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September 4, 2016 - 8:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in accidents, Oakfield, news.

A male in his 40s is injured following an ATV accident at 3725 Maltby Road in Oakfield, well off the main roadway. He reportedly has a head injury, was briefly unconscious, and is bleeding due to a "severe laceration of his right ear." Mercy Flight is on ground standby. Oakfield fire and Mercy medics are responding. The location is between Weatherwax and Fisher roads.

September 3, 2016 - 8:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, news.

City police are responding to Union Street for a complaint of "large kids playing football in the street."

September 3, 2016 - 3:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sweet Pea's Cupcakery, batavia, business, news, Batavia PD.

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The day in the life of a police officer isn't always just about seeing bad people do bad things, they also see good people doing good things. And the folks at Sweet Pea's Cupcakery Cafe on Jackson Street wanted to provide a way for Batavia PD officers to reward the people they come across who do the little things to help make the community better. They made up "Random Act of Cupcake" cards for police officers to hand out to people they come across doing good things.

The cards read, "You've been caught doing good! Enjoy a free cupcake or cookie."

Pictured Lyndsey, from Sweet Pea's, and Officer Mitchell Cowen, who helped coordinate the effort with Batavia PD.

September 3, 2016 - 2:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, news.
      Nicholas Mruczek

The man who shot and killed an Alexander High School graduate last year entered a guilty plea and will serve at least 45 years in prison.

Zachary Ludwig was sentenced in West Chester, Pa., on Friday.

Ludwig admitted to buying an unregistered shotgun, cutting its barrel down to 12 inches and then luring Nichols Mruczek out of his apartment and firing the gun at point-blank range.

Ludwig was angry because Mruczek was in a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

Reporter Michael P. Rellahan was in court Friday for the hearing and published a detailed account of the proceedings for the Phoenix Reporter. 

Mruczek's parents and brother spoke in court about the devastating loss their family suffered.

“He was one in a million,” said his mother, Dawn Werner, who had traveled from New York to attend the hearing, as had the others. “He had a smile that would light up a room, and he learned at a young age that if he flashed that smile he could melt your heart."

The prosecution consulted the family prior to the plea deal and Nick's brother Justin acknowledged that it would be impossible to fashion a deal that would bring his brother back.

“I wish I could honestly say and think that justice has been served but there is no amount of jail time that can bring back such a beautiful, fun-loving life like my brother’s," Justin said.

Nick's father, Pat Mruczek, recalled how he spoke to his son daily and his mobile phone has become a difficult reminder of what he's lost.

“My cell phone only reminds me of the death of my son," Pat Mruczek said. "How I hate my phone. If it was not for all the pictures (of Mruczek) I have on it I would have thrown it away long ago.

“A big part of my life is gone and I will never get that back,” he added.

Ludwig said he deeply regrets his crime.

“Every day I wish I could bring Mruczek back," Ludwig said. "I can never forgive myself for what I’ve done. I cannot apologize enough.

“I understand if you think I am a monster,” Ludwig added. “I’d have to agree with you.”

Ludwig, who could have received a life prison sentence if convicted by a jury, admitted to third-degree murder, which carried a maximum penalty of 20 to 40 years in prison. However, he was given a 45-90 year sentence because he also entered guilty pleas to attempted burglary, terroristic threats, prohibited offensive weapons, recklessly endangering another person and possession of instruments of a crime.

The 23-year-old Ludwig was offered the plea deal, and the chance to some day get out of prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei, because of his contrition, lack of prior criminal record and relatively young age.

September 3, 2016 - 1:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in BID, batavia, business, news.

Laurie Oltramari, executive director of the Batavia Improvement District, turned in her letter of resignation this week.

BID president Victor Gautieri confirmed the resignation and said the board would meet in the coming week to decide what to do next. 

Oltramari led the organization for a year. 

Gautieri declined further comment.

September 3, 2016 - 12:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in football, sports, news, batavia, Batavia HS.

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The Batavia Blue Devils, 2016 edition, quietly took apart Greece Olympia/Odyssey on Woodward Field on Friday night to the point that the Spartans seems to have lost their fight by the third quarter.

It's as if the team that has won two consecutive Section V titles hasn't missed a beat. In fact, the win was the 20th straight for the program against a Section V opponent.

The final score was 39-0.

"I'm very pleased because going into the game I wasn't sure what we had," said Head Coach Brennan Briggs. "I wasn't sure how we would respond to things and how we were going to go when we got hit in the mouth. But these guys came out and proved that they bought in and they’re a tough group of kids and we’ve got some playmakers out there. I’m very excited for what they can do from here."

This edition slots Jerry Reinhart and QB1 and, Ray Leach and Codie Dioguardi in the backfield, Chandler Baker, Andrew Mruczek and Eric Davis at wideouts and a defense that includes Baker, Mruczek, Taiyo Iburi-Bethel, Anthony Ray and Jzon Richardson.

Those are not names that popped up in many headlines over the past two championship seasons, but they're all players poised to make an impact, if one game is any indication, in 2016.

Reinhart certainly has a lot of confidence in his teammates.

"Everybody asked me, they all asked me, 'how are you guys going to be this year?' and I was like, 'come to the first game and find out,' " Reinhart said. "I was very positive about our team. In the off-season, I thought we were going do great."

Briggs is impressed with the quiet leadership Reinhart has brought to the team, replacing Andrew Mruczek's older brother, Greg, at quarterback.

"Greg was more rah-rah and everything and great about it," Briggs said. "Jerry is more reserved, but he goes out there and gets the job done. He's a leader. He's a great leader. You saw, he made some big plays. He's not afraid to tuck it and run and he kept us together. I'm proud of him. He did a great job."

Friday was also a chance for Andrew to move out from under the shadow of his older brother, and in a big way, and significantly with a key interception in the first quarter.

"I think the biggest turning point in that game was Andrew Mruczek's interception," Briggs said. "They had a drive going, I think 10-plus plays, and we always say a nine-plus play drive is devastating for a defense and we were starting to feel it and all the sudden, number 21 comes in and makes a huge play for us. I’m happy for him because he’s been a trooper and he’s been working his butt off and he’s just silently been doing it."

Mruczek exemplifies the quiet confidence that characterizes the team.

"I think people are going to realize, Batavia football is here to stay and we're going to keep working hard every day," Mruczek said.

The offense was good, the defense was good, but special teams really stepped it up Friday night.

Richardson, a linebacker on defense, handles kickoffs, extra points and field goals. On kickoffs Friday, he consistently put the ball past the 10-yard line, and with defenders hustling down the field, the Spartans were routinely starting drives with their backs to the wall.

"That is so big for our team," Briggs said. "From the standpoint of having just great energy and momentum, they did a fantastic job for us and special teams cannot be overlooked because field position is huge in football games."

Briggs praised the work of special teams coach Ben Buchholz in motivating the players and getting each to do their part to plug holes and cut lanes, and John Garlock has been applying those lessons well, Briggs said.

"Johnny Garlock has been doing it for us for three years and he goes down like a missile," Briggs said. "He’s long snapper on punts and the first guy down there and on kickoff coverage, he makes the plays."

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To purchase prints, click here.

September 3, 2016 - 11:04am
posted by Billie Owens in fire, batavia, news.

A residential structure fire is reported downstairs at 136 Pearl St. in Batavia. A person is reportedly burned. City fire and Mercy medics are responding.

UPDATE 11:05 a.m.: Fire command on scene confirms a fire at a two and a half story building. A child has second-degree burns on the left shoulder area.

UPDATE 11:09 p.m.: The fire was small in nature -- in a stairwell -- and is reported to be out. Streets are closed at Pearl and Roosevelt and Pearl and Brooklyn. A second ambulance is called for a subject suffering from smoke inhalation.

UPDATE 11:33 a.m.: Fire Capt. Bob Fix said the fire appears to be accidental in nature and was out when firefighters arrived. A boy about 6 or 7 years old has a shoulder burn and is being transported to Strong Memorial Hospital. A police investigator will interview people about the fire. "It was a little spot fire right inside the door, in the stairwell, about three steps up."

September 3, 2016 - 9:00am
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, news.

Peter S. Hawkins, 49, of A Street, Cayuga Village, Niagara Falls, is charged with second-degree harassment and disorderly conduct. He was arrested at 12:05 a.m. on Sept. 1 after he allegedly got into a physical altercation with a male nurse and then barricaded himself in an exam room inside the Emergency Room at UMMC. He subsequently allegedly attempted to fight Batavia police officers who responded to the scene. He was issued two appearance tickets and released. He is due in City Court at 1 p.m. on Sept. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Darryle Streeter, assisted by Officer Peter Flanagan.

Faith L. Finnin, 22, of State Street Road, Batavia, is charged with tattooing a child less than 18 years of age. Finnin was arrested at noon on Aug. 23 following an investigation into an allegation that a child less than 18 was tattooed by Finnin on Raymond Avenue in Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in City Court at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, to answer the charge. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Kevin DeFelice.

Santiago J. Qumane, 18, of Walnut Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. He was arrested at 11:21 a.m. on Sept. 2 following a home visit from Genesee County Probation during which he was allegedly found to be in possession of marijuana. He was issued an appearance ticket and released. He is due in City Court on Sept. 6. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Marc Lawrence, assisted by Officer Frank Klimjack.

September 2, 2016 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Oakfield, news.
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      Serena Snyder

A 31-year-old Oakfield resident has been accused of smuggling suboxone and heroin into the Genesee County Jail and delivering them to her husband, who is an inmate.

Serena L. Snyder is accused of bringing the narcotics to Cody E. Snyder, 25.

Serena Snyder was allegedly found possession of heroin while at the jail on a visitation to her husband.

The Local Drug Task Force handled the investigation. Agents concluded Serena Snyder had allegedly delivered drugs to her husband on two prior occasions.

Task Force members, along with Deputy Chris Erion and K-9 Destro searched Serena Snyder's car and allegedly found heroin and crack cocaine. 

Serena Snyder was charged with attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance, 3rd, criminal sale of a controlled substance, 4th, two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 5th, conspiracy, 4th, promoting prison contraband, 1st, and two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th.

Cody Snyder was charged with conspiracy, 4th.

Serena Snyder was arraigned in City Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

September 1, 2016 - 10:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, agricultre, Bethany, news.

We just received this message:

There are 7 white sheep wandering around lost in the Bethany area after escaping through an open gate. Last sighted on a trail cam near Cackner Rd. and Bethany Center Rd. Please contact Barbara Hollands 585-734-2236 if you see them. They are a bit shy of people but like grain and will come to someone shaking a bucket of grain.

UPDATE Friday, 10:23 a.m.: Thanks to the help of neighbor Pat Pietrzykowski, all seven sheep have been located, rounded up and returned home, where they are safe and sound.

September 1, 2016 - 5:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in missing pet, animal rescue, news, alexander.

This cat is named Ferdy. Ferdy is missing. He is visiting relatives on Brookville Road in Alexander, in the Old Creek Road area, while his mommy is in the hospital.

As you can see, he is a very large, long-haired orange and white male. Would you believe at times, as depicted here, he is not particularly motivated?

But, then again, freedom can be a powerful motivator.

Perhaps we'll never know if he had been hatching plans to leave captivity and for how long.

What it known is that, according to his temporary nanny Elizabeth Crittenden, "he popped the screen out of the window and escaped," in the predawn hours -- between 2 and 6 a.m. -- Wednesday.

Stealthily, in the dead of night, when all were sleeping soundly. This one is clever. Either that, or Ferdy clumsily fell to earth while lolling around on the window sill. He left, but since this is not his regular stomping grounds, he may not be familiar with the lay of the land and how to return, says a worried Crittenden.

The timing is suspect; the feline may have festive plans afoot for Labor Day Weekend. (An anonymous source told The Batavian he has a reputation as a bit of a bon vivant.) 

Crittenden and her kin are hoping you'll report him without hestitation if you should spot him in your environs. This would foil Ferdy's fun, but he and his family and caretakers will be the better for it.

Crittenden's number is 585-590-2657.

UPDATE Sept. 2: At about 10:30 last night, Crittenden says "He just showed up on the back deck as casual as ever!" No fanfare, no "Burning Man" blowout for Labor Day, no tearjerker rescue story. Just chillin' in Alexander and wondering why all the fuss...

September 1, 2016 - 5:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, bergen, news.

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A reader submitted this photo of a tractor-trailer that went off the around 4:20 p.m. on Bergen Road. No injuries reported.

September 1, 2016 - 2:40pm

Press release:

As summer winds down and we head into fall, there are still three more “Garden Talk” programs this year!

Taught by Master Gardeners, programs will be held once a month, during the “lunch hour” from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. Bring your lunch to the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office (420 E. Main St., Batavia) and join us. This series is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.

Sept. 6 will be a follow up to our May herb program. After growing your herbs all summer, what can you do with them now? We’ll give you some ideas of things you can use your herbs for.

On Oct. 4, get ready to feed your backyard birds as we’ll offer tips and answer questions about Winter Bird Feeding.

Nov. 1 will be a demonstration on how to make a beautiful holiday swag to decorate your home.

Need a Garden Talk schedule? Contact Brandie at 585-343-3040, ext. 101.

Future topics and other Master Gardener events will be posted on the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County website at http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/ and also on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CCEofGenesee.

September 1, 2016 - 2:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, news, corfu, byron.

Jonathan David Knauss, 22, of Depot Street, Corfu, is charged with sixth-degree conspiracy. He was arrested at 9 a.m. on Aug. 29 at the Genesee County Jail on West Main Street in Batavia for allegedly conspiring with at least one other person to commit a crime at the jail while being housed there. He was due in City Court this morning to answer the charge. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Parker, assisted by Genesee County Jail personnel.

Emily Elizabeth Dubois, 19, of Batavia Byron Road, Byron, is charged with sixth-degree conspiracy. She was arrested at 11:34 a.m. on Aug. 27 at the Genesee County Jail on West Main Street in Batavia for allegedly conspiring with an inmate to have another inmate commit a crime. She is due in City Court on Sept. 22 to answer the charge. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Parker, assisted by Genesee County Jail personnel.

A 17-year-old resident of South Main Street, Batavia, is charged with sixth-degree conspiracy. The subject was arrested at 9 a.m. on Aug. 29 at the Genesee County Jail on West Main Street in Batavia for allegedly conspiring with at least one other person to commit a crime at the jail while being housed there. The case was handled by Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Parker, assisted by Genesee County Jail personnel.

September 1, 2016 - 1:47pm
posted by Billie Owens in elba, Elba Central School, elba hall of fame, news.

Submitted photos.

Press release:

The 2nd annual Elba Hall of Fame Banquet will be held on Sept. 24th at Batavia Downs. Social hour starts at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7.

The 2016 Hall of Fame class inductees are Stan Sherwood, Donald Ames and Robert Norton.

Stan Sherwood:

Sherwood was a Physical Education and Health teacher as well as a coach at Elba Central School for 35 years. He was a great teacher, coach and supporter of all Elba students. He taught young people not only the skills necessary for a particular sport, but more importantly the values required in life to be successful. Sherwood, also an Elba resident, passed away six years after his retirement leading the students of Elba to sign a petition to name the gym after Sherwood, honoring all that he did for the community and student body.  

Donald Ames:

Ames is an alumnus of Elba Central School. He was involved in many school activities while attending Elba such as class officer, student council, athletics and FFA. Ames was Salutatorian of his class and continued on to Alfred State College. He was also a staff sergeant in the National Guard. Ames has helped with Little League, Boy Scouts and sat for numerous years on the Elba Central School Board of Education, as well as serving as president.  

Robert Norton:

Norton is a 1955 graduate of Elba. He has both his master in Education and Ph.D in Agricultural Education from Cornell University. He has been influential in thousands of students’ lives through his additional teaching and curriculum at Ohio State University, where he has served as the curriculum director. Norton has taught seminars all over the world and has trained other teachers as well. He has contributed to the education of Agriculture for thousands.

Last year’s inductees were Dorothy Couglin, Roosevelt Muhammad Brown, Suzi Egeli House, Thomas Nowack and Chester Gabriel.

Tickets are available now through Sept. 21st in the Elba Central School District Office or may be reserved by calling 757-9967. Ticket prices are $30 and include a $10 free play pass to the Batavia Downs Gaming Center.

September 1, 2016 - 1:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in Genesee Cancer Assistance, news, charity, batavia.

Press release:

Genesee Cancer Assistance, based in Batavia, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded $15,000 as a part of The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo 2016 grant disbursement.

Genesee Cancer Assistance is one of 19 organizations from across Western New York that received grants from endowment funds created to carry on Ralph C. Wilson Jr.’s legacy of giving and visionary leadership.

Effective immediately, the organization has plans to increase the amount of financial assistance available to new patients.

“We are both honored and excited that the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has chosen Genesee Cancer Assistance as a recipient. This money supports our mission of helping cancer patients in Genesee County and will also allow us to increase public awareness of our services and programs,” said Sue Underwood, GCA executive director. 

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, a 501(C) (3) organization, was established in 1919 to enhance and encourage long-term philanthropy in the Western New York Community. The Foundation’s mission is: Connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York. For over 95 years, the Community Foundation has made the most of the generosity of individuals, families, foundations and organizations who entrust charitable assets to its care.

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation established endowments at the Community Foundation in November 2015 to provide support to three areas that were important to Wilson during his lifetime: cancer care, community assets, and youth sports. Endowment funds, like these created to honor Wilson, are designed to grow over time and provide funding for charitable causes according to a client’s wishes. www.cfgb.org.

Genesee Cancer Assistance is a registered 501(c) (3) not-for-profit. It was cofounded in November of 1995 by Dorothy Schlaggel and Russ Romano, both of whom had a desire to create an organization that would help residents in Genesee County facing a cancer diagnosis, by providing financial support and services to lessen the burden that this disease causes. Since opening, GCA has had the opportunity to help more than 1,900 individuals giving out $500,000 of assistance. 

"The organization relies on contributions and memorials as well as local support and board sponsored fundraising events to finance patient reimbursements. Receiving the grant from The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo will help meet these needs and have a positive impact on the community" said GCA Board President Kevin J. Mudd, MD. 

For more information about Genesee Cancer Assistance, including the specific ways the organization helps cancer patients, please visit the website www.geneseecancerassistance.com, call (585) 345-0417, or stop by, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Please note that our new office is now located on the ground floor of United Memorial Medical Center, 127 North St., directly across the hall from the switchboard near the radiology waiting room.

September 1, 2016 - 10:17am

The latest legal challenges to live, amplified music at Frost Ridge Campground in Le Roy have been dismissed by Judge Emilio Colaiacovo, meaning owners David and Greg Lueticke-Archbell will be able to continue their concert series, Jam at the Ridge.

Colaiacovo ruled that the Zoning Board of Appeals acted with appropriate consideration and diligence when deciding live, amplified music was a prior non-conforming use and that there was no substantive violation of the state's open meetings law when it reached that decision in February.

Attorneys for David and Amy Cleere and Scott and Betsy Collins challenged the ZBA's decision on both of those counts.

The decision seemingly concludes two years of legal fights initiated by the Cleeres and Collins and initially backed by the Town of Le Roy.

The plaintiffs maintained all along that Frost Ridge violated the town's zoning laws, because it is in an agricultural-residential district, by hosting music concerts at the campground.

The owners and their supporters countered that both live music and amplified music had been part of the operations of the campground since the 1960s, which means those uses were grandfathered in, or prior, non-conforming uses, before the R-A district was created.

The ZBA met at least twice prior to the lawsuits being filed and sided with David and Greg Lueticke-Archbell, but Judge Robert C. Noonan, who retired earlier this year, ruled that the ZBA meetings where these decisions were made were not properly noticed (a violation of the state's open meetings law), so he ordered the ZBA to hold a new public hearing.

The town board then tried to disband the ZBA -- which at the time was a joint board of the town and the village -- but Noonan barred dissolution of the ZBA until after it conducted a new hearing and issued a decision. 

The ZBA met in December and collected documents and testimony at the time, but never publicly deliberated the issue and issued its decision without a public vote in February. 

Colaiacovo ruled that even if these actions were a technical violation of the open meeting law, the record is clear that the ZBA members had ample information about the issue without the need for public deliberation and there was no evidence presented that the matter was discussed in a closed meeting by the board. 

"The Court finds that the alleged failure to vote on its decision in public is a de minimis technical violation that, in light of the exhaustive record and consistency of the ZBA's determination that there exists a prior, non-conforming use, injunctive relief is not warranted," Colaiacovo wrote in his decision.

Colaiacovo said it was not the court's place, based on case law, to decide whether the ZBA reached the correct decision, only that the decision was reasonable and not arbitrary and capricious.

The mere fact that the plaintiffs disagree with the decision is not evidence that it is arbitrary and capricious, he said.

Courts must be careful, according to case law, not to overturn local decisions that are based on substantial evidence and are rational, he said.

The record shows the ZBA had a substantial amount of testimony and evidence to consider that seemed to back the conclusion of a prior, non-conforming use, he said. 

"The ZBA held that these activities occurred to varying degrees prior to the adoption of the Town Zoning Code," Colaiacovo wrote. "The ZBA referenced Mr. (Eugene) Sinclair's testimony, which established that the defendants' actions were 'consistent with the essential character of the property as a prior, non-conforming use.' Accordingly, the ZBA, after exhausting its reasons for its determination, found that the use of the property as a campground, which permitted live and recorded music, limited food service, and allowed the use of recreational vehicles, was a prior, non-conforming use as permitted by the Town of Le Roy Zoning Code.

"Based on the foregoing," he continued, "the Court finds that the determination of the ZBA is based on substantial evidence that was made part of an extensive record. As such, because the ZBA had a rational basis to reach its decision, this Court will not disturb it."

He added, "Nothing in the record demonstrates that the ZBA reached its determination haphazardly."

August 31, 2016 - 2:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Emergency Dispatch, Steve Sharpe, news.

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Photo, from left: Undersheriff Bill Sheron, Joseph Grube, Steve Sharpe and Sheriff Gary Maha.

Steve Sharpe, director of communications for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, was honored yesterday with an industry award that recognizes his dedication to the profession and his job.

The PSAP (Public Safety Access Point) Finest Director of the Year award was selected by industry professionals from a national pool of nominees.

The award was sponsored by emergency communications company NICE and presented by Joseph Grube, director of public safety for Wilmac, another public safety company.

Grube said Sharp was selected based on his habits of lifelong learning, his self-motivation toward excellence, his involvement in several industry associations and groups and his advocacy for the 25 staff members who report to him in ensuring they have the best equipment and training.

“The public safety community is a better place because of people like Steve,” Grube said.

Sharp said the award really reflects what a great team he has around him, from the County Legislature that supports professional emergency communication, to the Sheriff's Office administration, to the dispatchers in the emergency dispatch center, nothing would be possible without their hard work and dedication, he said.

“I think the biggest thing people have got  to understand is it's about the team," Sharpe said. "It’s always going to be about the team. It’s the people you put in the right place. It’s about learning. I’ve had some pretty spectacular failures as a leader, and I’ve had some pretty spectacular failures here in this job, but my failures were mitigated by their strengths. It all comes back to team.”

August 31, 2016 - 1:56pm

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Willis Middleton moves into a new apartment in Batavia tomorrow, and the day before yesterday, he signed his lease and picked up his keys.

At first, he didn't think much of it. He went back to his room at the VA Center, in the Cazenovia Recovery Program, and sat down on his bed and started looking for a keychain.

"After I put all the keys on the chain, I just stared at it and I was like, dang these are my keys," Middleton said. "I mean, I’ve had that before, but it just means a whole lot more. I was just staring at those keys and I was like, ‘wow.’ It’s been a long road and I’m very appreciative of the people who helped me. It’s just a great feeling, it really is."

The ladies of the VFW Auxiliary Veness Strollo Post #1602 in Batavia were among those who helped Middleton get to this point, which comes after years of struggling with addiction, in and out of rehab programs, until he was finally brought to one that is making a difference.

One of the key benefits of the program, Middleton said that at the end of it, counselors make sure patients don't go back to the same community and the same life and same associates they were mired in before.

"Let’s be honest, we all do rehab really well," Middleton said. "We all go in and make these promises we’re going to do better, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, but then when it’s time to leave, we really didn’t have the resources, so basically we got threw back into that environment that we came from. Excuse my French, but snowballs stand a better chance in hell with that situation. But here, it gives you an opportunity to change everything, even your environment. I think that’s more important than anything, those resources and employment are more important than anything."

Middleton, originally from Cross, S.C., and most recently a resident of Durham, N.C., is getting a fresh start in Batavia.

He thinks that's wonderful.

"By the time this program came, it saved my life," Middleton said. "That’s really all I can say. It saved my life because I was thinking crazy, I was doing irrational things and, well, I ended up in the psych ward at the Durham VA. That was the beginning that put me on this road right here and I’ve been blessed to be on this road for so long, Thank God. I’ve been seeing all of these wonderful things that are happening to me now."

The VFW Auxillary is providing many of the necessities Middleton will need to get a good start in his new apartment. They've purchased for him, as they do many other veterans who have been through Cazenovia, a coffee pot, pots, pans, dishes, silverware, dishpans, a strainer, utensils, kitchen trash can, cleaning products, dish towels, oven mitts and potholders, sheets, blankets, a shower curtain, curtain rings, a wastebasket, toilet brush, plunger, towels, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, shaving products, alcohol-free mouthwash, curtains and furniture.

They ladies buy all that for multiple veterans with funds raised from Buddy Poppy sales, social events and raffles.

Middleton joined the Army when he was 17 and served four years. His problems, he said, started when he got out. He struggled with drugs and homelessness off and on, though he also had times of stability, but hit rock bottom in Durham.

"When I got here at first started learning about myself, it wasn’t a pretty picture at all," Middleton said. "It was kind of ugly, to be honest, but the more I stayed the course, the more it just was so obvious that if I didn’t want to die in my addiction, I knew that I had to change. I just had to get down and dirty and do it.

"This program has meant a lot to me," he added.

Photo: Pictured with Middleton are Jean Dolph, Daphne Cross and Judy Cooper, of the VFW Auxiliary Veness Strollo Post #1602.

August 31, 2016 - 12:32pm
posted by Steve Ognibene in pickleball, sports, YMCA, batavia, steve ognibene's blog, news.

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(Photos by Steve Ognibene. Story by Phil Coburn.)

Pickleball you say? If you’re wondering what this is, it’s a relatively new sport activity in Batavia! It’s lots of fun, easy to learn, and is one of the fastest-growing sports in America. 

The game is a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and is played over a net that is 2 inches lower than a tennis net. The court is 20 feet x 44 feet, about half the size of a tennis court. The ball is a perforated plastic ball similar to a whiffle ball, and the paddles are wood or composite material.

The game is adaptable to all ages from youth to seniors, and both male and female. Due to the smaller court and lighter ball, it requires much less running and has less impact on the knees, arms and shoulders than tennis.

Locally, it all started after Batavia residents Phil and Bonnie Coburn decided to travel in an RV across the United States in 2007. They had often said “What will we do if we can’t play tennis anymore?" Well, very quickly they saw some pickleball being played, and they became hooked! Upon returning to Batavia, they located a group in Ogden and played there for a couple years.

Then, after getting tired of driving 25 miles each way, they spoke to the people at the YMCA in Batavia in 2012, and they agreed to let them tape two courts in the gym. They got help from Dave Thomas in Rochester to do the layout, and he also gave them a portable net to use. They obtained grant money from the USAPA, and bought another portable net.

Thus, pickleball was born in Batavia with about six players participating.

About two years later, the gym floor was refinished, and the lines were painted on for a more permanent facility. At about the same time, Eric Volk lent a hand, and they worked with the Town of Batavia to have pickleball lines painted on the tennis courts at Kiwanis Park (replacing the tape which didn’t do too well in the elements), adding the first outside courts in the area.

This year, again with encouragement from Eric, the city, as part of the court renewal at Kibbe Park and Farrall Park, painted pickleball lines on the tennis courts, giving participants an additional five outdoor courts to play on in the area.

(At one of the newest lined courts at Kibbe Park, pictured below are some members of the Batavia Pickleball Club, from left are: Joann McCabe, Chloe Budenhagen, Becky Swanson, and founding members Bonnie and Phil Coburn.)

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The YMCA has been very supportive of this activity, and currently there is play scheduled in the gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday nights from 6:30-8 p.m.. Currently, every Saturday from 9:30-noon, players are welcome at Kibbe Park. Partners are not assigned, but use the "open" system of rotation for players waiting to play.

From the original six players, it has grown to around 30 fairly active players, and the ability level has definitely increased since those early days. There has been some discussion about holding a tournament next year for our local players, but there are no details available yet.

The club is always looking for additional players to try the sport, and to continue to help this activity gain momentum in Genesee County. Pickleball has become part of Physical Education in many schools, and is played in many parks and recreational facilities across the country. The Batavia YMCA has set the cost for non-Y members at $30 for a 10-play pass, $49 for a 7-week unlimited pass, or a $5 "drop-in" pass. No fee for Saturday play.

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