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February 2, 2019 - 11:35am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia.

Press release:

matt.jpgFeb. 1, Batavia -- The City of Batavia Director of Public Works Matthew Worth was selected by the Genesee Valley Branch of the American Public Works Association (APWA) as the 2018 recipient of the Public Works Leader of the Year, in the Administrative Management Category. He received this award at the APWA Awards Banquet on Jan. 31st.

Worth began his career in public works in 1986 working for Genesee County in the Engineering department where he inspected bridges, roads and culverts. He started for the City of Batavia on March 23, 1987 in the Engineering department as an Engineer Technician until he became the Assistant Engineer. One of the first projects he worked on was the City’s wastewater treatment plant.

In July, 1988, initial construction of the new wastewater treatment facilities, which serve the City and a portion of the Town of Batavia, had begun. Worth helped oversee the new treatment facilities that were constructed to include nine lagoons and a series of three man-made wetlands on approximately 500 acres. This represents the largest use of multiple cell lagoons for municipal treatment in the New York Area.

In 1999, Worth left the Engineering department and became the Deputy Superintendent of Water and Wastewater and in 2002, he became the Superintendent of Water and Wastewater, where he would oversee all water and wastewater operations.

In 2015, he became the Director of Public Works. He is in charge of Bureau of Maintenance (Streets & Sidewalks), Bureau of Water and Wastewater (Water Plant and Sewer Plant), Bureau of Inspections (Code Enforcement) and Bureau of Engineering, with responsibility for approximately 50 employees.

In 2018, Worth became the Interim City Manager until the appointment of Martin D. Moore, Ph.D., by City Council.

City Manager Moore said, “Matt’s leadership has permitted his employees to reach their fullest potential. It’s obvious when you see the extraordinary pride displayed by the public works staff. His continual enthusiasm and interest to improve the level of service provided to Batavia residents is always his number one priority. By his commitment to the community and the organization, Matt has demonstrated himself to be a leader and a dedicated public servant and role model for all to follow. It is a pleasure to work with Matt, and I congratulate him on being honored with this award.”

City Council President, Eugene Jankowski Jr. said, “the Council is proud of Matt’s achievements over his many years of service to the City of Batavia. He has worked hard on behalf of our residents and we appreciate his dedication. He is very deserving of this award!”

This award is presented to association members for outstanding achievement in the area of administration within the public works department and to inspire excellence and dedication in the public sector by recognizing the outstanding career service achievements of administrative professionals.

November 8, 2018 - 8:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Genesee County Planning Board, city of batavia.

With only three referral items and little else on the agenda, the Genesee County Planning Board tonight needed only 11 minutes to conduct its business, with the most notable action pertaining to the City of Batavia’s recent sign code review.

County planners recommended approval, with modifications, of zoning text amendments to the City’s packet of sign regulations.

In September, the City Planning & Development Committee reviewed the sign code and recommended the following changes:

-- Expanded list of exempt signs, specifically allowing a greater use of directional signage;
-- Defined drive-thru menu board signs to better conform to typical uses;
-- Clarified some language that may have been subjective;
-- Expanded areas where electronic message boards may be used;
-- Expanded the types of appeals that may be considered by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

With the PDC and County Planning Board’s blessing, City Council now is charged with reviewing the suggested changes to the sign code, coming to a consensus on the matter, scheduling a public hearing and adopting a local law that would put any changes into law.

County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, speaking after tonight’s meeting, said tackling sign codes is “tricky because you’re dealing with freedom of speech issues.”

“You can’t regulate content, but you can regulate (sign) placement, size and color,” he said. “If you have to read the sign to see if it is in regulation, then you’re regulating content.”

Oltramari then said content can be regulated when safety is involved – signs that read “danger” could present a hazard, for example – but that the government holds “content” to a higher standard.

“We try to steer communities away from regulating content,” he added.

As far as modifications are concerned, county planners are advising that City Council solicit its attorney’s opinion on whether “open and closed” signs or “hours of operation” signs could be considered content-based restrictions, and whether the ZBA is permitted to grant area variances for non-dimensional issues.

It is the County Planning Board’s view, stemming from talks with a NYS Department of State lawyer, that non-dimensional variances, such as lighting type, should be considered use variances and not area variances.

City Council adopted its current sign code in January 2017 through a local law that significantly changed the previous version. Since then, the City’s Inspection Bureau reported that numerous questions have come up as to interpretation and intent of the code, and requested a review and, if necessary, amendments to the code.

In other action, the planning board recommended approval of the Town of Byron’s updated Comprehensive Plan, acknowledging the extensive work of the town’s officials.

October 23, 2018 - 7:55pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Freed Maxick.

A “conservative approach” to budgeting and spending enabled the City of Batavia to maintain a strong financial position for the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to the accountant who presented the municipality’s audit report at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

“The City has taken a conservative approach, especially with sales tax (projections) and a conservative approach to watching costs and monitoring those costs,” said Laura Landers, CPA, of Freed Maxick. “This has led to the excess (surplus) that we see in operations.”

Landers reported that the City’s general fund showed $16,014,615 in revenues versus $15,731,077 in expenditures for a surplus of $283,538 for the fiscal year that ended on March 31.

“Over the past 10 years, (when looking at) actual revenues versus budgeted revenues, the City has fared well,” she said. “And actual expenditures have been less than budgeted expenditures (as well).”

She noted that sales tax and VLT (Video Lottery Terminal) money from Batavia Downs Gaming “increased slightly” in 2017-18, with a spike in gas prices helping to boost sales tax revenue.

Landers said the City has $4.5 million in restricted funds – earmarked for insurance, capital projects, employee benefits, retirement, Dwyer Stadium – and $1.7 million in unassigned funds.

“Council can utilize the unassigned funds for unanticipated expenditures or to balance next year’s budget,” she explained. “It is a tool that you can use during the budget process. ‘Do we have projects?’ So, you don’t have to dip into reserves.”

The report also revealed $339,450 in “committed funds” for use on the City’s Master Plan, Ellicott Trail Project, Creek Park and (now dormant) Vibrant Batavia.

All told, the total fund balance for 2017-18 was at $7,388, 913.

Landers also reported that the water fund showed total assets of $10.2 million, with an $880,000 surplus – “which means that rates are at levels which have supported operations” – and that the sewer fund has $32.1 million in assets, including $8.8 million in cash.

Concluding, she said that, once again, the firm "did not note any material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in the operations of the City to report to City Council as a result of our audit procedures."

August 10, 2018 - 1:33pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

The Batavia City Council is prepared to extend a three-year contract to the new City Manager, with a starting salary of $110,000 and increasing by $2,000 annually afterward, at its Business Meeting on Monday.

According to an employment agreement posted on the City of Batavia website, the new manager's term of employment will commence on Oct. 15 and continue until Oct. 14, 2021, or until sooner terminated by the employer or employee subject to specified terms of the contract. The person's name was not included in the posted document.

Other perks include:

-- Retirement benefits through the NYS and Local Retirement System in step with other non-union City employees;
-- Medical insurance paid by the City for the new manager, "his spouse and his dependent children in accordance with the rules and requirements applicable to all other non-union employees of the City of Batavia.";
-- Three weeks vacation, plus accrued sick time, personal time or bereavement leave;
-- Reimbursement for city-related business expenses:
-- Relocation reimbursement of up to $10,000, verified by receipts;
-- Life insurance in step with other non-union City employees.

The contract also addresses suspension and termination, outside activities and performance evaluations.

The new hire will replace former manager Jason Molino, who left in January for a similar position for Tompkins County. Public Works Director Matt Worth has been handling the city manager responsibilities on an interim basis since Molino’s departure.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said today that he had hoped the person's name would have been included in the document, but he was advised otherwise, citing a confidentiality agreement.

"I wanted to have that in there and I thought it would be in there, but I was told you can't release the name until the day of the meeting -- because of confidentiality -- until the person is ratified," Jankowski said. "When you walk in the door on Monday at 7 p.m., the agenda given to the public will have the name on it."

Jankowski said the new manager will not be able to attend due to a family wedding, but that a meet-and-greet is being set up for either Tuesday or Wednesday by video conferencing.

April 10, 2018 - 7:12am

Summary of the NYS Local Governments and School Accountability audit of the City of Batavia's Business Improvement District.

CLICK HERE for the complete report.

Purpose of Audit

The purpose of our audit was to determine whether City officials properly accounted for and monitored the Business Improvement District’s (BID) financial operations for the period April 1, 2015 through September 14, 2017.

Background

The City of Batavia is located in Genesee County. The City has approximately 15,500 residents and is governed by an elected nine-member City Council. The Council created the BID in 1997. The BID is a geographic area in which a charge is imposed upon benefited properties for improvements, operation and maintenance costs and other services such as advertising and promoting BID activities. The district management association (DMA) is a not-for-profit entity governed by its own board of directors, which performs many District day-to-day management functions. The 2017-18 BID charge was $55,742.

Key Findings

  • The Council did not enter into a written agreement with the DMA or monitor the manner in which the DMA used BID funds.
  • City officials did not maintain adequate records to properly account for BID funds.
  • BID charges exceeded the statutory limit for 11 of the past 13 years by a total of approximately $464,000 or an average of $42,000 each year.

Key Recommendations

  • Enter into a written agreement with the DMA.
  • Monitor BID financial operations especially the manner in which the DMA uses BID funds.
  • Levy BID charges in compliance with the statutory limit.
April 9, 2018 - 11:04pm

A New York State comptroller’s audit of the City of Batavia’s relationship with the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District mandates City Council to assume greater control of the agency’s financial matters.

That was the word from both Council President Eugene Jankowski and Interim Manager Matt Worth at tonight’s City Council business meeting at City Centre Council Chambers.

“Basically, the state has supported what we said in the past (that Council needed more oversight of the BID) and lays down some ground rules going forward,” Jankowski said. “This has been going on for a couple years; we should have caught it sooner.”

See NYS Local Government and School Accountability audit summary findings posted above this story.

Worth said the audit addresses several procedural issues, particularly in the areas of budget oversight and retention of the BID’s funds.

“It deals with who should take possession of the funds and requires that a more formal contract between the City and the BID needs to be created,” Worth said.

The City and the BID were at odds for some time into the second half of 2016, stemming from the City’s contention that the agency’s 2016-17 assessment budget exceeded the General Municipal Law limits for district assessment charges used for operations.

Jason Molino, city manager at the time, also urged the BID to follow Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws, and to post its bylaws and meeting notices and minutes on its website.

The dispute simmered in a public forum, eventually prompting Laurie Oltramari to resign her position as BID director (although she said the budget flap did not enter into her decision).

Since then, the BID Board of Directors has changed as has the director, with Beth Kemp taking over the lead role in November 2016. Additionally, the City -- in a move supported by the audit -- has more than $200,000 in a special account (BID taxes that were levied inappropriately) that will not be used until the agency plans a capital improvement project.

A call to Kemp this evening had yet to be returned when this story was posted.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved a contract with R.A. Haitz Co. Inc., of Batavia, for $49,838 to replace two roofs at Dwyer Stadium, with the intent of having the work done prior to the opening of the Batavia Muckdogs’ season in mid-June.

“I think it’s great that we finally found someone from Batavia that can do some work in Batavia,” Council Member Rose Mary Christian said.

The cost comes in at $1,838 over the projected budgeted amount, but Worth said he thinks the City could save money on some other projects at the baseball park “so it comes out in the wash, so to speak.”

The Haitz bid was not the lowest of the three received, however. A $28,800 bid from Dan & D.J.’s Reasonable Contracting, of Elba, was not considered because that firm miscalculated insurance costs related to the project, Worth said.

-- OK'd a liquor license request by the Muckdogs to offer beer and cider during the New York-Penn League games.

-- Voted to contract with Labella Associates in the amount of $12,000 for administrative services in connection with a Communities Development Block Grant to replace 900 linear feet of water mains on a portion of Brooklyn Avenue.

-- Passed a resolution designating four eligible census tracts – in Ward 2, 3, 5 and 6 – as federal qualified opportunity zones.

This gives developers federal tax incentives to reinvest capital gains in areas designated as “disadvantaged” by virtue of having 20 percent or higher poverty and a median family income 80 percent less than the area’s median income.

The resolution states that “coupling opportunity funds with the locally enacted Pathway to Prosperity tax increment financing program may assure cleanup of brownfield sites, gain new investor commitments to Batavia, and will ensure that our region can be an attractive economic driver creating jobs, building tax base and increasing population …”

-- Was informed that two part-time janitors have been hired to work at the City Centre Mall but a full-time maintenance worker has not been hired yet.

Council Member John Canale reported that a mall merchant commented that she noticed people working in the mall and “appreciated” the City’s effort to improve what has long been a tenuous association between the merchants and the City.

January 22, 2018 - 10:41am

The post-Jason Molino era for the City of Batavia gets under way tonight with City Council taking on a packed agenda that includes four budget resolutions requiring public hearings, the Redfield Parkway pillars, Healthy Schools sidewalk project, Habitat for Humanity’s proposal to build a home in the flood zone, leasing City Centre Mall space to Batavia Players and a Dwyer Stadium sub-lease with the New York-Penn League to operate the Batavia Muckdogs baseball team.

The Council’s Conference meeting, which is expected to be followed by a special business meeting to address the Dwyer Stadium issue, is scheduled for 7 o’clock at the City Centre Council Board Room.

Summaries of the planned discussions are as follows:

Budget resolutions with public hearings

Interim City Manager Matthew Worth is introducing resolutions that deal with the proposed budget ordinance, water rate changes, Business Improvement District plan and City Centre concourse user fee local law amendments. His proposal requests that these topics be acted upon at the Feb. 12 Business Meeting, with public hearings set for Feb. 26.

The 2018-19 budget calls for $5,249,947 to be raised by taxes, with previous reports indicating that the tax rate is expected to decrease by 3 percent – to $8.99 per $1,000 of assessed value. Total expenditures are $24.3 million (an increase of 1.9 percent).

Water rates will go up by 3.5 percent, with slightly higher increases in meter and capital improvement fees. There is no increase proposed for the sewer rate.

Since the BID plan has not been updated since 2005, the City proposes amendments that include a change in the district assessment charge to properly reflect operations, capital accounting for surplus funds, compliance with Open Meetings Law and Freedom of Information Law, and other budgetary compliance reporting.

The City Centre Concourse user fee proposal sets costs to Mall business owners at $2 per square foot, effective April 1, 2018 through March 31, 2021, and going up to $2.04 in 2021-22 and $2.06 in 2022-23.

Redfield Parkway pillars

City officials reached out to In Site: Architecture LLP, of Perry, to address the deteriorating condition of the pillars at the north entrance of Redfield Parkway.

The firm came back with a proposal to investigate the existing conditions, conduct design work as required related to lighting, preparation of bid documents, construction specifications, bidding coordination and construction administration at a cost of $4,860.

Council will be asked to appropriate the funds, contingent upon receiving a construction cost estimate prior to bidding the project.

Healthy Schools sidewalk project

Worth is reporting that Roman Construction Development Corp. of North Tonawanda has offered the low bid of $721,566 to complete construction of 12,300 linear feet of sideway in the City as part of the Healthy Schools Corridor Project.

Seventy-five percent of the project cost will be paid by the Federal Highway Administration and 25 percent will be paid from City sidewalk reserves and Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), Worth said.

Habitat for Humanity’s proposal

Habitat for Humanity is looking to renovate and restore a home at 116 Swan St., property that was transferred by the City to the organization. However, this is the first property to be transferred that is in the 100-year flood zone, resulting in additional costs.

According to Lauren Casey, Habitat for Humanity executive director, the cost to demolish the existing structure and build a new home is $104,000, including $17,395 for engineering and architectural costs to design a flood-compliant home.

In a memo from Molino dated Jan. 11 (the day before his last day on the job), Council will be asked to cover the $17,395, utilizing some of the $48,000 remaining from the former Vibrant Batavia initiative. Molino said that the engineering/architectural information could be used for future new builds in the City.

Batavia Players lease

A lease agreement with Batavia Players Inc. to utilize three City Centre parcels for their productions calls for monthly rent charges of $747.92 for months one through six ($1 per square foot), $1,223.86 for months seven through 12 ($3 per square foot), and $2,991.66 for months 13 through 60 ($4 per square foot).

In a memo, Worth writes that relocation of the theater to the downtown area has been identified in the City’s 2012 Community Improvement Plan and 2017 Comprehensive Plan, and is under consideration in the City’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative application.

The lease agreement gives the City the right to terminate it upon 180 days’ notice and allows the City to sell the property as it sees fit.

Sublease of Dwyer Stadium to NY-P

With the Rochester Community Baseball organization (Rochester Red Wings) out of the picture, the New York-Penn League has assumed ownership of the Batavia Muckdogs.

According to Worth, the NY-P is agreeable to operating the team at Dwyer Stadium under the terms and conditions of the previous sublease to the Batavia Regional Recreation Corporation and Genesee County Baseball Club Inc. and declaration to the Rochester Community Baseball for the coming season.

Worth, in a memo dated Jan. 19, said that the league has been made aware of the proposed budget and funds that may be available for improvements and “have an understanding of these limitations.”

January 11, 2018 - 3:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, City Centre Mall.

An Erie County Supreme Court justice on Wednesday ruled in favor of the City of Batavia in a legal dispute with a Batavia orthodontist over the parking situation at his City Centre mall location.

“The City went before the judge (Catherine Nugent-Panepinto) with an order to show cause consistent with the settlement agreement between the City and the Mall Merchants Association, both parties were heard and the judge ‘so ordered’ the settlement agreement,” City Manager Jason Molino said today.

“This is the last piece of litigation for the City to take over operation of the mall on April 1.”

Dr. Marlin Salmon, owner of Salmon Orthodontics, brought the matter to court, seeking easement relief for parking spaces in proximity to his office.

A phone call to Dr. Salmon was not returned at the time of this story’s posting.

The settlement agreement calls for the city to retain ownership of the downtown facility's concourse, pay 100 percent of capital improvements, and take care of mall maintenance and operations.

January 9, 2018 - 10:34am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia.

molino_and_casey.jpg

Jason Molino and Lisa Casey at City Hall this morning.

Over a quarter century of work as an executive assistant, Lisa Casey has had the opportunity to evaluate the performance of organizational leaders.

In her opinion, Jason Molino, who is in his last week as Batavia’s city manager, has earned a high ranking.

“He’s a wonderful manager, through and through. I’ve worked for a lot of executives over the past 25 years and, by far, Jason is one of the best,” said Casey, the City’s confidential secretary and Molino’s assistant, following Monday night’s City Council meeting. “It is very hard to see him go, but I’m very happy for him.”

Molino begins his new job as Tompkins County administrator on Jan. 29. A farewell gathering (open to the public) is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at T.F. Brown’s in Batavia.

Casey credited Molino for being a hard worker, “having a great heart” and possessing a memory that his served him well during his tenure in Batavia.

“He doesn’t ever forget; he remembers everything,” she said. “Even like from 10 years ago, he will pull out of his head a resolution that he did 10 years ago.”

She said that she will miss him and believes the community will, too.

“I know I’m going to miss him. I would like to think that Batavia is going to miss him as well. It’s going to be hard. It’s definitely a loss for Batavia,” she said. “I did not grow up here, but I know enough people who have said that so much has changed for the positive in this city.”

Casey said she is encouraged by Molino’s assertion that the right person will come along to take his place.

“It’s going to hurt us for a little bit, but as Jason has told me, he is very confident that we will find someone that will be just as good as him, if not better … which I don’t believe.”

December 18, 2017 - 5:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Tompkins County.

"I wish Jason the best, but we can't waste any time (in finding a replacement) with all the projects we have going on." -- Eugene Jankowski, City Council president.

"Tompkins County's gain is our loss." -- Adam Tabelski, City Council member.

"He's coming over to the dark side!" -- Jay Gsell, Genesee County manager.

Those were the initial reactions from City of Batavia and Genesee County leaders to the news that Jason Molino, Batavia City manager for the past 11 years, has resigned to accept the position of Administrator for Tompkins County. Reports indicate that Molino will serve in his current post until the end of January, when he and his family will move to the Ithaca area.

(See press release from Tompkins County below).

Jankowski said he wishes Molino well, but admitted that he is "jealous of Tompkins County -- they're getting a good county manager."

He and Tableski credited Molino for creating Batavia's solid financial picture and for spearheading the many projects that have infused the city with federal and state money (specifically the $10 million DRI award) in recent years.

"I'm sad to see Jason leave; Tompkins County's gain is our loss," Tabelski said. "Jason has provided realiable leadership and continuity for over a decade, and is largely responsible for turning the finances around. It is readily apparent that he is respected inside the walls of City Hall, as he has done a great job of setting goals for the city and working collaboratively."

Both Jankowski and Tabelski said they weren't surprised by Molino's desire to advance -- the Tompkins County job comes with a much larger budget and hundreds more employees -- but would not say that stalled contract negotiations were the reason for his departure.

"I can only go by what Jason told me and he said that the last couple years were some of the best he ever had," Jankowski offered. "He never said, 'It's the way you treated me and I'm out of here.' I just think it is time for him to expand his wings."

As reported in The Batavian, Molino's salary of $93,782 was not increased by Council last month, but the two parties had been talking about a long-term contract. According to a story in the Ithaca Journal, the annual salary commanded by Tompkins County Administrators for a 40-hour workweek is $117,000. There is reason to believe that Molino's starting salary will be more than that.

Jankowski said that Council may put the search for an assistant manager on hold, instead ramping up its efforts to replace Molino.

"Speaking for myself, I think it may be best to hire a manager first, then wait until the new manager picks his or her assistant," he said. "Until then, the department heads can handle their own jobs. I've been through this before as a city employee, so we should be OK."

Jankowski said he also is "looking to the public to weigh in -- to let us know what our direction should be."

While joking that Molino is "coming over to the dark side," Gsell was serious when he said that Molino will "absolutely" do a great job for Tompkins County.

"Jason has been in New York State for a long time and he has experience in county government as an intern in Schenectady County," Gsell said. "Plus things are in good shape there (in Tompkins County), not like they were here when Jason came in."

Gsell said the biggest differences from city management to county administration focus on the social and human services programs, as well as Job Development, Office for the Aging, and overseeing a jail.

"Tompkins County has done a lot with consolidation under Joe Mareane, who was there for nine years and was well-respected," Gsell said. "Jason also has been involved with shared services, and this will help him."

Per Tompkins County's press release, Tompkins County began a national search for a new County Administrator in July, after former administrator Mareane announced his intent to retire. A diverse search committee comprised of county legislators, department heads, labor representatives, and community members narrowed a field of more than 20 applicants and conducted interviews. Three were recommended to the full County Legislature and were interviewed by all 14 members; new Legislators-elect observed and asked questions.

Molino could not be reached for comment this afternoon.

December 11, 2017 - 8:48pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, zombie properties.

luft_1.jpg

Operation Keep Our Homes, a program designed to identify and reduce the number of vacant and abandoned homes in the City of Batavia, is making some positive strides, according to the administrative intern who has been working on the program for several months.

Speaking at tonight’s City Council meeting at City Hall, Lindsey Luft, a graduate assistant at Brockport State College who has been serving the City since May, said the initiative has just about reached its goal of connecting with 10 families facing foreclosure.

“We have been working with nine families – one kept their home, one the case was closed and seven others are still open,” said Luft, who is on track to earn her master’s degree in Public Administration in the spring.

Luft said there are about 89 zombie properties in the city – “and we’re really focused on getting them up and rehabilitated.”

“It (vacant homes) affects the City at all levels and at every census tract, and it’s not targeted at any kind of income level,” she said.

Operation Keep Our Homes utilizes a database called Opportunity Space, Luft said.

“We load all kinds of information (gathered from county, town, city, police and fire data) to narrow down our search for zombie properties,” she said. “And from there, with the targeted list, we go out to site visits and we confirm vacancy.”

Luft gave City Council members a demonstration of the software, starting with 5,453 parcels in the City, and using various filters -- such as floodplain property, whether there is a structure on the site, water usage and residential homes – to reduce the list of targeted properties to a manageable number.

Filtering allows officials to come to the conclusion that “there is reasonable cause to think they can be vacant properties and to go to them, instead of aimlessly wandering around,” she said.

Luft said currently the database is updated quarterly, but the plan is to be able to access the information in a “real-time situation.”

During her presentation, she outlined the Zombie Property Remediation Act’s four components – requiring lenders to maintain mortgage-delinquent properties, requiring mortgagees to register vacant properties with the NYS Department of Financial Services registry, allowing mortgagees to complete expedited mortgage foreclosure for abandoned property, and enhancement of consumer protections.

When the DFS determines that a property is vacant, municipalities working with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation can act to remediate the property with the goal of getting it back on the tax rolls. Luft said that Batavia is one of 77 municipalities that have received grants from the LISC to achieve their goals. The City reportedly received a $66,500 grant. 

She said that Batavia’s strategy includes educating individual property owners, using the Internet and local media to reach at-risk persons privately and reaching out to entities such as the Housing Council at PathStone, Genesee County Bar Association, banks, realtors, local pastors and Habitat for Humanity.

City Manager Jason Molino said that Habitat for Humanity has rehabilitated one single family home per year in the City over the past eight years, “producing a 38-percent average increase in assessed value after rehabilitation.”

Batavia also has a property tax exemption in place for residential redeveloped property, and is in the process of partnering with a local bank to develop a mortgage package aimed at redeveloping a zombie home by utilizing the exemption.

The Operation Keep Our Homes program also seeks to revise the City code in the areas of grass, weeds and debris; solid waste (cars) and graffiti.

Toward the end of her talk, Luft was met with a question from Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who wondered why some properties with paid-up mortgages were vacant.

“What’s the reason for that?" Christian asked.

To which Luft replied, “That’s something that we can work on together.”

Photo -- Administrative intern Lindsey Luft speaking at tonight's City Council meeting.

December 7, 2017 - 2:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Press release:

The first community meeting to gather public input on Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) will be held at City Hall, One Batavia City Centre, Batavia, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14.

Those in attendance will be provided with information on the DRI followed by a hands-on, interactive public workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to identify potential transformative redevelopment strategies that will provide long-term community and economic benefits for Downtown Batavia.

This is an opportunity for residents and businesses in the community to provide feedback and help plan the future of Downtown Batavia. The DRI Local Planning Committee would like to know what you love about Downtown Batavia, what draws you downtown today, and what amenities would bring you downtown more often.

This effort builds upon existing plans and projects, including the City’s Comprehensive Master Plan and the Batavia Opportunity Area Plan.

The workshop is the first in a series of three DRI public participation meetings that will be held over the next four months.

Future public meetings will focus on a review of the goals and strategies developed by the DRI Local Planning Committee as well as a review of potential projects. 

In October, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the City of Batavia will receive $10 million in funding and investments as the Finger Lakes winner of the second round of the DRI.

November 21, 2017 - 5:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Press release:

A meeting for those wishing to submit information on potential projects for Batavia’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative is scheduled for 2 p.m. next Tuesday (Nov. 28) at City Hall, One Batavia City Centre.

An update on the goals of the DRI will also be provided. Project information submittals are due Dec. 18.

Downtown business and property owners, developers, arts and cultural organizations, and anyone with an interest in investing in Downtown Batavia’s future are invited to attend.

For RFI forms, visit the City of Batavia’s website – www.batavianewyork.com.

October 30, 2017 - 11:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Batavia City Council.

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Batavia is a small city but it’s not immune to big city problems when it comes to respect, responsibility and accountability from its youth and law enforcement.

That is the gist of the message shared at Monday night’s City Council meeting by longtime Batavian Bill Blackshear, who is calling for citizens to come together “for a better communication and a better understanding of each other.”

Blackshear, 61, has lived in Batavia for about 50 years – he was elected as Batavia High School’s first black “Mayor” back in 1975 – and has expressed his views in the past, always in a dignified manner.

Last night was no different as he appealed to council members to take action to stem what he sees as a growing unrest among youth, especially minorities.

“I am concerned about the rash of crimes committed by people 15 to 19 years old,” he said, specifically mentioning a recent incident where youths threw fluid in the face of a man, causing second-degree burns, and a previous incident where people were accosted by young men.

Blackshear said it’s time for people to “build bridges” to improve relations between the community and law enforcement, and that he welcomes all “feedback, guidance and your prayers.”

He believes that police, city agencies such as Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, parents and others should “establish dialogue to instill pride” in young people and promote programs – such as police ride-alongs and Q&A sessions – to get youths more involved.

“I would hate to see Batavia become another Rochester or Buffalo,” he said. “There is always room for enhancement to adapt to the new challenges that have arisen.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski responded to Blackshear’s plea by requesting Police Chief Shawn Heubusch to work through the Criminal Justice Advisory Council to “start some dialogue and see if there are programs out there.”

Afterward, Blackshear, who said he will be meeting with Assemblyman Stephen Hawley in the near future, elaborated on his views of today’s Batavia. He said is aware of destructive influences from outside the area but also believes there have been incidences of racial profiling.

“I fear that because of their youth that they may be easily manipulated by forces from some of the larger cities – and it is definitely having an impact in Batavia with the rash of crimes as well as a feeling of mistrust for law enforcement and vice versa,” he said.

“I understand that police officers fear for their lives as well, and so we need to establish some sort of dialogue for a better communication and a better understanding of each other through talking and some programs that can be innovative.”

Blackshear, an employee of Goodwill Industries of WNY in Batavia, said that “inclusion” is a way to give young people “a voice that matters.”

“Then they feel more empowered and it gets them to seek alternative means of pride as well as opportunity,” he said. “I’m not saying that it’s necessarily lacking; it’s more of a misunderstanding based upon a lot of elements coming from sources other than the home.”

He said he hopes that “a lot of the things we’ve seen happen … in the larger cities where kids have been shot and harmed because they were mistakenly taken for someone or suspects as far engaging in behavior that seems threatening” doesn’t become part of the fabric of Batavia.

“And vice versa -- police are concerned, too,” he said. “They may feel like everyone is suspect, and that’s not always the case. So we all need to sit down and communicate. Maybe some of these kids can get to know law enforcement and how it works better in order to understand that not everybody is an enemy.”

To make Batavia’s streets safe for everyone, there needs to be accountability on both sides, Blackshear said.

“(Young people) need not be profiled or suspected when they aren’t doing anything or if they are nonviolent (and) they shouldn’t be treated like criminals. There should be accountability on both sides. Kids should know that they’re accountable for their actions and their choices as well as anyone who deals with them. There’s always the accountability factor.”

Photo at top -- Batavian Bill Blackshear spoke at the City Council meeting tonight on the need for outreach to the City's young people.

October 25, 2017 - 8:14am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia, Jason Molino.

Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski says that a combination of maturity and patience has enabled City Manager Jason Molino to have grown “by leaps and bounds” since he took over as a fledgling administrator in 2006.

“You have to credit the city manager for putting the right people in the right place, and trusting them to do their job,” said Jankowski, a former city police officer who has served as City Council president for the past two years. “Over the last four years, he has grown exponentially – looking at the big picture and making moves today that will have a positive outcome down the road.”

Jankowski said City Council and management have worked as a team to overcome hard times in Batavia, but acknowledged that it hasn’t been an easy road for Molino.

“He started out kind of young and that was a disadvantage in that respect. He was thrust into it and had a lot of ground to make up,” Jankowski said.

Molino made decisions in the late 2000s that were “not popular,” according to Jankowski, who admitted that he did not agree with many of them.

“It was a bad situation; we had to tighten our belt,” he said. “Eventually, there was daylight, thanks to strong budgeting and fiscal responsibility. The past four years, Council has taken more responsibility and now we are in the building stage, with a little room to look toward the future.”

Jankowski said that all of the good things happening today – revitalization of the former Soccio & Della Penna property on Ellicott Street, the JJ Newberry building on Main Street, the $10 million state DRI award, fixing the City Centre Mall situation – have come about as a result of strategic planning and implementation.

“Council made these priorities and Jason has been working on these for several years,” he said. “He has built bridges and through careful planning has made this happen.”

Jankowski said that a true sign of maturity was Molino’s approach to a second DRI application after Batavia lost out in its initial attempt.

“He did his research and modified the second application with a totally different pitch – a total different angle,” he said. “He learned from things that didn’t go so well and made the adjustments to make it work.”

All in all, Jankowski said he was encouraged and excited over the City’s recent good fortune.

“We even were able to buy a $900,000 fire truck, paying in cash, and that is due to Jason’s foresight by keeping the budget trim. Normally, we would have had to take out a bond and pay thousands of dollars in interest over so many years.”

Jankowski said Molino deserves to be acknowledged for hanging tough.

“When things were going bad, he took the heat,” he said. “Now that things have turned around, he should get the credit.” 

October 11, 2017 - 10:29am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city of batavia.

Press release:

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the City of Batavia Water Department along with United Memorial Medical Center will be replacing valves on the main water line on Bank Street.

Water service will be interrupted on Bank Street from East Main Street to Washington Avenue. Bank Street will be closed to traffic at 6:30 a.m. from the Mall parking lot to Alva Place until repairs are complete. Please avoid the area if possible.

Every effort will be made to keep water service interruption to a minimum. This work may result in a period of discolored water in this general area after service is restored.

Residents should check to make sure water clarity has returned before resuming activities such as laundry which may be impacted.

October 10, 2017 - 4:36pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in city of batavia, news, road closures, Construction Update.

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Photos taken over last weekend by Steve Ognibene.

According to county Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, the River Street Bridge Project will be completed next month and is scheduled to be open to traffic by Nov. 10th.

Deck concrete is curing now, he said this afternoon, and workers still have the guide rail to put up; gas line has to be attached; and the street/curb repairs near the bridge must be completed.

The contract price is still unchanged from the award at $1,419,581.

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