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October 22, 2021 - 5:11pm

The introduction of new computer software means that it’s time to say good-bye to an old -- and outdated -- permitting and licensing fee schedule for the City of Batavia, according to a memo from City Manager Rachael Tabelski dated Oct. 25 and sent out ahead of Monday’s City Council Conference Meeting.

Council will convene at 7 p.m. for the Conference Meeting, which features a full slate of agenda items. A Special Business Meeting set up to vote on three of those items will follow.

In the memo, Tabelski promotes Energov software, a program that creates digital files for permits and licensing that will make life easier for Inspection Bureau staff. However, some of the current fees are not articulated clearly enough to jive with that software.

Additionally, she reports that a review of the city’s current processes and procedures – along with permit fees – was conducted.

Noting that the fee schedule hasn’t been updated in at least 15 years and has resulted in varying, inaccurate cost calculations, she is proposing a new fee schedule – a revised list of charges for certain projects that was approved by the Inspections Bureau, Plumbing Board and Bureau of Maintenance.

“In order to ensure that permit fees can be calculated in Energov and to create a permit fee schedule that is fair to all, a new fee schedule is proposed,” Tabelski wrote. “Many permits are proposed to be a flat fee. Permits that are not a flat fee have been structured for easy calculation by staff, the public and will easily compute in Energov.”

The memo indicates that work performed by the property owner will be calculated by square foot. If the project is not included on the list of flat fee permits – such as a porch rebuild or removal of a load-bearing wall – then the value of the cost of the project would be multiplied by 1.2 percent to determine the fee. Also, the fee will triple if work is done without a permit.

If approved by Council, changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Tabelski put together a chart showing items up for revision and compared the proposed new cost to fees in Canandaigua, Lockport, Rome and Glens Falls.

Items on the list for revision, followed by the current fee, proposed fee (in bold), and fees in the four cities listed above in order:

  • Re-roof all 1-family dwelling (2,200 sq ft - $13,000) -- $52, $65, $100, $59, $75, $50.
  • Re-roof porch only (350 sq ft - $1,800) -- $40, $35, $100, $51, $75, $50.
  • Re-roof commercial (1,200 sq ft - $26,000) -- $113, $312, $100, $150, $200, $150.
  • Six-foot vinyl fence ($15,000) -- $65, $65, $50, $20, $75, $25.
  • Six-foot wood fence ($7,000) -- $43, $65, $50, $20, $75, $25.
  • Entire house vinyl siding (1,600 sq ft - $14,000) -- $53.50, $65, $480, $47, $75, $400.
  • 1-family (375 sq ft - $22,000) -- $115.50, $264, $300, $150, $100, $200.
  • Commercial addition (1,400 sq ft-$105,000) -- $550, $1,260, $500, $350, $200, $350.

Other Conference Meeting agenda items are as follows:

  • Agreements with the Town of Batavia for city personnel to repair and maintain 31 street lights the town is putting up on Park Road in the area of Batavia Downs Gaming and a traffic control device the town is installing at the intersection of Route 98 and Federal Drive, north of the city.

In both cases, the city would invoice the town for labor and material costs.

Currently, city employees maintain the traffic light for the town at Veterans Memorial Drive and the Towne Center.

  • Acceptance of a $500,000 Restore New York Grant that was awarded to the city in 2007 to assist Savarino Companies for demolition, rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the existing former National Grid electric building in connection with the Ellicott Station project.

As a condition of disbursing the funds to Savarino, the Buffalo developer is required to enter into an “Undertaking Agreement” with the city to assume a portion or all of the obligations of the city under the grant.

  • Mid-fiscal year transfers due to expenses incurred in excess of budgeted amounts set in April.

These include $30,000 from the contingency fund into the legal services budget for increased litigation costs, $12,000 from contingency into the information technology budget for an increase in the number of monitored computer servers, and $25,000 from the public works administrative salary account to the DPW engineering account for expenses owed to LaBella Associates in light of the city’s ongoing search for a DPW director.

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October 19, 2021 - 9:16am

Recovery of the lagoons at Batavia Waste Water Treatment Plant is heading in the right direction, according to the city’s attorney, but the end to limiting the discharge from the O-At-Ka Milk Products facility is likely several weeks away.

“We’re closely monitoring the ponds and are seeing signs of progress to determine if the BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) recovery is on track,” George Van Nest said on Monday. “We’re checking it daily, twice a day, and also monitoring O-At-Ka’s loads. But the ponds are still not fully recovered at DO (Dissolved Oxygen) levels and they need to sustain (permitted levels).”

Over the past few weeks, O-At-Ka has had to pay companies to truck wastewater from its Cedar Street plant due to discovery of excessive levels of biosolids being discharged into the WWTP, costing the company around $25,0000 per day, Chief Executive Officer Bill Schreiber said.

O-At-Ka has called upon the city to sit down with company officials and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to find “a three-party solution” to bridge the gap until the Upstate Niagara-owned business completes a $6 million on-site pre-treatment plant project in the next six to eight weeks.

Contacted on Monday, Schreiber said he was “hopeful that we will be able to schedule a three-party meeting in the near future.”

“Our goal remains to discuss the implementation of potential solutions to accelerate the recovery of the city’s lagoons,” he said.

BOD Load Levels Are Improving

Van Nest said the city had no choice but to send a cease-and-desist letter to O-At-Ka on Sept. 23 because the BOD loads were too high.

‘We have seen significant reductions as a result of the trucking, but even with the trucking, there have been only three days below the permitted level, and closer to the level on several days,” he said.

The code gives the municipality the right to cease-and-desist, and allows the city to shut off discharges to the system completely, he said.

“The city has not done that. We’re working to get the discharge limits met and in compliance while the pond recovers.”

Van Nest said that O-At-Ka’s offer to pay any fines incurred for excessive discharge into the WWTP is not an answer to the problem.

“The ponds need to operate properly. It’s not a matter of we can indemnify you (the city) by discharging beyond the permitted level,” he said, adding that the city is responsible to its taxpayers.

“It’s taking some time to recover. We’re looking for sustainability and believe that is fairly a short-term to get to the point where engineers (working with the city) and (the WWTP) operator is comfortable with (the levels). These are 30-acre ponds, and the volumes are huge.”

'Permit Sets The Conditions'

Van Nest, when asked about a three-party solution as proposed by Schreiber and John Gould, Upstate Niagara chairman of the board, said “the solutions they are pushing for are related to the plant … and the (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit sets the conditions.”

“The city is open to meeting with O-At-Ka and its engineers,” he said. “We’re ready, willing and able to sit down with them and look at other potential solutions.”

Still, he said he doesn’t believe any of the alternatives offered by O-At-Ka will reduce the time needed for the ponds to recover to permitted DO levels.

“They mentioned cleaning the diffusers. That would be a public project that needs to be bid, let and issued, and funded. It’s a long process that would take a lot of time,” he said. “And how much of an impact would that have on the oxygen levels in the pond?”

Van Nest said sampling data showing elevated BOD and TSS (Total Suspended Solids) levels indicate that O-At-Ka increased its production capacity beyond its pre-treatment capacity.

Schreiber countered that by mentioning that the characteristics of O-At-Ka’s wastewater haven’t changed.

City Has Been Collecting Surcharges

“These are the same loads we’ve been putting down historically,” he said. “We’ve paid the city surcharges for those loads. They’re well aware of what the characteristics of what our wastewater have been and they’ve happily collected those surcharges.”

He said O-At-Ka has paid approximately $60,000 per quarter in surcharges, which are for BOD and TSS over the permitted level of 300 parts per million.

O-At-Ka’s existing pre-treatment plant is between 15 and 20 years old. In January of this year, the company’s board of directors approved a $6 million capital project to put in a new pre-treatment plant (located off Cedar Street).

“Originally, we had planned to have that up at the end of October or early November, but like everybody else, we’ve experienced a number of supply chain challenges that have pushed the date out to mid-December,” Schreiber said.

“But, again, looking to control the things we can control – such as flows down the drain – we’ve redoubled our efforts to expedite getting components here, and we think we’ll be able to get it operational between the middle of November and early December.”

Even if that’s up and running in five weeks, it would cost O-At-Ka around $875,000 to haul the wastewater to other locations.

Schreiber said O-At-Ka typically discharges around 575,000 gallons of wastewater – a milky water mixed with detergent – to the WWTP. Now, with the restrictions, that amount is 475,000 to 500,000 gallons per day.

Pre-Treatment Upgrade Underway

O-At-Ka’s current pre-treatment operation consists of two separate 150,000-gallon equalization tanks that balance pH and BOD loading, Schreiber said. The wastewater flows to the Primary Dissolved Air Flotation, which can process 360 gallons per minute, removing 25 percent of the solids.

After that, it goes to the digester, removing organic materials at 330 gallons per minute, and leaves an Immobilized Cell Bioreactor and flows through tubes that mix wastewater with chemicals to provide coagulation and flocculation. Lastly, the wastewater flows through the Secondary DAF, removing 85 to 90 percent of solids.

“The pre-treatment plant upgrades will double EQ capacity and significantly enhances the ability to remove BOD and TSS,” Schreiber said.

He said the new EQ tank is 600,000 gallons and the new moving Bed Bio Reactor can process 12,000 pounds of BOD per day. The company also has purchased three 250-horsepower blowers to make the process more efficient, and is installing an additional DAF capable of 540 gallons per minute to augment the existing unit.

Previously: O-At-Ka offers alternatives, claims city is protected as it seeks to end hauling of wastewater from its facility

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October 15, 2021 - 3:06pm

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Update: 6:30 p.m. -- See bottom of the story

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The chief executive officer at O-At-Ka Milk Products today said engineers at the Upstate Niagara cooperative-owned milk processing plant are prepared to present alternatives that would satisfy the City of Batavia and bring an end to a situation that is forcing the company to spend $25,000 to $30,000 per day hauling wastewater away from the facility.

The problem, however, according to Bill Schreiber, is that city management will not sit down with officials from O-At-Ka and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to iron out what he calls “a three-party solution that would be a win-win for everyone involved.”

Schreiber and John Gould, owner of Har-Go Farms in Pavilion and chairman of the board for Upstate Niagara, a consortium of 300 dairy farmers, spoke to The Batavian this morning.

They expressed their dismay over not being able to deposit all of its wastewater into the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant and “a lack of urgency” from the city.

Gould brought this issue to public light at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting when he informed lawmakers of the staggering costs to haul the wastewater away from O-At-Ka.

Several minutes later, he learned from City Attorney George Van Nest that the municipality had no choice but to enforce a cease-and-desist letter it sent to O-At-Ka after discovering that discharge levels from the Cedar Street plant were above permitted limits.

Van Nest said the DEC sent a notice of violation to the city, threatening enforcement action and large fines because of the oxygen levels in the ponds.

Gould: 'There's Something Wrong Here'

Gould’s anger with the city’s stance came through in his comments earlier today.

“Back to the Council meeting, Mr. Van Nest, puts the fear of God into them with the DEC. So, everybody’s fearful of each other and we’re getting nothing done,” he said. “There was more discussion about who was paying for Christmas in the City then there was about the largest employer in the city and the economic impact upon it. There’s something wrong here.”

Contacted today, City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Council is leaving the matter in the hands of Van Nest, City Manager Rachael Tabelski and engineers working with the city.

“We’re following the advice of our attorney, which is basically telling Mr. Gould and the staff there that they are supposed to talk to the city manager and the city attorney. Those are the people that Council has delegated to address the issue.

“Mr. Gould is bypassing some things and that’s not really for me to say what he is supposed to do or not supposed to do, but we’re not going to comment on it. We’ll let the professionals handle it – the city manager, the engineers, the city staff take care of it.”

Schreiber: Pre-Treatment Plant Upgrade Underway

Schreiber, in his ninth year at O-At-Ka, said the company is about six to eight weeks away from completing a $6 million upgrade to its on-site pre-treatment facility – action that he said will bring an end to this impasse as the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand and Total Suspended Solids will return to acceptable levels.

Until that new pre-treatment facility is operational, O-At-Ka is taking a substantial financial hit.

When it was mentioned that the expense could be as much as $1 million over the next 40 days, Schreiber responded: “That puts our business at risk, it puts our customers at risk, it puts our employees at risk and it puts our farmer owners at risk. Absolutely.”

The CEO said he is aware that the city has to comply with its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, but is seeking for “a bridge” to get us to the start-up of the new treatment facility.

“And what we got in exchange was a cease-and-desist (letter from the city). We don’t understand the lack of cooperation coming out of the city,” he said. “And it’s our understanding that the DEC would be willing to work towards a three-part solution. We’ve sent several letters to the city and we’ve not received a response.”

Schreiber said there are four or five different alternatives that would serve to increase the dissolved oxygen levels in the city’s lagoons, which have yet to recover adequately following replacement of the air header system at the Waste Water Treatment Plant in late August.

“Some of them are routine maintenance; getting into the diffusers and lagoons and cleaning them. That would have an immediate impact,” Schreiber advised.

“There’s a device called a venturi, which essentially serves to incorporate oxygen into the lagoons. There are companies that work with hydrogen peroxide, which when added to the lagoons, breaks down into oxygen and water – and essentially elevates the oxygen levels in the lagoons.”

Furthermore, Schreiber said he “fundamentally disagrees that we’re putting the city and the city’s taxpayers at risk.”

Permit: O-At-Ka Would Be Responsible for Fines

He said the city is protected under Section III.4 of the Industrial Sewer Use Permit, as follows:

“If the User [i.e., O-At-Ka] discharges above its Permit thresholds to such a degree that it causes the Publicly Operated Treatment Works (POTW) to violate its SPDES Permit, the User shall be held responsible for the payment of any fines or penalties levied against the POTW. This is in addition to any extra costs associated with handling such discharges as provided for in the Sewer Use Ordinance.”

“O-At-Ka has told City officials both in writing and verbally that it accepts full responsibility for any fines and penalties issued by the DEC or any other regulatory body that are attributable to our discharges,” he added. “We welcome the inclusion of DEC in these discussions regarding regulatory liability.”

Schreiber said O-At-Ka is seeking “a comprehensive, long-term solution to this.”

“We’re not looking for a band-aid. We recognize that the city has to meet its use permit, and we want to be part of the solution. But there seems to be, in our view, a lack of urgency on the city’s part while we’re burning through cash. We would rather channel those dollars to a constructive solution than use them to haul wastewater away.”

He said there are implementable steps that can be taken at the Waste Water Treatment Plant that will allow for the easing of restrictions on O-At-Ka wastewater discharges without impeding the recovery of the ponds.

“O-At-Ka is not seeking permission to discharge indiscriminately to the city nor are we ignoring the impact high strength wastewater can have on the ponds.  However, we are very confident that there are engineering solutions that can wholly offset the impact and further accelerate the health and recovery of the ponds.”

City Manager: 'We Can't Allow Willful Violations'

The Batavian reached out by email to Tabelski and to the DEC’s press office for comment.

Tabelski, speaking to WBTA Radio earlier this week, said O-At-Ka is “an industry here that we value for their employment and for the use of the milk supply that comes from the farms. That’s not lost on me. But we cannot allow willful violations of permits at the city Waste Water Treatment Plant.”

She also said that O-At-Ka officials acknowledged what they need to get to “a place that allows their discharge to be at a permitted level.”

“Right now, they can be at their permitted level, but they have to truck many, many truckloads of waste away. That’s showing that their capacity isn’t in line with their production,” she said.

Schreiber is calling for a “technical conversation that going to lead us to a resolution of this problem.”

Gould agreed, stating, “Collaboration to us is getting the stakeholders in the same room and sit down and solve the problem."

Schreiber said the O-At-Ka board of directors have approved $35 million in capital spending for 2021 and 2022, but “we’ll have to look really hard at where the next capital investment goes.”

He said completion of the pre-treatment facility will result in a permanent fix.

“As I said, we’re just looking for a bridge, and we can’t seem to get cooperation from the city,” he said. “The city seems to be blaming DEC; everybody but themselves, quite frankly.”

Update:

Comment from City Manager Rachael Tabelski: "In response to your inquiry, there continues to be an ongoing and open dialogue between city officials and O-AT-KA regarding discharge issues at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. As we also have communicated, public health and safety as it pertains to these discharge issues is our number one priority so that the WWTP is operating within all its regulatory obligations."

Statement from NYS DEC: "The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remains committed to working with all involved parties to develop and implement necessary solutions to address these issues. DEC will continue to meet with the city and O-At-Ka Milk Products regarding technical and infrastructure needs, and will convene additional meetings with these parties as these efforts progress."

Photo at top: O-At-Ka CEO Bill Schreiber and Upstate Niagara Chairman of the Board John Gould in front of the new equalization tank that is part of the company's ongoing upgrade of its pre-treatment facility. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: City sends 'cease and desist' letter to O-At-Ka Milk as issues at waste water treatment plant continue

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October 13, 2021 - 6:18pm

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It might be said that news of Northgate Free Methodist Church leadership’s desire to underwrite a nine-hole disc golf course on its property at 8160 Bank St. Rd. could be a sign of redemption for Phillip Boyd, the City of Batavia resident who caused a firestorm in May when he proposed placing a course at Centennial Park.

“I was Public Enemy No. 1 for a while, but now I just laugh it off,” Boyd said this afternoon, adding that he and Northgate personnel have joined forces to build a course behind the church in the Town of Batavia.

Boyd also said that he and fellow disc golf enthusiast Matt Strobel are working with the Genesee Community College Board of Trustees about a course there -- and have left the door open to a course at Williams Park in the city.

“At one point, it didn’t look like anything was going to happen, and now we may be getting three in the area,” Boyd said, recognizing the irony in all of it.

The subject of disc golf came up at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, with City Manager Rachael Tabelski (responding to a public comment) saying that she hadn’t heard from Boyd recently.

Boyd said he left a message yesterday with Ray Tourt, the city’s maintenance supervisor, seeking to continue talks about a course at the Pearl Street recreation area.

“I am looking to get final approval on the course at Williams Park and then make a new proposal to City Council at a future Business Meeting,” Boyd said.

While the city may still be an option, Boyd said he currently is focusing on assisting Northgate Youth Pastor Dan Calkins with the logistics of setting up the course at Northgate.

“We’ve created a course design and the board unanimously voted yes,” Boyd said. “They said this is something they wanted to do for the community. I didn’t realize it but they’ve got about 50 acres behind the church.”

Boyd said they’ve cleared space for four of the nine holes thus far, and hope to make room for the remaining five before the end of this month. The goal is to open the course – which will be free to the public – next spring.

The course will feature tee pads, tee signage and baskets, he said, noting that the church’s financial commitment could approach $5,000.

Contacted today, Calkins said he read the articles detailing Boyd’s plight on The Batavian and approached Rev. Vern Saile, senior pastor, Mark Logan, operations director; and the board with the idea of locating a course on church grounds.

“Even if you don’t go to Northgate or never want to come to Northgate, we want to show that we love the community and we want to be a part of the community,” Calkins said. “We welcome the public to enjoy the course at no charge. Northgate is covering the sponsorship 100 percent.”

Calkins said disc golf fits in with the church’s outreach as it currently offers pickleball on Wednesdays at 2 and 8 p.m.

“We want to show the community that we’re more than just a Sunday church. We want to be part of their lives all week,” he said.

Boyd said he’s “pretty sure” the course at GCC will happen, considering that he and his partners have raised the money to fund it.

He also said that Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle in Batavia would be willing to sell disc golf equipment if the courses are built.

Photo above: Northgate Free Methodist Church.

October 13, 2021 - 7:01am

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City of Batavia officials are doing everything they can to rectify a dispute with O-At-Ka Milk Products over the milk processing plant’s ability to discharge its waste water into the municipality’s waste water treatment plant, City Attorney George Van Nest said Tuesday night.

The problem, however, according to Van Nest, is that no viable option currently exists to prevent the city from enforcing the “cease and desist” letter it has issued to O-At-Ka after discovering exceedingly high levels of contaminants in the waste water sent into the ponds from the Cedar Street industry.

Van Nest said the city is facing the possibility of thousands of dollars in fines levied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation if it doesn’t ensure that the ponds’ dissolved oxygen levels are within the required range.

O-At-Ka, as a result of the city’s action, already has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased costs by having to truck waste water away from its facility and, according to Chairman of the Board John Gould, the company will not be able to sustain that expense for much longer.

The situation was made public when Gould, a dairy farmer from Pavilion, spoke during the citizen comments portion of last night’s City Council Business Meeting.

Describing O-At-Ka as “experts in waste water handling with an excellent engineering team and excellent consultants,” Gould explained that the company handles a couple billion pounds of milk every year.

“We’re committed to sustainable waste water handling in this community,” he said. “We do that with more than words; we do it with action.”

Gould said that Upstate Niagara, a consortium of 300 farmers, owns eight plants in New York, including O-At-Ka, which employs 450 people.

Pre-Treatment Upgrades are in Sight

He advised that the company is investing $6 million to upgrade its waste water pre-treatment facility, with expectations that it will be online in December. He then talked about the hardship that the restriction has created, and called for a “collaborative solution (with) no stonewalling.”

“We need a win-win situation here. We’re committed to this city and we expect that you’re committed to us,” he said.

Gould said the company complied with the city management’s request in August to restrict its flow in order for crews to complete the air header project at the waste water treatment plant.

“The result of that was a 14-day shutdown of O-At-Ka’s discharge. We had to haul waste water away from the plant at a cost of a half million dollars for O-At-Ka,” he said. “We paid overtime for the employees so we could cut that time from 14 to 11 days. That was our commitment in August.

“In September, we were called in and, again, we’re on a restricted level of discharge to the city and it’s costing us between $20,000 to $50,000 a day, every day. We don’t take Sunday off. At the current rate, we’ll easily be spending $1 million hauling waste away from our plant that used to be accepted by the city – no problem.”

While Gould said he was “confident” that a solution could be found by sitting down with the city and the DEC, he added that O-At-Ka officials would have to “make drastic decisions” should the city “continues on this path.”

Pointed Questions to the City

“I certainly don’t want to have to furlough workers or reduce business,” he said. “I’ve got to ask, What is the city’s vision of the future here if this is the way you treat your best and largest business in the city? Where are we going? How are you going to support new business? What does the future look like to you folks?”

Gould concluded his 4 ½ minutes at the podium by saying, “I encourage you to get together with us. Let’s sit down and figure this out.”

Van Nest spent twice as long responding to Gould’s concerns, clearly articulating the city’s position that it has to do what is in the best interests of the functionality of the waste water treatment plant and – because of the financial ramifications – what is in the best interest of city taxpayers.

The soft-spoken attorney seized the opportunity to review developments stemming from the $1 million air header project that was completed in late August – well ahead of the schedule due to the deteriorating condition of the apparatus. The venture was moved up because the city had been getting numerous complaints from residents about the odors coming from the plant.

“Those complaints have been made to the city, made to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), made to the DEC,” he said. “The city has worked very closely with its engineers, with in-house staff … to address replacement of the air header system at the ponds, so the ponds and the waste water treatment plant function properly for the community.”

Dissolved Oxygen Levels are a Problem

Speaking in technical terms, Van Nest said that dissolved oxygen levels in the ponds were decreasing as the air headers were not working to the best of their ability and as they degraded.

“At the same time, as it appears from data that the city reviewed, there were high BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) loadings issued to the waste water treatment plant from O-At-Ka, which created a situation which depressed the dissolved oxygen levels that need to be in the ponds and allow them to function properly – ponds A1, A2 and A3,” he stated.

Van Nest acknowledged that O-At-Ka was asked “to cease discharging for up to a couple weeks while the one pond was taken out of service and the air header was replaced.”

“Ultimately, (the plan was) to roll back on slowly, so that the ponds and the DO recovery could take place when the air header system was ultimately turned back on to maximum ability,” he added.

Unfortunately for O-At-Ka, data collected by city staff showed that the company’s BOD and TSS (Total Suspended Solids) discharges were “well in excess” of the 300 milligram per liter level allowed through the Sewer Industrial Discharge Permit issued by the City of Batavia, Van Nest said.

As a result, the 30-acre ponds did not recover as fast as anticipated.

“They were well below the 2.0 threshold for dissolved oxygen that needs to be in place,” the city lawyer said.

DEC Issues 'Notice of Violation' to City

When the DEC realized this in late September, it sent a notice of violation to the city, looking at enforcement action through its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (or SPDES), Van Nest advised, “because the dissolved oxygen levels were so low and they were not going to allow the ponds to function properly pursuant to the SPDES permit.”

From that point on, many conversations have taken place – both internally and with the DEC, he said.

“There were communications with the DEC relative to that notice of violation, which is a precursor … to a potential order on consent from the DEC or EPA,” he said. “The order on consent would carry with it penalties and compliance schedules, and the penalties are significant. They could be $30,000 per day per violation for an owner of a plant that is in violation.”

Within a week, the city sent the cease and desist letter to O-At-Ka, Van Nest said, “indicating that O-At-Ka should cease discharges to the extent possible and, ultimately, completely to the plant so the dissolved oxygen levels could rebound.”

Van Nest noted that action forced O-At-Ka to truck as much as 150,000 gallons of waste water to another location, while an additional amount continues to flow to the waste water treatment plant.

“City staff and engineers are monitoring the levels – the DOD levels in the pond and the discharge levels from O-At-Ka daily, sometimes twice a day,” he advised. “Right now, the ponds have still not recovered. The DO levels are climbing somewhat, but they are not back to where they need to be from an engineering standpoint for the city’s engineers to be comfortable with the circumstance to say that the ponds have recovered.”

City Attorney: Communication Lines are Open

Van Nest disagreed with the suggestion that city leaders have not reached out to O-At-Ka officials.

“I’ve been in communication with the attorney for O-At-Ka in the last 24 hours on two occasions, The technical staff for the city has been in communication with O-At-Ka’s technical staff and engineers on several instances,” he said. “Part of the issue is that O-At-Ka and the engineers keep suggesting that there are alternative available for the city’s ponds, for the waste water treatment program at the city’s ponds to recover more quickly.”

He said one of the suggestions – bringing in portable air pumps to generate more oxygen – would possibly work except that type of equipment is not available.

“To this day, two and a half to three weeks after this issue arose, we have not heard of any of these pumps being available -- any of these pumps being located in the northeast. So that solution is not something that can be implemented at this time,” he said.

He said engineers representing the city are open to other ideas, but “at this point we don’t see anything that is currently available and implementable on the timeline that these ponds need to recover on that will, in fact, meet those requirements.”

Van Nest said he understood that the situation is affecting the bottom line for O-At-Ka, but said it is the company’s responsibility to comply with the SPDES permit’s hard-and-fast rules and regulations.

“So, with all due respect, it’s a major industrial user of the city’s waste water treatment plant. But there are obligations for pre-treatment as part of that process. And having a pre-treatment plant that can meet the capabilities of a production plant is one of those elements,” he explained.

City Taxpayers Could Pay the Price

“Ultimately, it’s the city’s plant, the city’s SPDES permit and the city’s taxpayers who are at risk if the DEC issues an order of consent with violations because the plant does not operate property (due to the DO levels). From that standpoint … the city is doing and continues to do everything it possibly can.”

Van Nest responded to questions from Council members about the projected time for the problem to be rectified but stating that he would not speculate – only deal with the situation at hand.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said O-At-Ka’s current discharge levels are within “100 either way, up or down.”

She also noted that the bad smell coming from the plant has been alleviated.

“Since we issued the cease and desist order, we have not had very high strength waste coming through the system … that I’m aware of and the smells at the central pump station have not been strong,” she said.

Tabelski said it was her opinion that high strength waste from industrial users can cause strong odors at the plant.

She then thanked O-At-Ka for its cooperation as the city works to resolve the oxygen levels at the ponds.

“I will give O-At-Ka all the credit for all the effort you are taking in a very difficult time to haul your waste and get closer to your permitted level,” she said, looking at Gould as she spoke.

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Photo at top: Milk processing at O-At-Ka Milk Products (from company website). File photo at bottom by Howard Owens: The ponds at the City of Batavia Waste Water Treatment Plant.

October 7, 2021 - 2:55pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, Batavia Ice Arena.

thanksgivingskate09.jpg

City of Batavia management is looking for a “forward-thinking community leader” in the form of a company, organization or even an individual wishing to secure the naming rights for the Batavia Ice Arena at 22 Evans St.

Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick today released a six-page Request for Proposal titled “Batavia Ice Arena Naming Rights” that gives potential arena sponsors until Nov. 5 to submit proposals outlining why their name should be associated with the 43-year-old ice hockey and skating facility.

According to the RFP, revenue from naming rights will be used to make functional and aesthetic improvements inside, and on the exterior of the arena. Applicants are asked to provide one or more names for consideration in their proposal.

Terms and financial obligations to the sponsor stipulate a five-year commitment, but do not include a set annual fee to be paid to the city.

Wiedrick said the manager’s office is leaving the yearly (or five-year) financial contribution up to the sponsor, and will consider the amount offered along with other factors.

When asked if the applicant had to be located in the city or Genesee County, she said that wasn’t the case “since we just don’t know what sort of interest is out there.”

“We’re going to be reviewing all of these submissions to figure out what is the best one that works for the City of Batavia,” she said.

Individuals are welcome to apply, Wiedrick said.

“It could be anyone … but more often than not, with any ice arena or anything that’s going out for naming rights, it does tend to be associated with a business.”

The RFP indicates that the city owns the arena and Firland Management operates it.

It also spells out benefits and opportunities at the facility, which hosts youth, high school and adult hockey competition and open skating events, with annual attendance at more than 70,000.

“Your sponsorship will position your company as a forward-thinking community leader,” it reads, emphasizing ways to promote the brand and “build positive associations through special events, league play, community experiences, traditions, and memories made at the Ice Arena!”

Exterior and interior signage will be permitted, as well as the promotion of the company (organization, individual’s) name on the City of Batavia website and all marketing materials.

The selected sponsor also will be able to hold two private events up to two hours each – one in the fall/winter and the other in the spring/summer.

Sponsor responsibilities include:

  • Signage development, design and production, with approval by the City of Batavia, and contracting and paying for all work relative to the installation of all exterior and interior signage.
  • Ongoing maintenance and bulb replacement in a timely manner for the signs that are located on the exterior of the building. All other signs in the facility once installed are the responsibility of the City of Batavia.
  • Promotion of advertising opportunities that may include additional revenue or marketing benefits to support the ice arena.
  • Presentation of a strategy to increase awareness of the facility’s new name (a key component of the proposal) and to present a strategy to facilitate complete use of the new name prior to the start of 2022.

The RFP, which will be distributed to businesses by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, also includes requirements for successful submission and criteria for evaluation.

The rink formerly was known as Falleti Ice Arena.

File photo. Thanksgiving holiday open skate at Batavia Ice Arena.

September 25, 2021 - 1:35pm

austin_park_resized_1.jpgLabeling them ARPA-1 through ARPA-7, City of Batavia Manager Rachel Tabelski has put together a list of priority spending items – including an “inclusive destination playground" at Austin Park – to be funded in whole or in part by the $1.4 million the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

In a memo dated Sept. 20 to City Council, Tabelski wrote that she is recommending these expenditures as part of her Batavia Investment 2021 report, which is on the agenda for discussion at Monday night’s Conference Meeting.

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

Should City Council forward any proposed resolutions on Monday, voting would take place at the board’s next Business Meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 12.

The federal government, acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on municipal economies, allocated $19.53 billion from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to support non-entitlement units of localities with populations under 50,000, Tabelski wrote.

With that, the city received $1,474,764.79 from the ARPA (getting half this year and half next year).

The money can be used for public health costs, lost public sector revenue, essential worker pay and investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, but comes with restrictions.

Those restrictions, as outlined in Tabelski’s report, include the inability to use the money to lower the tax rate, to offset retirement/pension funds, to pay off current debt, for sidewalks and roads (unless documented proof of being related to COVID-19) and to support current operations in the majority of cases.

Tabelski’s report indicates the recommended projects were derived through multiple means:

  • Conversations with department heads and staff, and citizen input;
  • Review of capital plans, current needs and current reserve accounts;
  • Analyzing the ARPA regulations to create projects that will be most beneficial to the city and/or to advance future ventures, with consideration of social and economic factors;
  • Allocating ARPA money to projects that could receive alternate funding, such as matching funds from other sources to increase the total investment;
  • Ability of city staff to complete, monitor and report on the projects.

Brief descriptions of the seven projects recommended by Tabelski are as follows:

ARPA-1: Engineering Services for Water System Planning

A resolution to contract with GHD Group of Buffalo to “map, inventory and plan to address lead service lines in the city related to the new Lead and Copper Rule” and “to prepare for the closure of the city water treatment plant in connection to Genesee County’s Phase 3 Water Project that would bring Monroe County Water Authority water to the city.

Cost: $248,000, using all ARPA funds.

ARPA-2: Cohocton Water Transmission Line

Replacement of 3,700 linear feet of a 12-inch water transmission line that supplies water to the southwest quadrant of the city – with the connection being made to the existing 12-inch main near the intersection of Industrial Boulevard and Treadeasy Avenue, and continuing to the existing 12-inch main near Walnut Street. The main has incurred 11 breaks in the past 30 years.

Cost: $800,000, equally split between ARPA and reserve funds.

ARPA-3: Inclusive Destination Playground at Austin Park

Located in the city’s Opportunity Zone, Tabelski writes that now is the opportunity to upgrade Austin Park (see photo above), believing that the expenditure will benefit local families, attract visitors from outside the city, assist in public safety in the park and surrounding areas through appropriate environmental design.

Recreation websites describe inclusive playgrounds as activity areas that remove barriers to exclusion, both physical and social, providing a “sensory rich” experience for all. They are designed to be a safe place where children of all abilities can play together, and are developmentally appropriate for children with and without disabilities.

Cost: $800,000, using $400,000 in ARPA funds and seeking grants to double the investment.

ARPA-4: Modify Facility Capital Plan Project

“Critical” improvements are necessary at the city’s Bureau of Maintenance and Fire Department, Tabelski writes, recommending the purchase of a new generator to run fire headquarters on Evans Street and spending to make access into the facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cost: $540,000, using $100,000 in ARPA funds, with the remainder committed to the project in the Facility Reserve Fund.

ARPA-5: Wastewater Treatment Plant Headworks Analysis

Tabelski is seeking another contract with GHD Group (via a resolution) for engineering services to solve problems being caused by an aging aeration and blower system. The last headworks study took place in 1983, and since them the WWTP’s aeration system had deteriorated due to leaks in the main header. “While this problem has been remediated, it highlighted the need to complete a more thorough analysis …,” she wrote.

Cost: $250,000, using all ARPA funds.

ARPA-6: Replace Aging Sewer Camera

Scheduled to be replaced next year, the city’s sewer main line camera – purchased in 2012 -- is at the end of its useful life and has malfunctioned on several occasions, resulting in repair costs. Tabelski recommends buying an Envirosight Rover X camera from Joe Johnson Equipment of Rochester, which can be bought at a discount through a cooperative purchase program.

Cost: $100,000, equally split between ARPA funds and wastewater reserve funds.

ARPA-7: Replace Aging Water Meter Readers

As in the case of the sewer camera, the city’s meter reading equipment is about 10 years old and need of replacement. The recommendation is a resolution to purchase new handheld and data recorders from Ti-Sales, Inc., of Sudbury, Mass., along with utilizing a cloud-based data storage system.

Cost: $26,765, using $26,764.70 of ARPA funds and $1,718.79 from water reserves.

September 17, 2021 - 12:05pm

sutton_1.jpg“Why can’t the Town of Batavia go to 8.25 percent sales tax and use the .25 percent to prevent citizens in the Town of Batavia and companies (from) absorbing this cost for everybody from outside communities that come here to do their shopping?”

With that question toward the end of Wednesday night’s Batavia Town Board meeting, Lewiston Road resident Bill Sutton triggered a 15-minute discussion with Town Supervisor Gregory Post about sales and property taxes, and New York’s tax cap.

Sutton, (photo at right), a truck driver for Kistner Concrete, said he noticed that the meeting agenda included a resolution calling for an override of the New York State tax cap – the limit on the amount of real property taxes that may be levied by the town as it prepares its 2022 budget.

He said he was concerned that property taxes will increase and thought that bumping up the sales tax from 8 to 8.25 percent could be a way to prevent that from happening.

Pointing out that Erie County’s sales tax is at 8.75 percent, Sutton said he wondered if the extra ¼ percent in sales tax could be put in the town’s budget “so that citizens in the town don’t have to pay higher property tax.”

“Why can’t we benefit from that? Why can’t the Town of Batavia implement a little more sales tax to compensate for this, instead of property owners and businesses picking up the slack?” he asked.

TWO SALES TAX JURISDICTIONS

In his response, Town Supervisor Gregory Post said he appreciated Sutton’s questions and went on to explain that towns or villages do not have the authority to impose sales tax.

“There are two entities that are eligible to collect sales tax. One is Genesee County and one is the City of Batavia,” Post responded. “Traditionally, over the last 20 or 30 years, there has been a collaboration between those two entities to allow the county to collect all of the sales tax and then distribute 50 percent of those revenues collected or some portion of that 50 percent to the communities on an ad valorem basis.

“Which means that communities will get a percentage of the sales taxes collected by Genesee County – whether it’s 8 percent or 8 ¼ or 8 ½ or 8 ¾. Those are distributed based on the communities’ assessed valuation – taxable assessed valuation.”

Post mentioned the agreement between Genesee County and the City of Batavia that provides the city with a minimum of 14 percent share of all the sales tax revenue generated in the county. That agreement also benefits the county’s towns and villages which, by virtue of a revision last month, will share $10 million in sales tax revenue annually for the next 38 years.

Per that agreement, the Town of Batavia’s assessed value qualifies it for about 16 percent of that amount – the actual figure is $1,687,937 – and that is substantially more than the other municipalities. The Town of Darien, site of Six Flags Darien Lake, is next at $970,992, followed by the Town of Le Roy at $822,260.

The supervisor explained that the town is supported by sales taxes “and the sales tax revenues have traditionally been twice what the property tax collection levy was.”

“So, for every dollar collected in property taxes, we have been benefited by a dollar and a half to two dollars in sales tax revenues already,” he said. “And that sales tax is paid by (in part) by citizens not living in the Town of Batavia …”

'LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD'

Sutton said that satisfied that part of his question, but added that he is “looking down the road (because) here we are today – we have a shortfall.”

He continued on his point that many people from outside the town come to the town to shop, and that the town should benefit more from having to deal with extra traffic and for having many “employment opportunities.”

“There has to be something we can do as a town to increase sales tax,” he said. “There has to be something that we can go forward doing this to make it even more beneficial to live in the town – to bring a business in from outside.”

Post replied by asking him to consider, “How much benefit does Genesee County get by having a lower sales tax rate to attract shoppers from counties that have a higher sales tax rate?”

“We have spent a lot of time looking at the consequence; right now, we’re an attractive site for equipment sales, heavy equipment. We just had a groundbreaking this week (LandPro),” Post offered.

“I’m looking at the larger scale sales of automobiles and heavy equipment, and if you’re selling a million dollar bulldozer and you’re selling it because your sales tax are 8 percent instead of 8 ¾ percent, and they’re buying it and taking delivery here, we’re getting the benefit of some of those revenues that we wouldn’t get if our sales tax rate was the same as it was in another county.”

Sutton said if Genesee County went to 8.25 percent it still would be lower than Erie County (but more than Monroe County, which also is at 8 percent).

Post offered to continue the debate with Sutton, inviting him to attend a weekly (Wednesday at 5 p.m.) board workshop.

“I am happy to hear your perspective and your comments … and I’m happy to see the participation,” the supervisor said.

Sutton acknowledged that he doesn’t have access to all the dollar amounts, but pressed on with his view that the Town of Batavia has a quality of living that other communities don’t have, especially an abundance of shopping locations.

“Why can’t be benefit from this so that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will also have that benefit going forward?” he asked. “We will prevent the shortfall by adding the .25 percent sales tax across the board to make it fair for not only the residences and the businesses – for everybody – to keep the property tax down that will draw business in from the outside and everybody will contribute.”

'NO OBLIGATION TO SHARE'

Post then brought up the fact that Genesee County has “absolutely no obligation to share one dime of sales tax revenue with any community.”

“They are entitled to keep 100 percent of it and it is only through the strict negotiations over the last 20 years by this board and our predecessors to come to some rational agreement where the county gets what they need to sustain their operation and not defer maintenance, and the communities in the county are benefited by the apportionment of sales taxes that they are,” he explained.

He then said he believes that Genesee County probably distributes more in sales tax to its towns and villages than another other county in New York State.

“There might be one or two other counties that do a better job with sales tax distribution than Genesee County, but locally they take 10 million dollars in revenue they collect in sales tax and they give it back to the towns to subsidize town and village operations to maintain a lower (property) tax rate.”

Post then went back to the resolution to override the state property tax cap, calling it “a statement that our community has been strategic and has been looking down the road five, 10 and 15 years financially, and retained by these resolutions annually the ability to manage our assets and modify our cash flow to meet the needs of our community so that we’re not bound and restricted by New York State and prevented from maintaining infrastructure that is key to being an attractive community to developers both international site selectors and local developers.”

The board set a public hearing on the tax cap override for 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Batavia Town Hall, 3833 West Main St. Rd.

Post thanked Sutton for sharing his thoughts, adding that he is “part of this community and your job as a citizen is to participate.”

Following the meeting, Post said that although it is early in the 2022 budget process, he does not expect the town’s property tax rate to increase.

The 2021 tax rate was set at $2.85 per thousand of assessed value, meaning that a home assessed at $100,000, for example, would pay $285 in town taxes for the year. The town also imposes a fire district tax, which was $2.34 per thousand this year.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Comments
September 15, 2021 - 9:22pm

The City of Batavia is doing all it can to “head off” the unpleasant odor that has been emanating recently from its Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is located behind the Industrial Park off Pearl Street.

With a $1 million capital project to replace the air header system at the WWTP completed, the ponds are receiving more oxygen and the “bugs” that breakdown the biological material are beginning to multiply again, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said in a response earlier today to an email from The Batavian.

“There will be a period of pond turnover where the organic material that was not broken down over the last several months is turned over or bubbles to the top of the ponds in an effort to digest it,” she wrote. “We sincerely hope that this post project period of turnover is only a short time and ponds go back to normal operations in the very near future.”

Tabelski reported that the city plans to conduct a headworks, capacity analysis and financial planning study for the WWTP and wastewater system in the near future.

The headworks is the first stage of the water treatment process. Its purpose is to remove large inorganic materials from the wastewater, with the goal to ensure the wastewater is free of toxins and debris when it reaches downstream equipment. 

The study, according to Tabelski, “will help us understand the long-term needs of the system and any other problem areas that need to be addressed so that we are operating at optimum efficiency and can continue to take waste from multiple industrial clients in the city and Town of Batavia.

Previously: Project at Batavia's Wastewater Treatment Plant is nearly complete

September 13, 2021 - 10:24pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Otis Street, city of batavia.

The president of the Batavia City Council tonight said he will utilize all means necessary to rectify a serious situation that has an Otis Street man and woman fearing for their safety and the security of their neighborhood.

“We are working with the assistant city manager (Jill Wiedrick) … she’s going to get code enforcement down there,” said Eugene Jankowski Jr., responding to public comments from Ronald Yantz of Otis Street about the behavior of those living directly across from him.

“We’re going to try to bring all the agencies we can. We already talked to the mortgage agency and they were shocked, but was unable to do anything. They got past their screening … and are kind of confused as to how they made it through and ended up with the house.”

Jankowski said City Council and Police Chief Shawn Heubusch are aware of the problems being caused by residents across the street, noting that 11 people – including six children, unsupervised at times – are living there.

Yantz and Carol Mueller appeared at tonight’s City Council meeting, with the former taking about five minutes to detail how their life has been turned upside down since purchasing their home last August.

Quality of Life Has Diminished

“It was a nice quiet street and a few months later, people bought the house across the street. From there, it has gone downhill as far as my quality of life, our neighbors' qualify of life – our safety,” he said, mentioning the frequent loud parties, large groups of kids, and garbage blowing into his yard from across the street.

He said he was prompted to call police recently after witnessing one of the older kids “pulling out what appeared to be a pistol from one of the cars” and carrying it low into the house.

“If it’s a toy pistol it should have the orange cover on the end of the barrel. It wasn’t a toy as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Then, last month, he said it was about 11:30 at night when he was shaken by an explosion.

“I was just falling asleep and I heard a huge explosion right near the house. You could hear the shrapnel hit my house. It was no M-80, it was a half-stick of dynamite, at least, on the street. It was only 25 to 30 feet away from the gas main that goes into my house,” he said.

“That would have been the biggest tragedy that ever happened in Batavia … that would have blown all those houses up. And the kids that were standing there would have been killed and me, too.”

He said he ran downstairs and out the door.

Threats Aimed at Couple

“I said, ‘What are you guys doing?’ They’re like, ‘Shut the f--- up’ to us and telling her to shut up. We called the cops and all the neighbors came around; they already had called the cops.”

Yantz said when police arrived, the people verbally abused the couple, and threatened them, saying, ‘Wait until you go to work and see what happens to your house’ and ‘See what happens to your (custom pickup) truck when you’re not around.’”

Unfortunately, the police were unable to do anything at that time as they did not witness any unlawful act.

“This is ridiculous,” Yantz continued. “These people have no regards for their neighbors or nothing. What was a nice, quiet street and now it’s … like some of the other streets that have come down in Batavia. It’s just a shame.”

He said that since he is “stuck” in his home for at least five years before he can sell it, he hopes that the enforcement of ordinances or something else can be done.

“All night long, they play loud music – in the middle of the night, you hear thumping and thumping. It’s very … it’s a situation that I didn’t expect to get into at my age. I just want a nice quiet existence in a residential neighborhood,” he said.

Advice is to Keep Calling the Police

Responding to Yantz’ comments, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that PathStone assisted the people as first-time homebuyers but noted that they have a mortgage through the United States Department of Agriculture. She also said the city has reached out to the USDA but to no avail.

Jankowski urged the couple to keep calling the police because “when they don’t call for a while, then police resources are directed somewhere else.”

“They (police) think the problem is under control if they don’t hear anything so they move to another location that might need it,” he said, adding that he told police to stay vigilant on this and similar circumstances around the city.

Council member Rose Mary Christian, who represents Otis Street residents in the Sixth Ward, advised that these types of disturbances have been going on for months.

“We’re at the point that it is ridiculous that they have to make a harassment charge against these people when we all know damn well that there are violations of the law – and the fact that the city should do something about it,” she said. “We have more power than these poor people on that street that destroy that beautiful, beautiful street.

Sixth Ward Council Member: It's Outrageous

“As far as social services go, those kids are running in the street and everything else, and throwing items at cars that are going by. The vulgar language and everything else that is going on. They (the children) should be taken away from that family. There’s no if, ands or buts about it. And to have 11 people in that household, and to have all the other friends from Liberty Street coming down into that area, it’s outrageous.”

Jankowski said that filing complaints are the best way to resolve the problem.

“We need a more consistent game plan to deal with this,” he said. “Maybe we’ll keep track of what we do to resolve this so if it pops up in another area … we can use some of these tools and solve it a little faster than the six months that this has been going on.”

He then offered his full support as he also lives on Otis Street.

“If you need support from me, I am right down the street. I’ll walk down and help you guys …,” he said.

Police Chief: Charges are Pending

Heubusch said his officers answered that call for service but noted that there is an open investigation, “so I can’t really get into the details of it but, suffice it to say, there are charges pending.”

“We will be dealing with that. We do have a presence on the street as time permits and our call volume permits … we’re doing our best to split all of our resources and make sure you guys are taken care of,” he said.

Council member John Canale asked Heubusch if he had “past experiences” with any of the people, and he replied, “Some of them are known to us, yes.”

Then, Council member Patti Pacino said, “Are you telling me that if two policemen stand there and somebody threatened my life and my property … they really can’t arrest the person?”

Heubusch replied that he wasn’t there that night, but said that “the legal definition of harassment is much different than the casual definition of harassment.”

Council member Robert Bialkowski urged Yantz to lodge complaints, “even if it’s 2 in the morning, call the police and they’ll be over there in a few minutes.”

Jankowski: Something will Come to Light

Jankowski said the people are playing a “cat and mouse” game with police but eventually “something is going to come to light that is pending over there.”

“There were other things that happened a couple weeks ago. They addressed the situation over there with other agencies interested in people that I can’t discuss – but they removed some people at that point,” he said. “So, that made it a little better for a short period of time. And then other people kind of rose to the occasion and they took over and starting causing problems.”

A former city police officer, Jankowski said victims need to call so law enforcement can address it and document it.

“When those things accumulate, the more time we can show a pattern of constant harassment ... that might fit some of the definition over a period of time,” he offered. “If they don’t have the means to actually physically harm you at the moment, and there’s an officer standing 20 feet away across the street, it’s not harassment at that point. If they’re in your face and they’re making contact with you, you’ve got something there.”

August 26, 2021 - 3:58pm

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While there has been much activity in the City of Batavia, especially with Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Main Street Grant projects, the same can’t be said about the renovation of the former C.L. Carr department store at 101-107 Main St.

According to the “project tracking” chart generated by the Batavia Development Corp., a $1 million DRI award (of the $5.25 million total investment) was allocated to the Carr’s rehabilitation.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, at this morning’s Batavia Development Corp. board meeting, said building owner Ken Mistler has met with representatives of Urban Vantage of Buffalo, a consulting firm, as he seeks the best course of action to repurpose the space.

“I’ve had several meetings with Mr. Mistler and he would like to move the project forward,” Tabelski said. “The next steps are to see if they want to go after an historic designation for the building – whether it’s worth that and the tax credits – and assuring that they can get architecture, engineering and design on the building done because you can’t do construction until you get that done.”

She said her discussions with Mistler have focused on keeping the bottom floor as commercial space, with the possibility of multiple stores there, and turning the upper floors into residential space.

“We talked about potentially doing furnished corporate loft-type space for some of the companies we have here,” she said. “We’re always getting requests for furnished space.”

The building has one section with three floors and another with two floors.

Tabelski also mentioned the need for corporate rentals and boutique hotel space in Batavia.

“When they look at their return on investment, they’re not just going to look at residential, they’re going to see if some of these mixes could work there,” she offered, mentioning The Shirt Factory Café in Medina as a prime example of mixed-use success.

There, the first floor houses a coffee shop, hair stylist and mead works, while the second floor has an attorney’s office and boutique hotel room in the loft space, and the third floor features boutique hotel rooms.

“In a way, the business model could be very similar to Carr’s. A very different building, very historically-significant -- The Newell Shirt Factory in Medina – but the mix of tenancy could be a great example for them to look at and follow.”

She said some preliminary work was done on the Carr’s site before COVID-19 hit “and now they’re getting back to it.”

“It’s nice to see it get moving along because when looking at all of the projects, that is the one that needed to advance through the necessary stages,” she said.

Contacted this afternoon, Mistler said that he has not contracted with Urban Vantage at this point and any information on what the renovation ultimately will look like is speculation.

Photo by Mike Pettinella

August 25, 2021 - 8:52pm

This afternoon’s approval of a new sales tax allocation agreement with the City of Batavia – a move that clears the way for the annual distribution of $10 million in sales tax revenue to Genesee County towns and villages – was a significant moment in the eyes of County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein.

So significant, in fact, that she marked the occasion with a resounding swing of her gavel on its wooden block.

“I’m excited (by this),” she said after legislators unanimously passed the “Modified Amended and Restated Sales Tax Allocation Agreement Between the County of Genesee and the City of Batavia.”

Stein, no doubt, also was relieved that lawmakers passed this and a subsequent, connected resolution ratifying the Town of Darien’s willingness to enter into an “Amended and Restated Water Supply Agreement” with the county.

On the first resolution, the sales tax allocation agreement between the city and county doesn’t change, but it does add wording statilng that the city has no objections to the county’s plan to distribute $10 million in sales tax money collected on a yearly basis to the towns and villages for the next 38 years.

The second resolution was made possible when the Darien Town Board, on Wednesday night, voted to sign a new water supply agreement with Genesee County. Darien was the last municipality to opt in and, by doing so, enables the county to share the full $10 million in sales tax and not a combination of sales tax and other revenue.

The new water supply contract – it’s the same for all municipalities – gives the county the right to raise the surcharge on water usage beyond the 60-cents per 1,000 gallons level, but also requires the county to petition the Monroe County Water Authority in seven years to enact an equalized water rate throughout the county.

“Sharing the $10 million was the goal of this legislature,” Stein said, as she congratulated her colleagues on achieving that goal.

In other action, the legislature voted in favor of contracting with EFPR Group, CPAs, PLLC, of Williamsville, a consulting firm, for assistance in how to spend money received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The contract is for up to $10,000 for the two years of the contract, which includes the option of three, one-year renewals. The cost will be paid from ARPA funds.

County Manager Matt Landers told legislators that the ARPA grant can be used to fund water and broadband projects, but there are “a lot of nuances” to the guidelines. He said EFRP has “extensive experience” in this area and is familiar with the process.

Landers also said he doesn’t think it will cost $10,000 in the first year, but probably closer to $5,000.

Previously: Darien opts in to water agreement after receiving assurances that county will pursue equalized rate

August 2, 2021 - 12:23pm

dunk_tank.jpeg

If the number of sponsors is any indication, next Tuesday’s Batavia Police Community Night Out should be quite an event.

Thirty-seven business, organizations and individuals have signed on to support the outreach, which is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 10 at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus at 114 Liberty St.

“We’re excited over the response to this initiative, which is aimed to bring the community and police together to build positive relationships, and to highlight the various services available,” said Detective Matthew Wojtaszczyk, event coordinator.

Wojtaszczyk mentioned that a “secondary goal” is to raise money for the City of Batavia Police K-9 program, specifically K-9 Officer Stephen Quider and his dog, Batu. The duo and Genesee County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Mullen and K-9 Frankie are expected to demonstrate their abilities at the gathering next week.

Batavia Downs Gaming and Western New York Heroes, Inc. (which provides services to veterans) are diamond sponsors of the event that offers entertainment in the forms of a bounce house, balloon artist, games at vendor booths, and pony rides through A Horse’s Friend Trail Riding & Youth Programs based in Rush.

Additionally, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch and Assistant Chief Chris Camp have offered their services at the dunk tank, which will raise money for the K-9 fund.

The Batavia Fire Department will conduct car seat safety checks in the public parking lot next to Wortzman Furniture.

Vendor agencies include Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Genesee County Youth Bureau, Genesee County STOP-DWI, Genesee County Probation, Tobacco Free WNY and Batavia Community Schools.

Wojtaszczyk said a designated bus drop area will be set up at Central and Pringle avenues that night, with handicap parking available in the lot located at 236 Ellicott St. (just south of Borrell’s Gym).

Other sponsors are as follows:

Gold -- City of Batavia, Western New York Association of Chiefs of Police, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, City of Batavia Fire, Graham Corporation, Chapin International, Extended Sound, Genesee County Sign Shop, Batavia City Church, Target, The Daily News. Eli Fish Brewing Company, Ken Barrett Chevrolet, WBTA, McGinnis Family, Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union, Genesee Family YMCA.

Silver -- Batavia Police Benevolent Association, A Horse’s Friend, Tompkins Bank of Castile/ Insurance, Batavia Family Dental, Northside Deli, Ficarella’s Pizzeria, Southside Deli, V.J. Gautieri Constructors, Inc., Genesee County Economic Development Center, Pathstone Corporation, Canisteo Police Club, Cedar Street Sales & Rental.

Bronze -- Tom Benedict and family, Bob Bialkowski, Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County, Notre Dame High School, O’Lacy’s Irish Pub, The Radley Family.

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Photos from 2019 Community Night Out -- dunk tank and officers on horseback.

July 23, 2021 - 11:24am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, disc golf, Williams Park, city of batavia, Centennial Park.

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City of Batavia resident Phillip Boyd on Thursday said he has shelved his idea of a nine-hole disc golf course at Centennial Park in favor of working with city officials to place one at Williams Park on Pearl Street.

“It’s much larger than I originally thought,” Boyd said after taking a walk around the east and south portions of Williams Park with City Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt and City Parks Supervisor Brian Metz yesterday afternoon.

“Our talk went very well and there’s definitely a lot of potential for a nine-hole and we talked about possibly clearing out some of the woods in the right (southwest) corner for an 18 (hole course) in the future.”

Boyd said that he planned to return to the park today with a couple friends to map out a nine-hole course that would start near Pearl Street on the east side and proceed south along the east, southeast and south edges of the park.

He said he is hoping to attract sponsors for each hole to cover the expenses for tee pads, signage and baskets, figuring it would cost around $5,000. He also said he will be submitting his plan for Williams Park to City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

“Yes, I’ll have to do the same thing that I did to try to get Centennial Park; send in my course layout and proposal,” he said.

When asked to comment about the stir he caused with those living around Centennial Park, with many residents of that area rising up in opposition, Boyd said he wants to look ahead.

“Look, we all have our passions. Their passion was for Centennial Park’s history and mine is for disc golf,” he said. “I have no problems with leaving that behind now that there are other options available.”

Boyd also said he is willing to help those seeking to put an 18-hole course at Genesee Community College, and already has received quotes for the necessary equipment for that layout.

Photo: Brian Metz, left, Phillip Boyd and Ray Tourt looking at a map of Williams Park as they explore the possibility of placing a disc golf course at the Pearl Street recreational area. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Comments
July 20, 2021 - 7:38am

jill_w.jpgWhile she didn’t grow up in Batavia, Jill Wiedrick nevertheless considers her appointment as assistant city manager as a homecoming since she will be returning to the place where she spent seven years as a senior planner with the Genesee County Planning Department.

“I can’t wait to move back to the community and be part of it again. We’re really excited,” Wiedrick said by telephone Monday -- two days before the Elma native continues her career in government as a key member of the City of Batavia’s administrative staff.

Wiedrick (photo at right) said she came to understand “how great Batavia was" by having lived and worked here from 2006-13.

“Part of the reason (for taking the city position) is that my husband and I have two young kids and I’d like them to grow up a little bit the way I did,” said Wiedrick, who graduated as Jill Babinski in 2000 from Iroquois Central School. “I grew up in a small community – not that there’s anything wrong with the City of Rochester; I think it’s fantastic – but we wanted to try something different.”

She also indicated she decided to leave her job as manager of zoning for the City of Rochester to be closer to her parents, who continue to live in Elma.

“And, professionally, I’ve been really interested in city management and other facets of government. So, this seems like something that perhaps that I would enjoy and be successful at,” she said.

Education Includes Professional Certificate

A graduate of Geneseo State College, Wiedrick received her master’s degree in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning and, this spring via online distance learning, earned a professional certificate in Municipal Finance from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

She began employment with the City of Rochester as senior city planner in November 2013 before moving up to zoning manager in February 2020. She is credentialed with the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Wiedrick said that she relished her time as a Genesee County planner.

“I learned so very much and became such great friends with everyone. Jim Duval (the former planning director) was my first boss there and I cannot say enough awesome things about him. He continues to be a strong person in my life and a mentor,” she offered.

“And obviously, I worked with (current Planning Director) Felipe (Oltramari), who brings so much to the table in terms of helping the county and its municipalities be successful and how they want to look in the future.”

Oltramari said he was impressed with Wiedrick’s positive attitude and work ethic during her time at the planning department.

“Everyone always had good things to say about her work,” he said. “She was a hard worker -- very passionate about her work -- and I’m really glad that she is back in the area.”

Previously Interacted with City Manager

Wiedrick also interacted with City Manager Rachael Tabelski when the latter was employed as the marketing director with the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

“I got to know Rachael when I worked on projects with the GCEDC,” Wiedrick said. “On occasions we would be at the same meetings and run in the same circles, as far as development.”

Wiedrick said she is keen on economic development, stating that GCEDC officials and others realized that the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park project in the Town of Alabama was a long-term venture.

“Going into it, we knew that we weren’t going to see development occur immediately,” she said. “A lot of the things that you do in any sort of development is that you’re making an investment that is intended to be long term and to be developed over a number of years.”

She compared it to the planting of a tree.

“You don’t plant that tree for yourself; you plant it potentially for your children,” she said. “Much of development tends to work that way. In Western New York in particular, we’re planting the seeds now and we’re reaping the benefits maybe five or 10 years out.

“A good example is the City of Buffalo. Over the past 20 years, they’ve done a lot of small things and now we’re seeing the resurgence of Buffalo. Now, people are going, ‘Wow, how did this happen?' It has been calculated and people are taking steps knowing that we’re not going to see the benefits of these actions for a number of years.”

Promoting Genesee County

Wiedrick agrees that the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award will go a long way to expanding the city’s appeal and she is eager to have a role in its rejuvenation.

“To be a part of such a tremendous team, I feel that I am going to learn so very much from, and to have an impact on a place that is near and dear to my heart is incredibly exciting,” she said.

“I would tell colleagues from the City of Rochester, 'you’ve got to go to Batavia. You’ve got to check it out. It’s not just farmland. They just laugh at me and say, ‘OK. How did they do that in Genesee County?’ "

As the assistant city manager, Wiedrick will be responsible for various projects, including administrative services, organizational risk management, organizational values, community/neighborhood development, public relations, information technology and implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning software. She also will help draft the annual budget and take part in capital planning initiatives.

Her starting salary has been set at $91,800.

Tabelski said that Wiedrick’s extensive background in land use, planning, community engagement, policy development and budgeting as well as her proficiency with technology mesh well with the requirements of the city position.

Putting Technology to Good Use

“Jill brings a wealth of knowledge and experience gained through her professional roles in government including with the Genesee County Planning Department and City of Rochester Zoning Department,” Tabelski said. “She will make an immediate impact to the city organization -- focusing on supporting the ongoing software implementation projects, neighborhoods, community development initiatives, and administrative needs.

“She is a positive, outgoing professional who will participate with residents and businesses to make improvements. I am glad she choose the City of Batavia to call home, and look forward to working with her.”

Wiedrick said she has an eye on utilizing technology to enhance the quality of living in Batavia and the surrounding area.

“One of the things that I’m excited about working on is community development efforts, and I’m also going to be working a lot with technology – which I am very comfortable with,” she said. “What I’m intrigued about -- and have been for the majority of my career in government – is what forms of technology can be used to make things easier for the public and make things easier for staff.”

Wiedrick is married to Andrew Wiedrick, a quality assurance analyst at Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Rochester. The couple has a son, Ty, who is turning 6 this month, and daughter Jolene, who turned 3 in May. The family is in the process of moving to the city.

An accomplished violinist, she plans on performing with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra in the near future.

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File photo: Jill Wiedrick performing with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Howard Owens.

Comments
July 19, 2021 - 7:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Northside Meadows, city of batavia.

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The City of Batavia’s Bureau of Inspections is giving management of the Northside Meadows apartment complex at 335 Bank St. until Sept. 1 to rectify roof and driveway maintenance issues or risk court action.

A violation notice dated July 1 and issued by Doug Randall, city code enforcement officer, to Northside Meadows Association, which is managed by David Renzo of V&V Development Corp., indicates that his investigation found the following items to be in violation of the Property Maintenance Code and Residential Code of New York State:

  • Roofs and drainage. The asphalt roof coverings are deteriorated, missing material, and not maintained in a sound and tight condition on two of the three residential buildings located on this property. You must repair or replace the roof covering using approved materials.
  • Roof covering materials. Two of the residential buildings have been covered with grey plastic tarps. The tarps are not approved roof covering materials.
  • Sidewalks and driveways. The asphalt driveway and parking areas have uneven surfaces with loose and missing materials in various areas throughout the property. You must maintain these areas in a proper state of repair and eliminate hazardous conditions. Immediate action must be taken to ensure safety.

The notice, which was obtained by The Batavian through a Freedom of Information Law request earlier today, also states the following:

That a building and/or plumbing and/or electrical permit may be required to make some or all of these corrections. If a permit is required you must obtain one prior to starting work on the items for which the permit is needed. All corrections not requiring a permit should be commenced immediately.

Contacted about the violation notice along with a tenant’s report of a leaky ceiling in one of the Building B apartments and other issues, Renzo said he has a “workout plan” in place to correct the situation.

It should be noted, that the property manager had a similar reply in a June 22 story by The Batavian on similar problems at Le Roy Meadows, another low-income housing project overseen by V&V Development. (More on that at the end of this story).

“Workers will be here tomorrow at 7 a.m. to put more tarps on the building so we can fix the ceiling in that apartment and we have plans to put new roofs on Buildings B and C this summer,” Renzo said. “We’re in the process of contracting with a roofing company right now.”

Northside Meadows, located just west of Walden Estates, consists of three buildings – A, B and C – with eight apartments (four lower and four upper) in each building.

Renzo said he also is soliciting bids to fix the large potholes in the driveway.

Saturday’s heavy rain caused a build-up of water on the roof of Building B and, eventually, resulted in a leak in the ceiling.

Renzo said he went to the apartment, staying there for three hours to shore up the ceiling – punching additional holes in it to relieve the water pressure.

“We had four inches of rain … and this could have happened even with a new roof; the water accumulated in the valley of the roof,” he said.

He explained that he punched some more holes in the ceiling to prevent it from bubbling and placed plywood on the ceiling, supported by long boards extending to the floor.

Meanwhile, the woman who had just moved in to that apartment was forced to evacuate, and is staying with her mother until it is fixed, Renzo said.

“She’ll be out a couple days … but she was all happy because we’re giving her a month’s free rent,” Renzo said.

Currently, tarps are covering Building B and Building C (which is not in compliance with city code), while the roof was replaced on Building A 10 years ago – only after receiving violation notices from the city.

The tarps on Building B and Building C have been in place for at least eight years.

The mother of the tenant who did not disclose his/her name called the property “a hot mess,” citing evidence of drug use, mold, car repairs in the parking lots and excessive noise.

“Starting from the street, you’ve got craters in the driveway that do not get fixed,” said Connie Porter, a Birchwood Village resident who provides rides for her son/daughter. “For several years – and I don’t mean days and I don’t mean months – these roofs have been covered with tarps. Let’s not fix them. Let’s keep collecting rent and leave them.”

Porter said there is no policing of tenants who are violating the rules.

“There are people that are taking advantage of putting their cars in there and doing work that should be done at a mechanic’s shop,” she said. “And at Building C – the needles There is not one diabetic that I know of who goes outdoors to inject themselves with insulin and throws it on the ground. Something else is going on. Plus, the noise at all hours of the night.”

She asked what it was going to take before something gets done.

“Why should it be that you have to turn somebody in before the landlords … actually do something to keep the place the way it should be? Are they going to wait until somebody gets hurt or dies? That’s a health risk over there … a serious health risk.”

Renzo responded by saying that the police, specifically the drug task force, are “very well aware of the situation.”

“The problem is that if they know someone is doing something, it takes about a year to build a case,” he said. “The next plan of action is that we’re going to be putting video cameras in, probably, which would help. That’s our plan – to put video cameras in each building in the common areas.”

He said the management firm’s accounts receivable are thousands of dollars in arrears because many tenants have not paid rent since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

The federal moratorium on eviction ends on July 31, and the state moratorium concludes a month later.

“I sent a letter last week to all the people who haven’t paid and let them know the eviction moratorium is ending …,” Renzo said.

He said that all prospective tenants are subject to background checks and sex offender checks.

“Back in 1993 when the place was built, things were so much different,” he offered. “Now, all these people from Rochester are moving into town and there is a criminal element we’re dealing with. You rent to a single mother with children and her boyfriend comes in from Rochester …

“If there’s any drugs involved, the police are called and they’re doing their part. It’s no different than any other apartment complex.”

Renzo said he has yet to receive a complaint about mold in the apartments.

He advised that he is working with the United States Department of Agriculture on a plan to get the roofing replace before fall and also to pay off $60,000 in back taxes owed to Genesee County.

Renzo said the facility is owned by Northside Meadows Associates, a limited partnership.

He said that 95 percent of it has been syndicated to a company called Sterling, which utilizes National Tax Credit Fund No. 37, a real estate investment trust based in Manhasset. Renzo said he has only a 2 1/2 percent stake in the complex, with the remaining 2 1/2 percent owned by a local rural preservation company.

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LE ROY MEADOWS UPDATE

Renzo said the investment group from California is submitting a workout plan to the USDA and “we expect funds to come in within a week or two.”

“Back taxes are being taken care of by the vouchering of HUD (Housing & Urban Development) money,” he said. “HUD and the USDA have agreed to the plan.”

The county is owed more than $600,000 in back taxes at the 10-building, 80-unit complex at 18 Genesee St., which also is in immediate need of roof and driveway repairs.

Previously: Le Roy Meadows manager says plan will address $600,000 in back taxes, needed repairs

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Photo at top: Driveway at Northside Meadows apartment complex. Photos at bottom: Tarps covering Building B; sign along Bank Street. Photos by Howard Owens.

July 17, 2021 - 3:26pm

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Learning that Batavia lawmakers apparently have squashed his vision of placing a disc golf course at Centennial Park is not sitting well with 27-year-old Phillip Boyd, the Hart Street resident who pitched the idea at a City Council meeting in late May.

This past Monday, Council members – responding to complaints from homeowners living near the tree-dominated park in the northwest quadrant of the community – agreed that Centennial Park is “off the table” as a potential location for a nine-hole layout for a sport that has gained in popularity in recent years.


SIDEBAR: Western New York: A Hotbed for Disc Golf


Boyd is an avid disc golfer who competes in a league at courses in the Buffalo/Niagara region and has played at courses closer to home, including one at Hartland Park in Bergen. He said he’s not giving up on his push to have a disc golf course in Batavia and sees the 14-acre parcel across from the New York State School for the Blind as the perfect place.

“I’m definitely going to still try to get it there,” he said on Friday. “The main thing that I’m disappointed in is that the argument that they have is ‘keep it a green park’ when it has never truly been a green park. And, also the idea of the traffic being around there.It’s a park. It’s not busy now and parks are typically busy.”

Boyd said numerous people have told him that Centennial Park is rarely used.

“That’s the thing that should be changed -- to actually use a giant open space, and actually use it in Batavia. We have no activities around here. There’s nothing to do; everyone has to go to Buffalo and Rochester,” he said.

“These smaller towns like Bergen, Pembroke; they can do these, but Batavia can’t. That’s why we’re so far behind and why Batavia is a declining city. We aren’t the true hub of Genesee County. Everyone’s leaving Batavia because there is nothing to do here.”

JANKOWSKI: FOLLOW THE PROCESS

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he and his colleagues do support events and activities, regularly approving requests from community organizations that are submitted to city management and staff.

“There’s a procedure and a process for these types of things and putting in a disc golf course at a city park is no exception,” Jankowski said. “Mr. Boyd was requested by Council to hand over his plans and documents to the city manager (Rachael Tabelski) for review and to get that process started, but he has yet to do so.”

Jankowski said Boyd appeared at two Council meetings, stating his case for disc golf during the public comments session.

“He was asked twice to submit the paperwork to the city manager, but instead he showed up at two City Council meetings and has yet to submit his written plans,” he said.

When this was mentioned to Boyd, he said he intends to hand in the information (sketches and a detailed course layout at Centennial Park) on Monday – July 19th, the deadline that he says he was given by Tabelski.

The Council president said his main issues with Centennial Park are that it has no facilities -- specifically bathrooms and amenities that are available at other city parks -- and that the only parking is along city streets.

“We’re willing to work with Mr. Boyd to find a better place, including working with our partners at neighboring towns and with Genesee County to try to make this happen,” Jankowski offered. “We’re not against disc golf, and are willing to look at other alternatives.”

BOYD: ‘SOME AREN’T OPEN TO CHANGE’

Boyd said he has walked the other parks in the city and finds that none of them, except maybe Williams Park (depending upon how much land the city owns at that location), would be acceptable.

“The Council president said that Centennial is off the table,” Boyd said. “If he is going to do that for 150 signatures and 12 people who showed up at the (July 12) meeting, that’s a problem. If I come with as much support as I have – a lot more than 150 signatures -- and he is still going to stand with that, then you’re not really being open to the idea of change in Batavia.”

“If Batavia is the hub of Genesee County, the lone city, we should be the one to lead the way for all the towns. Why do so many towns in our area have more activities than the city? There’s no reason for that.”

Boyd said he “feels comfortable with the amount of support he has and it’s building,” noting that he has reached hundreds of people through various social media platforms.

Jankowski questioned Boyd’s petition, which he said is on change.org.

“That’s open to anyone in the country,” he said. “How would that have anything to do with people who live here?”

DIFFERENCES OF OPINION

Residents of Ellicott Avenue and Park Place, two of the streets that border Centennial Park, came to last Monday’s meeting and urged Council to keep the park as it is – without any permanent structures other than trees – now and into the future.

Some brought up the “negatives” associated with disc park, but most were there to profess their affection for the park in its current state.

Before they had a chance to voice their opinions, however, Jankowski said that he had received information that Boyd had backed off on having the course at Centennial Park due to the neighbors’ concerns and was open to other locations.

When that was conveyed to Boyd yesterday, he said that he never agreed “with just dropping this.”

“I said if there was a good enough reason why they didn’t want it here other than it is a green natural park, which technically it is not, (then I would listen),” he said. “But it hasn’t been that at all.

"They say traffic. If you put anything in any public space, that public space will be used more. Therefore, there will be more traffic. If they have a better opposition except just those small things, I’ll leave it alone.”

He then said that a nine-hole pitch and putt golf course used to be at Centennial Park in the 1960s.

“No one wants to bring up that golf balls do way more damage than a disc could ever do,” he said. “The park used to have a fountain and a pond before things got changed over. Then, in time it was stopped and taken care of by New York State and then they gave it over to the city.”

CITY IS WAITING FOR INFORMATION

Tabelski said that an email from Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt indicated that he spoke with Boyd, who said he was willing to look at Kibbe and Williams parks if Centennial wasn’t available.

“The confusion stems from the fact that Phil has yet to submit the information that the Council president and staff has requested,” she said. “Even taking Centennial Park out of the mix, if you look to work with the city, there is a process to follow.”

She said that process includes review of any requests by the city manager, department heads and city attorney, considering financial and insurance implications. Once the review is complete, it then is brought forward to City Council for discussion and potentially to a vote.

“We’ve engaged with him and we’re waiting for his plans and documents,” she said, reiterating Council’s decision. “City Council will not consider Centennial due to its historic use and importance to the community.

“It was clear that it was the strong sense of Council that it is inappropriate. Phil has not reached out to myself or the Parks Department to further discuss an alternative location.”

DISC GOLFERS: A RESPONSIBLE GROUP

Boyd defended the disc golf community, one that he says is “very big on being as respectful as possible” and provided examples where disc golfers have won over those who initially were against them. He said disc golfers police each other and prioritize keeping the courses in top shape and free of debris.

“If somebody notices that someone does something not typical of our community, they’ll speak up to them and say, ‘Hey, that’s not what we do. Don’t make us look bad. Please refrain from doing that, and do it this way,’ ” he said.

He said disc golfers carry out the trash they carry in where no garbage cans are provided, and some disc golfers walk the courses to pick up trash left behind by other park goers.

“There’s plenty of room at Centennial Park,” said Boyd, comparing it to Pine Woods Park in North Tonawanda. “When they first started to put a course at Pine Woods, the residents in the neighborhood were so against it. They had picket signs in their front lawns that read, ‘No to disc golf.’”

“But eventually they got the course approved and they put in a nine-hole course. Two years after that, even after they had continued pushback from the neighborhood, the city approved an increase to an 18-hole course because the city realized how many people were coming to play. It was huge; the park was actually being used again.”

He said he mirrored his course layout after Pine Woods because it is similar to Centennial Park.

“The way I’ve set it up is that there will be room for other activities and still have disc golf,” he said, adding that it would take up about two-thirds of the park, stopping short of the hill used for winter sledding.

He said that he told Tourt that he walked all of the other parks and “there’s no other true park in Batavia other than Centennial that will give you a disc golf course that will bring anyone to it.”

CENTENNIAL? PAR FOR THE COURSE

Boyd said his nine-hole course works so well at Centennial Park because of the abundance of trees.

“You can set trees up in a fairway to make it more difficult hole. You can make holes so much shorter as long as the trees make it more difficult,” he explained, showing a printed Google map of the proposed course. “A few friends and I have placed portable baskets at the park and played the course a few times, and it works out great.”

He said the first hole starts at the corner of Park and Ellicott and is angled inward toward the park to avoid the road – a par 3, 300-foot shot. He said he tried keep everything away from the roads to avoid any possible danger.

“It works down Park Avenue for two of the holes and the third hole comes back toward the center of the park. The fourth hole goes about 50 feet short of the walkway and hole five brings you back down to the middle of the park,” he said.

“Six and seven are in the middle of the park, eight brings you to the outside and hole nine is up at the corner of Richmond and Ellicott and brings you down to where you first started.”

He said the average hole length is about 225 feet.

Hartland Park in Bergen has a nine-hole course that is similar to the one Boyd has drawn up. There, he said, disc golfers coexist with those walking their dogs and using the park for other purposes.

“There was opposition at first from people saying they didn’t want discs thrown in their backyards,” he offered. “That’s not the case anymore because people realize that the disc golf community is a good community, and there’s really no true harm in it. And people still walk their dogs there; I see them while I’m playing.”

COUNCILPERSON-AT-LARGE WEIGHS IN

Councilperson-at-Large Robert Bialkowski said he has been trying to educate himself about disc golf, talking to managers and officials at Darien State Park, Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island, and Lincoln Park in Buffalo – places that offer the activity.

He said the consensus is to have these courses away from the general public.

“The manager at Darien Lakes State Park said they have it on trails that aren’t used much,” Bialkowski said. “And the discs aren’t Frisbees; they’re special discs for different uses – short range, long range. If you get hit by one, it’s going to sting.”

He also said courses should be equipped with trash cans and some need additional landscaping to make them work.

“The manager at Lincoln Park said they have an 18-hole course that used 16 to 20 acres and it works out pretty well, except for one part that is near a picnic area,” he said.

Bialkowski explained that Batavia’s smaller neighborhood parks may be able to support a disc golf course, but noted that baseball and other athletic fields have taken space that previously was used for walking and hiking.

GCC COULD BE A POSSIBLE SITE

As far as Centennial Park is concerned, he said citizens have spoken, they enjoy the park as it is and Council has rendered its decision.

“Being an at-large councilman, I represent all of the citizens of the city,” he said. “We have to do our homework. I’m disappointed that Mr. Boyd isn’t satisfied with our process, but that’s the way it is.”

Jankowski said that he heard there was movement toward putting a disc golf course at Genesee Community College and encouraged Boyd to look into that as well as other possibilities.

“There might be better options out there and I find it interesting that he is so focused on one area and not any other opportunities that might be even better,” he said. “Let’s look into it.”

Boyd, in response, said he is aware of a course proposed for GCC and is assisting those who are spearheading that effort as well.

"They were having problems with finding funding and I’m now working with them to get the funding and quotes for the baskets, tee pads and signs with the people I have connections with," Boyd said, adding that it opens up the prospect of having disc golf courses in both the town and city. 

Previously: Residents speak out against disc golf at Centennial Park

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Photo at top: Phillip Boyd, wearing his disc golf jersey, displays his plans for a course that he hopes will find its way to the City of Batavia. Photo at bottom: The course that he designed for his preferred destination -- Centennial Park, which has been removed from consideration by City Council. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

Comments
July 8, 2021 - 3:30pm

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Photo: 400 Towers at 400 E. Main St.

It can be said that housing authorities such as those under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provide safe and affordable dwelling places for millions of low-income people in need.

But it also is true that these quasi-nonprofit enterprises benefit from their tax-exempt status, giving private landlords cause to question the fairness of the framework by which they exist.

You can draw a line from the preceding statements to the Batavia Housing Authority, a four-location government agency that offers HUD-subsidized apartments for senior (62 and older) and disabled tenants.

The BHA, which by New York State law is exempt from paying property taxes, receives subsidies from HUD to bring the monthly rent closer to the market rate and also receives periodic federal grants to help with renovations and maintenance across its buildings.

Executive Director Nathan Varland, during an interview with The Batavian last week at his office at 400 Towers, said he sees the Batavia Housing Authority as a much-needed public housing option considering the increasing number of senior citizens and permanently disabled residents who are struggling financially, especially as costs increase in a high-tax state such as New York.

AVERAGE RENT COLLECTED: $358

“The Batavia Housing Authority exists to provide safe, healthy and affordable housing for people who cannot realistically afford market rent,” he said. “The average rent collected is around $358 right now, and the federal subsidy is about $182 per apartment. Those amounts cover our monthly expenses, but our aging infrastructure requires some capital investment for the organization to be viable long-term.”

Recently, the BHA received a federal capital grant for $377,000 for renovations, including electrical systems and elevators, Varland said.

“Our margins are very low and it’s hard to stay efficient,” he said. “The capital grants that we apply for and (periodically) receive are vital. We wouldn’t be able to stay in business without them as half of our people can’t use the stairs.”

Varland describes the BHA as a “standalone government entity” that has entered into a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement with the City of Batavia that enables the housing authority to pay about 75 percent less in property taxes than what a nonexempt organization would pay.

He said the PILOT has been in force for many years, likely back to when the buildings were finished in the early 1970s.

FOUR LOCATIONS IN THE CITY

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Photo: The Terraces at 193 S. Main St.

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Photo: Edward Court at 15 Edward St.

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Photo: The Pines at 4 MacArthur Drive.

The buildings of the Batavia Housing Authority are as follows:

  • 400 Towers at 400 E. Main St., (photo at top), a high-rise facility with 148 apartments over eight floors for senior citizens and people with permanent disabilities. Most of these are studio and one-bedroom apartments.
  • The Terraces at 193 S. Main St., 26 apartments.
  • Edward Court at 15 Edward St., 13 apartments.
  • The Pines at 4 MacArthur Drive, 10 apartments.

The apartment complexes on South Main, Edward and MacArthur are three- and four-bedroom townhouse-style units for households of three or more people and, currently, all are full, Varland said.

Varland said the BHA owns its own properties with HUD having a controlling interest. Monthly rent is based on 30 percent of a tenant’s adjusted annual income (or 10 percent of the gross income), with maximum income limits depending upon household size.

Current rents for studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments include cable and utilities, and range from $490 to $675. He said that some people with little or no income pay as low as $50 per month in rent.

Three- and four-bedroom apartments are priced at $593 and $611, respectively, with a utility allowance deducted for those on subsidized rent.

PILOT AGREEMENT IN FORCE

According to the New York State law, municipal housing authorities that are project financed or aided by the federal government or municipality, not by the state, are exempt from property taxes but can be subject to special assessments, levies or PILOT agreements.

The law reads as follows:

Payments in lieu of taxes -- None required. However, if payments in lieu of taxes are fixed or agreed upon by the municipality, such payments may not exceed the taxes last levied on the property prior to its acquisition by the MHA unless such project is federally financed or aided and the federal government has consented to a greater amount.

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In the case of the BHA (actually classified as the City of Batavia Housing Authority by the Genesee County treasurer’s office), the PILOT paid to the City – and then disbursed to the county and Batavia City School District – is approximately one-fourth of the amount paid by a nonexempt organization.

Photo at right: BHA Case Manager Heather Klein, left, with 400 Towers resident Brenda Boyce.

For the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2020, the BHA sent a check for $64,879.74 to the City clerk-treasurer -- $14,638.65 to the city, $15,409.33 to the county and $34,831.76 to the school district. That’s 23.5 percent of the full amount of $276,539 based on the assessed value of the properties ($6.5 million) and the total tax rate of $42.54 per thousand of assessed valuation.

“We pay a PILOT every year and that’s an agreement when the housing authority was formed,” Varland said, noting that the buildings were finished in 1970 and 1971. “The formula is based on what we take in and some of our utility expenses that come off. It’s not insignificant – about 5 percent of our annual budget -- but it’s also not based on the full value of the properties.”

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he looks at it as a “glass half full” proposition.

“The pay a PILOT but, at the same time, they are a quasi-governmental nonprofit-type agency. So, if you think about it, other nonprofits might not pay any property taxes – churches, GCASA, Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Landers said. “I’m glad they’re paying something rather than nothing at all.”

BOARD OF DIRECTOR OVERSIGHT

While the BHA properties are not owned by the city, the city manager does appoint citizens to a board of directors that provides oversight.

“We advise Nate in the direction we think is best for the housing authority,” said BHA Board Chair Brooks Hawley, who has been part of the committee for about 10 years. “At our monthly meetings, we look at the budget, address resident concerns and come up with solutions to any issues as a team.”

A current county legislator and former City Council member, Hawley said that since the rents are less than market rate – even with the subsidies, the grants from HUD “help us out with things like elevators and big projects that (private) landlords usually don’t have in a residential home.”

“We have four properties and we try to keep them up and not have them depreciate to where we’re putting huge money into it.”

The current board consists of a chairperson (Hawley), vice chair (Roger Hume), treasurer (Tammy Hathaway), secretary (Teresa Van Son), City Council liaison (Al McGinnis) and two residents (Don Hart and Jason Reese).

Varland said that the board frequently deals with compliance and regulatory matters, and sets policy that aligns with regulations at all levels of government.

“Public housing authorities are some of the most regulated agencies around,” he said. “Regulations are in place for a reason, but it does require a lot of work to keep up – especially with a small staff like ours.”

PRIVATE LANDLORDS: IS IT FAIR?

The Batavian contacted two property owners with numerous houses and apartments in Genesee County, and both agree that the Batavia Housing Authority, with its subsidies and improvement grants, have the upper hand when it comes to finding qualified tenants.

“It’s tough. I understand that there is a need for supportive housing for a lot of tenants, based on income and need, but for us, there’s no PILOT or anything else on our properties,” said Duane Preston of Preston Apartments LLC.

“We pay the full tax amount and what hurts the smaller guy is when they (BHA) get $200,000 per apartment for renovations – cabinets, bathrooms. We would love to come into that kind of money for our properties, but we can’t as we’re based on market rate rent.”

Preston said that he does have tenants that get reduced rent based on their Section 8 status (where they submit a voucher for about a 10 percent discount off the average rental market rate for the area).

“The maximum for a one bedroom in that case is $710 with everything included, $850 for a two-bedroom and $1,050 for a three bedroom,” he said. “They just raised the rates on all of those.”

He said that it takes about four months of operations for the average landlord to cover taxes on the property – “and that’s before you figure in your mortgage interest, water bills, utilities and other things that you have to cover.”

When told that the BHA is a standalone entity that owns its properties, Preston asked, “Then why are they getting a tax break? Why doesn’t everybody get a tax break then? I thought it was owned by the City of Batavia, and if that isn’t the case, that’s definitely not fair.”

Preston also questioned why those BHA apartments couldn’t be offered at market rate and be subject to the Section 8 guidelines.

“And it’s kind of a suck on city taxes,” he said. “The city is paying fire department, police department, whatever, and it used to be garbage pickup. Luckily, we’re out of that business now. Still, it’s a suck on the city and we’re not getting the full taxes out of it. It’s a double whammy.”

BHA IMMUNE FROM RISING COSTS?

Jeremy Yasses of JP Properties said he feels that the BHA is immune from rising taxes and property assessments.

“In today’s day and age when budgets are tight for municipalities and taxes and assessments are being raised, it’s not affecting the Batavia Housing Authority. How fair is that to the common folks who work every day and their assessment goes up, their taxes go up and their cost of living goes up?” he said.

Yasses said he finds it hard to believe that the Batavia Housing Authority isn’t making a profit.

“You can’t tell me that they break even every year,” he said. “Why are we allowing them to be subsidized? Why did they just get all of those grants to update all their apartments, and society wants us to update ours, and we do it one at a time when we can. They can do all of them, all at once. And that’s not fair.”

He also said that if the BHA is indeed a federal government-run entity, the City of Batavia should have nothing to do with it.

“Why does the city have any say about what’s going on there?” he asked. “No one checks in with me to see how Jeremy Yasses and JP Properties is doing.”

VARLAND EXPANDS UPON GUIDELINES

Varland explained that the BHA is under Section 9, which he called a separate funding stream from Section 8 with separate rules.

“The way Section 8 works is that low income individuals apply for Section 8 and they get a voucher for rent. They can take that to a private landlord,” he said. “With Section 9, we’re responsible for all the compliance and have a high level of oversight.”

He said the oversight comes from the city’s board of directors, but the major player is HUD.

“We’re not city employees, it’s just that the city is the jurisdiction because we’re located within the city limits,” he said. “There’s two ways to look at it: If HUD says jump, we jump; if the city says jump, we’ll have a conversation about jumping. Still, we want to make sure that partnership is strong.”

When asked what would happen if the BHA were to dispose of its properties to an unrelated entity, Varland said the transaction would have to be approved by HUD and for the fair market value.

“It would also have to be used for affordable housing,” he said. “Basically, the mission of the organization (and its property) needs to be preserved.”

400 TOWERS: A SOCIAL EXPERIENCE

Varland said just about all of the 148 apartments at 400 Towers are rented, but two are coming open soon.

“Our wait list is pretty short, so now’s a good time to apply,” he advised.

He said the facility at the corner of Swan and East Main provides a “social experience with everything in one spot.”

“You move in and you’re ready to go. Those studios are here at 400 Towers, where we have trash chutes, the mail comes inside, a snack shop, some meals that resident volunteers provide at low cost, activities, and a case manager on site to connect to resources,” he said. “And we just opened a fitness center and a library."

vickie_and_residents.jpgThe executive director said BHA is “stable” at this time, but there have been times when the HUD allowance has not been enough.

“It allows us to continue operations but we haven’t been able to keep the properties up,” he said. “Currently, we are able to maintain, but there are capital projects that need to happen in the next five years that we don’t currently have money for. But we’ve been able to keep the elevators working and keep roofs over the buildings – the basics – so we’re doing OK there.”

(Photo at right, Vicki Johnson, center, with 400 Towers residents Don Hart and Pauline Hensel).

He credited his staff for keeping things in order.

The administrative team consists of Vicki Johnson, housing manager in charge of recertification and property inspections; Abby Ball, leasing coordinator; Michelle Johnson, bookkeeper, and Heather Klein, case manager.

The maintenance staff lists four full-time employees and one part-time employee who are responsible for repairs and upkeep of all four properties. Varland said that he is looking to hire an entry-level full-time maintenance person.

COUNTING ON CITY PUBLIC SAFETY

Without its own security team, the BHA relies on municipal public safety agencies, Varland said.

“As far as security goes, we count heavily on the Batavia Police Department and Batavia Fire Department. They have been awesome,” Varland said. “They have been incredible supports and I don’t think that we could do this without them. We’re in a much better spot because of their support; it would be a struggle without them, plus our Genesee County EMS."

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He said that 400 Towers has secure doors while the family units at the other locations each have separate entrances. A camera system also is utilized.

“I’ll put our maintenance staff up against any other anywhere,” he said. “They work really hard to make sure that doors, locks, windows are safe and secure. We make sure that everything is in good condition, and to the extent that we have money, we keep things durable and fresh.”

(Photo at right: Maintenance Supervisor Jim Green).

When asked about the frequency of evictions, Varland said that has not been an issue.

“There are a number of our residents who have had financial issues due directly to COVID – both here at 400 Towers and at the family units. We have been able to work with them directly to come up with repayment agreements. As long as we stay in communication we try to help these people manage their financial situations and we want to keep them safe,” he said.

Varland said management has worked out repayment agreements with tenants, working with partner agencies such as Independent Living of the Genesee Region, which offers an emergency rental assistance program.

“The federal government is very interested in making sure people stay safe in their apartments, especially during COVID,” he added.

MORE HOUSING IS NEEDED

Varland said he is well aware of the “definite need for housing” and said that need has changed over the years.

“We could probably do a separate article on that, bringing in the Genesee County Planning Department as we meet quarterly with the Housing Needs Committee,” he said, mentioning the significance of the Ellicott Station, Ellicott Place, Eli Fish and Main Street Pizza downtown apartment projects.

When informed that an 80-unit senior complex is proposed for Pearl Street Road, he said, that is the population that needs housing the most.

“The data that is out there, our population is aging and our family size – our household size – is declining. So, people need accessible, affordable, safe and smaller apartments,” he said.

Varland said he writes letters of support for those type of projects.

“I think they’re good for the city and the county, and don’t really think of them as competition for us,” he said. “We may lose people, and people come and go, however, if it’s good for the city and good for the county, it’s good for us, too. It makes it a better place to be and live.”

June 25, 2021 - 1:54pm
posted by Press Release in news, infrastructure, street maintenance, city of batavia.

From the city's Bureau of Maintenance:

To all Residents/Property Owners:

Please, be aware the roadwork scheduled for Monday, June 28th has been rescheduled to Tuesday, June 29th. This work is weather dependent and if the work is delayed due to rain it will be scheduled for the next workday.

As a reminder that North Spruce Street (East Avenue to North Street), Fisher Park and Chase Park will be closed to all through traffic.

Residents living within the work area will have limited access to their driveway and may experience delays while the paving operations are ongoing. All efforts will be made to minimize delays. There will be no roadside parking.

Thank you for your cooperation in advance.

June 18, 2021 - 11:29am
posted by Press Release in news, city of batavia, assistant city manager.

Press release:

The City of Batavia Manager Rachael J. Tabelski announces the appointment of Jill M. Wiedrick, member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, to the position of assistant city manager. Wiedrick was selected following an extensive search for candidates.

A lifelong resident of Western New York, Wiedrick holds a master's degree in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She has served in local government for the last 15 years, including senior county planner for Genesee County. She currently holds the position of manager of zoning for the City of Rochester.

Wiedrick has extensive background in land use, planning, community engagement, as well as policy development. She has experience in municipal budgeting, permitting, and the use of technology to create efficiencies for local government.

“I believe that Jill has the unique skills and leadership qualities we need in the City of Batavia to advance our mission and strategic priorities. She will be responsible for different projects in the City including: administrative services, organizational risk management, organizational values, community & neighborhood development, public relations, information technology and the continued implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Jill will also work directly on the City’s annual budget, capital planning and other initiatives on behalf of the City,” said Rachael J. Tabelski, City of Batavia City manager.

A member of the Genesee Symphony, Wiedrick currently lives in the City of Rochester with her husband, Andrew, and their two children, Ty and Jolene. As a former resident of the City of Batavia, Wiedrick is excited to return to the area and put her experience to work for the residents of Batavia.

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