member John Canale said he has firsthand knowledge of the current situation at both locations, and requested city management and the police department to explore ways to rectify it.

Canale said he expected “fine tuning” of the traffic flow and parking plan at Van Detta Stadium, but he said that leaving the parking lot along Union Street proved to be “very difficult” since cars are parked right up to the corner of Richmond Avenue.

“It’s congested with no line of sight to the intersection,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous situation.”

He said he turned right out of the parking lot to head south on Union Street to avoid the intersection, and then was suddenly met with a couple of young people who darted out in front of his vehicle.

Canale suggested a parking ban from Richmond to the end of the parking lot.

“I think it’s something we need to look at,” he said, which prompted Council President Eugene Jankowski to hand the ball off to City Manager Martin Moore and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said there was a “no parking” sign near the Richmond intersection but he thinks that the sign is gone.

Turning to the S-curve behind Wendy’s and Tim Hortons, Canale said he wondered if a reduced speed limit would help prevent the “near misses” of broadside crashes, maybe dropping the limit to 20 or 15 mph.

He said he negotiated the curve at both speeds and “felt that 15 miles per hour was a comfortable speed to react to a pedestrian or vehicle” – and added that he saw two cars in front of him almost get broadsided before his car almost was hit as well.

Canale also spoke of the number of cars and children at Austin Park during the summer months, and asked if the police department could “at least look at changing the speed limit there.”

Moore said the City did a three-day speed assessment of vehicles traveling south along the S-curve and found that the average speed of the 1,467 vehicles was 18.6 mph, with a maximum of 29 and a minimum of 10.

Heubusch then reported that there have been two traffic accidents there in the past five years, and that NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law allows officials to limit the speed only to 25 mph within the City limits.

Jankowski asked to see more data and for management to make recommendations to Council, adding that maybe a flashing yellow light or caution sign would be beneficial.

In other developments, Council:

-- Heard an update from DPW Director Matt Worth about the National Grid Light Conversion program that he has been exploring for the past several months.

Worth said the City is investigating whether to purchase the entire street lighting system of about 1,600 lights from National Grid at a cost of $113,000. He said that it would cost another $800,000 to $1 million for a complete conversion to LED lighting.

“We would have to weigh the (upfront) costs against the savings that would be realized,” he said. “The City would receive a $45,000 rebate in addition to the energy savings and better light quality.”

He also mentioned new technology that is available, features such as individual monitoring of lights, the ability to reduce light strength during non-peak times and measures to help law enforcement.

“This has become complex very quickly,” Worth noted. “We’re looking at the best long-term solution.”

-- Conducted a public hearing for the purpose of amending the zoning code to include self-storage facilities in I-1 and I-2 zones. No one from the public spoke.

The hearing followed several meetings in response to a request by Peter Yasses (54 Cedar St. LLC) to erect a self-storage business on Cedar Street, across from the DeWitt Recreation Area. County and city planning boards both gave the go-ahead for the zoning change.

October 28, 2019 - 10:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, genesee county.

With New York State’s blessing in hand, the Batavia City Council tonight wasted no time in approving an amended sales tax allocation with Genesee County.

By an 8-0 vote (Council Member Rose Mary Christian was absent), the board OK'd the 40-year contract that, in City Manager Martin Moore’s words, “provides a level of stability as we move forward in budget planning and strategic planning.”

Just as importantly, the agreement – which was passed by Genesee County legislators in January – gives the county the necessary time to fund a new jail and to manage the long-term debt payments associated with the building of the jail and other capital projects.

Last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law Bill S4247 that allows Genesee County and the City of Batavia to enter into a sales tax allocation agreement not to exceed 40 years.

As part of the process, bonds will be issued to fund construction with a term of up to 40 years. This means that both the County and City will have assurances that, for the duration of the bonds, they can count on a distinct sales tax revenue stream.

Terms of the City/County agreement have Batavia receiving 16 percent of the county’s 50 percent share of the 8-percent sales tax – with provisions for that amount to grow in future years by a maximum of 2 percent per year.

In future years, the City’s share will depend upon sales tax revenue growth, eventually being no less than 14 percent.

The new agreement will take effect on Jan. 1, a day after the current one-year contract expires.

The vote came during a Special Business Meeting convened immediately after the regularly scheduled Conference meeting.

Three related joint agreements dealing with water supply, water treatment facilities lease and water treatment plant operation and maintenance were moved to the Nov. 12 Business Meeting.

October 28, 2019 - 9:50pm

nephew_deer.jpg

Deer are taking up residency in the City and the time has come to do something about it.

That’s the message conveyed by City Manager Martin Moore, Ph.D., at tonight’s City Council meeting as he outlined potential steps to reduce the number of deer and the difficulties they are causing for homeowners.

“Indicators are showing that deer are establishing residential ‘homes’ in the City and its seems to be increasing,” Moore said at the end of a report to Council about his discussions with officials of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and his call to form a new committee develop a plan of action.

Moore said he has received a “verbal commitment” from a DEC wildlife management specialist to come to a Council meeting next month to advise the board on the best way to proceed in culling the deer population.

“There are specialty types of controls (to ensure) a plan approved by New York State,” he said.

At the outset of the meeting, Council heard from Pat Cooper and Russell Nephew, residents of State Street in the vicinity of Batavia High School, who both said they have been confronted by deer recently (with the latter stating that she was actually chased into her apartment by a deer).

Nephew noted that the City has had an issue with an overabundance of deer for the past five years and said the predicament “is getting worse and has actually elevated to a new level of concern.”

“The City’s past Council has done investigations and surveys and they concluded there was a problem and agreed that action must be taken, as you do now,” he said.

He reported that the Town of Amherst had a similar situation between 2015 and 2017, and by virtue of special out-of-season hunting permits issued by the DEC, reduced the herd by 571.

“This is just one example of a possible solution to the problem,” he said. “By all of us working together, we can solve this problem.”

Nephew then took a local print media outlet to task for its publication of a satirical column last week, equating the deer to a West Side Story-like gang intimidating the residents of State Street.

“Instead of making an editorial joke of a situation that occurred, just report it as it happened,” he said. “I know all about your First Amendment rights, but your first responsibility is to your readers to bring them an unbiased representation of the event.

“Jumping right into an editorial opinion gathered from second- and third-hand information is unprofessional and unethical. Your quest to garner readers through your attempt at humor slid by this time, but will it lead to tragedy if the problem is ignored?”

Following the meeting, Moore elaborated on the steps going forward, adding that he hopes to have it in place within six months.

“Our exact steps right now is that tomorrow I will be asking the City Clerk to put out for applications for the public to be able to be on a deer committee -- it’s open to the public,” he said. “We’re going to ask them to get their applications in in a reasonably timely manner because as soon as we have enough qualified applications we will be getting them to a committee with the City Council for review – and as long as the individuals meet the residency requirements … they’ll be a recommendation that goes to the Council.”

Moore said that should Council vote to approve the establishment of the committee, they will set a first meeting right away and nail down a date (likely Nov. 12 or Nov. 25) for officials of the DEC’s Wildlife Management Division to address the board.

“They (the DEC) will look at how are urban structure is, they will look at some areas and ideas for dealing with the proper population-control measures – things that are safe, things that don’t either endanger or cause excitement at the public, but at the same time are effective,” he said. “Nothing is 100-percent guaranteed, obviously, when you take steps to control population.”

The city manager said an effective deer management plan is the goal – a strategy approved by City Council and then approved by New York State.

“Once that plan is approved at the state level, then we’re in a position to start talking about implementation,” he said. “And then we will be talking about the steps and timelines for implementation of ideas that come forward and are ultimately approved.”

As far as the extent of the deer population is concerned, Moore said he has “photographic evidence of fawns being born in people’s back yards … of deer coming out in the daytime as well as at night. We’re seeing them in every part of town.”

Moore said the wildlife specialists told him that other indicators of too many deer are when disease starts to come in and when deer show signs of being malnourished.

“But I don’t think we’ll see a nourishment issue in the City because, honestly, for deer it’s like coming to the supermarket,” he said. “We apparently grow some great stuff for wildlife. That’s going to be the challenge … how we balance this knowing the (number of) deer here and bringing it down to a manageable level.”

Photo: State Street resident Russell Nephew urges City Council to find a solution to the deer problem in Batavia. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

October 1, 2019 - 5:09pm

Press release from the City of Batavia Republican Committee:

With election season here, Batavia’s Republicans are gearing up for five City Council races this fall. Stressing their ability to work together in promoting the City’s interests while keeping local taxes in check, Batavia’s Republican City Council members are all seeking reelection.

They aim to provide much needed continuity in City Government, especially as new City Manager Martin Moore has settled into his position and is working with Council to set priorities and programs in place to continue to improve the City’s finances and development for the benefit of local residents.

Kathy Briggs -- Fifth Ward

Educator and Fifth Ward Councilperson Kathy Briggs has had a valuable long-term presence on City Council during her five terms as councilperson.  Her knowledge about the City’s ongoing needs and her commitment to Fifth Ward residents have helped accomplish many positive developments throughout the Fifth Ward and the City.

“I’ve fought hard for the people living in the Fifth Ward," Briggs said. "My recent success in getting additional cameras placed in this Ward and my work along with Councilperson Al McGinnis to bring the residents of the Fourth and Fifth Wards together with our City leaders to listen to their concerns at our regular “town hall” meetings at the Holland Land Office are recent examples of my commitment to the residents.

"I also plan to continue my efforts to improve the sidewalks, water lines and sewer lines throughout the Fifth Ward. I look forward to sharing concerns with the residents of my ward this election season and seek their support in my effort to continue to work for them as their elected representative.” 

John Canale -- Third Ward

Businessman, local music instructor and Third Ward Councilperson John Canale is seeking a third term on Council.

“Being on City Council for the past eight years, I have had the opportunity to be part of a group of city leaders that have accomplished monumental achievements," Canale said. "We have worked to increase our bond rating to A1, secured more than $20 million in grants to improve existing industrial areas, upgrade infrastructure, improve our downtown area, including settling the Mall issue and moving forward with redevelopment, and studying ways to improve our longtime stagnant community.

"Most importantly, we’ve turned a multimillion dollar deficit into a balanced budget with capital reserves for future city improvements. All this and more has been accomplished, while keeping the city property tax rate level, over the past seven years. My plans are to continue moving the city forward in redevelopment and revitalization, in order to create a ‘Better Batavia.' "

Paul Viele -- First Ward

First Ward Councilperson, local developer and businessman, Paul Viele said his focus in his upcoming term, if reelected, will be to: work with City Administration and his fellow Council members to continue their efforts to reduce crime in the City; revamp infrastructure throughout the City; focus on our local youth; and continue to keep taxes down.

“I encourage all the residents of the First Ward to continue to reach out to me with their concerns," Viele said. "I’m firmly committed to make the First Ward and the entire City of Batavia a better place for all of us to live, work and raise our families."

Viele is seeking a second four-year term this November.

Patti Pacino -- Second Ward

Second Ward Councilperson Patti Pacino, who is retired and an active volunteer with local organizations, including being a past president and current director of the local Zonta Club, stresses several ongoing issues that she will be focusing on if elected to a third full term on Council. She has been on the Council since 2010.

“Safety is my first concern for City residents," Pacino said. "We have had some real trouble (stabbing, etc.), which needs to continue to be addressed. Happily, the Police Department and the City are working together to get a handle on how to best deal with this. I am aware of two neighborhoods that are in the process of organizing groups similar to the Summit Street Neighbors who work together to keep police and each other in the know about trouble on their streets and what they can do about it. I will continue to support these efforts.

"Second, we need to continue to work on the ‘Zombie House' problem in the City, (caused by absentee landlords), to ensure our neighborhoods are not on a downfall. We have proportionately too many rentals compared to homeowner-held houses, often by landlords not willing to take responsibility for their properties.

"Third, I will continue to work with the BID organization to upgrade the business district, organizing community activities and work with business owners to upgrade our downtown area, hopefully bringing in more businesses to fill those empty buildings and make Downtown a more welcoming and prosperous area.

"Fourth I will continue to promote fiscal responsibility throughout City government. All these ideas that we’ll continue working on require financial support; my hope is to improve our area without burdening the area taxpayers.” 

Al McGinnis -- Fourth Ward

Retired military veteran and Fourth Ward Councilperson Al McGinnis is seeking a second four-year term. If reelected, Councilman McGinnis has expressed his commitment to continued efforts to enhance the quality of life for Batavia’s residents.

“We need to continue our efforts to make Batavia’s streets safe for our residents, to do all we can to increase and encourage home ownership, to renew our efforts to enforce our local codes and to continue our sidewalk and street replacement programs," McGinnis said.

"I will also continue to work with Councilperson Kathy Briggs to bring the residents of the Fourth and Fifth wards together with City Administration on a regular basis at the Holland Land Office to give our local residents an enhanced opportunity to be heard and to air their concerns to local officials.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5th. All eligible residents are encouraged to vote.

September 24, 2019 - 12:45pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, trash pickup schedule, Batavia City Council.

City Council members on Monday night took a defensive stance after a resident inquired into why his trash pickup schedule had been changed.

John Roach, speaking during the public comments portion of the Conference Meeting at City Hall, said his trash day was moved from Wednesday to Monday and when he asked the (Waste Management) driver, he was told that the change came from City officials.

“Whose idea was it to mandate (change)?” Roach asked. “Did City Council direct anybody to do this? What did they mean by required or made to do it?”

Since he was the only speaker from the public, Council’s response came quickly.

“Since we privatized garbage pickup, people complain that there is trash pickup every day of the week,” John Canale said. “We charged the city manager (Martin Moore to look into it) so we don’t have garbage picked up every day.”

After Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that this issue was discussed at a public meeting, Moore provided additional details.

“We were approached with concerns that several streets had pickups four to five days a week,” he said. “The public works director and I sat down (to see) what schedules can help reduce that down to a couple days per week.

Moore said his communication with the four trash companies was positive with three of them indicating that something could be worked out.

He said that Waste Management stated they “will handle it with their customers, and hopefully other companies will be contacting their customers. The closer we get to one or two days a week on each street, the better off we’ll be.”

Jankowski said that the people on the trucks may not be aware of what their company has done.

“At this point, the complaining will continue and we’ll address them as we can,” he said. “We’d rather not have to make an ordinance … let them (trash collection businesses) manage themselves.”

Following the meeting, Roach seemed to be taken aback by the abrupt response, telling this reporter that he wasn’t really complaining but was looking for an explanation.

September 23, 2019 - 10:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, batavia.

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Batavia City Manager Martin Moore’s recommendation to City Council to allocate $175,000 into the Facility Reserve fund tonight has put the municipality’s intention to construct a new police station back into the public eye.

Moore, reporting at Council’s Business Meeting at City Hall, presented his proposal on where to distribute $1.3 million in unassigned fund balance, targeting eight different general reserve funds – Police Equipment, Fire Equipment, Public Works, Sidewalk, Compensated Absences, Parking Lot, Administrative and Facility.

Calling the practice of funding reserves “a critical part of sound financial and project planning,” Moore centered his reasoning on a simple premise – “the more money we have on hand, the less we have to borrow.”

In the case of the Facility Reserve fund, he called for $175,000 to be added to the current balance of $123,400 in anticipation of a new police facility at a cost of $6 to $8 million, to be paid for with a mix of reserves and municipal bonding.

“There are a number of steps involved … expenses leading up to construction,” he said.

Following the meeting, City Council President Eugene Jankowski was asked to provide an update on the status of the new police station. While not identifying the property specifically, he said Council is looking a parcel in the center of the City that already is owned by the City.

A reliable source indicated that the property is the city-owned parking lot bordering Alva Place and Bank Street, the current site of the Downtown Batavia Public Market.

Back in June 2015, the parking lot was the second choice of a task force of several City residents charged with exploring sites for the new police station; a privately owned parcel at 35 Swan St. was the first choice. Task force members, at the time, said that businesses in the vicinity of the Alva Place lot opposed the idea of putting police headquarters there.

Jankowski said Council is "working to make sure that property is going to fit our needs and not affect other properties in the area, so we’re doing a study on that – an internal study."

He added that the City’s debt situation is a major factor in the timeline.

“We’ve done research on our debt and we know that a lot of our debt is going to come free – we’re going to be paying off the City Hall, we’re going to be paying off the stadium, Muckdogs (Dwyer) Stadium,” he said.

“All those things are going to be off debt and that will allow us now to take on the new debt of the police department. So, as debt comes off, the police department will go on, and we’ll have pretty much an even balance. We’re not going to borrow more money while we still owe money.”

Jankowski said the process will take about two years.

“About that time when we’re able to borrow that money, we’ll be ready to go, (and) we can start that construction,” he said. “It’s going to take another 18 months to actually build the building, so we’re talking a minimum of maybe two to two and a half years from today before we start seeing an actual building in place – hopefully.”

He said he didn’t want to disclose the site because “it would probably get people concerned that don’t need to be because we don’t know if we’re even going to do that yet. But we have a good idea where we’d like to build.”

In the meantime, Moore said that part of the Facility Reserve money would be used to repair heating, wiring, plumbing and structural work at the current police station in the old City Hall to keep the current building usable for the next five years.

“We’re planning for the worse-case scenario,” Moore said.

Summarizing his recommendations for the other reserve funds:

-- Police Equipment: Add $20,000 to the balance of $12,761 for aid in the purchase and equipping of an armored vehicle for the emergency response team (to replace its current non-armored vehicle).

-- Fire Equipment: Add $35,000 to the balance of $190,180 to support the department’s fire apparatus replacement plan (which can cost up to $1 million).

-- Public Works: Add $220,000 to the balance of $194,013 to fund a $300,000 purchase for a heavy-duty snowplow and pickup truck with a plow and spreader.

-- Sidewalk: Add $50,000 to the balance of $1,869 to facilitate replacement of more than 500 linear feet of broken sidewalk during the 2020-21 fiscal year. Moore said City crews installed 24,000 feet of sidewalk this past year.

-- Compensated Absences: Add $400,000 to the balance of $18,567 due to an expected cost of $306,000 to compensate a large number of planned retirements this fiscal year and five more who become eligible through 2023.

-- Parking Lot: Add $100,000 to the balance of $46,721.97 as the City plans to spend $135,000 on parking lot improvements from 2020-22.

-- Administrative: Add $300,000 to the balance of $4,136 to address upgrades of the City’s information technology, telephone system, computer network distribution system and cyber security needs as well as management of the City’s software conversion and repayment of a short-term bond anticipation note (BAN).

Moore also said the City plans to increase its Workers’ Compensation self-insurance fund, with a goal of in excess of $1 million due to a deductible of $750,000 per incident.

City Council agreed to move Moore’s proposal to its Business Meeting on Oct. 15, where a vote on the resolution is expected.

The board also advanced to the Business Meeting the following resolutions:

-- Acceptance of a pair of grants to the fire department – one for $4,762 to purchase outside noise-cancelling wireless communication headsets and the other for $3,200 to support the child safety seat program.

-- Permanently keeping four 400-watt light fixtures, at an annual cost of $700, on Central Avenue, Watson Avenue and State Street – lights that originally were rated at 100 watts. DPW Director Matt Worth said that National Grid requires City Council action to make this happen, noting that the wattage was increased to deter criminal activity and with the safety of officers in mind.

-- Authorizing an easement for Charter/Time Warner to install underground communication cable in the Court Street parking lot, along the property line of businesses on Main Street that currently do not have high-speed communication access.

-- Amending the zoning code to include self-storage facilities in I-1 and I-2 zones and setting a public hearing for Nov. 12. This became an issue about eight months ago when Peter Yasses (54 Cedar St. LLC) requested to erect a self-storage business on Cedar Street, across from the DeWitt Recreation Area.

The City Planning & Development Committee and Genesee County Planning Department reviewed the request and recommend permitting public storage units/building in the Industrial zones with the issuance of a special use permit.

-- Authorization of a lease agreement with Batavia Players theatrical troupe for three parcels at the City Centre, an agreement that calls for the nonprofit organization to pay rent on a scale ranging from $1 per square foot to $4 per square foot over the life of the (renewable) five-year contract.

Batavia Players is looking to lease 11,000 square feet downtown, fulfilling plans outlined in the City’s 2012 Community Improvement Plan and 2017 Comprehensive Plan and, more recently, as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski said that the City would receive $187,884 in rent over the five years, but would lose $77,364 in mall merchant fees that would be passed on to taxpayers. The net amount coming into City coffers would be $110,520.

The lease calls for Batavia Players to pay for any improvements and utility bills and to purchase liability insurance.

Jankowski said he understood Bialkowski’s concerns over the loss of mall merchant fees but was in favor of the deal.

“As long as we are breaking above even,” he said. “In five years, we can always re-evaluate it.”

Council Member John Canale said he heard that Batavia Players may be interested in buying the property, a move that would be welcomed by City Council.

Photo at top: Council Member Robert Bialkowski reads a proclamation for Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 6-12) as members of the City Fire Department look on. Chief Stefano Napolitano, in white shirt at left, said he is "blessed to have an amazing group of people" in the department and thanked the City water, police, and building codes employees for the work they do in supporting the firefighters. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

September 10, 2019 - 9:26am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

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Byron resident James Thorman has seen the adverse effects of mental health issues, having lost two of his children to suicide in 2011.

“I am a surviving parent of teenager suicide; in our case, the suicide death of our 14-year-old daughter led to the suicide death of our 23-year-old daughter,” Thorman told Batavia City Council members Monday night during the public comments portion of the board’s meeting at City Hall.

The tragic events took place within six weeks of each other, Thorman told this reporter. His daughter, Caroline, 14, died on May 3, and his daughter, Amber, 23, succumbed on June 14.

He has a son, Adam, who is Amber’s twin.

Now, Thorman, via what he calls a Planning Committee of Parents and Teenager teams, is reaching out to the public and business sector to “discuss strategies for a set of projects, including enrichment and suicide prevention.”

Thorman informed Council members that he wishes to advance this committee into school districts and mental health systems in an effort to bring to light the ever-increasing grip of mental health disorders.

“Our goal is to have this committee represent parents and teenagers (to) organize projects they would like to see given community support,” he said. “There are good strategies which will end with being a help to other families and provide added resources for the mental health and well-being of persons in treatment plans.”

Thorman’s hope is that the community – not only, Batavia, but Genesee County as well -- will partner with his committee through governmental, civic and business support.

“I am looking for small business owners to display this sign (about the committee meeting times) for two weeks, then change the location to a different small business,” he said. “I have tried to get help from the franchises and corporations, with no one willing or able to do this.”

He said the planning committee is scheduled to meet every third Thursday at 6 p.m. at Richmond Memorial Library, adding that all – including those who have no family mental health history – are welcome to attend.

Thorman also has drafted a letter to the Genesee County Legislature that also includes reaching out to veterans with mental health needs.

“The delivery system that should work well with teenagers but (also with veterans) in the same way because there are the same relationships within the family,” he said. “It conveys the motive or intent of saying ‘you mean a lot to us’ to the person suffering with mental health issues."

Thorman also noted that any projects put forth by the planning committee could be used by mental health agencies in their programming.

“Hopefully, this will provide future value to social workers,” he said. "It's along the lines of mining the data."

His comments at Monday’s meeting were well-received by City Council.

“Please bring your projects in front of Council, case by case, and we will do what we can to help you,” said Council President Eugene Jankowski.

Photo: A sign that currently is being displayed at The Spa at Artemis on Main Street, Batavia. It will be moved to another business in two weeks.

[[email protected] planning committee -- 4 teenaged issues solutions]

September 9, 2019 - 9:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Redfield Parkway pillars.

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The Batavia City Council tonight, with new Councilman At-Large Jeremy Karas on board, voted to accept a $46,000 bid from Catenary Construction Corp. of Rochester to repair the deteriorating pillars at the south end of Redfield Parkway.

The vote was 8-1 in favor, with Rose Mary Christian casting the negative vote.

The accepted bid from Catenary is $24,000 less than what Council set aside to rehabilitate the city-owned structure.

Matt Worth, Department of Public Works director, reported that Catenary will remove about 30 percent of the existing stone and all of the border work.

A memo to Worth from Kurt Schnarr of In.Site: Architecture of Perry indicates that a third of the existing stone is damaged and will be removed and replaced with new stone to match. The existing exposed electrical conduit will be removed and rerouted to be concealed within the pillar cavity, and the existing light fixtures will be removed, salvaged and reinstalled.

Schnarr recommended Catenary, as did Councilman Robert Bialkowski, who said the Catenary is a “highly respected masonry company … and I feel they’ll do a good job.”

Christian said it was “wrong taking taxpayers’ money for this” and suggested that Redfield Parkway residents should pay for it, noting that they receive free tickets from Batavia Downs.

Council President objected, questioning that “because they get income from some private entity” they should have to pay?

“It is city property … we own it and are responsible for it,” he said.

Before official business commenced, Karas, a resident of Union Street, was sworn in to replace fellow Republican Adam Tabelski, who recently stepped down after his wife, Rachael, was hired as the assistant city manager.

Following the meeting, Karas, service manager for Temp-Press Inc. of Rochester, said he moved to Batavia about 15 years ago. Prior to that, as an Elba resident, he said he was involved in local government committees and the volunteer fire department and hoped that eventually he could become a public servant.

Karas, 40, said he is “very excited to see a lot of the downtown revitalization initiatives that have been coming into light recently … as a fairly young member of the community with young children as well, I plan on being here a long time and I look forward to helping them out, trying to shape the future of Batavia and make this a great place for many other families to live for years to come.”

Karas and his wife, Andrea, a kindergarten teacher at Oakfield-Alabama Central School, have two boys, both of them pupils at St. Joseph’s School in Batavia.

In other action, Council:

-- Voted unanimously to approve a pair of $20,000 grant request from the City’s Revolving Loan Fund to assist projects of Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, and Stephen Valle and Carrie and John Lawrence, owners of a hair salon/apartment building at 242 Ellicott St. (at the corner of Liberty Street).

Clark is expanding his business with a building across the street from his existing business and the grant money would be used to add an attractive and functional front porch façade to the new bulding, while Valle/Lawrence is renovating their 3,400-square-foot building, with the City grant to be used to complete the entire façade and renovate one of the two upstairs apartments.

-- Voted 9-0 to waive the residency requirement for City Firefighter Ferdinando Papalia, citing circumstances that would create an undue hardship for the employee.

Photos at top -- The Batavia 9-10-year-old Little League team was honored with a proclamation for winning the district and sectional titles and advancing to the state tournament. In back row are coaches Paul Viele, Mark Fitzpatrick and Scott Nemer; front from left, Chase Antinore, Champ Buchholz, Dominic Viele, Parker Lazarony, Casey Mazur, Ty Gioia, Grady Hemer, Julius Santiago, Connor Malone, Evan Fitzpatrick and Finn Davies. Unable to attend were players Will Stevens and Jonah Motyka, Head Coach Sam Antinore and Assistant Coach Ben Buchholz. In second photo, Charles "Chuck" Neilans is honored upon his retirement after 30 years of service as the chief operator of water for the city. Council member Kathleen Briggs reads the proclamation. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

September 9, 2019 - 2:36pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

jeremy-karas-temppress-1_a.jpgThe Batavia City Council tonight is expected to appoint Jeremy Karas, a longtime active member of the City Republican Committee, to the Councilperson-at-Large seat recently vacated by Adam Tabelski.

Karas, service manager for Temp-Press Inc. of Rochester and a former field service technician for Graham Manufacturing, was selected by the committee last month.

The seat became available when Tabelski resigned due to the hiring of his wife, Rachael, as the city’s assistant manager.

“Jeremy has been a member of the Republican Party and City (Republican) Committee for quite a while and has been very active,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski, who served on the selection committee. “He’s just a hard-working guy.”

City Republican Committee Chair David Saleh concurred.

"I've worked with Jeremy over the last several years and was really excited when he said he was interested in the seat," Saleh said. "He is a very thoughtful person -- with a very good mind -- and he will make a great addition to City Council."

Upon his appointment, Karas would be eligible to serve on the board until the November 2020 election. With a victory next year, he then would have to run again in November 2021 as all three City Council at-large seats will be up for election.

Tonight’s City Council Business meeting is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Centre Council Board Room.

August 13, 2019 - 10:12am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Ellicott Station.

March 15, 2016.

That was the date when community leaders gathered excitedly at the former Soccio & Della Penna Construction and Santy’s Tire Sales properties at 56-70 Ellicott St. to hear Samuel J. Savarino, CEO of Savarino Cos. of Buffalo, share details of a $20 million development featuring office, retail, residential and entertainment space.

The project has come to be known as Ellicott Station and it is the centerpiece of the City of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative effort in its 366-acre Brownfield Opportunity Area.

Fast forward to today and – although much may be going on behind the scenes – nothing has been done at the site. City officials are still waiting for that shovel to be put into the ground.

The lack of progress has prompted City Manager Martin Moore to write a letter of support to the commissioner of the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal and has some City Council members scratching their heads. Their disillusionment was apparent at Monday night’s Council meeting.

“I’m very disappointed in the developer,” Council Member Robert Bialkowski said. “There’s broken glass, windows missing … the property is becoming worse by the day. It’s an eyesore. What kind of landlord is he going to be?”

Council President Eugene Jankowski agreed that he is concerned, saying that “we have given him enough leeway.”

He also noted that there are many components to be considered and thought that one area of red tape involved funds tied up by HCR.

The board voted, 6-2, in favor of Moore sending the letter to Ruthanne Visnauskas, HCR commissioner. Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted no.

Moore’s letter points out that the project “will positively impact the City by providing mixed-income (including affordable) housing, brownfield remediation and reuse of a blighted site, right in the heart of the City.”

It goes on to state that the site “has been directly noted in the (DRI) as a high priority project that should be fully supported” and that it “aligns with the HCR’s mission to build and support affordable housing.”

The letter ended with Moore writing “I hope that you will seriously consider ensuring that this project proceeds with the support of HCR.”

Following the meeting, Christian said that the inactivity has gone on for much too long.

“He’s (Savarino) received millions already – the property is a disaster – and he wants more money,” she said. “Where is the money that he has received? Is there any accountability?”

August 13, 2019 - 8:58am

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Grants – acceptance of, consideration of and application for – were the order of the day (actually, night) at Batavia City Council’s joint Conference and Business meeting on Monday at City Hall.

Resolutions pertaining to various grants, including a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative award to make the Jackson Square entertainment spot more attractive, as well as those dealing with the repair of the Redfield Parkway pillars and the filling of vacancies on the police department kept things moving during the 90-minute session.

Department of Public Works Director Matt Worth reported that the City is required to enter into a detailed contract with the Department of State in order to release the three quarters of a million dollars from the $10 million DRI award bestowed on the City.

Plans call for the funds to be used to “enhance the enjoyment of the area (by) improving the street surface, lighting and other amenities during events,” Worth wrote in his Aug. 3 memo to City Manager Martin Moore.

Worth said the project has a “five-year window” for completion and added that he hoped that the design phase could take place next summer with construction completed sometime in 2021. This will be the first in what should be a long list of DRI projects in the City.

Council voted unanimously to move forward with the Department of State contract.

The board also approved acceptance of a National Grid Urban Center/Commercial District Revitalization Program grant of $165,000 to improve the City Centre Campus.

According to Rachael Tabelski, who is transitioning from economic development director to assistant city manager, the project will consist of a feasibility study, architectural services, roof replacement in separate areas, energy-efficient indoor lighting, painting and other repairs.

The award is a 3:1 matching grant, Tabelski said, that will be matched with committed City money along with funds from New York State Empire State Development Feasibility Grant, ESD DRI City Center Grant and Department of State DRI Grant for Harvester Theater 56.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved Police Chief Shawn Heubusch’s request to add two more officers to the staff, authorizing the recruits’ training ahead of a pair of anticipated retirements in order to shorten the time period between the retirements and their replacements.

Heubusch (in his memo to Moore) proposed hiring two officers this fall and sending them to the police academy next month.

“This way, the officers will be near completion in their field training process during the spring/summer of 2020,” he wrote.

He said currently three recruits are at the police academy and four are in field training, which leaves a shortage on the streets.

Considering the two impending retirements, Moore advised that there would be no additional cost to the city but could result in a savings of up to $13,000.

-- Accepted a $10,500 grant from the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles for police traffic services, specifically to increase seat belt usage; agreed to Heubusch applying for a federal grant supporting an additional detective position for four years to address narcotics issues, and voted in favor of establishing a police K-9 program with support from business and individual donations.

-- Received an update from Worth on the rehabilitation of the pillars on the south end of Redfield Parkway. The City’s budget includes $70,000 out of the facilties reserve to repair the structures.

Wroth said bids went out on Aug. 1 and will be opened on Aug. 27. He expects Council to act on the matter at its Sept. 9 Business meeting, and said construction could start either this fall or next spring.

At least one Council member said she may vote against it.

“If it’s over $70,000, I’ll disapprove of it,” Rose Mary Christian said. “I disapproved of it from the beginning because it is taxpayer money.”

-- Moved to the next business meeting a pair of $20,000 grant requests from the City’s Revolving Loan Fund by Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, and by Stephen Valle and Carrie and John Lawrence, owners of a hair salon/apartment building at 242 Ellicott St. (at the corner of Liberty Street).

Clark is expanding with a building across the street from his existing business and the grant money would be used to add “an attractive and functional front porch façade to this new building,” Tabelski said.

She reported that Clark has received tax incentives ($37,000) from the Genesee County Economic Development Center, including Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), which will result in Clark paying $28,000 into the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity (BP2) fund over the next 10 years and another $28,000 to the three taxing jurisdictions (City of Batavia, Batavia City School District and Genesee County).

Tabelski said the project will retain 10 employees and add one or two employees while generating an estimated $16,000 in additional sales tax revenue.

The Valle/Lawrence projects centers on renovation of the 3,400-square-foot building, with the City grant earmarked for completion of the entire façade and renovation of one of the two upstairs apartments.

Previously, the trio received $22,050, about a third of the project cost, in grant funds from the Batavia DRI-Building Improvement Fund.

Tabelski noted that the property is in the flood plain, where it is “difficult to reinvest” and the project “encourages downtown living.”

While Council members Kathleen Briggs and Paul Viele stated their support for this plan, Christian disagreed.

“There are a couple apartments in that building … why can’t they take care of their own?” she asked. “We have to take care of our houses.”

Tabelski responded that the City is advancing its homeowner assistance program and that about 70 residents have expressed interest in it, to which Christian nodded affirmatively.

Photo at top -- Police Chief Shawn Heubusch congratulates Joshua Girvin after the recruit's swearing in at Monday night's City Council meeting. Girvin, an Albion resident, starts the second phase of the police academy today and is expected to join the police force in a few months. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 26, 2019 - 8:27am

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The opportunity to put some underutilized property back on the tax rolls and spur additional economic development has Batavia City Council members reacting positively to a proposed zoning change that would recognize public storage units within the Batavia Municipal Code.

Council, during Monday night’s Conference meeting, voted to move forward to its July 8 Business meeting a resolution that would include public storage units in Industrial zones contingent upon obtaining a special use permit.

Back in January, Peter Yasses, of Byron, had requested the change in order for him to construct a storage unit facility on vacant property at 54 Cedar St.

His petition was reviewed and supported by the Batavia Planning & Development Committee, which issued a definition of public storage units as a building or buildings comprised of separate rental units of varying size, with or without outside storage, for private storage of personal property by the general public.

Curiously, public storage units were not included in any zoning regulations currently on the books.

“The zoning change is to include public storage units as an allowed use,” said Matt Worth, Department of Public Works director. “They had not been identified in any of the zones prior to this.”

Worth said that City Council can proceed in one of three ways – accept the PDC recommendation “as is” and forward to the Genesee County Planning Board for review, make changes which can be sent directly to county planners, or send the proposal back to the PDC for its review and comment before going to county planners.

Once signed off by all, a public hearing and local law resolution would be the final steps to adopting the zoning modification, said Worth, adding that public storage units would have to be at least 100 feet away from residential property.

Contacted by telephone on Tuesday afternoon, Yasses said he formed 54 Cedar LLC for the purpose of placing six or eight storage units over time on the 7-acre lot across from the DeWitt Recreation Area.

“I bought the land last year and we plan to clean it up and make it look really nice. We want it to look good for the city,” he said.

Yasses, who also owns Yasses Trucking & Construction, said he is waiting for permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation – he believes that remedial work will not be necessary – and for final approval from Genesee County and City planners and Council.

“I would like to put two or three out there to start,” Yasses said, adding that he thinks he will name the business Cedar Street Self-Storage. “With Guy Clark (owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rental) putting up a warehouse next door, the area will look much nicer.”

Yasses said his investment will surpass a half-million dollars when considering that he has to remove numerous trees, strip the topsoil and bring in gravel and stone for the base before starting construction of the units.

“It will be something that in two or three years the City will be proud of,” he said. “That’s my goal.”

He also is planning a similar project for Route 237 in Byron -- north of Route 262.

In other action, Council moved the following items for consideration next month:

-- Resolutions to contract with Grove Roofing Services Inc. of Buffalo in the amount of $664,080 to replace the leaking City Centre Mall concourse roof and to use an additional $100,000 from the Facility Reserve fund to cover both the base bid ($509,680) and the alternate 1 bid ($154,400).

According to Worth, the base bid includes the central, east and north concourse areas and is within the existing budget funds while the alternate 1 bid covers the south and southwest concourse.

“We’re looking at a full transformation, except for the hallway near Dan’s Tire Service and the entryway silo,” Worth said.

The City received four bids for the project, with Grove Roofing coming in at more than $100,000 less than the next lowest bidder. Worth said he is confident in Grove’s ability to tackle such an extensive project.

Council President Eugene Jankowski expressed the sentiment of the entire board when he stated, “We want to see those buckets go away!”

-- Scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. July 8 for the City to act as a “pass through” for Genesee Dental to apply for a NYS Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant.

Patrick Krough, DDS, Genesee Dental owner, is looking to relocate from the City Centre Mall to the former Continental Beauty building at 215 E. Main St. and expand his practice.

According to Rachael Tabelski, Batavia Development Corp. director of economic development, Genesee Dental plans to invest $1.3 million in rehabilitation of the vacant structure and create 18 new full-time equivalent jobs.

Tabelski said the City is eligible to apply CBDG funds to support economic development project that create jobs in low-to-moderate income areas, and this Genesee Dental project fits into that scheme.

The relocated Genesee Dental office would be next to the proposed Healthy Living Campus (YMCA, United Memorial Medical Center offices) that is targeted to receive funding through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative).

Tabelski said the City will not have to pay for the CBDG application since Genesee Dental is funding the preparation of the paperwork on behalf of the City. The BDC will assist by providing in-kind services, she noted.

-- A resolution to contract with LaBella Associates to submit an application for a $250,000 Brownfield Opportunity Area Pre-Development grant to fund environmental and engineering studies, real estate services, and marketing and research, etc., for the City Centre, Bank Street/Healthy Living Corridor and Harvester (Avenue) Campus.

Tabelski said the BOA Pre-Development Grant is being offered by New York State for the first time, adding that the City will have to pay $3,500 for professional grant writing services and would be responsible for a 10-percent match of the awards (to be covered by in-kind services such as project management, meetings, marketing and communications).

In a related development, Council will consider providing grants from the BDC’s Revolving Loan Fund to go toward projects in the BOA, City Priority Economic Development and Building Improvements.

That resolution calls for two-thirds of the fund to be available for grants of a maximum of $20,000 and one-third of the fund to be available for small business loans. Currently, there is around $400,000 in the RLF, with about $250,000 of that in cash.

Photo: View looking south on Cedar Street, with the tree-laded lot owned by Peter Yasses on the right and the sign for the DeWitt Recreation Area on the left. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 25, 2019 - 9:09am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Batavia Community Garden.

The chair of the Batavia Community Garden advisory board called into question City Council's policy decisions in light of a proposed amendment to the Batavia Municipal Code pertaining to residency requirements for new municipal employees.

Speaking during a public hearing at Monday night's City Council meeting at City Hall Council Chambers, Deborah Kerr-Rosenbeck spoke of a double-standard as she compared the rules that govern advisory board membership with the proposal to relax residency requirements for those who work for the City.

“It seems like talking out of both sides of our faces,” she said. “The Community Garden (at 12 MacArthur Drive, next to the Batavia Youth Bureau) was started by people who don’t live in the City. You need to be consistent in your policies.”

Kerr-Rosenbeck was referring to the fact that a couple members of the Community Garden advisory board had to give up their positions after it was discovered by City Manager Martin Moore that they were not City residents, which is in violation of the City Charter.

One of those members is Robert Gray, a Batavia native who moved to Stafford in 1996. He was a cofounder of the Community Garden in 2011 and has been instrumental in its success.

Gray, speaking after Kerr-Rosenbeck, said he was offended by his removal (he and Carol Boshart, of Corfu, since have been allowed to continue as nonvoting "advisory" members).

“I have put in over 100 hours per year as a volunteer and now I can’t be on the committee,” he said. “Really? Really?”

He pointed out that the group was unable to conduct official business on a couple occasions because it didn’t have a quorum (of voting members) and requested that City Council review its policy as it is “detrimental” to the City.

The public hearing was necessary since City Council wishes to amend the City Municipal Code pertaining to the residency of new municipal employees. Changes focus on expanding the geographical area around the city where new employees may live to include any adjacent town to Genesee County within six months of the date of conclusion of the probationary period for the City.

The employee also would be required to live within these areas for the duration of his or her employment.

City Attorney George Van Nest pointed out that City Council has the power to amend the Municipal Code, which governs employees, but has no authority when it comes to amending the City Charter, which covers volunteer boards.

Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that a Charter review is a separate, more extensive process, but it could be “something we might want to consider” as it is his hope to rectify the situation with the Community Garden advisory board.

Council Member Patti Pacino said she understood that the rules of the City Charter were drawn up by City residents, but disagreed with the outcome.

“I don’t like it,” she said.

(As an FYI, John Roach, of Batavia, who once served on the City Charter Commission, said that residency requirements were instituted for advisory boards because “we didn’t want people from Cheektowaga, for example, serving on our Zoning, Planning, Housing or Audit advisory boards. The Community Garden is a casualty of this.”)

Council Member John Canale said he was concerned over how the decision to remove Gray and Boshart was communicated to them, which prompted a response from Jocelyn Sikorski, Youth Bureau director and Community Garden coordinator.

“When Marty realized that two members lived outside of the City, we had a meeting with them to explain the circumstances, and made them both advisory members, liaisons,” she said. “This left two vacancies and changed their roles.”

Sikorski said both have been “key players” and noted that “we call Bob ‘the Almighty’ when it comes to the committee.”

The conversion then turned back to the proposed amendment to the City Municipal Code with Council Member Rose Mary Christian stating that employees should have a vested interest in the community and should live in the City or in Genesee County.

“In case we need them, if an emergency, they’re not so far away,” she said.

Jankowski said the amendment allowing for employees to live a few minutes outside the county is “kind of a compromise … which the department heads took into consideration.”

Public Works Director Matt Worth confirmed Jankowski’s view, noting that one employee lives in Attica – “the edge of where we are comfortable (to have employees live).”

June 24, 2019 - 11:21pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

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The Batavia City Council presented proclamations to the family of Michael Paladino Jr. and to Ralph Bush for their heroic acts earlier this month.

In the top photo, Council Member Patti Pacino reads the proclamation extolling the action of Paladino, who "gave his life for another" when he went to the aid of a woman who was being assaulted by a man in the City on June 1. From left are his daughter, Tea; son, Sonny; partner Rebecca Fili; sister, Macy; and mother, Mary Jo Fay.

In the bottom photo, Council President Eugene Jankowski reads the proclamation honoring Mr. Bush as Officer Darryle Streeter looks on. Bush, a former Military Police, was cited for his "quick action that saved the life" of Officer Streeter when he managed to free a gun from a would-be assailant during a traffic stop early in the morning on June 5.

Bush had just finished his shift at O-At-Ka Milk Products when he saw the suspect and the officer engaged in a physical altercation.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.

June 24, 2019 - 10:21pm

The Batavia City Council tonight agreed to consider a proposed five-year agreement to provide School Resource Officer services to the Batavia City School District -- something Police Chief Shawn Heubusch believes is long overdue.

Heubusch elaborated on a recent memo he sent to Council about the Memorandum of Understanding that he and City School District Superintendent Christopher Dailey developed, with the hope of the board’s approval at its next Business meeting on July 8.

Tonight’s meeting was a combination Conference and Business meeting at City Hall Council Chambers and set the stage for a pair of public hearings for the July 8 meeting – one to support a NYS Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant requested by Genesee Dental and the other to advance $25,000 in funds earmarked for Dwyer Stadium repairs a year earlier than originally appropriated.

On the subject of an SRO for Batavia, Heubusch said he was a bit puzzled as to why the largest district in Genesee County was the only one not to have a designated officer.

“Yes, it does surprise me a little bit. In speaking with Sheriff (William) Sheron over at the county, our actual agreement kind of mirrors what they’re doing with their different school districts so it only makes sense,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of calls for service at the school, just because there’s a large population in the City when school is in session. It is a little surprising that we haven’t had an SRO until this time, but it is much needed.”

In his memo, Heubusch outlined numerous benefits to having an SRO for Batavia schools, including: student/faculty safety, of course; along with enforcement; relationship building and communication with law enforcement; counseling services; tackling issues involving substance abuse and peer pressure; conflict resolution; and crisis training and response.

The chief said he has applied for grants and tried to fund the position through the budget process, but has been unsuccessful.

“So this year, the superintendent and I sat down and put our heads together and came up with a pretty good Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding, I believe, where the school district and the City share the cost of the school resource officer proportionately,” he said.

Heubusch said the MOU calls for the school district to pay 83 percent of the cost of an entry-level police officer and the City to pay 17 percent. That 83/17 split would remain the same for the life of the contract.

“It stays with that percentage throughout the life of the agreement (five years), so it kind of guarantees some longevity to the program,” he said. “The hopes would be that in five years or four years we renegotiate that contract, come up with another contract that will take us out another five years.”

The agreement starts with one SRO in year one, but increases to two in year two, and three in year three, Heubusch said.

“The idea is to get the three school resource officers for the district – one being assigned to the high school, one being assigned to the middle school and the third one floating between the elementary and parochial school,” he said.

Since the SRO would be a City Police Department officer, he or she could be recalled by the Chief if needed.

“As the agreement calls for, if there is an emergency situation and we need to recall that officer for whatever it may be – our staffing is short or we have a major incident – there is some notification that takes place with the school district, but we’d be able to recall that officer in an emergency situation,” Heubusch said.

“The intent is to make sure that officer is present (in the school) as much as possible – 100 percent of the time, quite honestly, (from September through June) in the school district to do the job that they’re there to do. I don’t foresee us having to recall that officer on a regular occasion.”

City Manager Martin Moore reported to Council that the SRO would have a vehicle, adding to the department’s inventory.

Council unanimously moved the proposal to the July 8th Business meeting.

In other action, Council approved a National Night Out event for 6-8 p.m. Aug. 8 at City Church at St. Anthony’s on Liberty Street. Part of a community-building campaign that promotes police/community partnerships and neighborhood relationships, it is free to the public. Food and refreshments will be provided.

Watch for more coverage of tonight's City Council meeting on Tuesday.

June 12, 2019 - 5:17pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, National Grid, Batavia City Council.

The Batavia City Council may consider exploring a “brighter” future for its residents through participation in the National Grid LED Streetlight Conversion program.

At Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Hall, the board heard from Paul Gister, customer and community management manager for National Grid, who presented three options designed to save money and direct more light upon city streets.

Gister said the power company offers three options for towns and villages in Upstate New York.

In this case, the City can:

-- Purchase the lighting system owned by National Grid;
-- Opt-in when a high-pressure sodium fixture fails and replace it with an LED;
-- Pay the net book value of its remaining high-pressure sodium fixtures on roadway lighting only (not decorative or post-top lamps) and change it to LED.

“There are currently 946 fixtures owned and maintained by National Grid that could be converted to LED, with the net book value of about $1.50 per head,” Gister said. “That puts the value at around $1,500.

“Since the value is less than the energy efficient dollars that National Grid would pay out (that would be a viable option for Batavia).”

Gister said that National Grid pays in the $50 to $100 range per fixture for LED conversions, which translates into at least $47,000 in incentives to the City.

He also noted that National Grid would provide the labor for the conversions while City officials would choose the wattage (or strength) of the LED bulbs, which provide better lighting more efficiently.

The program started in Massachusetts about four years ago, Gister said, and came to Upstate New York in 2016 after authorization by the NYS Public Service Commission.

The Town of Batavia was one of the first municipalities to sign up for the program (in 2017) and since then 10 towns and villages in this area have converted, Gister said.

“And the remaining 40 or so are somewhere in the process – either considering it or getting ready for conversion,” he said.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski touted the savings, improved lighting and incentives as reason to discuss the matter further.

Council Member Adam Tabelski noted that many communities are buying back the complete light fixtures from National Grid and finding significant savings.

“I’d like to look at both options, and if any analysis has been done, I’d like to see it,” he said. “If we owned the infrastructure, maybe we would realize more savings.”

To which Jankowski replied that Council should look at all the options.

Gister said he hopes that Council would eventually provide National Grid with a recommendation and move forward with the LED conversion. If that happens, the utility would bill the City for the net value of the fixture heads, approximately $1,500.

June 10, 2019 - 11:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, GO ART!, GO OUT!.

City Council gave its blessing to a GO OUT! parade and picnic on June 28th in conjunction with Pride Month 2019, challenging the views of a Batavia resident who addressed the board during tonight's (Monday) Business meeting at City Hall Council chambers.

“I request that you deny the license for the permit,” said the Rev. Henry Pokrywa, pastor of Faith Community Chapel on Rose Road. “I don’t feel that public streets should be used to display anyone’s sexuality, whatever that may be.”

Gregory Hallock, executive director of Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!) and leader of the GO OUT! group that promotes LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) causes, filed the application for the event, which will run from 6:30 to 10 p.m.

The parade is set to begin at Austin Park and proceed on Washington, Ellicott and Richmond avenues before ending on Bank Street, near the GO ART! building.

Following the parade, activities will take place on Bank Street near Alva Place. A DJ will provide music and there will be games. Alcoholic beverages will be available, but only on GO ART! premises, according to the application.

Hallock thanked City Council for approving the festival and then listened as Pokrywa questioned its validity.

“The gentleman (Hallock) said that this (local Pride movement) has grown,” Pokrywa said, noting that the parade will include floats. “I don’t know the standards, but I’m pretty sure there should be public decency and morality standards. There will be children there.”

Pokrywa said he was “not against anybody” but when it comes to “public morality, we have to decide where we draw that line.”

Lauren Berger, of Mount Morris, a training coordinator for RESTORE sexual assault services, followed Pokrywa to the podium, reporting statistics that indicate an increase in sexual violence and harassment against those who identify as LGBTQ+ and calling for Batavia to assist in getting the word out to help these people.

“Batavia can be the answer to the LGBT desert,” she said.

After that, four Council members spoke in favor of the parade and picnic.

“I don’t want to deny any group,” Rose Mary Christian said. “Thousands of people (enlisted men and women) have died for us to have this freedom.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski said “we know what (gay pride parades) look like, and we’re going to be better than that (and not discriminate),” adding that any violence would be addressed.

“We’re not going to single out people,” Kathleen Briggs said. “We always give our approval.”

And Patti Pacino advised that “you don’t have to be part of the LGBT community to be part of the parade.”

“I will be in the parade, and I’m very straight.”

The GO OUT! event was one of several items discussed by Council, preceding the board’s passage of seven resolutions on the meeting’s agenda.

City Manager Martin Moore reported that, after meeting with Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and department heads, that he is forming a crime task force to tackle the recent spate of violence.

“Our goal is that we don’t want these types of individuals (criminal element from outside the area) in our city and decisive actions will be taken,” Moore said. “The bottom line is that it is unacceptable for our citizens to not feel safe to walk out of their front doors.”

Residents have been on edge in recent weeks as a result of several incidents, including the fatal stabbing of a man outside his home on Ross Street after he went to the aid of a woman who was in a physical altercation with a man.

Moore said that the task force will get started within the next couple and is expected to include leadership from Genesee County, including the district attorney’s office.

“There is going to be a lot of work. We don’t have a committee just to do committees,” he said, adding that he will keep City Council informed throughout the process.

In a related development, Heubusch informed Council members that he is hoping to fill a void in his department by hiring three new police officers by early July.

He said he has a substantial list of candidates who scored well on the Civil Service exam, with an eye of sending the top three – after an extensive interview and background check process – to the police academy in Erie County on Aug. 5.

“Still, even if we hired three officers today, it would be about a year until we could put them on the street,” he said, noting that the academy runs for five months and is followed by four months of field training.

Currently the department lists 33 officers, including the chief and assistant chief.

Moore also reported that a request by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to provide a social gathering place for recovering addicts at the former North Pole Restaurant at 241-243 S. Swan St. “does not fit within an R-2 (Residential) zone.”

Moore said a letter stating as such was sent to GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, but he has not received a response.

Several Council members (as well as residents in that area) went on record last month against GCASA’s proposal, and Council Member Rose Mary Christian reiterated her opposition tonight, applauding the Code Enforcement office’s conclusion.

Council also heard from North Spruce Street resident Anita Tolejko, who urged the board to do something about motorists who drive the wrong way on the one-way street, primarily from Chase Park to East Main.

She called for a “traffic study, big signs and flashing lights” to put an end to this illegal practice.

“I really don’t know, but I would like something done” (before a head-on collision takes place),” she said.

In other action, Council:

-- Set a public hearing for 7 p.m. June 24 (the date of the next City Council meeting) on a resolution that would relax the residency requirements for new municipal employees per the Batavia Municipal Code.

Jankowski said the amendments focus on expanding the geographical area around the city where new employees may live to include any adjacent town to Genesee County within six months of the date of conclusion of the probationary period for the City. The employee also would be required to live within these areas for the duration of his or her employment.

-- Entered into a contract with a company called three+one, of Pittsford, for cash liquidity and treasury analyses that would lead to increased returns on investments and bank accounts for the City.

The City’s cost to enter the program is $9,900, but that would be returned by three+one if the company fails to find at least $50,000 in additional savings.

The Pittsford firm previously teamed up with the Town of Batavia and Genesee County, with the county reporting significant additional income.

-- Approved agreements with the Batavia City School District that calls for the school to provide transportation of students to the new Teen City site at the former St. Anthony’s School on Liberty Street and to maintain the former City Youth Bureau at 12 MacArthur Drive.

Teen City is partnering with City Church, which owns the Liberty Street property, and the Genesee Area YMCA to offer an after-school youth program. It is expected to begin operation during the week of Aug. 19.

-- Authorized the appointment of City residents Nicholas Harris, Marc Staley and David Leone and Council members Robert Bialkowski and Paul Viele to the Audit Advisory Board.

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