Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors

notify

May 21, 2022 - 10:12pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in accident, news, notify.

stillfatalmay222.jpg

At 3:41 p.m. on May 21, 2022, Genesee County dispatchers received a call of a motorcycle off the road in the area of 6191 North Byron Road with the subject not breathing. 

According to Sgt. Andrew Hale with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, a male in his 60’s from Hilton, NY, was traveling eastbound on North Byron Road with three other motorcyclists when for some unknown reason the motorcycle left the roadway and went off the north shoulder of the road and through a ditch, striking a wooden fence, coming to rest on its side.

The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene by the Genesee Coroner’s Office.  The three other motorcyclists who were traveling with the victim were not in the area when the subject left the roadway and crashed.

The Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of the accident.

UPDATE: The driver has been identified as Thomas Hankey, 60, of Hilton. He was driving a 2013 Victory motorcycle.  It appears that Hankey was eastbound on North Byron Road with three other motorcycles when his bike left its lane of travel. It crossed over the center line and continued off the north shoulder of the road. The motorcycle struck a farm fence and flipped over end-over-end and came to rest on the north shoulder. The cause of the crash is under investigation by the Crash Management Team.  

By Alecia Kaus/Video News Service

20220521_183840.jpg

20220521_183706.jpg

May 19, 2022 - 12:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

A Rochester man was arrested yesterday on a charge of petit larceny after allegedly stealing two crossbows from Dick's Sporting Goods on Veterans Memorial in Batavia.

Staff at Dick's reported a theft of crossbows as the suspect drove away and provided dispatchers with a description of the vehicle. 

A car driven by William Jefferey Gould, 39, of Affinity Lane, Rochester, was later stopped by State Police on I-490 and the crossbows were recovered.

Gould was also reportedly driving a stolen car from Freece.

The theft of the crossbows was investigated by Deputy Eric Meyer and Deputy Ayrton Blankenberg.

Gould was released on appearance ticket and turned over to police officers in Greece.

May 19, 2022 - 8:45am

There are signs on two doors at Genesee County Job Development Bureau that caught the attention of Genese County Legislator Rochelle Stein.

One sign had a locked door with the message “we are not open,” issued by the New York State Department of Labor, while the other sign stated that the development bureau was open for business. Given that kids are in school and people have returned to work, it was surprising for Stein to see the state closed to customers, she said.

“I was shocked,” Stein said during Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting.

Director Teresa Van Son agreed. She gave a department report intertwined with both the good and bad news. The Job Development Bureau remained open in some capacity throughout the entire pandemic, she said.

“I'm really proud of how our team has moved forward and continues to provide services and adapt, and all that we've accomplished,” she said. “So I'm going to follow the same format as last year; I'm gonna give you the bad news first. “

Last year she predicted an overall shortfall of funding that would cause the department to dip into its reserves. “We did have to do that, and we do anticipate that happening again this year,” she said. Bad news. However, the Workforce Development Board contract has been renewed for next year. Some good news.

“And my last thing of bad news is that all of our programs continue to be provisional. They all didn't take the test that was offered in April,” she said, adding that a new member has been tapped to be on the Workforce Development Board.

“We’d like to present one appointment to the Workforce Development Board. Daniel Ireland, president of Rochester Regional Health, for a two-year term representing private sector business and healthcare.”

Ireland will be especially welcome at a GLOW With Your Hands “2.0” program. A new addition to the 2023 line-up, that program will focus on healthcare, which is certainly in Ireland's wheelhouse. More details are to be available in spring 2023, she said.

Other good news is that all program staff have been cross-trained, she said, including one new staff member. All staff will have have learned about every one of the site’s programs, she said, meaning “no more siloed job development.”

Training is crucial, yet difficult to do with about $150,000 across all four counties, she said, echoing a legislator with “that’s not enough.”

“The cost of running four Career Centers (one each in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties) in GLOW just keeps increasing. And as those costs increase, and the allocation from the state stays pretty level with small increases, that means we have less training dollars to help people with skill upgrades and to get into better jobs or into jobs,” Van Son said. “So the Workforce Development Board is looking at applying for different grants so that we can just provide additional training for folks, but it's going to be tight.”

Aside from statistics, funding woes and program updates — the necessary staples on the menu — she then got to the main course: success stories. These are some of the folks who benefited from the agency’s training and employment programs, she said.

First there’s Tom, who was in a residential recovery program for addiction. He wanted training to become an electrician, and the agency sent him to school. “He did amazing,” she said. “Great attendance, great performance.” From there he received subsidized employment while upgrading his skills to become a journeyman, she said.

And then there’s Karen, who had been unemployed for 13 years. A stay-at-home mom, Karen was getting disability benefits for kidney failure and struggled with anxiety and depression. Karen wanted to be a good role model for her two children, each who had a disability as well. Their mom obtained training to be a phlebotomist and is working at a hospital.

“She wanted to set a good example and show them that even though you have a disability, you still can be a productive member of the workforce,” Van Son said. “And she's very excited to be back in the workforce. So, I just wanted to share a few stories to give you a sense of the kind of thing that we're doing.”

May 19, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Batavia Downs, Western Regional OTB, notify.

After presenting bid requests for election-related equipment Wednesday, Genesee County Board of Elections Commissioner Dick Siebert put on his personal hat. 

He wanted to clear the air about the relationship between him and former state senator George Maziarz. This past week Maziarz held a news conference to announce a lawsuit he has filed against Western Regional Off-Track Betting. In particular, Maziarz alleged that Batavia Downs and WROTB officials have engaged in "shameless and blatant corruption."

One of the allegations involved OTB members fraudulently obtaining perks, including health insurance, at the expense of taxpayers. Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek defended the actions of both entities and said he believes that Maziarz is "just a bitter individual" who seems to have a vendetta against Batavia Downs and OTB. 

Likewise, Siebert, who has been a longtime leading member of OTB, wanted to have his say about Maziarz's motivation. 

"I'm just clearly here, I gotta say, and I'm gonna say this publicly, George Maziarz and I have not had a good rapport over the years," Siebert said during the Ways & Means Committee meeting. "When I was chairman, the one year George Maziarz approached me and he threatened me. If I didn't fire this particular guy ... he was a Democrat and George wanted somebody else ... I would never be chairman again.

"Well, I didn't fire him. He was definitely just upset because I would not support it. I understand being in the public eye that you're subjected to this kind of criticism ... I'm proud of what I've done for Genesee County. I'm happy to represent you. So I'm just getting this off my chest."

He recalled when Batavia Downs was in its early stages, and the parking lot and property were filled with seagulls and asbestos. All of that had to be cleaned up and new plans were put in place to create the gaming facility on Park Road, he said.

"I think we've done a great job."

Maziarz alleged that Siebert was involved in texting and/or emailing communications that involved misuse of company funds used for tickets to special events. Anyone who knows Siebert is also aware that he doesn't do such technology, he said. 

"The joke in my office was 'we know Dick didn't do that because Dick doesn't text.' My wife does all the acquisitions. She laughed. She said, 'What is he saying? You can't do emails.' Number one, I never emailed anybody about any tickets. I got accused of owing Genesee County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the health insurance that I had taken for the 28 years I've been here," he said. "It's questionable right now and we're reviewing it. We've had, over the 28 years I've been here, we've had many comptrollers audits and not one of them raised an issue until just recently about the legality of it. So I had health insurance, and I'm not denying that I've had it, everybody else can have it." 

There have been prior audits with some negative findings, and OTB has made changes accordingly, Siebert has previously said. There was a lack of oversight of the distribution of sports and concert tickets and use of company vehicles, he said, and those mistakes have been corrected.

To read more about the Maziarz lawsuit, click here  

May 19, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Grand Jury, crime, news, notify.

Christopher C. Say is indicted in counts of assault 2nd, criminal possession of a weapon 3rd, attempted arson 3rd, criminal mischief 2nd, making a terroristic threat, and criminal mischief 4th. Say is accused of using a dangerous instrument to cause serious injury to another person on Dec. 26 in the Town of Stafford. He is accused of using brass knuckles. He is attempting to start a fire to damage a detached garage at a location on Main Road in Stafford. He is accused of damaging the property of another person in excess of $1,000 in value. He is accused of threatening several troopers, deputies, and firefighters. He is accused of damaging an armored police vehicle. (Click here for previous reports of this incident.)

Adam E. Bortle is indicted on counts of promoting prison contraband 1st and three counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Bortle is accused of bringing narcotics into the Genesee County Jail on March 20, specifically Alprazolam, Fentanyl, and cocaine.

Gerard H. Altenburg is indicted on counts of felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and reckless driving. Altenburg is accused of driving a 2006 Dodge on Route 5 in the Town of Pembroke while intoxicated on Dec. 1. He was previously convicted of DWI in the Town of Pembroke in June 2016.

Eric T. McGrain is indicted on a count of felony DWI.  He is accused of driving a 2019 Chevrolet on Jan. 8 in the Town of Batavia. He was previously convicted of DWI in June 2012 in the Town of Greece.

Marcella F. Greene is indicted on counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance 3rd and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Greene is accused of possessing cocaine in a quantity significant enough to sell and a quantity of Fentynal on Dec. 21 in the Town of Batavia.

Edward S. Demetsenaere is indicted on counts of felony DWI and aggravated unlicensed operation. Demetsenaere is accused of driving drunk on Oct. 27 in the Town of Pavilion.

David B. Kenjockety is indicted on counts of felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and aggravated unlicensed operation. Kenjockety is accused of driving drunk on Aug. 13 in the Town of Darien. 

Jason P. Gorton is indicted on a count of assault 1st. Gorton is accused of causing serious injury to another person by use of a dangerous instrument, a mobile phone.

Isaac D. Abrams is indicted on counts of burglary 1st and assault 3rd. Abrams is accused of entering a dwelling on Bloomingdale Road, Town of Alabama on Dec. 28 with the intent of committing a crime. He is accused of causing injury to another person.

May 19, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, batavia, notify, Alabama, Le Roy, Oakfield.

Stephen S. Bogle, 35, of Batavia, is charged with grand larceny 3rd and falsifying business records 1st. Bogle is accused of going to his place of employment on Bank Street, Batavia, and punching in, then leaving for eight to 12 hours, then punching out, without ever physically being present at work. He is accused of stealing $13,148.63 as a result of this scheme.  He was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Gerald Brinson Jr., 33, of Rochester, is charged with burglary 2nd, grand larceny 4th, criminal mischief 3rd, criminal possession of a weapon 3rd, endangering the welfare of a child, falsely reporting an incident 3rd, and menacing 2nd. At 9:30 a.m., May 17, Emergency Dispatch received a call of a disturbance and burglary in progress at a residence on Oak Street. Brinson is accused of entering the residence of a woman he knew and attacking her. According to Batavia PD, he was wanted on a gun case in Monroe County.  When patrols arrived, officers determined the victim and her year-old son had escaped from the residence but Brinson was still inside, refusing to exit. Officers from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, NYS Police, and NYS Environmental Conservation arrived to assist. While Brinson Jr was inside the residence, he allegedly called in a fake report of gunfire on Ellicott Avenue. Eventually, Brinson Jr came out of the residence and was taken into custody. Brinson was arraigned in City Court and ordered held on $25,0000 bail, $50,000 bond, or $100,000 partially secured bond.

Tonya M. Weber, 38, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Weber is accused of leaving a business on West Main Street, Batavia, at 5:40 p.m., April 13, with a bag of groceries without paying for them. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Steven M. Lindner, 49, of Albion, was arrested on a bench warrant. Lindner was wanted on a warrant out of City Court.  Linder was arraigned and the case was disposed by the judge. Lindner was released and does not need to return.

Dierdre A. Louchren, 56 of Batavia, is charged with failure to appear. Louchren was arrested on a warrant. She was originally arrested in 2020 on an abandonment of animals charge. Louchren was arraigned in City Court and ordered to appear on May 19.

Cheryl M. Figoura, 42, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Figoura is accused of stealing money from her employer on Oak Street at 5 a.m., May 5.  She was issued an appearance ticket.

Christopher P. Thomas, 38, of Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief 4th. Thomas is accused of damaging another person's property on State Street, Batavia, at 1:22 p.m., April 23.  He was issued an appearance ticket.

Cynthia C. Richardson, 42, of Batavia, is charged with failing obligation of parent or guardian. On 12:59 a.m., May 5, Richardson allegedly failed to stop her child from going outside without a parent or guardian past curfew. Richardson was issued an appearance ticket.

Ashley M. Davis, 33, of Batavia, is charged with failing obligation of parent or guardian. On 12:59 a.m., May 5, Davis allegedly failed to stop her child from going outside without a parent or guardian past curfew. Davis was issued an appearance ticket.

Ronnie J. Flinchum, 63, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Flinchum is accused of threatening physical contact with another person during a dispute reported at 8 p.m., April 28, on Bant Street, Batavia. Flinchum was issued an appearance ticket.

Jonathan Chisler, 31, of Bacon Street, Le Roy, is charged with aggravated harassment 2nd. Chisler was arrested following a complaint regarding an incident reported at 9:38 a.m., May 13, at a location on Union Street, Le Roy. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Ethan Thomas Cifeill, 24, of Bernd Road, Le Roy, is charged with petit larceny. Cifeill is accused of stealing something from a location on South Street, Le Roy, at 8:02 p.m., May 14.

Latoya Denise Jackson, 36, of State Street, is charged with criminal contempt 2nd, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, and criminal trespass 2nd. Jackson was allegedly at a property on West Main Street Road at 10:11 a.m., May 17, and refusing to leave. Jackson was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and released on her own recognizance.

Michael David Wiedrich, 52, of Boyd Road, Pavilion, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and driving left of pavement markings. Wiedrich was stopped at 1:45 a.m., May 18, on North Street, Le Roy, by Deputy David Moore. He was released on appearance tickets.

Suzanne Marie Kennelly, 32, no address specified, Batavia, is charged with unlawful fleeing a police officer 3rd, DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, speeding, and moving from lane unsafely. Kennelly is accused of failing to pull over at 7:14 p.m., May 6, when Deputy Trevor Sherwood attempted to stop her on Wight Road, Alabama.  She is scheduled to reappear in Town of Alabama Court at 6 p.m., July 5.

Michael James Fox, 37, of Park Avenue, Oakfield, is charged with forcible touching. Fox was arrested following a complaint lodged at 5 p.m., May 9, on Park Avenue, Oakfield. An order of protection was issued and he was released on his own recognizance.

Maria Lynn Dimartino, 56, of Rollin Circle, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Dimartino is accused of using the bar code on a 32-inch TV to purchase a 50-inch TV at BJ's Wholesale Club at 7:25 p.m., April 21.  She was issued an appearance ticket.

May 18, 2022 - 4:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in pembroke, pembroke hs, sports, United Basketball, basketball, notify.

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022.jpg

Pembroke High School held a special "assembly game" of its United Basketball team against the Pioneer Panthers, of Section VI, on Wednesday afternoon.

Unified Basketball, sanctioned by the NYS High School Athletics Association and Special Olympics, brings together teams of students with disabilities and those without to compete regionally.

"The purpose of an Assembly Game is to help spread the word about Unified sports and encourage more involvement, as well as provide some student-athletes with a once-in-a-lifetime experience to compete before a packed gymnasium of their peers," said Principal Nathan Work.  "This is a pretty big deal in the world of Special Olympics and Unified Sports."

Pembroke won 44-38.

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-2.jpg

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-3.jpg

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-4.jpg

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-5.jpg

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-6.jpg

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-7.jpg

pembrokeunifiedhoops2022-8.jpg

May 18, 2022 - 4:00pm

kmart_lot_b.jpg

After Town of Batavia Planning Board members gave the final approvals to Benderson Development for two new commercial buildings in the former Kmart parking lot on Lewiston Road, they had but one question: "who is it?"

The rep from Benderson wouldn't say.

He said he couldn't release the names until leases are signed. He said that lease signing could come soon for at least one potential tenant, with construction to begin on that building in July.

Benderson is planning:

  • A 4,000-square-foot restaurant with a drive-thru and bypass lane to be located in the southwest corner of the property;
  • A 6,752-square-foot retail/restaurant building with a 2,000-square-foot endcap coffee shop with drive-through in the southeast corner of the property.

On Tuesday, the planning board approved the project's environmental review, special use permit for a drive-through, and site review plan.  With those final approvals, Benderson is ready to sign agreements with the intended tenants of the buildings.

Before the vote on the special use permit, Chairwoman Kathy Jasinski noted that the only opposition had come from pizza shop owner Jerry Arena, who objected to the entire project.  She said it was her understanding that Arena had modified his position and town engineer Steve Mountain said that is correct. 

"He's not here tonight so I'm assuming that he's okay with that," Jasinski said. "So we really don't have any opposition." 

UPDATE: Jerry Arena said he was not aware of the meeting and that his position hasn't changed at all.  He still opposes the project.

May 18, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, notify.

Applications have been coming in for the vacant assistant city manager position as Batavia City Manager Rachael Tabelski formulates the role’s top priorities.

The interview process is set to begin in the next few weeks, she said.

“I’m looking at neighborhood revitalization. It's a very long-term look, but I'm trying to coalesce all the information I've gathered in the different years of working with the county and in the city, and bring this project forward,” Tabelski told The Batavian on Monday. "We'd like to have someone in place by the end of July."

Earlier this month, Jill Wiedrick submitted her resignation letter after being assistant manager for just about a year. She had announced that she was leaving for another job in Fairport.

Tabelski has ideas about what she’d like to assign to the future assistant, and reinvigorating city neighborhoods is the theme. Her top two goals are to preserve the tax base and eliminate blight, she said.

“The ideas I have about neighborhood revitalization include the possibility of looking at our zoning, looking at flood properties, and how we can bring more value to southside neighborhoods,” she said. “Understanding if there are problems in neighborhoods, and what changes in our code could be implemented to help mitigate those types of problems, helping residents stay in their homes and not be foreclosed on.”

She’d like that new person to understand the various types of programs available for assistance to property owners, and know where “zombie” properties are, along with working with banks to stabilize those properties on a “path to homeownership,” she said.

The term zombie properties was coined for those sites that become stagnant due to the prior owners defaulting on payments and the banking institution locking it down in ongoing legal procedures before the city can claim foreclosure. That has also created issues with landscape maintenance -- or lack thereof -- as the particular property remains in limbo with no one specifically responsible for it.

“Because they do cause a drastic effect on neighboring properties when you do have a vacant property in your neighborhood,” Tabelski said. “And lastly, looking into different land banks and how other communities have used those to move property forward, as well as continuing to work with Habitat for Humanity.

"So this is a very multi-prong strategy and (the future assistant is) going to have other ideas than the ones I presented. And that's what I want their first big job to be, is coming up with defining the strategy today, a strategy which would have multiple paths on it to help Batavia’s neighborhoods, and then starting the execution of those plans into the future.”

 

May 18, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, comprehensive plan, notify.

rachael.jpg

Post-Covid conditions, higher wages, a smaller pool of candidates and veteran worker retirements makes being an employer all the more difficult, Rachael Tabelski says.

“It's just something for investors, government officials and the business community alike to be aware of. We're seeing inflation, you see interest rates rising, we're seeing rising wages and across all sectors, making it very difficult to be in the business of government, where you're hampered by union negotiations and contracts and set wages,” she said during Monday’s City Planning Board meeting. “We're seeing competition for jobs that's different than we've ever seen before. There are so many issues facing employers today. We’re living through a time like no other.”

Her point was not to dole out a big bowl of doom for the city, but to lay out the issues that have become more prevalent. Tabelski’s presentation was an update of the city’s comprehensive plan from its last draft in 2017.

COVID aftermath …
Easing up COVID mandates has also meant the end of child tax credits, remote jobs and direct stimulus checks and resuming rent and utility payments for tenants, evictions and foreclosures, she said. The city has also experienced what she dubbed “the silver tsunami,” a term to describe the retirement of three experienced members of the Public Works Department, and their replacements “trying to get up to speed.”

“And you know, my question that none of us can find the answer to is, will this change the workplace permanently? We just don't know,” she said. “I wanted to just remind everyone on the framework of what we're dealing with in the city.”

Leading the way on lead replacement …
One “enormous” task — that’s an understatement — will be replacing lead water pipes, she said.

“This is an emerging issue that's going to take a lot of time away from our staff, and including myself, to work on a communication plan with the residents and try to (help them) understand,” she said. “So you have the water main, and then you have a lateral that goes through a curve box; this is all city-owned. Then you have the line that goes into your residence, that's all residential owned. So if there's a lead or galvanized pipe in any portion of that system, it now needs to be replaced.”

No, this isn’t happening tomorrow,  she said but must be done at some point. Communication with affected residents, obtaining grant monies, understanding the full scope of the project, figuring out financing and viable funding sources all need to be done before pipe replacement can occur. The city of Buffalo has committed in the neighborhood of $15 million for its replacement project, she said.

“This is something that is going to be an enormous project for the city to undertake … it's something we're working on. And we are going to be starting with (former City Manager) Jason's plans. So again, this wasn't something we knew about in 2017. It wasn't on our radar. But I think it's very important that it's on the radar now,” she said.

And the upside …
All of that being said, she also pointed to the positives of city projects, total investments and being able to track those investments as part of a “$100 million I’m all in” initiative that began with former City Manager Jason Molino. In 2017, the city committed to creating at least $100 million of investment by 2022 to revitalize downtown and “reclaim the vibrancy of Batavia.”

“And the goal of this was to try to extract the investment from not only the commercial and residential building projects that went on in the city, but also any public infrastructure monies that were spent in the city,” she said. “We have $132 million invested, and that includes the completed investments and those currently under construction added together. So I think the city has done a wonderful job of fostering this investment and also tracking it. I don't know that any other city has a similar tracking system as we do.”

The most significant contributing properties to the city’s tax base are all downtown, she said, which demonstrates the importance of focusing on that segment of the city. Of the entire city base with 5,700 properties, 75 percent of those are taxable, with 25 percent being tax-exempt nonprofit and government sites. Current taxable value is at $669 million, with $220 million tax-exempt. She reminded the board that those tax-exempt properties “still pay water and sewer costs.”

The city lags behind the town of Batavia with a growth in assessed value at 26 percent to 49 percent, respectively. Completed projects from the 2017 comprehensive plans include Ellicott Trail, a downtown revitalization initiative, the commencement of the Ellicott Station project, securing infrastructures grants, building Liberty Square apartment complex, and focusing on upper floor apartments.

“We secured a lot of infrastructure grants over the last few years. Liberty Square was built so that addresses housing for all different types of populations. Our upper floor apartments have been built, a lot of the building fund projects that were part of the DRI and through another subsequent Main Street Grant,” she said.

Projects that are in-progress and not yet completed include tree management — ensuring to replace trees that are removed from the city landscape with trees of varying species and are appropriate for the local climate; creating an inclusive venue at Austin Park so that “all children” can play there; integrate “traffic calming techniques” for busy roadways such as Route 63/Ellicott Street; lead pipeline replacement; and reimagining properties within the flood plain, she said. Yet to be tapped are plans to design decorative crosswalks, pedestrian scale lighting, create a park and recreation master plan and update zoning to reflect comprehensive plan recommendations.

“I think tonight was nice to give an update to the planning committee who worked on the comprehensive plan,” Tabelski said after the meeting. “And just showing how much progress has been made in the last five or six years here in our city. But yet, there's a lot more things that still need to be done. And this group really has been through many of the planning initiatives and are here to help with the execution as well.”

citystorygraphics-7.png

Top photo: City Manager Rachael Tabelski presents an update on the comprehensive plan during Monday's Planning Board meeting. Photo by Joanne Beck. Above illustrates the varying percentages that city residents are taxed, from 23 percent for city property taxes to 53 percent for school taxes. Image provided by the City of Batavia.

May 17, 2022 - 11:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
benito_gay_mug.jpg
Benito Gay

Batavia PD responded to Subway, 412 E. Main St., at 5:56 p.m. after receiving a report of a robbery in progress, and upon arrival learned the suspect had fled in an easterly direction.

After obtaining a description of the suspect, officers located a man matching the description at an apartment complex on East Main.  He was taken into custody and identified as Benito A. Gay, 34, of Batavia.

He is charged with robbery and another unspecified charge. He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held without bail.

There were no weapons displayed during the robbery, police said. 

Additional evidence was recovered after Gay's arrest, according to police. 

He is scheduled to appear in City Court again at 1:30 p.m. May 19.

Gay has other prior arrests in Batavia, most recently in March when he was accused of stealing three beers from the Kwik Fill at Jackson and Ellicott.

May 17, 2022 - 10:55pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, public schools, 2022-23 budget vote, notify.

Though votes were reported as unofficial this evening, it’s apparent that Batavia City Schools’ $54.8 million budget and a related 1 percent tax levy increase passed with a vote of 301 to 108.

It was one of eight districts to report a passed 2022-23 budget. 

The other proposition on Batavia’s ballot was the election of board members for three vacant seats. Chezeray Rolle came out on top with 368 votes, followed by John Marucci and Korinne Anderson, each with 346 votes.

Alexander Central’s budget and related tax levy passed 83 to 44. Prop 2 of two bus purchases passed 92 to 35; Prop 3 to spend $56,958 from the equipment capital reserve fund passed 97 to 31; Prop 4 to establish a capital reserve fund passed 86 to 38;  Prop 5 to establish a school bus reserve fund also passed 85 to 39.

Molly Grimes received 94 votes to fill the five-year board member term, and there were several write-in suggestions for the position.

Byron-Bergen Central School’s budget passed with a vote of 244 to 98. Proposition 2 of a bus purchase was also approved 252 to 89; Prop 3 of a school vehicle reserve passed 245 to 95 and school board candidates Kimberly Carlson received 292 votes, Heidi Ball 284 and Jeffrey Cook 287.

Elba Central’s budget passed by a vote of 100 to 17. Superintendent Gretchen Rosales shared her gratitude for the positive outcome.

“I am thankful for our supportive community,” she said.  “These results demonstrate the trust the Elba community has in the district, not only to educate the students, but also to be good financial stewards of their resources.”  

Elba’s Prop 2 to purchase a school bus passed 102 to 15; Prop 3 to expend up to $100,000 on a capital outlay project through a reserve fund passed 104 to 12, and board members Travis Torrey and Mercy Caparco won a five-year term on the school board with votes of 100 and 106, respectively.

Le Roy Central's general budget passed 474 to 137 and the library budget by 509 to 103. Candidates Peter Loftus and Rachael Greene each won a three-year term on the school board with votes of 458 and 464, respectively. Jason Karcher, with 382 votes, will fill a two-year term.

Oakfield-Alabama Central’s $23.5 million budget passed 187 to 35. The district also approved the addition of a student ex-officio board member 180 to 40. Matt Lamb, with 205 votes, and Justin Staebell with 209 were each elected to three-year terms on the school board.

Pavilion Central’s budget passed 106 to 23, as did a reserve resolution by 107 to 20. Marirose Ethington received 116 votes to fill a five-year school board term.

Pembroke Central’s budget passed 272 to 98, while a school bus proposition passed 276 to 93. Ed Levinstein garnered 332 votes for a five-year school board seat and Amber Winters received 312 for a four-year board seat.

Corfu Public Library election results gave Jessica Doctor the most votes of 336 and John Conti two write-in votes, each for a three-year trustee seat; Matt Steinberg received 334 votes for a two-year trustee seat.

 

May 17, 2022 - 10:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alabama, roundabout, news, notify.

A decision by the Alabama Town Board in April 2019 to oppose the installation of a roundabout at the intersection of Ledge Road and Route 77 has led to a lawsuit filed by an Oakfield woman who sustained severe injuries in an accident at that intersection on Oct. 2, 2020.

Marianne Molaro sustained permanent injures, "including but not limited to, a fracture of the cervical spine at the C-2 level," according to the suit filed in November by attorney Bradley D. Marble of Lockport on her behalf.

Also named is Genesee County; the other driver, Amber M. Messervey, of Naples; the owner of the car Masservey was driving; and Victor Chase, of Rochester. 

The amount of damages, if the plaintiff prevails, are left up to a jury, the suit states.

At the time of the accident, the DOT had not yet announced its decision to drop its proposal for a roundabout, or a traffic circle, at the intersection.  That decision wouldn't be made public until May 2021.

It's not clear that Molaro can recover damages from the town since Route 77 is property of New York State, and the Town has no authority to install or block a traffic circle at the intersection. Marble did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.

The state is not named in the suit.

The town's insurance agent is handling the legal response to the suit.

The suit seeks to hold both the town and the county liable for "negligent reckless and careless" action in "failing to provide a safe roadway" and in failing to "correct a known safety risk," in failing to "perform an adequate highway safety plan study; in failing to abide by a highway safety plan that provided a reasonable basis for the decisions made; failing to follow the guidance of the NYS DOT to install a roundabout at the location of the collision" and to fail to take any other reasonable action that could help prevent serious accidents at the intersection.

In 2019, the town sent a letter to the Department of Transportation opposing a proposed $1.8 million roundabout out of concern that "while it may decrease high-impact accidents, it will increase low-impact accidents, which will, in turn, increase the amount of emergency calls for our volunteer firemen."

The letter raised concerns about farmers moving equipment through the roundabout, plowing it in winter, increased noise from trucks slowing and applying their jake brakes, and the danger of traffic slowing as vehicles approach the roundabout.

"The proposed roundabout will be approximately 30 feet from a residence," the letter stated. "This poses a significant safety hazard to this property owner."

Supervisor Janet Sage signed the letter, along with Deputy Supervisor Kevin Fisher, board members Gordon Linsey, Jill Klotzbach, and William Cleveland.

The county is named in the suit even though the County Legislation declined in May 2019, when the Town of Alabama requested the County to join Alabama in opposing the roundabout.  Members of the Legislature listened to Highway Superintendent Tim Hens when he outlined why roundabouts help save lives.

Traffic engineers generally support roundabouts, they say, because roundabouts lead to a 60 percent reduction in all types of accidents and a 99 percent reduction in fatal accidents because they eliminate head-on and right-angle, high-speed collisions. 

On Oct. 2, 2020, Molaro was driving northbound on Alleghany Road when her vehicle was struck by one driven by Messervey, according to the suit, when she failed to stop for a stop sign in the eastbound portion of Ledge Road.

The Batavian requested a copy of the accident report, which is public record, from State Police, which, contrary to the state's open records law, declined the request.

During the state's proposal process for the roundabout, the DOT stated that between April 1, 2013, and May 31, 2018, there were 56 crashes in the area and 31 of them at the intersection. Two of the accidents were fatal.

The DOT said at the time of the proposal for a roundabout that they did consider alternative solutions and had implemented minor safety enhancements, such as upgraded signs and modified striping, but proposed a modern roundabout as the best solution to the propensity for accidents at the intersection. The engineers proposed an elliptical-shaped roundabout.

May 17, 2022 - 5:14pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Genesee County Jail, batavia, notify.

jailconstructionmay112022.jpeg

Aside from the brick-and-mortar details of constructing a new, 184-bed Genesee County jail facility, Senior Project Superintendent Randy Babbitt offered a reminder Monday about what’s most important.

“My top priority is safety. Safety, safety, safety is paramount with me. I want everyone returning home the same way they show up every day. And we all have families, kids, grandkids. So that's one of the biggest things I stress to the guys: safety first,” Babbitt said during the first update given to the Public Services Committee. “And then I go into quality and a lot of other things, but my main concern for my walk is to be safe every day. So please be assured that's gonna be on the top.”

Most of the contractors have provided their own site-specific safety plan, reviewed and approved by Pike company's corporate safety director, Bollin said. It's also been reviewed and approved by Senior Project Manager Carl York.

“They did submit one to us, and we kicked it back because they didn't address a few things that we want to address,” Bollin said. “They are complying with their safety plan that they have submitted, and everything is off to a good start.”

York outlined work that has been completed and future ongoing collaboration.

“We're collecting everybody's detailed schedules that will go in … we’re gonna start having our project manager meetings every week, starting next week, and our coordination meetings with the contractors coordinating all of the MEPs for all the buildings are also starting next week. And both of those will go on every week until their coordination tasks are completed,” York said. "Randy's on-site superintendent meetings will probably start in about another two, three weeks or so when there's a few more subs working on site. Everybody's very eager to get as much done before the snow flies. We're all very excited to be here. And I'm very eager. You're going to see it's smooth (moving) forward.”

Work has begun at the site of the new larger jail on West Main Street Road next to County Building 2. Equipment at the site will be a mainstay for several months, with a final completion date to be in March 2024, Bollin said. 

He reviewed what’s already been approved — six prior packages with contractors Bayside Paving for site work, LeChase Construction Services as general contractor, Joseph Flihan Company for food services equipment work, Thurston Dudek for plumbing and fire protection, Bell Mechanical Contractor for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, Kaplan-Schmidt for electrical and security electronics work and a seventh contract with CME Associates, which is to provide special inspections and testing.

Bayside paving began “mobilization” earlier this month, with temporary fencing, soil erosion control, clearing and grubbing construction entrances that were completed on May 13. Stripping topsoil began that same day, Bollin said.

The notice to proceed was issued to all contractors on Monday, he said.

“It was dated today. Based on the timeframe that we gave the contractors to complete the project, a substantive date for substantial completion will be Jan. 14, 2024. The date for final completion is March 15, 2024,” he said.

Given this has been a project in the making for at least five years, it was a drum-roll moment as he announced an official groundbreaking ceremony date has been set. Genesee County officials will celebrate the jail’s formal inception at 10 a.m. on May 26.

All private contracts have been fully executed and both Genesee County and the contractors have signed them, he said. The latest agreement with CME Associates is being drafted, he said. All forms, payment bonds and insurance have been provided by all of the contractors and have been “carefully reviewed by Genesee County’s insurance agent and Pike's risk management department,” he said.

He said the contracts are signed for a total project cost of $57,272,800. 

Top photo: 2022 File photo by Howard Owens

May 16, 2022 - 8:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy Central Schools, Le Roy, schools, education, news, notify.

Four people are each vying for one of three trustee seats on Le Roy Central School's Board of Education during Tuesday's school budget vote.

The two candidates with the most votes will be elected to the two three-year terms that are open, and the candidate to come in third will fill the remaining two years on the other available seat.

The four candidates are Peter W. Loftus, Randa Williams, Jason Karcher, and Rachael Greene.

Also on the ballot is the district's $27,708,988 spending plan.  Voters are being asked to approve a $10,663,025 tax levy.  In-district property owners in Pavilion, Bergen, and Caledonia are looking at a projected tax rate of $19. Property owners in the Town of Le Roy pay the same rate they did this year, $24.14. For further explanation of the tax rates and budget, see The Batavian's previous coverage: Le Roy trustees support $66,000 tax levy increase, still lowering tax rate for property owners with assessment adjustments

During the May 10 school board meeting, the four candidates were given time to introduce themselves:

leroysbcandidates2022.jpg

Peter W. Loftus
Loftus has served on the school district board for six years and is seeking a third term.  He is married to Tammy and they have two children.   

He is an engineering manager at RL Kistler Inc.

"Kistler places a real high value on their employees giving back to the community and providing service wherever they can," Loftus said. "This has allowed me a lot of flexibility to get out of work when I need to, to get back here for any committee meeting, interview negotiations, anything like that that takes place in the normal working hours. My work is really understanding about that and provides me with that opportunity."

He said he learned two things when he first started on the school board. 

"The first thing that I learned is that it's just a massive operation," he said. "The running of this district is all the fast-moving parts. Everything's changing all the time. People are leaving. It's a natural path for people to come and go. So you're always filling slots. It's just the way it is.

"And the other thing that I learned -- and this is the biggie -- that they care; the education, and the life preparation of every student in this district, is what drives everybody here."

Six years ago, when he showed up at the Jr./Sr high school to participate in his own children's educations, he picked up a positive vibe just walking around the hallways. Loftus said, and he decided he wanted to be a part of it, so he decided to run for a seat on the board.

"Now, I do understand a lot of the challenges, and there are many things we need to do to be better," Loftus said. "It's not just a happy place where that vibe is going all the time. There are underlying issues. There are things that we need to improve."

And Loftus wants to help guide that improvement, he said, and his experience will prove to be an asset.

"My six years on the board equips me with some experience and some tools to be a more effective, more impactful board member," Loftus said. "I really look forward to putting that experience to use in a third term."

leroysbcandidates2022-2.jpg

Randa Williams
Williams, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother of Le Roy students, started her involvement with the Le Roy Central School District when her daughter entered kindergarten in 1976. She served on the PTSO and helped get the first playground built, and then a second.

She's been involved with Girl Scouts for 66 years.

"I think that the most important thing is to be involved in your community," Williams said. "I think that's what brought me here."

She thinks more people should get involved with their local schools.

"In a case like this, if you're involved, you know what's going on in your school. And it's very important what's going on here," she said.

Williams said she is excited to get more involved with the district through a seat on the school board.

"I'm very interested in what's going on and I would like to be involved in it," she said.

leroysbcandidates2022-3.jpg

Jason Karcher
Part of what brought Karcher to Le Roy is that he married a young lady from the community and they both wanted a place with a strong sense of community and family.

The Buffalo native arrived four years ago and immediately got involved.  He joined the Le Roy Rotary Club and is now set to become president-elect in July. He's also been involved with the PTSO.

"One of the big things for me was about (finding) some place that I could actually dig in, get my hands dirty, and be a part of something that was larger than myself," Karcher said. "When we made the decision, it wasn't a foregone conclusion about where we would go, but it presented itself really quickly that, with family here, and with all the opportunities that are available here, to be able to come back here and (get involved)."

He and his wife Shannon have a daughter and it was his daughter's love of softball that got him even more involved in the community. 

"About two years ago, we had a huge opportunity where there was going to be no softball, there's gonna be no community of girls softball," he said. "That was a big thing for our daughter to make sure that ( girls softball) could continue on. So Shanna and I jumped in and we formed a 501(C)(3) and got it off the ground, and in two years. Now we have over 100 girls playing softball again here in the community, which we think is fantastic, and we're really excited about it."

The level of involvement led to Karcher being appointed to a vacant seat on the school board.

He works for Apple as an employee relations specialist.

"For me, it's about involvement," he said. "One of the things I would call out is, this is our budget meeting, this is where people could come in and actually get to know our candidates. And this is what we have to write (motion it the largely empty auditorium). And I'll call out, why aren't there more people here? That bothers me. So that's one of the big things, if ever voted on to the school board, is wanting to make a commitment that we need more people here."

leroysbcandidates2022-4.jpg

Rachael Greene

Greene enters the race with more than two decades of experience in education. She started her career as a teacher in her hometown of Warsaw before becoming a principal in Mount Morris.  She was an instructional coordinator for BOCES (a position her husband, Peter, now holds) before becoming superintendent of the Stanley G. Falk School, which is a NYS-approved special day school that provides educational programming for students aged five to 21 who have special learning, social, and emotional needs.

"We have 600 students," Greene said. "We're the largest special education school in New York State -- seven locations and (there are) 44 different districts that we collaborate with. So when I think about what I could bring to the board, I think there's some insight and perspective in the fact that I've been able to sit in many of your positions within the district, not this district, specifically, but in a school system, and understand the roles that each of you plays to make decisions on what's best for kids. But also the perspective of being able to say, wow, you know, 44 districts, what are they doing with this?"

She said she wouldn't see her role as another superintendent in the district, a role Merrit Holly currently fills. 

"I think there's some value in being a thought partner at the table with the board," said Greene, a life-long resident of Le Roy. "In my experience, the other piece I think I would bring to the board is I'm a huge advocate for underrepresented students. When I look at our community of Le Roy and youth, and look at where we were 20 years ago, our poverty levels amongst our families and our students coming through our doors hovered around 10 percent. That trend line has done nothing but grow, where we are at almost 40 percent of our students that come into our school buildings living in poverty every day."

The Greenes have three children going to Le Roy schools, including Andrew, a ninth-grader who attended the meeting with his mother.

"I have a lot of confidence that he also will be in some form of leadership because he's class president, and now president of the Junior Honor Society," she said. "So I'm super proud of that. I think it's important for me as a parent to also model that when you're passionate about something, you want to have a seat at the table. So I'm super proud. He's here to support me."

 Greene said she would serve to support educators and see that both instructors and students -- especially those coming from poor families -- get what they need to succeed.

"I can tell you that our teachers in this district and our staff work so hard to do what's best for kids every day," Greene said. "So, as a board member, I'd want to think about what can we do, not just instructionally, but structurally to provide for what every kid needs in this district. Because the sad part is that two-thirds of those 40 percent don't pass the state exams. That tells me that there's a big gap there and it's our obligation, my duty, I would feel as the board member, and all of ours, to really look at what can we do to break down those barriers for kids every day."

Photos by Howard Owens.

May 16, 2022 - 5:40pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, City Schools, notify.

6fec4f03-9b6d-4cb9-9f1c-fc44a85d080c.jpeg

Something you may not know about Jason Smith is that he didn’t aspire to be a school district superintendent.

In fact, his current role as head of Batavia City Schools just sort of happened with a suggestion that he should consider the next position, he says.

“The thing is there's nothing I've ever aspired to, it's kind of come to me, it's been a calling," Smith said during an interview with The Batavian. "When I was a teacher I never had any aspiration to be a superintendent. I was happy as a teacher. I was happy as an assistant principal. I was happy as a principal. I was happy as a superintendent in Lyndonville. I'm happy to be here."

His response was to one of several questions asked by The Batavian for an update on how his current role as Batavia City Schools superintendent has been going since he began Jan. 1 of this year. Smith has been a multi-district educator, going from Albion to Elba to Lyndonville, and now to Batavia.

Jack of all trades ...
He feels that he can connect with most anyone given his myriad of interests. The 50-year-old city resident plays the trombone, studies and snaps photos of birds, likes to run and participate in 5Ks, enjoys watching sports — he's a big Buffalo Bills fan — majored in history at college, and is a huge Bruce Springsteen and movie fan, especially Oscar winners.

It’s that kind of versatility that helps him to go from talking baseball and a budget to plumbing and roofing problems, he said. He has tried to finesse the art of knowing at least a little about a lot of various subjects, he said.

Jason Smith goes back to school ...
A 1990 Batavia High School graduate, Smith shared how he reminisced while walking down those Blue Devil hallways once again. He received a quick tour on his first official Monday, Jan. 3, and then did some reminiscing on a snow day later that week. He remembered classes, teachers — Mr. Trosey from English class and Mr. Hay from band -- and old friendships -- checked out the Athletic Hall of Fame and came upon fond memories.

"I walked through the hallways by myself and I tried to realign myself to the classes that I had. And as I was doing it, I was texting a couple of my friends I'm still friends with from high school, about the different spots I found. I found my old locker. I wanted to get reacclimatized to the school as a new student would,” he said. “That really wasn't my first memory because it was the first three days or so I was touring all the schools and meeting all the students and staff. And then I thought I had some time Thursday to kind of walk through very peacefully. And I just found it special for me to be back here in this capacity. I had time to kind of pause, you know, that the process of getting the job itself was very exciting. But then I had time to pause."

Smith picked up a glass crystal apple from the corner of his desk. Mr. Trosey had sent it to him following one of Smith’s opening day speeches that included credits to teachers, including Trosey, who had impacted his school career. It’s by far not alone in his collection of memorabilia. One tall bookshelf is full of notes from students and other school tidbits, plus, of course, his trombone, and there's a row of school programs that he has saved. "I'm very proud of those," he said.

Several minutes into the interview and the gloves came off: did you ever get into trouble at school Mr. Smith?

His initial answer was no, however, upon further reflection, Smith recalled when band teacher Mr. Hay “had to have a talk with me.”

“When I was a sophomore, I got my driver's license. And I was like the band treasurer or something. I was only 16 as a sophomore. So I had a car, and I was having fun driving students back and forth to home," he said. "And Mr. Hay had to pull me aside and have a talk with me: ‘Jason, I made you the treasurer for a reason. You've been unfocused.’ I'm sure that no, I didn't get in trouble. But I did have a couple of talks ensue from Mr. Hay.”

Smith often eats lunch with students and said that his old favorite was taco pizza and chocolate milk. “It still is,” he said, adding that chicken poppers and a frosted cookie for his sweet tooth also make the list. One thing you wouldn’t have found on his tray back then was broccoli, he admitted.

A little personal with professional ...
Smith has previously mentioned that he takes care of himself by getting “all of the proper components,” such as running four to five times a week, trying to watch what he eats, playing his trombone, enjoying movies, his family, the two dogs, and birds that frequent his back yard bird feeders. Family includes his wife Lori, daughter Megan, a 2020 BHS graduate, son Matthew, a BHS senior, and eighth-grade daughter Madeline. Megan may be following in dad’s footsteps by pursuing teaching at Niagara University, while Matthew wasn’t quite as excited to have his father at school as dad was, Smith said.

“I think it's fun. You know, he's enjoying his senior year. So I try to be respectful of that, but … the first day or so he wasn't so crazy about it," Smith said. "So as I said, ‘just embrace it. You know I'm here. Just in person.’”

Cooper, the family’s boxer lab mix, got a companion when the Smiths adopted Carol, a foxhound, in January. She was born in a litter named after The Brady Bunch sitcom characters, however, she was renamed from Marsha to Carol, because “we liked Carol better.”

“I enjoy walking and playing with them and try to have balance,” Smith said.

Part of his “entry process” as superintendent meant visiting with many people throughout the school district for a few months. He asked them to describe the school district in one word and found some of the answers a pleasant surprise. Words such as diversity, resilient, pride and supportive popped up.

Actually, there wasn’t really anything that surprised him as much as they “kind of also reaffirmed what I've already thought walking into the district.”

“They said things like pride, inclusive. I was proud to hear those words,” he said.

What's been the most challenging task since he started here? Being accessible to the 450 staff members and more than 2,000 students districtwide, he said.

“So a challenge I've had, and I’ve tried to overcome this by making myself accessible at games and concerts, was getting to know as many people as possible," he said. "And at smaller districts that were just as important to do. So I build time into going to as many things as I can.”

Does that ever get tiresome, having to attend so many public outings?

“It’s all I've known. It's just how I do business, you know? It's one of the pieces that people have in common as the board watches … they want to see visible superintendents in town. So it's not hard for me I don't find it challenging. I accepted it, and it's just part of my lifestyle now,” he said. “And I enjoy it. I'm going to the baseball game this afternoon. I tried to have a policy like this, as to what's going on, from pre-K all the way up to a senior baseball game.”

The public may not have connected a series of bird photos published on The Batavian as being from Jason Smith, superintendent of BCSD. His love of birds began with two parakeets he had as a kid. When he left as principal of Elba in 2011, Smith was given a bird feeder as a present because he had talked about birds. Smith now has some five bird feeders stationed at his southside home, he said. His grandfather loved birds and Smith has followed suit, to the point where he takes and submits photos consistently, compares notes about the feathered creatures with a neighbor, and generally enjoys watching them.

“It’s that moment of peace, I think,” he said.

Time to discuss the 2022-23 budget for a minute. The $54.8 million proposed budget includes an increase of $2.7 million in spending and a related 1 percent increase in the tax levy. Some social media posts have depicted voters as angry about the tax levy increase and have advocated a no vote on May 17. How do you reply to that?

“I want to say that this is not new territory for me. I recognize the challenges of building a school budget. I stand by my teeter-totter analogy and we want to have that piece there. So I would respond to that, we are conscientious of that, our board is very conscientious of that. But our board is also very conscientious of having to address the needs of our students, and ensuring we have staff and programs in place to support their needs. As I said at the board meeting last week, try to imagine a school without the (nonmandated programs). We don't have to have marching band, we don't have to have football. We want those things; those things are important.”

“So we have to balance those pieces out; it certainly ties into the social-emotional learning needs. So I would say it's a balancing act. And it's a partnership, and we recognize that. There's a task that was put in place for a reason. We recognize that, we respect that. We recognize the challenges that go into that. But we also have an obligation.”

I have neighbors that recognize the balance. And as a matter of fact, I had a conversation with one of my neighbors ... and she wanted to make sure we're still going to have good things for kids. So there's that side of it too. That's the teeter-totter," he said. "That's what I wrote in my newsletter. It's a balancing act and a partnership."

Looking ahead ...
What are your goals moving into 2023?

"We're going to announce a strategic plan in July. So Dr. Cory has been facilitating that process, we recommit the team, we're going to announce goals in June," he said. Each school is going to have its own goals that are aligned to pieces ... with respect to academic learning loss, social-emotional learning, and stronger professional collaboration with our teachers. We're forming shared decision-making teams at the building level ... So that's ongoing, I'm really excited about that, and really excited to have the opportunity to finish up this year. And then we're going to have some intense goal planning sessions this summer."

While Smith has always been proud of the district’s graduation rates — currently at 92 percent — he said there’s something equally important to leaving school with a diploma. He wants to know that students are going to look outside of themselves, be analytical thinkers and discerning readers that go beyond Facebook posts and article headlines before deciding on an issue.

"Two things that I want them to be able to do," he said. "Think critically and be good citizens."

7ca77f72-3a2f-4526-984f-6f66b50e895a.jpeg

Top photo: Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith shows some of the items he has collected and keeps in his office. Photo by Joanne Beck. Photo above was taken by Smith in his backyard.

May 16, 2022 - 11:16am

Agenda items including a renewal of five additional seasonal sheriff’s deputies, a budget amendment for additional law enforcement patrols in the village of Bergen and revising language for a prisoner housing contract with Wyoming County are on tap for this afternoon’s Genesee County Public Services Committee meeting.

The meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. in the Legislative Conference Room of the Old Court House at 7 Main St., Batavia.

Other agenda items include reviews of a bid award for highway/tractor equipment, grant acceptance of a countywide water/intermunicipal grant, a 2022 budget amendment for highway construction and the reappointment of Highway Superintendent Timothy Hens.

May 16, 2022 - 10:59am

 

PRESS RELEASE

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that the application window is now open for the 2022 Grow-NY food and agriculture competition. Grow-NY, a unique initiative which connects innovators and investors in the food, beverage and agriculture sectors locally and around the globe, has already resulted in economic growth and entrepreneurial opportunity in Upstate New York.  The Grow-NY region, a 22-county area spanning Central New York, the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier, has already seen hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of follow-on investment as a result of the competition. Grow-NY attracts high-growth food and agriculture startups to compete for $3 million in total prize money each year and supports 20 finalists through a business development phase that connects them with the region’s resources. Governor Kathy Hochul included funding for three additional rounds of this impactful competition in her FY 2023 budget.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Hope Knight said, “This fourth round of Grow-NY will further build on the success of earlier competition winners, whose entrepreneurial ideas are fueling economic growth Upstate. These innovative companies have attracted significant investment and are seeding the ground for even more innovation, both throughout the Grow-NY region and around the world.” 

The Grow-NY region, which hosts over 40 percent of New York’s 33,438 farms, includes an abundance of vibrant, fertile lands along with such major urban centers as Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca and Binghamton. It is a 22-county region comprised of the following three areas:

·       Finger Lakes – Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates 

·       Central New York – Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego

·       Southern Tier – Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins

Winners are required to commit to operating in at least one of the 22 Grow-NY counties for at least 12 months and must agree to “pay-it-forward” provision in the form of an equity agreement. One finalist will receive a top prize of $1 million; two others will be awarded $500,000 prizes, and four more will be given $250,000 prizes. Winners will also receive tax incentives and publicity support to announce their achievements across the Grow-NY region and in their home regions. Funding for the program comes through Empire State Development from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative’s three regional entities, CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward, and Southern Tier Soaring, and is administered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

Ronald P. Lynch, Dean of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Benjamin Z. Houlton, said, “Cornell is proud to support the Grow-NY competition, which plays a vital role in catalyzing food and agriculture start-ups and entrepreneurship across our region. By partnering across the public and private sectors, Grow-NY is critical to scaling new technologies and innovations needed to meet our state’s goals for more sustainable food systems that provide healthy, nutritious food to all.”

The startup competition begins its fourth year with impressive momentum, having garnered applications and interest from over a thousand businesses in 32 unique states and 37 other countries over the last three years. In all, 59 finalists have been selected to date, with 21 winners sharing $9 million in startup funding as well as the invaluable mentorship and networking benefits which the program delivers to finalists.

In addition to emphasizing innovation and scalability, the Grow-NY program is focused on drawing more diverse leaders to the region by reaching communities that have historically been left out of the innovation economy.  In 2021, 51% of the 330 applicants included a founder from an underrepresented minority group, and 44% included a female founder.

“We are looking for food and ag innovators that operate at any point in the agrifood system that demonstrate a value to customers, an ability to grow quickly and sustainably, and diversity within their founding team,“ said Grow-NY program director Jenn Smith.

Applications must be submitted by Friday, July 1. In August, up to 20 finalists will be assigned mentors and enter the business development phase. All finalists will receive bespoke entrepreneurial support and valuable regional introductions, additional training to hone their live pitches, and an expenses-paid, three-day business development trip to the region for up to two team members.

The selected  finalists will present their business plans during the Grow-NY Summit, Tuesday and Wednesday November 15-16, alongside a symposium of panel conversations and keynotes, a showcase of agencies, companies, research groups, and other organizations that serve startups working in food and ag, and a student stage where middle- and high school aged New Yorkers will pitch their ag- and food tech ideas.

Judges will base award decisions on the following five criteria:

·       Viability of Commercialization and Business Model – the potential for the entrant to generate revenue and maintain a cost structure that allows for a competitive and sustainable business, demonstrate technological readiness or innovate to fulfill its value proposition;

·       Team – Demonstration of a level of cohesion, completeness, diversity, and readiness within the team of founders, employees, and advisors; inclusion or plans for inclusion of employees and advisors from communities that have historically been excluded from the innovation economy, such as women and minorities;

·       Customer Value – the degree to which the entrant is providing something for which customers are willing to pay, and addressing a substantial market;

·       Food and Agriculture Innovation – the extent to which the entrant is pushing what’s considered state-of-the-art in the food and agriculture industries, and contributing to Upstate NY’s status as a global leader in innovation in these markets;

·       Regional Job Creation – the potential for creating high-quality jobs in the Grow-NY footprint and relevance to the existing food and ag ecosystem; and

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Through three rounds, the Grow-NY competition has highlighted New York’s agricultural and food industry partners and helped to foster tremendous innovation. I’m excited that this fourth round will continue to build on that success, further showcasing the strength and diversity of our agriculture and food businesses and attracting exciting, cutting-edge companies that are creating the ag technologies and jobs of the future while supporting our local farms.”

Central New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Randy Wolken, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York, and Dr. Linda LeMura, President of Le Moyne College, said, "New York State continues to experience unprecedented growth in the agriculture and food industries. The globally renowned Grow-NY competition represents yet another exciting investment in our community that will further bolster regional job growth and further support our agricultural base throughout Central New York ensuring the region continues to rise."

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Co-Chair Bob Duffy, President and CEO, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, and Denise Battles, President SUNY Geneseo, said, “The regional council is again proud to support round three of the innovative Grow-NY competition. Our agricultural and food industries are truly world- class and both their products and innovations are huge economic drivers for our state and region. Connecting the cutting-edge ideas of these entrepreneur teams with local industry partners supports the multi-pronged approach laid out in the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative, which is working to create a thriving regional economy.”

Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair Judy McKinney Cherry, Executive Director, Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED), and Broome Community College President Kevin Drumm, said, "New York's agriculture industry is one of the most prestigious and productive in the nation.  This initiative, with its focused investment in the region, adds great value to the Southern Tier's continued economic success in the ag sector. The Grow-NY competition enables innovative and competitive businesses to showcase their strengths and will further our efforts to bolster the regional economy ultimately helping the Southern Tier to soar."

To learn more about the Grow-NY competition, visit: www.grow-ny.com.

To learn more about the Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement, visit: http://crea.cornell.edu/

About Empire State Development

Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NEW YORK,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.

Accelerating Finger Lakes Forward

Today’s announcement complements “Finger Lakes Forward,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture‎ and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs. More information is available at https://esd.ny.gov/finger-lakes-forward-uri.​

Accelerating CNY Rising 

Today's announcement complements “CNY Rising,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Now, the region is accelerating CNY Rising with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 5,900 new jobs. 

Accelerating Southern Tier Soaring 

Today's announcement complements “Southern Tier Soaring,” the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The regionally designed plan focuses on attracting a talented workforce, growing business and driving innovation. Now, the region is accelerating Southern Tier Soaring with a $500 million State investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The State’s $500 million investment will incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 10,200 new jobs. 

 

May 14, 2022 - 1:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia, news, notify.

still1montclairfire.jpg

All of the occupants of a residence at 29 Montclair Ave., Batavia, safely escaped a house fire that was reported at 8:53 p.m., Friday.

City Fire responded to the structure fire and upon arrival found a large volume of fire from the front to the two-and-a-half story, single-family home.

Fire crews knocked down the bulk of the fire and entered the home to find fire on the first and second floors and extending into the attic, according to Interim Fire Chief Daniel Herberger. 

Crews were initially hampered by downed power lines and difficult access to the rear of the house.

Several occupants were home at the time the fire was reported, Herberger said.  None were injured.

The American Red Cross is assisting one resident.

 

A firefighter was transported to UMMC by fire department personnel with heat exhaustion.

City Fire and Batavia PD are conducting a joint investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

City Water, Town of Batavia Fire, Alexander Fire, Elba Fire, Emergency Dispatch, National Grid, and National Fuel all assisted in the operation.

Photos by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

still2montclairfire.jpg

still3montclairfire.jpg

still4montclairfire.jpg

still5montclairfire.jpg

May 12, 2022 - 10:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, Western OTB, news, notify, George Maziarz.

bataviadownspressermay2022.jpg

A former state senator with a history of illegal activity while in office has filed a lawsuit against Batavia Downs and its leadership alleging that officials have engaged in "shameless and blatant corruption."

The suit concentrates on previously investigated accusations that officials at Western OTB have misused tickets to sporting events and concerts and that Western Regional OTB has improperly provided lucrative health insurance coverage to appointed board members.

George Maziarz, who represented Niagara County in the State Senate from 1995 to 2014 and was once considered one of the most powerful men in Niagara County, expressed some frustration today that none of the allegations against Western OTB, and in particular against his former political ally, Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek, have led to anything more than recommendations for changes in procedures.

"Quite frankly, I'm disappointed that the Attorney General and the United States Attorney, the FBI hasn't done anything yet," Maziarz said during a press conference outside the casino on Park Road. " I keep being told over and over again that they're working on it."

Wojtaszek said that nothing more has come of the allegations -- either because corrective action has been taken or the claims of wrongdoing are not as clear cut as Maziarz represents.

From Wojtaszek's point of view, Maziarz is engaged in a vendetta against Western OTB. He said Maziarz was fired as a lobbyist about eight years ago, was passed over for the CEO position, and Wojtaszek participated in investigations that eventually led to Maziarz's own public corruption conviction. 

"I think he's just a bitter individual," Wojtaszek said during an exclusive interview with The Batavian immediately following the press conference. "He has a vendetta against many individuals and the corporation itself. He's made complaints to every conceivable agency and regulatory body in New York State, and they've all turned down his requests to take action against OTB. They've all investigated and found that nothing was amiss here at Western Regional OTB.

"Whatever remedies or suggestions they had for us to improve our business, we follow them. We will continue to follow them and improve our organization. We hired Terry Connors to do an in-depth look at what was going on here at Batavia Downs. Terry is a well-respected individual within the legal community all across the state. We're very confident in his findings and his suggestions, and we've implemented his recommendations. We'll continue to work with him."

He said Batavia Downs has also hired a compliance company out of Buffalo, headed by a former FBI agent, to review its policies and procedures.

The Lawsuit
Attorneys for Maziarz filed the lawsuit in Niagara County on May 3.  It alleges that Wojtaszek and board members misused and manipulated programs meant to attract patrons to the Batavia Downs Casino by using for themselves tickets to sporting events and concerts. 

For example, according to records, the OTB purchased 5,800 high-end tickets to Buffalo Bills games, Sabers games, and concerts at Darien Lake, and 10 percent of those tickets, worth about $120,000, wound up in the hands of OTB officials and their friends and family members. 

The suit alleges tickets were freely handed out at board meetings and were even used to provide a board member's daughter with a birthday party.

The suit also alleges that Wojtaszek failed to correctly record and report his personal use of a vehicle provided to him by Western OTB.

Western OTB board members are also accused of receiving gold-plated health insurance coverage in violation of state law and contrary to recommendations in a Comptroller's Audit Report, and a report compiled by attorneys hired by Western OTB to review the matter.

The suit states that these actions amount to Wojtaszek and board members using Batavia Downs as a personal ATM to enrich themselves at taxpayer expense with no real public oversite of the agency's policies and procedures.  

"Over time, this almost honor system-like structure led to dishonor, cronyism, and shameless, blatant corruption," the suit states. "The corruption has been normalized, legitimized, and covered up by the Board and a bipartisan network of high-powered consultants and lobbyists hired by CEO Wojtaszek (again, with little oversight by the public) to prevent public scrutiny or reform."

The Response
In his interview today, Wojtaszek defended how Batavia Downs has handled tickets to events.

Batavia Downs acquires tickets as perks for high rollers and special guests, Wojtaszek said.  A host from Batavia Downs typically accompanies these guests to the events. The role of the host is to ensure things go smoothly, that people get their tickets, get into the venue, receive the service expected for the event, and the host takes care of any issues that arise.

"Previously, if you were host, we provided a ticket to the host and then the host was allowed to bring a guest with them," Wojtaszek said. "At that point, they may have brought somebody from a wife, a husband, a son, or a daughter with them. We have since corrected that. Subsequent to the recommendation from the compliance company, it's just a host who takes care of whatever event, hockey game, football game, concert, and I think we're doing it properly now."

He said that the accusation that board members could just casually ask for tickets to Bills or Sabers games at board meetings and receive them misrepresents what actually took place. He said anybody, including board members, could ask for tickets on behalf of patrons of Batavia Downs.  They were not, he said, asking for themselves and friends and family.  However, to help improve the procedure, all requests must now be in writing and clearly state who is receiving the tickets. 

According to the audit report Maziarz cites, Wojtaszek said, "there were thousands of tickets accounted for.  There are a few, 100 I believe, that aren't, which equates to a reasonable amount of money but don't forget, each one of those tickets went to a host to host the game."

As for tickets being used for a birthday party for the daughter of a board member, that never happened, Wojtaszek said.

As for the use of a company car, Wojtaszek said, yes, he failed to complete the proper paperwork to record his personal use of the vehicle, and at the board's instruction, he reimbursed Western OTB $3,000 to resolve the issue.  And yes, he is now receiving a transportation allowance -- Maziarz claims $7,000 -- but Western OTB was already in the process of eliminating agency-owned vehicles for staff when the issue came up.  Besides potential liability, a car allowance for executives is more in keeping with standard practices in the business sector, Wojtaszek said.

As for health insurance for board members, Western OTB has attorneys working on the issue.  The agency does not agree that board members can't receive health insurance coverage.  

While Maziarz says that the Comptroller's Office and a legal firm hired by Western OTB say the practice is illegal, the issue doesn't appear to be that cut and dry. There is an older Comptroller's opinion that says the practice is permissible.  The memo on the topic, prepared by attorneys Gabriel M. Nugent and Robert J. Thorpe for the board, cites the 1978 opinion as well as the later opinion and suggests board members no longer accept health insurance.  It doesn't, as Maziarz claims, call the practice illegal.  

Health insurance, Wojtaszek said, is justified because pretty much every other public benefit corporation in the state offers it, and Batavia Downs operates in a very competitive environment and needs to attract and retain the most qualified board members. 

"What the board does here is some extremely important work," Wojtaszek said. "It is a multi-100-million dollar company that has performed extremely well over the last three to five years and has returned record amounts of revenue to the municipalities that it serves.

"If you're in a business that is very competitive -- which Batavia Downs is -- we have other private-sector casinos that we have to compete with here," he added. "And, by the way, we compete extremely well with them. You need to attract top-level talent to have those people serve on the board. And that's what we have here today. We have many, many excellent board members who have excellent business backgrounds and who lend a great deal to make this organization work. We say the compensation should be set accordingly. This is a competitive industry. It's not like a water district or sewer district. That is a monopoly where there is no competition going on."

The Players
In 2018, Maziarz entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of filing a false instrument and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine. He also admitted to hiding $95,000 in campaign payments to a former staff member accused of sexual harassment. He was initially charged with five felony election law violations. The investigation into Maziarz's activities began with the Morland Commission, which had been formed to investigate public corruption. 

Maziarz was also the subject of an FBI investigation. During the investigation, but before he was notified not to discard records, Maziarz reportedly had his staff shred campaign records going back to 1995.

During the press conference today, when asked about document shredding, he denied such shredding ever took place.

When asked today about his misdemeanor conviction, his first response was that Wojtaszek has one, too. Which is true.  Both convictions stem from the same Attorney General investigation.  Maziarz said both he and Wojtaszek received conditional discharges, which means the record is expunged if they avoid illegal activity for a specified period of time, usually six months.

Wojtaszek has been president and CEO of Western Regional OTB since 2016. Before that, he was the general council. He's been an attorney for 26 years and was active for years in Niagara County Republican politics, including a stint as chair of the county committee. He began his legal career as city attorney for North Tonawanda.

Wojtaszek said he and Maziarz once worked closely together.

Maziarz says the FBI is investigating Western OTB and Wojtaszek.  

In 2019, Batavia Downs officials denied there was such an investigation.  Today, Wojtaszek said the only knowledge he has of an investigation is the claim by Maziarz that a board member has been interviewed by the FBI.  He said he's aware of one other inquiry by the FBI in the past three years and that dealt with a contractor and the purchase of broadcast air time. In that case, the FBI was saying it was Batavia Downs that was getting ripped off.  Wojtaszek said FBI agents have never questioned him about anything related to Western OTB.

The lawsuit wasn't Maziarz's idea, Maziarz said.  He said after a story appeared in a New York Times publication, an attorney for Advocates for Justice contacted him and asked him to be the face of a lawsuit against Batavia Downs on behalf of taxpayers.

Maziarz, a man who admitted to public corruption, said Advocates for Justice specialize in fighting public corruption.

The lead attorney on the case is Arthur Z. Schwartz, the organization's president and founder.  Also signing the filing is Nathan McMurray, the former Delaware North attorney who unsuccessfully ran three times for a congressional seat in the NY-27, most notably losing to Chris Collins, then under indictment himself (he eventually entered a guilty plea) for insider trading. McMurray went to work for the law firm in November 2021.

As Wojtaszek noted, Maziarz has pursued corruption allegations against Western OTB for several years.

The Batavian obtained a copy of a deposition transcript from a confidential source related to a lawsuit filed by Michael Nolan, the former COO of the OTB, that reveals some of the connections between some of the players involved in the legal maneuvering and publicity-seeking of the principals.

Nolan's suit claims he was retaliated against for responding to FOIL requests from the media and others.  Wojtaszek said Batavia Downs has always been transparent and has always complained with the law on requests for public documents.

Nolan was the subject being deposed in the case in January 2021 when his attorney, Stephen Cohen, jumped in and attempted to clarify something his client had said. Cohen ended up talking at length about the connections between himself, Maziarz, and reporter Phil Gambini, who has doggedly pursued corruption allegations at Batavia Downs for several years.

In the deposition, Aaron Saykin, the Western OTB attorney in the case, attempted to uncover a possible connection between Nolan and Maziarz.  Cohen provided the opening because he tried to bill Batavia Downs for a phone conversation he had on behalf of his client with Maziarz.

Cohen said he did discuss Nolan's case with Maziarz but only in the service of trying to get more information from Maziarz that might assist his client's suit. He admitted that he knew Maziarz regularly spoke with Gambini and was likely the source of information that appeared in Gambini's stories about Batavia Downs.

Saykin's questions suggested that Saykin suspected Cohen of trying to plant stories with Gambini, including a March 29, 2019 story about the supposed FBI investigation.  Cohen deflects the questions and denies any interest in press coverage.

He said his only real interest was getting more information from Maziarz.

"I sought to get whatever I could out of Senator Maziarz," Cohen said according to the transcript.

Mr. Saykin: Because you knew he was pissed at Henry?

Mr. Cohen: Yes.

Mr. Saykin: And you knew he wanted to hurt Henry?

Mr. Cohen: Yes.

Photos by Howard Owens

bataviadownspressermay2022-2.jpg

During the first several minutes of the press conference this afternoon in the back parking lot of the former Kmart building, across the street from Batavia Downs, two Batavia Downs work trucks paraded up and down Park Road and through the parking lot (Park Road is undergoing reconstruction) and honked their horns, disrupting the press conference. Maziarz called the action sophomoric and evidence that Western OTB officials want to prevent the public from finding out what is going on at the facility. Batavia Downs President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said when he found out what was going on with the trucks, he put a stop to it.

Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

Copyright © 2008-2022 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
 

blue button

News Break