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November 23, 2020 - 1:19pm

Having a role in the successful completion of a municipal project has provided a sense of satisfaction to City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth, but it pales in comparison to his appreciation of and attachment to the people he worked with over the past 34 years.

“The people I have worked with I just can’t say enough about. I’m getting all choked up thinking about it, really,” Worth said during a telephone interview with The Batavian as he winds down a distinguished career with the city.

Worth’s official retirement date is Jan. 15, but his last day on the job – due to time earned – is Dec. 11.

His final City Council meeting is tonight’s Conference session at the City Centre Council Board Room, where he will receive a proclamation from lawmakers, honoring him for his dedicated service.

The 56-year-old lifelong resident of the Pembroke area said he has a special place in his heart for the people who believed in him and labored by his side.

“A lot of people gave me an opportunity or a chance, and I can’t thank them enough. I can name names, but I don’t want to leave anyone out,” he said.

Still, he first mentioned (the late) Dennis Larson, the former Public Works director who hired him back in March 1987 – “Dennis is someone I always thought the world of,” Worth said – and he thanked John Schaefer (former Water & Wastewater superintendent) and Len Walker (former Public Works director) for their expertise.

City Workers a Close-Knit Group

When it comes to his coworkers, Worth said they were like family.

“Those guys were special. When there was a water main break in the middle of the night and you’re out there in the freezing cold, you counted on each other to be there for each other,” he said. “Jim Ficarella and Bill Davis (retired and current Water & Wastewater superintendents, respectively), and the crews. There’s a sense of camaraderie and friendship and professionalism that I will always treasure.”

Worth began his career with the city – following a short stint with the Genesee County Highway Department – as an engineering technician and was promoted to deputy superintendent of water/wastewater in 1999. He took over as superintendent of that department three years later.

In July 2015, he was appointed Public Works director. The promotion put him in charge of the Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

During his tenure, he has been involved in numerous public works projects, including street reconstruction, water and sewer plant upgrades, and capital infrastructure planning.

“The projects that we’ve done over the years are the things that I’ve really craved,” he offered. “A project gets done and there’s a tangible change that happened – something that you can really see … the road got plowed, the road got paved, a new water line got put in, whatever that may be.”

Keeping a Low Profile is Just Fine

He said he understands how important public works are to residents and doesn’t mind flying under the radar.

“If we’re doing it right, the people don’t notice you’re doing it. There’s a certain satisfaction in that,” he said.

“When the kids come through on tours of things, we tell them that Public Works is the department that you touch and feel every day. You’re using the streets, you’re walking on the sidewalks, you’re using the water, you’re flushing the toilet. That interaction is very real with the services that Public Works provides compared to fire and police and other big departments that really you don’t have to interact with them, even though they’re a higher profile profession.”

In January 2018, Worth took over as interim city manager after the departure of Jason Molino and served in that role for about 10 months.

“That year of me being upstairs as the interim city manager, I really missed DPW,” he said. “The city manager position is more of a higher-level planning, with stuff more in the future and not readily tangible, so that’s why I was quite ready to get back to Public Works.”

He did such a fine job as interim city manager that he was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year in the Administrative Management Category.

Worth said he had plenty of support during that time.

“I was very fortunate that I had really good people (department heads) when I was upstairs here – Ray Tourt (Department of Maintenance), Jim Ficarella, the two superintendents – they really ran the Public Works department for those 10 months, and did a really good job as there were projects still going on,” he said. “A lot of people pulled together, understanding that there was a vacuum and we all needed to help each other to get through it.”

Looking Back at Specific Projects

When asked about specific projects that stand out, Worth mentioned the new sewer plant construction, a $45 million venture that took place during his first year with the city.

“Being a young kid who doesn’t know a darn thing and walking into a huge project like that, I got exposed to so many different aspects of construction and large-scale projects,” he said. “What an opportunity to observe that and learn from that. That was on the very front end, but that sticks in my mind.”

He also said mentioned the Main Street reconstruction in 2003 and 2004 – “the road was in such bad shape,” he noted – and talked about some of the benefits of the smaller, residential street projects.

“You got to meet the people who lived there and you built relationships with them,” he said. “I remember some older people who lived on the street – by the end of the summer they were giving me canned tomatoes and offered to pray for you at night. That was a fun aspect of working in a municipality. You get to meet the people.”

As far as unfinished business, Worth remembers his first day on the job, performing survey work on Oak Street to prepare for a new street, Cecere Drive.

“It was a small subdivision with a few houses to be built there, but there ended up being a conflict over some property deeds or something, and that project never happened. That one never made it to the finish line.”

Hope Ahead for the City Centre Mall?

Worth acknowledged some “missed opportunities” in regard to building a new police station, but is pleased to see that it finally is on track.

“We always were going to do something, but something would come up and it got put off. The police need a new headquarters. The old City Hall (former Brisbane Mansion) is about 200 years old and trying to function as a police station.”

He said he is optimistic that a solution to the City Centre Mall dilemma is near. He called the initial concept of the Genesee Country Mall a mistake, “having all of these individual ownerships with this common hallway in the middle of it.”

“I was involved in that on several different levels over the years. I think frustration would be the word here, but I think moving forward there are opportunities that will be very positive – considering the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) redevelopment work.”

When it was mentioned that at least the roof has been repaired, Worth said the last section is scheduled to be done in the coming year … “and then all the buckets go away, right?”

Council President: He’s Going to be Missed

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Worth deserves to enjoy his retirement, admitting “we’re going to miss him tremendously.”

“He’s done a lot of work; he’s involved in a lot of the projects. He stepped up even as assistant city manager for a time and was able to lead the ship for a couple months while we got things squared away so, he’s going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Jankowski said he is sure Worth has imparted his knowledge to put the city in position to promote his replacement from within.

“Hopefully, we’ve done our job and there are people in place to take over, but I know that Matt is that kind of guy -- a teacher and a mentor to a lot of the employees that he works with. So, I’m sure there will be somebody qualified to take the reins,” he said.

Tourt, a city employee for nearly 22 years, started out in the Engineering Bureau, working with Worth.

“They’re really going to miss him and they don’t realize how much yet. He’s been a real good boss and he’s been a great mentor and he’s been a good friend. He has really looked out for the operations of the city and always put the city first,” he said.

Worth said he intends to find another job, but is not sure of the line of work.

“I’m hoping to find somebody that has a need for an old, washed-up Public Works director, I guess,” he said, downplaying his experience. “I’m leaning toward something local. I really do enjoy living here and have lived here all my life.”

He also said that he and his wife, Joan, will have more time with the family – their grown children, Adam and Kathryn, and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3 – and continue to enjoy their walks at the Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.

“It’s a chance to give the dog some exercise,” he said.

November 20, 2020 - 4:19pm
posted by Press Release in news, city of batavia, city council.

Press release:

Please be advised there will be a City Council Conference Meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Council Board Room on the second floor of the Batavia City Centre. This meeting is open to the public. Face masks and social distancing will be required

Options for viewing the meeting:

  • Video News Service YouTube Channel and City’s Facebook (later in the evening):
  • Spectrum Cable TV Channel 1301 – Wednesday, Nov. 25th at 9 a.m. and Friday, Nov. 27th at 8 p.m.

The agenda is posted on the City website.

November 14, 2020 - 2:03pm
posted by Press Release in fire, news, city of batavia, weather emergencies, preparedness.

From City of Batavia Fire Department:

Weather emergencies can strike often times without warning and inhibiting our ability to secure basic necessities. Rescue and response agencies will be responding but may not be able to assist immediately depending upon the severity of the event.

As a result, the City of Batavia along with the Department of Public Works, Fire and Police departments would like to remind all City residents to take the necessary precautions and preparedness steps to be ready in the event of an emergency situation.

In the event that there is a loss of power, practice energy conservation to help the power company avoid rolling blackouts.

  • Keep your car’s fuel tank at least half full as gas stations use electricity to operate the fuel pumps.
  • Ensure that you know how to manually release your electric garage door opener.
  • Always use a surge protector to protect your computer and other electronic devices from an energy surge.
  • Avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer doors as food will remain fresh for up to several hours after the power goes off.
  • Lastly, if the power outage is expected to last for several days or more, consider relocating to a shelter or a friend or family member’s home if possible.

In the event that you plan to use a portable generator, be sure that you operate it outside only. Do not operate the generator within the home or garage and do not hook it up directly to your home’s wiring. Instead, connect the equipment and appliances that you wish to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

We also recommend that you have the following items available: Fully charge cell phone with a spare power block, battery-powered radio, flashlight with spare batteries, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, blankets and sleeping bags, personal toiletry and first-aid kits.

Lastly, having a family emergency plan along with an emergency supply kit will assist you in managing many different types of weather-based emergencies.

Additional information on specific types of emergencies can be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Red Cross websites as well as on their apps for smart phones.

As always, you can contact the City of Batavia Fire Headquarters for any questions that you may have at (585) 345-6375.

November 10, 2020 - 6:22am

youth_board_.jpg

If City Council Member John Canale has his way, there is no way Batavia’s youth programming will be cut.

Canale, attempting to allay the concerns of City Youth Board representatives David Twichell and Paula Fischer, said he sees the city’s youth program as “an invaluable gem” and said he would do everything in his power to continue or expand offerings to its young residents.

Speaking at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Canale responded to public comments by Twichell, Fischer and Fischer’s son, Andrew, who are troubled about a proposal to contract with the Genesee Area Family YMCA for city youth services.

Currently, the city has a contract with Genesee County to partially a fund a youth bureau executive director, Jocelyn Sikorski, but a resolution – currently placed on hold by the County Legislature – would dissolve that agreement and compel City Council to devise a new plan for youth services.

“Much like Paula, (who) spoke about the youth programs in the city, I grew up every day of my life as a kid at MacArthur Park on Monday through Friday, all day there except for lunch because when I was a kid, they didn’t provide lunch,” Canale said. “The youth bureau is an invaluable gem that we have here in the city, and I have no intention of decreasing the services the bureau offers.”

Canale said the cost to run the youth programs in the city “is miniscule in the whole budget picture.”

“So, I can assure anybody that is here tonight that is concerned about Council doing away with the youth bureau or doing away with the services that we provide our local youth, I can guarantee if any of my Council colleagues brought that up, I would definitely be dead set against it,” he said. “And I don’t think there is anybody here tonight that is against that.”

He then warned people about reacting solely from what they read on social media as well as The Batavian and another local news outlet.

“Don’t believe everything that you read, number one, and try not to formulate your opinion as to what the City Council’s actions are going to be based upon what you're reading on social media,” he offered.

Canale: No Discussion about Cutting Services

Canale said he didn’t recall any discussion pertaining to doing away with the youth bureau or cutting any services.

“Correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe I misunderstood or missed something, Rachael,” he said, looking at Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski. “Did Jocelyn not come to us as a county employee contracted with the city to share services? Did she not come to us and request that we cut that contract out?”

Tabelski replied, “That is correct.”

Canale responded that “for some reason, it seems like the public is under the impression that we in the city want to cut that out.”

“And the county manager (Matt Landers) also made public comment that I read that they were going to kind of leave it in our lap first to see what move we made first. I want the public to realize that this was the county that came to the city … and requested that maybe we could discontinue that contract.”

Canale said no decision has been made on the status of the contract with the county, stating that it is at the discussion stage.

“We’re looking at all possibilities and Rachael is looking into other possibilities as well as she approached the YMCA to see what they might be able to do to offer as good of services, if not better services,” he said.

He then aimed his remarks at Twichell and Fischer.

Advisory Board will be Involved

“For whatever reasons, the (Youth) board has not been in the communication circle yet, but I would only assume that at some point when the decisions are going to be made, that we would go to our advisory board and say that these are some of our thoughts (and) what do you guys think?” he said.

Canale urged people to not have a “knee-jerk reaction” to the situation based on social media or news accounts.

“This is all still in the talking stages. Nothing has happened. No programs have been cut,” he said.

The city’s youth center – the Liberty Center for Youth on City Church’s St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street – has been closed due to COVID-19 and because the city doesn’t have any youth services employees at this time.

“Maybe, like (Council Member) Rose Mary (Christian) said, 'maybe it’s time to look at that,' ” Canale said. “I don’t know. That should be part of the discussion as well. As things start to open up, we could look at that. Or now, obviously on the rise again with COVID, maybe this isn’t a good time to look at that, I don’t know.”

Youth Programming: More than Meets the Eye

Fischer, a member of the City of Batavia Youth Board for 10 years, said she has “fond memories” of the city parks’ program having attended Kibbe and Pringle parks. She is the director of school-based health programs for the University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine.

She said she has volunteered during city youth events, providing oral health education and giving out hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste to kids and families. She called Batavia a great place to raise a family due, in part, to the services it offers to its young people.

Fischer emphasized that the youth bureau “is more than just the summer rec program -- although the rec program is well-known, serving hundreds of children every summer, providing safe, fun and educational programming – including lunch, which is a big help to many families.”

She mentioned several other events and programs under the city youth bureau, including:

  • The community garden;
  • National Night Out in conjunction with the city police;
  • The Liberty Center for Youth with services provided in conjunction with the YMCA;
  • Programs run by City Church at the St. Anthony’s campus;
  • A partnership with the Batavia City School District for busing to the youth center;
  • Summer safe carnival open to the community;
  • Youth and volunteer awards banquet at Terry Hills Restaurant;
  • A partnership with the Arc of Genesee Orleans for Saturday programs;
  • Visitation at nursing homes and the Senior Center;
  • Open gym nights and grants for summer recreation tennis programs.

“All of these programs provide a sense of pride in the community to the city residents,” she said.

Fischer said she was asking City Council to work with the advisory board to address budgetary issues and “come together to see if there’s a way we can be mindful of the city budget without decimating youth services.”

“A reduced level of service may be appropriate at this time with time to rebuild in the future,” she said.

Youth Board is ‘Open, Willing to Cooperate’

Twichell, the City Youth Board president, extended an invitation to all City Council members “that we are open and we are willing to cooperate with the city, and we are willing as an advisory board to help guide the process.”

“We know … with these COVID restrictions and the tough economic times we’re facing, we know the city is facing great challenges,” he said. “But there are times when we feel that there is somewhat of a disconnect between the board and the City Council.

"I’m here tonight to open and maybe knock down some of those barriers, and tomorrow I will be putting together an email for each and every one of you that will list all of our contact information.”

He then urged Council members to reach out to the advisory board if they have any questions about youth services.

Fischer’s son, Andrew, a former youth board vice president, said he worked for the summer rec program for five years during his summer breaks from Canisius College, where he earned an MBA in Accounting.

“A lot of our youth programs, specifically summer rec, are great ways for youth in our community to interact with one another and interact with the rec leaders,” he said. “It instilled in me a sense of leadership and a sense of empathy toward some of the kids, who obviously were from tougher situations.”

He said it didn’t “sit right” with him when he heard about youth services possibly changing, and noted that he looked at past city budgets on the website and saw that the summer recreation came in below budget last year.

McGinnis Objects to Sending Letter

Prior to Canale’s comments, Council Member Al McGinnis, the city’s liaison to the youth board, said he didn’t get a copy of a letter sent by the youth board to the media last week – a letter that objected to the resolution to terminate the city/county agreement and expressed the viewpoint that contracting with the YMCA instead was a done deal. (Fischer said that McGinnis and the other Council members did receive the letter).

“If you’re an elected or public official and you’re on a board, it is incumbent upon you to make sure that everyone on the board, whether they agree or disagree, knows that correspondence is going out to the public,” McGinnis said. “If not, the public gets confused when they hear two different sets of a thing. When you do it unilaterally, and basically conduct a rogue operation, without informing everyone, it looks bad for everyone concerned.”

He added, “At the time, the board members could have spoken to us at the meeting and said 'here are our points of view – we’d like to make sure that this is heard by the public.' No one is going to censure or stop a report … We owe it to the public to speak with a unified voice, or at least if it’s not unified, everyone gets a chance to say their piece.”

Christian asked how many kids attend the youth center on Liberty Street and if the city had any youth bureau employees at the center.

Tabelski said attendance ranged between 30 and 50 – “sometimes as low as five” – and that the city had no youth program employees, other than Sikorski, who directs city, Genesee and Orleans county youth activities.

“I look down the street and I see tons of kids out there,” Christian said, referring to the Liberty Center for Youth. She also asked about costs should the YMCA get involved.

Tabelski said that, pre-COVID-19, the city and the YMCA each supplied three or four staff members at the center, depending upon the number of children there, and that the YMCA did not charge the city for those employees,

She also mentioned that the city’s program coordinator, Lydia Schauf, recently took another job with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

Could Youth Center Have Stayed Open?

Christian then questioned why the center has been closed for so long while school is in session.

“It was supposed to be because of COVID," she said. "I see people at Walmart, I see people downtown. I see them at the grocery store, I see people here. I see people everywhere in the city. Those kids could wear a mask like anyone else in the city and they, I’m quite sure, would stop anyone from coming in without a mask.

"And I’m quite sure they would be disinfecting that facility for the kids over there. And they’re playing basketball on Tuesday nights and I haven’t heard of a soul from that center who has COVID.”

After Tabelski explained that the city was unable to hire part-timers (due to a hiring freeze) and, as a result, she contacted YMCA leadership to see if that organization could provide youth services in an attempt to cut costs and “also provide the same level of service.”

“I engaged in a discussion with the YMCA if they could staff the center and until we come to any preliminary contract terms, you’ll have nothing (in the form of a resolution) in front of you,” Tabelski said. “At such point, you would have a presentation by the YMCA on the programming that they can provide for us that is the same or better than what we’re providing today at a lower cost to the residents.”

Christian’s response indicated that she wasn’t buying that explanation.

“Yeah, it was mentioned on The Batavian that we have to think of the taxpayers,” she said. “We sure as hell don’t think about the taxpayers when it comes to lights for Ellicott Street over there for the trail, especially when at 4:30 at night it’s going to be dark in the winter time and the summer time around 9 o’clock. We don’t think about salary increases either, now do we?”

At that point, Paul Viele, who was presiding over the meeting in place of City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was out of town, cut Christian off.

Tabelski: Let’s Give it Another Try

Minutes later, Tabelski directed her comments to Twichell and Fischer, stating that she came to them during an Oct. 27 meeting in “good faith with ideas on our situation and our strategy.”

“And when you attended the meeting, you sat there, you listened to what I had to say, you listened to my ideas, we had great dialogue. And I am willing to continue that dialogue with you. But I prefer we did it in a committee setting and not go around the committee setting with emails and letters outside of the people on that committee and to the media, so we can really achieve something,” she said.

Tabelski credited the youth board for its commitment to the cause, but said “we have to think differently about this.”

“I am willing to come back and sit with you guys. And this time at the meeting, please speak up because when I left that (previous) meeting, everyone was in agreement to the strategy that I was going to look into and bring to Council.”

After she finished, Fischer attempted to present a “rebuttal,” but was told that she was not allowed to do that. 

“Then I will give my rebuttal to the media and you can read it there,” Fischer said.

Following the meeting, Fischer repeated the youth board’s claim that Tabelski had indicated to them that the decision to dissolve the city/county contract had already been made, and that Sikorski had obtained a grant to direct a Safe Harbor program and “wrote herself into that and changed her job description.”

Fischer also said there is someone who was employed by the city at the youth center who is willing to return to work there.

“When Lydia resigned, they didn’t feel like they had to go back and readdress this,” Fischer said. “They said, ‘OK, great, everybody is gone, and now we can really go and outsource youth services.' ”

She said the youth board is “leery about that.”

“They outsourced the county youth director, and look where we are,” she said. “And I don’t think we’re going to have the same quality of services – and it was our feeling that we had to let the community know.”

Photo: City Youth Board members David Twichell and Paula Fischer speaking to the media following Monday night's City Council meeting. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

November 9, 2020 - 2:42pm
posted by Press Release in covid-19, news, city of batavia.

Press release:

Effective today, Monday Nov. 9, all City facilities and meeting rooms will be closed to the public in light of increased in COVID-19 positive cases in Genesee County.  

Facilities that will remain open for public business include the following:

  • City Clerk’s Office
  • DPW Administration/ Inspection Bureau 
  • Yard Waste Station

At this time, City Council meetings, Planning & Development Committee meetings and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings will remain as in-person meetings held in the Council Chamber with minimal City staff attending. The meeting will remain open to the media and public.

Anyone attending the meeting will be subject to enhanced screening protocol.

  • The City Fire Department will screen all persons entering the facility.  
  • Screening will be conducted on the second floor of City Hall in the Community Room.
  • Anyone who does not pass the temperature and symptom screening, or refuses to screen will not be allowed to enter the Council Chamber. 
  • All members of the public, and the media, need to remain masked at all times. 
  • Enhanced cleaning will continue to take place. 

Thank you for your continued support and cooperation as we all work together to keep Batavia safe.

November 5, 2020 - 3:45pm

Although Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes the Genesee Area Family YMCA could play a significant role in the future of youth services in Batavia -- enabling the city to cut ties with Genesee County to fund a youth bureau executive director, an advisory group linked to the city isn’t convinced that is the best way to proceed.

A resolution to terminate the county’s youth bureau operating agreement with the city, a contract that calls for partial payment of the salary of Jocelyn Sikorski, Genesee/Orleans and City Youth Bureau executive director, came before two Genesee County Legislature committees this week.

On Monday, the Human Services Committee approved the measure, sending it to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for a final vote before being forwarded to the full legislature for ratification.

Ways & Means decided to table the resolution, however, minutes after a letter from the City Youth Board opposing the dissolution of the inter-municipal agreement found its way onto The Batavian and, likely, into the hands of Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg.

No one on the committee would comment when asked why the resolution was being tabled, but it is clear that the Youth Board’s opposition as well as the committee’s desire to let the city make the first move are the major reasons.

As a result:

  • The county is stuck in a holding pattern as the city leaders work through their differences. All indications point to a public discussion in some form or another at the City Council Business Meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday.
  • Tabelski is saying that there was no indication of any disagreement from the Youth Board with her proposal for the city to go in a different direction – looking at the YMCA to provide youth services -- and cut the $20,000 annual expense to help fund the executive director’s position.
  • The City Youth Board, in its letter, contends that it was not afforded an opportunity “to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager … prior to her decision.”

County Manager Matt Landers said he is dismayed over the situation.

“With any board or organization that dedicates so much time toward improving the community, it is obviously not a good thing to read the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of such a board,” he said. “As far as the county’s perspective, we’re a partner with the city and we certainly want to assist the city in meeting their needs with the youth. But at this point in time, it is important that we let the city decide how they want to move forward and then we can react accordingly.”

Landers said he and the legislature agree that the city should take the lead in this matter.

“We kind of put it in their hands … instead of the county going out in front and dissolving a contract. If it’s something the city really wants to do, then that’s something that they can lead out with first.”

He also said that it could be the right time to assess the agreement and explore other options.

Landers: Time for Reevaluation?

“At the end of the day, the relationship that we had with the city for a youth director was a good idea – and it was something put in place before my time as county manager, but it was a way to share services,” he said. “With any kind of agreement, you evaluate and see if there’s a different way to do it.”

Tabelski said she articulated a “different way” during an Oct. 27 meeting with the Youth Board, whose members are Dave Twichell, president; Paula Fischer, Nick Russo, Kathryn Fitzpatrick and Kristen Gloskowski. Al McGinnis serves as the City Council liaison.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with the Youth Board to talk about the situation the city finds itself in regarding budgeting amid COVID in our current budget year, the programming that we weren’t able to perform over the summer – summer recreation – and the strategic hiring freeze at the city,” Tabelski said. “We talked about what the upcoming budget for the city was shaping up to be, which is early in the budget process.”

Tabelski said she outlined big ticket items for which the city is responsible, such as snowplowing, public works, leaf collection, yard waste services, and police and fire response, and other services such as youth programs, economic development, contracting for the operation of the Falleti Ice Arena and maintaining athletic fields (including Dwyer Stadium) for residents to utilize.

“While Council won’t look at the budget until January, right now department heads are working with vendors on pricing and setting up contracts for services with the goal of providing a budget to City Council that remains within the tax cap,” she advised. “We are fiscally responsible to the citizens of the City of Batavia while still providing services that we know residents demand from the city.”

She said financial constraints and the impact of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 summer recreation program and the ongoing closure of the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool location on Liberty Street.

Unable to Reopen Youth Center Yet

“The ability to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth is still taking time to make sure protocols are in place, barriers put up and bringing back staff. So right now, the YMCA and the city share staffing requirements for the Liberty Center for Youth to open,” she said.

Since the city has not been able to hire part-time employees (due to the hiring freeze), a discussion with the county ensued, leading to a proposal to terminate the joint agreement for youth bureau supervision.

“Knowing what our budget looks like for next year, I said that we were willing to look at that and the goal was to have the program coordinator and the assistant city manager, which is myself, take on any responsibilities needed to get the youth programs up and running, and to continue,” Tabelski said.

Currently, the city is in the midst of a job search for a permanent manager – Tabelski was hired last year as the assistant manager – and also has no youth program coordinator as Lydia Schauf resigned that position to accept another job.

“We were left basically with the commitment from the Y to help reopen the center but with no employees available to staff it,” she said.

Tabelski said she explained this to the Youth Board, emphasizing that it “was time to look at it to understand what the city might be able to do in an effort to save money and deliver the programs at the same level to the residents and potentially use the YMCA as part of the strategy that I am looking into.”

Tabelski Promotes Pact with YMCA

She said she has a high regard for the YMCA, calling it a “professional organization that has an expertise in providing recreational services in our community.”

“In my mind, it makes sense for us to look at this as a broader partnership,” she said, noting that she has kept City Council informed of her activities in relation to youth services. “This could be a huge win for the YMCA and the city.”

Tabelski said she is negotiating with the YMCA to gauge its “capacity and ability” to provide afterschool and summer recreation services for the city’s youth, and added that other communities, including Perry and Geneseo, contract with the YMCA to provide their summer programming.

She said she left the door open for City Youth Board members to contact her, Sikorski or McGinnis but, to her knowledge, that has not been done. She also said that she was not informed that a letter would be released to the media.

“At the meeting, the youth board members indicated they understood the financial hardship that the city was in, they gave examples of their workplaces having to cut and lay off people, and they indicated a willingness to continue to be involved in youth programming and services and make sure those programs continue,” Tabelski said.

The interim city manager is hopeful the city would be able to enhance its youth services by contracting with the YMCA. She also defended her stance.

“I think it is incumbent upon a good manager to look at every piece of the organization and especially when we’re faced with challenges such as COVID and employee shifting,” she said. “I guess it was a perfect storm to examine how we deliver this service and see if there was an agency, such as the YMCA, that would be more capable, have more capacity and more resources to actually deliver the program and possibly enhance that program on behalf of the city.”

Tabelski said the goal is to continue to provide youth services at no or at a minimal charge – especially for summer recreation – and is convinced there are “multiple ways that can be negotiated to do that.”

“Right now, we have a contract with City Church for the St. Anthony’s building for the Liberty Center for Youth that runs another four years,” she said. “I think that as we do some long-term planning, we certainly want to look at the interaction between the current site for afterschool and what potential there might be for the (YMCA) Healthy Living campus (one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects).”

Youth Board Reacts to 'Done Deal'

Fischer, responding this afternoon to emailed questions after talking with Twichell, said the City Youth Board’s intention was to send the letter with their concerns to City Council, but when The Batavian ran a story from the Human Services Committee meeting, it felt it was necessary to inform the public of what seemed to be a certainty.

“Once the information from the October 27th meeting was digested, it was apparent that the proposed changes to youth services would affect the quality of youth programming,” she said. “Many of the comments made by Rachel Tabelski and Jocelyn Sikorski were concerning. Ms. Tabelski was not aware of the differences between the County Youth Services and the City Youth Services. The City Youth Bureau provides direct youth programming and the County Youth Bureau does not.

“Despite the resignation of the only full-time city youth bureau employee, Ms. Sikorski was still in favor of abandoning the city program with no experienced staff remaining by ending the contract between the City and County with a year remaining. Also, Ms. Tabelski’s comment in the article, 'The city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – to the extent we that we can' was also alarming."

Fischer said the youth board did not contact Tabelski or Sikorski before sending the letter since the board is appointed by City Council and that Tabelski and Sikorski are employees and not voting members of the board.

As far as the Oct. 27 meeting is concerned, Fischer’s position is that Tabelski did receive comments from the board “regarding the outsourcing and charging for youth programming.”

“It was apparent that Ms. Sikorski had already went to the legislature and City Council with the proposal and was presented as a done deal,” she said. “When asked who would run the youth programming, the interim city manager shrugged her shoulders and said the assistant city manager, and the board asked who that would be and she said ‘me’. So, it was apparent that this was not well thought out after the resignation of the youth bureau coordinator. This sent up red flags that the youth programming was being phased out.”

The City Youth Board also does not agree with Tabelski’s plan to contract with the YMCA.

“The Board feels this would not be in the best interest of city youth,” Fischer said, adding that youth board members should be brought into the decision-making process.

“We are an advisory board. I would hope City Council would engage the City Youth Board on all matters going forward during these trying times,” she said. “The board would like to see services at the Liberty Center for Youth and the Summer Recreation Program resume once it is safe. These valuable services are less than 1 percent of the city’s budget.”

November 4, 2020 - 4:23pm

Update: 9:15 p.m.

The Genesee County Legislature's Ways & Means Committee this afternoon tabled the resolution to terminate the county's youth bureau operating agreement with the City of Batavia.

When asked the reasoning behind the action, both Legislator Gary Maha and Legislator Chair Rochelle Stein declined to comment.

Contacted tonight, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that City Council plans to address a similar resolution at its Nov. 23 Conference Meeting, but speculated that the situation may come up at next Monday's Business Meeting.

"At this point, City Council and I are considering cost-saving measures in all departments while still trying to maintain the level of services that our residents, including our youth, deserve," Tabelski said.

Previously, Tabelski reported that the city would save $20,000 in salary expenses (for Youth Bureau Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski) by ending the youth bureau agreement with the county.

While unable to confirm, it is believed the following letter also was obtained by Ways & Means Committee members prior to their decision to table the resolution.

Posted by Mike Pettinella.

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

An Open Letter to City Council on Behalf of the City of Batavia Youth Board

The City of Batavia Youth Board serves in an advisory capacity regarding youth services for the City of Batavia. At the Oct. 27 board meeting the Interim City Manager (Rachael Tabelski) was present to inform the board of the changes occurring to youth services in the City of Batavia.

Currently, the resignation of the program coordinator, the layoffs of Liberty Center staff, and the request from the current Director Jocelyn Sikorski* to end her contracted services with the City of Batavia would result in zero staff for City of Batavia Youth services.

The Youth Board is not in favor of the dissolution of the intermunicipal contract with Genesee County regarding the Youth Director position. This would be detrimental to youth services for the City of Batavia.

Although the board understands the financial concerns of the City of Batavia, the youth services budget amounts to roughly 1 percent of the City of Batavia budget. The board would have appreciated an opportunity to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager, but was not afforded that opportunity prior to her decision.

Due to the hiring freeze which has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and budget shortfalls, the Youth Board feels it is in the best interest of the City Youth programs to retain Ms. Sikorski until the end of the contract to rebuild the youth programming once it is safe to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth and resume the Summer Recreation Program provided by the City of Batavia.

The board does not feel the same level of services can be achieved by outsourcing these programs, which was suggested by the Interim City Manager or charging for these services.

The Youth Board feels an obligation to inform the community of the changes that are being proposed for youth services. Youth programming in the future, including the Summer Recreation Program, will look much different. Please consider contacting your council member regarding these changes.

Sincerely,

City of Batavia Youth Board Members,

Dave Twichell, President

Paula Fischer

Nick Russo

Kathryn Fitzpatrick

Kristen Gloskowski

********************************************

*Jocelyn Sikorski currently serves as executive director of the Genesee/Orleans County Youth Bureau and City of Batavia Youth Bureau.

Previously: County's termination of youth bureau agreement to save the City of Batavia $20K next year

November 2, 2020 - 9:33pm

The Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee this afternoon approved a proposal to end a longstanding agreement with the City of Batavia for the operation and funding of the City Youth Bureau, action that reportedly will save the city around $20,000 next year.

Jocelyn Sikorski, executive director of the Genesee/Orleans County Youth Bureau and City of Batavia Youth Bureau, presented the resolution, which will be considered by the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday and then, if passed, by the full legislature on Nov. 11.

Sikorski said the measure will eliminate the need for an executive director at the city level. She also said it is her understanding that city officials are on board with terminating the contract that was to run through Dec. 31, 2021.

“Just like the county manager (Matt Landers) met with you in executive session (about this), the interim city manager (Rachael Tabelski) met with the City Council in executive session,” she said. “It does save the city money. And they don’t need an executive director. The responsibilities can be shifted to a program coordinator position as well as to the assistant city manager position.”

Sikorski said plans call for City Council to receive a copy of the county’s resolution once it is finalized and then to consider a similar resolution at its Nov. 23 Business Meeting.

She said the city’s budget situation is a key factor in the dissolution of the agreement.

“The budget was the biggest thing, which Rachael is involved with at this point and time,” she said. “Any resolutions that go before City Council, the program coordinator can provide, and also reports to City Council – the written reports. Otherwise, a lot of my responsibilities had to do with administration with the Youth Board, the garden committee, administration of the department and other items like that. Maintaining relationship with the Y (Genesee Area Family YMCA), who is a major partner with Liberty Center (is important). The program coordinator has to establish that."

Legislator Gary Maha asked about funding sources for the city.

“I know that they’re in a tough budget issue right now …,” Sikorski said. “I think the interim city manager is looking at options but has guaranteed that youth services still will be provided for the city.”

Tabelski, contacted by telephone, agreed that it is a cost-cutting move for the city.

“The contract with the county had about 20 percent of the director’s (Sikorski) time allocated and we paid $19,525 in 2020 and are projected to pay $20,711 in 2021,” Tabelski said. “That is the contract that we’re dissolving and that will be the city’s savings.”

She said the city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – “to the extent we that we can.”

“Our current model, we do have a program coordinator and an assistant city manager. The goal is to split those duties between those two positions (which currently are vacant),” Tabelski said. “We also have the YMCA that helps staff the Liberty Center for Youth, which we haven’t reopened yet. There’s a lot of shifting and moving pieces, but we still wanted to go forward with the dissolution at this point.”

Tabelski explained that the city and county first entered into an accord in 2011 to share the youth bureau director.

“At that time, according to NYSOCFS (New York State Office of Children and Family Services), all youth bureaus had to have a director and then you received administrative dollars for having a director. At that point, it was a win-win,” she said.

In 2014, the legislation changed, she said, with the state recognizing only county youth bureaus. Thus, city, town or village youth bureaus or recreation programs had to apply for funding through the county. The two municipalities’ current agreement was renewed in 2018.

The resolution states that the county has “received additional funding from New York State for other youth bureau programming for Genesee and Orleans County youth bureau services, and in order for it to effectively implement the new programming, the county needs to terminate the existing Youth Bureau Agreement with the City of Batavia and reallocate staff resources” (effective Dec. 31, 2020).

Regarding the city’s overall financial outlook, Tabelski said it is facing a shortfall of $850,000 for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins on April 1. She said about $500,000 of that is due to a 20-percent reduction in state Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding and the remaining $350,000 is due to rising salary and health care benefits’ expenses.

For the 2020-21 (current) fiscal year, the city is showing a budget deficit of $750,000, which is less than the $2.5 million that had been forecasted.

“Massive credit to the employees and departments for the savings and cuts that they’ve made, which is part services and programs,” Tabelski said. “We didn’t have summer recreation. Certainly, it’s a savings, but we weren’t able to have programming over the summer due to COVID. A lot of things are in flux and I think all municipalities are feeling this way right now.”

Tabelski said she was grateful to the county legislature for passing a sales tax agreement with the city.

“That helps our revenue forecast to remain quite stable because we’re guaranteed to get a portion of the sales tax,” she said.

In related developments, Sikorski introduced a pair of resolutions to authorize inter-municipal agreements with Orleans County for the youth bureau operation and for the STOP-DWI public information and education component for 2021.

Orleans County will pay Genesee County $5,266.25 per quarter for a total of $21,065 for the operation of its youth bureau.

For the STOP-DWI agreement, the cost to Orleans County will not exceed $10,475 for the entire year.

Another resolution designates the following appointments to the Genesee County Youth Board:

Tessa Lazarony and Emma Osborn, youth representatives; Jay Lazarony, at-large; Paul Osborn, Oakfield/Alabama/Elba. All terms are from Nov. 1, 2020 through Oct. 31, 2023.

October 28, 2020 - 8:56am

While unable to match the specific years with the locations, Genesee Country Farmers’ Market Treasurer Sharon Brent on Tuesday confirmed that the operation featuring the “fruits” of local growers’ and merchants’ labor has been quite nomadic over the past decade and a half.

Brent, asked to comment on Market Manager Elizabeth Carr’s assertion that the market has moved 11 times in 15 years, fired off close to that many sites -- and agreed with Carr, who spoke at Monday night's Batavia City Council meeting, that moving around so much is counterproductive.

“We were out at the (Batavia) Downs and at Kmart for quite a few years. While we have been under the city’s (oversight), we were moved 11 times in 15 years. I have been to every single spot they’ve moved us to,” said Brent, a Middleport resident who owns Schwab Farm Market in Gasport.

The list of farmers’ market locations, according to Brent, include next to the “kiddie stand” at Batavia Downs (for years), the Kmart parking lot, Batavia Downs parking lot, the Alva Place parking lot (previously), the former Super Duper site next to Washington Towers, the parking lot where Wendy’s Restaurant now sits, the Angotti Beverage parking lot and in a lot behind the Genesee County Courts Facility.

“We used to be in this (Alva Place) parking lot when we had an afternoon market that was from noon to 6 p.m.,” she said. “Since then we’ve moved all around the city … and you don’t build a market that way.”

And Brent echoed Carr’s hope that City Council would keep the farmers’ market at its current location: the parking lot at Alva Place and Bank Street.

“Of all the places we have been in the city, other than where Wendy’s is right now, this is the best spot we’ve been at – as far as customers liking it, parking, traffic, everything,” she said.

Brent said she wasn’t about “to buck” the city but said she’s talked to many residents who “can’t believe they want to put a police station here.”

When asked if the farmers’ market carried any weight into City Council decisions, considering it uses the parking lot at no charge, she said her organization was not given an opportunity for input.

“We were told this is where the police station is going to be,” she said. “Did they ask us if we wanted it to be here? No. I don’t live in the city, but I can see that they want you to play nice.”

She said that city residents should have a say in the matter, something that City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said has happened by virtue of a police facility task force that convened in 2015.

“We set up a police building committee years ago of citizens of the community and we left them alone to make recommendations. They recommended a Swan Street location and the second choice was Alva Place parking lot,” he said. “The first choice fell through as the owners didn’t want to sell it to us, so the second location on that list was Alva Place.”

Jankowski said City Council is following the task force’s recommendations.

“It’s property we already own … and we will need it in another year or so when we start construction on that building,” he added. “City Council makes the executive decisions and run the City of Batavia through the city manager. If they have a problem, contact City Council.”

Jankowski said he is disappointed in the farmers’ market stance.

“We notified everybody and the time to make mention of it was several months ago before we expended a lot of resources into that direction (a feasibility study) to put the police department there,” he said. “Even so, it’s a public safety building, it’s public property that we own, and we allow the market to have an event there every year. They fill out an event application and it gets approved because the lot is not being used right now.”

He said he didn’t think there were any promises made to the market, adding that its attempt to attract a Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant fell through.

The thought of the city veering off the course of placing the new police headquarters on the Alva Place parking lot is not a good idea, Jankowski said.

“If we had to spend $500,000 for a (privately owned) building lot, that would reduce the amount of money available for the building itself,” he said.

Jankowski said the city has offered to help the farmers’ market find a suitable permanent location, and welcomes the conversation.

“I think it’s actually a good thing that we’re having this conversation because it tells me that our downtown is thriving and it tells me that property in our downtown is at a premium and that people want it because it is a good thing,” he offered. “But I think the farmers’ market is a little out of line because they have been getting the use of that property at no cost and now we need the property for a public safety building and now they’re upset about it.”

Brent said if the market has to move again, she hopes that the location is in the center of the city and “not off the beaten path.”

A call to Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District, for comment on the BID’s role in the future of the farmers’ market was not returned at the time of the posting of this story. Kemp also sits on the Genesee Country Farmers' Market Board of Directors.

The 2020 farmers’ market season opened on June 5 and the three-day operation (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Friday) concludes this week.

October 14, 2020 - 10:06pm

A decrease in the Genesee County property tax rate and a much smaller than anticipated increase in the Town of Batavia property tax rate.

That’s the latest word from the managers of both municipalities who shared developments from today’s meetings with the legislature and town board, respectively, concerning their 2021 budgets.

“We’ve had several budget meetings with our county legislature and at this point and time I’m ready to propose a county budget that has a decrease in the (property) tax rate of approximately 31 cents down to $9.80 (per thousand of assessed value) from $10.11,” said first-year County Manager Matt Landers.

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post had encouraging news as well, reporting that his current budget calls for about a 39-cent increase – from $2.45 per thousand to $2.84 – which is considerably less than the potential 88- or 89-percent increase that was bandied about a couple weeks ago.

“Everyone should thank the county legislators for their hard work to make it possible for the revenue distributions they have just made,” Post said, referring to a final 2020 payment of $6 million and a pledge to distribute $10 million in 2021 to the county’s 13 towns and six villages. “Now, we feel much better about taking $550,000 from our fund balance to make this happen.”

Both budgets are tentative and subject to change, but in all likelihood any modifications should be slight at this point.

Holding the Line Paved the Way

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she was hoping that her colleagues and management would be wrong in August (when they predicted a dire outcome).

“I’m glad we were, so we could increase this amount up to 10 million dollars,” she said of the 2021 revenue distribution, which is $2 million more than previously announced. She then applauded the efforts of everyone involved, noting that she appreciated their “work and consistency and your sticking with us.”

Landers echoed her sentiments, pointing out that the moves the legislature has made over the past six months, under the direction of Stein and former County Manager Jay Gsell, “have helped put us in a (good) position and helped me to put together this budget.”

“We’ve been able to fund our roads and bridges to the level that I’d like to fund them in 2021 … and they made a lot of good decisions … on furloughs, hiring freezes, deferring capital projects, deferring acquisitions.”

In order to lower the tax rate, Landers is proposing using about $2.3 million of the county’s $15 million fund balance. He said that is necessary due to a projected 20-percent (or more) cut in aid from New York State.

“We still don’t know if there’s going to be a stimulus for governments,” he said. “The stimulus isn’t anything I am looking toward for revenue replacement; the stimulus would benefit Genesee County primarily in that it would provide revenue to the state, and the state would not have to cut us.”

A 20-percent cut in state aid translates to a $2 million hit to the county’s budget, which will come in at around $144 million.

Sales Tax Numbers Better Than Anticipated

“As you saw in the resolution tonight (at the legislature meeting where the revenue allocations were approved), we’re going to budget $10 million of revenue distribution to our towns and villages in 2021,” Landers said. “We are projecting a small reduction in sales tax, but not anything that we would have thought six months ago. There were estimates that sales tax would be down 30 to 40 percent, but now we’re projecting a 5- to 10-percent reduction in sales tax.”

With sales tax numbers better than expected, the county is able to provide $10 million next year to support the towns and villages.

Landers said he and department heads went through the budget line-by-line during a couple Saturday morning workshop sessions and he “feels comfortable at this point submitting a budget that has roughly a 31-cent decrease in the tax rate, with a levy increase of approximately $400,000 (due to an increase in the county’s assessed value).

“I wish we could do more; I wish we could reduce taxes more,” he said. “It’s one of those (situations) where I’m glad we could come to a consensus with the legislature. I’m glad that we’ve got a balanced budget that I’m going to be proposing and once it goes from my hands to the legislature, it's their ability to modify it and amend it as they see fit.”

He said he expects the legislature to “tweak a thing or two,” but is relieved to have made it this far in the budget process.

“I’m glad to get through my first budget session. I never envisioned putting one together in a pandemic and a financial crisis, but I am glad that we are able to have a stabilized tax rate for Genesee County citizens,” he said. “I understand that it is going to utilize a little more fund balance than we like to, but that’s what the ‘rainy day’ fund is for. If we potentially didn’t have a 20-percent reduction in our state aid, we might have been able to have the possibility of further reductions (in the tax rate), which would have been great.”

Landers said the county’s fund balance is at 12 to 13 percent of its general fund expenditures – the proper level according to guidelines from the state Comptroller’s office.

The spending plan will be presented at a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 4 at the Old County Courthouse. It is slated to be adopted by the legislature on Nov. 23.

Town Supervisor Breathes a Bit Easier

Post said he expects to get a good night’s sleep tonight for the first time in months after coming out of a budget workshop this afternoon at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The town received word that it would be getting another revenue check from the county in the amount of $1 million this year and just shy of $1.7 million from the county in 2021.

While the $1.7 million is less than what board members originally had hoped for, it is enough for them to be able to allot $550,000 from the fund balance to lower the tax rate.

“That, plus the fact that our investments are beating the market rate by a factor of six times, puts us in position to do that,” Post said, letting out a sigh of relief.

He attributed the town’s ability to weather the economic storm to its collaboration with the county, City of Batavia and Genesee County Economic Development Center that has resulted in developing “multiple streams of income.”

“This all started 12 years ago … by incentivizing businesses that provide sales tax revenue,” Post explained. “All of these entities have collectively applied those principals to our community and we’re reaping the benefits.”

The town board has indicated it will conduct a special work session at 5 p.m. on Oct. 20, prior to adopting a preliminary budget on Oct. 21. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 4.

October 7, 2020 - 3:26pm
posted by Press Release in city of batavia, fire hydrant flushing, news.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Fire Department will be flushing / testing fire hydrants next Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 13 and 14 from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the general area of south of Main Street and east of Jackson Street. Homes and businesses nearby will be affected.

These tests may result in a temporary discoloration of water in that area. As in the past, please do not attempt to wash any clothing if your water appears discolored. If you do experience a discoloration of your water, run cold water for about five minutes or until clear.

This annual testing is essential to maintain the communities class III Insurance Services Office (ISO) public protection classification, and to assure that fire hydrants are operating efficiently for fire protection purposes.

Along with maintaining the fire rating, the test monitors the health of the city's water system, identifies weak areas in the system, and removes material that settle in the water lines. Checking each hydrant improves fire department personnel knowledge of the hydrant locations.

If you have any questions, or should notice a hydrant in need of repair, please contact the fire department at (585) 345-6375.

October 3, 2020 - 2:00pm
posted by Press Release in fire hydrants, city of batavia, news.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Fire Department will be flushing / testing fire hydrants on Wednesday, Oct. 7th and Thursday, Oct. 8th from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Friday, Oct. 9th from approximately 9 a.m. to noon in the general area of south of Main Street and west of Jackson Street.

Homes and businesses nearby will be affected. These tests may result in a temporary discoloration of water in that area. As in the past, please do not attempt to wash any clothing if your water appears discolored. If you do experience a discoloration of your water, run cold water for about five minutes or until clear.

This annual testing is essential to maintain the communities Class III Insurance Services Office (ISO) public protection classification, and to assure that fire hydrants are operating efficiently for fire protection purposes. Along with maintaining the fire rating, the test monitors the health of the city's water system, identifies weak areas in the system, and removes material that settle in the water lines. Checking each hydrant improves fire department personnel knowledge of the hydrant locations.

If you have any questions, or should notice a hydrant in need of repair, please contact the fire department at (585)  345-6375.

October 1, 2020 - 2:28pm
posted by Press Release in hydrant flushing, news, city of batavia.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Fire Department will be flushing fire hydrants on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 5 and 6, from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In the areas north of Main Street and west of Bank Street. Homes and businesses nearby will be affected.

These tests may result in a temporary discoloration of water in that area. As in the past, please do not attempt to wash any clothing if your water appears discolored. If you do experience a discoloration of your water, run cold water for about five minutes or until clear.

If you have any questions, or should notice a hydrant in need of repair, please contact the fire department at 345-6375.

September 29, 2020 - 1:02pm

Although the City of Batavia’s general fund ended with a deficit for the 2019-20 fiscal year, the municipality is in good shape when it comes to fund balances – not only for the general fund, but for the water and sewer funds as well.

That is the assessment of Laura Landers, certified public accountant with Freed Maxick, who conducted an audit of the city’s basic financial statements for the year ending March 31, 2020 along with a management report for the same time period.

On Monday night, Landers gave her final audit report to City Council at the governing body’s Conference Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room. She will be retiring at the end of this year, with auditing of the city’s finances being turned over to Kathryn Barrett, a CPA in Freed Maxick’s governmental practice unit.

The 2019-20 audit, dated Sept. 16, came on the heels of Landers’ meeting with the City’s Audit Advisory Committee and Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski in August.

Landers reported revenues of $16,747,439 and expenditures of $17,528,340 for fiscal year 2019-20, leaving a deficit of revenues over expenditures of $780,901. This deficit decreased fund balances in the general fund to a total of $7,893,502.

The city ended the 2019-20 year with an unassigned fund balance of $1,863,699, exclusive of restrictions and assignments, Landers said.

Cash on Hand for Unexpected Expenses

“So, that’s the amount that Council can utilize for whatever purposes they choose to utilize it for (such as utilizing) it to appropriate in next year’s budget process or for any particular unanticipated expenditures that might arise,” she advised, adding that the city’s actual revenues were slightly under budget and expenditures came in under budget by about $1.4 million.

This bodes well for the city, she said, as “management continues to monitor expenditures in particularly this year as the city moves forward through the current environment and is doing analysis regarding cash flows, routinely, to make sure there is sufficient cash for operations for the city to move through this pandemic.”

Landers also provided charts showing revenues and expenditures from 2011-2020 – data that revealed that income exceeded spending in all of those years except 2015, 2017 and 2020.

“During the current year, the city utilized reserves to fund equipment purchases, sidewalk improvements, health care claims and information technology improvements in the amount of approximately $1 million, and funded reserves in the amount of about $114,000,” she said. “The city has continued to fund reserves in an effort to stabilize tax rates, provide for replacement of equipment and infrastructure, thereby reducing reliance on issuing debt and provide for payment of future liabilities.”

She reported that Tabelski did not assign any money to fund reserves from the fund balance for the 2019-20 fiscal year, reasoning that management and the Audit Advisory Committee “thought that it was prudent, given the uncertainty … to just keep that unassigned fund balance there in case the City Council needs to utilize it for whatever purpose,” such as unanticipated expenditures.

Breaking Down the Fund Balances

Landers broke down the city’s fund balances at the end of the fiscal year. The total general fund balance of $7,893,502 showed assigned and unassigned funds in the amount of $2,315,855 and restricted, non-spendable and committed funds in the amount of $5,777,647.

She said restricted funds included $777,000 for insurance, $3.6 million for capital projects, $273,000 for employee benefits and accrued liability, $332,000 for retirement benefits, $36,000 for Dwyer Stadium and $303,000 for third-party restrictions on money that has come into the city.

“There’s a little over $1,000 that is restricted for debt service – money left over from bond proceeds that wasn’t spent for projects that needs to be utilized to pay down the debt service,” she noted.

The committed fund balance at year’s end had $214,000, which are monies committed to the city’s master plan, Habitat for Humanity architect plans, Ellicott Trail, Creek Park and (the discontinued) Vibrant Batavia.

Landers said no money has been assigned to reserves, but $259,000 has been set aside to help balance the 2020-21 budget. She mentioned that the fund balance of $1,863,999 does comply with the city’s internal fund balance policy in place as of March 31, 2020.

'Strong Cash & Cash Equivalents'

As far as the deficit is concerned, Landers said it was a result of the city “recognizing the City Centre as an asset of the city, a disability retirement settlement and several high-value health insurance claims, which increased the amount that is transferred from the general fund to the self-insurance fund of the city.”

“Overall though, the balance sheet in the city represents strong cash and cash equivalents and also strong fund balances, especially in the restricted areas and the unassigned areas,” she reported.

The audit also reviewed the city’s water and sewer funds, which received high marks for “good cash balances and strong net positions in both the restricted and unrestricted net positions,” Landers said.

Her report revealed a $1.3 million operating surplus of the water fund – before subtracting $516,000 in operating and nonoperating revenues and expenses, and the operating subsidy to the general fund. Landers said this indicates that current rates continue at sufficient levels to support operations.

She said the net cash position of the water fund increased by a little over $1 million.

“Part of that increase relates to the bond anticipation note that was issued in the current year, but this resulted in cash at the end of the year a little over $3.8 million, which does not include the cash that’s restricted for capital projects,” she said. “The $3.8 million is unrestricted cash in the water fund at the end of the year.”

Landers said the sewer fund showed an operating surplus of about $74,000 before operating revenue and expenses and an operating subsidy to the general fund which totaled around $141,000.

“The net cash position of the sewer fund decreased about $319,000, however the cash balance at the end of the year – cash restricted for capital projects -- was a little over $5 million," she indicated. “Still, healthy cash position and healthy net position in the sewer fund, and the sewer fund restricted of about $3.9 million and unrestricted of about $6.7 million.”

No 'Falloff' in Water, Sewer Activity

Landers said the city hasn’t seen a falloff in operating revenues for sewer or water or late payments, concerns that Tabelski had in light of COVID-19.

“Rachael said that they haven’t seen any of that so I would expect that the position – the cash position, net position of the water and sewer funds will continue to be strong going into 2021,” she said.

On the city management report, Landers said that no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses were found.

Summarizing, Landers said the city’s major funds “are still in a good position” and credited management for monitoring cash flows, controlling expenditures and utilizing reserves.

She also advised City Council to capitalize on low interest rates being extended by financial institutions.

“If there is something that you could issue debt for, that just gives you another tool in your toolbox as the Council to go to as far as a funding source,” she said.

September 21, 2020 - 3:51pm

From Erica O'Donnell:

Join us on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. to honor the memory and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg around the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St. Batavia.

Please wear warm clothes, a mask, and practice responsible social distancing.

We will have some candles available, but you may bring your own.

We are honored to have remarks by Judge Amy Martoche, candidate for NYS Supreme Court, Diana Kastenbaum, and other local women.

We will also have a Hebrew Benediction by Hiram Kasten.

All are welcome to attend.

September 18, 2020 - 3:05pm
posted by Press Release in scam, Fraud, crime, news, city of batavia.

From the City of Batavia Police Department:

The City of Batavia has become aware of a scam in which the scammers are using the phone number and name of the City in an attempt to get victims to provide personal banking information. The caller ID comes across as “City of Batavia” with the phone number (585) 343-8182. The scammer is telling victims they have overcharged on a utility bill and want information to reimburse the money.

The City of Batavia will not request personal banking information over the phone. The City only provides refunds or payments to citizens and vendors in the form of a check.

Follows these tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help avoid fraud:

1.    Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government officiala family membera charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email.  

2.    Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

3.    Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

4.    Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.

September 16, 2020 - 1:36pm

Press release:

The first open house to introduce the City Centre Revitalization Strategy project will be held within the City Centre concourse at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Those in attendance will be provided with information on the project, given an opportunity to meet the project team, and review project related information.

The Revitalization Strategy will focus on strategic improvements that can made to the concourse and entries of the City Centre structure as well as potential development concepts for underutilized areas of the parking lots around City Centre.

Potential improvements to the City Centre concourse would be partially funded with the $1 million award provided by the Downtown Revitalization Initiative program. Initial concepts for new entryways and upgrades to improve the appearance of the concourse will be available for review at the Open House.

In addition to providing information on potential concourse improvements, the Open House will also provide early conceptual plans for developing underutilized portions of the parking lots along Bank Street. Corresponding concepts for streetscape upgrades for Bank Street will also be available at the meeting.

Protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic will be implemented for the meeting.

September 11, 2020 - 12:59pm

Upon the approval of City Council, the Batavia Police Department will take on the responsibility of managing the community’s Deer Management Plan.

A memo dated Sept. 8 from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski to council members indicates that “operationally, the Batavia Police Department will manage the program, accept applications, qualify participants, and schedule hunting times, work with participants and landowners on behalf of the City. A special detail will be set up to appoint an officer to this position and we will incur some overtime costs associated with this plan.”

Tabelski writes that additional deer management options added to the plan could be considered by City Council, upon recommendation by the city manager, if the current plan is not successful in reducing the deer population.

Those options are as follows:

  • Batavia Police Department culling operation;
  • Utilizing a private firm to cull;
  • Utilizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service culling operation.

A resolution to approve the revised archery hunting plan, dated Sept. 14, is on the agenda of Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Centre Council Chambers. A Special Conference Meeting will open proceedings at 7 p.m.

Contacted today, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch did not offer any specifics, noting that the plan still has to be endorsed by City Council.

“We’re happy to help out in any way that we can and do our best to move things forward, but everything’s very preliminary right now. With everything else that is on the table, the Police Advisory Stakeholder Group, potential construction of a police facility – there’s just a lot going on.”

This updated plan differs from the one dated Aug. 3, which came out of eight months of meetings of the City’s Deer Management Plan Committee, a five-person group enlisted by City Council. The committee worked primarily with former City Manager Martin Moore and Council liaison John Canale with assistance from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials.

The Deer Management Plan Committee abruptly resigned, however, on Aug. 13, citing a breakdown in communication with city leaders and disagreement with modifications to the plan.

The current version of the plan replaces “City Clerk” with “Batavia Police Department” in the Participant Application and Selection Process section as follows: City of Batavia Deer Management Program Hunter Application -- Submission to Batavia Police Department.

It also removes a section that placed the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen (consisting of 12 clubs) as the top priority for program participants and replaces that with words indicating that proof of residency within the City of Batavia or Genesee County, and/or membership in a hunting club associated with the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen, and/or City Employee status are required.

The Sept. 14 draft also indicates that the police department would be responsible for all tasks and documentation necessary to qualify potential hunters, schedule hunting times, and assist participants and owners of property in the three of the five identified hunting zones. The other two zones are city property and would be open for hunting only to city employees.

Moreover, the section titled Program Review and Measures of Program Success has been changed from “The City of Batavia Deer Management Committee will meet as needed during the program to review activities and to gather data as to the program’s success” to the following:

The City of Batavia Police Department, City Manager, and qualified program participants will meet as needed during the program to review activities and to gather data as to the program’s success.

That variation is understandable as the Deer Management Committee is no longer intact.

Tabelski’s memo also addressed the Batavia City School District’s current “hybrid” schedule that has some students in school and others learning remotely (at home). The deer plan calls for hunting only between sunrise and 2 p.m., and only when school is in session.

“Due to the temporary pause on the full reopening of schools, and because the top priority of all culling activities is the safety of the community, I recommend that the Batavia Police Department continue to monitor the school situation as it progresses and make an operational decision, based on the changing dynamics of in-school vs. home learning, to determine if the plan can be executed safely this fall.”

In closing, she wrote that the “final plan provides a streamlined program experience, ensures programmatic compliance, program metric tracking, increased safety and oversite (sic), and in increased focus on communication.”

Batavia’s current proposal is similar to the Town of Irondequoit’s deer program, which is managed by its police department.

In a separate development:

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said a discussion of the vacant city manager position is scheduled for Executive Session following Monday night’s meeting.

Jankowski provided a brief update, mentioning The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of Moore in 2018.

“At the last meeting, City Council was informed that Novak wouldn’t be able to start the city manager search process until late September,” Jankowski said. “At that time, Council requested additional information from the Human Resources department and that information has been provided.

“Due to the sensitive nature of personnel matters, Council will meet in executive session during the upcoming regular Business meeting to decide a path forward in the hiring process.”

August 18, 2020 - 12:55pm

Just Kings, a newly formed organization dedicated to achieving equality and racial justice in Batavia and Genesee County, today said they plan to submit a letter to Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski to have a representative on the City’s Police Advisory Stakeholder Group.

“We have discussed this at length and have talked to Chief (Shawn) Heubusch about it, and would like to participate,” said Victor Thomas, adding that he has been selected by Just Kings’ 10-member board of directors for consideration by city leaders.

If chosen, the 36-year-old Thomas, a lifelong Batavian, would be one of six citizen members on the committee, which is being formed in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203.

Just Kings was instrumental in conducting a peaceful March for Justice in downtown Batavia on June 7 and held a community Juneteenth celebration at the YWCA on June 20.

They are hosting a drive-through cookout, offering BBQ chicken or pulled pork dinners, this Saturday from noon until sold out at 25 Harvester Ave. The cost is $12.

Thomas said that he is encouraging people of color to submit a letter of interest to fill other slots on the advisory group.

One person of color already appointed to the group is Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.

"Well, I think I do add some diversity to the group. I'm a Latino, bilingual ... I'm not what the perception would be, another Caucasian male," Soler said. "So I think I will bring some of that diversity, to the credit of the police chief to make sure that I'm on this group -- representing the school district and our kids of color."

Soler said that growing up as a Latino male in the City of Rochester, he carries "some experiences with law enforcement that I've had that hopefully can help the group do its work better."

He shared that people of color -- biracial, Asian, African-American and Latino -- comprise about 25 percent of the student population in the Batavia City School District.

The executive order, “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative,” stipulates that police departments must adopt a plan by April 1 to be eligible for future state funding.

It includes wording that stakeholders should include “but not (be) limited to membership and leadership of the local police force, members of the community with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police and community interactions, interested non-profit and faith-based community groups, local office of the district attorney, local public defender and local elected officials.”

Toward that end, Tabelski issued a press release about an hour ago declaring that the City of Batavia will add four additional community members, increasing the number of residents from two that were on the original list of stakeholders to six.

Tabelski said the city will strive to ensure proper representation for all.

Per the press release, “The advisory group will open dialogue and add value to the relationships between City government employees, the police department and community residents,” Tabelski said. “As we move forward, the stakeholder meetings will be open for the public to attend, while adhering to COVID-19 protocols.”

Heubusch, in the release, said he is looking forward to starting the process and engaging with citizens in the community.

“The City Police Department is comprised of men and women who take the job of protecting and serving our community very seriously,” he said. “We all look forward to working with the stakeholder group to improve our already robust service and training.

“All individuals should be held to the same standard. No one is above the law; whether civilian, law enforcement or government official and those that break the law should be held accountable.”

With this expansion, the Police Advisory Stakeholder Group will now consist of 19 members, including:

  • City Manager;
  • Police Chief;
  • Assistant Police Chief;
  • City Attorney;
  • One City Council member;
  • Six citizen representatives;
  • Batavia Housing Authority Director;
  • Director of a not-for-profit that serves human interests (e.g. YWCA);
  • District Attorney representative;
  • Public Defender representative;
  • Batavia Police Benevolent Association representative;
  • Batavia City School District Superintendent;
  • Community religious leader;
  • Business leader representative.

Furthermore, Tabelski said the stakeholder group will help identify recommendations for more effective strategies, policies, and procedures to better serve all residents within the City of Batavia. This plan will be developed over the fall and winter, and must be adopted by the City of Batavia by April 1 per Executive Order No. 203.

Citizens interested in being a member of the Police Advisory Stakeholder Group should send their name, phone number, address and email address to the office of the Interim City Manager, Rachael Tabelski. Address: City of Batavia, One Batavia City Centre, Batavia, NY 14020 or via email:  [email protected].

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