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April 11, 2022 - 11:13pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, city council, assessments.

saulsbury.jpgCity Assessor Rhonda Saulsbury says she feels the pain of the many City of Batavia property owners who have been hit with higher assessments for several years in a row.

However, she’s not in a position to change what is happening due to New York State’s requirement that assessments are reviewed on a yearly basis and her office’s goal of achieving a 100 percent sale price-to-assessment ratio.

Saulsbury (photo at right) was at City Council’s Business Meeting tonight seeking to explain the inner workings of the assessment process in light of the numerous complaints she – and Council members – have received from city residents about the preliminary assessment notices that were mailed out last week.

Following up a comment by Council member Paul Viele, who called the state’s real property tax law “a disgrace,” Saulsbury acknowledged that the timing for yet another increase is not good.

“People are suffering; people are struggling with the pandemic, their finances, maybe their job, their children being home for so long – there’s so many things feeding into it, and I'm the one person that they can get a hold of and talk to,” she said.

“I do my best to explain it. We have New York State real property tax law for a reason. And unfortunately, New York State, as everybody in this room knows, is a heavy homeowner tax burden state. So, we have to follow those guidelines … It's kind of a vicious cycle for sure.”

In her 12th year as the city assessor, Saulsbury (who also handles the same duties for the Town of Batavia) said assessments change for only two reasons – equalization, meaning sale price-to-assessment ratios are growing apart, and for physical reasons, meaning something’s changed with the property, taken away or added.

“The culmination of a yearlong project is, of course, an assessment update,” she said. “And this year, we're in the thankless position to be in our fourth year in a row with really high increases across the board throughout the county, including the city.”

Saulsbury said the city started out at plus 4 – “meaning that our ratios were off 4 percent and above, four years ago,” she said – and it increased to plus 6 and eventually to plus 11.

“Just to kind of put that in perspective, in years’ past, the city was either zero or plus one,” she said. “The city's growth has grown exponentially over the last four years, which in itself is a good thing, but in my position, not a good thing.”

She said if property owners whose assessments have gone up decide to seek an informal review or appear at Grievance Day (May 26), she will explain, with current data, how she came to the assessment figure.

“For anyone who got an assessment increase, we can show you the five sales that we actually use for your home or your business,” she said. “It's not throwing darts at a dartboard as some people may think. It's actually quite a science and it's all based on our assessment-to-sale price ratio throughout the year.

“So, when you have 300 or 400 residential sales, in particular, and the sale price is 40, 50, 60, 80,000 dollars above the assessment, we then have to do an assessment project.”

Council member Robert Bialkowski asked that if sale prices dropped by 8 percent, for example, would that trigger another reassessment.

“It’s the same state guideline; we have to hit the same thing,” Saulsbury replied. “We have to maintain assessments at market value. We're at 100 percent market value, so if the sales actually were to dip – and most people don’t believe me – we would have to adjust to those, also. In our case, it has been up and we want it to be up or to be flat. I've never experienced anything where we had to reduce.”

Saulsbury said the state rewards the city periodically for achieving assessments based on 100 percent of market value, and expects to receive around $18,000 this year to help offset costs of conducting assessment projects.

Council member John Canale, who says he follows the real estate market on a daily basis, remarked that he’s not convinced that homes went up so much in value in one year.

“… people are calling me this year and saying, ‘I thought last year, you were up to 100 percent market value. I’m an intelligent man, you can't tell me that the housing market is going up that much more since 2021.’”

Still, he said he knows that Saulsbury isn’t the one to blame.

“You’re walking around with a target on your back right now. And I wouldn't want to be you. Unfortunately, a lot of people think you're the one that's making these decisions,” he said. “It’s very important that the public realize that no, you're basically the messenger. You’re hired to do a job and you're conducting the way you do your job by state requirements.”

Bialkowski said it comes down to “people don't trust the government anymore.”

“I have a friend, and on Saturday I met with him and he spent about 10 minutes just screaming at me,” he said. “He said, I’ll bet you $100 right now that you people don't reduce your budget enough that my taxes stay the same.’ And I said, ‘Well, there's three entities in here (Genesee County and the Batavia City School District being the others), you know, and I said we set our budget -- we're very conservative in the city and all that.’

“But I suppose there's other entities I'm not going to speak for, but they just lost trust in their government. And they've seen it and heard it before, and yet their individual tax bills keep increasing.

“And their homes. They need to do more work on them. And they need furnaces and new windows and all that. And they're starting to say, the guy the other day, it's starting to look really good (about leaving the state). He's going to move down south. He’s just fed up with the whole state and I can’t blame him.”

Previously: With property values rising, City prepares for annual assessments.

(This article provides information on how residents can challenge their assessments).

April 11, 2022 - 8:46pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, Brisbane Mansion, City Hall.

barnes_larry_1.jpgUpdated: April 12, 10 a.m., with names of previous historians:

City of Batavia Historian Larry Barnes is going beyond the written word to illustrate the significance of the Brisbane family and the mansion at 10 West Main St. that has served as the community’s City Hall and, currently, as its police station.

Speaking at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room, Barnes (photo at right) said he realizes that Council members will want to hear from residents about the future of the Brisbane Mansion, which was completed in April 1855 at a cost of $25,000 (equivalent to $750,000 in purchasing power today).

“I know you will want them to be fully informed as you seek their input in the decision-making process,” Barnes said. “To help inform the public, I am working with the Landmark Society to present a play on the Brisbanes and their mansion. This play will be presented on three occasions in June and I encourage everyone to go see it.”

He said the Derek Maxfield, as associate professor of History at Genesee Community College and noted playwright, wrote the script. The cost of production is being underwritten by a grant through the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council.

Dates, times and locations of the play will be announced, he said.

Barnes said the Brisbane Mansion is a building that deserves preservation.

“The mansion … was erected as the home of George and Sarah Brisbane. This structure is historically signficant both in terms of the building, itself, and in terms of the Brisbanes who occupied it,” he said. “When the police department moves to its new facilities (on the Alva Place parking lot), you will be responsible for deciding the future of the mansion. Will it be saved and, if so, what function will it serve?”

Last year, Barnes updated his brief history of the building – a six-page document that provides details of the mansion as published in The Daily News in 1917-18, its use as City Hall and of the key members of the Brisbane family.

Following Barnes’ five-minute address, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. reiterated the board’s support of “repurposing” the building due to its historical value.

Barnes said he “totally agrees” with that stance, but reminded Council that “we’ve lost some pretty incredible buildings” over the years.

In a related development, Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to compensate Barnes with a $5,000 annual stipend.

Over the past 13 years, he has done the job on a volunteer basis, just as the previous historians for the city have done since 1919. The one exception occurred in 1962 when the city historian received a $100 stipend, payable in two equal, semiannual installments.

A list of previous City of Batavia historians, as provided by Barnes:

-- William C. Coon, 1919-1953;
-- Georgia Northrup Foote, 1954-1967;
-- Mary McCulley (later Mary McCulley Henry), 1969-1970;
-- Ruth M. McEvoy, 1971-1985;
-- Mary McCulley Henry, 1986-1995;
-- Corinne Johnson Iwanicki, 1995-2007.

Ellen C. Ruffino served as an assistant historian from 1966-1968.

Other resolutions passed tonight:

  • Extending a contract for a School Resource Officer with the Batavia City School District for two more years, through June 30, 2024. Officer Miah Stevens currently has that position, which is paid for by the school district.
  • Creating a temporary full-time detective position in anticipation of the retirement of a detective this summer. The temporary post carries an increase in pay of $15,000 to cover the promotion.
  • Extending a contract with Client First Technology Consulting for six months at a cost not to exceed $44,600 for continued assistance with the city’s Enterprise Resource Planning system. The ERP integrates functions to ensure best practices, automated workflow and project management efficiency.

Photo of Larry Barnes by Mike Pettinella.

March 31, 2022 - 11:11am

angie_dickson_1.jpg

Angela “Angie” Dickson remembers vividly what went through her mind as the plane carrying her and family members from their native Republic of Ghana approached New York City in 1999.

“I thought, this is the American Dream. That’s what we all wanted; to be able to go to school and for all the opportunities that are here,” said Dickson, recalling that September flight when she, then 16 years old, began a new life for herself.

Today, Dickson (photo above) is the confidential secretary to City Manager Rachael Tabelski, serving in that capacity since December when she was hired to replace Lisa Casey, who became the clerk of the Genesee County Legislature.

While her early days in the Big Apple were filled with wonder and awe – “It was much more established than Ghana (a West African country), which had so little,” she said – Dickson was able to carve out her place as an excellent student – graduating eighth out of 263 students at a high school in the Bronx.

Then, it was on to Buffalo State College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Health, Education and Wellness Promotion in 2007. Eight years later, she had obtained her master’s degree in Health and Wellness with a concentration in Human Resources.

“I was determined to make a better life for myself and my child,” Dickson said during a Wednesday afternoon interview with The Batavian at her office at City Hall. “My oldest daughter, Annabelle, was born in 2003 and she and I came to Buffalo.”

Dickson, who speaks several languages, including Spanish, French and multiple Ghanaian dialects, was recognized at Buffalo State for her advocacy for single mothers seeking an education. She was the recipient of a humanitarian award and also was included in an edition of the Who’s Who in College publication.

“I have dedicated my life to mothers looking to better themselves,” she said, “as I had to do it on my own.”

In 2008, Dickson entered the workforce, taking a case manager position with Schiller Park Community Services on the East Side of Buffalo, and in 2013, she was hired as a provider relations specialist with Fidelis Care at the insurance company’s regional office in Getzville.

During her tenure with Fidelis Care, she said she worked with hospitals and doctors on insurance coverage, often traveling to Akron and Batavia, which were part of her territory.

She also met the man she will be marrying on June 22, contractor Ed Griffin of Akron, and the couple and family moved to Corfu. (Incidentally, Angie and Ed were winners of GO Art!'s recent Wedding Giveaway contest, which features the ceremony at Seymour Place plus catering and numerous gifts from local businesses).

“When COVID hit, I was working from home, which was nice, but afterwards, we transitioned back to the office,” she said. “And I didn’t really want to make that drive to Getzville every day.”

Dickson also said the Akron, Pembroke and Batavia area appealed to her, with its rural setting and friendly people.

“With Batavia being one of my groups (at Fidelis), I came to love it,” she said. “I got to know people in the community and I just fell in love with it.”

She found out about the job opening with the City of Batavia, applied and was hired.

When asked how things are going so far, Dickson acknowledged that the work is “totally different from what I’ve done most of my adult life … working for a government, but I was looking for something that would be challenging and yet meaningful.”

Each day on the full-time job brings something new, she said, whether it be working on the budget books, coordinating meeting schedules, steering correspondence and residents’ inquiries to the right departments, assisting with City Council agendas and documents, or setting up meeting rooms “to make sure everything is in order.”

“I’m learning so much and, again, the community is just amazing. I hadn’t met people like this. Just to say ‘Hi’ to someone and they say ‘Hi’ back. It’s not like that in the city,” she said. “I had to get used to the fact that it was OK for people to say hello to me.”

Dickson said she appreciates that Tabelski affords her the leeway to work on a project without micromanaging it.

“Rachael trusts me and believes in me,” she said. “She gives me a responsibility and lets me do it.”

Tabelski said she is pleased with Dickson’s performance and cheerful outlook.

“Angie is a great addition to the city staff. She has an amazing positive attitude and approaches her job with a team-oriented spirit,” she said.

Outside of the office, Dickson enjoys gardening – something she picked up since moving to Corfu -- and traveling.  The couple has five children -- Corey, Maya, Annabelle, Alexander and Angelina.

Dickson said she is assisting with the city’s presentation at the Genesee County Home Show, which is scheduled for April 8-10 at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Evans St. She said she will be there at different times and is looking forward to interacting with the public.

She said her feelings of gratitude run deep.

“I’d really like to say ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart to each and every person who has made me feel welcome,” she said. “It’s overwhelming, the amount of support that I have received.”

Photo of Angela Dickson by Mike Pettinella.

March 29, 2022 - 11:45am

liberty_center_logo.pngWith the Genesee Area Family YMCA now in charge of the City of Batavia youth program, City Council member Al McGinnis believes it is time to consider the future of the City Youth Board, a citizen-led group that traditionally has played a strong role in how the community’s young people are served.

“As the functionality of the organization changes, we have to change with it,” said McGinnis, Council’s liaison to the Youth Board, at Monday night’s Conference Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room.

McGinnis took a few minutes to ask Council and city management to consider the changes that have taken place since the city entered into an agreement with the YMCA to run the program – both at the Liberty Center for Youth on Liberty Street (the St. Anthony’s campus of City Church) and summer recreation.

“With the advent of the Y taking over and the Liberty Center, they pretty much have done a splendid job and a far better job than we as the city can do,” McGinnis said. “As the Y becomes more predominant and Liberty Center, the strength of the Youth Board – membership has dwindled. Right now, besides myself, there are only two active members and we have no students in it.”

Since the city is no longer a provider of youth services – and the YMCA is, McGinnis thinks the Youth Board should not have to meet every month (per its bylaws) and should become “advisory” in nature and meet maybe three or four times per year.

He also suggested that those who have served on the Youth Board could maybe fill slots on other citizen boards that support the city.

“We don’t dictate policy to the Y, we don’t dictate policy to the Liberty Center, and we could serve the public better by having the people on those boards take slots in other city government positions (advisory boards) that we have,” he said. “We always need volunteers.”

McGinnis acknowledged the work of those who have participated on the Youth Board and asked Council to send them letters of appreciation.

At that point, City Manager Rachael Tabelski brought up “a great opportunity for the board to work on projects,” specifically the inclusive playground at Austin Park that was approved by Council last November, with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act revenue.

“I hope Council would allow us to invite the Youth Board members to be part of that steering committee for the process moving forward for the inclusive playground at Austin Park,” she said.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said he didn’t not want to disband the Youth Board, suggesting that it could advise the YMCA and recommend other programming as need.

“… something they could input into that so that we as a member can direct the Y to change some things as to how they serve us as the customer,” he said, agreeing with Tabelski that the Austin Park project is a good fit.

Council member Robert Bialkowski said the Youth Board should remain, with members deciding to meet as necessary.

McGinnis said the Youth Board bylaws call for monthly meetings and also include term limits.

“People on the board have worked well past their tenure because we haven’t found anyone to replace them,” he said.

As far as the number of required meetings, City Attorney George Van Nest said if the Youth Board wants to change the bylaws, it just needs to make its intentions known to Council.

Council member Kathleen Briggs asked McGinnis if YMCA officials requested a change in the Youth Board’s function. He said that was not the case.

“The Y has been very good to work with as has the Liberty Center,” McGinnis said. “Everything they’ve done, let’s face it, they’re in the business of children, we aren’t. We’re in the business of government. We do government very well. We don’t do children very well. That’s not our job; that’s the Ys job.

It was decided that McGinnis would talk to the other Youth Board members – President David Twichell and Vice President Paula Fischer -- at their next meeting and report back to Council.

The Batavian reached out by email to Twichell and Fischer for comment this morning.

March 15, 2022 - 10:44am

engine_12_b.jpg

It seems as though fire truck No. 12 is the “little engine that can’t” – for very much longer.

City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski reported at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting that the city fire department’s Engine 12 (photo above) is 20 years old and is just about ready to be retired from service.

“We have in our capital plan a fire truck replacement for Engine 12 and we are looking at getting grant funding from CDBG (Community Development Block Grant),” Tabelski said. “And before we submit a full application, they ask that municipalities go through a pre-application process.

“It’s a 2002 (model) that we will be replacing and the estimated cost is 700,000 dollars.”

From there, she turned it over to Interim Fire Chief Dan Herberger, who provided more details about Engine 12, including its shortcomings in the area of technology.

“We’re looking at replacing it with something very similar to our frontline engine, which is Engine 11,” he said. “It’s a rescue, fire engine-type style; basically, think of it as a fire engine with rescue capabilities.”

Herberger explained that the department operates with two main pieces of apparatus – one for the on-duty staff, “so we basically have to take everything with us, all the time.”

He said Engine 12 doesn’t have the safety features that come with today’s fire trucks, such as lighting and the ability to hook generators to the trucks. He also said the current vehicle has signs of rust.

“Right now, we’re in the design phase – looking at various vehicles from around the region to see what best fits our needs,” he said.

Tabelski, answering a question from City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., said she is hoping to receive $200,000 from the grant. Coupled with $400,000 that is in reserves, the city would be close to covering the full cost of the new truck – likely in 2023-24.

Herberger said there would be little trade-in value for Engine 12, noting that it would be 22 years old by the time a new truck was delivered to the city.

He said he remembers the sale of an old ladder truck to a tree trimming company in North Carolina but the monetary return “really didn’t offset anything too much.”

When asked if the cost of the new truck was a bottom line price, Herberger said the department may have to purchase “a few miscellaneous pieces of equipment for it.”

“In the past years, we’ve really tried to standardize all of our vehicles, so hose complement, rescue tools and hand tools, they’re pretty much the same throughout everything, so that bottom line price would be with equipment,” he said.

March 14, 2022 - 9:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, city council, Batavia PD.

The Batavia City Council tonight unanimously passed the 2022-23 budget, ending a five-month process that resulted in the funding of a $17.78 million general budget with a slight decrease in the property tax rate.

“It was a long process that starts in November when departments submit their budget. And we sit and we meet, and we hash out priorities in each department’s budget, especially when we're looking at general fund police and fire and DPW snow removal,” said City Manager Rachael Tabelski said following the Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room.

Tabelski said she was “excited” by achieving a balanced budget “where the revenues conservatively are estimated to come in and match the expenses we have going out to, again, run the operations that people come to count on -- police, fire and roads.”

Council’s passage of the budget – the All-Funds budget totals $29.7 million – means that city property owners will pay a tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed value – down by 78 cents from the 2021-22 figure.

That doesn’t mean that everyone’s tax bill will decrease since most homeowners’ assessments went up – a fact not lost on Tabelski.

“The tax rate will go down It will depend on -- your payment -- … if your assessment went up,” she said. “I know many, many residents -- almost 4,200 -- assessments went up because of market conditions during COVID and the hot housing market. My hope is that that has cooled slightly, and we're not going to see large sweeping increases in assessments moving forward because it is difficult.”

Tabelski said that people react differently when assessments are raised.

“Some people like the assessment to go up because it increases the equity and value in their home, and others understand that it can mean at times a tax increase as well,” she said. “So, I'm very sympathetic to kind of understanding where residents of the city are and trying to keep our budget as efficient as possible.”

When asked if she could identify one highlight of the budget, she came up with the fact that more money was put into the police department’s Emergency Response Team.

“They are called a countywide response team, but it's run by City of Batavia Police and they're called on the scenes where they might need something like hostage negotiation or barricaded individuals,” she said. “And I was happy that we're able to bring more funding to that program this year.”

Council also approved a 1.5 percent increase in water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

February 26, 2022 - 10:59am

The City of Batavia apparently has concluded its “hunt” for the right engineering firm to handle the City Centre/Mall rehabilitation project.

According to a memo to City Council dated Feb. 16, City Manager Rachael Tabelski is recommending that the city contracts with HUNT E/A/S of Rochester for architectural and engineering services for the design of the project’s improvements. The total cost of the contract is $99,317.

Tabelski wrote that three companies responded to the city’s Request for Proposals in connection with the $1 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative and that two were selected as finalists. From there, Tabelski met with a panel of city staff and Batavia Development Corp. members to make the final selection.

Per the memo, HUNT’s work includes the Commissary at Sibley Square, Wegmans Food Markets re-use project and the Regal Cinema Complex repurposing project.

“They bring together a team of professionals dedicated to drive the public rebirth of the Batavia City Center Mall and reestablishing Main Street as a destination,” Tabelski wrote. “The HUNT team in conjunction with Vargas Associates has a long-established reputation for the creation of adaptive reuse projects and involves customized unique approach.”

The topic is part of the agenda of Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting, scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Hall Council Board Room.

Other agenda items of note include:

  • Public hearings to adopt the 2022-23 city budget and to amend a local law to set new water rates, meter fees and a capital improvement fee. The $29,700,792 All-Funds budget ($17,853,892 general fund) calls for a tax levy of $5,986,000.  The property tax rate is $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed value – a 78-cent decrease from the 2021-22 rate. Water rates and meter fees will go up by 1.5 percent.
  • Four measures dealing with work at the Water Treatment Plant and Waste Water Treatment Plant:

(1) Issuing a bid package for a licensed construction firm to replace six filters at the Water Treatment Plant to improve efficiency and capacity of the plant’s water output;

(2) Following a bid process, award contracts to six companies to supply the various chemicals used at the facilities – quicklime, ferric sulfate, fluosilicic acid, carbon dioxide, liquid alum and liquid phosphate;

(3) Contracting with Ron Hutcheson, lowest bidder, for the harvesting of fat head minnows at the WWTP. Hutcheson has agreed to pay the city $27,000 in 2022, $28,000 in 2023 and $29,000 in 2024.

(4) Using $60,000 from the city’s sewer fund sludge reserve to conduct Maximum Allowable Headworks Loadings evaluation as part of the headworks, capacity analysis and financial planning study at the WWTP. The plan is to sample different pollutants at multiple points in the system, including the influent, effluent and lift stations, Tabelski said.

  • Acceptance of a $1 million Community Development Block Grant for the installation of 2,250 linear feet of 8-inch water main along Jackson Street and to commit $414,017 from the city’s water fund reserves to pay for the remaining cost of the project.
  • Acceptance of a $5,000 grant from the GO Art! Statewide Community Regrant Program to fund “Community Garden in Bloom,” the creation of a seasonal mural of multiple painted panels at the Community Garden on MacArthur Drive. The project is set to run from June through October.
January 11, 2022 - 8:20am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, city council.

Barring any changes made during the budget workshop process, the City of Batavia’s property tax rate for the 2022-23 fiscal year will be $8.94 per $1,000 of assessed value – a decrease of 78 cents from last year’s rate.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski shared details of the municipality’s $17.7 million budget at Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting at City Hall Council Board Room.

Putting the tax rate into perspective, Tabelski said that 5,700 properties in the city support the city’s General Fund operating budget.

"The property taxes they pay make up 34 percent of our total budget revenue," she said. "And the typical tax bill for a resident that owns a house assessed at $100,000 will be $894 under this proposed manager’s budget. The county tax for that same home is $916 and the school tax (is) $2,057."

The proposed General Fund lists a tax levy increase of $121,403, Tabelski said, noting that plans call for reinstatement of service, personnel and equipment purchase. Additionally, the water and sewer funds are stable, and improvements in infrastructure are on the table.

Tabelski highlighted the amount invested into the city in recent years, stating that $132 million in public and private investments are changing the landscape of Batavia.

“Batavia is going to continue to fly back from its rust belt city status, embrace its vibrant roots, double down on the investment and continue to focus on economic growth and neighborhood revitalization,” she said, referring to the impact of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award the city received and other large-scale corporate projects.

Her presentation indicated that $96 million already has been invested, $36 million more is in the works and another $42 million is planned.

Last year presented a “dismal revenue picture,” Tabelski said, but things “look much better” for 2022-23.

She said that 41 percent of the budget revenue is from sales tax (budgeting for $6.8 million in sales tax), while property taxes will bring in around $6 million. State aid is pegged at $1.75 million.

“Real property tax is the most stable revenue supporting the General Fund budget,” she noted.

The city manager also mentioned increases in assessed value, stating that the city’s assessed value of property has grown by about 26 percent over the past eight years compared to a 49 percent increase in assessed value in the Town of Batavia.

“A major way of creating additional revenue is to improve the overall value of our commercial and residential properties,” she said. “That’s through investment and new builds, and for continuing the strategy with the Brownfield Opportunity Area and the DRI.”

Tabelski said that about a quarter of the city’s property is not taxable – and that amounts to around $220 million.

The General Fund budget also will be supported by $275,000 in appropriated fund balance, $275,000 in water fund transfer and $130,000 in (one-time) retirement reserves, she said.

“(The year) 2021 has been another unprecedented year,” she said. “However, the city saw revenues rebound with full payments on state aid that helped us avoid layoffs and unfreeze positions throughout the year.

“The difficulty we still face is prices of commodities, hiring and retaining great workers, as this continues to be difficult,” she said. “Overall, the budget you have before you provides more resources to the departments, adds in services that were previously cut or underfunded and strives to meet the needs of the residents of the city of Batavia.”

December 15, 2021 - 4:04pm

The City of Batavia has been awarded $1 million for a Jackson Street water line replacement project through Round XI of New York State Regional Economic Development Council’s Community Development Block Grant program, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Tuesday.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski confirmed that the city’s application for the grant, which was submitted in June, has been approved.

The project is one of 488 initiatives throughout the state to share in an additional $196 million in funding.

The work consists of replacing the 4- and 6-inch lines on Jackson Street with 8-inch water main at an estimated cost of $1,351,908, with $351,908 committed from local funds. According to the REDC, the improvements will benefit 213 persons of which 144 or 68 percent are low-and-moderate-income persons.

“It’s the residential portion of Jackson Street, not the commercial side,” Tabelski said.

Currently, the stretch of roadway from Ellicott Street to South Jackson Street on the western side of Jackson contains 4-inch line; a 6-inch line is under the sidewalk between Watson and South Jackson on the eastern side of the road from Central Avenue to Ellicott Street.

The commercial portion of Jackson Street – north of Ellicott Street – will be a separate project, she said.

All of these lines will be eliminated and service will transfer to an 8-inch water main. The project will cover around 2,250 linear feet of water line replacement and also will address elimination of lead water services if encountered.

Other Genesee County projects to receive funding are as follows:

  • Batavia Development Corporation -- Brisbane Mansion Technical Assistance Project: The BDC will complete building reuse analyses for the historic Brisbane Mansion (currently housing the Batavia Police Department) in downtown Batavia; $20,000.
  • Town of Batavia -- King's Plaza Sewer Pump Station: The total estimated project is $1,485,000 with $ 184,000 from Water Infrastructure Improvement Act & $553,500 from local sources. The improvements will benefit 623 persons of which 517 or 83 percent of whom are low-and moderate-income persons; $747,500.
  • Town of Batavia -- Replacement of Existing Water Meters: The town will use Green Innovation Grant Program funds to replace existing water meters with Advanced Metering Infrastructure technology. These replacements will reduce water consumption in the Town; $730,000.
  • Town of Byron -- Engineering Planning Grant Study: The EPG program will fund the development of an engineering report to assess the existing condition of the Byron Mobile Home Community wastewater collection system, evaluate alternatives, and recommend improvements to the Town of Byron; $30,000.
  • Genesee County -- Expansion of Incubator Models: High Tech Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology's Venture Creations Incubator have partnered to lead the Finger Lakes Innovation Hotspot. Through the Hotspot initiative, they seek to expand their successful incubator models to serve more entrepreneurs, including those in historically underserved counties and locations; $1,250,000 (Also includes Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, Yates).

 

December 14, 2021 - 10:31am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Pok-A-Dot, city of batavia, city council.

img_6906dot.jpg

City Manager Rachael Tabelski solicited some laughter during Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting while proposing to end a $40 per month, 56-year-old right-of-way lease with owners of the Pok-A-Dot Restaurant at 229 Ellicott St.

Tabelski said she believed it’s time for the city to terminate the lease (and City Attorney George Van Nest agreed) that was created after it was found that part of the building was on the city’s right-of-way.

At that time – the year was 1965 – it was agreed that Pok-A-Dot owners Philip Pastore Jr. and Joseph Marone would pay the city $40 per month.

“We’ve never changed the terms and conditions of the lease – and they’ve always paid,” Tabelski said, “and they’ve always provided great beef on Weck and French fries.”

In 2020, the restaurant’s current owners, Pastore’s wife, Leona, and daughter, Phyllis Pastore-Beers, expanded the business to accommodate COVID-19 distancing protocol and food pick-up options. In the process, they obtained a New York State Department of Transportation permit to complete the work because it is located in a U.S. right-of-way for missile transport.

Interestingly enough, the DOT permit carries a fee of $460 per year – slightly less than the fee of the Pok-A-Dot’s lease with the city. As a result, Pok-A-Dot owners are requesting an end to the city lease, Tabelski said.

City Council members agreed to move the proposal to its Jan. 10 Business Meeting for discussion and a possible vote.

Three other Conference Meeting resolutions were forwarded to last night’s Business Meeting and all were approved:

  • A 15-month contract, effective immediately, with AMREX of Binghamton to supply the Water Treatment Plant with sodium hypochlorite at an inflation-induced cost of $1.45 per gallon.

Calling it a “weird and wild ride procuring resources,” Tabelski said that was the lowest of seven bids received for the chemical, which is used for disinfection of the public water supply. She added that other municipalities are having similar supply issues.

Previously, the city paid 86 cents a gallon for the chemical, she said.

  • An emergency purchase of 400 pounds of refrigerant for a compressor at the Batavia Ice Arena on Evans Street at a cost of $19,800. The funds will be taken from the facility’s reserves, dropping the available amount to $371,000.

Tabelski said she approved the purchase after Carrier personnel replaced the compressor and discovered and repaired a couple leaks in the refrigerant system. Consequently, the system is low on R-22 refrigerant and could be in danger of malfunctioning.

  • The reappointment of realtor Bernadette Penfield to the Board of Assessment Review through Sept. 30, 2026.

Council also forwarded a resolution to the Jan. 10 Business Meeting to accept a $28,681 grant from Genesee County STOP-DWI to provide specialized patrols targeting drug and alcohol impaired driving, and the purchase of RADAR units, training of a Drug Recognition Expert and associated expenses.

File photo of the Pok-A-Dot by Howard Owens.

December 13, 2021 - 9:43pm

weed.jpgIt looks as though, by default, the City of Batavia is welcoming the opportunity to host retail dispensaries and on-site consumption places as permitted by the New York Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., speaking at tonight’s Conference Meeting at City Hall Council Board Room, said that since the municipality “has no control over it,” then it would be prudent to opt in and “get the money (that cannabis sales would produce).”

The topic was brought up by city resident John Roach, who correctly noted that if a community doesn’t do anything (as far as a formal resolution), “you’re automatically in.”

State officials are requiring municipalities to state their intentions by Dec. 31. Towns, cities and villages that opt out are able to opt in at a later date, but those that opt in, can never opt out.

Jankowski and Council member Robert Bialkowski both said they have received “positive comments” about opting in. The former said that “people are advising me to get the tax money” and the latter stated that some people -- including adults -- enjoy using marijuana.

Questioned further following the meeting, Jankowski said his understanding was that there were two choices: “Do nothing and automatically opt in after December 31st or do the resolution and opt out, and then I think there was recourse for the public to opt back in …”

The MRTA does stipulate that if a community opts out, residents could call for a public referendum to reverse that decision.

While many legislative bodies in cities, towns and villages across the state have discussed the matter in an open forum and drafted resolutions – or are in the process of doing so, City Council wasn’t one of them. Jankowski said none of his colleagues indicated a desire to bring the subject to a vote.

“Any council member could have easily brought it up and put it on the agenda but it just never came to the front because of a complaint by a citizen that adamant about wanting Council to do something about it,” he said. “The bottom line is I usually put my personal opinion to the side and I listen to the people I represent. And nobody from the city contacted me and was really passionate about it or concerned about opting out.”

Jankowski said he talked to many people over the past several months "and they basically told me they weren’t really happy about the way the state did it, but they understand the wisdom of getting any money from taxes."

"But we’re not even sure if anybody’s going to even open a business in the city," he added.

What's Up with the WWTP?

Roach also asked about the status of the City Waste Water Treatment Plant and the dispute with O-At-Ka Milk Products over the milk processing plant’s discharge into the ponds that exceeded legal limits.

City Attorney George Van Nest, offering no specifics, said engineers working with the city and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials are monitoring the recovery of the ponds with the goal of obtaining maximum efficiency.

In other developments, City Manager Rachael Tabelski reported:

  • The city will recognize Gov. Kathy Hochul’s mask mandate “instead of checking vaccination status at the door.” The mandate runs through Jan. 15, 2022. “We’re awaiting the executive order to make it official,” she said.
  • That 90 percent of the city’s National Grid customers now have power following Saturday’s major wind storm. She said that residents may place downed tree limbs next to the curb for pickup by Department of Public Works crews this week.
  • The possibility of planting trees to replace those that have come down due to storms and other reasons. Jankowski noted that the city hasn’t planted trees in a long time and suggested planting some each year over a five-year period. Tabelski said that wouldn’t be possible with money from the general fund without raising property taxes. She did say that donations from businesses or residents are welcome.
  • Two bids from contractors seeking to handle the Jackson Square renovation – one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects – came in “double the price that was anticipated.” Tabelski said she was hoping for a cost of around $650,000, but the submitted bids were for more than $1 million. She said the project will be re-bid and, as a result, the start of construction will be pushed back until August 2022.
  • The city has hired Angie Dickson, a Corfu resident, as confidential secretary. The position had been vacant for several weeks after Lisa Casey left to become clerk of the Genesee County Legislature. Two DPW jobs are open – heavy equipment operator and laborer.
December 10, 2021 - 4:38pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, city council, city charter.

Updated, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. with comments from Schmidt:

The City of Batavia has drafted a resolution appointing Tammy Schmidt as city council’s new Sixth Ward representative, replacing Rose Mary Christian, who resigned on Nov. 15.

The matter is the only item on the agenda of a Special Business Meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, prior to the governing body’s Conference Meeting and Regular Business Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room.

According to the resolution, Section 3.3 of the City Charter provides that when a position of Council Member becomes vacant, pending the election and qualification of a Council Member to fill the vacancy, the council shall fill the vacancy temporarily by appointment of a qualified person, who shall be the same political affiliation as the Council Member whose place has become vacant.

Schmidt is a Republican, as is Christian, who switched from the Democratic Party sometime after she was elected to her eighth -- and final -- term.

When Christian announced her retirement, it triggered a back-and-forth among the City Republican and Democrat committees as well as current City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Batavia resident John Roach, who was part of the City Charter Commission.

Republicans contend that the Charter wording clearly indicates that a Republican should fill the seat, while Democrats were looking for a legal ruling in light of Christian changing affiliations. That, apparently, did not happen.

RICHMOND: CHARTER IS VERY CLEAR

City Republican Chair Rich Richmond today said the “Charter is very clear – the appointment will be made by the Republican Party; a Republican will take that position.”

Richmond said he is going with what the Charter actually states “and not on what if, or how come or whatever?”

He added that Democrats have made this a political issue.

“There is nothing political about it. When they did the Charter, it was a bipartisan commission, including Republicans, Democrats and Conservatives. Nobody had a problem with it until it has come up now,” he offered.

Schmidt, a lifelong Batavian who grew up as Tammy Trigilio, has been employed for the past seven years as the financial management assistant for Genesee Justice and the Child Advocacy Center.

Prior to that, she worked for Genesee County Mental Health and Genesee County Workforce Investment. She and her husband, Mark, live on Osterhout Avenue. They have a daughter and son-in-law, Kristina and Tony Ferrando, and two grandchildren.

Richmond said he is impressed with Schmidt's credentials.

"Tammy has an excellent resume and is very intelligent and well-informed," he said. "I'm sure she will do a great job."

SCHMIDT: IT'S IMPORTANT TO GET INVOLVED

Contacted Saturday morning, Schmidt said that she has been part of the political workings in the city for quite some time and is looking forward to applying her experience -- and her love for her hometown -- "to help make it grow and prosper and be a great place for our kids and grandkids to want to stick around."

She currently is the Republican Committee Sixth Ward chair and previously served in that capacity for the Fifth Ward. Both her and her husband have been on the committee for several years and she said she is committed to learning more about city government.

"We're invested in this community," she said, adding that they own three rental properties in the Sixth Ward. "I don't want to use the tagline that Batavia Downs (Gaming) uses when they say, Dine, Stay and Play, but we live, work and play in Batavia."

When asked about replacing Christian, who served for 29-plus years, Schmidt said she has "big shoes to fill."

"Actually, I have had several conversations with Rose Mary, and she was very generous in giving me her endorsement," she said."And I still told her I plan to pick her brain. You can't beat that type of experience.

"Rose Mary was very vocal and she advocated for people to speak their minds. To me, if you want to incoporate any change, you need to be active and involved. You can't just sit home. Things aren't going to happen that way."

Previously: Will it be a Republican or a Democrat stepping in to replace Christian as Sixth Ward representative?

December 10, 2021 - 12:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, City Centre Mall, city of batavia.

mallbucketdec92021_a.jpg

A trip to the City Centre Mall on Thursday revealed what used to be a familiar site -- a bucket to catch water from a leaky roof. Contacted today, Bill Davis, City of Batavia superintendent of Water & Wastewater, said two small leaks developed in the new section of the building's roof. The good news is that the contractor is on site, working on a separate, Mall Roof II project (extending from JC Penney to Dan's Tire & Auto) and will be addressing these small leaks right away. Photo by Howard Owens.

 

November 24, 2021 - 4:30pm
posted by Press Release in press release, news, city of batavia.

Press Release:

The City of Batavia is looking for residents of the City of Batavia to fill seats on various boards and committees.  There are several openings on boards and committees within the City and we are seeking interested candidates to join these decision-making and advisory bodies.

Signing up for boards and committees is a great way to help the community and to develop your personal leadership skills.  Volunteering will also build your personal self-confidence and skill set in team building.  

Current openings include:

Board of Assessment Review

Positions with the BAR are available for volunteers. These members will preside over grievance day and hear formal grievance complaints from businesses and residents of the city regarding their assessments.

Community Garden 

Members of the Community Garden meet to plan activities related to the upkeep and maintenance of the community garden. 

Historic Preservation Commission

The Historic Preservation Commission is responsible for the protection, enhancement and perpetuation of landmarks and historic districts.  

Plumbing Board

Oversees all aspects of city plumbers and participates in formulating a code of rules regulating the work of plumbing and drainage in the City.  Applicant must be a Master Plumber.

Youth Board

The Youth Board provides leadership development programs for youth, increases youth outcomes by providing a variety of programs, services and activities.  

Zoning Board of Appeals

Hear appeals when a person believes a variance should be made for their property.  

Applications are available at the City Clerk’s Office or online at https://www.batavianewyork.com – Find It Fast – Committee / Board Volunteer Application    

 

November 22, 2021 - 9:55pm

ken-pearl-intro_1.pngThe Batavia City Council is looking at enlisting a “Pearl” to assist in its quest to build a gem of a police headquarters in the heart of the community’s downtown.

Council, at its meeting at City Hall tonight, passed one resolution and forwarded two others to its Dec. 13 Business Meeting that highlight the importance of Kenneth Pearl, president and principal-in-charge of Architecture Unlimited, LLC, of Williamsville, to the construction of what is expected to be a $10.8 million police station at Bank Street and Alva Place.

According to City Manager Rachael Tabelski, upon Council’s final approval, Pearl (photo above) would act as the “project manager/owner’s representative” for the police facility project.

She introduced a resolution that would pay Pearl’s company $370,000 for professional services and project management over the life of the project, which could take up to 3 ½ years.

Pearl and the city have quite a history as he has assisted the Department of Public Works with the City Centre Mall Roof, Mall Roof 2, Police Roof and Police Facility Feasibility Study projects.

Tabelski noted that Pearl is an expert in architecture and construction management, having worked with other municipalities in the construction of new buildings.

Pearl has coordinated the city's issuance of Requests for Proposals for the design and engineering of the new police facility. The RFP review and interview process is taking place and expected to be complete sometime next month.

A second resolution pertaining to the police station, which also will be voted upon next month, is to authorize a general obligation bond and issuance of a bond anticipation note for $1.5 million to finance the cost of design, engineering and architecture plans.

This amount would be part of the $10.8 million (it could be more due to fluctuating construction costs) to build the single-story structure that would enable the police department to vacate the former Historic Brisbane Mansion at 10 West Main St., a building that is more than 160 years old and in need of costly renovation.

Tabelski said the city would not be obligated to pay anything for up to a year and eventually could roll the $1.5 million into the 30-year bond that will be utilized to pay for the new police headquarters.

“I’m confident the city can absorb the bond (expense) into the future,” she said.

The third resolution -- the one that passed tonight -- approves a contract for $3,250 with Wm. Schutt & Associates, P.C., of Lancaster to conduct a land survey of the Bank and Alva parcel.

“The survey area includes the city’s public parking lot and specifically the southeast corner of the lot immediately adjacent to Bank Street and Alva Place,” Tabelski said. “The survey will provide boundary lines, a legal description, zoning, right-of-way’s, elevations, location size and depth of water, sewer, gas and other utilities on the site.”

CSEA APPROVES SIX-YEAR CONTRACT

On another front, City Council approved a six-year contract with its Civil Service Employees Association union after reaching a tentative agreement on Oct. 21 and ratification by CSEA members on Nov. 15. The previous contract expired on March 31.

The new pact with the CSEA, which has 18 professional members (clerks, secretaries, code enforcement officials, water and wastewater plant chief operators, and Bureau of Maintenance supervisors), lists the following provisions:

  • Salary increase of 2.5 percent each year for the length of the contract;
  • A longevity increase of $100 per year at the 20-year point;
  • Limit of carryover of vacation time to one week;
  • Adding the option to cash in sick time (currently employees can defer into their 457 plan);
  • Increase in employee health care contribution by 3 percent of the term of the contract;
  • Removal of the financial clerk typist from the union to non-union status.

Tabelski said that the annual impact upon the city budget will be $34,500, including retirement and Social Security).

Previously: City Council looking at 30-year, $10 million bond to finance new police station at Alva and Bank

November 22, 2021 - 4:39pm

The new pretreatment plan at O-At-Ka Milk Products, Inc., is operational -- and that is good news for the Upstate Niagara Cooperative-owned facility at 700 Ellicott St.

However, according to Chief Executive Officer William Schreiber, the company’s inability to increase the amount of wastewater it sends into the City of Batavia’s Waste Water Treatment Plant has not changed – and that is not so good news as talks with city officials in that particular area have stalled.

“Once the city decided not to accept our offer to help accelerate oxygenation of the (WWTP) lagoons, we directed all our resources to the successful commissioning of the new pretreatment plant,” Schreiber said today by email in response to questions from The Batavian.

“We have not been in touch with the city regarding any additional loading for the past two weeks; hence, we assume their position hasn’t changed.”

An email sent around 1 this afternoon to City Attorney George Van Nest seeking an update on the WWTP’s recovery to permitted Dissolved Oxygen levels has yet to be returned.

Because the city has restricted O-At-Ka’s discharge over the past few months, the company has been forced to transport wastewater from its property to other locations.

“Hauling of wastewater has continued to be reduced on a daily basis throughout the commissioning of the new plant,” Schreiber said, pointing out that it has cost O-At-Ka more than $1 million in trucking related charges.

Meanwhile, workers have continued to upgrade the milk processing plant’s pretreatment capabilities.

“We began commissioning (the new plant) one week ahead of schedule,” Schreiber said. “Since then, we have been steadily increasing both the flow and organic loading to the new plant.  As of the end of last week, things are progressing according to plan.”

The CEO said O-At-Ka is incrementally increasing flow to the new pretreatment plant and decreasing flow to the older plant, which are located off Cedar Street.

“We are presently operating at approximately 50 percent capacity from design flow and 35 percent capacity of design loading.  In both cases this has doubled in the past seven days,” he added.

Schreiber said he is encouraged by the “numbers,” explaining that “the biology is starting to attach to the media and growth is proceeding consistent with expectations.”

He said a new equalization tank will be incorporated as the main flow tank by the end of the month and assembly of the new Dissolved Air Flotation has been completed on site along with the installation of the polymer addition line.

The DAF, not part of the original design, helps facilitate a process that removes solids before the wastewater enters the Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor and reduces the load.

The situation regarding O-At-Ka’s wastewater pollutant levels into the city’s lagoons came to light in mid-October when John Gould, Upstate Niagara chairman, addressed city council.

At that time, Van Nest said the city had no choice but to issue a “cease and desist” letter to O-At-Ka after discovering exceedingly high levels of contaminants in wastewater discharged by the facility.  More recently, the city attorney reported that the lagoons are returning to normal levels, but still have a ways to go.

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

Previously: Meeting with engineers working with city give O-At-Ka CEO optimism that wastewater issue can be solved

October 30, 2021 - 10:12am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, O-AT-KA Milk Products, city of batavia, GHD Group.

mbbr.jpg

Friday’s meeting with the engineering firm representing the City of Batavia -- coupled with continued progress on completion of a new pretreatment facility – is giving O-At-Ka Milk Products Chief Executive Officer Bill Schreiber hope that wastewater restrictions placed on the Cedar Street processing plant will come to an end in the near future.

“Our technical team had a good exchange of information with the city and their engineering firm (GHD Group of Buffalo) this afternoon,” Schreiber said in an email to The Batavian. “The team presented several options we think will assist in elevating dissolved oxygen levels in the lagoons (at the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant) and support recovery.”

In the meantime, O-At-Ka officials have been hauling wastewater to other locations on a daily basis for several weeks – currently at an average cost of $13,000 to $15,000 per day, Schreiber said.

This became necessary when City of Batavia leaders determined that the dissolved oxygen levels in the ponds were insufficient and not in compliance with the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit that regulates O-At-Ka. As a result, the city issued a cease-and-desist order to the plant, which is owned by the Upstate Niagara dairy farmer cooperative.

Schreiber and John Gould, Upstate Niagara chairman of the board, have been calling for a meeting with city engineers and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to forge a “three-party solution.”

While the DEC apparently was not involved in Friday’s discussion, Schreiber said that engineers working with the city “have indicated they will consider what was presented and we hope to have further discussion next week.”

Work on getting its new pretreatment plant up and running is on schedule, Schreiber said, adding that Nov. 15 is the target date to begin seeding and flow to the new Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor.

“The media for the new MBBR has been received,” Schreiber said. “The blower mechanical and electrical installation is complete, and pre-commissioning and walk through for the blowers is planned for November 8th.”

He said the company also is acquiring an additional Dissolved Air Flotation – not part of the original design -- to augment the existing unit, facilitating a process that removes solids before the wastewater enters the MBBR and reduces the load.

Calls to City Attorney George Van Nest, who is speaking on behalf of the city regarding this situation, were not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

mbbr_inside.jpg

Photo at top: The new Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor with the media for it on the ground to the left of the structure; Photo below: An inside view of the MBBR. Submitted photos.

Previously: City attorney: WWTP levels are heading in right direction; O-At-Ka has to abide by conditions of permit

October 26, 2021 - 7:56am

wiedrick_fees.jpg

Updating the City of Batavia’s building permit fees will even the playing field and produce revenue for the municipality that more accurately reflects the amount of time and effort spent by Inspection Bureau employees on residential and commercial projects.

That’s the view of Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, who proposed a new fee schedule at Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room.

Wiedrick, asserting that she knows a little bit about construction inspection and code enforcement “to be dangerous,” offered a list of reasons why she thinks the time is right for a revision of permit charges for undertakings such as roofing, fencing, siding and home/business additions.

Working in conjunction with the city’s Bureau of Inspection, Plumbing Board and Bureau of Maintenance, she said the updated fee strategy emphasizes easy calculation (via Energov computer software), fairness, flat fees, signed contracts and penalties for work done without a permit.

Actually, Wiedrick knows more than “a little bit” about the subject as she returned to Batavia in July after serving as the City of Rochester’s manager of zoning. Previously, she worked for the Genesee County Planning Department for seven years and before that worked as a construction inspector.

Charged with evaluating the city’s current state of affairs concerning inspection and permit fees, she said she discovered inefficiencies in the time spent by staff and the way in which fees were determined.

WIEDRICK: PERMITTING IS A PROCESS

“A lot of us think that once those drawings (for the work) are submitted (to the city), that’s the end of the story,” Wiedrick said. “I get my permit and I move on with my life. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Many times, when our crew gets the permit into the office, it’s reviewed at least twice, maybe three times.”

Wiedrick said in most cases the submitted drawings are missing key information or don’t meet code standards – instances that trigger more work and additional inspections at the location.

“Typically, for residential permits for an addition, the inspection might go out there five times. They’re checking out first what does the soil look like, the forms for the foundation, then see the foundation being poured – they’re out there a number of times,” she said.

Under the current system, city inspectors have to take notes at the site and come back to the office to input the information into a computer. Wiedrick said that with Energov software, this can be done by using a laptop at the property being renovated.

“What it’s (Energov) going to do is provide the opportunity for code enforcement officers to do things in the field live,” she explained. “It’s going to make them 1,000 times more efficient … and the process easier for them and the public. It will advance our inspections department immensely.”

As for the current fee schedule, which hasn’t been updated in at least 15 years, she said it is challenging for the staff and the public to figure out the right permit fees, and often the city receives checks for permit fees in the wrong amount.

LOOKING AT THE KEY COMPONENTS

Key aspects of the permit fee structure as of today include the following:

  • Based on the cost of the project, along with the square footage, with no flat fee permits.
  • Often inaccurate costs of project provided to staff, resulting in incorrect permit fee.
  • Schedule penalizes use of higher end materials for projects.
  • Work without a permit is not penalized.

The proposed new schedule would focus on the following:

  • Can be calculated by Energov and the public.
  • Fair to all.
  • Many permits are proposed to be a flat fee.

“Who doesn’t love flat fee permits?” Wiedrick said. “You know exactly what you’re paying for whatever your project is. A flat fee permit also says you can put in whatever sort of high end products that you’d like to use for that project and not be penalized for that.”

  • Require a signed contract when work is performed by a contractor, ensuring the proper fee is assessed.

“This happens across the board in every municipality,” she said. “Somebody knows they’re doing a $10,000 deck … and they’ll come in and say, I’m only spending $2,500 and we base the permit fee on that $2,500 and everybody knows that the deck is $10,000 deck but we don’t have the ability at this point to say, no, no, no, I know how much that’s going to be. The proposed fee schedule takes that out.”

  • Project not found on the list of flat fee permits, the value is multiplied by 1.25 percent to determine the fee.
  • Work without a permit will result in the permit fee being multiplied by three.

“At this point, if I’m a contractor or a person, I’m going to take my chances, I’m going to gamble,” she said. “I’m going to do my project and if I get cited, I know that I’m just going to pay the permit fee – no big deal. And if I don’t, I keep that permit money.”

CHRISTIAN: IT’S NOT THE RIGHT TIME

Upon completing her presentation, Council member Rose Mary Christian quickly spoke against a change in the fees – mentioning the “economy, inflation, food, utilities and gas.”

“I’m looking at these figures here, for instance, an addition to a piece of property – a commercial one where right now it’s $550 (based on 1,400 square feet, $105,000 project), and it will be $1,260. That’s quite a jump,” Christian said. “With everything that’s going on, I think that this is the wrong time to bring this to us. There’s a lot of people out there that are hurting right now and this is going to hurt them even further … I’m not in favor of this by no means.”

Wiedrick countered by saying that another reason for the proposed changes is to cover the city’s expenses for providing the service.

“One of the things that’s happening right now is when a resident does a project or there’s a commercial project, essentially with the current fee schedule, all of the residents of the City of Batavia are subsidizing those projects,” she said. “So, if I never put up a deck in the entire time I’m living in Batavia, I still – because the fees are not commensurate with the work that has to go into it – am subsidizing other work that’s happening.

“The idea was to raise the fees so we’re ensuring that we’re covering those costs and we’re actually keeping pace with the other municipalities.”

Christian replied, “I don’t care what other municipalities are doing. I care about what’s happening here in Batavia.”

City Manager Rachael Tabelski noted that some of the fees in the new schedule are being reduced for residents while some are increasing for various commercial projects.

TABELSKI: NOT A LAUGHING MATTER

“The majority of the commercial projects that we’re seeing are businesses that are thriving and using grant money funneled through the city and we continue to have so much staff time spent on them,” Tabelski said, later adding that contractors “laugh at our fee schedule – at how low our pricing is … but yet how many hours they take from our Inspection office.”

Christian changed her tune a bit, stating that she “can agree” to the commercial work charges (although she cited a proposed commercial fee change in her initial argument).

“But as far as residents go and people from the city, no, I don’t agree with it,” she added.

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said his takeaway was that an attempt was being made to establish fees that were in line with the cost of the work being performed by Inspection Bureau staff.

“The Inspection office is fully funded by the General fund; it cannot be funded by the water fund or the sewer fund, so it is a direct result of property taxes,” Tabelski said. “We only have those employees … because of property taxes and to try to offset some of that in a small way, especially on commercial type activities … this would be somewhat helpful.”

Council member Robert Bialkowski said that while he didn’t have a problem with the new fee schedule, he did call for educating the public on the need to obtain building permits.

“There’s a lot of work being done on evenings and weekends, and a lot of work that’s not visible from the street … roof replacements and all that – where there’s no permits issued and the people know they need to get a permit,” he said. “There’s contractors that are a little on the shaky side that know they can evade the permits because it won’t be visible from the street.”

CANALE: ‘AN UNFRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT’

Council member John Canale agreed, adding that the perception from commercial contractors and developers is that the “City of Batavia is the hardest one to get along with. (But) I’ve worked with those guys (Inspection Bureau) and I think they’re very easy to get along with.”

“The business world sees us as an unfriendly environment,” he continued. “I hear that all the time. I heard it for years when my father was a councilman. That Batavia is business unfriendly. We’re not. So, if we do a few things proactively, I think we can clean that reputation up a little bit.”

Wiedrick said that inspections is a tough line of work.

“I’m probably one of 10 people in New York that is passionate about inspections because I know how important it is. I’m a big cheerleader for our team because they do a good job,” she said, crediting Code Enforcement Officer Doug Randall for his contribution to the new fee schedule study.

In the end, Jankowski said he looks forward to receiving input from residents and to work on the educational component. The proposal was forwarded to a future Council Business Meeting (possibly Nov. 8) for a possible vote.

Photo: Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, left, speaking to City Council about the proposed permit fee schedule revision. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: City Council to consider permit fee schedule update

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 2017 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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