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July 13, 2020 - 1:33pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in fire, news, Pavilion, notify.

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A 14-year old boy suffered smoke inhalation and was transported to the hospital for an evaluation after he and his father attempted to put out a fire in their living room with the help of some passing volunteer firefighters on Monday morning.

Pavilion Fire along with nine other fire companies from Genesee, Wyoming, and Livingston counties were called to 6397 Ellicott Street Road at about 10 a.m. The fire immediately went to a second alarm as smoke and flames were showing.

One cat and one dog did not survive the fire. One other dog was assisted by Mercy EMS and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department and is now at the animal shelter for observation.

According to Genesee County Fire Coordinator Tim Yaeger, the 14-year old went out to the barn to tell his father the couch was on fire, the dad attempted to use fire extinguishers to put out the fire. Volunteer firefighters who were passing through the area also assisted in keeping the fire contained. Yaeger says the preliminary investigation shows that an extension cord on a window air conditioner caught the couch on fire.

The Red Cross was called to assist. The family of three does have a place to stay. The house suffered smoke and fire damage, but not much water damage and is repairable.

Alecia Kaus/Video News Service

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July 13, 2020 - 11:03am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCC, sports, notify, covid-19, coronavirus.

Press release:

Genesee Community College has made the decision to suspend its fall athletic season to protect the health and safety of the students and community in light of the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This decision will affect men's and women's soccer, basketball, swimming and diving, and women's volleyball, which is in line with the majority of Region III decisions.

GCC coaches have communicated this news to their teams, and are maintaining continual engagement with the College's student-athletes, as well as providing opportunities for safe athletic conditioning activities where possible.

"This decision, although not without its disappointments, is the best path for us to ensure the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and training staff," said Assistant Vice President of Student Engagement & Inclusion Kristen Schuth.

"While we are eager to move forward with such an important part of the student and campus experience, the landscape of this semester just does not allow us to do so in a method that would have been convincingly without associated risks. I look forward to the day when it is safe for the fields and floors of GCC to hold competitions again."

GCC will honor all signed scholarship agreements for incoming student-athletes and for those returning. At this time, the length of the fall sports suspension is unknown, and decisions regarding winter and spring sports have not yet been made. Sport-specific updates will be shared as they become available at geneseeathletics.com.

July 11, 2020 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, bergen, notify.
Video Sponsor

Two teenagers were seriously injured in a 5 a.m. accident on West Bergen Road, Bergen, after the 17-year-old driver reportedly fell asleep, according to a Sheriff's Office accident report.

Sierra Raye Kast, of Albion, was driving a 2008 Ford sedan southbound on West Bergen Road when the car veered off the south shoulder and ran over the top of a cement culvert before heading further into the embankment. Kast was apparently able to steer the car back onto the pavement but overcorrected, according to Sgt. Jason Saile, of the Crash Management Team, causing the car to exit the roadway on the south shoulder again, where it overturned, struck a tree that spun it around, before it struck another tree and came to rest on its roof.

Driver-side back seat passenger Arianna N. McGurn, 17, was ejected from the vehicle and was trapped in the drainage ditch under the trunk portion of the car.

Bergen volunteer firefighters used airbags to life the car off of McGurn so she could be extricated. She was flown to Strong Memorial Hospital by Mercy Flight with a leg injury. Her injuries were not considered life-threatening. 

Kast was also injured in the crash and transported to Strong by Mercy EMS.

The other two passengers were Cory Wallace, 15, and Alonso Storey, 17.

Only Kast, the driver, was wearing a seatbelt, Saile said.

No citations have been issued.

Asked if there is anything teenagers in the community can learn this accident, Saile said: “As a young driver, how much experience do you have as a 17-year-old driving at five o’clock in the morning? Unless you’re going to work or have a good reason, there really isn’t a reason to be out and about. Five o’clock in the morning as a 17-year-old, if you’re not going to work or doing something important, you should be home in bed.”

July 11, 2020 - 12:10pm

Watch out, Bambi. The City of Batavia is coming for you.

A three-phased plan intended to harvest up to 60 deer per year with archery-only hunting is expected to be presented to City Council at its Conference Meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the City Hall Council Board Room.

According to memo dated July 6 from Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski to Council members, the City’s Deer Management Plan Committee, formed in November, has completed its task in the form of a 21-page plan to reduce the deer population within the City limits. The committee was created in response to numerous incidents of property (landscaping/garden) damage, auto accidents and other problems caused by deer.

Working with Robin Phenes, state Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist, and Council Member John Canale, the five-member committee, per the memo, has drafted a proposal that “provides a streamlined program experience and ensures programmatic compliance, program metric tracking and stakeholder/City Council communication.”

In simpler terms, the plan specifies the time frame, five designated hunting zones, and rules and regulations, and includes permit applications, landowner cooperation agreement, hunter applications, waivers and release forms and a proficiency test.

Tabelski spelled out several highlights of the plan:

-- Plan A, hunting during the New York State regulated hunting season; Plan B, an extended hunting season (Jan. 2-March 31); Plan C, archery hunt utilizing bait (subject to Council approval). Times for hunting will be from sunrise to 2 p.m., with no hunting when schools are closed.

-- Five designated hunting zones as identified on an included map, as follows: (1) parcel north of Clinton Street, (2) land in the Naramore Drive area and north, (3) property west of State Street (in vicinity of BOCES) and proceeding north from Lambert Park, (4) Route 98, south of Walnut Street area, and (5) Law Street area stretching almost to Kibbe Park.

-- Hunting will be permitted only after the landowner signs a cooperation agreement form.

-- Tree stands must be used and all hunters must shoot downward. Hunters must be properly qualified and licensed and apply to the City of Batavia to be admitted into the program.

-- The plan is subject to NYS DEC setback requirements pertaining to the proximity of bow hunting to schools, playgrounds, public buildings, etc.

-- The program will run for three years and can be terminated at City Council’s discretion.

Citizen members of the committee are Russell Nephew, Gus Galliford, Fred Gundell, Kent Klotzbach and Samuel DiSalvo.

Council will be asked to vote on forwarding the resolution to a future Business Meeting.

Other topics on Monday’s Conference Meeting agenda:

-- A draft resolution to grant approval to Eli Fish Brewing Co. at 109 Main St. for a temporary outdoor dining license agreement as part of the City’s COVID-19 2020 Temporary Outdoor Dining on City Property Program.

Eli Fish’s application specified that 12 tables, serving up to 52 guests, will be placed in Jackson Square, with hours of operation set at 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A memo from Tabelski dated July 7 indicated that while the Eli Fish application qualified for consideration, an application from Main Street Pizza at 206 Main St. did not and is not recommended for approval.

Vic Marchese, owner of Main Street Pizza, had proposed to put up a 15-foot by 75-foot tent, with lighting, in the parking lot on the east side of the restaurant – utilizing seven to eight parking spaces. Eight to 10 tables, accommodating up to 60 guests, were to be placed under the tent.

Tabelski spelled out several reasons why the plan would not be feasible:

-- Per the state Building Code, a tent can not be put up within 20 feet of lot lines, a parking space, buildings, etc.;
-- The City does not own the entire parking lot;
-- The application removes several prime parking spaces, including handicap spaces;
-- The one-way street would require a traffic order and, for a temporary dining basis, the City would not be able to facilitate a Local Law change in a timely fashion;
-- A traffic safety issue would occur due to cars coming into the lot off Main Street and backing out of parking spots.

Tabelski wrote that she advised the applicant of the potential problems, but he “was not interested in modifying the application.”

A draft resolution for the Main Street Pizza request is not included in the meeting document packet.

-- A pair of draft resolutions concerning a feasibility study for the construction of a new police station at the Alva Place location and corresponding contract with an architectural firm to conduct the study.

The first resolution asks City Council to transfer $50,000 of the $242,820 in the Facility Reserve fund to an expense account.

The second resolution seeks execution of a contract for $41,200 with Architecture Unlimited LLC, of Williamsville, to provide the recommended square footage, design and layout, ability to expand, regulatory requirements and projected costs for design and construction for both the site work and the actual facility.

-- City Council will conduct a Business Meeting after the Conference Meeting. Agenda items for that session include a resolution to enter into a $328,200 contract with Keeler Construction for the Franklin Street-Richmond Avenue sewer rehabilitation project.

The cost is significantly less than the original estimate of $806,000 because the City altered its plan from a complete sewer line replacement on Franklin Street to an excavated repair of one section and relining of the rest of the line, and then to include relining of the Richmond Avenue sewer ahead of its rehabilitation project in 2022.

July 10, 2020 - 3:46pm

A full two-thirds of respondents to a Batavia City School District survey concerning reopening want students back in the classroom this fall in a traditional setting with health-related guidelines in place.

“Most of our parents want in-person classrooms and so do we,” said Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. today following the first meeting of the BCSD Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force.

The Google Meet videoconference drew 51 participants, with 35 of them being parents of Batavia students.

Thus far, 875 people have responded to the survey, with nearly 600 of them identifying themselves as in the parent/family category. About 650 of the respondents said they had students in grades 5-12.

Soler said he is hoping to get 2,000 responses before the survey concludes on Monday, which also is the day that guidelines from Gov. Andrew Cuomo are expected to be released.

The BCSD survey can be found on the district’s Facebook page.

On the subject of reopening, 67 percent of the respondents either “agree” or “strongly agree” that in-person school should reopen in September with some new procedures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

When asked if in-school should resume in September with face coverings when social distancing is not possible, 46 percent said “agree” or “strongly agree” and when asked if distance learning should be used until a COVID-19 vaccine is found, 68 percent clicked “disagree” or “strongly disagree” while 10 percent said “strongly agree.”

Additional survey results are as follows:

-- On the impact of COVID-19 on their family: 72 percent, some impact/noticeable impact; 22 percent, significant/severe impact; 6 percent, no impact.

-- On their confidence level to send their child back to school knowing the district will comply with all CDC guidelines: 33.6 percent, strongly confident; 28.8 percent, confident; 23.3 percent unsure.

-- On sending their child to kindergarten this fall: 54.3 percent of 247 responses said they will enroll the child; 45.7 said they won’t.

-- On having half the students in school, the other half learning remotely: 49 percent either “strongly disagree” or “disagree.”

-- On transporting their child to school to reduce the number of bus riders: 66 percent “strongly agree” or “agree.”

-- On their comfort level with busing, even with sanitizing: A mixed bag with 24 percent who “strongly disagree,” 22 percent who are “neutral” and 28 percent who “strongly agree.”

When queried about the most important safety measures, hand sanitizer in classrooms/common areas, daily temperature taking and no sharing of materials were the top three. Other measures included in the survey were COVID-19 testing, wearing masks at all times and no use of the auditorium, lunchroom or playgrounds.

Sixty-two percent said they expect sports and extracurricular activities to be provided with reasonable safety measures. Fifty-one percent responded that fans should be able to attend and 34 percent were in favor of just parents being able to attend. About 14 percent indicated that events should go on without any fans.

“The biggest thing is let’s not forget the health and safety of everybody,” Soler said. “I’m hoping we’re pretty good in the (Finger Lakes) Region; our data has shown that we’re good and that we’re able to open and welcome kids back.”

He said that social distancing will present quite the challenge.

“You’re not going to have 20 kids in a class,” he said. “With having six feet between everybody, it’s going to change things and make things a little bit interesting. We’re going to have to look at how we use our space and our buildings.”

Batavia City School District buildings are Jackson Primary School (PK-1), John Kennedy Intermediate School (2-4), Batavia Middle School (5-8) and Batavia High School (9-12).

Soler said he put the task force together to look at the big picture – reopening -- but also, through the work of subcommittees, “to peel away at some of the smaller conversations.”

“In anticipation of that official guidance we feel it is important to begin to run through potential scenarios, challenges and also include student and parent voices in that process,” he said.

Subcommittees are health, safety & athletics; transportation, facilities & nutrition; teaching & learning; equity & digital access; budget & fiscal; social-emotional needs; Special Education, English language learners & multilingual learners; and staffing & human resources.

The district, in line with directives from Albany and Center for Disease Control guidelines, is considering three models of teaching and learning:

-- In-Person (w/masks & social distancing);
-- Hybrid (Flex Model) Alternate Schedule (Distance Learning & In-Person);
-- Virtual School  – 100-percent online with an emphasis on proficiency.

“Do we bring all the kids back or certain grade levels back? That’s what I was doing today with our parents and various stakeholders," Soler said. "We have to think of these various scenarios and various teaching and learning models. I don’t have any answers yet but knowing that next week we’re supposed to get some guidance, we need to think about this now.”

After learning of the state’s guidelines, tentatively set for Monday, Soler said the task force will proceed with: subcommittee meetings; posting of the survey results; a second task force meeting (July 17) sharing data with the Board of Education (July 20); a third task force meeting (July 24); submission of the district’s plan to the state (July 31); and the governor’s decision (Aug. 1-7).

July 10, 2020 - 2:41pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia, alexander, Le Roy.

Jillian L. Hupp, 30, North Street, Le Roy, is charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31. On July 9, after an investigation by the Genesee County Social Service investigator, Hupp was arrested on the charges. She was released with an appearance ticket returnable to Batavia Town Court on Aug. 6. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jenna Ferrando.

Colby Le-Andrew Ellis, 31, of Albion, is charged with second-degree burglary, petit larceny, and first-degree criminal contempt. At 3:03 a.m. on July 8 in Alexander, Ellis was arrested on the charges after allegedly violating a full stay-away order of protection issued by City of Batavia Court. He was put in jail on $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bond or $40,000 partially secured bond. He is due in Alexander Town Court on Aug. 18. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Austin Heberlein, assisted by Nicholas Chamoun.

Roy Alvin Watson Jr., 31, Shepard Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia. Watson was arrested on July 6 on the charges. Prior to that, on June 16, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant out of Orleans County. During the execution of the arrest warrant, Watson was allegedly found in possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. He is due in Batavia City Court Aug. 4. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen. 

Kaleb James Bobzien, 22, of Lockport, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt. He allegedly made numerous phone calls to a protected party who lives on West Main Street in Batavia starting on Jan. 28. He was arrested July 6 and issued an appearance ticket to be in City of Batavia Court on July 14. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Investigator Joseph Loftus.

July 10, 2020 - 1:47pm

The City of Batavia has received a “B” grade for its handling of meeting documents and accessibility during the month of June from the New York Coalition for Open Government following the nonprofit organization’s review of the websites of 20 municipalities across the state.

According to the report that took a look at local governments with populations between 10,000 and 32,000, the minutes of Batavia City Council meetings have not been posted on its website since April 27 although three meetings took place in June – a Business Meeting on June 8 and a Conference Meeting and Special Business Meeting on June 22.

The coalition report, titled “Local Governments Struggle with Timely Posting of Meeting Minutes,” did acknowledge that the City’s meeting videos are posted on Facebook and/or YouTube, but recommended that “it would be helpful if the City website directed people to where videos can be seen or provided a link to the Facebook/YouTube page.”

Criteria used to grade the towns and villages:

-- Are all meeting documents posted online prior to the meeting?
-- Are meetings being livestreamed on the local government’s website?
-- Are meeting videos/audio posted on the website after the meeting?
-- While not required by the Open Meetings Law, are local governments posting meeting minutes online in a timely fashion?

Batavia (population: 14,400) earned the “B” grade by performing three of the four actions (all except the fourth one listed above). 

Contacted today, Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski explained that the meeting minutes are posted to the website following review and approval by City Council.

“The minutes from the June meetings will be posted after July 13 (the next Council meeting) so that Council members have the ability to approve them,” she said, adding that the City is committed to being “transparent and open.”

The City’s policy concerning the posting of the minutes doesn’t rise to the level of the New York Coalition for Open Government’s recommendation, however.

The coalition’s opinion is that “meeting minutes are timely if the minutes of the last meeting are posted before the next meeting is held. This can be done, by posting draft minutes or at the very least including the minutes from the prior meeting in the next meeting agenda packet.”

Tabelski concurred with the report that all meeting documents can be found on the website prior to the meeting. She also advised that the meetings are broadcast on Spectrum’s government access channel and on Video News Services’ YouTube page.

“There is no law requiring livestream (but) during COVID we tried livestream as it was specific to guidance during COVID because we restricted access to the meetings to the public, per Executive Order 202.1 and 202.48,” she said.

Ten other municipalities also received “B” grades while three – Geneva, Plattsburgh and Rotterdam – got an “A.” On the low end of the scale, Olean received a “D” for performing one of four standards and the Town of Lockport got an “F” (zero of four).

The study revealed that 80 percent of the municipalities surveyed, including Batavia, posted their meeting documents online before the scheduled meeting date, but Batavia was one of 12 to be more than two weeks behind in posting meeting minutes.

In conclusion, the coalition called for the New York State Open Meetings Law to be amended to require that meeting minutes be posted online within two weeks of a meeting occurring. Currently, the law in New York is that meeting minutes must be made available if requested within two weeks of a meeting.

Per its website, the New York Coalition For Open Government is a nonpartisan charitable organization comprised of journalists, activists, attorneys, educators, news media organizations, and other concerned citizens who value open government and freedom of information.

Through education and civic engagement, the coalition advocates for open, transparent government and defends citizens’ right to access information from public institutions at the city, county and state levels.

July 9, 2020 - 8:15pm

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Genesee County planners tonight recommended approval of a site plan application from Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to tack on a two-story, 20-bed detoxification center to the agency’s Atwater House residential facility at 424 E. Main St.

The new 8,788-square-foot addition of the medically supervised detox center enhances GCASA’s ability to treat people afflicted with substance dependency who are seeking support and recovery.

“The great thing about this project is that it allows for the continuum of care,” said Raymond Murphy, representing the Orchard Park architectural firm of Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst on behalf of GCASA.

The detox center will be constructed as a two-story, wood-framed building attached to the southern end of Atwater House. It will consist of 16 beds serving state regulations for medically supervised detoxification and four transitional residential beds (similar to those available at Atwater House).

Murphy pointed out that the architecture is “in kind to what is already on campus .. the proposed volume is two stories to match and fit in nicely with the existing volumes.” He added that clapboard siding and roofing materials similar to those already on Atwater House will be used.

Earlier today, GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said the new configuration will streamline the delivery of services to those in need.

“Operationally, the Atwater residence and the new 816.7 facility (denoting the Office of Addiction Services and Supports Part 816.7 regulation) will benefit from close proximity to one another,” Bennett said. “This will offer more flexibility, comfort and support to clients in transitioning to a residential program – a key component in the continuum of care.”

Bennett said overdose rates have increased significantly due to the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic.

“Addiction is a disease of isolation and the pandemic has certainly isolated people from being able to attend self-help meetings, group counseling and other forms of support,” he said. “When you couple people in early recovery with isolation, the odds of relapse become increased. We need short-term medical detox more than ever in our communities.”

A letter from the architect to the planning board indicated that the proposed location of the addition is fairly open and will require the removal of about 10 trees directly within the building and parking footprint.

It also noted that a new 13-space parking lot will be added, increasing the total number of spaces to 113 (including 18 of them leased from Cornell Cooperative Extension to the west).

Plans call for the first floor of the detox center to house the “communal” functions of the building such as dining, serving, group rooms, intake and employee offices, while the second story will be split into two wings, each of which will contain four shared bedrooms (two beds each) and a bathroom.

The center block – situated between the wings – contains a central lounge, client laundry and nursing/physician spaces.

The $3.6 million addition is being funded by OASAS capital projects and will create 20 or more new permanent jobs -- nurses, counselors and support staff -- as well as several temporary construction jobs, Bennett said.

Planning Board Member Tom Schubmehl called the detox center “a welcome addition to the community … relatives and friends who have had to go for any help have had to go a long ways to get there. So, it is nice that GCASA is doing this.”

Bennett said that the proposal and architectural renderings previously were reviewed by the City Planning & Development Committee.

“They loved the way we designed it in that we made sure that it flowed with the existing Atwater House,” Bennett said. “Overall, the response was very favorable.”

The City PDC is expected to make a final ruling on the site plan at its July 21 meeting.

In other action, planners recommended:

-- Approval of a special use permit site plan and downtown design review application from V.J. Gautieri Constructors Inc., to create 10 apartments on the second floor of the Save-A-Lot building at 45-47 Ellicott St.

A previous story of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative project, known as Ellicott Place, appeared on Wednesday.

Planners’ approval suggested that future development of ground floor commercial space address access and activation of the south elevation toward Ellicott Street, and that the applicant apply for 9-1-1 address verification with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department to meet Enhanced 9-1-1 standards.

The DRI award was for $1.15 million; the balance of the $2.3 million venture will be funded through a loan with a financial institution, said Victor Gautieri, president of the Batavia company that owns the building.

In response to a question from Schubmehl about Save-A-Lot parking lot disruption during construction, Gautieri said crews will be operating for the most part within the east parking lot where most of the Save-A-Lot employees park their vehicles.

“We will be working in conjunction with those folks to make sure they still have access to the loading dock and make sure they have access to their side doors,” he said. “Save-A-Lot has been a tenant for quite some time and we have a good relationship with them.”

Gautieri said store management is “welcoming the redevelopment of the building and believe it’s going to enhance their sales.”

He said Save-A-Lot is planning a facelift of its own – “with new signage and reorientation within the store to freshen it up.”

Previously, Gautieri said the renovation will give the Ellicott Street neighborhood a long overdue modern look.

“When Ellicott Station (across the street) comes to be, it will complementary to ours and ours to theirs,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be able to attract some businesses that are not in Batavia now, which would be very good for the downtown area.”

-- Approval of a special use permit for Krista Lewis, on behalf of the Hesperus Lodge #837, to convert the first story of the historic building at 12 S. Lake Ave. (Route 19) in Bergen from a hair salon (Radiant Hair Designs) to a laundromat with micro-salon rentals.

In documents submitted to the planning board, Lewis indicated that she plans to install six washers and six dryers for the startup. The proposal calls for the laundromat to be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Additionally, three spaces are being set up for hair stylists to rent.

-- Approval of a site plan review submitted by Russ Walker to operate a candy shop in an existing commercial building at 21 Main St., Oakfield, location of the former Warner’s Flower Shop.

Approved as a gift shop in March, the operator is looking to add a 20-foot by 40-foot addition to the rear of the building. The addition would house a commercial kitchen, storage space and renovated bathroom.

According to plan documents, the new construction would be a pole barn design, with steel siding similar to the building on the other side of the municipal parking lot.

-- Approval of zoning text amendments to address solar energy systems and battery energy storage systems for the entire Town of Alabama.

Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said Alabama is the first local municipality to put battery energy storage systems into its zoning code, noting that he considers these primarily as standalone “accessories” to solar systems.

July 9, 2020 - 3:58pm

Genesee County officials today learned that its mental health department will be getting 20 percent less in state aid this year.

The cut equates to a loss of $132,710 in revenue for mental health clinical services in the county, said Assistant County Manager Matt Landers.

“We’ve been told all along that there would be cuts of 20 to 50 percent,” Landers said. “We’ve been bracing for that.”

The county’s budget for the mental health department for 2020-21 is $5.6 million, he said, with state aid just one part of the revenue stream.

New York State took a bigger chunk – a 31-percent cut – out of its annual support to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, action that will have a direct impact upon services provided by Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

“Just in the third quarter alone, this is a $160,000 loss in state aid, with $134,000 of that for Genesee County,” GCASA Executive Director John Bennett said. “Not only will this affect services, but it could very well result in potential layoffs.”

Bennett mentioned that the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program loan will help soften the blow somewhat.

There has been no word on cuts to the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (formerly Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities).

In another development, Landers said the county has called back 19 of the 48 employees who were furloughed, including a Department of Motor Vehicles worker needed to help process a heavy load of work since the office reopened.

The furlough program ends on July 31, said Landers, adding that the county’s strategic hiring freeze continues.

July 8, 2020 - 11:55am

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Ellicott Place, a $2.3 million renovation of the Save-A-Lot supermarket building at 45-47 Ellicott St., has reached the local planning board phase – a juncture that sets the stage for the owner of the facility to begin construction this summer.

“Once the special use permits have been approved, which are allowable as part of the BID (Business Improvement District), the final step will be the issuance of building permits,” Victor Gautieri, president of V.J. Gautieri Constructors Inc., said today. “From there, we would be looking at a mid-August, possibly late-August start.”

The Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night is expected to issue a recommendation on the company’s special use permit site plan and downtown design review application to create 10 apartments on the vacant, 11,600-square-foot second floor of the building.

The board has set its Zoom videoconferencing meeting for 7 o’clock.

V.J. Gautieri’s application then goes to the City Planning & Development Committee’s meeting on July 21, when it will rule on a special use permit to support a restricted residential use of the structure, which is located within the Central Commercial District.

Restricted residential uses are permitted in the C-3 district with the issuance of a special use permit.

The project is one of several in the City to be partially funded by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The $1.15 million DRI award covers half of the total cost.

Gautieri said the plan is to construct seven one-bedroom and three two-bedroom market-rate apartments upstairs and further develop 18,000 square feet of first floor commercial/retail space.

Currently, the Save-A-Lot grocery store occupies around half of the ground floor, and future commercial/retail tenants on the first floor are anticipated.

Other improvements include a two-stop interior elevator, two stairwells, new exterior windows, doors, veneers and roof membrane.

“A separate entrance to the west of the Save-A-Lot entrance will be put in (for renters), with a corridor leading to an elevator lobby,” said Gautieri, adding that renovations will be made to the west side to make it more attractive for potential commercial enterprises such as a store or offices.

He said he is “hopeful and optimistic” that the apartments will be rented in short order after completion.

“There have been multiple studies concerning the need for downtown housing and all show that there is a definite need,” he said. “I see no issues with renting them. They will be of very nice quality with modern codes. We believe there is a good market for downtown living.”

Gautieri said that apartment dwellers would be required to obtain parking permits from the City of Batavia for the Court Street lot, something that is allowed in the C-3 district.

Gautieri said his company will be coordinating and doing much of the work, which includes exterior work initially. He noted that V.J. Gautieri will be soliciting bids in an “open and competitive” process for specific trades, including Minority and Women Owned Businesses Enterprises and veteran-owned businesses.

He expects construction to take about eight months to complete.

The building was constructed in 1968 by V.J. Gautieri as a Montgomery Ward store for developer Stanley R. Gumburg of Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, the Batavia firm purchased the building, a move that brought the Super Duper supermarket chain to the city.

It was sold to a partnership in Buffalo before Gautieri bought it again from a mortgage lender while negotiating a lease with Save-A-Lot Food Stores Ltd.

Drawing above shows the north, south, east and west elevations views as depicted by DEAN Architects of Depew.

July 7, 2020 - 8:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Town Planning Board.

The Batavia Town Planning Board tonight approved two special use permits – one for the building of a home on Clinton Street Road and the other for construction of a pond on Stegman Road.

Voting via Zoom videoconferencing, planners OK'd an application by Daniel Hale for a special use permit and area variances to put up an 1,840-square-foot single-family home on a vacant lot at 5210 Clinton Street Road in a Commercial District.

Previously, the area variances were approved by the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and both the special use permit and variances were recommended for approval by the Genesee County Planning Board.

The variances were necessary in regard to the lot size, lot frontage and side yard setback. The proposed lot size is 14,560 square feet (minimum required: 40,000 square feet), the existing and proposed lot frontage is 60 feet (minimum required: 200 feet), and the proposed side yard setbacks are 17 and 24 feet (minimum required: 30 feet).

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang said his staff supports the project, considering the neighborhood in the area of Terry Hills Golf Course is predominantly residential, and the specific lot couldn’t accommodate anything other than a single-family house.

The board also voted in favor of a special use permit request by Joshua Bailey, of Bergen, to construct a two-acre pond on a 51-acre parcel in an Agricultural-Residential District at 3007 Stegman Road.

Previously, county planners recommended approval with modifications relating to having an archaeological survey conducted and submitted for review, and having a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan in place prior to final approval from the Town.

Town planners reported that the applicant has met the preceding requirements and, after determining the project would have no adverse environmental effects on the property, the board gave its go-ahead – with a stipulation that it receives a final engineer’s report.

July 6, 2020 - 2:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, Le Roy, batavia, bergen.

Jeremy M. Fairbanks, 42, of Main Street, Batavia, is 306 (three hundred and six) counts of second-degree criminal contempt. He was arrested July 2 after a complaint of violations of a City of Batavia Court order, beginning at 4:31 p.m. on March 17. Fairbanks was issued appearance tickets and is due in Batavia City Court at 1 p.m. on Aug. 25. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Officer Jonathan Dimmig.

Leah Rose Helen Kelly, 35, of Harvester Avenue, Batavia, is charged with 306 (three hundred and six) counts of second-degree criminal contempt. She was arrested July 5 after a complaint of violations of a Village of Bergen Court order, beginning at 4:31 p.m. on March 17. Kelly was scheduled for arraignment in Genesee County Court this morning (July 6). The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Officer Jonathan Dimmig.

Richard J. Wendt, 59, of Batavia (no address provided), is charged with criminal obstruction of breathing and second-degree harassment. He was arrested June 26 after Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy Austin Harding and Sgt. Aaron Chase responded to a domestic incident reported at the Yogi Bear Campground on Youngers Road in the Town of Java. Wendt was transported to Wyoming County Sheriff's Office for processing, then released with tickets to appear in Town of Java Court at a later date.

David James Loiacono, 40, of Buffalo Street, Bergen, was arrested following a domestic incident at 1:02 p.m. on July 5 on Buffalo Street in Bergen. He is charged with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, and unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree. Loiacono was issued appearance tickets for Aug. 19 in Bergen Town Court then released to a third party. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Officer Jonathan Dimmig, assisted by Deputy James Stack.

Elis Salkic, 22, of Adele Drive, Greece, is charged with: unlawful possession of marijuana; aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree; operating a motor vehicle while using an electronic device; unlicensed operation of a vehicle; and failure to stop at a stop sign. Salkic was arrested at 5:44 p.m. on June 29 after Genesee County Sheriff's deputies stopped his vehicle on Richmond Avenue in the City of Batavia. Salkic was issued an appearance ticket for Aug. 18 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Deputy Jacob Gauthier, assisted by Deputy Erik Andre.

Gavin J. Yauchzee, 28, of Le Roy (no address provided), is charged with petit larceny. Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy Adam Hope responded on June 29 to a report of a larceny at the Walmart in the Town of Warsaw. It is alleged that Walmart's Asset Protection assistant observed him concealing items in his pockets, then exiting the store without paying for them. He was arrested and released with an appearance ticket for Warsaw Town Court, where he is due at a later date.

July 6, 2020 - 12:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in Rachael Tabelski, news, batavia, Acting City Manager, notify.

tabelski_head_shot.jpgThis is part two of a two-part feature on Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski, offering insight into her tenure with the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Batavia Development Corporation and an update on City projects and priorities.

Part one, which focused on her upbringing, education and influences, was published on Sunday.

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

An avid sports fan, Rachael Tabelski undoubtedly was disappointed over the cancellation of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I collegiate basketball tournaments this year.

She missed out on rooting for her favorite teams – the North Carolina Tar Heels and Syracuse Orange.

Unfortunately, a different and deadly kind of “March Madness” was unleased upon the world in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic and Tabelski, as Batavia’s assistant city manager, was charged with helping to navigate the community through a substantial downtown in the economy.

Almost four months into this health crisis, Tabelski finds herself as the Acting City Manager following the departure of Martin Moore on June 20. And, using sports as a unifying theme, she’s confident that Batavia and all of Genesee County will get through it and come out even stronger.

“I think sports is a great equalizer – it teaches kids and adults about teamwork, how to operate together to find a common goal and work towards it,” said Tabelski, who revealed that her other favorite teams are the Bills, Sabres and Yankees, and favorite player was NBA great Charles Barkley. “A lot of members of our community are involved in sports … and they know about moving in the same direction. We want more economic activity, we want more residents – more quality residents – and we want our neighborhoods back.”

Tabelski knows a thing or two about trying to attract business to Western New York. She spent eight years at director of marketing & communications at the Genesee County Economic Development Center and a year as director of economic development at the Batavia Development Corporation.

“I got to know the City very well during my days with GCEDC – almost as a liaison to the City, working with Steve Hyde on different Brownfield projects,” she said, adding that she loved her time with the BDC. “It was most difficult to decide whether I wanted to apply for the assistant city manager position because I do enjoy the economic development and the Brownfield development so much.”

She says patience is a virtue when it comes to Brownfield development.

“A lesson I learned from way back at the EDC is when you find a developer for a site, until their capital is ready, they’re not going to move,” she said.

A prime example of that is Ellicott Station (former Soccio & Della Penna property on Ellicott Street), a mixed-use project that has seen little visual change in the four years since it was announced that Savarino Companies of Buffalo had signed on as the developer. 

PATHWAY TO PROSPERITY IS KEY

Tabelski said City Council’s decision to join forces with the GCEDC, BDC, Genesee County and the Batavia City School District to form the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity puts the City in an enviable position to develop sites that were once considered to have no future.

The Batavia Pathway to Prosperity ("BP2") partnership is supported by the redirection of 50 percent of new project payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to go toward investment in distressed areas of the City.

“When (former City Manager) Jason (Molino) and the Council decided that they were going to get in the game to do planning on City sites, that changed the ability of the economic development center, in my opinion, to engage with the City on specific target areas,” she said. “Now, you can start building stories around planning and trying to redevelop, whatever that may mean. Grant funding, developers, land acquisition – anything of that nature that you could put around something to redevelop it.”

With the door open for the GCEDC to engage with the City, Tabelski said that a couple independent studies served as a road map for government leaders.

She pointed to two key studies: the czb (an urban planning and community development firm) report in 2010 that revealed attitudes and downtown and neighborhood needs and how to acquire those needs; and the Brownfield Opportunity Area study in 2014 that identified large strategic sites such as the City Centre campus, Ellicott Station, Harvester, Healthy Living campus and Creek Park (on Evans Street).

“All of these are underutilized areas in the city, some of which are contaminated -- which brings extra tax credits -- and this is where you need to focus,” she said.

DRI PROJECTS IN VARIOUS STAGES

Tabelski then proceeded to give brief progress report on projects being funded from the $10 million New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative that was awarded to the City in the fall of 2017.

-- City Centre ($1 million) – She said a feasibility study paid for by Empire State Development and National Grid with a buy-in from the GCEDC and City of Batavia on the match will be completed in four to six weeks and, after that, a construction plan will be proposed and shared with the public.

“We really need to study structural and utility pieces of the mall because we can draw whatever we want as an architect on a piece of paper, but what can the mall actually do or become?” she said. “Can it add a second floor? Can we open up parts of the roof at some point? We’re not going to spend the construction money on the mall until we have a path forward.”

She also said work on the mall roof is about 80 percent complete and will be finished this summer.

-- Jackson Square ($750,000) – Tabelski said the City’s contract with the Department of State has been approved by City Council and is in the design/engineering stage. A work group of business owners in that vicinity has been formed and will be issuing a request for proposal in the near future.

-- Main Street Theater 56 ($700,000) – Another New York Department of State contract, the City’s role is to lease space at the City Centre to the Batavia Players theatrical troupe, which is making monthly payments and is close to finalizing design and preparing for construction, she said.

-- Building Improvement Fund ($600,000) – Tabelski said that these funds go to the BDC, which acts as a conduit to supply the money for private building owners to rehabilitate their structures. She said she expects the Bank Insurance Fund (BIF)  and NY Main Street grants to create 10 to 12 new first-floor residential units as well.

-- Ellicott Place (Save-A-Lot) ($1.15 million) – “This will be one of the shining star projects that we have in this DRI,” she said. “It will be an amazing project that will bring more residential downtown and more commercial space availability. That and the theater will hit construction first, in my opinion.”

She also mentioned the Healthy Living (YMCA) campus, a project that received $4.2 million is DRI funds, and the former C.L. Carr building, a $1 million DRI.

Regarding Ellicott Station ($425,000 DRI), Tabelski said she believes residents’ spirits will be lifted as remedial cleanup continues and construction starts – and when Ellicott Trail in that area can be used.

“Each facelift that we do on the exterior of a building or each site that gets cleaned up or each building that is rehabbed or something new is built, it just gives a better sense to our community,” she reasoned. “Even walking from the Southside by Savarino’s project now, it’s not pleasant. But when that changes, maybe your attitude changes.”

CITY IN MIDST OF SOFTWARE UPGRADE

When hired as assistant city manager last August, Tabelski said she went from an “external-facing role” (in the public eye) to an “internal-facing role” – and that the transition has been fairly smooth.

As the assistant, she took on -- and continues to play a large role in -- a massive software upgrade called Tyler New World ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), a government-specific solution to help create greater efficiencies for local government.

“We were on a quasi-DOS*-based system that (former Assistant City Manager) Gretchen (DiFante) would have talked about years ago,” she said. “That opportunity was appealing and also to try to move the City’s technology in terms of PC (personal computer) usage, and everything that goes along with it.”

Tabelski she felt a sense of satisfaction in being able “to alleviate some pressures on the project management side.”

“To me, it was very rewarding to do that and also to be here to sit through all the budget meetings last year, and understand where the revenue sources are and where are biggest expenses are,” she said. “We have to protect our community with police and fire and those aren’t revenue-generating services. Where we have a water fund and a sewer fund, they can generate fees for the services you get … the commodity and the utility.”

Revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year is projected to decrease by 15 to 20 percent, Tabelski said, assuming a 30-percent reduction in sales tax. As a result, the management team instituted an austerity plan – cutting expenses, deferring projects and travel, and implementing a hiring freeze.

‘CUSTOMERS ARE OUR RESIDENTS’

Tabelski compared managing a city to running a business.

“Our customers are our residents … our board of directors is the Council,” she said. “They tell us how they want things, what products we’re going to provide for our residents and what our residents are asking for, and we tell them financially if we can do it or how to get there.”

Sometimes, a way to “get there” is to raise property taxes, which is what City Council approved for 2020-21 (a 7.5-percent increase).

As far as 2021-22 is concerned, Tabelski said, “I can’t even go there yet. We’ll start plugging in budget numbers in late October.”

The first two weeks of Tabelski’s new job have been filled with meetings – with department heads (police, fire and public works), staff and stakeholders.

She says the City is moving forward and she attributes that, in part, to her preparation and attention to detail. 

“I pride myself in being very prepared and creating an agenda in advance. I don’t want meetings to last longer than they have to. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” she said.

Tabelski also works with City Council President Eugene Jankowski to set the governing body’s meeting agendas.

Jankowski concurred that Tabelski is “very well prepared and researched before we get into a topic.”

A POSITIVE TRACK RECORD

“I’ve dealt with Rachael for several years now through her other roles in community – and I found her to be very in tune to what’s going on,” he said. “She makes good suggestions and ideas, and is not afraid to make a decision and move forward with it or make adjustments, if necessary.”

He said that Council has not finalized the process for finding a permanent manager yet. When asked about additional pay for Tabelski’s additional duties, he said the subject “hasn’t come up yet.”

Tabelski said she understands the future is in Council’s hands, but made it clear that she does want to continue to serve the residents of Batavia.

“It (Moore’s leaving) happened very suddenly, so I am sure they will get back to that and we’ll have some conversations about that,” she said.

“I feel confident that myself and the department heads are moving projects and priorities and things along, especially during COVID-19 where the rules are changing on a daily basis. Trying to effectively communicate to the public, to the Council and to the employees (in the midst of the pandemic) has been a massive undertaking.”

*(DOS: Disk Operating System)

July 5, 2020 - 12:19pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in city of batavia, Acting City Manager, news, Rachael Tabelski, notify.

tabelski_photo.jpg

On June 22, Bergen native Rachael Tabelski assumed the role of Batavia’s Acting City Manager, replacing Martin Moore, who departed after about 20 months on the job.

The Batavian sat down with Tabelski at her office at City Hall earlier this week to learn more about her life experiences and her thoughts on being thrust into the municipality’s leadership position.

Today’s first part of a two-part feature focuses on her upbringing, education and influences.

Monday's second part provides insight into her tenure with the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Batavia Development Corporation, and an update on City management projects and priorities.

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“I believe that every position that I have taken in the community – starting with working with Assemblyman Steve Hawley and then moving to the (Genesee County) Economic Development Center to the Batavia Development Corporation to Assistant City Manager and now Acting City Manager – has been, for me personally, a step to better serve the residents of the City of Batavia.”

Buoyed by the preceding statement, Rachael Tabelski says she is ready, willing and able to manage the City of Batavia staff and work in tandem with City Council to make the community and Genesee County “better than we were yesterday.”

Time will tell whether the lifelong Genesee County resident becomes Batavia’s next permanent city manager but, at this juncture, Tabelski said she is more concerned with applying what she has learned to help move the City forward.

Tabelski’s journey to her current station began as an inquisitive daughter of Joan Fodge, who is one of 11 children of a family that put down its roots in the eastern part of Genesee County just as the U.S. Civil War was drawing to a close.

“My grandfather, Adrian Fodge, was an engineer working for GRS (General Railway Signal) in Rochester, which is now Alstom (Signaling), where my mother works,” said Tabelski, a 2000 graduate of Byron-Bergen Central School. “He also had a hobby farm in the Town of Bergen.”

She said that her great-great-grandfather came over from Ireland in 1865.

“The same time Lincoln’s body was traveling the country on the railway, I’m imagining this gentleman coming over through New York City and into the Stafford-Le Roy-Bergen area,” she offered.

ALWAYS OPEN TO LEARNING

Tabelski said her family’s varied interests and careers made for enlightening discussions at family reunions.

“We have scientists and engineers in our very big family, which I’m very proud of, and they were always interested in learning more, so I guess that’s where I get it from,” she said. “I never assume I know everything about anything. I really walk into every situation wanting to learn more -- to understand it -- and I think that’s what makes me a good fit for the City of Batavia in terms of my attitude.”

After graduating from high school, Tabelski enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., a move precipitated by her interest in books by acclaimed murder mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell.

“It was because I read books authored by Patricia Cornwell, based off the medical examiner in Richmond, Virginia,” she said. “I researched it and found out that this college has a Forensic Science program. But I wasn’t great at science, and I learned that when I went there and spent a few semesters there.”

Tabelski then discovered the Public Safety/Crime Scene Investigation technical degree program at the State University of New York at Canton.

"That was big then. The show ("CSI") had just come out. It was great,” she recalled.

She said students would take cars, make skid marks and measure them, and also would dress up in suits on certain days to investigate mock crime scenes on the campus.

“I never thought I would understand science until I applied that. We did fingerprinting and got tested on it,” she said. “It really was fun."

EXPLORING POLICE WORK

After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2005, Tabelski did a six-month internship with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office under the guidance of Ron Harling.

“He was a great mentor and I encountered a wide range of experiences,” she said.

One of those was accompanying a police officer while on patrol.

“The first question they asked was do you know how to use this – a shotgun? Do you have my back?” she said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know how to use a shotgun. Do I have your back? I’m the intern.'"

She said she took a couple of civil service tests in Monroe County that didn’t pan out, and decided that becoming a police officer wasn’t in the cards.

“Harling had mentioned a program called Public Administration at SUNY Brockport, so I enrolled in that,” she said. “And it was an amazing program with amazing professors who taught a really different way to think about government.”

She went on to explain the thought process.

“Most people think about government as a need to keep their job. So, it’s difficult – with little or big problems – to solve them because if you solve the problem, what happens to your job? We were taught to think differently. Your job is to solve problems and if it means that works you out of a job, so be it. You’ll find something greater, something bigger.”

HIGH PRAISE FOR HAWLEY, HYDE

Tabelski earned a master’s degree in Public Administration in 2008, while also entering the political arena as a legislative aide to Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and as a council member on the Bergen Town Board.

She left those posts in September 2010 when she was hired by the Genesee County Economic Development Center as the director of marketing and communications. She credited Hawley and GCEDC President Steve Hyde for expanding her knowledge of finances.

“I feel that I am strong in the financial field because of my work at the economic development center -- everything I did in terms of data and analysis and financial analysis, I certainly can attribute to the work there,” she said. “Steve Hyde was a great mentor and Steve Hawley was as well as far as understanding the legislative process in Albany.”

She said that working for Hyde and the GCEDC was like embarking upon more post-graduate studies.

“I got an MPA from Brockport and from Steve Hyde I got an MBA. I went to the Steve Hyde school of business,” she said. “He’s the most creative financial mind I’ve ever met, and he helped me understand how to be creative with finances in a positive way, not in a sneaky way. He showed me how to look at things differently and how to be very creative with finances.”

She said Hawley instilled in her the value of listening to others en route to finding solutions.

“I think Steve Hawley taught me that working with persons of any affiliation toward a common goal is the most important thing you can do,” she said. “Working with all sides of the aisle to achieve a common goal is more important than any type of affiliation. That’s the biggest lesson I learned from him.”

Tabelski said the community is fortunate to have the support of Hawley and agencies such as the GCEDC along with the “talented people” who are working for the City of Batavia.

BELIEF IN THE CITY OF BATAVIA

“We have an amazing, competent staff that works very, very hard,” she said. “When you have staff in the City that believes in the City, that changes everything. And the same goes when your residents believe in their City.”

She said traces her “belief” in the City to several years ago when she was working for the GCEDC. She and her husband, Adam, and their young children moved to Batavia from Medina, where Adam was village mayor.

“We moved here because we loved the direction in which the City was heading. We saw what the previous manager (Jason Molino) was doing and the previous Council had done, and believed that Batavia was on the upswing,” she said, adding that her husband completed his duty as mayor and deployment with the National Guard.

Tabelski said she was impressed with the manner in which Molino promoted Batavia.

“I have a very high regard for his financial acumen and his ability to drive excitement,” she said. “I don’t know what he was like as a manager internally, but externally he drove excitement. When you met him, you felt like you wanted to be in Batavia. You heard about all the good things going on – the rehabbing of downtown and the Brownfield projects.”

TRAIN RIDE TO MATRIMONY

It was during her employment with Hawley’s organization that Tabelski met her future husband.

“There was a local government conference where they had a train to Albany with government officials from Genesee and Orleans counties,” she said. “Adam was a trustee at the time, so I called, said ‘I need you to sign up; we need five more people to make this trip happen.’ ”

She said that Adam, who was then working for Sen. George Maziarz, replied, “If I become mayor, I will sign up. I said, sure you will become mayor.”

He did become the mayor of Medina – at the same time that she was serving on the Bergen Town Board.

“We had a lot of things in common,” she said, “and we got married in 2011.”

The couple has a son, Adrian, 8, and a daughter, Anna, 5. Both attend St. Joseph Regional School in Batavia.

Adam served on the Batavia City Council for more than three years but had to step down when his wife accepted the assistant city manager job in August.

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

Watch for part two on Monday.

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

July 4, 2020 - 12:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee Justice, news, notify.

dennis_wittman2010.jpg

Dennis Wittman, the founding director of Genesee Justice, the nation's first county-level agency built around the concepts of restorative justice, has passed away.

He was 77.

Wittman was a probation officer and supervisor in the Town of Bethany when newly elected sheriff Doug Call came to him in 1980 and asked him to be the agency's founding director. At first, Wittman said no. The supervisor's position felt like a second full-time job and the last thing he needed, he told The Batavian in 2010, was to become the head of a program that was untested and may not last.

Then one day in 1981, Wittman was summoned to his supervisor's office. There he found Tom Gillis, his boss, Call, Family Court Judge Charles Graney, and County Judge Glen Morton.

"I could see they were going to pound away on me," Wittman recalled. "I said, 'OK, I'll give it a try.' "

While Wittman reported to the sheriff, officials didn't want him hanging out with detectives or attorneys, so he was given a desk in the law library. He had no staff at first.

As a former seminary student, Wittman's attitude toward offenders already aligned with the goal of finding alternatives to incarceration.  

Call's goal was to cut the inmate population in the Genesee County Jail to help avoid the construction of a new facility.

By the time Wittman retired in 2006, 4,959 offenders had performed community service, doing 356,858 hours of unpaid work.

The alternative to jail had also saved county taxpayers more than $5.9 million because those offenders weren't in jail for the 60,000 days they would have served otherwise.

During his career, Wittman was also concerned about caring for the victims of crime. Under his leadership, Genesee Justice became the lead agency for:

  • Victim's Assistance
  • Judicial Diversion
  • Justice for Children
  • Child Advocacy
  • Justice for Women
  • Release Under Supervision (a Probation Department program until 2002)
  • DWI-Conditional Discharge 

The effort at establishing a government agency dedicated to restorative justice made Wittman an in-demand speaker in the restorative justice community. He traveled to 40 states plus Japan and Canada to talk about his work at Genesee Justice. He received another 2,500 invitations to speak in Europe that he was unable to accept.

To read his obituary, click here.

Previously: The Genesee Justice Story

Photo: File photo from 2010.

July 2, 2020 - 3:34pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, batavia city school district.

The Batavia City School District is forming a Reopen Batavia Strong Task Force to be partly comprised of parents and students to assist in sharing information and formulating a plan going into the next school year.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr., in a tweet on the district's website, wrote that "your input and participation in our reopening plans is vital."

Those interested in joining the committee are asked to send an email to [email protected] by Wednesday, July 8. The email should include the person's first and last name, best email address and phone number. 

Parents are asked to state where their children are enrolled and students are asked to identify their school and grade level for the 2020-21 school year.

The task force's first meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, July 10, likely in a virtual format.

Soler has indicated that three options are on the table at this point -- full in-person school attendance, a hybrid model of in-school and remote learning, and a 100-percent remote learning environment.

July 2, 2020 - 11:13am

Update: 2:30 p.m. -- with comments from Benedict

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Alice Ann Benedict was elected president of the Batavia City School District Board of Education on Wednesday morning, replacing longtime board member Patrick Burk.alice_ann_benedict.jpg

The unanimous selection of the board took place at a reorganizational meeting at the district’s administration conference room.

Benedict, a lifelong Batavian and former BOE president, was appointed in May to fill the board seat vacated by Zachary Korzelius. She then was elected by district residents to a three-year term in voting announced on June 16.

On Wednesday, Benedict, along with board members Barbara Bowman and Tanni Bromley, were sworn in by Business Administrator Scott Rozanski. Bowman and Bromley were re-elected last month.

As she took the president’s seat at the conference table, Benedict said, “Thank you all for your support and please bear with me. It’s been a while since I’ve been president of the board.”

Her first order of business was to call for a nomination for vice president. The board promptly voted for Peter Cecere to fill that position.

Benedict, a BOE member from 1995-2006, is familiar with the leadership role, having served three terms as president.

She and her husband, Wayne, and their three children are Batavia High School graduates. She also is an alumna of Genesee Community College.

"I am excited to be back on the BOE and becoming president is an added honor," Benedict said. "I take the responsibility very seriously and I know my experience from being on the BOE previously, will serve me well."

She said the board is operating during "an unprecedented and challenging time" and is inundated with information concerning students' academics along with the health and safety of students, teachers, staff and the community.

"I urge the community to get involved, participate in meetings, and engage with our Board," she added. "I want all of us to work together to be stakeholders in the future education of all our students."

Burk, who nominated Benedict for president, called the change a “transitional move.” He said that he had planned to retire from the board at the end of this year.

His term expires on June 30, 2021.

“This was a planned thing to bring in new leadership,” said Burk, a board member for close to 30 years. “With the theater up and moving forward, I will be concentrating in that area, and it really wouldn’t make sense to be president and leave (a void).”

He was referring to the Batavia Players Theater 56, which is in the process of relocating from Harvester Avenue to the City Centre as part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Burk is president, executive and artistic director of Batavia Players.

Burk also serves as the executive director of the Genesee Valley School Boards Association, which represents 22 school boards in Western New York. He is the 2016 recipient of the GVSBA's Albert W. Hawk Award for Distinguished School Board Service for his contributions to public education and children in his community.

Batavia Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said he wasn’t surprised by the board’s action to elect Benedict, noting that Burk has been involved for quite some time and that this was a “logical step in the transition.”

“Mr. Burk still is a valuable resource – he’s an active member and has a vote – and brings a ton of historical and institutional knowledge (to the board),” Soler said.

July 1, 2020 - 4:25pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Kevin M. Waleski Jr. (inset photo right), 32, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with: second-degree burglary; fourth-degree criminal mischief; attempted criminal mischief; resisting arrest; and obstruction of governmental administration. Waleski was arrested after an incident at 2:35 a.m. on June 26 on Ellicott Avenue, Batavia, in which he was allegedly found inside the enclosed patio of a third party residence without permission. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court via Skype and jailed without bail. He is due to return to city court on Aug. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Connor Borchert, assisted by Officer Alec Roberts, as well as officers Arick Perkins and Josh Girvin.

Andre L. Roberts (inset photo left), 27, of Burrows Street, Rochester, is charged with: second-degree burglary; second-degree harassment -- physical contact; and criminal mischief in the fourth degree -- preventing emergency assistance; and obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree. Roberts was arrested at 9:11 p.m. on June 24 after allegedlyentering a dwelling on Willow Street in Batavia and attempting to prevent a resident from calling 9-1-1. He also allegedly resisted being detained by a police officer who arrived on scene. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice. Roberts is due back in city court on Aug. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Sean Wilson, assisted by Officer Cowen Mitchell.

Darius Lamar Jones, 28, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with: second-degree harassment; third-degree criminal mischief; and criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation. Jones was arrested after an investigation into a domestic incident that occurred at 7:15 a.m. May 11 on Summit Street in Batavia. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court and jailed without bail. He is due in city court again on July 23. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay, assisted by Officer Stephen Quider.

Booker T. Ricks, 48, of North Lyon Street, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Ricks was arrested and charged following an investigation into an incident at 6:45 p.m. on June 25 in which two small children were observed climbing out of a second-story window, and onto the roof of a residence. He was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on July 28. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Christopher Lindsay.

Sarah Patricia Lytle, 37, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with second-degree criminal contempt and criminal purchase or disposal of a weapon. On June 29 Lytle was arrested on the charges. It is alleged that at 3 p.m. on June 17 on Lewiston Road in Batavia that she attempted to buy a firearm while she was the subject of an order of protection, which prohibits her ability to do so. She was issued an appearance ticket for Town of Batavia Court and is due there on July 29. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Minuto.

Desmond R. Miller, 25, of East Bayard Street, Seneca Falls, is charged with fourth-degree grand larceny. Miller was arrested after an investigation into a motorcycle that was stolen at 3 p.m. on May 25 on Oak Street in Batavia. Miller was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released on his own recognizance. He is due back in city court on  Aug. 20. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Jason Ivison.

Jose A. Rivera, 33, of Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with third-degree criminal mischief. Rivera was arrested at 3:43 p.m. on June 25 after he allegedly slashed the tires on a vehicle on Swan Street. He was processed at Batavia Police Headquarters, arraigned in Batavia City Court, then released. Rivera is due back in city court on Aug. 13. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Wesley Rissinger.

A 17-year-old female resident of Batavia was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of fireworks. The arrest was made after police responded at 9:26 p.m. June 28 to State Street for multiple complaints about fireworks. Police allegedly located the teen and found her in possession of, and using, a Roman candle. She was issued an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on July 29. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Mitchell Cowen.

Matthew C. Olcott, 41, of Clinton Street Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a Class A misdemeanor, and unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree, a violation. Jerwan B. McFarley, 34, of Lehigh Avenue, Batavia, is charged with: criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a Class A misdemeanor; and unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree, a violation. Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan DeLong conducted a traffic stop of a car that Olcott and McFarley were traveling in on Cedar Street in Batavia during the afternoon of June 29. It is alleged that Olcott was in possession of crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia and was driving with a suspended license. It is alleged that McFarley possessed crack cocaine and marijuana. Both defendants were arrested by members of the county's Local Drug Enforcement Task Force and issued appearance tickets for City of Batavia Court.

July 1, 2020 - 2:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in joshua blessed, Le Roy, news, notify.

4c684d8a-a8b5-4242-9290-421f750052f5-medium16x9_geneseotruck1.jpeg

blessedmug2020.jpg
             Joshua Blessed

The Virginia-based trucker whom Le Roy police encountered May 27, starting a perilous chase that eventually led to his death, was a credible threat to cops and civilians, Livingston County Sheriff Thomas J. Dougherty said yesterday in a press conference.

The bombs, guns and ammo Joshua Blessed had stored in his private vehicle and the bedroom he was renting in Rockingham County, Va., along with is social media posting, indicate Blessed was planning something big.

But it wasn't part of his plan in May, Dougherty said, to engage with law enforcement on that day.

"Our investigation shows that Blessed really was on the road to Batavia and what prompted this and triggered Blessed this day was the proactive traffic stop by the Le Roy Police Department," Dougherty said.

Blessed's white tractor-trailer, owned by Yurman Express, based in Harrisonburg, Va., was stopped by Le Roy PD officers in the Village of Le Roy for speeding on Main Street. The trailer was empty, which lends credence to the theory, Dougherty said, that Blessed really was driving to Batavia to pick up dairy product.

The search by the FBI of Blessed private vehicle in Virginia turned up three IEDs (improvised explosive devices), an AK-17, 9mm magazines, and $18,000 in cash.

A search of the bedroom he was renting -- Blessed, previously known as Sergia Journev, had apparently not been living with is family for at least 18 months -- found 11 IEDs, an AK-47 with a scope, a .50-caliber rifle, a .338 sniper rifle, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and $130,000 in cash. 

Blessed had made several social media posts attacking law enforcement and promoting violence against police officers. 

"The traffic stop set him off," Dougherty said. "That doesn't mean he didn't have a plan for the future. Based on what was recovered in the vehicle and in the bedroom, he certainly had a plan for the future. What that plan was, I don't have that information."

There is no indication that others were specifically involved in Blessed's planning, Dougherty said. That may be part of an ongoing FBI investigation.

"There are no details showing an immediate concern either here or there," Dougherty said.

Blessed died of a gunshot wound to the head. He also suffered three gunshots to his hip. Two deputies were firing long guns at Blessed at the time the shoot-out came to its fatal conclusion. The bullet that killed Blessed has not been recovered. Dougherty said he would not release the names of the deputies firing at Blessed at the time he was killed.

Blessed fired at least 24 rounds at cops. There were 24 shell casings recovered. His empty magazines indicate he fired at least 29 shots but that doesn't mean he hadn't discarded empty magazines somewhere along the way. A magazine for Blessed's 9mm Glock with seven rounds still in it was recovered, along a magazine containing 17 rounds (the capacity of the magazines Blessed was using).

Deputies from Livingston and Genesee counties returned fire at least 129 times in four different locations along the chase route, with 48 rounds fired at the final standoff location at Route 20a and Morgan View Road.

The incident started at 8:37 p.m. with the traffic stop in Le Roy and ended with Blessed death at 9:27 p.m. The chase went through Le Roy and Stafford before Blessed executed a U-turn and headed back toward Le Roy, going to Route 19 south into Wyoming County and then into Livingston County.

Dougherty said during the chase he remembered thinking that the driver was a danger to the public and to his officers but that he was also a highly skilled driver.

“This is a very unique situation," Dougherty said. "Somebody said to me, ‘that’s once in a career.’ This isn’t once in a career. You could serve multiple careers in law enforcement and never encounter a heavy vehicle, it’s pretty much impossible to stop unless you have a heavier vehicle and then add in an active shooter, a guy who is actively trying to kill cops. That’s something that is more Hollywoodesque than reality."

It was a miracle, with all the bullets flying around, the high-speed chase, Blessed's clear intention to harm other people, that nobody besides Blessed lost any blood.

"Not even a scratch," Dougherty said.

72948962-c4f9-4516-a0f9-843803b974f6-medium16x9_geneseotruck2.jpeg

Photos: Livingston County Sheriff's Office.

Thanks to our news partner 13WHAM for video of the press conference

Previously:

July 1, 2020 - 1:12pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city of batavia, genesee county, town of batavia, covid-19.

City of Batavia, Genesee County and Town of Batavia leaders reported that they have received four-fifths of the video lottery terminal funds owed to their municipalities by New York State.

“Our VLT money came in today (Tuesday) – 80 percent of the $440,000,” said Acting City Manager Rachael Tabelski.

The City’s actual number was $440,789, so that means that $352,631 is being added to its coffers at this time.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that although the money doesn’t change the recently passed 2020-21 budget that calls for a 7.48 percent property tax increase, it certainly will help ease the pain.

“That’s really good news, actually,” Jankowski said. “The budget is fixed – we’re set with that – but the additional money will help to offset some of the damage done by the COVID-19 situation.  It offsets some of the loss of sales tax revenue and other income because of the virus.”

Jankowski said City officials are expecting a 30 percent loss of income due to the pandemic, but he’s hoping it’s not quite that bad.

“I’m looking forward to see the June numbers to see if we’re continuing in a positive direction,” he noted.

Tabelski said the VLT funds generated at Batavia Downs Gaming aren’t enough to alter the City’s ultra-conservative approach as it deals with COVID-19.

“It still doesn’t change our austerity budget planning,” she said. “We can’t open up the flood gates in spending.”

Tabelski said that management created a COVID austerity plan several weeks ago, halting purchases, travel and training and instituting a hiring freeze to decrease expenses. The City did not furlough employees, but did lay off part-time employees, including those who ran the summer youth program.

“A victim of that (hiring freeze) was our summer youth program,” she said. “We have 150 kids throughout the city that come in – and from the town -- to utilize the parks. That was a hard decision, but in light of COVID and not knowing the social distancing, it also made it an easy decision.”

In March, City Council passed its 2020-21 budget with the tax increase based on the assumption that the state would be withholding the VLT money. The board appealed to Albany and solicited the support of Assemblyman Stephen Hawley and Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

Reached today by telephone, Hawley said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo released “what he believes he can do to remain solvent (80 percent) … as it is directly tied to the horrific situation that we’re in.”

Still, he says that if the economy recovers or federal stimulus money is forwarded to the state, the other 20 percent of the VLT money should be given to the municipalities.

Hawley said that he hopes newly-elected Congressman Chris Jacobs would fight for federal funds for municipalities. He also blamed Cuomo for the state’s financial dilemma.

“The State of New York hasn’t been managed smoothly in terms of balancing the budget,” he said. “He (Cuomo) entered with $6.2 billion deficit going into his 2020-21 budget and now that COVID is upon us, the (deficit) numbers from the governor doubles and quadruples. Some states have been run in a prudent fashion and others have not – with New York State being one of them.”

Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post said that the Town will be getting $128,310 in VLT funds – 80 percent of the full amount of $160,388.

“We are constantly fighting an uphill battle for them (state leaders) to perform the way they expect us to perform,” Post said.

Genesee County Treasurer Scott German said that $160,313 has been received. That also is 80 percent of the county’s full allocation of $200,392.

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