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Genesee Area Family YMCA

February 22, 2021 - 10:58pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, GLOW YMCA, Genesee Area Family YMCA.

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See a statement from the City Youth Board below this story.

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City Council members tonight reminisced about their childhood days “hanging out at the Y” as they sent out positive vibes about a proposed four-year contract that would put the Genesee Area Family YMCA in charge of running city youth services.

After hearing from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski that “the YMCA came in with the best price” and that cost savings to the city are projected at more than $60,000 annually over the next four years, Council Member John Canale and President Eugene Jankowski Jr. strolled down memory lane.

“I heard the YMCA is dying to build a brand-new outdoor city pool like we used to have when I was growing up,” Canale joked.

That prompted Jankowski to endorse the Y, illustrating his support by displaying his YMCA membership card from 1971 that he said he found during “COVID clean-out.”

“So, I was a member as a teenager myself. And now they mention they’re building a large new facility right in the middle of our downtown. So, they’re investing here,” Jankowski said. “This is like a win-win for all of us, including the most important people who are on my list for this whole project is the children themselves – our future – so they can have a place to go, like I had a place to go.”

Canale countered by pointing out that this offers “year-round availability to our local kids.”

“When you and I grew up, I remember distinctly hanging out at the Y, when it was the old building, and you’d just go there and hang out after school or on Saturday (and) shoot pool. They used to have three pool tables downstairs.”

Today, the YMCA is making plans to partner with United Memorial Medical Center for a Healthy Living Campus, a project supported by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. It has expanded its services over the years and seems to be in excellent position to operate the city youth program efficiently and effectively.

City leaders decided to not staff their afterschool and summer recreation programs anymore after having to close the Liberty Center for Youth due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also due to budget constraints. They reached out via a request for proposal process to organizations that might be interested in providing these services and the YMCA got the nod.

A resolution outlining the formal agreement with the YMCA and another to dissolve a pact with Genesee County to provide a youth bureau executive director were forwarded to Council’s Business Meeting on March 8th for a vote.

“I believe this is the right way to provide the residents and youth and families this service, and I think that collaborating with the YMCA for the afterschool program (at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus) has worked out very well thus far,” Tabelski said. “They have been an excellent partner to us in the city.”

Jeff Townsend, district executive director for the GLOW YMCA, said the plan is “to incorporate all of our YMCA services into this new relationship with the city, including swimming at the Y … at our Liberty Center gymnastics center (on Liberty Street near Ficarella’s Pizzeria). We could incorporate gymnastics at the Liberty Center (for Youth) site that we’re currently partnering with the city on for school year programming.”

He said the Liberty Center could host summer programs as well.

“So, the parks could travel throughout the community and participate in some of our other area locations as well as traditional field trips – walking and busing – that’s already in the RFP plan,” he said. “I think that our plan is pretty robust and covering and ensuring that no less services will be provided and probably more services, in fact.”

Jankowski mentioned that other partnerships geared toward youth, such as the National Night Out, already are in place, and Townsend said the YMCA is willing to participate.

Townsend also answered “yes” to a question from Council Member Robert Bialkowski about the possibility of applying for grants to fund additional programs.

Tabelski, responding to a question from Council Member Rose Mary Christian on whether children from outside of the city can participate, said the city receives financial support from the Town of Batavia so its young people – as long as they attend Batavia City or parochial schools – would be able to take part.

Christian said she wouldn’t object to opening the city’s program to youth in surrounding towns and villages in Genesee County as long as the county pays an annual fee.

Following the meeting, Rob Walker, chief executive officer for the GLOW YMCA, said he is excited to partner with the city to deliver summer recreation program at four city parks – John Kennedy, Farrall, Lambert and Williams – and continuing to provide services at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“We bring a tremendous amount of abilities and talents from our organization. We are the leader in youth development and we’re looking forward to a great relationship,” he said.

Walker said the YMCA can offer “enhancements” beyond the scope of the contract because they have a complete facility and the gymnastics center.

“We’re going to take full advantage of all the resources the Y has to enhance what currently has been done in the past," he said.

Healthy Living Campus Advances

Asked about the status of the Healthy Living Campus, Walker said Clark Patterson Lee has been hired as the architect, and the hospital (United Memorial Medical Center) and the Y are moving forward.

“We’ve crossed the $11 million mark in fundraising (the goal is $14 million) and plan on moving forward this fall with construction,” he said. “The community has been amazingly supportive of our project.”

He acknowledged that the coronavirus set the project back a bit.

“Obviously, COVID slowed our efforts down as we had to shift to the needs of the community, which we did, providing emergency childcare and other programs like Y Academy. But we’re back, focused on the project and the goal is to have it open at the end of next year,” he said.

Previous: Interim city manager touts major savings should Council go with Genesee YMCA to provide youth services

ymca_leaders_1.jpg

Photo: Leading the GLOW YMCA's effort to contract with the City of Batavia to provide youth services beginning April 1 are, from left, Charitie Bruning, childcare and camp director; Jeff Townsend, district executive director; Rob Walker, chief executive officer. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

February 19, 2021 - 4:41pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia City Council, Genesee Area Family YMCA.

Tear up the contract with Genesee County and sign a new one with the Genesee Area Family YMCA.

That is what Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes is the best course of action when it comes to providing services to Batavia’s young people, beginning with the start of the 2021-22 fiscal year on April 1.

Tabelski, in memos to City Council, points to significant cost savings by letting YMCA staff run the city youth program and additional savings by ending the intermunicipal agreement with the county that provided an executive director to oversee both county and city youth programs.

Both measures are on the agenda of Monday night’s Conference Meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 o’clock.

Council charged Tabelski, in conjunction with the City Youth Advisory Board, to send out a request for proposal for organizations interested in delivering youth services, specifically at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s Campus at 114 Liberty St. and during a summer recreation program at city playgrounds.

In a memo dated Feb. 15, she said the city received two proposals and one “no” bid. After scoring the two and interviewing YMCA personnel, the selection committee gave the nod to the YMCA, which received the top score.

The proposed agreement with the YMCA, per the memo, stipulates that the YMCA “will provide (services) equivalent or better than the youth services the city has provided in the past, the term … is for four years and matches the lease terms (with City Church) to use the Liberty Center for Youth, and the agreement can be cancelled with 60 days’ notice by any party.”

Tabelski wrote that the city will save $69,639 in expenses for the first year and approximately $261,461 over the life of the agreement, assuming an annual 2.5-percent increase in cost to the city via wage increases, etc.

A chart showing the cost to the city was included in the memo, and reads as follows:

2020-21

  • City provided service, $239,516, Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000. Total, $253,716.

2021-22

  • City provided service, $245,504; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $259,704.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $175,865; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $190,065; Savings, $69,639.

2022-23

  • City provided service, $251,641; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $265,841.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $184,658; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $198,858; Savings, $66,983.

2023-24

  • City provided service, $257,933; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $272,133.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $193,890; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $208.090; Savings, $64,043.

2024-25

  • City provided service, $264,381; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $278,581.
  • YMCA Cost per Agreement, $203,585; Rent, $13,200; Community Garden, $1,000; Total, $217,785; Savings, $60,796.

The total savings from 2021-2025 add up to $261,461.

While the “City provided service” line increases by 2.5 percent each year, the “YMCA Cost per agreement” line increases by 5 percent each year.

When asked why the city would experience a 2.5-percent annual increase in costs and the YMCA contract was going up by 5 percent annually, Tabelski said that is what the YMCA is requesting.

As far as the annual costs for running the two programs, services at the Liberty Center for Youth will cost the city about $35,000 more than what it will pay for summer recreation.

Pact with County No Longer Necessary

Furthermore, Tabelski wrote that the city will save $21,711 over the 2021-22 fiscal year by terminating the agreement with Genesee County – a pact that began in 2011 and enabled one person to direct both the county and city youth programs.

Jocelyn Sikorski resigned as executive director late in 2020, a year that saw the Liberty Center for Youth having to close due to COVID-19 concerns and the city to cut youth program staffing due to budget constraints.

In her memo, Tabelski reported that there would be no need for an agreement with the county if Council approves the YMCA taking over, and that the city manager would oversee the youth services contract.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr., contacted today, said he is pleased to see the cost savings and added that he had confidence in the YMCA, which currently has a shared services agreement with the city at the Liberty Center for Youth.

“As it appears now, it would be very difficult to turn away the large savings for the same service,” he said. “I can’t speak for other Council members, but in my mind, saving a quarter of million dollars over five years and have the Y do it at the same location, is definitely something I have to consider.”

January 29, 2021 - 8:28am

The City of Batavia has received two responses to its request for proposal for agencies interested in providing youth services to the municipality.

Interim Manager Rachael Tabelski, speaking at Thursday night's City of Batavia Youth Board meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, said one firm scored an average of 90 and the other scored an average of 75. Scoring was done by Tabelski, members of the youth board and other persons named to the selection team.

A third firm responded with a no-bid letter stating that it did not wish to bid.

Tabelski shared this information with Youth Board members David Twichell, Paula Fischer and Lydia Schauf and City Council liaison Al McGinnis before continuing with the RFP discussion in executive session – without The Batavian reporter in attendance.

It was expected that the Youth Board would meet in the next week or so to interview one or both of the organizations that indicated responded favorably.

Tabelski did get back to The Batavian following the meeting last night.

“The plan going forward may include interviews (of one or both of the candidates) and for the measure to be put on a Council agenda to explain why the selection committee has rated a particular firm as the highest,” she said.

She would not disclose the names of the two organizations in the running, but said that the agenda of City Council’s Feb. 22 Conference Meeting “potentially” could include the youth services RFP item.

As an historical note, the Liberty Center for Youth opened in August 2019 as a joint venture of the City Youth Bureau and Genesee Area Family YMCA and the subsequent daily operation (before it was closed due to COVID-19) was being split 50/50 by the City Youth Bureau and YMCA.

The RFP was drafted by Jocelyn Sikorski, the former county/city youth bureau executive director, before she left the position to take the executive director job with Cornell Cooperative Extension. It was sent out on Dec. 1 to local organizations that may wish to contract with the city for the 2021-22 fiscal year that begins on April 1.

The city’s primary youth services are an afterschool program at the Liberty Center for Youth on the City Church St. Anthony’s campus and a summer recreation program, but it does participate in other activities, including those coordinated by Genesee County.

Fischer reiterated the youth board’s position that the city’s agreement with the county to share the cost of an executive director should be dissolved in light of Sikorski’s departure, the city’s budget situation and the county possibly looking to make changes to the way it delivers youth services.

It was noted that the county has not billed the city for youth services during the first quarter of this year and that the city has not requested any services from the county.

Twichell asked McGinnis if City Council understood that the youth board recommended ending the contract with the county, but Tabelski said dissolution of contracts was a responsibility of the city manager’s office, and ultimately it would be decided by City Council.

Fischer mentioned that the reason the city contracted with the county because, at the time, it was required by the state.

“Shared services were a big thing being pushed by the governor and it made sense to share that position and get the state funding – and save the city money in the process,” she said. “But in 2017, we no longer needed to have that position to get the state funding.”

In other developments, the board:

  • Welcomed Schauf, a former city youth bureau employee, to the committee for a term extending to Dec. 31, 2023. Schauf said she would be contacting Chelsea Elliott, the county’s deputy youth bureau executive director, about the youth board’s intention to participate in the annual Youth Awards Banquet, usually held in April.
  • Put out a call to enlist other community members to join the committee, noting that its bylaws call for 11 members with no fewer than five seats for adults. Currently, there are only four citizen representatives on the youth board.
  • Scheduled its next regular meeting for 6 p.m. Feb. 16 as long as space at City Hall is available as the consensus was to have an in-person meeting. The agenda for that meeting will include the appointment of officers and a review of the bylaws.

Previously:  Youth Board backs RFP for possible outsourcing, but wants city to keep in-house program 'on the table'

December 3, 2020 - 1:02pm

Services to be provided at the Healthy Living Campus proposed for Downtown Batavia will go hand in hand with services to be offered by medical specialists at Rochester Regional Health’s facility that is planned for Route 98, north of the Thruway bridge.

That’s the assessment of David Ciurzynski of Ciurzynski Consulting LLC, of Attica, who is representing the owners in planning and design for the Healthy Living Campus project, a multimillion dollar joint venture of United Memorial Medical Center and the Genesee Area Family YMCA.

UMMC is part of the RRH system.

On Wednesday, Ciurzynski talked to The Batavian about the status of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative project -- a day after RRH announced that it is seeking to build a four-story, 140,000-square-foot office building on Route 98 in the Town of Batavia, across the road from Federal Drive and near Call Parkway.

“What Rochester Regional Health is doing is giving the (Batavia area) complementary services,” Ciurzynski said, noting that his team is in the process of revising the design of the downtown building. “They’re looking to make sure it has all of the right services in place to accommodate the community.”

Ciurzynski said the two-story Healthy Living Campus facility will replace the current YMCA at Main and Bank streets, and will feature 54,000 square feet of space for YMCA amenities such as gymnasium, pool, locker rooms, multipurpose rooms, exercise rooms and a community living (common) area.

It also will have 10,000 square feet for the hospital’s Healthy Living (diabetes awareness and education) program as well as a medical clinic on the second floor as a teaching unit for medical residents, and space for RRH’s Baby Café, a breastfeeding program run by lactation specialists who offer education and support to any pregnant woman or breastfeeding mom in the community at no charge.

“It’s all about having multiple access points (to health and wellness),” he said. “Part of the Downtown community wants services that are within walking distance, so that’s what this will be able to provide. The one near the Thruway will be able to service a wider region – with a variety of specialists.”

UMMC President Dan Ireland said that specifics regarding what practices will be in the Town of Batavia building will be revealed as the project progresses.

Ciurzynski called the Healthy Living Campus “the hub of the community,” with a total investment expected to approach $30 million.

The YMCA part of the proposal, estimated at $22.5 million including design fees, has received a DRI award of $4,075,000. The hospital piece is close to $10 million, Ciurzynski said, and has received a Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program II grant from the Department of Health for $7.5 million.

“We’re looking at the Healthy Living Campus as being that entire block – between Main Street and Washington Avenue, with the Jerome Center and everything (from Wiard Street west),” he said. “We’re trying to make everything complementary and symbiotic among all the buildings.”

The campus will cover around 15 to 20 acres in the heart of Batavia and will have ample parking and greenspace, Ciurzynski said.

“There so many wonderful services there between the Office for the Aging, the (Jerome Apartments) senior residency, YMCA and urgent care,” he said. “We will be taking down the boiler house and smokestack (behind the Jerome Center at 16 Bank St.) and making parking area and greenspace. We’re trying to find a way to make that the centerpiece of the community.”

Ciurzynski said he hopes to break ground next fall and see it through to completion by the end of 2022.

As far as the Office for the Aging is concerned, he said it will stay at its current location on Bank Street after separation from the YMCA building that will be demolished. He did say that the OFA could move into an expanded part of the new building in the future.

CPL of Rochester (formerly Clark Patterson Lee) has been selected as the architect, picking up where Gro Development LLC, a national company that designs YMCAs and other community-based facilities, left off.

November 5, 2020 - 3:45pm

Although Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes the Genesee Area Family YMCA could play a significant role in the future of youth services in Batavia -- enabling the city to cut ties with Genesee County to fund a youth bureau executive director, an advisory group linked to the city isn’t convinced that is the best way to proceed.

A resolution to terminate the county’s youth bureau operating agreement with the city, a contract that calls for partial payment of the salary of Jocelyn Sikorski, Genesee/Orleans and City Youth Bureau executive director, came before two Genesee County Legislature committees this week.

On Monday, the Human Services Committee approved the measure, sending it to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for a final vote before being forwarded to the full legislature for ratification.

Ways & Means decided to table the resolution, however, minutes after a letter from the City Youth Board opposing the dissolution of the inter-municipal agreement found its way onto The Batavian and, likely, into the hands of Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg.

No one on the committee would comment when asked why the resolution was being tabled, but it is clear that the Youth Board’s opposition as well as the committee’s desire to let the city make the first move are the major reasons.

As a result:

  • The county is stuck in a holding pattern as the city leaders work through their differences. All indications point to a public discussion in some form or another at the City Council Business Meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday.
  • Tabelski is saying that there was no indication of any disagreement from the Youth Board with her proposal for the city to go in a different direction – looking at the YMCA to provide youth services -- and cut the $20,000 annual expense to help fund the executive director’s position.
  • The City Youth Board, in its letter, contends that it was not afforded an opportunity “to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager … prior to her decision.”

County Manager Matt Landers said he is dismayed over the situation.

“With any board or organization that dedicates so much time toward improving the community, it is obviously not a good thing to read the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of such a board,” he said. “As far as the county’s perspective, we’re a partner with the city and we certainly want to assist the city in meeting their needs with the youth. But at this point in time, it is important that we let the city decide how they want to move forward and then we can react accordingly.”

Landers said he and the legislature agree that the city should take the lead in this matter.

“We kind of put it in their hands … instead of the county going out in front and dissolving a contract. If it’s something the city really wants to do, then that’s something that they can lead out with first.”

He also said that it could be the right time to assess the agreement and explore other options.

Landers: Time for Reevaluation?

“At the end of the day, the relationship that we had with the city for a youth director was a good idea – and it was something put in place before my time as county manager, but it was a way to share services,” he said. “With any kind of agreement, you evaluate and see if there’s a different way to do it.”

Tabelski said she articulated a “different way” during an Oct. 27 meeting with the Youth Board, whose members are Dave Twichell, president; Paula Fischer, Nick Russo, Kathryn Fitzpatrick and Kristen Gloskowski. Al McGinnis serves as the City Council liaison.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with the Youth Board to talk about the situation the city finds itself in regarding budgeting amid COVID in our current budget year, the programming that we weren’t able to perform over the summer – summer recreation – and the strategic hiring freeze at the city,” Tabelski said. “We talked about what the upcoming budget for the city was shaping up to be, which is early in the budget process.”

Tabelski said she outlined big ticket items for which the city is responsible, such as snowplowing, public works, leaf collection, yard waste services, and police and fire response, and other services such as youth programs, economic development, contracting for the operation of the Falleti Ice Arena and maintaining athletic fields (including Dwyer Stadium) for residents to utilize.

“While Council won’t look at the budget until January, right now department heads are working with vendors on pricing and setting up contracts for services with the goal of providing a budget to City Council that remains within the tax cap,” she advised. “We are fiscally responsible to the citizens of the City of Batavia while still providing services that we know residents demand from the city.”

She said financial constraints and the impact of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 summer recreation program and the ongoing closure of the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool location on Liberty Street.

Unable to Reopen Youth Center Yet

“The ability to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth is still taking time to make sure protocols are in place, barriers put up and bringing back staff. So right now, the YMCA and the city share staffing requirements for the Liberty Center for Youth to open,” she said.

Since the city has not been able to hire part-time employees (due to the hiring freeze), a discussion with the county ensued, leading to a proposal to terminate the joint agreement for youth bureau supervision.

“Knowing what our budget looks like for next year, I said that we were willing to look at that and the goal was to have the program coordinator and the assistant city manager, which is myself, take on any responsibilities needed to get the youth programs up and running, and to continue,” Tabelski said.

Currently, the city is in the midst of a job search for a permanent manager – Tabelski was hired last year as the assistant manager – and also has no youth program coordinator as Lydia Schauf resigned that position to accept another job.

“We were left basically with the commitment from the Y to help reopen the center but with no employees available to staff it,” she said.

Tabelski said she explained this to the Youth Board, emphasizing that it “was time to look at it to understand what the city might be able to do in an effort to save money and deliver the programs at the same level to the residents and potentially use the YMCA as part of the strategy that I am looking into.”

Tabelski Promotes Pact with YMCA

She said she has a high regard for the YMCA, calling it a “professional organization that has an expertise in providing recreational services in our community.”

“In my mind, it makes sense for us to look at this as a broader partnership,” she said, noting that she has kept City Council informed of her activities in relation to youth services. “This could be a huge win for the YMCA and the city.”

Tabelski said she is negotiating with the YMCA to gauge its “capacity and ability” to provide afterschool and summer recreation services for the city’s youth, and added that other communities, including Perry and Geneseo, contract with the YMCA to provide their summer programming.

She said she left the door open for City Youth Board members to contact her, Sikorski or McGinnis but, to her knowledge, that has not been done. She also said that she was not informed that a letter would be released to the media.

“At the meeting, the youth board members indicated they understood the financial hardship that the city was in, they gave examples of their workplaces having to cut and lay off people, and they indicated a willingness to continue to be involved in youth programming and services and make sure those programs continue,” Tabelski said.

The interim city manager is hopeful the city would be able to enhance its youth services by contracting with the YMCA. She also defended her stance.

“I think it is incumbent upon a good manager to look at every piece of the organization and especially when we’re faced with challenges such as COVID and employee shifting,” she said. “I guess it was a perfect storm to examine how we deliver this service and see if there was an agency, such as the YMCA, that would be more capable, have more capacity and more resources to actually deliver the program and possibly enhance that program on behalf of the city.”

Tabelski said the goal is to continue to provide youth services at no or at a minimal charge – especially for summer recreation – and is convinced there are “multiple ways that can be negotiated to do that.”

“Right now, we have a contract with City Church for the St. Anthony’s building for the Liberty Center for Youth that runs another four years,” she said. “I think that as we do some long-term planning, we certainly want to look at the interaction between the current site for afterschool and what potential there might be for the (YMCA) Healthy Living campus (one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects).”

Youth Board Reacts to 'Done Deal'

Fischer, responding this afternoon to emailed questions after talking with Twichell, said the City Youth Board’s intention was to send the letter with their concerns to City Council, but when The Batavian ran a story from the Human Services Committee meeting, it felt it was necessary to inform the public of what seemed to be a certainty.

“Once the information from the October 27th meeting was digested, it was apparent that the proposed changes to youth services would affect the quality of youth programming,” she said. “Many of the comments made by Rachel Tabelski and Jocelyn Sikorski were concerning. Ms. Tabelski was not aware of the differences between the County Youth Services and the City Youth Services. The City Youth Bureau provides direct youth programming and the County Youth Bureau does not.

“Despite the resignation of the only full-time city youth bureau employee, Ms. Sikorski was still in favor of abandoning the city program with no experienced staff remaining by ending the contract between the City and County with a year remaining. Also, Ms. Tabelski’s comment in the article, 'The city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – to the extent we that we can' was also alarming."

Fischer said the youth board did not contact Tabelski or Sikorski before sending the letter since the board is appointed by City Council and that Tabelski and Sikorski are employees and not voting members of the board.

As far as the Oct. 27 meeting is concerned, Fischer’s position is that Tabelski did receive comments from the board “regarding the outsourcing and charging for youth programming.”

“It was apparent that Ms. Sikorski had already went to the legislature and City Council with the proposal and was presented as a done deal,” she said. “When asked who would run the youth programming, the interim city manager shrugged her shoulders and said the assistant city manager, and the board asked who that would be and she said ‘me’. So, it was apparent that this was not well thought out after the resignation of the youth bureau coordinator. This sent up red flags that the youth programming was being phased out.”

The City Youth Board also does not agree with Tabelski’s plan to contract with the YMCA.

“The Board feels this would not be in the best interest of city youth,” Fischer said, adding that youth board members should be brought into the decision-making process.

“We are an advisory board. I would hope City Council would engage the City Youth Board on all matters going forward during these trying times,” she said. “The board would like to see services at the Liberty Center for Youth and the Summer Recreation Program resume once it is safe. These valuable services are less than 1 percent of the city’s budget.”

July 30, 2020 - 6:21pm

Update: July 31, 1 p.m. -- Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell responded to Amy Hathaway's comments regarding the lack of county funding for children of families receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services. Gsell's statement is at the bottom of this story.

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With the COVID-19 pandemic showing few signs of letting up and with some school districts making plans to reopen with both in-school and at-home learning, day care center operators are facing new challenges as they strive to keep their businesses afloat.

The Batavian reached out to several child care centers in Genesee County and was met with concerns over issues such as hygiene and social distancing, Payroll Protection Program loans, school day schedules and teaching requirements, and the lack of Genesee County’s support for lower-income families in need of day care services.

At Kelly’s Imagination Station, which has three locations in Genesee County and three in Erie County, activity is picking up – although the Robert Morris branch on Union Street in Batavia is temporarily closed.

However, at Little Guppies Childcare in Bergen and Precious Play Care in Darien Center, the recent going has been rough for a variety of reasons.

The Genesee Community College Association Child Care Center also has been closed since mid-March (once classes were canceled due to the coronavirus) but will be opening in about three weeks.

And at the Genesee Area YMCA, officials said they currently are offering a summer camp for families needing child care, but aren’t sure what will be available going forward.

KELLY’S IMAGINATION STATION

Enrollment is nearly at capacity at the facility at 5079 Clinton Street Road, said director Jessie Steffenilla, adding that Kelly’s took over the former Grandma’s Loving Care in May 2019.

“We’re pretty much a full house, with over 100 kids (the maximum is 112) enrolled at this location,” she said. “As far as staffing, we still have from my location five people that are furloughed but probably by September, they all will be back and we may even add staff.”

Steffenilla said her company accepts children from 6 weeks to 12 years old and the ratio of staff to children ranges from 1:4 in the infant classroom to 1:10 for school-age attendees. All of the classrooms typically have two teachers, she said.

Kelly’s Imagination Station has set up a system for families of school-age children in the Batavia City School District to provide a learning environment, Steffenilla said. The Batavia district announced it is looking to go with a “hybrid” schedule of two days in school and three days out of school for most of its students.

“We are hiring bachelor degree teachers to run our school-age classrooms at all of our locations so they can do literacy throughout the day, and provide open art and gym with our outdoor playground,” she said. “And we will have instruction time, with the availability to get the kids on their Zoom meetings with Wi-Fi here -- that we would be willing to upgrade if needed.”

As with most child care businesses, Kelly’s provides lunch, breakfast and snacks – included in the tuition cost.

All three Genesee County sites have protocols in place to deal with COVID-19, Steffenilla said. They include: hand sanitizing upon entry into the vestibule; teachers wearing masks at all times when they’re in the classrooms with children; frequent hand washing; maximum group sizes of no more than 15; sending kids home if they have temperatures over 100; and visitors having to answer questions pertaining to the coronavirus.

Steffenilla said there have been no cases of the virus at any of their locations. Her sister, Emilie, runs the center on Tountas Avenue in the Village of Le Roy, which currently is serving about 40 children (out of a maximum of about 70).

Jessie Steffenilla said the Robert Morris site is expected to reopen on Aug. 17. She said it had closed because many families, due to the pandemic, were not in need of child care, while those that did, moved their kids over to Clinton Street Road.

LITTLE GUPPIES CHILDCARE

Amy Hathaway, owner of Little Guppies Childcare on Rochester Street in Bergen for the past nine years, said a decision by the Genesee County Department of Social Services to not issue DSS payments to daycare providers has put her in a real bind.

“In my center, I had every family except the families that needed DSS to help them with child care costs pay full tuition even though their child wasn't here,” she said. “It was an option for Genesee County to pay providers, but they chose not to, although Erie County did pay their providers. I lost a thousand dollars a week because of this.”

Hathaway said she accepted these students because she wanted “to provide a great program to families that might otherwise not have access to one.”

“Instead of helping child care centers stay in business, they took funding from us,” she said, providing a letter from DSS that stated the county commissioner and director of financial services decided “to waive the family share and to give additional time to families who were having to recertify for daycare assistance during the pandemic.”

Hathaway said she was able to stay open only because of a Payroll Protection Program loan.

“It is upsetting because this decision could have closed my doors,” she said. “I am still struggling but I have had a few of the DSS kids return to care. At a time when child care is so crucial. this type of decision making is unacceptable.”

Currently, her staff of eight is taking care of about 40 children (maximum is 45).

She said she is working with parents to allow students to do their school work online at the center, with her staff providing educational assistance in a situation where the student’s particular school has opted for a virtual or hybrid schedule.

“We’re just hoping that (federal) aid starts picking up because I know everyone is looking to try to help child care, and it’s just a bummer that our county didn’t help us,” she offered. “I have been doing a lot of tours, and see that a lot of daycare centers are closing because I would imagine, they’re not getting payments.”

Hathaway said that a nearby child care center – All Natural Kids – recently closed.

PRECIOUS PLAY CARE

At Precious Play Care on Broadway Road in Darien Center, owner Kim Alvord said business has decreased by 75 percent and currently the center is functioning at about 30 percent of its normal capacity.

“We have 64 children enrolled, but today there are 20,” she said, explaining that the decline is partly because of COVID restrictions but mostly because both parents have yet to return to work.

Operating for 28 years, Alvord said the center services people from well beyond Genesee County.

“We have (preschool) children from all over depending upon people’s way (route) to work,” she said. “We have people from Royalton, but they work in Alden and some people who work in Brockport but live in Erie County. They bring their kids here because we’re on the way.”

Alvord said her center’s school students’ program is only for holidays and before and after school.

“They take the bus from the child care center to school and back here after school,” she said. “We’re not set up for students all year as we do not have internet; we’re not teachers.”

She said she is thankful that she qualified for PPP and Small Business Administration loans, but is worried that she may have to pay the SBA loan back.

“I haven’t found out the details yet,” she said, noting that she has 12 employees to consider. “I’m trying to keep my doors open for people. During the whole thing from March, we had about 16 kids – children of essential workers. It will take a couple of years to catch up for sure.”

GCC ASSOCIATION CHILD CARE

Closed in March due to low enrollment, the Genesee Community College Child Care Center will reopen on Aug. 24, placing a priority on serving children of its students but also for faculty and community residents, Director Kayleen McEwan said.

“We accept children from 6 weeks to 5 years old, preschoolers, and we have space available,” McEwan said, adding that she can accommodate 50 children per day. “It’s much lower at this time because of the virus.”

McEwan said child care centers already have strict health and safety guidelines in place, meeting the Centers for Disease Control guidelines. “We’re constantly sanitizing and cleaning,” she said.

She said the center employs 10 full-time teachers who “all are eager to get back to work.”

GENESEE AREA FAMILY YMCA

Jeff Townsend, district executive director, said employees there are taking a wait-and-see approach as school is about to restart.

“At this point, the YMCA intends to offer child care this coming fall if permitted by the governor’s mandates to schools and within the approved regulations from OCFS (Office of Children and Family Services), the state regulatory agency for child care,” he said. “Unfortunately, at this time, we are in the waiting game for those decisions to be made.”

Townsend said that once final decisions are made, the YMCA will let people know what child care offerings it can provide in the districts it serves.

Normally, the YMCA offers its day camp before and after school and a “vacation fun club” for days when school is not in session.

The director of the Agri-Business Child Development on Brooklyn Avenue in Batavia did not return an email seeking comment.

--------------

From County Manager Jay Gsell:

Genesee County DSS did under NYS Department of Health guidance grant two waivers for day care center/DSS eligible children attendance in regard to eligibility deadline extension and the family share contribution which is more than some other local rural county DSS agencies did. In our Family services plan that NYS approves, waiver options like what Monroe or Erie did on payments without attendance was also an option but our Genesee County DSS didn’t have any supplemental funding like Erie and Monroe got from the federal CARES Act 1/2 to the tune of over $100 million each, which only five to six NYS counties with populations over 500,000 were eligible for and Community Development Block Grant entitlement cities like Buffalo and Rochester.

September 24, 2018 - 9:53pm

sikorski_1.jpg

Batavia City Council is prepared to enter into a partnership to develop Teen City, an afterschool program for kids from the ages of 9 to 16 to be housed at the City Church-owned St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street.

The board, at its Conference meeting tonight at City Centre Council Chambers, reacted positively to a presentation by Jocelyn Sikorski, executive director of the City and Genesee County youth bureaus, by agreeing to let her and Acting City Manager Matt Worth continue their negotiations with City Church to move the City Youth Bureau from its present MacArthur Drive location.

“(The former St. Anthony’s School) gives us much more space than we could have ever imagined,” Sikorski said, explaining that the youth bureau staff will be working with the Genesee Area Family YMCA to provide a setting that “will incorporate active play, educational space, and health and wellness while fostering community service.”

Sikorski (in photo above) said St. Anthony’s would offer a classroom/tech room, recreation room, gaming room, cafeteria, kitchen and full gymnasium during program hours, which are set at 2:30 to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday during the school year and 1 to 6 p.m. during the summer.

The youth bureau and YMCA have secured more than $110,000 thus far, she said, with the United Way of Genesee County pledging $50,000 for renovations and start-up and an additional $10,000 annually for five years to maintain the program.

Bullet Aid ($30,000), Greater Rochester Health Foundation ($17,600), Ralph Wilson Legacy Funds ($11,000) and Rotary Club of Batavia ($5,000) also are supporting the project, Sikorski said.

The plan is contingent upon the facility being rezoned from residential to commercial, a process that has moved along and will be determined by a vote of the City Planning & Development Committee.

Other things that need to be done before the program starts include information technology upgrades, renovations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and a security policy to be “modeled after the Batavia City School District’s,” Sikorski said.

City officials have begun to talk about a lease agreement with City Church, but no terms have been reached yet, Worth said.

 “We haven’t really had that defined yet. We’ve had very front-end conversations on how the structure might be, but the actual financial parts of it have not been nailed down yet to give specific numbers,” Worth said, adding that necessary investments by City Church will weigh into the terms.

The ultimate goal, he said, “is for it to be a net-zero cost (to the City) compared to how the youth bureau is being operated now.”

Worth said that if the City School District opts to use the existing Youth Bureau, leasing terms for that site would be negotiated.

“(The district) could take over the utilities, something like that,” he said. “But that’s too much detail from where we are at the moment. Hopefully, in a month from now I would have a better answer.”

Council Member John Canale said his idea would be to "convert it (the current Youth Bureau) back to a pool house and put the (City) pool back in there."

Sikorski said the timeline is one “you may call ambitious” as they hope to have Teen City opened by January.

In other action, Council moved the following measures to its Business meeting on Oct. 9:

-- A resolution to continue stipends above and beyond their normal salaries to Worth, James Ficarella, Ray Tourt and Lisa Neary through the pay period ending Jan. 4. All four have taken on additional duties during the months the City has been without a manager or assistant manager.

Worth would continue to be paid a stipend of $1,000 per month, while Ficarella (superintendent of water and wastewater), Tourt (superintendent of maintenance) and Neary (deputy director of finance) would keep getting a $750 stipend.

Council Member Robert Bialkowski called their effort “a bargain.”

“Since we haven’t had a manager or assistant manager, it really isn’t costing the city taxpayers,” he said.

His colleague, Rose Mary Christian, however, looked at the request differently, saying she opposed extending the stipends past October – the month that new manager, Martin Moore, assumes his duties.

She was the only one to oppose the extension as the rest of the group agreed that two additional months would be needed to ensure a successful transition.

-- Two resolutions dealing with City Fire Department programs – the implementation of an external Emergency Medical Technician class to be offered on an annual basis and the acceptance of a $1,500 state grant to continue a child safety seat initiative.

Fire Chief Stefano Napolitano said there about 27 people who wish to take the class, which is designed to train citizens interested in becoming EMTs for their own personal benefit as well as those who offer their services to other fire, rescue or Emergency Medical Service agency.

Napolitano requested a budget transfer of $15,000 to deliver the class, and said he expects that tuition fees will return that amount and likely $4,000 more back to the City.

-- A resolution to solicit bids to repair the silo entries of the City Centre Mall and segments of the roof near Sunny’s Restaurant and the hallway adjacent to City Hall.

The repairs are part of the settlement agreement between the City and Mall Merchants Association.

“These two areas (of the roof) are where the vast majority of the proverbial buckets are sitting,” Worth said.

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