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July 13, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, notify.

It’s a topic that has come up before: maintain a residency requirement or not for a new hire?

City Council has discussed the topic over the years — usually when a qualified candidate has everything city officials are looking for, except for living in Batavia. The City Code has required that the city manager and assistant manager, plus other department head positions, maintain their residence in the city.

Former City Manager Jason Molino raised the issue when seeking an assistant manager and police and fire chief. He pointed to the fact that sometimes qualified candidates walk through the door but don’t meet that one requirement. It becomes a question of filling the vacancy with someone perceived as the right candidate or with someone less qualified but who lives in the city.

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City Council members again had that scenario before them Monday. City Manager Rachael Tabelski had hired Erik Fix as her assistant and was seeking a waiver for the residency requirement.

It really didn’t make for much discussion; most everyone was fully on board with the idea. There isn’t a danger of setting a precedent, Council President Eugene Jankowski said, because a former council agreed how to handle the situation.

“Several years ago, when Jason Molino was still here, he talked about the difficulty of finding talented people to work here because of the residency requirements. So at the time, the discussion was, let's take it on a case by case basis, where certain lines will not be crossed,” Jankowski said to The Batavian after Monday’s meeting. “Like, as far as city manager, that person will have to live in the city.”

At other times, though, there are “certain circumstances that are beyond people's control,” and when they are good and talented people, council will try to make an exception if that's appropriate, he said.

“In this particular case tonight, that was one of those cases. We have a talented individual, very actively involved in our community, from the community, and he just happens to live a few miles outside the city,” Jankowski said. “I mean, he's definitely one of the residents, just visually not in the city. But he spends a lot of time here. So taking all that into consideration. from my perspective, I thought it was a wise move, to keep that talent here and bring it out into the city. And maybe hopefully, over time, when his kids get through school, he'll want to live in the city, he'll move back.”

bob_b.jpgCouncil approved the move unanimously 9-0. Councilman Bob Bialkowski was the only one to share the ideal he’d like to see happen.

“Personally, I like to see anybody getting a paycheck from the city living in the city,” he said.

Tabelski explained that it was only after an extensive search that she made an offer to Fix, who is the current president of Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

She understands that the residency requirement is in the city Charter, but on the other hand, “we have a really qualified person who really wants to come in and do the job,” she said.

“And I recruited him after showing him my neighborhood revitalization thoughts. And that's what piqued his interest, because I had recruited Eric the first time around for assistant city manager, and he declined me graciously, but we've kept a relationship ever since. And then this time around, we had a lot more conversations and I recruited him again. And the sticking point was that his family is established in Le Roy, and the residency requirement goes with the position,” she said. So I think, not speaking for council, but I do think they felt comfortable after understanding that this is, you know, Eric said, ‘it's just where I lay my head. I'm in the city of Batavia every single day. And my parents are here. My family is here, other siblings are here.’”

rachael_in_chambers.jpgOne of Tabelski’s objectives for the assistant role is to focus on neighborhood development to build up each pocket of Batavia to become a strong, safe and sustainable area on its own. Fix gravitated toward her objectives, stating that he wants to do something that will make a difference and be a tangible change he could see, she said.

“Not that he wasn't doing that with the chamber, but he doesn't want to see the city's neighborhoods get in any more way or shape of decline,” she said. “So I'm excited, absolutely excited to work with him. He is a very thoughtful leader and he catches on to things very quickly, and I think he'll hit the ground running.”

If, at some, point Fix was to become the city manager, that waiver would not automatically go with him, she and Jankowski said. The manager position’s residency requirement to live in the city of Batavia will remain, they said.

“So this way, it gives us some control. When we're able to keep it as if it was a blanket no residency requirement, I think it would be more difficult to get somebody maybe to live here in the beginning of their career,” Jankowski said. “This way it gives them something to draw them in. And most of the ones that have moved here, there's been no complaints.”

Fix was hired at a salary of about $103,000.

File photos: Erik Fix, City Councilman Bob Bialkowski, and City Manager Rachael Tabelski. 

July 12, 2022 - 8:10am

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Matt Gray and his folks, Bob Gray and Sharon Valyear-Gray, sat in the audience during City Council’s conference meeting Monday evening. Matt was waiting to hear what came soon in the business meeting that followed: a unanimous 9-0 vote to approve his pitch as Batavia Sports Facility Management to fully embrace operations at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena.

"I'm very proud of him," Valyear-Gray said.

City officials’ reactions ranged from happiness to nostalgia.

“This is fantastic,” councilman Paul Viele said. “It’s good to see local people interested in the ice rink.”

Councilman Bob Bialkowski and President Eugene Jankoski were excited about the prospects of having a local Batavian on board.

“It’s great, just great to see community involvement,” Bialkowski said.

The contract is with Matt as owner of Batavia Sports Facility. It’s a five-year contract, with up to three five-year renewals. Matt, who has partnerships with Eli Fish Brewery and Matty’s Pizza, has an eye toward the snack bar with thoughts that perhaps some of that familiar food and drink would be served there.

"We do plan, in the very near future, some upgrades to the existing snack shop. We do have a five-year plan with quite a bit of capital improvements to it … so we do hope that we can extend the snack bar into more of a sit-down area inside the rink,” he said.

Since he was in kindergarten, Matt played ice hockey at the Evans Street arena, all through high school and even when he attended college locally, he said. So it’s fair to say that he’s been actively involved with the ice rink and Ramparts hockey team for more than a decade.

“But even more than that, I’ve been active for the last five years or so with development of that area,” he said during a quick interview with The Batavian after the meeting. “So not only am I interested in doing the necessary improvements to the rink  - it is aging, it’s over 40 years old — but it also could be an economic catalyst for the entire downtown area. My goal was to see it used to its fullest, not only for more of the residents of the city and town of Batavia but also drawing more people in from (outside of the local area).”

Matt’s proposal is “super exciting,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said to The Batavian after the meeting. She was a teen in the early 90s and remembers Batavia as “really a fun place to come to.” The city had amenities such as an arcade of games, a swimming and wading pool and a fairly active ice rink.

“I think we’re bringing the 80s and 90s back,” she said.

Matt clarified that he doesn’t have an official partnership with Robbie Nichols, owner of Batavia Muckdogs and CAN-USA Sports and operator of Dwyer Stadium. But because of Nichols’ extensive background in the business of sports, he and Matt have been discussing various ideas for the rink.

“He did reach out to me with his expertise and his experience in order to be part of this, both for marketing and someone I can go to for just knowledge on risk management,” Matt said.

Activities planned for the rink include special events, dog shows, rollerskating, youth and adult floor/roller hockey, gym classes, home shows, indoor basketball and soccer, gun shows, all in addition to open skates and ice hockey leagues.

Batavia Sports Facility is taking over for former operations company Firland Management, which did not renew a contract in July.

Previously: From beer and pizza to ice, Batavia entrepreneur proposes his next venture

Photo: Batavia entrepreneur Matt Gray walks out of a City Council meeting Monday evening with the approval from all nine council members for his proposal to operate and manage the ice rink as Batavia Sports Facility Management.

June 28, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, Jackson Square, dri, notify.

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A deeper dive may be needed for a Jackson Square project that's already gone out two times for bids, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

She had recommended Monday that City Council vote to rescind a bid from Mark Cerrone Inc. due to the company’s last-minute revision of its original low bid of $654,000. After all, bids were received and council agreed to award Cerrone with a contract, the Niagara Falls-based company hiked its bid up to $847,950.

That move didn’t exactly seem kosher to Council President Eugene Jankowski.

“Is that even legal,” he said, addressing City Attorney George Van Nest. “We certainly have a lot of concerns with the communication that took place … there was some back and forth between the architects and the city, and contractor. At this point, we have a new contract. I’m just trying to get educated here for the future. It almost appeared that once they brought out their bids, then they mysteriously appear to be just under the next bid. Once someone bids, that’s it.”

Van Nest agreed.

“In general, I’d say that’s accurate,” he said. “There are some other nuances with this. Just to be clear, you’re not rejecting Mark Cerrone Inc’s bid; you’re rescinding that bid and rejecting the other two bids.”

Council agreed to move the item to the business meeting that would follow. The council later unanimously voted to rescind Mark Cerrone Inc’s bid due to "failing to honor" the original bid of $654,000 and reject the other two from Scott Lawn Yard, with a bid of $870,000, and Whitney East with a $1,002,800 bid.

An architect had originally recommended that council approve a contract award to Mark Cerrone Inc. for construction enhancement of Jackson Square. That bid would have included an alternative plan that would add about $31,000 for a total bid of $685,500.

However, once the city agreed, the contractor “refused to proceed with the project as bid, claiming significant mistakes and the need to adjust the contract price,” according to Director of Public Works Brett Frank.

The Batavian reached out to Senior Project Manager Jeff Salvatore of Mark Cerrone, Inc. earlier Monday for comment about the revised bid and council’s impending decision to rescind it. Salvatore offered “no comment.”

The project is to be primarily funded with a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, plus $225,000 from National Grid, Tabelski said.

“When we go out for bid, they look at the scope of work, and they put a price to that with the materials and the labor … so it necessarily doesn't always line up with the budget we have,” she said to The Batavian. “So we will be re-examining our bid specifications to make sure we think that pricing can come in within that.”

She was hopeful that a contractor with an acceptable bid can be approved within the “next few months.” That leaves the door still open for a construction start date this fall or winter, she said.

“But we do want to take a deeper dive at the design of it. Because this is the second time it's been bid out,” she said. “So yeah, we have some review work to do internally. Construction projects can certainly start in the fall. But again, we'll have to analyze when; it could technically happen in 2022.”

Illustration: File photo. One of the architectural renderings for the proposed redesign of Jackson Square.

June 28, 2022 - 7:15am

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A new management company for the city’s ice arena is expected to come before City Council for vote at its meeting next month.

A number of submissions had been received during the city’s request for proposals process, and it’s likely that one company will be selected, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

“We received responses back. And we have worked on scoring them and we're looking to get under contract with one management company by the July 11 meeting,” she said during an interview Monday evening with The Batavian. “That would be a full lease agreement with a new management company for the rink.”

She couldn’t name the company due to being in progress with finalizing a contract, Tabelski said. The new prospective company, if approved by council next month, will take over management operations of the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Evans Street. Former company Firland Management did not renew its contract, which is to expire on June 30.

2022 File Photo of a dedication ceremony of the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena in Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

June 14, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, batavia, animals, code enforcement, notify.

Chickens in your backyard. Goats in the front. And donkeys? Who knows where they are.

Pretty much every living creature made it into City Council’s discussion about a restriction on certain animals and fowl during the group’s Monday meeting.

A proposed local law stems from a council meeting in January, and a request to research potential restrictions on animals and fowl in the city. Apparently some types of these creatures — chickens and goats in particular — have raised a bit of a ruckus in their neighborhoods.

“One of the issues that recently came up was, one of our neighbors has goats … and they're literally running around our neighborhood. They’ve been able to escape a number of times and might go across the street,” Councilman John Canale said during the meeting at City Hall. “Now, any animal is capable of charging someone at any time. But now we have horned animals running loose in the neighborhood. Animal control said ‘my hands are tied, there’s nothing I can do.’  A number of my neighbors are very concerned about their safety … we could have some neighbors that might possibly get hurt. That was my concern. Now it becomes kind of a safety issue.”

He asked about a clause in the law requiring that animals are properly housed. That means the animals must be penned appropriately, do not accumulate feces, cause odor or live in an unsightly or unsafe condition, Council President Eugene Jankowski said. If goats are running loose, then they are not being properly housed, Jankowski said.

Some council members wondered why anyone wants to keep goats in the city anyway. Canale said that, for example, he knows a young girl who is in 4-H and raises animals including goats.

There are rules for dogs, but not for goats, Jankowski said. Although it might be easy to come up with a laundry list of restrictions for these situations, Jankowski didn’t want to see that happen.

“I’m not for making a plethora of codes for every little thing,” he said. “But, unfortunately, it might be something we have to do … if they start to encroach on other people’s property.”

As for the goat that got loose, the animal control officer did some quick thinking on his feet. He cornered the animal at the front porch, got ahold of it and brought it back to its rightful home over a fence.

As for donkeys, and other cloven-hoofed animals, equine or fowl, those are restricted from being kept within the city limits. City Manager Rachael Tabelski’s research reviewed other cities, including Geneva, Canandaigua, Jamestown, Elmira, and Lockport. All of those areas have code restrictions “on animals in a variety of forms,” her memo to council said.

“With help from the code enforcement office and the city attorney, attached are the proposed restrictions to animals for City Council to consider,” the memo stated, including cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, llamas, alpacas, ducks, turkeys, geese, feral cats, donkeys, ponies, mules and any other farm or wild animal within city limits.

Exceptions would be chickens in appropriate housing, transporting animals to and from race tracks, special events with an approved event application, and animals in transit through the city.

Council agreed to pass the law on to the City Planning Board for further discussion. Council members also hope that the public will provide feedback about the issue of atypical city occupants — primarily farm animals — living right next door.

“That’s what the planning board is for,” Jankowski said. “I think most people will see this as reasonable. I think it’s great that we have these healthy discussions.”

May 25, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, notify.

Tammy Schmidt has heard them. And so has Kathy Briggs. Resident complaints about torn up sidewalks and roads have been consistent for both City Councilwomen, they say.

“I’m getting complaints about roads in general,” Briggs said during this week’s council meeting. “Do they have some type of process (for selecting neighborhoods to repair)?”

Any citizens with concerns about potholes in the roadways can contact the city by phone, in writing or online to request a repair, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. Work has been ongoing as weather permits, she said.

“As everyone knows, living in Western New York, we have two seasons: we have snow, and then we have construction. And right now, they're trying to get out and rehab the roads to the best of their ability,” she said. “They just finished Walnut, they just put the striping down. And they're looking to take on an extra project this year with those state touring route funds. So as soon as I have more details on that, I will bring them forward.”

Tabelski reviewed a 2021-22 sidewalk program that will mean pavement improvement for Miller, Columbia and Seneca avenues. Part of this program includes pairing sidewalks with their adjacent streets, so that an entire section is repaired at the same time, she said. It’s called the “Complete Streets” approach. These avenues are in addition to Chase and Fisher parks. The work will be funded through the city’s Consolidated Highway Improvement Program funded by New York State.

“So whenever we are able to repave or resurface a roadway, we also look at the sidewalks to make sure they are now (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. They have appropriate widths for wheelchairs and passing lanes,” Tabelski said. “And we'd like to move this project forward. And when the bids come in, we'll bring that back at a business meeting.”

Schmidt, who represents the Sixth Ward, said that she’s also been getting complaints about sidewalks and wondered how Miller and those other avenues were chosen first. She heard some strong concerns during a meeting she had with some residents, she said.

“The gentleman was so upset. The sidewalks and the streets in my neighborhood are worse than what I saw of the streets that I drove down on Seneca, Columbia and Miller,” Schmidt said. “So I guess what I'm wondering, what's the process of picking the streets? Because should we start with the worst ones first and work our way up? Or do we leave the worst ones the way they are?”

There is a capital street plan included in the budget book, Tabelski said. That plan has been followed for many years, she said, and city officials try to identify the streets that need immediate repair and pairing sidewalks with them for work.

“There is a rotation throughout the city. And if you want to sit down, we can look through that,” Tabelski said.

“So, yes, we do have a capital plan, and we do go through the streets. And they do with the Bureau of Maintenance and DPW every year and update that plan and bring more streets on. Unfortunately, we only get so much revenue for CHIPs every year, roughly $320,000. So we try to extend it as far as we possibly can between streets and sidewalks.”

There is a map (handed out during council’s last budget talks)  that illustrates where repairs have been made to streets and sidewalks in the last few years, she said.

“So you can have that to show constituents,” she said. “And it always comes up. We do have. I would say, some of the best sidewalks in Western New York. And if you've gone to other cities, I won't name them, but you can barely push a baby carriage down them. So we do try very, very hard to continue to get out there.”

City Council is expected to vote on bids at the next business meeting in June. Scope of work includes the replacement of approximately 6,400 linear feet of sidewalks and handicap accessible ramps on portions of Chase Park, Fisher Park and Seneca, Miller and Columbia avenues.

May 24, 2022 - 8:30am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, proclamations.

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City Council President Eugene Jankowski expressed appreciattion for the "awesome ceremony" earlier Monday that honored retired police officers and placed flags at the graves of officers who have died. He read a proclamation in honor and memory of those Batavia City Police officers who have "committed to the preservation of life and property," he said, risking their lives to provide protection while serving the cause of justice. 

"The officers of the City Police Department accept the profound responsibility and work to uphold our laws, safeguard our rights and freedoms and serve on the frontlines in the fight against crime in an effort to keep our neighborhoods safe. Many of the officers dedicated several years serving the residents of the city of Batavia, most serving longer than 20 years.," Jankowski said. "Their service to the city meant time away from their families and loved ones in order to protect the community; that's a token of safeguard. Each year the city of Batavia will recognize the dedicated brave officers who have been named ever  since retiring from the police department by placing flags at each officer's graveside in remembrance of their service with the city. "

There weren't enough words he could say to show his gratitude for how "they provide a safe place for us to live, work and play," Jankowski said.

"Thank you from the bottom of my heart," he said.

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Helen Ada Smith was honored Monday for her lifelong residency and contributions to the City of Batavia. City Councilwoman Tammy Schmidt read the proclamation that acknowledged Smith's years as a devoted wife, wonderful mother, active church member, award recipient and much more. 

"She has demonstrated in countless ways her dedication to the welfare of others and respect for people from all walks of life and all ages," Schmidt said. "She is uplifting the most eventful century in this world's history ... and has been a force for good."

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Nick Zinni found it difficult to complete some of his remarks during a proclamation event Monday at City Hall.

Batavia City Council presented Zinni -- a lifelong resident of Batavia and an "exemplary community and neighborhood volunteer" -- the honor as a Redfield Parkway Association member. It wasn't the honor itself that got him choked up, but the woman he felt deserved so much praise: a fellow Redfield Parkway neighbor who died three years ago to the day, May 24.

Zinni's community service has been "an integral part of the overall spirit of the city," City Councilman Bob Bialkowski said, reading the proclamation.

"We don't see much of that anymore," he said. "We honor those who generously give their time and talents to improve their conditions.

The recipient was selected for the scripted plaque due to his self-appointed responsibilities for the holiday tree displays on Redfield beginning in the mid-2000s, from collecting the money, purchasing the trees, and organizing pickup and drop off to each resident to arrive at the festive finale of a decorated and lit tree on every front lawn. 

He humbly accepted the plaque, but not without some shared credit.

"There's two points I'd like to make. One is battling to an agreement that 'things that you've done on the street,' and I did not do them alone. It is a community. Kathy used to say you can only say very often this community has made short work. So the holiday launch for us the flags that go up every holiday throughout the year, and our freedoms, our loved ones that aren't with us any longer. The flowers and the colors and the term circles and medians, all those kinds of things are done by green, many people in the in this recognition really belongs to them," he said. "The second point is, if there's a single individual that this belongs to, it's Kathy Owen. It's hard. It's ironic that we lost Kathy three years ago today. And I miss my friend badly. But she she was my mentor. And she provided me a perfect role model. If I've done anything successful it is because of Kathy, and I'd like you to remember that." 

Photos by Joanne Beck

May 24, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, notify, City Fire.

A new fire engine — at a total cost of about $700,000 — is on the horizon for the city of Batavia after City Council approved a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funding offer Monday.

Council approved Rural Development’s proposed funding of a $630,000 loan at 2.5 percent interest for 20 years; an estimated grant of $50,000; and the city’s own contribution of $20,000 to come from fire department reserves, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

“We need to replace engine 12. This is in the capital plan for vehicle replacement. It is a 20-year-old fire apparatus pumper. The estimated costs a month or two ago was $700,000, and whether that holds true today, we'll see,” Tabelski said during a special business meeting at City Hall. “I recommend that we accept this funding offer from USDA Rural Development. If we do so by the end of June, it's basically an informal letter from myself to them to move forward in the process. We'll be able to lock in the interest rate at 2.5. Interest rates are supposed to go up again at the end of June.”

The current engine 12 has been showing “extreme corrosion,” she said in a memo to council members. Excessive road salting during winter months has caused corrosion and decay on the engine body, chassis and wiring, and the fire engine has had many repairs in the last few years — repairs that are becoming more costly, she said.

The new engine will be a 2023 National Fire Protection Association compliant rescue-style fire engine with a custom cab, seating for six fire personnel, 1,500 gallons per minute fire pump with foam capability, a 750-gallon water tank, the latest safety features, full LED emergency and scene lights and aluminum or stainless steel construction for longevity.

City Council unanimously approved the resolution to accept Rural Development’s funding offer and to transfer $20,000 out of fire reserves to be used for the deal.

May 24, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, city council, notify, special events.

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Even fun has to be questioned sometimes.

That’s how City Councilman Bob Bialkowski felt during council’s conference meeting Monday. The group was reviewing several event applications, and a couple of them — GLOW Corporate Cup and Venue Entertainment — stopped the flow of approvals.

Were they going to sell or provide alcohol at these events? Would participants be allowed to walk around outside with alcohol? Bialkowski, who is a councilman-at-large, just wanted to confirm the details, he said.

“I just want to make sure we're following the law and will not have any confusion, because, you know it can happen. In a way the law is threatening ‘you need an exemption,’ so it's not allowed on any municipal property period,” he said to The Batavian after the meeting at City Hall. “And the other one at South Swan, I just had some concerns because of what’s served at the event. And it's kind of ambiguous. A lot of times if you communicate things ahead of time and you have it all laid out, it's crystal clear, there's no problems.”

GLOW Corporate Cup is a yearly 5K event with several organizations that bring their own tents, food and beverages for an “afterglow” party once the race is over. It has been set for August 4 this year at Centennial Park in Batavia. Bialkowski said that he hasn’t heard anything negative about the event, especially in relation to drinking alcohol, but he wanted to know the parameters.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski emphasized that the event sponsor does not provide any alcohol (or other beverages or food), and that it’s up to each organization to bring, use and monitor what’s being supplied for its group participants.

Venue Entertainment requested to have a community block party on August 6 on South Swan Street in Batavia. The party is to run from 2 to 10 p.m. with a DJ, bands, face-painting, basket raffles, a bounce house, tents, a T-shirt sale and food vendors. An asterisk on the application indicates that alcohol will be available for purchase through Polish Falcons, which prompted Bialkowski to question the use and sale of alcohol during the event. He asked where alcohol would be consumed and whether it was likely that attendees may be walking around the neighborhood with alcoholic beverages in hand.

Can the city control the use of alcohol during an event, Bialkowski said.

“I don't think we can. We can't prevent someone from gathering in a public place and having a picnic. We're just trying to assist so that there is no confusion or maybe double booking or something like that," Council President Eugene Jankowski said. “I know they’re closing the street off. I was wondering how they were going to pull this thing off. We want to know so we don’t have a lot of chaos … “We want to make sure they have a safe, fun time. We want it to be successful.”

Council members discussed the event itself, with four barricades in the neighborhood parkway near Polish Falcons on Swan Street. Councilman John Canale noted that the application asks questions pertaining to serving, providing and/or selling alcohol at the event. There is also a clause asking for the name of who will apply to the State Liquor Authority for a permit to sell alcohol.

That’s not applicable in this instance, Canale said.

“That falls under the Polish Falcons license to sell,” he said. “If Polish Falcons are selling it, they will be selling it out of the bar downstairs.

While discussing the GLOW 5K event, Jankowski referred the matter to City Attorney George Van Nest. Jankowski was  “under the impression that if someone wanted to have a picnic, they could drink any beverages they want,” he said.

“I think you’re generally right, Council President. I would defer to the chief for any violations that may come up during the park usage. But generally speaking, as it relates to event applications, if there's a specific event in a downtown space, there might be a request for Dram Shop insurance as well,” Van Nest said. “But I would defer to the clerk as well, this event has happened in the past and there hasn’t been an issue with it. And it seems to be on par with other events that happened throughout the community.”

Dram shop insurance — dubbed after the age-old phrase used for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol — is a liability insurance plan designed to protect alcohol-serving businesses from the risks associated with their industry, according to insurance canopy.com.

City Council agreed to move along the requests, accompanied by requests for the annual Kiwanis 5K, fireworks at two Muckdogs’ games on June 4 and 18, Jackson Square concerts on Thursday and Friday evenings throughout the summer, Blue Pearl Yoga in the Park, HCR Home Care's ribbon-cutting on June 8, an official naming ceremony for the David McCarthy Ice Arena for June 3, a homeowner’s workshop for July 23 in the City Centre concourse and a chicken barbecue for June 4.

Top photo: City Councilman Bob Bialkowski questions the use of alcohol during council's review of event applications Monday at City Hall. Photo by Joanne Beck.

May 10, 2022 - 10:39am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, notify.

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Motorists are expected to have a smoother drive on Richmond and Harvester avenues now that City Council has agreed to move a $3.6 million project for final approval later this month.

The project is considered “preventive maintenance” and T.Y. Lin International had already been selected as project engineer during a request for proposals process. The company will assist the city in bidding the project and oversee construction. On Richmond, it will run from Oak to State streets and from routes 5 and 33 to Route 63 on Harvester.

Council is expected to award a contract during its next meeting, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

If all goes as expected, completion of both avenues should be done by Nov. 30, she said.

From asphalt to topsoil, council also approved a transfer of Batavia Community Garden from the city to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County.

Cornell Cooperative will take care of the property and administer related funds for a yearly fee of $2,500, plus an initial $1,000 for the current 2022-23 fiscal year.

Cornell staff is to also assist the Community Garden Committee with operations, technical and administrative support and educational programming to all garden participants.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that Cornell Cooperative Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski was happy about the arrangement and that “I think we’re in good hands,” he said.

Sikorski said that agency staff has been involved in the garden since its inception in 2011, and there is a core of volunteers to help out.

“It fits in our wheelhouse,” she said. “The city asked if this is something our association was interested in, and it’s a perfect fit.”

Since it began, the Community Garden has grown from four raised beds to 42 raised beds in 2020 over the course of nine years.

A memorandum of agreement is for a five-year term.

Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, who recently announced she would be leaving her position, had previously presented the garden idea to council. Tabelski thanked Wiedrick for her work this past year and wished her the best as she moves on to another job in Fairport. Friday will be Wiedrick’s last day.

Photos by Howard Owens

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April 25, 2022 - 10:44pm
Video Sponsor
Video: 2019 Ramble Music and Arts Festival
 

 

There’s one thing for certain with the City of Batavia lately: entertainment is not taking a back seat to anything.

Live and DJ music, arts, a dunk tank, parades, dancers and food will be filling up calendars from May 30 to July 2 now that City Council has reviewed the requests and passed them on to a business meeting for official votes.

During its Monday conference session, the council looked over several requests for downtown events, from an old standby, the Memorial Day parade, to a new happening of a carnival.

Participants will be lining up at Eastowne Plaza the morning of Memorial Day and walking along Main Street to Bank Street, settling into the city parking lot on Alva Place. A yearly event to honor military veterans, the parade is being organized by City Council member Bob Bialkowski. It’s to begin at 9:45 a.m. and end before 11 a.m.
For more information about this event, go to: www.batavianewyork.com

Next up is a GLOW OUT 5K Run and Celebration that begins and ends at Centennial Park. This event is set for 5 to 9 p.m. on June 9.

GLOW OUT also has scheduled a parade and festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11 at Batavia City Centre parking lot downtown. Some 15 vendors and an estimated 600 participants are expected for the event, according to the organizer, GLOW OUT President Gregory Hallock. It begins on Richmond Avenue in front of Centennial Park and winds around Bank and Ross streets, Washington and Ellicott avenues and back to Centennial.

Also on June 11 (expected to be very busy Saturday), is the Eli Fish Brewing Company Carnival in Jackson Square. Various food dishes from Eli Fish, beer, carnival games, a dunk tank, live entertainment and vendor booths are on the event menu from 4 to 10 p.m.

Council members had few, if any, questions or comments about the events, all of which have completed event request forms and supporting documentation. Council President Eugene Jankowski noted that the GLOW OUT parade is on the same day as the carnival, but there shouldn’t be any conflicts.

“I know these are two on the same day, one is in the square and the carnival itself is not going to require anything from the city,” he said. 

For more information about the carnival, go to: https://www.facebook.com/elifishbrewing/

A former Ramble event that now includes a GO ART! Music and Art Festival, is set to run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 2 downtown. Two stages for music from 20 to 30 bands, an Artisan Alley of artist demonstrations, an arts and craft vendor fair, food trucks, a folk art stage with dancers and other performers and a children's craft area will spill out from Jackson Square onto Jackson and School streets and into a portion of the Save-A-Lot parking lot.

Costs for these events include $2,571 for the Memorial Day parade, with $922 for city police and $1,649.17 for the Bureau of Maintenance; $538 each for the GLOW OUT 5K Run and Celebration and parade and festival ($1,076 total); $538 for city police and $919.29 for the GO ART! Music and Art Festival and no costs involved for the Eli Fish Carnival. 

The following disclaimer is included on the Event Summary page of the council’s meeting packet: 

“Event sponsors are responsible for any costs that may be incurred from their event and have been made aware of estimate costs, if any.”

Bialkowski wanted to clarify how conference meetings work, given that council seems to be voting once at a conference and then once again at a business meeting. 

“I think we’ve been remiss in conference meetings,” he said. 

Council gives a general consensus agreement about moving the agenda item forward to a business meeting, Jankowski said. “There’s been some confusion that we’re voting twice,” he said. The consensus is merely a group agreement to put the official vote onto the business agenda after discussing details in a conference work session, he said. 

The next council business meeting will be at 7 p.m. May 9 in Council Chambers, second floor, City Hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 4, 2022 - 3:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city council, County Legislature, Batavia Town Board.

Update: 7 p.m. with legislators' insurance premium information

Time is money – and during 2022-23 budget talks, members of the Batavia City Council emphasized that it was about time for them to get more money for their public service.

The nine members of the lawmaking body voted healthy pay increases for themselves, effective April 1, noting that they hadn’t received a salary hike for about nine years.

The new salary for eight of the Council people is $5,000 – a jump of 43 percent from the $3,500 in the previous budget – while the new salary for City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. is $7,000 – also up 43 percent from his previous stipend of $4,900.

Section 3-4 of the City Charter stipulates that “Council Members shall receive compensation with the Council President receiving 40 percent above the rate for the other Council Members.”

The combined total of the increases is $14,100.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, when asked about the impact on the budget, said, “Since the introduction of the budget, the proposed tax rate of $8.94 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value has not changed.”

Contacted by The Batavia, Jankowski and Council member Robert Bialkowski said the increases are justified when considering how long it has been since the last raise and the amount of time and effort put into running city government.

“There’s a lot of work involved in being on Council -- from keeping up with all of the business on the agenda and addressing the concerns of our residents, who have put their trust in us,” Jankowski said. “I know that in my case, I have many more obligations beyond the monthly meetings.”

Bialkowski said he takes the job “very seriously” and believes that the pay should be even more than it is when compared to the Town of Batavia and Genesee County Legislature.

“If you do the job correctly, there’s a lot of hours involved,” he said. “I am averaging 20 hours a week on City of Batavia business and put in 40 hours alone just on organizing the Memorial Day parade.”

Bialkowski also pointed out that Council members receive no additional reimbursement for their cell phones, mileage or office expenses, such as copying documents.

Jankowski said he understood that some people believe it should be voluntary, but stands firm to his belief that “if people do a good job, there should be some compensation.”

“Plus, the fact that it is getting harder and harder to find people to serve on boards and committees,” he said.

GENESEE COUNTY LEGISLATURE PAY

The nine members of the Genesee County Legislature received a 2 percent increase for 2022, said County Manager Matt Landers.

All of them will earn $14,225, except Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, who is paid $19,890 in consideration of her additional responsibilities. Each one also receives full health insurance (their share of the premium is 15 percent) or can take a “buy-back” of $2,600 if not accepting the insurance.

Legislators are required to attend about a half-dozen regular and committee meetings per month, plus all of them are county liaisons to “special assignment” committees.

Those special assignments include the Office for the Aging, Ag & Farmland Protection Board, Audit, Board of Health, Community Services Board/Mental Health, Cooperative Extension, County Park. County Planning Board, E911, Fish & Wildlife Management, Genesee Community College, Holland Land Office, STOP-DWI, Youth Board and Water Resources Agency.

“The legislators spend a considerable amount of time outside of legislature meetings at these at these committee assignments, and then there's also volumes of information that they have to prepare and read and review before meetings,” Landers said. “Beyond that, they are very involved (in day-to-day matters). I poll legislators on a variety of different RFPs (request for proposals) that we send out and they are involved in the hiring process, in many cases.”

Landers mentioned several task forces that are meeting now, such as fire protection, the new county jail and broadband.

“They are putting in plenty of time. They’re definitely not getting rich with the hours they put in,” he added.

TOWN OF BATAVIA BOARD PAY

Pay for Town of Batavia government officials is at the following levels:

Supervisor -- $40,000, same as in 2021.

Deputy Supervisor -- $18,000, same as in 2021.

Three Council members -- $12,000, an increase of $2,000 from 2021.

March 29, 2022 - 11:45am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 28, 2022 - 9:22pm

If all goes according to the plan laid out by City Manager Rachael Tabelski, the date April 11, 2022 will be one for the record books.

That’s when the Batavia City Council will vote on a resolution introduced by Tabelski to compensate Larry Barnes for his work as the city historian – a job that he has performed with zest on a volunteer basis since 2008.

Speaking at Council’s Conference Meeting tonight at the City Centre Council Board Room, Tabelski acknowledged the fine work by Barnes, a retired educator who has written several books about local history. If passed at the next Business Meeting on April 11, Barnes would receive an annual stipend of $5,000 for his efforts.

“(Barnes) is an author who is working on a book now about Batavia during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Tabelski, noting in a memo to Council that Barnes recently was reappointed to a four-year term.

Council member Robert Bialkowski threw his support behind Barnes, noting that he is “a very conscientious person, and we’re lucky to have him.”

Barnes has been or currently is involved with several history groups, including the Landmark Society of Genesee County, Batavia Historic Preservation Committee, Genesee County Historians Association, Government Appointed Historians of Western New York and the Association of Public Historians of New York State.

In other developments, Council moved the following resolutions to the April 11 meeting:

  • An extension of the School Resource Officer contract with the Batavia City School District for two more years, through June 30, 2024, with Officer Miah Stevens expected to continue in that role. Provisions of the agreement call for the school district to pay 100 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits, including overtime.

“I believe the program has gone exceptionally well,” said Tabelski, referring to the communication with school officials over parking and traffic issues. “The officer (also) provides services to the students, administration and faculty.”

Police Chief Shawn Heubusch said that Stevens “loves her job … and they love having her. It’s a win-win on both sides.”

  • Creation of a temporary full-time detective position to keep the police department fully staffed when a current detective retires, likely this summer.  The temporary post carries an increase in pay of $15,000 to cover the promotion, Tabelski said.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. applauded the idea, stating that “it will save us time, effort and money” while the new detective works along side the current one to learn the ins-and-outs of the job and create a smooth transition.

Another resolution – awarding a contract with Pace Analytical for analysis of potable water and wastewater -- was approved during a Special Business Meeting tonight.

Pace, the lone bidder, will receive $9,414 for laboratory services at the Water Treatment Facility and $10,010 for similar services at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.

March 25, 2022 - 2:23pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city council, City Schools.

Update: March 26, 9 a.m. with comment from City Manager Rachel Tabelski:

Public safety takes center stage at Monday night’s City Council Conference Meeting with resolutions for an extension of the city’s School Resource Officer contract with the Batavia City School District and the creation of a temporary detective position on the agenda.

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

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in a memo dated March 18, is recommending that City Council continue the SRO program with the BCSD for two more years, through June 30, 2024. The current agreement is set to expire this June.

Per the memo:

  • The city will provide a full-time Batavia Police Department officer to the school district, someone with “excellent communication skills, ability to relate to children and students, and planning skills.”
  • The school district will reimburse the city for 100 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits, including overtime, for a work schedule that starts on the first day of the academic year through the final day of the academic year.
  • The city will provide a vehicle, uniform, equipment and training for the SRO.

Officer Miah Stevens, a graduate of Pembroke High, Genesee Community College and Brockport State College, has served in that capacity since Feb. 2021.

As far as the detective post is concerned, Tabelski recommends creating the temporary job as part of the city’s succession planning, noting that a full-time detective is retiring soon.

“By promoting an existing City of Batavia police officer, we will ensure the new detective will have time to work alongside the other detective to learn the functions and responsibilities of the job and create a smooth transition,” she wrote.

Her memo indicates that the new position – tentatively to be hired after April 1 -- would add $15,000 to the police department’s expenditures budget and would be funded by the 2022-23 fiscal year operating budget.

"The detective position, if approved by City Council, would be filled through the Civil Service hiring process," Tabelski said.

In other developments, Council will be asked to approve:

  • An agreement with the Genesee Country Farmers Market to operate on the former JC Penney parking lot off Bank Street on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from June 3 through Oct. 28;
  • A request from the First Presbyterian Church of Batavia to conduct a Good Friday Blessing Service at noon on April 15 outside the City Centre on Main Street. Rev. Dr. Roula Alkhouri, pastor, stated that the prayer service will consist of a blessing for the community’s public servants and a blessing for Batavia and Genesee County
March 15, 2022 - 10:44am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, city council, City Fire.

engine_12_b.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tabelski said that people react differently when assessments are raised.

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

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

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

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

March 14, 2022 - 9:01pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city council, farmers market.

zinni_farmers_market_1.jpgJust in case the Batavia City Council was having second thoughts about supporting the Genesee Country Farmers Market, the president of the organization and one of the downtown market’s best customers touted its benefits at tonight’s Business Meeting.

Jan Goodenbury of Oakfield, in her second term as the GCFM president, encouraged council members to “support the market and make a timely decision to approve our application” at the board’s next meeting on March 28.

A former Batavian, Goodenbury emphasized the market’s value to the community, with locally-grown produce fresher than what is available in supermarkets and by keeping money in the GLOW region, which helps the local economy.

A flower, vegetable and chicken farmer, herself, she said the current location at the former JC Penney parking lot is ideal for customers, many who have to walk or ride their bicycle.

“With the Healthy Living (campus coming), it ties all in,” she said.

Goodenbury said the sooner the application to operate is approved, the better, because “vendor applications need to go out and go before the GCFM board for review.”

Pending City Council backing, the market will run three days a week for the seventh consecutive year on city-owned property in downtown Batavia. In 2021, it was open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 4 through Oct. 29.

City resident Christine Zinni followed Goodenbury to the podium, stating that the market is important “because I've been the recipient of some of the wonderful food that is offered at this market, and I teach food and culture classes at the State University of New York at Brockport.”

“So, I talk to a lot of young people about what that means and about healthful produce – to be out in the open air and be able to connect with others on a face-to-face basis,” she said. “And it’s helped me to have that resource so close; to be able to walk or bike and get the healthy benefits of fresh food.”

Drawing a chuckle, she said, “What I usually say to my students, well look what’s happened (to me) -- I’m 110 years old.”

Zinni proposed that the Batavia market take a page from what is happening at similar venues in Clarence, Le Roy and Rochester by adding music, for example.

“I don’t know what’s currently on the table – (but) more of an investment in the farmer’s market. It would definitely help the image – Batavia’s image; the kind of image that I think would be beneficial to the city,” she said.

Her suggestions prompted Council member John Canale to urge GCFM officials to partner with the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council to line up artists in various genres.

“Artists, music artists, fine artists – incorporate some of that (into the market), Canale said, noting that GO Art! is right across the street (at the corner of Bank and Main).

Canale also put in a plug for his favorite pastry.

“If you offer donuts from Sweet Ally’s donut shop in Oakfield, which are phenomenal, I will be there every week,” he said. “This is coming from a guy who knows donuts.”

Council member Patti Pacino assured Goodenbury and Zinni that the market is “well appreciated.” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. agreed.

“We understand. It brings a lot of people downtown,” he said. “But we have an aging (police) building that we have to replace (a reference to the new station that will be going up on the GCFM’s former location on the other side of Alva Place). I don’t see any problem. We usually welcome the application.”

Photo: Christine Zinni speaks to City Council about the benefits of the Genesee Country Farmers Market. Jan Goodenbury is in the background. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

March 14, 2022 - 1:37pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city council, O'Lacy's Irish Pub.

The Batavia City Council has a full agenda for its Business Meeting tonight – 13 resolutions to vote on, a couple community events to approve and an application from a Batavia entrepreneur to obtain a liquor license for an establishment at 5 School St., currently operated as O’Lacy’s Irish Pub.

As required by the New York State Liquor Authority, Roger Christiano on Feb. 23 filed the standardized notice form for providing 30-day advance notice to the City of Batavia.

Contacted today, Christiano, who owns two sports bars in Rochester, said he is looking to purchase the popular bar/restaurant.

O’Lacy’s owner Kent Ewell did not wish to comment about the liquor license application or about the future of the pub that he opened 25 years ago – on April 15, 1997.

The two events on the agenda are the Batavia Concert Band Summer Concert Series, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesdays from June 22 through Aug. 3 at Centennial Park, and the Living Waters Community Outreach from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Austin Park.

Key resolutions are the adoption of the 2022-23 budget ordinance, water rates, meter fees and capital improvement fees; a contract with HUNT Engineers for services for the City Centre Mall Downtown Revitalization Initiative project, and to accept a $1 million Community Development Block Grant and authorize a $414,017 local match for the Jackson Street water main project.

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