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Batavia City Council

July 14, 2020 - 2:16pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2020 - 11:44am

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

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

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

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski presented tentative goals as follows:

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

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

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

In other developments, Council:

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

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

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

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

July 14, 2020 - 9:39am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2020 - 11:36pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following the meeting, Viele expounded on his thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 11, 2020 - 12:10pm

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

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

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

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

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

Tabelski spelled out several highlights of the plan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other topics on Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2020 - 1:47pm

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

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

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

Criteria used to grade the towns and villages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 25, 2020 - 11:53am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 22, 2020 - 9:28pm

While some restaurants have been able to utilize their patios and decks to increase the number of customers during the COVID-19-induced 50-percent capacity phase, others without outdoor dining areas are limited by their four walls.

Batavia City Council members don’t think that’s fair and they are looking into a way to temporarily provide municipal space for dining establishments to serve their customers under sunny skies.

Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski opened a discussion on the subject at tonight’s Council meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“I just wanted to update Council tonight and take your temperature on moving forward with the potential of outdoor dining expansion of restaurants that do not have their own capacity to expand on their own property,” said Tabelski, adding that Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan allowed for outdoor dining.

She said that many restaurant in Batavia took advantage of that and expanded on their own property, but just as many don’t have that option. As a result, three restaurant owners have contact City officials to see if it would be possible to expand onto City-owned property.

Since then, the Finger Lakes Region, which includes Genesee County, has moved into Phase Three – permitting restaurants to have on-premise dining with a maximum of 50-percent occupancy.

Tabelski said the topic also has been discussed during an economic development COVID recovery task force comprised of representatives of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, Batavia Development Corporation, the City of Batavia, Genesee County and the Chamber of Commerce.

She also said there is guidance from the New York State Liquor Authority authorizing this, prompting her and City Attorney George Van Nest to draft an application that would be subject to review by City Council.

If approved, the dining establishment, after acquiring proper liability insurance, would be granted a temporary license to operate outdoors on municipal space.

Van Nest said the approval would constitute a “license agreement, not a license or permit, per se, but the actual ability to use that property … consistent with an event application.” He said the liquor authority requires the municipality to submit an application covering those properties and having an adjoining license certification from the restaurant.

Council Member John Canale said he has been thinking about this type of action during his trips around the City.

“To me, this is an absolute no-brainer,” Canale said. “It’s nice to see these restaurants getting creative (by using the sidewalks) and I hope that we as a City allow them to continue to do this for a period of time … Because their capacity is limited to 50 percent inside, if they can gain in nice weather the outside access, it would make up for that.”

Council members Kathleen Briggs and Patti Pacino said they agreed with Canale, while Council Member Jeremy Karas took it even further, suggesting that this could become a seasonal thing.

Council President Eugene Jankowski also said he thought it was a good idea as long as any expansion didn’t interfere with other businesses. He stopped short, however, of endorsing an annual benefit, stating that that was a discussion for another time.

After Council Member Rose Mary Christian said she also was on board with a permanent arrangement for using City land, Van Nest advised that it could evolve into the City requiring a lease agreement and trigger possible assessment implications.

The debate ended with Council asking Tabelski and Van Nest to get the application to Council members as soon as possible for placement on the agenda of their next meeting on July 13th.

In other developments, Council:

-- Heard a report from Karas and Public Works Director Matt Worth that City crews and the state Department of Transportation will be joining forces to replace the sunken manhole covers on Route 98 (Oak Street).

Karas said the covers are causing excessive noise in the area, especially when tractor-trailers coming from or going to the Thruway exit roll over them.

Worth said the DOT has agreed to provide traffic control while City workers replace about 10 manhole castings that are in the driving lane and, finally, get rid of the “clunk-clunk times 100” sound that reverberates through homes along the way.

The tentative schedule calls for the new manhole castings to be replaced in August.

“We will be resetting (them) so they’re flush and then DOT will pave them in that area,” Worth said. “Hopefully, they’re nice and smooth … they’ll fit tight and the noise goes away.”

-- Heard a brief report from Canale that the committee charged with looking into the deer population problem in the City is almost ready to address Council with its recommendations.

Canale said the state Department of Environmental Conservation made a few changes with the wording and has given the City a deadline of Aug. 1st to submit its application.

Calling it a “great plan,” Canale said the committee desires to have guidelines in place by the start of hunting season this fall.

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

Following the meeting, Jankowski was asked if Council had discussed a plan to find a replacement for Martin Moore, who left his position as City manager on Saturday by what was publicly announced as a “mutual agreement.”

“We haven’t discussed it as a Council, but I know that City staff are doing research and they’re going to provide that information to Council so that we can make a decision as to how we want to go forward,” Jankowski said.

After it was mentioned that the City would get a “free search” from Novak Consulting Group since Moore's tenure lasted less than two years, Jankowski said, “if that is the case, then that’s definitely an option that we’d have to consider.”

The City contracted with the Ohio firm to coordinate the search in the summer of 2018.

June 19, 2020 - 4:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, city of batavia.

dr._martin_moore_1.jpgEffective Saturday, Martin Moore is out as City of Batavia manager.

The City issued a press release minutes ago, stating as follows:

The City of Batavia and City Manager Martin D. Moore, Ph.D., have mutually agreed that he will be leaving on June 20, 2020, to pursue other opportunities.

The City would like to thank Marty for his service to the community since October 2018 and wish(es) him the very best in future endeavors.

In accordance with the City’s Charter, the Assistant City Manager Rachael Tabelski will assume the role on the departure of the Manager.

Specific reasons for the parting of ways were not immediately disclosed.

A call to Moore's cell phone of record was not answered.

Contacted by telephone, City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that “it’s a personnel matter and therefore I am unable to make a public comment.”

When asked if Council will be discussing the situation publicly during Monday night’s Conference and Special Business meeting, he said, “I don’t believe so.”

Earlier this month, there were indications that Moore’s tenure was about to come to an end.

In a June 9 story on The Batavian, Council Member Robert Bialkowski commented in connection to a 90-minute executive session of City Council following its June 8 meeting.

“As usual, in politics there’s always something going on, but I can’t comment. You’ll know soon enough,” Bialkowski said.

Jankowski, when advised of Bialkowski’s statement at the time, also refused to comment.

Moore reportedly caused the City some embarrassment recently when he made a commitment to racial justice advocates that the City would support a BBQ for Equality on June 7 at Williams Park without going through Council for proper authorization.

The event was cancelled, setting the stage for the March for Justice protest in Downtown Batavia on that day.

City Council hired Moore in August 2018 and he began his duties two months later.

His contract stipulated for a starting salary of $110,000, with increases of $2,000 annually. He also received retirement benefits, paid family medical insurance, three weeks’ vacation, life insurance and a relocation reimbursement up to $10,000.

Moore had been the city manager of Eunice, N.M., for seven years prior to relocating to Batavia.

He replaced former manager Jason Molino, who left in January 2018 to take the Tompkins County administrator position. Public Works Director Matt Worth filled in as the interim city manager during the search for Molino’s successor.

Novak Consulting Group of Ohio, the firm utilized in the search for a new manager, reportedly guaranteed that person would stay on the job for at least two years or else the next search would be at no charge.

While there was no official word, Moore's contract stipulates that he will receive some type of severance pay.

When Moore was hired, Jankowski praised his professional record, which included being voted “City Manager of the Year” in 2015 by the New Mexico Municipal League for his “handling of the city’s finances and progress of the community and how it operates.”

“He is articulate and personable,” Jankowski said, “and all of us have been very impressed by him.”

At the time, Jankowski said Moore’s wife had family in North Tonawanda and that they had been looking to relocate to Western New York.

Moore's previous executive management experience includes a four-year stint as a consultant, census 2010 crew leader and general manager in Timberon, N.M.; county manager for Otero County, N.M.; executive director of Eastern Arizona Counties, and director of development and community services for Apache County, Ariz.

An Eagle Scout, he was a member of several professional associations and president of the Eunice Rotary Club. He and his wife, Joanne, have seven children.

June 9, 2020 - 3:01pm

Batavia City Council members are united in touting Sunday’s March for Justice as a huge success, but declined to shed much light upon the miscommunication over a proposed City-supported BBQ for Equality that failed to materialize.

However, The Batavian has learned that the snafu over the barbecue at Williams Park – which was cancelled and set the stage for the March for Justice outside of the City Centre – may have triggered some far-reaching repercussions.

When contacted today about his reaction to the protest and comments on the ill-fated BBQ for Equality, Council Member Robert Bialkowski said that a significant discussion took place during a 90-minute executive session following Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Asked if there was more to the post-meeting debate, he said, “As usual, in politics there’s always something going on, but I can’t comment,” he said. “You’ll know soon enough. When things are going smooth, sometimes people have to rock the boat. And when they fall in the river, then they cry.”

JANKOWSKI: 'NO COMMENT'

Council President Eugene Jankowski, when advised of Bialkowski’s statement, said “that since this is a personnel matter, I can’t comment at this time.”

Calls to City Manager Martin Moore's office and cell phone were not returned at the time of this story's posting.

Problems arose on June 1 after published reports indicated that the City of Batavia (in conjunction with City Church) would be providing food at no charge at the Williams Park barbecue, and that Police Chief Shawn Heubusch would be the guest speaker.

Jankowski acknowledged there was a disconnect between organizer Macy Paradise and the city manager’s office.

“Speaking for myself as an individual council member, when I heard about the BBQ I contacted the city manager,” he said. “I was told there was miscommunication between the organizers and the manager’s office – and I acted upon that information.”

At that point, Jankowski said he posted on Facebook the process for groups to have an event in the City – that it had to go through City Council first with an event application and insurance in place.

“That had not been done at the point,” he said, “because the next Council meeting wasn’t until the day after the scheduled barbecue.”

BIALKOWSKI: 'CONFUSION, HEARSAY'

Other council members said they weren’t clear about the “negotiations” between the city manager and organizers, with Bialkowski mentioning that he has heard several stories but none of the facts.

“There was a lot of confusion and a lot of hearsay,” he said. “It’s really easy to point fingers that somebody did something but … unless you were there.”

Rose Mary Christian emphasized that the request did not come before City Council and that no one had the authority to say that the City would purchase food. She contends that the event organizer misunderstood Moore.

“We’re in a financial bind with this COVID-19, and have lost VLT money and sales tax revenue, and many people are still unemployed,” she said.

Regardless, the situation put the City in a tenuous position, with many people commenting on social media that City officials reneged on a promise.

PROTEST ACCOMPLISHES GOAL

Concerning the March for Justice, Council members agreed that it was a worthwhile and momentous occasion.

“I am very pleased that it was peaceful and glad that they did because they need to get their point across,” Paul Viele said. “Everyone needs to be treated equal and fairly.”

Viele and the other council members mentioned health reasons for not being able to attend, citing COVID-19 concerns, but all said they wish to engage in further conversations.

Patti Pacino called the march “fabulous.”

“They were peaceful and they cared and they meant what they said,” she said. “I’m all for it and I’m very proud that it went off so well in our city. I know many people who were there, and they said the feeling was good.”

She added that people’s feelings cannot be taken lightly.

PACINO: 'THIS IS SERIOUS'

“I think it brought the point home to a lot of people that this is serious; this is a real thing. It’s not just people griping,” she said.

Christian said the “Black Lives Matter march was really, really good in the City of Batavia” but didn’t think many people are being treated unjustly here.

“If you break the law, you have to pay for that – one way or another,” she said. “As for the protest, it was very well organized and very well participated by people.”

Bialkowski said he was pleased that the protest was peaceful.

“I am glad the whole thing went off without any hitches – only one arrest,” he said.

As for the other Council members, Al McGinnis said he did not want to comment, Jeremy Karas could not be reached and John Canale and Kathleen Briggs did not return phone messages. 

Jankowski reported his positive thoughts at Monday’s Council meeting, and pledged to do whatever he could to foster a better relationship between Council and Batavia’s people of color.

June 8, 2020 - 10:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, March for Justice, covid-19.

While Batavia City Manager Martin Moore focused on the professionalism of local law enforcement during the “March for Justice” outside of the City Centre on Sunday, City Council President Eugene Jankowski zeroed in on the protesters’ “genuine love of the community.”

Speaking at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting at City Centre Council chambers, Jankowski said he was impressed by the passion and positive attitudes that were exhibited during an event marked by chants and signs calling for racial equality.

“One of the things that I really took home from that event yesterday is that everybody there was in a good positive mood … and there’s really a genuine love of the community there,” Jankowski said in a brief report to his colleagues. “They were shocked, at least that’s what they told me, … that people thought they might hurt the community because they love it.”

Prefacing his remarks by noting that he was invited by organizers to attend, Jankowski said people of color are looking for more community involvement by the police department, more police accountability to a higher authority (New York State) and fair treatment in the community.

“They feel uncomfortable in businesses, and I’m not sure how we can address that, but some of the members of the march feel like they are looked at differently when they go into a business,” he said. “They (say they) are treated like a drug dealer or a criminal because maybe someone of color at one point was a drug dealer or a criminal. And they feel like they get followed around, and that makes them uncomfortable.”

Jankowski said some other comments included the desire to see more minorities in local jobs, such as in the police and fire departments and school system, which may include civil service exams.

“We can get that information out and encourage people to participate,” he advised.

He encouraged citizens to contact City Council with concerns but did note that the City’s email server has been out of operation for a few days and should be fixed by the end of the week.

Moore, on the other hand, commended fire, police and public works personnel for coming together “seamlessly when it came to actually implement this plan.”

“It was clear, it was well thought out, it was well designed," he said. "Our thanks go out to our state and federal partners, and our county partners. They did a lot of work; a lot of hard work. There were a number of moving parts going on throughout the City during this event and every one of them came off, as far as we can tell, pretty seamlessly.”

The manager went on to say that City police and others from several communities and state and federal agencies “conducted themselves extremely well.”

“It was good to see us not have to bring some of the resources in that were ready to come in if they needed to. That was a relief, and it was also a relief to know that they were there,” he said.

Moore thanked everyone who participated and those who “were there to protect and serve.”

“I got to watch it from many different angles and it was very refreshing to see,” he said. “It was good to see the aftermath, which might have been a concern but, again, our law enforcement was well prepared and ready for it. Things that could have been challenging or serious weren’t.”

On another front, Moore said he spoke with a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Administration this morning and is setting up a meeting to go over COVID-19-related expenses incurred by the City as it seeks reimbursement.

He said department heads have been documenting expenses they believe will qualify to be reimbursed.

In another development, Council voted in favor of a resolution to increase the level of the City’s unassigned fund balance from 10 percent to a range of 15 to 25 percent of the general fund’s operating expenditures.

Moore pushed for the fund policy change in light of the coronavirus and its impact upon municipal governments.

“An event like COVID-19 that hammered the economy the way it did is not sufficient,” he said. “Fifteen to 25 (percent) does two things. We wanted to set ourselves a higher floor and we also want to set a ceiling to shoot for.”

He said the increase “sends a signal” to the state Comptroller’s Office, residents and auditors that the City is prepared for a worst-case scenario on the revenue side.

Council members discussed this resolution at length at its Conference Meeting last month, but for only a few minutes this time before approving it.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved an appropriation of a $554,112 grant from the state Department of Health to replace up to 75 lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins and Otis streets;

-- Approved an $18,750 contract with LaBella Associates PC of Rochester to provide administration/engineering services for a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative project to improve Jackson Square.

Council’s first face-to-face (or more appropriately, space-to-space) meeting since early March was beset by audio problems, especially on Zoom and also on Facebook Live. It did get easier to hear on Facebook Live as the meeting progressed, however.

June 8, 2020 - 2:00pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, March for Justice, Batavia City Council, batavia.
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Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski said he plans to continue the conversation started by speakers at Sunday’s Downtown “March for Justice,” assuring people of color in the community that city leaders will be open to their concerns.

“What I can say is ‘get your council person involved; we’ll help you,’ ” Jankowski said today as he prepares comments to be shared with other council members at tonight’s Business Meeting.

Council members will gather at City Hall for the first time since early March, but the public and media will not be allowed to attend – instead having to view it via Zoom videoconferencing or Facebook Live.

Jankowski said he wasn’t aware of the hesitancy among African Americans and other minorities to contact City Council.

“There are certain members of the community that apparently didn’t feel comfortable calling us, and they didn’t know why they didn’t feel comfortable calling us,” he said. “So, they want to call us now and I say, ‘Please do.’ ”

Jankowski said organizers of the protest, which drew hundreds of residents to gather in front of the City Centre and march on Main Street, invited him to attend. He and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch stood quietly by as speakers with megaphones addressed the crowd.

What the two men heard were impassioned pleas for city officials to “hear our cries … this is my community … we are uncomfortable … Black Lives Matter.”

They also heard from speakers who said they have been harassed by police, don’t feel welcome in restaurants and other public places and are fearful for their children’s safety.

“This is very emotional. I didn’t realize some of the pain that the members of our community were feeling. It definitely sparks me to work a little harder to try to drill down and find out what we can do to make everyone who lives here feel that they’re included and welcome here,” Jankowski said when interviewed by The Batavian during the event.

Victor Thomas, the protest’s key speaker, said he believes the peaceful protest was a good beginning.

“We got our message across," Thomas said. "You can see that Batavia is standing with us today – and that’s a beautiful thing. But it doesn’t stop today. Today is just a start. We’ve got to continue the conversation." 

He issued a call to “push this agenda to prove that this is our community.”

“It’s not what they said. Not with these boards on these windows. Not this negative vibe that they were sending around town about buses coming in here. This is Batavia. This has always been Batavia,” he said. “We thank you for listening to us, but we need to see some action. We will continue to march for justice.”

Jankowski said he plans to stay in touch with organizers and bring their issues to City Council.

“My belief, from what I’ve been told by the organizers, is that they are reaching out to all members of Council to create a path of communication going forward,” said Jankowski, who apparently was the only council member to attend the protest.

Heubusch acknowledged that “this is a conversation that is long overdue for all of us, I think.”

“We’re certainly going to start that conversation,” he said, calling the protesters “a bunch of good guys here and a bunch of great women that want to do the right thing. So, we’re here to help in any way we can. We want to help keep the peace and move this community forward.”

Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., a person of color, also spoke on Sunday.

Afterward, he pointed to the “pain and hurt” across the nation.

“It’s no different here in Batavia. There’s been lack of visibility of people of color in various positions,” he said, noting that 22 percent of Batavia students are either African American or Latino. “But it is important to be unified – just to let them know we’re in this together. This we have to address, and the best way to solve this is to get engaged and get involved.”

May 26, 2020 - 10:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, covid-19, Jackson Square.

Batavia City Council tonight took a step toward changing the municipality’s fund balance policy to give it more muscle and flexibility in dealing with financially stressful circumstances.

Council members agreed to forward a resolution to their June 8 Business Meeting that increases the unassigned fund balance level from 10 percent to a range of 15 to 25 percent of the City’s general fund operating expenditures.

Tonight’s meeting was conducted via Zoom videoconferencing; the June 8 meeting is scheduled to return to the City Hall Council boardroom.

Deputy Director of Finance Lisa Neary, in a memo dated May 18 to City Manager Martin Moore, wrote that she is recommending the revision “in consideration of the current economic situation the City is facing and, in an effort, to create a healthier financial outlook.”

The proposal triggered a 24-minute discussion that touched upon fund balances and reserves as well as restrictions that come with the different types of accounts.

MOORE: TIME HAS COME TO MAKE A CHANGE

“Last August, when we had our financial report we were at approximately 11.3 percent,” Moore said. “Well, we think that it’s time, particularly because of the challenges we’re facing and the impact on the unassigned fund balance, that we need to have an additional amount of unassigned in there to be able to face significant situations.”

Moore said the change is being requested to give the City a lower target to shoot for at 15 percent in unassigned funds but also to have a goal of up to 25 percent in case revenues dried up for several months or if the City faced a “significant challenge” such as a large health insurance claim.

In effect, the move could buy the City some time, with Moore stating that the 10-percent level equates to about five weeks’ worth of unassigned fund balance and that 25 percent moves the bar to three full months.

Neary said the fund balance policy “needs to be a policy that meets our best interests.”

“It seems as though coming into this COVID issue, that 10 percent really doesn’t suit our purposes," she said. "That’s not to say that we’re going to get to 15 or 25 (percent) overnight. We’re going to need a number of good years in order to hit those kind of percentages. But we need at least a policy to do that."

JANKOWSKI: GIVES US A CUSHION

Council President Eugene Jankowski said he thought it was a reasonable request, adding that bumping up the percentage would give the City a cushion if the “market drops or something wild happens like this experience.”

Jankowski mentioned that Council previously budgeted to put money into reserves, but, in light of what has transpired with the coronavirus, it would act differently now.

“Maybe we didn’t want to put that money into reserves because we needed it for everyday operating expenses,” he said. “There really is no mechanism for us to pull money out of reserve and say, ‘never mind we’re going to not use it for reserve, we’re going to put it over here.’ The reserves are reserves because they’re protected; they’re locked (for specific purposes) for a reason.”

Moore said that a conversation is taking place with local and state leaders about reserve fund options and that he plans to reach out to Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer “to allow us to deal with operating expenses and give us a reasonable time to be able to repay the reserve.”

VAN NEST: RESTRICTIONS ABOUND

City Attorney George Van Nest said the problem with reserve funds under Article 6 of the General Municipal Law is that each type of reserve fund is very restrictive as to what it can be used for, and if there’s any leftover balance as to how that can be used.

“When you get into a financial situation like this, you just don’t have the statutory flexibility that you’d hope for or want to be able to access some of those funds …,” he said.

Van Nest then mentioned a bill in the State Assembly (A10492) relating to bond anticipation notes issued from 2015 to 2021 that authorizes the expenditure and temporary transfer of reserve funds for expenses related to COVID-19, and gives an extension of repayment of interfund advances made for expenses related to COVID-19.

“This legislation is something that NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) has obviously been supporting on behalf of municipal members and something that they are tracking very closely,” he said.

Council Member John Canale asked Van Nest if the board would be able to “borrow our own money … and then pay that fund back?”

Van Nest said that a capital reserve fund could only be used for capital expenditures and that a transfer from any type of reserve could be used for COVID-related issues as long as it is repaid, with interest, within a five-year period.

Jankowski said he puts a lot of stock in reserve funding for specific projects, but it’s not a priority at the moment.

“If we would have known in January when we were doing our budget that we were going to take a hit, I don’t think any of us would have put any money into reserves,” he said. “We would have said let’s hold off in reserves this year and keep the money in our fund balance or in our fund, not in reserves, in the event we go short somewhere, then we have the money.”

NEARY: RESCINDING MAY BE AN OPTION

Neary said that she believes that Council has the power to rescind a prior authorization to fund reserves in the 2020-21 budget, leading Van Nest to say that he would look into such a measure.

Canale wrapped things up by saying he wanted to know “for a fact what our options would be.”

“It’s about being prepared for the worst,” he said. “And I think at this point we really need to. I’m doing it on a personal level as well. I’m preparing for the worst and making sure that I have funds available if I need to during a second wave of this thing.”

In other action, Council approved a resolution amending the City’s investment policy to add BankonBuffalo (formerly Bank of Akron) as a designated depository. The resolution was immediately forwarded from the Conference Meeting to a Special Business Meeting set up tonight exclusively for this item.

In explaining the reasoning for the move, Moore said that the City has a chance to get a “more favorable” interest rate of around .75 percent from BankonBuffalo by investing liquid funds that aren’t immediately needed but could be accessed if necessary.

City Clerk Heidi Parker said the resolution was expedited to get BankonBuffalo “in there so we can move quickly in investing this money.”

Future policy changes would allow investments to be made without having to wait “for a Council meeting to come up in case it is a bank that is not listed as one of our designated depositories,” she said.

Jankowski said he had no problem with the resolution, but asked for additional modifications in the wording of the policy that included “some kind of checks and balances” to make sure that more than one person is involved in the process.

He suggested that Parker, Moore, Neary and Assistant Manager Rachael Tabelski all have a say in these types of investments and the financial institutions to be utilized.

Also, as previously reported on The Batavian, Council moved to the June 8 meeting a resolution that spells out a $554,112 grant the City received from the NYS Department of Health’s Lead Service Line Replacement Plan.

The grant will enable City crews to replace up to 75 lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins and Otis streets on the City’s Southside.

DPW Director Matt Worth said the grant requires no match from the City and the only cost a homeowner would incur is if crews were unable to make a connection from the curb shut-off into the house likely due to a deteriorating pipeline.

(Click here to see the previous story.)

Another resolution forwarded to the June 8 meeting was a motion to obtain a firm to provide administration/engineering services for a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative project to improve Jackson Square.

Worth said the deadline for firms to respond to the City’s request for quotation is Wednesday.

He also reported that the City Centre mall roof replacement project is about 35 to 40 percent complete and he expects it to be done within 30 days.

“Hopefully, the buckets will be gone by the end of June,” Jankowski quipped.

May 26, 2020 - 2:33pm

The City of Batavia has tapped into a New York State program designed to help municipalities “get the lead out.”

Batavia City Council members, at their Conference Meeting via Zoom tonight, are expected to hear from Public Works Director Matt Worth about a $554,112 grant the City has received from the NYS Department of Health’s Lead Service Line Replacement Plan.

Worth said he and his staff have developed a work plan that is designed to replace 75 lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins and Otis streets on the City’s Southside.

“We suspect that 20 to 30 percent of our residential services may still be lead -- from the water main to the curb shut-off,” Worth said. “We have never observed it from the curb shut-off into the house.”

He said that City crews will be conducting vacuum excavations this summer in anticipation of construction starting as early as this fall and no later than next spring. The City awarded the engineering contract to GHD of Buffalo.

Worth said about $500,000 will be available after subtracting engineering costs.

“We’ll try to preserve as much as we can because every dollar we save on that side is maybe one more service we can do,” Worth said. “The vacuum excavation on the front end is being done all out of City costs – we’re not trying to use the grant money – so we can preserve as much of that grant money as possible to do as many services as we can.”

Lead was commonly used in the 1940s and ‘50s, Worth said, before giving way to galvanized pipe, copper, plastic and lead-free brass.

“Nothing that we use now contains any lead in it in the water industry,” he advised.

Worth said lead isn’t a significant health issue in water systems because the “water system creates a coating on the inside of the lead service, so the water does not come into contact with the lead. So, we don’t typically see concentrations of lead in people’s water when we test it.”

He said the City’s treated water is a little higher on the pH scale, and that tends to make it less corrosive.

“If you have water that is on the lower side of the pH scale, it can be more acidic and corrosive, and that’s where you will have a bigger issue with lead coming into people’s homes through the water,” he explained.

The NYS Lead Service Line Replacement Plan identifies grant recipients based on criteria included in the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017.

According to the DOH website, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that drinking water contaminated with lead can contribute to 20 percent or more of a person’s total exposure to lead, and infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 percent to 60 percent of their total exposure to lead from drinking water.

Funds from the grant can cover engineering fees (planning, design and construction), legal fees, municipal administration fees, construction (materials, equipment, workforce) and site/property restoration.

May 11, 2020 - 10:49pm

The Genesee Country Farmers Market Inc. suddenly has become quite a lightning rod for discussion at Batavia City Council meetings.

City Council tonight gave its go-ahead for the market to conduct business again this year at the east side of the parking lot on Alva Place and Bank Street, but not before a 25-minute debate that focused on the practice of allowing food truck vendors to conduct business on the market grounds and at other downtown locations.

Council members, at their April 27th meeting, tabled the nonprofit’s application to operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30, citing the need for clarification of the organization’s address and financial arrangement.

The next day, Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, which supports the GCFM, provided an email from Sharon Brent, the market’s treasurer, which appeared to answer Council’s questions.

Fast forwarding to tonight, several Council members brought up other issues concerning the market, with the subject of food trucks dominating the talking points.

“I don’t know if any of you have received any comments from local restaurateurs but I have in the past in regard to the food vendors that are allowed to come into the farm market and sell food there as far as prepared food like the food truck, things of that nature,” John Canale said. “Some of our restaurants that are in the BID district are concerned that these people are coming in and they’re able to sell food at lunch time, which is actually taking away lunch business from a lot of our downtown restaurateurs.”

Canale said restaurant owners, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, are “fighting for business” and food trucks will just make it that much more difficult for them. He went on to say that the farmers’ market is “a wonderful thing” but still called for eliminating food vending trucks at the market.

Robert Bialkowski then asked a series of questions about the farmers’ market operation – How much of the parking lot can they use, what does the $50 membership fee cover, who is the president and vice president, and how much is spent on advertising?

He also suggested that Council should treat event applications in the same way they do resolutions.

“I really feel that we should handle it like any other business item,” he said. “If we all agree to move it from conference to business, then at the business meeting we would vote on it. That’s just my personal opinion."

City Attorney George Van Nest said he was of the opinion that Council might be imposing stricter requirements upon the farmers’ market compared to other requests.

“Traditionally, it’s been a situation where the City has looked at a limited set of information,” he said. “I just have a slight concern that we’re going fairly far afield here for a particular event application and treating this one a little differently than we would other event applications.”

The conversation returned to food trucks with Council President Eugene Jankowski mentioning that he received an email from Kemp on March 11th asking about the possibility of restricting food trucks from downtown on specific days of the week -- with the exception of the farmers’ market. He shared news that Buffalo and Rochester have recently passed a measure designed to limit food trucks parking near restaurants.

After Rose Mary Christian noted that food trucks have to pay sales tax, Jankowski suggested putting the issue back into the BID’s hands.

“That to me would be more of an internal BID issue than it is for Council to get involved,” he said. “These (applications) are a way to give us a heads-up so that we can provide a service to all the people who are going to be there as well as the community to make sure that we’re not conflicting … that we’re not blocking their progress.”

Canale agreed that the matter should be handled through the BID.

“I think it’s a matter of the BID realizing that a lot of these downtown restaurants are challenged by having more food vendors come downtown and be able to sell food downtown at the lunch hour that aren’t having to pay the BID assessment (as well as property taxes),” he said.

Patti Pacino, who along with City Manager Martin Moore serves on the BID board, said “if these owners are concerned, I’d rather they take it to the BID board than try to take it to City Council, because we’re only going to turn around and take it back to the BID board.”

Jankowski then suggested that Moore contact Kemp to define the areas of concern and discuss it again at a future Council meeting.

“Maybe (we need to) modify the City Code for the food vendor truck to not be right in the middle of the BID area where they’re paying taxes or the assessment, and on top of that, they’re parking right in front of a restaurant,” he said.

That prompted a sharp response from Christian.

“Actually, it’s called competition. Center Street Smoke House has a food truck and he’s all over. He not only pays sales tax but he pays property tax …,” she said. “I think you’re opening up Pandora’s Box if you decide to do this. Like I said, it is competition and I know about the food truck because I had the first one in Batavia.”

She added that the City could face a lawsuit “if you’re going to continue on with this nonsense.”

“Nobody makes anyone go to those trucks; nobody makes anyone go to a restaurant. It’s a choice – freedom of choice,” she said, prompting Al McGinnis to respond in agreement.

"We should stay out of it," he said. "I think Rose Mary is right.”

In the end, Council approved the application but instructed Moore and Pacino to address Kemp’s email as a courtesy to the BID, an entity with close ties to the City.

May 11, 2020 - 8:28pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, T.Y. Lin International.

City of Batavia officials are recommending a familiar face, so to speak, to handle the engineering and design work for the federally funded pavement rehabilitation of Richmond and Harvester avenues.

Public Works Director Matt Worth reported at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting via Zoom videoconferencing that T.Y. Lin International Group of Rochester has been selected from a pre-approved state Department of Transportation list of engineering firms, with the expectation that preliminary and advanced designs will be completed by early next year.

Worth said the contract has yet to be reviewed by the DOT or the city attorney, but noted that it should be ready for Council to move forward at its next meeting on May 26.

“T.Y. Lin presented a well thought out approach to the project with a very good project team,” said Worth, who headed a selection committee that included City Manager Martin Moore, Maintenance Superintendent Ray Tourt and Water Superintendent Bill Davis. “Their last large project with us was the Walnut Street Reconstruction Project and they also were used for the Ellicott Street streetscape project and all of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District streetscape projects.”

Batavian Robert Radley, PE, is the company’s senior vice president and U.S. East Region director.

“We were very pleased when we heard the good news that TYLI had been selected," Radley said. "It has always been our great pleasure to work with the City of Batavia DPW team, and we look forward to rehabilitating Richmond and Harvester Avenue(s)."

The scope of the project is the renovation of Richmond Avenue from State Street to Oak Street and for the entire length of Harvester Avenue (from East Main Street to Ellicott Street). Following the design phase, the schedule lists solicitation of construction bids in the winter of 2020 and into 2022 and overhaul of the roads in the summer of 2022.

While the total cost is anticipated to be $2,040,900, the City will be responsible for only 5 percent – around $102,000 – after applying the CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) and Marchiselli funding streams, Worth wrote in a memo to City Council.

Worth said he is confident in T.Y. Lin’s ability to successfully complete the necessary design work, based on previous experience, qualifications and project understanding. He said that terms of the contract come into play following the selection process.

Council did vote on one resolution related to the renovation -- unanimously approving an agreement with the state DOT to appropriate $358,000 up front to cover 100 percent of the federal and non-federal share of preliminary engineering, design and right-of-way incidentals.

“The fees and contract are negotiated once the firm is selected based on the scope of work and estimated hours,” Worth said. “It is not just the budget amount of $358,000 but the final number will likely be close. Billings are done on actual hours charged.”

Dennis Kennelly, T.Y. Lin’s project manager, said his street design team of about eight professionals is finalizing its strategy, with initial tasks to include contracting with a surveyor and analyzing the core of the pavement.

“Our work will focus on getting the pavement in shape, checking out the sidewalks and bringing ramps at intersections up to standards and codes, per ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), providing for bike lanes and any other condition that is substandard,” said Kennelly, who also played a lead role in the previous City of Batavia projects.

The plan calls for a 3-inch milling and overlay treatment with fibers, along with milling and resurfacing with a hot mix asphalt course. Additional work includes miscellaneous spot pavement repairs, curb repairs, ADA compliant curb ramps, and shared bicycle lane pavement markings.

Kennelly said that once the design work is done, his firm will set up an informational meeting for the public.

On another front, Council members discussed the possibility of returning to City Hall for the May 26th meeting, but decided to stay with the Zoom videoconference setup for at least one more time. They are hoping to return to face-to-face conferences on June 8th, utilizing "social distancing" protocol.

May 4, 2020 - 11:22am

City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth is hopeful that the City Centre roof alternations and replacement project will resume sooner rather than later.

“We’re just waiting for a little bit of clearance (from New York State regarding work guidelines) and a little bit of good weather for that to move forward,” Worth said, talking about a $664,080 contract the City forged with Grove Roofing Services Inc. of Buffalo.

Close to a year ago, City Council selected Grove Roofing to replace several sections of concourse roof and the skylights, a project that will encompass about 80 percent of the roof, Worth said.

The roofers had delivered some materials and we’re just about to start the tear-off when the COVID-19 shutdown came.

“They tried to do some things that they could do safely – like putting up safety barriers and things like that, but held off getting into the project, in accordance with the (state) directives,” Worth said.

The project entails removing the existing insulation and roof material, installing new insulation and a new rubber membrane roof.

Worth said about 5 percent of the job will deal with replacing the metal roof deck beneath the roof “that we know is deteriorated – an area down by Sunny’s (Restaurant) and a wing down off of City Hall by Dr. Yaeger’s (office).”

The project is being paid for by funds taken from the City’s Facility Reserve.

In mid-April, Council voted to take $30,000 from the Facility Reserve (which was at $238,000) to cover unexpected construction costs.

A recent design change with the skylight roof covering resulted in an additional expense of $13,040. The remaining nearly $17,000 will be available in case of a condition change that needs to be addressed right away once the main roof construction work starts, Worth said.

April 28, 2020 - 11:38am

The treasurer of Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Inc., has responded quickly to the Batavia City Council’s request for more information about the organization as it looks to operate the market at the Alva Place parking lot beginning in June.

GCFM Treasurer Sharon Brent, of Schwab Farm Market in Gasport, sent an email to City Council this morning after being advised by Beth Kemp, director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, of issues that arose at Monday night’s Council meeting and were reported on The Batavian.

Brent wrote that she has been treasurer of the corporation for 15 years and uses the mailing address of P.O. Box 303, Gasport, NY, 14067 because that is the post office closest to her residence. She also said that the previous treasurer lived in Oakfield, and that’s why an Oakfield mailing address was listed.

She said all money collected from “stall rent” is used to pay a market manager, advertising, supplies, permits, postage and insurance.

Total income in 2018 was $28,526.65 and expenses were $27,406.32, leaving a net income of $1,120.33.

In 2019, the numbers were $25,857.05 and $25,946.05 for a net loss of $89.

“Any profits stay with the corporation and are used the next year for more advertising or other increased costs or saved for unknown expenses in the future,” she wrote, adding that the GCFM files IRS form 1120 each year.

Brent also pointed out changes in the operation of farmers’ markets this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic as issued by the state Department of Agriculture.

The current requirements are:

-- No forms of entertainment; no cooking demonstrations or sampling; no craft or non-food vendors, except soap or hand sanitizer; space out vendors as much as possible; minimize amount of food on display with customer access; increase the number of handwashing stations and make hand sanitizer available.

-- Manage customer traffic within the market to eliminate congregating and to promote social distancing. At this time masks must be worn by vendors and customers if social distancing cannot be kept.

-- Prepackage raw agricultural products such as apples, potatoes, onions, etc. to the extent possible. All baked goods must be prepackaged.

Brent wrote that board members are working on how to implement these guidelines and any changes that come.

The market is scheduled to be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30.

April 27, 2020 - 10:27pm

Update: April 28, 12:30 p.m.

City Manager Martin Moore specified that the $40,000 sales tax loss referred to in the story is for the full fiscal year and only related to reductions caused by sales tax revenues directed to NYS hospital payments.

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

Without getting into specifics, City Manager Martin Moore tonight said he and departmental leaders are crafting a multilevel plan that “protects core services” and, hopefully, jobs while bracing for what could be jarring hits to the municipality’s bottom line in the coming weeks.

Speaking at Batavia City Council’s Zoom Videoconference Meeting, Moore said lessons he learned from previous economic slumps are guiding his approach to managing City income and expenses in this time of uncertainty fueled by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“(This is) based on personal experience in dealing with oil boom and bust cycles, but it applies somewhat here,” Moore said. “That is to have the ideas and the things in place, so that when we see we’re going to hit certain revenue reductions, we’re not scrambling around figuring out what we’re going to do. We’re going to have it already laid out.”

Moore compared the current situation in Batavia (as well as Genesee County and its towns and villages) to “the last time that I went through a three-year time period at a previous location, where revenues went way down,” he said.

“We set up a four-stage at that particular incident, and we ended up in stage three of four,” he recalled. “That taught an important lesson that when you get a deep cycle type of downturn like we’re dealing with here … not just planning for what we have now but planning for what we could be looking at (if it goes to) B, C, D or E. We’re protecting our core services by doing it this way -- our core business services and our core services to the public.”

Moore said the “good news” is the City has received about $1.5 million in state Aids and Incentives to Municipalities funding thus far, with another $250,000 due in September. The bad news is that sales tax revenue is estimated to be down by about $40,000 “that was over and above the AIM aid reduction on the sales and use tax that goes to towns and villages.”

He also said the City’s immediate cash flow is in “pretty good shape,” payroll is being met and bills are being paid.

“With that said, we are still being cautious with our future purchases,” he said. “If something is going to happen, it needs to be paid for with grants; it needs to be paid for with donations. … We’re looking for cost savings.”

He also said there are no plans at this time to furlough or lay off employees.

“One question that has been asked quite often, is the City going to be furloughing or laying off any employees right now? Is there an announcement tonight? The answer is no,” he said. “We are taking a look at the part-time employees’ side. When do we need to start capping that? When would we need to start having conversations with union bodies if we got below a certain level of reduction (20-30 percent range)?”

Moore said he will be meeting (by videoconferencing) with department heads on Wednesday to discuss strategies at various levels of reduced revenue.

“If it looks like we’re going to hit a 15 percent revenue target reduction, we’ve got certain things we need to do. If we’ve got 30 percent reduction in revenue, there’s certain things we need to do,” he said, noting that he pledges complete transparency to Council and the public. He also said that planning for different scenarios now will help the City develop its budget for 2021-22.

Moore warned that all state aid is subject to being recalled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with the first of several decision-making dates set for the end of this month.

“So, we’re watching this week to see where the hammer, so to speak, is going to drop as far as holding back on aid to municipalities,” he said.

Council President Eugene Jankowski said he’s keeping his fingers crossed that the picture isn’t as bleak as some are predicting.

“I’m hoping their estimates are overzealous and that we’re going to be closer to even line than we are going to be in debt,” he said.

Richmond, Harvester road work projects move forward

In other action, as reported in a preview story on Saturday on The Batavian, Council discussed two resolutions pertaining to the rehabilitation of Richmond and Harvester avenues, scheduled for the summer of 2022 – an agreement with the State Department of Transportation to pay $358,900 for preliminary engineering, design and right-of-way incidentals and the procedure to select an engineering firm.

Following the brief discussion, the resolutions were forwarded to the May 11 Business Meeting for a formal vote.

Public Works Director Matt Worth said this is the “first step” in a $2 million, multifaceted process to fix the entire length of Harvester, and Richmond from State Street to Oak Street.

Richmond is the street “we get the most comments on as far as condition issues,” Worth said.

With the application of federal and state funding, the expense to the City would be slightly more than $102,000 – or about 5 percent of the total cost.

Worth said the City can not move the date of construction forward since funding is controlled by the federal government, but did mention, in response to a question from Council Member Robert Bialkowski, that City crews are ready to patch and repair “to hold the street together” until then.

“We have been waiting for the hot mix asphalt plants to open up, which they have, and we’ve been looking forward to days when it doesn’t rain all day,” Worth said. “Richmond Avenue will receive a more intensive patching or crack repair, if you will.”

Worth, in conjunction with the Moore, said he reduced the 50 percent (of the workforce) requirement and we are looking to reallocate the highway crew, and whether we bring that up or move that around to make it more efficient, that’s something we’re looking at right now.”

Jankowski said the state is giving municipalities “leeway” when it comes to getting highway and construction crews back to work.

As far as the project engineer is concerned, Worth did not disclose the name of firm that has been selected but did say that 10 companies responded and the pick will be shared with City Council prior to the next meeting.

Moore noted that the 10 who submitted bids were “high-quality firms hungry for the work.”

In other developments:

-- Council members agreed to table an application from Genesee Country Farmers Market to run the market this year on the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street after Bialkowski asked why documents submitted listed an Oakfield address and Schwab Farms of Gasport.

Beth Kemp, director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, said the BID supports the GCFM, which she said is “its own entity (operating) in collaboration with the BID.”

Kemp serves as secretary on the GCFM board and filled out the application for the farmers market, which is set to run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 5 through Oct. 30.

The BID receives no revenue from the endeavor, Kemp said, adding that proceeds from vendor fees go to GCFM to cover the cost of running the market. She also said the GCFM recently hired a new market manager.

Jankowski picked it up from there, stating that the farmers market is using City property and that he “thought it (proceeds) were going to the BID.” He also asked if the GCFM was making a profit.

The discussion was put on hold until the May 11 meeting, with expectations of ironing out any issues prior to opening day.

-- Bialkowski also had questions about insurance coverage for the “Beertavia” event, a craft beer festival promoted by the BID that is scheduled for 2-6 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the same location.

“I’m not for it or against it, I just have concerns about liability,” he said, adding that the only way to full indemnify the City was to have all vendors submit a certificate of insurance listing the City of Batavia as an additional insured and showing dram shop coverage in order to serve alcohol.

Kemp said the BID applies for a one-day permit and holds its own liability insurance plus pays for an additional endorsement, plus each vender supplies a certificate of insurance listing the BID and the City of Batavia as additional insured.

She also said all of the brewers provide dram shop documentation.

“We have turned away vendors in the past” (that have not had proper insurance), she said. “We also put up perimeter fencing and provide additional security to check IDs.”

April 25, 2020 - 8:53am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, CHIPS, Marchiselli funding.

The City of Batavia is getting its ducks in a row in anticipation of a $2 million rehabilitation of Richmond Avenue and Harvester Avenue in the summer of 2022.

Memos from Public Works Director Matt Worth to City Manager Martin Moore provide backup to a pair of draft resolutions:

-- The first one authorizing an agreement with the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to appropriate $358,000 up front to cover 100 percent of the federal and non-federal share of preliminary engineering, design and right of way incidentals;

-- The second one approving the selection of an engineering firm to oversee the preventive maintenance project.

Both resolutions are earmarked for discussion at City Council’s Conference Meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday via the Zoom videoconferencing service.

In a memo dated April 17, Worth wrote that the City was awarded federal highway funding through the Genesee Transportation Council for the renovation of Richmond Avenue from State Street to Oak Street and for the entire length of Harvester Avenue (from East Main Street to Ellicott Street).

The project is expected to cost $2,040,900, with the City’s share at 20 percent of the total expense.

Worth went on to explain that the City’s final share will drop to around $102,000 (5 percent) due to the utilization of two funding streams -- CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) and Marchiselli, the primary state aid match to Federal Highway Administration-funded projects.

The proposed schedule shows the awarding of an engineering contract this spring, preliminary design completion by the fall, advanced design completion in 2021, solicitation of construction bids in the winter of 2021 (into 2022) and the actual work in the summer of 2022.

Work will include a 3-inch mill and overlay treatment with fibers and milling and resurfacing with a hot mix asphalt course. Additional work includes miscellaneous spot pavement repairs, curb repairs, curb ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and shared bicycle lane pavement markings.

In a memo dated April 20, Worth wrote that the City solicited NYSDOT-approved engineering firms last month and accepted proposals through April 21.

A team of City employees, headed by Worth, is prepared to make a recommendation to Council at Monday’s meeting, with the expectation that it will be approved by the board at its May 11th Business Meeting.

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