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March 16, 2023 - 8:05am


Batavia's Police Benevolent Association President Matt Wojtaszczyk, above, shared some good news with City Council this week. The PBA served up some pancakes for a fundraiser this past summer to generate donations for special technical needs at the police department.

"So over the past year, the PBA members specifically representing emergency response teams have been working on fundraising to assist the department with updating the Emergency Response Team," Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said during the council's conference session at City Hall. "We appreciate them for recognizing the need to do this and stepping up and doing so, and they donated some pretty big items."

Thanks to the generosity of host Grace Baptist Church in Batavia, PBA members, and, apparently, hungry residents, the PBA was able to raise approximately $3,600, Wojtaszczyk said.

“At that event, we just want to say a big thank you to Grace Baptist, who helped us with the fundraiser and using their facility, and they provided staff to assist us as well, as the PBA managed the funds and facilitated the fundraiser,” Wojtaszczyk said.

"And using those funds, we purchased the following equipment. We purchased four cameras and a monitor display for a rescue vehicle, specialty breaching equipment to Red Dot optics, an unmanned aerial vehicle otherwise known as a drone, and upgraded batteries, storage bins and miscellaneous team equipment. And we plan on purchasing a new optic for our sniper team," he said. "So we were able to get quite a few items. Those items, once they're purchased, are donated to the city for city use. We appreciate everyone that supported us.”

Photo of PBA President Matt Wojtaszczyk during a City Council meeting at City Hall, by Howard Owens.

March 14, 2023 - 6:46pm


All eight City Council members signed a letter Monday night requesting that state Homes and Community Renewal officials work with the city to bump up a portion of the current Area Median Income levels at Ellicott Station.

“The city of Batavia is requesting that HCR work with us to present a better mix of incomes on the property with apartments that rent for 80 percent and 120 percent AMI,” the letter states. “We feel that this will encapsulate the workforce housing that we were promised, better align with the city’s vision of the DRI strategy, and still provide affordable housing for residents.”

Earlier Monday, during council’s business meeting, City Manager Rachael Tabelski referred to a letter that she had provided for council members to review. Apparently, they reviewed and revised the letter after the meeting. The Batavian has asked for additional details about that process and will update this article once responses are received.

Since the first application went in for Ellicott Station, local folks were excited about the prospects of longtime vacant and toxic property along the south side street getting cleaned up, renovated and repurposed. But since its inception in 2016, as City Manager Rachael Tabelski has described it, the project became fairly fluid.

“Ellicott Station has been a moving target over the last several years as the developer made various and multiple overtures to funding entities with regards to making the project financially viable. In 2019, the City supported the project’s housing component as being mixed-income that would provide housing for residents that were employed in local manufacturing in an application submitted to New York State Homes and Community Renewal from the developer,” Tabelski had said. “Furthermore, in 2020, it was confirmed that people living at Ellicott Station must be employed and not receiving government assistance."

City leaders had expressed disappointment about the apartment project’s income levels after The Batavian’s exclusive coverage published on Feb. 18. Application materials made available at Ellicott Station’s website outlined the qualifications for one- and two-bedroom units, many of which had maximum annual salaries at or below minimum wage and seemingly requiring Section 8 assistance.

One example is that two people each earning minimum wage, $14.20 an hour, are not eligible for a two-bedroom apartment at Ellicott Station because they would be earning too much (the maximum household income for two people in a two-bedroom apartment is $34,600, and two people working full-time at $14.20 would gross $59,072).

Developer Sam Savarino has said, in a follow-up interview with The Batavian, that he expects the housing complex to be filled with gainfully employed people, though he had no thorough rationale for the low maximum income levels. He said that the numbers were set a couple of years ago and can be reset once everything is up and operational at Ellicott Station if current salaries have increased.

Here in Batavia, “we would like to be known for innovative housing that has a mix of incomes to preserve our most vulnerable neighborhoods, help citizens, and provide for housing for entry-level manufacturing, service workers, and students,” the city’s letter states. “The City of Batavia, New York State, Brownfield Opportunity Area, and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) strategy both define the need for downtown housing, including infill construction, upper floor apartments, and a demand for higher income housing, including market-rate housing.”

“When Ellicott Station Project was proposed by Savarino Companies, it was originally a market-rate housing project, however, through several financing iterations, Savarino Companies worked with HCR to finance the project. The city discovered that at the time of application, Savarino Companies applied to HCR for a mixed-income housing model but was directed by local HCR representatives to only allow residents with 50 percent to 60 percent AMI,” the letter states. “While workforce housing is the goal for the Ellicott StationSavarino Development, that is not the type of tenants that this housing will attract.”

The letter further lays out the compounding issues of the capped 50 to 60 percent Area Median Income and  inflationary wage increases that will not allow working citizens to qualify to live at Ellicott Station, and “only vouchered Section 8 residents will now be able to access this property.”

“This is a fundamental change from the goals for the Ellicott Station project and does not match the BOA or DRI strategies for development of our downtown,” it states.

As a result of this fundamental change, city leaders said they are concerned that:

  • Drastically increased wages for entry-level manufacturing and service jobs pay more than what would qualify for this housing complex;
  • The project no longer aligns with the City’s DRI and BOA strategies, and it won’t fulfill the City’s need for market rate and workforce housing as determined from various studies;
  • Low and very low-income housing — versus mixed-income housing — could set the project up for potential issues contrary to community objectives, including drug, gang, and criminal activity, per proven studies;
  • Other DRI communities across the state have received HCR tax credits and rents were allowed to be 80 to 120 percent AMI in some cases — so why not here?

Photo of Ellicott Station in progress at 50 Ellicott St., Batavia, by Howard Owens. 

March 14, 2023 - 8:16am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, batavia, City Fire.


Greg Ireland likes to tell people that one of his best days happened 23 years ago. That’s when he was hired by the City of Batavia as an emergency medical technician. Apparently, the feeling has been mutual all these years since Ireland has climbed the ranks, being promoted to firefighter in 2002, lieutenant in 2015 and captain in 2018.

He was given a warm send-off Monday evening during his last department move to retirement. City Councilman Rich Richmond read a proclamation that summarized Ireland’s two dozen years of service that included firefighting, educating other first responders throughout Genesee County, and being “a positive role model to all of the fire department throughout his 23-year career,” Richmond said.

“In the true spirit of appreciation, for many years, Captain Gregory Ireland has served as a City of Batavia employee, the City Council and the City of Batavia herby make this proclamation to sincerely thank him for 23 years of dedicated service in our community, and wish him well in his retirement,” Richmond said.

During an interview with The Batavian in June 2022, Ireland had given notice and already walked out the door.  That last day was emotional, he said, as being part of the city Fire Department had “definitely been part of my lifestyle.”

“Emotions came in waves. It was the right decision at this time,” he said at the time. “I’ll have the opportunity to be home with my family … that’s going to allow me more time with my family and my kids. That was the main driver behind it.”

After more than two decades as a city employee, Ireland has been a recognizable face throughout the community. He started out as an emergency medical technician when the city-owned and operated its own ambulance service. He credits Sept. 4, 1999, as “the best day of my life” for a career move out of the radio — and the airplanes and helicopters used for part of his traffic reporting job.

“I actually flew on an airplane for almost two years every morning. I did that for a bunch of stations up in Buffalo,” he said. “It was a great experience, but not what I wanted to do.”

An Alexander High School and Genesee Community College graduate, he worked in Buffalo for a while before making the move. He began as an EMT in 1999, with a background of having volunteered for the Alexander fire department, and a year or two before that, Ireland took a first aid class. The handwriting seemed to be on the wall before a teenaged Ireland took serious note of it. He moved through the ranks from basic to intermediate EMT and then to paramedic. By 2002, he was offered a job as a firefighter, which was a major goal.

In 1999, the opportunity for a job came up, and it “turned into a great career,” he said.

He couldn’t help but humbly accept the honor before the council and remind everyone how he feels.

“I always say Sept. 4, 1999, was one of the luckiest days of my life,” he said. “They’re always going to be part of my family.”

Photo of Greg Ireland accepting proclamation from City Councilman Rich Richmond during City Council's conference session Monday at City Hall, by Howard Owens.

March 14, 2023 - 8:06am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, 2023-24 budget, tax cap override, batavia.

In a seemingly predictable move, given City Council’s talks of late, the group voted Monday to adopt a law to override the tax cap limit and to approve the $33.5 million operational budget.

Both votes were six to two, with council members John Canale, Rich Richmond, Eugene Jankowski Jr., Paul Viele, Al McGinnis and Kathy Briggs giving a yes and Bob Bialkowski and Tammy Schmidt a no.

citycounciljan232023-5.jpg“Just as I’ve said in the past, I’m opposed to this, I think it can be avoided,” Bialkowski said. “The county is giving us $392,000 additional sales tax revenues. I’ve had contact from many taxpayers and voters, and they’re very upset with this. So that’s my position and opinion.”

Likewise, Schmidt isn’t in favor of the budget and override and has previously mentioned that she’s voting for her constituents.

“I’ve had many voters asking me to vote no, and I am going to do so,” she said Monday, questioning some budget logic. “So we don't want to use the county money because it's one-time money. But we did use the one-time, Alliance money for raises. So next year, I don't know how we're going to cover those raises. But we're using one-time money for raises but won't use one-time money for the tax cap override. So that's just my comment.”

Jankowski emphasized that the tax rate was lowered last year, and overall, he feels that the city has been doing a good fiscal job.

citycounciljan232023-3.jpg"We're not using $110,000 out of retirement reserves, which we were kind of forced to do the last two years, we've broken away from that. We're not using VLT money to supplement the budget because we got burned one time. And it was hard not to do during COVID. We were struggling with everyone else. But we were able to get off of that. So that's a huge step in the right direction,” Jankowski said. “We've lowered our debt service by 9%, which has put us in good financial condition to bond the new police station, the LED streetlight conversion, the ice rink chiller, the Zamboni and three upcoming major water and sewer infrastructure improvements,” he said. “So I think we're on the right track to provide the services that people expect in the public safety and things like that. Even though, at this point, we're still taking $454,000 out of the fund balance to kind of cover the budget this year.

“So I think we're doing pretty good, I'm really happy with it. All the people I talked to understand the situation we're in to give us their full support. And I have had one or two people that have concerns, and after talking to them, they understand where we're at,” he said. “So I just wanted to make that clear because, you know, there's some negativity here. I'm not happy about this tax cap, either. But I think under the circumstances, what we're achieving here, and how we're doing it, I think is the proper way to go.”

Viele agreed with Jankowski, and Briggs said that she’s had a few phone calls, but “once I explained it, they were fine,” she said.

The tax cap override means that the city will be able to collect a $6.6 million tax levy for the $19.4 million general budget. City taxpayers won’t see an increased tax rate, as that will remain flat at $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value.

Council was unanimous in its vote to approve the 30-cent water rate increase, which, along with an increased water meter rate and capital improvement fees, will tack on about $60 more for an average home of four people.

March 13, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, housing, batavia.

Just prior to a vote by City Council last month to approve Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Housing Compact, some council members asked to put on the brakes before giving the state carte blanche with such a mandate.

The original resolution gave the state control over local housing plans, which included requiring New York municipalities to increase their housing stock by 1 percent annually. A few paragraphs of the state’s resolution were redrafted, and council is expected to vote on the tweaked version during Monday’s business meeting. Those revisions now urge the state Legislature to reevaluate Hochul’s compact proposal and the potential impacts it would have on municipalities, especially in upstate communities, including Batavia.

The business meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the Council Board Room at City Hall.

Hochul has included the housing compact as part of her 2024 budget proposal, with a goal to build 800,000 housing units across New York State over the next decade. If approved, this measure would require cities, towns and villages in the state to achieve certain thresholds over three-year periods and require upstate municipalities to increase housing stock by 1 percent annually.

Batavia may be stripped of any local zoning, planning or land-use regulations powers if housing targets are not met and allow mixed-income multi-family projects to take advantage of a fast-track housing approval process, city leaders say.

rachael_with_artwork.jpg“The objection I have heard from City Council, and that I also have, is that the governor’s Housing Compact Legislation has the potential for the state to take away, or usurp, local zoning control and undermine local governments’ home rule,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said to The Batavian. “The Batavia Development Corporation (BDC) has a small business and housing group that meets semi-regularly.  A few weeks ago, the group reviewed the Genesee County Housing Needs Study, the (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) Plan, the BOA, the City Comp Plan and the CZB to glean the commonalities in the plans with respect to housing.  The notes are attached, but the commonalities are clear.  These are identified needs for the City and should be the focus as we move into the future.”

Some of the focus of these documents includes more market-rate housing downtown, single-family homes in neighborhoods, condos for workforce renters and owners, and market-rate apartments throughout the city. There isn't enough market-rate housing for seniors and millennials in Batavia. There's a shortage of rentals Downtown.

The report from CZB consultants in 2008 showed there was no demand for additional affordable housing, contrary to what the city now has coming with Ellicott Station. Instead, there was a need for 187 homes in the $50,000 a year income range, which is now estimated, due to inflation, to be closer to $75,000 or higher, Tabelski said.

During that Feb. 27 meeting, Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked to change a couple of the governor’s proposed paragraphs because “some of this could be taken out of context,” he said.

“And the other thing is, the city of Batavia will continue to make significant investments in housing development … how much of an investment are we going to make? Over what period of time? Do we even have land to build more housing?”

Council members Rich Richmond and President Eugene Jankowski Jr. agreed, which prompted the resolution going back for revisions before a final vote.

“New home building and construction should not take priority over the well-being of residents and a community, which is what could be at stake if the new State Housing Approval Board is given overriding authority to local regulations, is part of the resolution for Monday’s vote.”

To answer Bialkowski’s question about land for housing, several areas have been identified, Tabelski said. Those are located on:

  • Burke Drive
  • Creek Park
  • Swan Street / Harvester Avenue
  • Former Armory site
  • North Street/ Naramore Neighborhood
  • Days Inn / Super 8 site
  • Former Batavia Iron and Metal site
  • Bank Steet/Alva Avenue
  • JC Penney site / City Centre
  • Harvester Center
  • Flood plain properties
  • Various zombie, abandoned houses
  • Upper-floor residential opportunities

The STAMP site on the county’s west side has a need for owner-occupied units for moderate to high-income occupants, she said -- 382 new owner-occupied and 735 new rentals, with high-end growth needs of 941 new owner-occupied and 2,035 new rental needs.

So the governor is not off base with a projection for housing needs. It’s just that city leaders would like to maintain more control over how and where it happens and that it meets the consultants’ recommendations, such as the unmet demand for market-rate versus low-income housing units.

“Past studies have shown that there are different types of housing needs in the City Of Batavia — from downtown apartments to single-family homes.  However, land within the city is limited, so I think it’s important that each project be carefully planned,” Jankowski said.  “My bigger concern is that the Governor’s Housing Compact legislation has the potential for the State to take away, or usurp, local zoning control and undermine local government's home rule.  This could prevent or restrict the city (city residents) from managing their own community and instead be subject to state officials who don’t live here.”  


Genesee County had previously approved a resolution to send a letter to Hochul regarding the housing compact, and County Manager Matt Landers said the county believes there is “a balanced need for both single-family homes along with multi-family dwellings.”

“But (we) can’t stress enough that local municipalities and local zoning/planning boards should be working with developers and local economic development agencies to develop strategies to provide adequate housing,” he said on behalf of Legislature Chair Shelley Stein and himself. “Genesee County is opposed to losing home rule control by having the state be able to “fast track” projects that don’t conform to local zoning.  We understand the state’s overall intent with this compact, to help provide more housing opportunities for New Yorkers that are struggling to find suitable affordable housing.  But it appears New York City and other large urban centers of New York are largely driving the need for this compact.”

County and city officials agree that housing must remain with local municipal comprehensive plans. Landers said the county’s Smart Growth Plan is still relevant today and is updated to address potential housing growth to match infrastructure and lessen the impact to green agricultural lands. Whereas the state is not.

“The population migration trends in Genesee County don’t match the Governor’s proposal,” he said. 

There’s time for public comments at the beginning of the meeting, and council is also scheduled to vote on resolutions to adopt a law to override the tax cap limit, adopt the 2023-24 budget, and establish new water and meter rates and a capital improvement fee.

March 6, 2023 - 6:44pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, picnic in the park, GO ART!, batavia, city council.


As grateful as GO ART! staff was to have gotten additional funding this year to resume the annual Picnic in the Park, it will only be possible with the assistance of other community organizations to help out, Executive Director Gregory Hallock says.

City Council agreed this year to boost the regular amount of $2,500 to $6,500 to bring back the Fourth of July event at the urging of Councilwoman Patti Pacino. Since the city wanted to approve a transfer of funds from the defunct centennial celebration committee for a resurrected Wing Ding, Pacino said she would only vote for that as long as her fellow council members also approved extra funding for Picnic in the Park. And so they did. 

After seeking various ways to make it happen, Hallock feels it’s just not feasible, he said.

“With funding drying up for both the Ramble and Picnic in the Park, GO ART! and the Ramble Team joined forces last year to put on the Ramble Explore ART! and Music Festival in hopes of keeping an event alive within this amazing community we are part of,” he said to The Batavian Monday. “GO ART! made the commitment again for this year prior to hearing about a possible funding opportunity from the City of Batavia. It was a welcoming surprise when we heard the City of Batavia was willing to help fund Picnic in the Park this year; however, there is no guarantee this funding will continue beyond this year. With the Ramble just three days before July 4th, GO ART! just does not have the capacity and resources to put on Picnic as well.

“We have reached out to numerous groups asking for help, but we have been unable to secure any. We are willing to assist any organization by providing all the files and information needed to put on the event if anyone is willing and able to step up,” he said. “It is estimated that the event in today's dollars costs $20,000 to put on.”

City Council is expected to vote on a final 2023-24 budget during its business meeting on March 13. That includes GO ART! funding of $2,500 to support the arts and $4,000 for the picnic. The group and City Manager Rachael Tabelski were informed that GO ART! was committed to the Ramble and had “declined Picnic in the Park late last week,” Tabelski said.

So what happens to that funding?

“As far as the proposed budget, the line item is still in the budget, council has the option, and may dedicate or reallocate the funding through a budget amendment to general events account or not expend the funds altogether,” she said.

The picnic is not the only event not to make an appearance this year. Assistant City Manager Erik Fix recently announced that the Wing Ding Committee has put a halt on plans for this year’s event, initially scheduled for Labor Day weekend to correlate with a Wings Over Batavia Air Show. There didn’t seem to be enough time to properly map out the event, and members wanted to reconsider a date for the event.

Not all is lost for summertime fun. The Italian Fest will make a second annual return in July, The Ramble Explore Art! and Music Festival will also be happening in July, plus Friday night Jackson Square concerts throughout the summer and other concerts and special events at various downtown and across town venues to check out at The Batavian’s calendar. The air show will be making a comeback Labor Day weekend at Genesee County Airport.

File photo of the virtual 2020 Picnic in the Park during COVID, by Howard Owens.

February 28, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, 2023-24 budget, tax cap override.


An apparent unexpected discussion came up just before City Council’s vote Monday evening to move a proposed tax cap override to a business meeting for final approval to create the required local law.

Council members Bob Bialkowski and Tammy Schmidt each said they would not vote to move the tax cap override for a final vote on March 13, but neither offered amendments to the proposed $33.5 million 2023-24 budget.

Both council members said they had constituents who were not happy about the budget and override, and they, therefore, were not going to vote for it.

“I've heard from many, many constituents that have serious concerns over this. So I don't support it,” Bialkowski said during the group’s conference meeting at City Hall. “But if we run short, we'll have to learn to live with it, just like the average homeowner does. You know, people are really concerned about their taxes.”

Schmidt added that the people she represents are not in favor of the budget, and maybe it’s time to give a little.

“I’m not in favor of it either. My constituents are not in favor of it. And I can't vote yes on something that the people and the citizens of the city don't want, because I feel like I work for them,” she said.

None of those constituents, nor anyone else, showed up to speak during the three public hearings regarding the budget, tax cap override and water rate increase.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski has recommended the override as a way to make budgetary ends meet this year by collecting more than the 2 percent property tax levy of $6.6 million. If council does not approve the override, it will have to cut more than $456,000 from the budget, Tabelski said.


Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. wondered aloud why, if these two had issues, they did not bring them up during two prior budget workshops. There was also a third one tentatively scheduled, and no one said they wanted or needed it at the time, he said.

“If you had complaints from citizens … Why weren’t any amendments made or attempts to me to address those concerns during the budget process? I mean, we had a month to do this, and if somebody notified me, as a representative, I would have come to the group and said, I have people concerned about this specific part of the budget. And they don't like this part. Is there any way we can reduce that? Or what would it cost to reduce it, there was plenty of time to ask and have those questions answered,” Jankowski said. “As I understand it, from my research, if we were to make the tax cap … we'd be taking money out of necessary savings accounts to cover the costs.”

Schmidt said she only more recently became aware of the county’s revenue distributions, including $392,000 for the city. Why can’t the city put those funds toward the shortfall, she said.

Tabelski explained that auditor recommendations are to keep a fund balance of 15 to 25 percent, and she is not leaning towards pulling any of that out to pay this next year’s bills. As for using the county’s unanticipated revenues, it’s not good practice to use a one-time amount just to meet the tax cap, she said, because then what happens next year?

“We’ll find ourselves right back here,” she said.

The city has gone through lean times, Jankowski said, especially during the pandemic and related drops in revenue. And now is not the time to pick the bones.

“And I'm not happy with inflation, I'm not happy with everything that is going crazy and the costs. And I get a chance to meet with a lot of the department heads. I do this every year. And it's about as lean as I believe we can get it and still provide the public safety and the services people expect for living in this community,” he said. “I think we have a balanced budget, that is a balance between necessary public safety and services that people are accustomed to, as well as trying to keep it as reasonable as possible.”


Councilman John Canale hates to use COVID as an excuse, and it isn’t one, he said, but rather, is a calendar marker. Those were very uncertain financial times that shifted council’s perspective, he said.

“And if I remember, right, we as a board, although Tammy wasn't here at the time, I do think we as a board decided, you know what, we just have to react to the environment as it happens to us," Canale said. "So we're going to do it on a year-to-year basis. Yes, we have to look down the road as we always have, that we need to survive on a year-to-year basis right now.

"It's just like many municipalities are in the same position that we're in. If I remember it, we all kind of casually agreed that, yeah, we'll just take this thing a year at a time until we started to get out of it. You know, get into the clearing a little bit. Well, we're not even clear,” he added.  “We are all very opposed, I think, to overriding the tax cap. I certainly don't want to have to do it. When it means that we can still continue to provide all the services like you say — that we have grown accustomed to having provided for us as taxpayers — and our only choice is either to drain funds that we shouldn't really be draining that we've worked so hard to build up or override the tax cap, which is nothing that any one of us put into place. That's our state that has required that of us. This is one of those years where we're still not in the clearing yet. I think that was the only decision. That was a viable decision.

“I feel pretty proud to say we’ve maintained the tax rate,” he said.


To the contrary, Schmidt doesn’t feel proud of the status quo, she said, not when other municipalities have lowered their tax rates. The city property tax rate is $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, and that’s to remain the same.

“Can we ever just throw a bone to the citizens?” she said. “They are on the top of the organizational chart; we work for them.”

Council voted 6 to 2 in favor of moving the budget and override to the March 13 business meeting for a final vote. Members Kathy Briggs, Al McGinnis, Rich Richmond, Paul Viele, Canale, and Jankowski voted yes to no votes cast by Bialkowski and Schmidt. All members agreed to move the proposed water rate increase of 30 cents per 1,000 gallons to the same meeting for a vote.

File Photos of Bob Bialkowski, Eugene Jankowski Jr., John Canale and Tammy Schmidt, by Howard Owens.

February 25, 2023 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, batavia, 2023-24 budget, public hearing.

A total operating budget of $33.5 million and tax cap override are not necessarily a done deal, City Councilman-at-large Bob Bialkowski says

Both of those issues are on the agenda for public hearings at the council’s next conference meeting. It’s set for 7 p.m. Monday, in the Council Board Room at City Hall.

Council had two budget workshops earlier this month to review the proposed 2023-24 budget, ask questions and make potential suggestions or amendments. No amendments were made to the spending plan, however, a final vote has not yet been cast, Bialkowski said.

“I’ve had a lot of constituents complain about it,” he said to The Batavian.

He hopes that citizens attend the hearing to make their feelings known for the record.


In her memo to council, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that a general fund of $19.4 million balances revenues and expenses and includes considerations for increased costs of 8 percent inflation, double diesel fuel, $400,000 in employee wages, $300,000 in retirements, $475,000 in health care and 15 to 40 percent hikes in utilities and materials, including salt, gas and electric.

Employee expenses include nonunion raises effective April 1 for 15 positions ranging from secretary to the city administrator to city manager.

City Council conducted its usual annual performance appraisal for the city manager, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said, per conditions of the manager’s contract. He would not provide any additional comments about the manager’s performance. Her raise is set to go from an initial $112,000 to an adjusted 117,600 and then to $121,128 for the 2023-24 budget year, based on “highest union” numbers.

Positions of human resources director, assistant manager, police chief, and fire chief, and public works director are slated for an $8,000 increase from the initial 2022-23 figure to 2023-24 budget year, for salaries of $111,687 for the first three positions, respectively; $106,453 for fire chief; and $96,194 for DPW director.

City Council recently approved increases for police personnel that would incrementally boost salaries by 3 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second and third years as part of union negotiations. Council members, including Jankowski, Tammy Schmidt, and Kathy Briggs, had agreed that the increases were warranted as ways to attract and retain quality employees and remain competitive with other similarly sized cities.

If the council approves the budget, which requires a larger tax levy than allowable by state mandate, the tax cap override would also have to go to vote and be approved by at least a 60 percent yes vote of council. The proposed tax levy is $6.6 million, however, Tabelski is recommending a stable tax rate of $8.94, which is the current rate. She has said there are to be no new assessment increases this year — unless substantial improvements have been made to one’s property — which may be of little consolation for those still adjusting to the last two years of hikes. Bottom line is that a flat tax rate has meant a bigger property tax bill due to a higher assessment.

There is a third public hearing regarding new water rates, meter fees, and a capital improvement fee. The proposed water rate increase is 30 cents more per $1,000 gallons of water. This measure is to cost a typical family of four $60 more per year, Tabelski said.

There is time allotted for public comments during the meeting. Sign up with the city clerk before it begins.

To view the agenda and related documents, go HERE.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski by Howard Owens.

February 15, 2023 - 9:30pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, 2023-24 budget, tax cap override.

More than a month ago Batavia City Council was given a $33.5 million budget proposal that included a $6.6 million tax levy, a required tax cap override and built-in budget sessions to see where cuts could potentially be made.

Five weeks later, the group voted to put the same 2023-24 budget and tax cap override on the calendar for public hearings that begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 in Council Chambers at City Hall. Throughout the budget workshops, no council member suggested amendments to make cuts to the proposed $33.5 million financial plan.

One public hearing will be to establish a local law authorizing the city to override the state-mandated tax cap to collect more than the set limit of real property taxes. This law would need a vote of at least 60 percent of City Council to pass. It would then take effect immediately upon filing with the secretary of state.

The second public hearing is more directly related to the budget, naming the amount to be levied of $6.6 million. If passed by council, it will take effect on April 1.

As City Manager Rachael Tabelski explained in January, the tax cap is an “arbitrary formula given out by the state.” And with expanded roles of a full-time recycling officer and full-time ordinance officer, increased health care, retirement, utility, and other costs she believes are essentials, it was either overriding that tax cap or making “significant” cuts, she said.

“I would say this is this year's request,” she said. “The city would do everything in its power to maintain under the tax cap in the future.”

City Council, in its unanimous vote, agreed. Members Bob Bialkowski, John Canale, Eugene Jankowski Jr., Paul Viele, Al McGinnis, Kathy Briggs, and Tammy Schmidt have also agreed to a cumulative 8 percent raise over three years in a negotiated contract with the city police, though Bialkowski has raised a couple of questions about salaries and an extra day off. 

This next year's budget also includes a water and meter rate increase of 30 cents more per 1,000 gallons. That increase is to begin April 1, and will tack on about $60 more per year to the bill of an average family of four, Tabelski said.

The property tax rate would remain flat at $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value, although most assessments were raised over the past two years in the city, for an overall higher tax bill. For example, if a home is assessed at $90,000, and it is now assessed at $100,000, the flat tax rate times the higher assessment will cost the homeowner an additional $89.40 per year.

February 8, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, 2023-24 budget.

chief_heubusch_3.jpegDuring Police Chief Shawn Heubusch’s review of his department’s budget Tuesday evening, he was asked how often the shared heavy-duty MRAP vehicle is used.

The city and county share the maintenance costs of this six-figure vehicle; it is often purchased and deployed for military use. The acronym stands for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected.

And while it could be likened to that pricey classic Mustang that sits in the garage year after year collecting dust and costing a small fortune of insurance and maintenance costs, but impresses during the high school reunion, the MRAP does more than ensure a good impression.

“It goes out on every single call. And during the blizzard of 2022, it went out and saved lives, so it did exactly what it was meant to do,” Heubusch said during City Council’s workshop at City Hall. “We really thought it would be used for a flood, and it was a blizzard, but it worked perfectly.”

mrap_truck_2.jpgYou may recall the stories about those hundreds of motorists — even including some fire trucks and ambulances — stuck and stranded in the drifting hills of snow throughout the western end of Genesee County in late December. That MRAP ate through it all to get to people and extract them from the life-threatening elements.

Transportation-related costs include fuel at $57,000, repairs at $11,000, tires for $8,800, towing, at $1,000 and rust undercoating at $2,500 for a total of $80,300 in this next year’s budget, he said.  Salaries and benefits expenses absorbed the biggest amount of the budget, with a $2,674,860 for regular and $220,000 going towards overtime costs, plus holiday, longevity and shift differential pay for a total $3,038,830 for police personnel expenses.

There are three vacancies, including one position that’s “frozen,” Heubusch said. The department will be recruiting for those other two positions, and to fill two retirements that are forthcoming later this year, he said. Finding candidates continues to be a tough job in itself, he said.

“It’s disheartening,” he said. “The number of people taking Civil Service tests is dwindling very, very rapidly.”

His review of the $4,323,847 budget also included repair and maintenance costs of the current police station — an expense he hopes will be the last “at 10 West Main St.,” he said, referring to the reality of a new station being built in the next year; and training as a way to stay up to date with “the latest and greatest,” including a two-week sniper course. Community policing and events have a cost of $12,440, associated mostly with overtime due to these events meaning overtime for after-hours events, he said.

And then there’s the category that seems to make everyone smile: the K9 unit, for $950, and the officer handler’s costs within the personnel category. The dog and handler spend their time together, and attend monthly training so as to maintain what they’ve learned, Heubusch said.

bpd_k9.jpeg“The handler is compensated for caring for the dog,” he said. “He’s a working dog, so he’s always working.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., who was on the police force for several years, said the job takes someone who loves canines. No matter how special the K-9 four-legged is, it can still get messy, and needs to be tended to, he said.

“He does wonderful things,” Jankowski said. “But he’s a dog.”

No one on council had any amendments to make for the budget, which, as it stands, is headed to exceed the tax cap with a total of $6.6 million to be raised by taxes. The tax rate is to remain unchanged at $8.54 per $1,000 assessed value.

The city does not have plans to raise assessments again this year, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. Assessments for many properties in the city were hiked for the last two years in a row, which made property owners’ tax bills increase even when the tax rate itself did not go up.

So if your assessment went up from $90,000 to $100,000, and the tax rate is a flat $8.54 per $1,000, that will mean an increase of $85.40 per year.

A public hearing about the budget has been set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 at City Hall.

File Photos of Police Chief Shawn Heubusch, from the City of Batavia; the MRAP, by Howard Owens, and K9 dog Batu and Handler Stephen Quider receiving a donation on behalf of Batavia Police Department in February 2022, by Howard Owens.

February 1, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, GO ART!, picnic in the park, city council.


City Councilwoman Patti Pacino was true to her word from a meeting last September.

During that Sept. 27 discussion about shifting more than $9,000 of leftover Centennial Celebration money toward a future Wing Ding event, Pacino spoke up on behalf of another beloved city favorite.

“While I think the Wing Ding is fabulous and it is an event open to everyone, we used to fund the Picnic in the Park, which is also for everyone,” she said at the time. “GO Art! had to cancel the picnic.”

The city used to contribute money — about $2,500 — to the annual Picnic in the Park, but began to cut back over the last few years, and did not fund it in 2019, 2021 or 2022. The Original Red Osier Landmark restaurant presented the event in 2019, and a virtual picnic -- sponsored by several entities, including the city --  was shown on YouTube in 2020. The picnic was canceled in 2021 due to COVID protocols and lack of sponsorship and canceled again in 2022 due to lack of sponsorships.

During that September meeting, Pacino said she would vote for the Wing Ding and transfer of money, but expected support when a request for Picnic in the Park funding came around again.

As part of early budget talks this year, Pacino requested that the council add another $4,000 in funding to GO Art!, for a total of $6,500.

During Monday’s budget workshop, Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked about that line item, and City Manager Rachael Tabelski explained what happened.

“Patti asked for funding of $4,000 to be put back in the budget,” she said. “No one disagreed at the time. So I included it for discussion.”

No one raised objections about the total. In the overall category of recreation, another $12,932 is slated for community celebrations, $78,846 for the Youth Bureau summer rec program, $15,340 for the ice rink, and $15,750 for Dwyer Stadium.

Also present Monday were council members Tammy Schmidt, Eugene Jankowski Jr., Paul Viele, Kathy Briggs, and Al McGinnis. John Deleo and Pacino were absent.

2022 File Photo of City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., and Council members Paul Viele and Patti Pacino during a meeting in September 2022. Photo by Joanne Beck.

January 31, 2023 - 11:08pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, batavia, ambulance, Mercy EMS, 2023-24 budget.


Monday evening’s city budget talks took a step back in time, slightly dé·jà vu in reverse when it came to the city fire and police departments.

City Councilman Paul Viele suggested the possibility of having one ambulance on reserve just in city limits.

“For police and fire reserves, I want to see some research on response times for the (Mercy EMS) ambulance. If they're not good, I’d like to maybe see if we can get one ambulance for the city, that just takes care of the city limits. Its response time isn't that good,” Viele said during the workshop at City Hall. “There's one incident, the kid got bitten by a bee. And there was no ambulance, and they throw the kid in the police car to bring him to the hospital.”

“We’ve got to have a backup pickup truck thing for the hospital. You know, I don't want to spend $250,000 on an ambulance. But just something to keep someone alive at the hospital. If your wife is having a heart attack, and there’s not an ambulance, you’re going to be pissed off.”

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that she could check with Mercy EMS to see if some type of arrangement could be made to house an ambulance within city limits. Mercy has a current contract with Genesee County to provide ambulance service countywide, which means that wherever an emergency occurs, the ambulance responds to that municipality within the county.

“There is the option for the city to contract for one soul ambulance from Mercy to be staged in the city at all times. What that costs, what negotiations are, I don't know. And opening negotiations in this manner probably isn't the best way to get a good price, because now it's public,” she said. “But I think we have a lot more to explore. I don't disagree with you, that if an ambulance isn't available for our families in the city of Batavia, that's a severe issue, or if our kids were out in sports fields. And that poor kid, I can't even imagine.”

The service throughout the county is strapped as it is, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.

“I mean, the county is struggling with staffing and ambulance and shortages. They're struggling now. So I don't think it's by design, I think it's just manpower, we'd have to find out,” Jankowski said. “But I knew they were struggling. They couldn't even get in the volunteers.”

The dé·jà vu factor here is that the city at one time operated its own ambulance service within the fire department. As a cost-saving measure in 2008, a prior City Council and city management agreed to shut down city ambulance operations in lieu of a private company taking over the service.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski recalled how “complicated” the process was at the time, and it involved fire department staff and public protests and concern. The city cannot simply operate its own ambulance due to health certifications, he and city management said, but perhaps an ambulance could be housed inside city limits if Mercy agreed to such an agreement.

Tabelski said that both the police and fire chief can talk more about this topic at a future meeting, as, per a related report, there is a “critical lack of services from ambulance not only here but across the state,” she said.


Top Photo: City Councilman Paul Viele, and Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. talk about the 2023-24 budget during a workshop Monday at City Hall, and above, City Manager Rachael Tabelski, left, Assistant Manager Erik Fix, far right, city staff and council members work through the proposed budget line by line. Photos by Joanne Beck.

January 26, 2023 - 6:05pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, batavia, ARPA.


Editor's Note: This article has been updated on 1/26/23 to include details of the future facility upgrades.

A project at two major city facilities that began more than five years ago is finally coming to fruition after City Council approved the use of post-COVID funds for the work this week.

During a special business meeting on Monday, council approved reallocating $635,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds for upgrades at the City Fire and Bureau of Maintenance department facilities. Funds of $400,000 and $235,000 are being diverted from prior projects of Cohocton water and Austin Park’s playground, respectively.

ARPA money was from 2021 Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to assist municipalities with post-COVID measures to rebound from financial losses.

These two capital projects were first eyed in 2017 and were then put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We finally got a project engineered and out to bid. It came back much higher,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

She recommended taking funds previously allocated for the Cohocton Water and Austin Park playground projects and reroute them to the fire station and Bureau of Maintenance projects.

She wasn’t suggesting scrapping the other projects, but to finance Cohocton Water and find other grants for the playground later on, she said.

The city received a total $1,474,764.79 of ARPA funding, $722,000 of which has already been spent at the fire station for water system engineering, apron accessibility, a new sewer camera and water meter reader, she said.

Public Works Director Brett Frank outlined details of both new projects.

Fire Department work is to include:

  • General Improvements
  • Fire Suppression System
  • Fire Alarm System
  • New generator
  • Plumbing improvements
  • Electrical improvements
  • HVAC improvements

Bureau of Maintenance work is to include:

  • Completely reconstructed trench drain
  • Plumbing tmprovements
  • HVAC improvements

A total price tag of nearly $1.9 million for the fire station and bureau of maintenance projects includes that $635,000 reallocated from ARPA, $1,100,000 from facility reserves, $55,000 from FEMA and another $100,000 from ARPA.

citycounciljan232023-15_1.jpgPreviously, when the city received the ARPA funds, the city was only allowed to spend those funds on water, wastewater, or public health-related expenses,” Tabelski said in a memo to the council. “The definition of allowable use has been expanded, and I recommend that we utilize ARPA funds to complete this project. The total construction will cost $1,472,315 (after HVAC change order), while design, engineering, bidding, and construction inspection is estimated to cost $415,475 for a total project cost of $1,887,790.”

The Cohocton Water project includes the potential to remove an existing line and replace the waterline on Walnut Street as well, she said. That project has now swelled to $2.6 million and will need to be financed by a bond, she said. The park playground has an opportunity for future grant funding, so she recommended taking both ARPA funds for the facility improvements.

In related votes, council approved contracts with Camco General Contracting, Inc. for general contractor, DG Messmer Corporation for plumbing, and Concord Electric Corporation for electrical.

Council also reviewed additional future expenses to be completely financed, including $1.5 million for a new ice rink chiller and Zamboni ice machine, $1.7 million for a street light LED conversion, $1 million for sanitary line work at Maple and Mill streets, and $12.5 million for a new police facility.

Top Photo of city fire station from City of Batavia; above of CIty Manager Rachael Tabelski by Howard Owens.

January 24, 2023 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, budget, tax cap, batavia.


City Council has a choice for this year’s budget: vote to override the state-mandated tax cap or prepare to tighten the belt for significant cuts and make ends meet.

That may sound like an ultimatum, but it’s how this year’s 2023-24 budget is panning out so far, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says. She gave a budget presentation to council during Monday’s conference session at City Hall.

Healthcare, inflation, diesel fuel, employee salary and retirement costs are all on the rise, and the tax cap allows a levy increase of $154,000 when what’s needed is $450,000, Tabelski said.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski faced the elephant in the room and asked what happens if the group votes not to override the tax cap, “we raise property taxes?” Or make cuts, Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said.

Yes, more likely it would be the latter, Tabelski said: “That would mean significant cuts,” she said to The Batavian after the meeting.

“The tax cap is an arbitrary formula given by the state. You know, the only thought this year was that we can raise this revenue and continue the level of services that have expanded slightly in the last year or so. We have a full-time parking and recycling officer, a full-time ordinance officer, another firefighter that was contractually obligated through a contract signed before I was here,” she said. “To cover those costs, plus health care's up $457,000, retirement costs are up $300,000 … I would say this is this year's request, that the city would do everything in its power to maintain under the tax cap in the future.”


That means that, hopefully, this won’t be a recurring ask, she said. City Council would have to approve the measure by at least a 60 percent yes vote.

Can department heads dig deeper and reduce their budget requests?
“This is the bare bones budget. We've already gone through that process of every department, and they present to me, obviously, what they'd like to see in the budget, and then we cut that back significantly to get to this point,” she said. “This is to maintain the level of employees we have at fair wages and to make sure we can pay social security and health care for those employees. Those are the main drivers, plus the inflationary prices of gas, electric, diesel, fuel, and supplies and materials. So they've already done their value engineering, as we call it. But again, council has budget work sessions that go right through, line by line, each expense and discuss it. And there certainly could be changes that come from that.”

Council members will be going through the budget during the next several weeks to ask questions, make suggestions, and see where other cuts might be made. The one area where Tabelski does not recommend taking from is the unassigned fund balance. That fund is best used as a savings account for future use.

She shared that the fund has grown a bit from an overdue payment from Seneca Power Partners, which had been in arrears with its taxes.

“I will say that we had a payment from Seneca Power of penalties and interest on the tax payments. So my hope is that will really help our unassigned fund balance when we get to the end of the audit year in August,” she said. “But when I do the budget, I don't know that number. I have no way to project what that number is until we get into the audit after the budget books close.”

Other parts of the budget include an extra $275,000 “to reserve funds to prepare to bond for the police facility,” she said.

“So right now, we're putting money into reserves, like our savings, so that we're able to bond when the time comes with the hopes of not having to raise property taxes, and being able to do it within those reserve funds we're putting away right now,” she said. “Kind of like when your car payment rolls off, and you put it into your savings account, and then you lease or buy a new car. You can then use that money in your savings account to pay that new car payment.”

Despite the ominous term of "override the tax cap," the actual tax rate would remain the same, Tabelski said. That would be $8.94 per $1,000 assessed value. She is proposing to raise the water rate by 30 cents. 

Council members will be discussing the budget this month and into February before a public hearing on Feb. 27.

Top Photo: City Manager Rachael Tabelski gives an overview of the past year and 2023-24 budget during City Council's conference session Monday at City Hall; shown with department heads nearby, who have already submitted their "bare bones" budgets for consideration. Photos by Howard Owens.

January 10, 2023 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Batavia PD, Batavia PBA, city council.


A one-time salary adjustment, three years of increases, an extra holiday, and a $1,500 stipend have been negotiated into the city police contract that was set to expire on March 31, city management says.

City Council approved the new contract during its business meeting Monday at City Hall.

In an effort to retain employees and become more competitive with cities comparable to Batavia, the deal was struck to bump up salaries with a 3 percent increase the first year, followed by a 2.5 percent for each second and third year, Assistant Manager Erik Fix said.

The total budget impact for the three-year deal is an extra $296,220. Fix was pleased with how negotiations went with the Police Benevolent Association union, which will pay increased healthcare premiums of between 15 to 30 percent.

“We both brought a lot of respect to the table,” Fix said.

June 19, a newly declared federal holiday will be added to the department’s holiday schedule, and, while the average pay is currently more comparable to other cities, the top salary is still above Batavia’s pay, he and City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. This new agreement will bring that more in an equitable range, they said.

The $1,500 stipend, considered much the same as a signing bonus, will be a one-time payment to come from American Rescue Plan Act funds doled out as post-COVID relief monies.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked if the extra holiday would cause any issues with overtime for officers. Chief Shawn Heubusch said that extra holiday could be paid out to those not wanting to take the day off, or it could be used as a floating holiday. He didn’t promise that overtime wouldn’t be an issue, though he hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

In other police action, City Council approved spending $62,292 to replace firearms — from the Glock 22, 40 calibers to Glock 17, 9 mm -- a projectile that has come "a long way" in accuracy and precision. The department also asked to purchase five AR-15 rifles to ensure that each member of the department will have access to one during a type of crisis active shooter situation, Assistant Police Chief Chris Camp said.

The detective bureau's vehicles are not currently equipped with AR-15s, he said.

"They can go to the Armory to pick one up, but that's not realistic, in my opinion. We want them to have them in their vehicle ... to save lives," Camp said.

Other equipment requests included community speed display signs and street surveillance camera replacement for $20,908 and $99,700, respectively. Such community displays are “great visual reminders and reinforce the speed limits in appropriate areas,” he said, and cameras have been “instrumental in solving cases across the spectrum for the department.”

Tabelski recommended that the council approve a transfer of $100,000 from video lottery terminal funds (a portion of the city’s total from Batavia Downs’ proceeds) to go toward the equipment expense.

Council approved the transfer and purchases during its business meeting.

Photo: Assistant City Manager Erik Fix and City Manager Rachael Tabelski discuss a PBA contract during Monday's conference session at City Hall. Photo by Howard Owens.

December 14, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, city centre.

rachael_in_chambers.jpgBatavia City Centre is in a “really good place” for the city to consider selling off vacant properties, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

She endorsed the move during this week’s City Council meeting as a first step toward relieving the city of unnecessary assets. Or maybe it’s a second step, after securing an appraiser to review the properties and provide estimated pricetags for each.

Tabelski asked council to first approve the expense of $5,400 for the appraisal services of Rynne Murphy before she can proceed with putting the properties on the selling block.

“There are several interested businesses that are looking at properties inside City Centre mall,” Tabelski said. “Currently the city would like to take steps to divest of the City Centre properties, however, more important we want to see them in productive use, such as the theater in which the city is continuing to rent space to.”

The city will not cease its responsibilities for the 46,000 square-foot mall concourse, and will continue to maintain that space, she said.

Tabelski was asked why the city can’t go with the assessed values available online, and why an appraiser was needed.

“We need the market value according to the Charter,” she said, backed up by City Attorney George Van Nest.

The city Charter mandates use of an appraised value versus what has been assessed, they said.

The Charter includes several statements about selling city-owned property, including this from Section 66:

“Where there is a strong showing of competitive developer interest for large or unique parcels, the land shall be sold employing a request for proposal process,” the passage states. “A price shall be obtained from a licensed independent appraiser prior to the negotiation stage.”

A total amount of $440,789 in VLT money was received by the city, and the $5,400 would come out of that, Tabelski said, and be put into a Community Development fund. Performing these appraisals and proceeding with potential sales and/or leases of vacant properties is part of a mall redevelopment strategy to “bring vibrancy to the mall,” she said.

Parcels 2, 35 and 39 have recently been rented by Batavia Players during the group's theater construction.

Council also approved Police Chief Shawn Heubusch’s request to spend $125,000 of reserve money to purchase police vehicles by the end of the year. He typically would put in for the purchase during budget talks in March, however, a dealer advised the department that supply chain issues are likely to bog down the process.

“We’ve been informed that if we don’t order them by the end of the year, we won’t get them next year,” he said.

Go here for previous coverage on these issues.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski, by Howard Owens.

December 13, 2022 - 9:39pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, police station.


A new city police station project has virtually gone high-tech.

Members of the police department were able to view the new station during the design phase with virtual reality equipment and provide feedback before the actual construction gets going, Chief Shawn Heubusch said.  

“When we completed the VR tour, we were able to ‘walk the halls' and see some of the details that we would have needed to wait to see until walls were built,” Heubusch told The Batavian. “This allowed us to really pick out if a window or door was in the proper place or if the adjacency of rooms was correct for everyday use. This will save time and money during the construction process as it will require less change orders further down the road.”

Being the second most publicly traveled city facility — with City Hall being first — it’s important to get the building and details right, he said, and should save money from the typical myriad change orders of large construction projects.


Project Manager Ken Pearl presented the designs and a timeline during this week’s City Council meeting. A 20,000 square-foot building will take up a front portion of the parking lot at Bank Street and Alva Place.

A total of construction, engineering, equipment and material costs is estimated to be from $13 million to $15 million, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

At least 115 public parking spots are to remain after construction, in addition to free public parking on surrounding streets, “which would more than adequately serve the needs of existing businesses on Washington, Alva and State Streets,” she said.

This has been a long time coming, given prior consultant studies, Task Force Committee meetings and discussions about how to proceed with the current station housed in a 167-year-old building. Known as the Historic Brisbane Mansion, the Main Street site has been deemed unsuitable for police operations, and renovations were ruled out as being too costly.

“There have been no less than five studies conducted since 1991 to determine the future of the police station in Batavia, as well as a citizen task force commissioned to investigate possible site locations,” Tabelski said.  “The location of the new facility was identified by the task force in their top three site recommendations.” 

The new facility will improve “the quality, efficiency, security, and regulatory compliance features of the services and activities of the department,” she said.  It will also enhance the opportunities to meet community-oriented policing needs, and become a space to conduct community events, including educational forums, police-assisted addiction recovery initiatives, explorer post, citizen academy, and focus groups.


“The new station and headquarters will be designed with accreditation standards in mind, including LEED and will be ADA compliant,” she said. “In short, the new station and headquarters will be a welcoming place for all persons in our community.” 

LEED is a third-party green building certification program, and these buildings are, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s website, proven to save money, improve efficiency, lower carbon emissions and create healthier places for people.

Heubusch highlighted the fact that the Brisbane Mansion was to serve as a residence, and has been renovated throughout the years to fit the needs of city government.

“However, the current facility does not meet regulatory requirements as well as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for a modern facility, not to mention the regulations surrounding a police station. The new police station will be better in every way; it will meet the department's needs for proper workspaces; interview rooms; evidence storage; vehicle storage; victim and witness interview spaces; training spaces; a community room; proper lobby and records facilities; proper locker and shower facilities and secure parking for our staff and visitors,” Heubusch said. “In short, it will be a welcoming and professional, purposely built facility to meet the needs of the Department and community for the next 50 years or more.”

Tabelski further expanded on the current station’s misgivings: it was built in 1855 and retrofitted for purposes other than a residence since the city took on ownership in 1918. Continuing to renovate the station as a modernized version to include the various operational and legal requirements “is cost prohibitive,” she said.

City Council approved the new station in 2021 and approved Ashley McGraw Architects PDC of Syracuse in January 2022. Pearl said that final figures won’t be nailed down until the project goes out for bid and council awards contracts for the work.

Construction documents are to be finalized by February, with the project to go out for bid in March. Contractor bids are expected in April, and construction is to begin sometime between May and July, Tabelski said.

And now for the big question: how will this be paid for?
The new station would be financed by the city with a 30-year public improvement serial bond, Tabelski said.

“The City will pursue various state and federal grant opportunities in an effort to offset the cost,” she said.

For anyone wanting to view the renderings in person, they are available at City Hall, she said.newbpd4.jpg

Top Photo of  the new city police station to be built at the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place in downtown Batavia; a view from the side of the building, in front at night and toward the rear next to a parking lot. Renderings by Ashley McGraw Architects courtesy of the City of Batavia. 

December 13, 2022 - 8:05am


Rob Credi doesn’t really want to be that guy. You know, the relentlessly squeaky wheel who continuously complains about issues, in this case issues he believes have been created by city officials.

After sending emails to management and City Council previously during the Harvester Avenue road construction project, Credi tried again recently with another issue related to parking.

“My problem isn’t that we don’t have a lot of parking on Harvester, I know we don’t have a lot of parking,” he said Monday night. “It’s that they gave us more parking and then took it away.”

Only one councilman replied to Credi’s latest email, and suggested that he attend a council meeting.

On Monday evening, Credi addressed all city leaders explaining his and other business owners’ plight.

After more than two months of trying to operate a business while beholden to construction crews, torn up pavement and road closures that happened without any forewarning, Credi thought he saw a reprieve. After finally getting a new smooth road, he also noticed that the no parking signs had been taken down on the east side of Harvester Avenue, providing more parking spots for customers.

“I thought it was a nice little consolation prize,” he said during the conference session at City Hall. “The issue at hand is that we’re back to no parking. It’s the inconsistency of what’s being afforded my customers. Two times in the past three months the damage has already been done. My ask is what can we do to implement a structure beforehand so we can prepare for it and our customers can prepare for it?”

Credi, owner of The Pub Coffee Hub, sought answers when portions of Harvester were closed off to traffic, and his primary complaint was that he and other Harvester Center merchants weren’t informed of what was going to happen ahead of time so they could make alternative options to still serve their customers.

Now, with having extra parking and then seeing that yanked away, he again is frustrated that no one communicated it before putting no parking signs back up.

Not only does having two-sided parking serve customers better, but it helps to slow down traffic, he said.

Having owned a business in downtown Batavia, Credi compared his experience: there were no communication issues when in the heart of the city versus on the southeast side, he said.

He went to the police station to talk about the issue and was referred to City Council. Council President Eugene Jankowski on Monday pointed him back to the police.

"I think we need to refer you back to the police chief. Maybe we can revisit that," Jankowski said. 

Credi is to meet with Chief Shawn Heubusch, who said he needed to look into the road width and local law for allowing parking on both sides of a city street.

City Code lists all city roadways and their parking limitations if any. Harvester is cited as having “no parking from the west curb line of Harvester Avenue to a point 100 feet westerly therefrom,” and on the “east curb line to a point 50 feet easterly therefrom.”

For what it’s worth, there’s also a line about no parking allowed 25 feet east and west of both driveways in front of Carrols (from the 70s) restaurant, so it may warrant some updating.

Councilman John Canale, who owns a drum studio at Harvester Center, said he had concerns as well.

“I have experienced all the turmoil there, and one and a half weeks ago, before the no parking signs, it really opened things up, and doubled parking,” Canale said. “And then all of a sudden, the signs went back up. I would like to visit the idea of allowing parking on that side.

“I plead with you to do whatever you can to open up parking,” he said.

Councilman Bob Bialkowski, who had suggested that Credi attend the meeting, agreed. Batavia strays from many other small cities that don’t have locally owned businesses, he said, and it's important to preserve any locally owned small businesses that exist.

“I just think it’s vital that we do whatever we can,” he said.

Credi feels that he was heard and supported about the parking situation.

“I am now waiting on hearing back from the police chief for more detail on why things happened the way they did, ideally with some clarity on why it was open to parking for six weeks and then removed without notice,” he said. “Additionally, getting a definitive answer on enforcing the parking laws on our side of the street would be great.

“I do feel like my main point of improving communication between the city and business owners in the future before a major disruption occurs — for example, roadwork and the parking situation — was kind of pushed aside by council president Jankowski with no real answer as to what can be done to improve it,” Credi said.

File Photo of Rob Credi, owner of The Pub Coffee Hub on Harvester Avenue, Batavia, by Howard Owens.

October 25, 2022 - 8:16am


An ice rink reserve fund will likely be tapped in the near future due to leaks from the ice chiller.

Water and wastewater Superintendent Michael Ficarella discussed the matter with City Council during its meeting Monday evening.

“We recently had to add emergency refrigerant,” he said to members at City Hall. “The refrigerant creates your ice. In order to get it and keep it up (to operating standards), we needed to add 360 pounds of refrigerant.”

The cost for that emergency measure was $21,950, he said in a memo to City Manager Rachael Tabelski. She suggested holding spending of $170,000 for revamped locker rooms in lieu of rectifying the faulty ice rink chiller.

“We continue to discover issues with the chiller,” Ficarella said.

If there’s no ice, renovated locker rooms wouldn’t be necessary, so the chiller should come first, he said.

Ficarella added that it’s not a matter of asking “can we use it?

“We absolutely need it,” he said.

Improved communication between the city and new management, which includes Carrier Commercial Services, has meant an increased amount of issues brought to light, he said. For example, a compressor replacement installed some time ago hadn't even been turned on and therefore hadn't been working.

"So when Michael and (Public Works Superintendent Brett Frank) talk about the increased communication and relationship between ourselves and Carrier, who we have a contract with, and the rink, we're going to keep running into these things," Tabelski said. "Because we're going to continue to find places that might not have been maintained to the level that they need it to be for operations to continue."

Frank estimated the unit was several decades old — considered to be original equipment with the arena’s construction in the 1970s.

Council member Tammy Schmidt said there was a time when locals weren’t very happy with the condition of the arena, and that is changing with new management led by businessman Matt Gray for the newly dubbed David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Evans Street. Her grandson plays hockey there, and "it's not a rink we could have been proud of a couple of years back," she said.

“I know the locker rooms are absolutely in need of repair. They're super bad," Schmidt said. "And I hope we're not just going to spend all the (funding on) refrigerant and not do those locker rooms at all, because we want to be proud of that, right?"

Ficarella asked that the emergency refrigerant cost be taken out of the ice rink reserve, which currently has a balance of $357,000.

The matter, and a related vote, was moved to a future business meeting.

File photo of the McCarthy ice arena in Batavia.

October 25, 2022 - 8:08am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, dwyer stadium, Robbie Nichols, city council, notify.


Playing host to more than 50,000 people at ball games, plus youth, high school and college baseball games, dance clinics, concerts, a fundraising awareness walk, challenger sports activities, and an epic Halloween trick-or-treat event gave Batavia Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols plenty to brag about Monday.

But then he saved the best for last, he said. Nichols and General Manager Marc Witt announced that a World Championship ice racing event was just confirmed for early next spring. But no ice skates are involved.

“We're working with the arena with Matty Gray. And I think that he's done a great job from what we've seen. We've been over there a bunch of times, working with him, trying to bring more business and people to the arena,” Nichols said. “And we were gonna announce today that on Friday, March 31, is going to be something Batavia has never seen before. We are bringing the World Championship XIIR, which is Extreme International Ice racing. So we're bringing motorcycles on ice, these motorcyclists go 60 miles per hour, and they'll be in the arena. And they go all around the country to big arenas, and we're gonna bring it here to Batavia on March 31.”

What did it take to get this world event here? As Witt sort of shook his head at the thought, Nichols said it wasn't easy.

“It takes a lot. They're coming from all across the world. So Scotland, England … some of these racers, their Speedway bikes, they go zero to 60 miles per hour with no breaks. They have studded tires. So there'll be Speedway bikes," Nichols said. "There'll be a quad-riding class. So there are people around here that race on ice. They’ll be invited to come out and race too we'll have a go-kart series. So it's going to be really neat.”

There will be more public announcements about the event and “very limited” tickets, he said. There are an estimated 450 to 500 people that can fit into the arena, he said, and he fully expects the venue to be “packed and sold out.” Tickets are likely to go on sale just before Christmas, he said.

Being classified as a world championship, this event next year means more than just a unique happening for Batavia. It also signals a potential uptick for the city’s economy due to people traveling from all points of the globe and staying and eating locally.


Speaking of numbers, Dwyer Stadium hosted 50,000 people for Muckdogs games this season, which made for a total of 84,000 visitors to the Bank Street park. There were more than 40 high school games, challenger division baseball, 30 youth baseball games, a showdown game between the city police and fire departments, an Alzheimer’s walk kick-off, use of the field in September and October by Geneseo State College, and the Zac Brown and Margaritaville concerts.

Costumed visitors swelled from last year’s 500 trick-or-treaters and 2,000 families to this past Saturday’s 2,100 trick-or-treaters and 5,000 families for the annual spooky fun festivities with vendors and free candy.


“It was a zoo,” Witt said.

Staffers had to go out and buy more candy — some $500 more — to feed the masses that formed a line all the way down Denio Street and wrapping its way along State Street toward Batavia High School.


The Dwyer to-do list includes additional netting to ensure that spectators aren’t hit by foul balls and a party deck, and several items have already been completed, such as painting locker rooms, power washing, adding a new bullpen to the vision team area, new cooking appliances, the addition of 30 tables and 100 chairs in the main office, and even the finer details of updating toilet paper rolls and paper holders in the men’s and women’s restrooms.

With a track record of hosting 120 events this season, averaging 20 events per month from April to October, including 22 picnics, Dwyer Stadium “has something going on,” Nichols said. He and the staff have set a goal to have something going on every single day, he said.

Events weren’t just about drawing crowds to the stadium, but also about team participation in parades and Nichols’ favorite event, Challenger Division Baseball. Staff and team players work alongside people with various disabilities to enjoy a real game as participants.

“This is our favorite event. We take a day out when we play with the challenger divisions, we have a real game,” he said. “They're the stars of the show.”

Season ticket holders have risen from 100 to more than 500 since taking over operations as owner in 2021, he said. Nichols, who is also the owner of CAN-USA Sports since 2012, is well prepared for next season with the Muckdogs, having 30 players in place already for a championship next season, he said.

He is looking to extend his lease with the city, after two years down and three to go. He and Witt thanked council members and management for “trusting CAN-USA Sports.”

Councilman Bob Bialkowski encouraged them to “keep up the good work” while member John Canale suggested that the enterprise "is your baby.”

“You’ve created that; we’re very grateful for what you’ve done,” Canale said.

A modest Nichols said it wasn’t about him and Witt.

“It’s the community that makes it possible, “ he said.


Top Photo: Batavia Muckdogs General Manager Marc Witt, left, and owner Robbie Nichols present a recap of this year at Dwyer Stadium in Batavia (by Joanne Beck); photos of the Halloween trick-or-treat event this past Saturday, including Robbie and wife Nellie, above. Photos by Howard Owens.

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