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Batavia City Council

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.

May 13, 2019 - 10:00pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, GCASA.

While it doesn’t have any legal right to stop the sale of property, City Council is keeping its collective finger on the pulse of the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse’s proposed offer to purchase the former North Pole Restaurant at 241-243 South Swan St. and use it as a social outlet for recovering addicts.

And at least four Council members publicly stated their opposition to the potential sale tonight following comments from two neighborhood residents during its monthly meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“I would not support it,” said Council Member Paul Viele, as colleague Kathy Briggs nodded in agreement, to applause.

Moments later, Council Member Rose Mary Christian and President Eugene Jankowski also stated that they were against it. Christian brought the issue to a public forum last month at a town hall meeting at 400 Towers.

“We’re going to do everything we can to stop this,” Christian said, despite word from City Attorney George Van Nest that, at this point, “there is not a role for Council to play” in this matter.

Van Nest said that Council is “not in the business to stop a project because it may be unpopular.” He advised that it needs to play out to see if any rezoning or variance issues would materialize, and those would be handled by the proper committees (Batavia Planning & Development or Zoning Board of Appeals).

City Manager Martin Moore said that GCASA Executive Director John Bennett told him that the building, which for many years served as the St. Nicholas Social Club, would be repurposed as a “retreat or private getaway” for those recovering from substance abuse.

“Still, we have to as a City take a look at it,” Moore said, noting that the area currently is zone as R-2 Residential. “The city attorney and Department of Public Works Superintendent (Matt Worth) are requesting information regarding the use.”

Moore said the specifics of the project weren’t spelled out, and that he is pursuing a written determination to be given to City Council and to be shared with the public.

Comments from council members and management came after David Fasano and Jack Chmielowiec, longtime Southside residents, voiced their strong opposition to the plan.

“These are court-ordered drug addicts and alcoholics (and they) force them onto our neighborhood,” Fasano said. “It’s not a good fit.”

Fasano said he was against it for two primary reasons – it puts addicts in a residential neighborhood and takes property off the tax rolls.

“GCASA is not a church; GCASA is a business,” he said. “With St. Anthony’s (Church on Liberty Street), it was already off the tax rolls when City Church bought it. They’ll be using our emergency services, DPW, city attorney … and we’re paying for that.”

Chmielowiec said he was “upset that it got this far without our neighborhood knowing about it” and was surprised that anyone would even consider the location with a school (Jackson School) two blocks away and a park (Farrall Park) “less than 200 paces away.”

He called negotiations a “sneaky kind of deal right from the get-go” and said he was “offended” that neighbors weren’t notified in advance.

Earlier reports indicate that GCASA received a state grant to fund the gathering place and had about a three-month window to complete the deal, and that the current owners of the property have accepted the agency’s offer.

March 12, 2019 - 7:43am

A frequent contributor to the newspaper “Letters to the Editor” section, Town of Alabama farmer Sam Scarborough took to the spoken word at the Batavia City Council meeting Monday night to express his opposition to the New York Reproductive Health Act.

The RHA, which expands abortion rights in the state, was passed into law in January. Provisions of the measure include permitting abortions after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or the health of the mother is at risk. It also allows trained medical professionals, not only doctors, to perform abortions.

The law prompted hundreds of people – mostly pro-life advocates -- to attend recent City Council meetings and sparked an emotional debate on both sides of the abortion issue.

Ultimately, Council members decided against sending a letter drafted by Council Member Rose Mary Christian in opposition to the law to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, instead calling for residents to send individual letters to Albany.

Last night, Scarborough, who said he was unable to make the previous Council meetings, noted that 95 of the state’s 102 Democrats in the Assembly and 38 of 39 Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the law.

“It is disgusting that one of the first things they did after taking over power was to make sure abortion is legal in this state all the way to birth,” he said. “Aborting after that (24 weeks) is basically killing a baby that would live (on its own).”

Scarborough stated he was a registered Republican who was “proud” of the fact that no members of his party voted for the law. He then wondered aloud if “that is what the vast majority of the Democratic party stands for we need to remove those who voted for this as soon as possible …”

He then quoted II Chronicles 16:9 from the Bible and thanked Christian for taking a stand, to which she replied, “Thank you.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski responded to Scarborough’s comments by mentioning that he spoke with Congressman Chris Collins at a function in Niagara Falls last Saturday and said that Collins “agreed that this is out of control.”

Jankowski said that Collins told him that bills are being introduced to protect the unborn but “they just blow them off.” However, Collins said, they (Republicans) don’t intend to stop.

Collins said that the best way to get a lawmaker to take notice is to show up at his or her office.

“When there’s 50 or 60 people on a bus and they all want to talk to their congressperson, it makes them very nervous,” Jankowski said. “Some of them sneak out the back door. Some of them will speak with the people. That’s how to get their attention.”

Christian reported that a Right to Life march is scheduled for May 1 in Albany, and that she is attempting to organize one for this area.

March 11, 2019 - 9:13pm

City Manager Martin Moore optimistically proclaimed that the City of Batavia is “open for business” following the passage of the municipality’s 2019-20 spending plan tonight.

“We need to be able to send a message to the rest of the state of New York and the rest of this area of the United States that we’re open for business – and I think that this budget does that, and I think very successfully,” Moore said after City Council voted 8-1 in favor of the $27.4 million budget.

The budget calls for $5.2 million to be raised by taxes, but keeps the property tax rate at $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation – the same as last year’s rate. At that rate, owners of a house assessed for $70,000, for example, would pay an annual city tax bill of $627.20.

Moore said no tax increase “was really, really important, and the other thing that I felt good about was our ability to sustain services by not increasing taxes.”

While holding the line on taxes is admirable, it isn’t good enough, said Council member Rose Mary Christian, who cast the lone “no” vote.

“I am hearing a lot of opposition … some people are against the nonprofits that we’re contributing to, the celebrations and (repair of) the pillars on Redfield Parkway,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been hearing from people.”

Christian also was the only dissenter when it came to voting on the water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Water rates and meter fees are going up by 3.5 percent and capital improvement fees are increasing by 10 percent – the same as last year’s increases.

She said her quarterly water bill, for two people, is $142 and mentioned that some single families are paying over $100.

When Council President Eugene Jankowski said that “the bill for my wife and I is $90 every three months,” Christian responded by saying “we must be washing too much or something.”

Moore responded to questions from The Batavian about Batavia’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant and the status of the Ellicott Station project – two ventures that have been in the works for quite some time.

“Five of the eight (DRI) projects are moving forward with either agreements in hand or being reviewed by the various parties,” he said. “I know that a couple of them are in design right now.”

Regarding Ellicott Station, he spoke in generalities, saying that the parties involved “are working on the financial proposals and they’re very close” and that he will be meeting with them in the next week or two.

The city manager said he was excited about the micro-grant program with the Batavia Development Corporation, noting that they’ve received 23 or 24 applicants for Main Street (downtown) grants.

“Some of those applicants BDC will take and try to get Main Street money and hopefully get even more capital improvements on Main Street,” he said. “I’m feeling very optimistic that our first set of projects will be ready to go and start construction sometime this summer.”

City Council passed a number of resolutions, including:

-- Authorizing the City to apply for a pair of National Grid grants – an urban center/commercial district revitalization grant of up to $250,000 to assist in the repair and renovation of the City Centre and a Main Street grant of $100,000 to assist in the rehabilitation of a City Centre parcel to be used by the Batavia Players.

-- The awarding of three contracts relating to the Water and Wastewater Treatment facilities.

One is for Daniels Farm of Waterport, which will pay the City $114,000 over the next three years to harvest fathead minnows from the facility at 5 Treadeasy Ave.

Another is with seven different companies which will supply chemicals needed for the operation of the water plant.

And the third is with A.D. Call & Sons of Stafford to remove and dispose of liquid lime sludge from the plant over the next two years at a cost of $6,850 per each of the two times it is required.

-- Permitting a shared services agreement with the state Department of Transportation that would allow for the City and DOT to assist each other with equipment, materials and manpower on a limited basis (maximum value of $10,000) with an emergency declaration by the governor.

Council also approved the All Babies Cherished 5K walk/run set for 9 a.m. to noon on June 8, starting and ending at Northgate Free Methodist Church’s city facility at 350 Bank St.

Moore reported that the City has received word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Insurance Services Office that it has been approved to continue participation in the Community Rating System at its current Level 7 rating.

February 26, 2019 - 8:54am

connelly_2_25_19_a.jpg

Pro-life advocates are mobilizing across the nation as many states enact laws expanding abortion rights, even to the point of fetal viability.

And their numbers are increasing, according to a new Marist poll that revealed that more Americans are identifying themselves as pro-life – with the split at 47 percent for pro-life and 47 for pro-choice compared to 38 percent pro-life and 55 percent pro-choice just a few weeks earlier.

The debate intensified in the City of Batavia over the past month following the state government’s passage of the New York Reproductive Health Act.

Numerous Batavia residents and several from out of Genesee County and even from as far as Arizona spoke out on the issue as City Council debated whether to send a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in opposition of the RHA. In the end, the board decided not to do so (see story below).

The overwhelming majority of speakers, many identifying themselves as pro-life and “followers of Jesus Christ,” urged Council to stand up for the unborn, to obey the Word of God and to send the letter.

Others contended that city officials weren’t elected to weigh in on national and state issues, especially in light that the RHA has already been put into law.

On Monday night, 17 people – a few of them for the second or third time -- addressed City Council during the public comments portion of the Conference meeting.

Following are excerpts of their speeches:

Erica O’Donnell, Batavia – A self-described political activist, she said the most effective way (to get change) is to “coordinate our actions” – getting 20-50 like-minded people to write letters, make phone calls, conduct rallies and demonstrations.

As for Council’s involvement, she said it shouldn’t be.

“This is the third meeting where the topic is taking up the time of City Council. If you send a letter, it opens up a can of worms. Let’s put this issue to bed tonight … stick to city business.”

Jim Russell, Batavia – Stating that abortion is a moral issue, he called out New York, a state that doesn’t allow capital punishment for convicted criminals, for “saying that it’s OK to have capital punishment (against) babies.”

“I believe the majority of people in this community believe in eternal life, will (someday) meet their creator and have to answer for their life.”

Ann Marie Scalia, Batavia – She implored Council to “speak for the babies who have no voice inside the womb … babies (that) are very much alive … and 100 percent they feel pain (when an abortion is performed).”

She talked about other choices – counseling and adoption – and called for Batavia to be the first sanctuary city for the unborn.

She also railed against Albany, saying the state wants to protect un-vetted illegal immigrants and that Cuomo “has done nothing for us but tax us to death.”

Raelene Christian, Batavia – Calling the RHA “disgusting,” she said that once a woman becomes pregnant, it no longer is just her body anymore – “it’s two bodies, hers and her baby’s.”

She spoke about states that have passed a “heartbeat” law to put restrictions on when an abortion can be performed and said that “pro-lifers have been ignited like never before and their voices are being heard.”

Finally, she said the question was simple. “Do not take a stand for pro-life or pro-choice, but do stand for the unborn.”

Beth Cerminara, Lancaster – Contending that Roe v. Wade is “unconstitutional and antiquated,” she said the RHA was passed “under the guise of health care but is neither health nor care … Batavia can be the first to stand against a tyrannical state governor.”

Showing photos of fetuses at 10 weeks and one week, she said they are “beautifully and wonderfully woven together by the hand of God. This is 100-percent human …. Valuable and made in the image of God.”

Then she urged Council to “repent before the Lord who can save you from your sins … no more excuses; stop murder in Batavia.”

Susan Sherman, Batavia – The director of All Babies Cherished on Ellicott Street said her staff supports 300 clients annually with maternal needs, mentoring and other services. “We’re here to help women and girls who are dealing with unwanted pregnancy by offering “life choices.”

She also said that it’s a law that “you can’t touch a feral cat but we can kill an infant through nine months of pregnancy.”

In closing, she asked “how do we deal with these women who go through these procedures? Some had abortions 40 years ago and they’re still hurting (emotionally).”

Mona Doyon, Batavia – An employee at All Babies Cherished, she credited a teacher at Notre Dame High School for her pro-life stance, which gave her the courage to “choose life” when she became pregnant.

“God is calling each of you to take a stance … a chance to make a real difference,” she said to Council.

“When you say the Our Father (prayer before Council meeting), you can’t just say those words. It’s 'His kingdom come' not ours.”

John Speed, Syracuse – “I believe that you guys have the courage to do the right thing … make Batavia a sanctuary city for the unborn,” he said.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and we need to fear God more than we fear men, more than we fear Cuomo, some guy on Facebook or Planned Parenthood. Fear the One who you will stand before in judgment. “

He then quoted Bible passages from Proverbs 28:1 and Rev. 21:8, concluding that “I believe you can stand against this evil.”

His son, Charlie, then spoke briefly, stating “your parents chose life or you wouldn’t be here” and then quoted Romans 3:15 – “Their feet are swift to shed blood.”

Sarah Cleveland, Ohio – As someone who works in emergency room and medical situations, she said that “people across the country are watching what you are doing and praying for you.”

She said she is a foster care parent and abolitionist against abortion.

 “This is our duty as Christians – to rescue those who need saving … I never hear the words ‘emergency abortion.’ You can take a baby out without murdering the baby. There is no reason to ever murder a baby to end a pregnancy.”

Marcus Pittman, Mesa, Ariz. – Saying he is a documentary filmmaker, he called upon Council to “stop the madness” and noted that in “Arizona, Washington, D.C., and in Oklahoma people are rising up.”

He asked why people this issue is even being debated because “you guys know that a baby in the womb is a baby.”

He said he was against sending the letter – not because he was pro-choice, but that it would result in being ripped up by Cuomo.

Alex Feig, Medina – Prefacing his remarks with the Biblical view that “we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” he spoke of the “compassion, hope and help” provided by All Babies Cherished in Batavia and Care Net Center of Orleans County.

“We need to present young mothers with all of the options available (including life options),” he said.

He then said that while U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer takes a pro-choice stance for our nation, the New York representative also aligns himself with the Israeli pro-life, anti-immigration group EFRAT.

EFRAT’s mission, according to its website, is to empower women to make an informed choice about the future of their pregnancy by providing them with personal counseling, prenatal medical consultation and postnatal family support.

Judy Piscitello, Batavia – She said that Batavia has an “advantage” over other communities in becoming a sanctuary city for the unborn because United Memorial Medical Center is “a safe haven for babies and does not do surgical abortions.”

She shared several points about what a sanctuary city of this nature would mean, including:

-- All preborn babies could realize their full citizenship.
-- No doctors (etc.) could perform surgical abortions in Batavia from this day forward.
-- No minor should be taken out of the county for an abortion.
-- Law enforcement would not be compelled to cooperate (with state or federal laws re: abortion).
-- The entire city would get together for education of all ages and work with All Babies Cherished and with adoption agencies.

Chris and Brittany Connelly, Batavia – They said that Council had the “authority to do this” under the Constitution and New York Bill of Rights.

“Being a sanctuary city, the personhood would be returned to that child,” Brittany said. “There are no consequences for our actions any more … the world is going down. We support you in writing this letter … it’s a start.”

She then thanked Rose Mary Christian, the only Council member who voted to move the resolution forward to the next Business meeting, and called her “a true feminist” – sparking a loud round of applause from the crowd.

Kathy Stefani, Batavia – Addressing each Council member by first name, she said she contacted all of them by phone a few weeks ago and said that seven members “shared with me that you’re strong pro-life believers and agreed that this law is abhorrent.”

She then quoted II Timothy 1:7 (God has not given you a spirit of fear … but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind), and added that “this mighty God of the universe is a loving God … is for you, and if God is for you, which he is, who could be against you?”

Diana Kastenbaum, Batavia – Stating that she was born and raised in this city, she said that she “felt as if I am not welcome here (because) my views are different than those people.”

“I am Jewish and I am a religious person but yet I don’t feel this is Council’s place to have this theological discussion,” she said. “I think I’m a very moral person. I don’t think I am an immoral person because I am pro-choice.”

She said “we voted for you to vote on local issues” and that the laws (Roe v. Wade, RHA) are the laws and “we are all expected to uphold it.” She said she thinks that the separation of church and state was being “intermingled” here and it is “our moral imperative to keep the two separate.”

In closing, she said “I don’t think you want this to be a constant gallery to national issues …. Do your job as City of Batavia Council members and do not write this letter.”

Photo at top -- Chris and Brittany Connnelly of Batavia speak out against abortion during Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 25, 2019 - 10:53pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Reproductive Health Act.

The Batavia City Council tonight – after a second emotion-filled 90-minute public comment session at the outset of its monthly Conference meeting -- decided by an 8-1 vote not to consider a resolution drafted by Council Member Rose Mary Christian opposing the recently passed New York Reproductive Health Act.

Christian cast the only vote to move the resolution to the board’s next Business meeting, much to the chagrin of the overwhelming majority of the 125 people in attendance at the City Hall Council chambers.

The resolution, if it had been forwarded and eventually passed, would have then been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, the Supreme Court of the United States and “all others deemed necessary and proper.”

Passed into state law in January, the Reproductive Health Act: removes abortion from the state's criminal code; allows for medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions; and legalizes abortion after 24 weeks in cases where it would protect a woman's health or where a fetus is not viable. Previously, state law allowed abortions after 24 weeks only if the woman's life was at risk.

Seventeen people – 11 of them from Batavia – spoke on the issue, with 15 in favor of Council sending the letter and/or making Batavia “a sanctuary city for the unborn” and two expressing the opinion that the Council, as a local governing entity, should not be compelled to weigh in on such a polarizing debate.

Several pro-life speakers invoked Biblical passages and stern warnings of God’s judgment upon Council members while others focused on the premise that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder.

Tonight’s turnout was slightly less than the Council meeting of Feb. 11, where about 200 people turned out and 18 people spoke (with 14 in favor of the letter and four against it).

Council President Eugene Jankowski -- after hearing impassioned speeches on both sides of the issue and dousing a brief shouting match following the public comment session between Christian and Batavia resident Diana Kastenbaum, who was against the resolution – addressed the audience by stating it was his responsibility to represent the entire city and noted that the city was divided.

“It would be no difference if pro-choice people came to us and asked us to write a letter (supporting the RHA),” Jankowski said.

His words were quickly followed by someone who yelled out “coward” from the audience.

“So you don’t agree with somebody, you’re a racist or a coward,” Jankowski responded, adding that he wrote his own letter. “Packing the council room is not an indication that a majority (is in favor of the resolution).”

Council Member John Canale said he is “absolutely” opposed to the law and called it an “atrocity,” but agreed with Jankowski that it wouldn’t be prudent to send a letter that represents the entire city.

“Do we send the letter? My feelings are the same as yours, Geno,” he said. “If the pro-choice said to send a letter saying the City of Batavia and its residents support it (the law), I would be upset as well as most of the people in this room. I will write a letter as a citizen (of Batavia, not as a council member).”

Christian then said Canale “was correct in a lot of what you said except,” circling back to her convictions when it comes to abortion, “you are not standing up for the unborn.”

To which, Jankowski said there is a better way to proceed – “as individuals we have more power.”

Moments later, when Jankowski asked for his colleagues to publicly state whether to move the resolution forward to the March 11 Business meeting, and only Christian said yes, Batavian Kathy Stefani, one of the last speakers, shouted “I’m ashamed of every one of you” as she walked out of the room.

It wasn’t much longer before the rest of the pro-life crowd filed out of the meeting, visibly upset and dejected.

(Another story, featuring some of the speakers’ comments, will be filed on Tuesday).

February 11, 2019 - 10:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

Batavia residents will get their chance to weigh in on the 2019-20 city budget in two weeks per a resolution passed by City Council tonight.

Following a long and heavily attended public comment session over whether it should send a letter to Albany opposing the state’s recent Reproductive Health Act (watch for a detailed report on The Batavian), Council voted on several measures, including the setting of a public hearing on the budget for 7 p.m. Feb. 25.

The proposed $27.4 million spending plan calls for $5.2 million to be raised by taxes and a tax rate of $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation, which is the same as last year’s rate.

As a result, owners of a house assessed for $70,000, for example, would face a city tax levy of $627.20 for the year.

A separate public hearing, also at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 (the date of Council’s next Conference Meeting), will address a 3.5-percent increase in water rates and meter fees, and a 10-percent increase in capital improvement fees.

A third public hearing is on for that date and time, this one dealing with the adoption of a local law amending the city sign code.

City Council also passed a resolution requesting that State Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley sponsor bills that would allow Genesee County and the City of Batavia to enter into an amended and restated sales tax allocation agreement for a period not to exceed 40 years.

Other resolutions passed by unanimous vote include:

-- A measure referring the review of the zoning of public storage rental units in the Batavia Municipal Code to the City Planning & Development Committee in response to a petition from Peter Yasses, 54 Cedar Street LLC, in relation to the lack of permitted zoning use of public storage rental units.

-- A supplemental agreement with New York State that paves the way for the city to receive “back pay” along with an annual increase in payments from the state through an arterial maintenance agreement that will extend through 2049.

This agreement stems from the discovery that the City was underpaid for work it did to maintain state highways (Routes 5, 33, 63 and 98) dating back to June 1994 and is not being reimbursed enough to cover its costs going forward.

As a result, the City will receive a one-time payment from the state for $218,539.88 to take care of the underpayments and now will be paid $183,017.40 annually, an increase of $6,500.

-- The endorsement of two bonds financing installation and construction of sidewalk and traffic signal improvements on State Street, Centennial Park, Washington Avenue, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue (pathways to schools), and water system and drainage improvements along South Main Street, Brooklyn Avenue and Union Street.

Seventy-five percent of the estimated $1.1 million sidewalk project will be paid through federal funding and the previously budgeted cost of the water system project is set at $913,000.

-- An order appointing Dwight Thornton to the city’s Board of Assessment Review for a term ending on Sept. 30, 2023.

January 30, 2019 - 12:43pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Reproductive Health Act.

Numerous letters, phone calls, social media postings and comments on The Batavian concerning the possibility of Batavia City Council drafting a letter opposing New York State’s new abortion law have led Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski to request that the board move a bit quicker than usual to deal with the issue.

“I’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback about this with many people concerned that we took a knee-jerk reaction to the speaker’s views,” Jankowski said today. “I think it is best that we address it at our next Business meeting on February 11th to let people calm down and have their say.”

The state’s Reproductive Health Act (Senate bill no. S2796), which was passed last week, became a topic of discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting when city resident Chris Connelly, buoyed by his religious beliefs, requested that the board take action against what he termed as an expansion of “America’s holocaust.”

Language of the bill is as follows:

“An act to amend the public health law, in relation to enacting the reproductive health act and revising existing provisions of law regarding abortion; to amend the penal law, the criminal procedure law, the county law and the judiciary law, in relation to abortion; to repeal certain provisions of the public health law relating to abortion; to repeal certain provisions of the education law relating to the sale of contraceptives; and to repeal certain provisions of the penal law relating to abortion.”

The law continues access to abortions and, by removing abortions from the state’s criminal code, it protects doctors or certified medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution.

It also permits medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York, and stipulates that abortions can be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or when necessary to protect the life of the mother.

Connelly’s comments prompted Council member Rose Mary Christian to call for something along the lines of Batavia becoming a “sanctuary city” for the unborn. Following discussion with Jankowski and City Manager Martin Moore, her idea was steered toward the drafting of a letter from City Council in opposition of the law to be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Moore and Jankowski both agreed that they would give it some time to consider public feedback to ensure that the wording was proper, with an eye on discussing it again at Council’s next Conference meeting on Feb. 25.

Since then, however, Jankowski said he has seen the feedback and talked to many people, and he feels that it is best to address it sooner.

Jankowski also is of the mindset that it isn’t a priority of the local governing body.

“The majority of the public thinks that we are overstepping our boundaries,” he said. “My recommendation will be to listen to the feedback, stay out of national and state debates and stick with local issues.”

Jankowski posted a long response to many comments from readers of The Batavian following its coverage of Monday’s meeting. He said he has forwarded that to his colleagues on City Council.

An excerpt of his post contends that a letter from City Council – either for or against the law – wouldn’t reflect the wishes of the entire community:

“I personally believe that City Council writing a letter of either approval or disapproval of the abortion law changes at this time will alienate half of the community on either side and it wouldn't represent a clear direction or a consensus.

“Therefore, my intentions are to revisit the letter request under old business at the next available council meeting which is the February 11th Business meeting. I will recommend Council withdraw the request to write a letter to the Governor and suggest Council stay focused on local issues. Council as a group will then be able to make a final decision on how to proceed.”

When asked whether he would reprimand Christian for disparaging comments she made about Gov. Cuomo (as was suggested in a particular comment on The Batavian), Jankowski said in his role as the “ceremonial head” of City Council, he doesn’t have that authority.

“That’s on her,” he said. “I’m not taking responsibility to babysit her. She’s an adult and can take care of herself. But I don’t agree with any name calling and I have spoken out against that in the past.”

January 29, 2019 - 8:10am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

A series of pointed questions focusing on the City’s mutual aid procedures and costs prompted a brief explanation and defense of the cooperative arrangement among Genesee County emergency responders at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

“How many times does our fire department leave the City for mutual aid? How many times do they call in for overtime? Is there any way to get overtime recouped from the municipality we are helping out? How much is it costing us?”

Those were the questions posed by City resident John Roach during the public comments segment of the meeting at City Hall. Council President Eugene Jankowski and Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano were ready to answer.

“We receive a lot more than we give,” Jankowski said, referring to the numerous times that volunteer crews from town fire departments have to assist in the City.

Jankowski said the town fire companies bring in a lot of apparatus and manpower, and do not charge the City for these services.

Napolitano pointed out that mutual aid is just that – a “reciprocal agreement.”

“If we start to charge agencies, we are the recipient of that reciprocal aid when we need that,” he said.

The chief said the perception that they have to call people in to “backfill the station” every time that City fire crews (or Mercy EMS) go out on a call is not accurate.

“Depending on what the staffing model is for the day, we send four people out with an engine, usually on a FAST team. If staffing is at maximum staffing, sometimes we’ll only have to call in one or two people. At times we don’t have to call anybody in,” he said.

In closing, Napolitano said it would be a mistake for fire departments to start mailing out invoices back and forth.

“I can’t give you the specifics as to the number of times we have to bring people in,” he said. “The benefit we derive when we have a major conflagration happening is invaluable. Those fire departments incur the same cost per unit mile that we incur on the back side, except we have paid staffing.”

“To start muddying the waters ...it would be, in my opinion, not a good idea to try to charge, number one; and number 2, you can’t charge. It’s a mutual aid agreement of manpower and equipment.”

January 28, 2019 - 11:03pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Gov. Cuomo.

connelly_1.jpgDeclaring it his God-given right and responsibility to speak out against what he perceives as evil, Batavia resident Chris Connelly tonight asked City Council to stand up against New York State’s new abortion law.

“Abortion is murder and it has become America’s holocaust … 60 million children,” said Connelly, a former Marine now confined to a wheelchair due to an ATV accident a few years back.

Connelly, who spoke during the public comment portion of the Conference Meeting at City Hall, said he had no political agenda -- “I’m not here as a Democrat or Republican, but as a man made in the image of God.”

He contended that City Council has the power to shut down Planned Parenthood and to make “Batavia a sanctuary for the unborn.”

“If we choose to neglect our responsibility, I truly fear for our nation,” he said, quoting from Isaiah 1:16-20, a passage from the Bible that warns against evil deeds and implores people to follow a path of righteousness.

Last Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law New York’s Reproductive Health Act, a far-reaching statute that removes abortion from the state’s criminal code and allows medical professionals who aren’t doctors to perform abortions.

Furthermore, the law permits abortions to be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or if the health of the mother is at risk.

Cuomo came under fire from Roman Catholic clergy with some calling for the governor, a former altar boy, to be excommunicated from the faith.

Council member Rose Mary Christian applauded Connelly’s stance and urged the board to do something.

“Is there anything we can do to stop this atrocious thing in our city?” she asked, after bringing up the idea of a sanctuary city. “It’s the same thing (as fighting against illegal immigration) I’d like to have done for the right to life of our babies.”

After a brief discussion, Council President Eugene Jankowski, with consensus from his colleagues, directed City Manager Martin Moore to write a letter stating their opposition to this law and for it to be placed on next month’s agenda. Moore said he would wait for feedback from the public before drafting the letter.

Christian then made her feelings perfectly clear.

“He’s (Cuomo) a murderer period,” she said. “I don’t care how you slice it or dice it. He’s a murderer … period.”

In other developments, Council moved the following items to its Feb. 11 Business Meeting:

-- Scheduling of a pair of public hearings for 7 p.m. Feb. 25 that deal with the city manager’s proposed $27,494,132 budget for 2019-20 and the establishment of water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees.

Moore’s budget calls for $5,251,607 to be raised by taxes, resulting in a tax rate of $8.96 per thousand of assessed valuation – the same as last year’s rate. That means that a house assessed for $70,000 would incur a tax bill of $627.20.

Water rates and meter fees are projected to increase by 3.5 percent while capital improvement fees are earmarked for a 10-percent hike.

-- Acceptance of “back pay” from New York State along with an annual increase in payments from the state in connection with an arterial maintenance agreement that will extend through 2049.

This supplemental agreement stems from the discovery that the City was underpaid for work it did to maintain state highways (routes 5, 33, 63 and 98) dating back to June 1994 and is not being reimbursed enough to cover its costs going forward.

As a result, the City will receive a one-time payment from the state for $218,539.88 to take care of the underpayments and now will be paid $183,017.40 annually, an increase of $6,500.

-- Authorization of two bonds to finance installation and construction of sidewalk and traffic signal improvements on State Street, Centennial Park, Washington Avenue, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue (pathways to schools), and to make water system and drainage improvements along South Main Street, Brooklyn Avenue and Union Street.

Costs of the sidewalk project are estimated at $1.1 million with 75 percent being paid through federal funding and the cost of the water system project is set at $913,000, which has been budgeted.

Afterward, during a Special Business Meeting, Council passed a pair of resolutions – one that accepts a $17,981 grant from the Genesee County STOP-DWI program for specialized patrols, training and equipment to combat impaired driving, and the other that executes a Community Development Block Grant of $50,000 for a feasibility study to evaluate the possible addition of a second ice rink at the Falleti Ice Arena on Evans Street.

A $5,000 local match was required for the CDBG, with funds provided by Batavians Paul Viele, Matt Gray, Steve Pies and Stephanie Call. Viele, a City Council member, recused himself during the vote.

benedict.jpg

City Council recognized Karen Benedict, left, for her nearly 20 years of service as records clerk for the Batavia City Police Department. City Council Member Patti Pacino, right, read a proclamation in Benedict's honor, and Benedict followed by praising the City's police officers for their dedication and professionalism. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

December 10, 2018 - 9:12pm

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Stephen Quider, left, is the newest officer on the Batavia City police force. He was introduced to City Council tonight by Chief Shawn Heubusch, who said Quider has completed his 16 weeks of field training. The West Henrietta resident is in the process of relocating to the City.

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Now that the rezoning of several parcels owned by City Church’s St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street is finally official, leaders of the Teen City project are rolling up their sleeves to expedite the transition of the Batavia Youth Bureau from its current MacArthur Drive location.

“We’re looking at the first quarter of the year (2019) to open Teen City, collaborating with the YMCA,” said Jocelyn Sikorski, Batavia Youth Bureau executive director, at tonight’s City Council meeting at City Hall. “We have put together an aggressive timeline.”

After a few months of discussion and planning board meetings, Council voted unanimously to change the zoning of five tracts on Liberty Street and one on Central Avenue from R-3 Residential to C-3 Central Commercial in order for City Church to offer business activities to the public and, as a result, pave the way for the youth bureau’s relocation.

Teen City is the name for the after-school program that will be operated by the Batavia Youth Bureau and YMCA, with assistance from City Church.

Sikorski, in a memo to City Council dated Dec. 5, wrote that a lease/operating agreement with City Church has been drafted and reviewed by City Attorney George Van Nest.

“This (anticipated approval of the lease by City Council) will enable us to move into the next steps regarding modifications to the facility, including renovations to the cafeteria as well as IT and security needs,” Sikorski wrote.

She added that bids for the work will go out over the next few weeks, and that a memorandum of understanding between the Batavia Youth Bureau and YMCA for shared staffing and oversight of the after-school program is being developed.

Sikorski’s committee has prioritized the necessary documents along with an intermunicipal agreement with the Batavia City School District for the current youth center site and transportation, along with a Teen City logo design contest. If all goes according to plan, a “kickoff event” will take place on Feb. 22.

Responding to a query from Council Member John Canale, Sikorski said the school district intends to take over the existing youth bureau building – occupying it and paying all expenses.

“This would not be a lease,” Sikorski said, adding that the Community Garden there would not be affected.

In a related move, Council voted to accept a $10,000 grant from the New York State Education Department to help fund the after-school program and another $1,000 from the County Youth Bureau for equipment, supplies and materials.

In other action, Council:

-- Passed a local law making Thorpe Street a one-way street for southbound traffic between Watson and Maple streets.

Thorpe becomes the seventh street in the City designated as one-way, joining Hewitt Place, Lewis Place, McKinley Avenue, North Spruce Street, School Street and Wiard Street.

-- Extended for a year -- three pacts with Genesee County relating to water supply, operation and maintenance of the water treatment plant and lease of the water treatment facility. This was done to allow the City and County to forge a long-term contract in tandem with a sales tax agreement.

In a memo dated Dec. 4, DPW Director Matt Worth noted two new changes to the water supply agreement:

  1. Leaving the index allowing for a maximum change in the cost of wholesale water purchased by the City to remain as the Consumer Price Index, which is consistent with the existing contract, and
  2. Making Genesee County a co-applicant or endorsing entity of any funding applications prepared by the City for services related to the removal of lead within the system.

Worth stressed that the City has no issues with lead, but included that provision to deal with any necessary improvements down the road.

-- Voted in a favor of a new three-year lease and sublease (through April 1, 2022) with the New York-Penn League for use of Dwyer Stadium for the league-owned Batavia Muckdogs.

The proposed lease is consistent with the most recent lease – “it has the same language as the current lease and sublease except for the term,” Van Nest said -- and calls for a $25,000 capital investment by the City into the facility annually.

-- Heard a brief report from City Manager Martin Moore regarding a pair of Downtown Revitalization Projects that are “moving along.”

Moore said he met with representatives of Empire State Development Corporation last week and was informed that funding for the Ellicott Place project is “on its way” and for the Healthy Living Campus project is due by the end of the week.

He also said that the Batavia Development Corporation’s “kickoff meeting” for mini-grants is set for next week.

Council then authorized Moore and Council President Eugene Jankowski to sign paperwork to receive an ESDC reimbursement grant in the amount of $25,000 to assist the Genesee Area YMCA in preparing a feasibility study for the Healthy Living Campus.

-- Appointed Bob Gray and Leslie Moma to the Community Garden Committee through Dec. 31, 2022, and Sharon Burkel to the Historic Preservation Commission through Dec. 31, 2021.

During a Conference Meeting following the Business Meeting, Council agreed to take up at its next meeting (Jan. 14) two resolutions dealing with a Community Development Block Grant for 900 linear feet of water main on Brooklyn Avenue in the amount of $333,000.

Worth said the project, along with drainage work at Williams Park and along the Tonawanda Creek bank, calls for an environmental impact review and a resolution stating who the certifying officer would be (in this case, Jankowski).

The project is slated to go to bid in March, Worth said.

November 28, 2018 - 7:36am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, City Church, dwyer stadium.

City Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian says the City needs to get tough with landlords and homeowners when disturbances that put employees in jeopardy arise, but just how to proceed can be complicated.

That was the gist of a discussion among council members, a city attorney and the police chief at Monday night’s Conference Meeting at City Hall.

“I’m tired of policeman getting hurt and firemen being threatened,” Christian said, referring to several incidences in recent months where police have had to be called.

She also called for harsher local ordinances that deal with grass mowing, trash, home maintenance and vehicle storage – even outlining a plan that would start with a warning, escalate to a $500 fine and court appearance, and ultimately putting the matter into a judge’s hands.

“We need to hurt them in their pocket; we just don’t do enough,” she said. “If we start hurting them in their pocket, we’ll get somewhere.”

It isn’t as simple as that, however, said Council President Eugene Jankowski.

“I think we tried this before (holding the landlord responsible),” Jankowski said. “But evicting is a 30- to 60-day process, and then the renter goes ballistic and trashes the place. We have to arrest the resident.”

Attorney David Fitch, filling in for George Van Nest, said he felt the discussion “was conflating some different things” since code violations are handled differently than criminal violations.

“With code enforcement violation, as the city attorney we would prosecute, but can’t hold the landlord responsible,” he said. “The goal … is to get compliance – paint their houses, cut the lawns, take care of the trash.”

Fitch said if residents don’t respond, “judges in City Court have no problem issuing a hefty fine, up to $250 per day.”

Chief Shawn Heubusch mentioned a program where landlords can check into the backgrounds of potential tenants and also get a description of what took place at the property.

“At our last community meeting, we talked about landlord licensing,” he said. “People in dangerous situations won’t call police if they think they will get fined.”

Heubusch said he “understands where you’re coming from,” in response to Christian, “as our guys live it every single day.”

Jankowski noted the many delays in processing violations, but Christian said it goes beyond that.

“If there are drugs (involved), we can take possession of property. If the landlord is aware of possession of drugs or dealing, they can bring the landlord to court,” she said.

“We need something that has an effect on our community. I would hate to go through another summer like we had this year.”

Jankowski said that landlords can evict tenants when a crime is committed in their house, while Heubusch said cooperation from neighbors is a key component in cleaning up illegal activity.

Council referred several draft resolutions to its Business Meeting on Dec. 10, including:

-- Lead agency status in the State Environmental Quality Review determination and subsequent zoning change ordinance for parcels comprising the St. Anthony’s Church campus on Liberty Street and Central Avenue.

The zoning designation, stemming from a request from City Church (owners of the property), will be changed from R-3 Residential to C-3 Commercial to allow for business activities, including a proposal to move the Batavia Youth Bureau there.

“These are the final steps of the zoning change,” said Matt Worth, director of public works, who oversaw the issue while serving as interim city manager.

-- A local law to amend the City’s municipal code to make Thorpe Street a one-way street for southbound traffic only between Watson and Maple streets.

During a brief public hearing last night, Watson Street resident Ken Wolter said he hoped that the change works and asked Council to consider making Watson Street off of Evans Street one-way as well.

-- The extension of one-year – through Dec. 31, 2019 – three agreements with Genesee County concerning water supply, operation and maintenance, and facilities lease while leaders work on a longer-term contract in conjunction with a long-term sales tax agreement.

Worth said the extensions contain “minimal changes,” most notably the county charging the city an additional 60 cents per 1,000 gallons – up from the current 60 cents per 1,000-gallon surcharge – to help fund capital projects to increase the water supply.

Also, as far as the lease of the city’s water plant to the county is concerned, the new agreement would transfer it to the county once the plant is no longer being used.

“By doing this, it would not be a liability to the city in the future,” Worth said.

He also said he plans to talk to county officials about including a lead services clause in the water supply agreement.

-- Acceptance of a New York State Education Department grant for $10,000 and a State Aid Recreation Program grant for $1,000 to assist with the start-up of the Teen City project, a joint venture of the United Way of Genesee County, Genesee County YMCA, City of Batavia and City Church.

-- The transfer of $585,000 in unallocated funds to several restricted funds per recommendation of the City Audit Committee.

“Funding reserves now for future liabilities, equipment, infrastructure and facility improvements has been, and will continue to be, critical in avoiding larger tax burdens in future years,” Lisa Neary, deputy director of Finance, wrote in a memo dated Nov. 21.

The resolution calls for reserve funds to be increased as follows: $150,000 to DPW; $25,000 to Sidewalk; $75,000 to Administrative Equipment; $5,000 to Police Equipment; $40,000 to Fire Equipment; $10,000 to Dwyer Stadium; $50,000 to Facility; $80,000 to Compensated Absence; $50,000 to Workers Compensation; $75,000 to Retirement; and $25,000 to Parking Lot.

-- A new three-year lease (through April 1, 2022) with the New York-Penn League for the use of Dwyer Stadium for the league-owned Batavia Muckdogs.

The proposed lease is consistent with the most recent lease and calls for a $25,000 capital investment by the City into the facility annually, said Worth, who noted that league officials have yet to respond to the City’s draft of the lease.

Worth said the league paid for field and clubhouse improvements last season and continues to pay all utilities. He said that $80,000 is in the current Dwyer Stadium reserve fund.

November 14, 2018 - 10:59am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council.

166 South Main St., Batavia, NY, 5.73 acres, LOT/LAND, $300,000. Development site 5.73 acres in the City of Batavia. Beautiful scenic views of the Tonawanda Creek. Residential, development, place of worship, many options. Existing building can be rehabbed to 8 housing units. Existing foundation (64' x 97') can accommodate a minimum of units and a maximum of 24.

The real estate ad above more than caught the eye of Jim Carney, a 26-year resident of 162 S. Main St., who also owns property at 164 S. Main St. It also spurred him into action.

Carney made his way to Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to make the governing body aware that the ad wasn’t completely accurate and that he – and his neighbors – was prepared to oppose any plan to erect a multiple-unit housing development on that site.

The property in question once housed the City’s sewer treatment plant and later was sold by the city to a private owner.

“The ad reads the building can be rehabbed to eight housing units, with a minimum of units and a maximum of 24, but it is zoned R1A, which means that you can only have single family or duplexes there,” Carney said. “(Anything else) cannot be done without a variance.”

Carney said that there already is a high volume of apartment complexes “within a stone’s throw” of his home, namely Birchwood Village, 172 1/2 S. Main St. (Meadows) and 193 S. Main St. Apartments.

“Our concern is that more high-density housing could change the nature of the neighborhood,” Carney said. “Any attempt to change that by use of a variance will be fought by the neighbors.”

After Carney spoke, Council Member Kathleen Briggs asked if ultimately this issue would come before City Council. City Attorney George Van Nest answered in the affirmative, noting that any rezoning petition would have to be voted upon by the board.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski also responded, stating that a real estate ad doesn’t translate into a binding document and that “it’s not going to happen under our noses.”

“There are plenty of large housing units there already … it’s a bad idea.”

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