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December 5, 2022 - 1:34pm
posted by Press Release in news, Batavia Middle School, notify, centennial.

Press Release

In celebration of Batavia Middle School’s 100th anniversary, the Batavia City School District is hosting a celebration on Thursday, December 8, at 7:00 PM with a special concert by the Batavia Middle School Band, Orchestra, and Chorus, as well as a presentation of the recently restored historic bells that called students to school more than 150 years ago. 

Construction of the current Batavia Middle School building began in 1922. The building originally housed both junior and senior high school students. The existing Batavia High School building was built in 1961, and 96 Ross Street was officially redesignated Batavia Middle School. 

“We’re proud to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Batavia Middle School. The history of 96 Ross Street is the foundation of the Batavia City School District. Whether through the old Batavia High School building or the Middle School building we enjoy today, generations of Batavians have passed through these halls,” said Superintendent Jason Smtih. “Batavia Middle School is a jewel in our District, and we can’t wait to see what the next 100 years will bring.” 

Over the last year, Batavia Middle School staff members, in collaboration with Genesee Valley BOCES, worked to restore a pair of historic bells that were once used at 96 Ross Street, then Batavia High School, through 1924.

With support from the Batavia City School District leadership team and in collaboration with our BCSD Maintenence Department and the Genesee Valley BOCES Auto Body Department, the bells have been restored to working condition and will be placed inside the Batavia Middle School auditorium on both sides of the stage. 

“It’s been so rewarding to restore these historic bells to their original beauty and purpose,” said Batavia Middle School Principal Nathan Korzelius. “It truly was a collaborative effort between our BMS team and the wonderful crew of teachers and students at Genesee Valley BOCES. These bells will be displayed proudly and will remind every student who passes through these halls of the history of this wonderful building.” 

The 100-year celebration and presentation of the restored bells will take place in the Batavia Middle School Auditorium (96 Ross Street) on Thursday, December 8, at 7:00 PM. The school’s band, orchestra, and chorus will perform a special arrangement designed especially for this event. The celebration is free and open to the public.

December 3, 2022 - 5:39pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Christmas in the City, downtown batavia, notify.

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Carter Ianiro, 2, shares some special time with Santa Claus Saturday at Santa's Village in Batavia City Centre. 

Downtown Batavia was bustling with visitors and shoppers during the annual Christmas in the City Saturday at Batavia City Centre and along downtown streets. Hosted by the Business Improvement District, this year's indoor activities featured Santa's Village, with a workshop, carolers, dancers, and the jolly ol' elf himself, Santa Claus.

As with any successful event, planning and hands-on help make it happen. And Christmas in the City is no exception.

“We spent a week here decorating and setting up the chairs for people,” BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said. “And there’s face painting, cookie decorating, ornament making, and we’re trying to get people to the horse and buggy from 3 to 6, and then it will swing by and pick up Santa and me for the parade.”

Morning long rain slowed down by the afternoon, which should make for a drier horse and buggy ride up to 6 p.m. That will take off from Center Street Smokehouse on Center Street, and tickets may be purchased at Adam Miller Toy & Bike shop.

Batavia City Centre was filled with kids playing games, people shopping the many vendor items, eating and drinking, and, of course, some whispering in Santa’s ear.

“I am very excited about the turnout. I thought it would be busy but didn’t know it was going to be this busy,” said Maute, aka Santa’s elf. “Most of the kids are saying they just want to have a happy Christmas, they’re not even asking for gifts. This is great, it’s not great weather out, so I’m glad we had a backup. Hopefully, the wind calms down for the parade. It has been a really nice turnout, with lots to do, we have a kid's zone where kids could play with the toys.

“And having it in this space really brings everyone together, and they’re having a really great time,” she said.

The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. and runs from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street along Main Street.

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BID Executive Director Shannon Maute, aka Santa's elf.

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Christmas in the City draws plenty of visitors to Batavia City Centre Saturday for some shopping, games, face painting, woodwork crafts, musical entertainment, a live nativity and Santa Claus. The vendor fair goes to 8 p.m. Photos by Howard Owens.

December 3, 2022 - 4:41pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, le roy winterfest, notify.

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Top Photo: Oisin and Leandro Manamon, each 2, have a visit with Santa Claus during Winterfest Saturday in Le Roy; Rebekah Connors assists Paige, 4, and Braeden, 2, with crafts at The Hope Center; other scenes are of visitors and activities during the annual event in the village, including kids participating in an obstacle course at BeyonDriven. A tree lighting is set for 5:30 p.m. Photos by Howard Owens.

December 2, 2022 - 1:34pm

Press release:

Caring about the community’s wellness is the underlying theme of a joint effort of the City of Batavia Police Department and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office to conduct alcohol compliance checks at retail businesses this month.

“Our department continues to partner with prevention educators at Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to provide this service to ensure that vendors are attentive to properly identifying the age of those purchasing alcohol,” said Assistant Police Chief Chris Camp. “Abuse of alcohol by underage individuals is a cause of accidents and other poor choices for this age group.”

Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Brian Frieday echoed Camp’s sentiments, adding, that “compliance checks demonstrate to vendors and young people, alike, that this community cares about the wellness of its citizens.”

This round of compliance checks – which are funded through a grant from GCASA -- will take place in December, prior to Christmas, and will focus on off-premise establishments only (supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores).

“We are planning to check off-premise establishments at this time because our data shows that kids are not drinking in bars or restaurants,” said Shannon Ford, GCASA’s director of Communications & Development and director of Prevention. “We are hoping to not find anyone out of compliance, but will offer Responsible Server Training to anyone who is caught or for those who would like to be proactive.”

December 2, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Christmas in the City, batavia, notify.

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December means a triple-play for Batavia Players, Pat Burk says.

Actually, there’s only one play, “A Christmas Carole,” that runs Thursday through Sunday, plus Our Hometown Christmas all day Saturday inside Batavia City Centre, and spaghetti with Santa event on Dec. 11.

If that schedule tires you out, it has been plenty for members of the theater group. In addition to many of them participating in the show, they will also be helping out for a vendor fair throughout the mall concourse from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and at Santa’s Village at the concourse stage.

Home Depot has donated wood kits so that kids can put their hands to work at Santa's Workshop making birdhouses and other creations, he said. Photos with Santa Claus will be from 1 to 5 p.m., with the outdoor parade to begin at 6 p.m. and take off from Jefferson Avenue to Summit Street.

Entertainment will be provided at 12:15 p.m. by Main St. 56 Dance Company, and dancing and musical performances are scheduled throughout the day, he said. Other activities include cookie decorating and a live nativity at EverPresent Church.

There were 49 vendors registered just before Burk talked to The Batavian Tuesday afternoon, he said, and there were a few more interested, so expect several dozen ready and waiting to sell their wares, from Christmas and general craft items to kitchen goods, woodwork and assorted foods. Many of the usual Mall Market participants will be there throughout the day as well, he said.

A concessions food truck will be available beginning at 9 a.m. outside the former Sunny’s restaurant site in the parking lot. That vendor’s specialties include deep-fried Oreos, flavored french fries and various barbecued items, Burk said.

If you’ve got some time to spare, volunteers are needed for miscellaneous tasks, such as helping visitors locate certain activities, vendors find their assigned spots, and other volunteers so that they can take periodic breaks.

Neck deep in the construction of a new Main St. 56 theater means that Batavia Players is raising money to help make the costly endeavor happen. The vendor fair and weekend shows are fundraisers and will be complemented by a basket raffle, specifically for the group’s Building Committee. Tickets are $5 for a sheet, and drawings are to begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, just before the parade.

Speaking of the show, Burk and fellow actor Paul Spiotta are thrilled to be celebrating their 15th season of singing a duet during the weekend performances, Burk said.

“We were both 50 years old when we first sang together,” Burk said. “We’re pretty excited to still be around to do it.”

Burk is sort of amazed at how much he’s learned about construction, having been part of contractor meetings for the theater, he said. He now knows the gritty details of HVAC systems and supporting walls, and, unfortunately, also about how slowly such projects can progress with stalled and rising costs of materials due to post-COVID supply chain issues.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to put the finishing touches on it,” he said. “After January 1, we’ll actually be doing a big fundraising effort.”

There have been sacrifices, mostly behind the scenes, he said, by reducing bathrooms from four to two and shifting the configuration of dressing rooms. However, patrons are still getting nice new restrooms, and there won’t be cost-cutting with aesthetics if he can help it, Burk said.

The final fundraiser for this season will be a Spaghetti With Santa event, set for 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia. Photos with Santa will be from 3 to 5 p.m., and there will be a basket raffle. Meals are for dining in or take-out and are $12 a person. To purchase tickets ahead of time or obtain further details about these events, go to Batavia Players

Christmas in the City, sponsored by the Business Improvement District, will also be happening throughout downtown from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Local shops, restaurants and organizations will be offering holiday specials, activities and food samples, including Letters to Santa at The Coffee Press on Jackson Street and horse and buggy rides beginninning at Center Street Smokehouse, with tickets availalbe for purchase at Adam Miller Toy and Bike shop, on Center Street. While at Adam Miller, check out the toy specials and warming chili.

Over on Main Street, Hunt Real Estate will be hosting an ornament-making craft while The YNGodess will provide adult tastings, and make sure to track down the Dickens carolers and Scrooge from 3 to 5 p.m.

 The outdoor fun will be topped off with a holiday parade at 6 p.m. down Main Street. There are 35 participants registered for the parade, BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said, and judges include City Council members Eugene Jankowski Jr. and Bob Bialkowski, and BID community members Carol Hunt, Sandy Licata and Ken Mistler.

"We have added giant blow-up decorations for downtown, and added more things for kids. We are working hard on creating memories for all ages, especially the kids," Maute said. "I am overwhelmed with the participation and the generosity of everyone. I have a great board, an amazing committee, and a fantastic community.

"The BID Christmas in the City Committee will be transforming downtown Batavia into your favorite Christmas movie!" she said.

Volunteers are welcome to join the parade line-up or Santa's Village to help out, she said.

File photo of Christmas in the City parade, by Howard Owens.

December 1, 2022 - 4:53pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, le roy winterfest, notify.

Le Roy's Winterfest is carrying on with a tree-lighting even though the event's usual donor won't be providing the tree, said someone who preferred not to be identified.

An issue that has become public chatter on social media will not prevent the annual festivities from taking place, the source said. Winterfest will be "merry and bright" and a positive event for the community this Saturday, the source said, and it's not about the size of the tree, but about people coming together to enjoy the yearly happening together.

Andrew Lathan has usually donated a tree for the lighting, but has apparently notified organizers that he will not be doing so this year, the source confirmed. Le Roy Business Council is instead purchasing a tree, which is set for a public lighting celebration at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Click here for more about Winterfest.

 

 

 

 

December 1, 2022 - 2:17pm

If it makes financial sense, the Hotel at Batavia Downs on Park Road will be adding 42 rooms in 2024.

Henry Wojtaszek, chief executive officer/president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., said Thursday his team has been consulting with Hart Hotels, the company that manages the current 84-room luxury hotel.

“We’re going through the process, conducting engineering studies to see if it will be cost-effective,” Wojtaszek said after the morning's WROTB board of directors meeting. “The plan is to report back to the board in January.”

The hotel operated at 70 percent capacity in November, Wojtaszek said.

“Business has picked up,” he said. “Plus, we’re sold out for New Year’s Eve and have a big waiting list.”

Wojtaszek said that Batavia Downs Gaming’s New Year’s Eve party will include guests staying at the hotel as well as other patrons.

In other developments from today’s meeting:

  • The board approved a contract extension with Don Hoover, director of live racing and race secretary, for January and February 2023 at a rate of $12,000 per month.

Hoover’s salary will be paid by the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association per an agreement with WROTB as a condition of conducting 15 live racing dates in January and February.

Racing will take place on Mondays and Thursdays in those two months, starting on Jan. 9, with a 3 p.m. post time.

Directors also extended a pact with Mark Lowe for live racing consulting services from Jan, 1 through March 31 at a rate of $3,500 per month.

Wojtaszek said Lowe is assisting the corporation in navigating through the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act’s racetrack safety program and anti-doping and medication control program (with the latter going into effect next month).

  • Wojtaszek announced that the 2023 Batavia Downs Summer Concert Series will feature eight concerts on Friday nights, starting on June 23 and ending on Aug. 11. He said the specific acts will be announced next week.

The board approved contracting with Canal Concerts, Inc., of Buffalo, to provide supervision of the series, including the hiring of bartenders, security and other employees.

Canal Concerts has played a role in the productions since 2017, Wojtaszek said. The approved contract will pay the company $5,500 per concert.

  • Former Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas will continue as WROTB’s spokesperson for two more years, thanks to a contract that will pay Mariacher Thomas LLC $120,000 through Dec. 31, 2024. The terms of the agreement have not changed, Wojtaszek said.

Thomas has represented Batavia Downs Gaming at events, promotions and advertising campaigns since 2013.

Wojtaszek said that the food service portion of the gaming facility’s 34 Rush will be closed for 10 to 14 days in early January for the installation of a new kitchen hood. Food will be provided by Fortune's and Homestretch Grill.

The board authorized paying $52,700 to Crosby Brownlie, Inc., of Rochester, the lowest bidder, for the work.

  • The board voted to spend $240,000 over the next 12 months for the services of three lobbying firms.

The one-year contracts are with Upstate Strategic Advisors, LLC, of Buffalo, represented by Sam Hoyt ($3,500 per month); Mercury Public Affairs LLC of Albany, represented by Patrick McCarthy ($8,000 per month), and Bolton-St. Johns of New York City and Albany, represented by George DiRosa ($8,500 per month).

Wojtaszek said the consultants provide expertise in the areas of proposed legislation in Albany, communication with local municipalities and in public relations.

December 1, 2022 - 1:03pm

With one month remaining, 2022 is shaping up to be another record year for Batavia Downs Gaming as actual earnings are well ahead of management’s expectations.

Speaking this morning following Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s board meeting at the Park Road facility, Chief Financial Officer Jacquelyne Leach said the outlook for distributions to the public benefit company’s 17 municipalities is extremely positive.

“Combined earnings and surcharges could very well be anywhere between $8.5 million and $9 million in distributions this year,” Leach said. “It’s a record year.”

That number represents a difference of more than $3 million from what Leach and WROTB officers projected in their 2022 operating plan. She said their conservative “budget” was crafted after taking several factors into consideration.

“Well, we looked at a couple of things,” she said. “On the pari-mutuel (harness horse racing) side was the (potential) impact of sports betting being legalized in New York State. And on the other side, the gaming side, we had the Park Road (Reconstruction) Project, and we didn’t know the effects of the road being torn up.”

Leach also said management wasn’t sure if COVID-19 would rear its ugly head again.

Looking ahead, the 2023 operating plan is calling for $6 million in revenue distribution to the municipalities -- $5,381,976 in operating earnings and $618,734 generated from surcharge.

“For 2023, we have factored in an additional decrease in our pari-mutuel wagering. That's part of it,” she said. “Also, because of the volume of business we're experiencing here at Batavia Downs, we need additional workforce to handle the increased volume.”

She said next year’s plan – which she considers “a fluid and working document” – does not call for any OTB branch closures but, conversely, includes the addition of four E-Z Bet locations.

When it was mentioned that actual figures could exceed projections in 2023 as well, Leach said, “That’s what we're going to try to do.”

Leach reported that $54,370 will be distributed to municipalities, including Genesee County, from October’s activity.

Previously: WROTB preliminary 2023 operating plan shows a 15.9 percent increase in distributions to municipalities

November 30, 2022 - 6:43pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, LeRoy Winterfest, notify.

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Out of a decade’s worth of the annual Le Roy Winterfests that have happened in December, this is the first one that has drawn people together for an organized event, organizer Lori Steinbrenner says.

As a member of the newly formed FRESH Committee, which operates within Le Roy Business Council, Steinbrenner has been impressed with how much effort the village has put into the 2022 winter festival.

“It’s a great committee of business members; we’re really going after it and doing great things,” she said Wednesday. “The events committee is going strong; we’ve always had a Winterfest, but not like this. We’re putting on a united front. Anyone can come; the more the merrier."

Established just six months ago, the committee has organized an extravaganza of activities from noon to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the village of Le Roy.

Don’t plan to rest and relax just yet, as the Jinglin’ All the Way Festive 5K heads out at 10 a.m., while local businesses prepare to offer assorted fun activities and additional vendors throughout the day. Steinbrenner, who owns Personal Preference salon, is hosting seven vendors at her shop, and others are likely to do the same, she said.

Santa Claus is going to have a busy day, from a visit at The Moose Club from 1 to 3 p.m., followed by 3 to 5 p.m. at the former Sweet Betty’s location, and then leading a parade at 5 p.m. from the old Bank of America parking lot to the Christmas tree, which is scheduled for lighting at 5:30 p.m.

There will be caroling around the tree with Le Roy Jr/Sr High School’s choir, s’more cones, Santa story time, hot chocolate from Dave Ehrhart and cookies from Le Roy Presbyterian Church. Tucked into the schedule is the Maddie Masters second annual one-mile walk, to begin at 3:30 p.m. at Sweet Betty’s.

Throughout the day, there will be a bounce house, balloon animals, business specials and craft and vendor sales. New this year is a horse and carriage ride, from 1 to 5 p.m. from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church parking lot along Wolcott Street to see the schools, Oatka Creek and Creekside’s “beautiful bubbles and Christmas trees,” Steinbrenner said.

Other activities include a kids obstacle course by BeyonDriven, crafts from noon to 5 p.m. and face painting from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Art of Mandy, and Woodward Memorial Library, from noon to 4 p.m., and Save-a-lot from 1 to 3 p.m., will also have face painting and kids’ crafts; and a store scavenger hunt and free hot chocolate and cookies, respectively.

Another new offering will be a poker run, set to run from 6 to 9 p.m. at five establishments: American Legion, The Moose, Capish! Brick Oven Pizza Ristorante, Sweet Betty’s, Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew. Wristbands are $10 each, and participants will get a cocktail and poker card at each stop before turning in their final hands for a 50/50 jackpot.

A three-piece acoustic band, Nate Coffey, will be performing at Smokin' Eagle to cap off the night.

Formed in June of this year, the FRESH Committee’s mission is to “promote commerce development, unity, beautification, and revitalization throughout the town and village of LeRoy,” with an emphasis on food and drink; retail; events and attractions; services; and enhancement.

“I wanted to bring some vitality, events and life to Le Roy,” Steinbrenner said, emphasizing that many business people have joined in to help. Click here for Winterfest details.

The Hope Center will also be having an offshoot Winterfest for families at 42 Main St., Le Roy, organizer Valerie Moore said. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, there will be oodles of games and prizes available for toddlers up to 12, including a bean bag toss, nerf target games, ice and candy cane fishing, ornament ball sorting, a snowman toss, lollipop matching game, snowball toss, snowball basketball and snowman dart board.

There will also be face painting, a snowman, snowflake, woodland animal and coloring craft; and goodie bags for each child.

“This event is a great way for families to spend time together doing some holiday activities and making memories,” Moore said.

Go HERE for more information. 

File Photo of Winterfest's Jinglin' 5K, by Howard Owens.

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File photo by Howard Owens. The 2017 tree lighting.

November 29, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, Batavia High School, notify.

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This week’s production of "The Trial of Robin Hood" will probably seem familiar, since most people —whether through cartoons, movies or live stage — have watched a version of the English-based character performing his obligatory duties to give to the poor.

Except for the fact that this Robin Hood must fight for his life in a court battle. And King Richard, in this case, is Queen Richelle. Oh, and there are those three witnesses who describe in conflicting detail who they believe Robin Hood to be. And, yes, another variation is that the audience gets to vote for one of three endings to the story.

So perhaps you may not be as familiar with this version of the good-deed-doer and his band of merry men. But one thing is certain, says Caryn Leigh Wood, director of the Batavia High School Drama Club’s play.

“It’s very Robin Hood in tights-esque. It’s tongue in cheek, almost poking fun at itself,” she said after rehearsals Monday evening. “Obviously, it's a well-known story. I feel like almost everybody has heard the story or concept of Robin Hood. And obviously, there's tons of different adaptations. But it's funny, it's very silly, and we don't take it too seriously at all. If people come with an open mind and be ready for some silly fun time … I think people will laugh a lot.”

The trial is set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at BHS, 260 State St., Batavia.

Funny thing is that The Batavian asked Wood how many BHS shows this makes for her, and she only happened to realize earlier in the day that it’s her 20th season. It gave her pause to reflect on the work that has gone into each and every show — from the selection process and auditions to the creation of the set, costumes, running lines, choreography and the maestro act of pulling it all together.

Throughout it all, Wood has questioned herself: am I doing everything that I need to do?

“I want to work as hard as I can for the students; they are putting in a tremendous amount of effort and time, and I want to reciprocate that for them. And so before every show every year, I'm just like, okay, mentally I've gotta prepare, gotta make sure I have my checklists. And I foresee a daunting task, and then I get to this point, and it's like, a whirlwind. And I'm like, how did I get here?" 

It’s really that "day-to-day, constant, chipping away" at the minute details that have brought her and the club members to this point. And yet, she remembers every single production, she said, and the significance of each. This winter’s show puts a cast of 25 students and a crew of six to work on the tale of Robin Hood of Nottingham, England.

“I look at a ton of material each year, I like to cast a wide net,” she said. “It comes down to what fits the kids best. When I start hearing their voices speaking the parts, I know that’s the one. And we want one that also be entertaining to the audience.”

The Drama Club voted for a comedy this year, a stark contrast to last year’s sobering “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” They got what they asked for, though it has meant three times the work.

The trial puts Robin in the hot seat, as witness accounts by Maiden Marian and the Sheriff of Nottingham widely stray from Robin’s own accounting. As each witness describes his and her version of details, a vignette of characters acts it out before the audience.

Whose version will win out? With Queen Richelle as the judge, the court must rule on what happened to a kingdom run amok. Is Robin Hood a lusty hero, a hapless romantic or truly an evil criminal? That’s where the audience comes in, to vote on a finale.

Typical for many of Wood’s shows, this will be a black box-style, putting the audience square in the eyes of actors during the performance. She likes that it really draws spectators into the action while also giving students a more intimate acting experience.

All this is to say that the cast had to rehearse three different endings and be prepared for the final decision, chosen on the spot during the show. Rest assured, Wood said, “we have a plan.”

No matter what scenario is chosen, the kids will have fun with it, she said.

“They know all three endings. They are very prepared,” the confident director said. “I think that everybody will laugh at something in the show.”

Tickets are $9 and available at showtix4u.com or $10 at the door.

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Photos of dress rehearsal for "The Trial of Robin Hood" feature BHS senior Paul Daniszewski as Robin Hood, junior Cassidy Crawford as Maid Marian, senior Christina Brown as Sheriff of Nottingham, and Saniiya Santiago as Queen Richelle. Photos by Howard Owens.

November 28, 2022 - 5:52pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Peru Outreach Project, corfu, notify.

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It might seem lucky that Cristian Johnston met his wife while on a trip to Peru, although that’s not quite the beginning or the end of the story.

This fairytale of sorts begins with Cristian growing up in an orphanage in Peru and then being adopted by Kathy Houlihan and her husband, Daniel Johnston, a couple from Corfu. It was when Cristian, 26, went back to visit that same orphanage that he first reconnected with the house mother who cared for him as a baby.

And then he met her daughter, Rosita. They fell in love and got married, and now have a son, Iker. The story unfolds into a full circle, as Cristian decided to give back to his roots by helping out financially and through hands-on labor.

Consider it luck or fate or happenstance, he has immense gratitude for what he’s been given by his adopted parents and his life ever since.

“It’s a night and day difference. It’s quite a privilege to see my life — I had two very different possibilities,” Cristian said during an interview with The Batavian. “It’s very eye-opening from where I stand.”

His mom added that there’s a lot of poverty in Peru, which has an estimated population of 33.5 million people. And whether despite that fact, or because of it, she was drawn to the country, its culture and its struggles. Peru's boundaries are with Colombia to the northeast and Brazil to the east, and they traverse lower ranges or tropical forests, whereas the borders with Bolivia to the southeast, Chile to the south, and Ecuador to the northwest run across the high Andes mountains.

A South American adoption
Houlihan first traveled to the South American locale in 1978 as an exchange student after graduating from high school. So when she and her husband were thinking of adopting, she thought Peru would be a good place to look. After all, Houlihan speaks Spanish fluently, she was familiar with the geography and some of the country’s challenges. The orphanage where Cristian lived until 4 years old housed 80 kids aged birth to 18.

The adoption process was mundane — lots of paperwork and documentation — and lengthy. It took about two years for Cristian to meet his new home in Western New York. Albeit an awkward start, that process forged a family.

“We were all excited,” Houlihan said. “We were also so scared. What if he doesn’t like us?”

She had read most every book on adoption to learn the ins and outs of the process and what should and shouldn’t be done. Houlihan doesn’t recommend that to other prospective adopters; it just heightened the couple’s anxiety.

When they met Cristian, it was a bit tense, she said. They brought him back to their hotel room and showed him toys they’d brought — he loosened up and their nervousness eased.

Still, they had six more weeks in Peru as part of the process. And then, Cristian finally met his new family, home, neighborhood and community. A young man of few words, he didn’t dwell on life in the past, but on all that he hopes to accomplish moving forward.

A trip of reconnection

It was in 2018 when a friend asked if Houlihan wanted to visit Peru, and Cristian said he wanted to go back and check out his humble beginnings. They went to the orphanage, where his caretaker, Hermelinda, was still caring for children.

“It was overwhelming,” he said. “It was a lot to take in.”

His memory is scarce, the cafeteria and smell of food seemed somewhat familiar, but there was nothing on the emotional side, he said. After years of being away, he stood face-to-face with the very woman who nurtured him as an orphaned boy.

“Twenty years later, she was there. She told me about how her daughter helped take care of me,” he said.

He went back to the United States and worked to save money for a return visit, this time for eight months. It was just a “personal drive to want to get back,” he said. He helped out with plumbing, and landscaping — creating a large flower garden near the orphanage — revamping a defunct bakery, painting, purchasing new equipment and repairing what could be salvaged, buying uniforms for the children and assisting where he could.

Meeting his future
It was during this trip that he fell for Rosita. They got married in 2019 and she eventually moved to the U.S. with Cristian. Both of them had a goal to help the orphanage, and Cristian talked to his mom about doing more.

Why?

“Seeing the happiness of the youth,” he said, as Houlihan added that “they looked up to him as a brother.”

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The family also established a nonprofit in 2019, Peru Outreach Project, to raise money for various needs at the orphanage. They have come a long way — building a medical clinic, assembling first aid boxes, buying Christmas presents and new playground equipment for the kids, and establishing a sewing workshop for residents to make their own towels, curtains and clothing repairs.

“They really loved the care and support,” he said. “I got to see some of the needs. (Fulfilling them) felt very rewarding; it was a satisfaction to see what I’m doing has meaning, to give them what I had. It can give them a sight that this isn’t forever.”

In 2005, the Houlihan Johnston clan grew again with the adoption of Gabriel. Meanwhile, Cristian’s work didn’t go unnoticed. A local television network was going to air a show about the orphanage’s anniversary, and Christian was there doing his work as usual. His story ended up being part of the show, and it was aired throughout Peru.

His birth family saw the show and knew it was their Cristian. He ended up meeting his birth parents and extended family.

“I didn’t hold anything negative against them,” he said. “Internally, I was very emotional.”

Their cause has continued to grow. In February, they began to rent a home — which needed much TLC of a renovated kitchen, new electric system, repainting and gardens — to house up to six Amazonian women on a path to a better life. The women go to nursing school so they can have a lucrative future careers.

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While there, the occupants will learn how to grow their own produce, cook, and use management skills. They otherwise would be living in the village with no educational or career opportunities, and end up “married and having kids” as their life’s work, Houlihan said.

“This is an opportunity for her to get out and see a different perspective,” Houlihan said. “She can be self-reflective ... and give back to her family.”

Ongoing outreach
The Outreach has invested some $30,000 so far, with an ongoing $2,000 monthly rent payment for the house. There is a 10-member board with officers -- Cristian is president -- and a website to learn more. The organization is largely funded by grants from the Buffalo Quaker community and a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania, plus donations from churches and individuals. Another goal is to take more volunteers with them to Peru.

“We do eventually want to focus on … safety, security and love, and for them to envision that they can become self-sufficient,” Houlihan said.

Houlihan and Cristian are available for presentations to any group upon request. Contact them at [email protected] or at P.O. Box 234, East Pembroke, NY, 14056.

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Top Photo: Kathy Houlihan, Rosita, Iker and Cristian Johnston talk about their mission to assist the Aldea Infantil Virgen del Pilar orphanage in San Martin, Peru at Coffee Press in Batavia, by Joanne Beck; submitted photos of the orphanage, a sewing workshop, female nursing students studying, new playground equipment, and Cristian with his son, all in Peru; and photo above of Cristian with his son, by Joanne Beck.

November 22, 2022 - 9:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in David Bellavia, news, batavia, notify, Deanna King.

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The ex-wife of David Bellavia, former Batavia resident and a Medal of Honor recipient, has filed a Federal lawsuit against the Orleans County Sheriff's Office alleging a violation of her civil rights for an arrest on a harassment charge in January 2021.

David Bellavia is named as a co-defendant in the suit. The suit was filed on Nov. 4.

The suit contains numerous accusations made by Batavia resident Deanna Marlene Bellavia, known professionally as Deanna King, against Bellavia as part of a contentious divorce proceeding that preceded her arrest by Corey Black, who is also named in the suit.

The suit states that King was informed there was an arrest warrant for her in Orleans County. At first, she thought it was a prank. To confirm it was real, she contacted a family member in a command position at the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, He confirmed there was indeed a warrant for her arrest.  She made arrangements for the family member, not identified by name in the suit, to be with her in Orleans County when she turned herself in.

Corey Black is identified as a former sheriff's deputy and an investigator for the Orleans County District Attorney's Office. It states Black was not a deputy at the time of King's arrest and states he confronted her with evidence that consisted of a screenshot of David Bellavia's phone log documenting a call from one of the sons of the couple regarding health insurance coverage. There was also a message on an app encouraging David Bellavia to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before visiting his children.  The suit states David Bellavia had traveled nationally during the pandemic on speaking engagements and expressed concern for the safety of the children.

The suit states that when King expressed disbelief, "Black cryptically and rather threateningly responded, 'There's more to it than that, but David didn't want to pursue it.'" 

The suit claims that Black -- whom the suit also claims is a "right-wing political activist" --  then "confirmed" that he and Bellavia were good friends.

The suit alleges that Black arrested King without probable cause and that an unnamed deputy assisted in her arrest and that Black was acting outside the law as a personal or political favor to Bellavia.

Sheriff Christopher M. Bourke said his office did not arrest King.

District Attorney Joseph V. Cardone said he knew nothing of the suit and said that investigators in his office make arrests on a daily basis.  He did not specifically confirm that Black arrested King.

Cardone's office is a co-defendant in the suit. Cardone said he could not comment on the suit. He said he has not been served and had not read the complaint. 

"I’m unclear as to what she is claiming," he said.

Black has not returned a call from The Batavian requesting comment.

The court clerk for the Town of Ridgeway said there is no court record of an arrest of King.

King told The Batavian she could not comment on the case and referred The Batavian to her attorney Nate McMurray. The Batavian left a message for McMurray to clarify the status of her arrest. He has not returned the call.

If the case is resolved, it's possible the file has been sealed, compelling the court clerk to deny it exists.

Bellavia referred a request for comment on the suit to his attorney, Joan Adams, of Williamsville. Adams has not responded to a message from The Batavian left with her assistant.

The defendants are accused in the lawsuit of denying King her rights of due process and equal protection under the law. It doesn't specify how much the defendants should pay in damages.

The suit identifies Bellavia as a "political provocateur and radio host" who ran for Congress, has publicly engaged in conspiracies and aligned himself with Donald Trump, Michael Caputo (a former consultant to Trump who briefly served in his administration), and Carl Paladino (a Buffalo developer who has run for governor and Congress).

While the suit describes loving moments and support following Bellavia's and King's marriage in 1999, it also accuses Bellavia of being aggressive and abusive. It specifies several abusive comments allegedly made by Bellavia to King and their three children.

It also claims that Bellavia frequently threatened King with violence, though it does not specify any actual violent action against King. 

David Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor in the White House by then-President Donald Trump in July 2019.  Bellavia is the only living member of the armed forces who fought in Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor.  The award was presented for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004, in Fallujah when Bellavia engaged multiple insurgents in an unlit house at night, killing four insurgents and wounding a fifth.

Divorce proceedings began in 2019.

In his new book, "Remember the Ramrods: An Army Brotherhood in War and Peace," Bellavia discusses the awkwardness of going through with the ceremony with his family at a time when he was already alienated from his wife.

"Their mother had insisted she come along to D.C., despite our impending divorce," he writes. "If I hadn’t agreed, the kids would not be allowed to come with me, so I had no real choice on this. The discomfort of two estranged people looking at a weekend together in Washington, D.C., under a microscope of media attention, was something the DoD tried to prepare me for, but until I was living it in the moment, I don’t think either of us understood what this would mean."

The arrest in 2021, the suit alleges, was carried out "to discredit, humiliate" King during the divorce proceedings.

The suit alleges that King did not get fair treatment in divorce proceedings because the presiding judge was Charles Zambito, who had made political contributions to Bellavia. Zambito was not on the bench at the time Bellavia was a candidate for Congress.

"Repeatedly," the suit states, "throughout the course of the divorce proceedings, Judge Zambito ignored evidence of domestic abuse and extreme harassment by Defendant Bellavia—even attempting to pressure Plaintiff to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the divorce proceedings—which she refused."

The divorce was finalized in December of 2021, the suit states, and that Bellavia now lives in Florida and has "limited interaction with his children" or King.

In his new book, Bellavia discusses the disconnect he felt with his family back home.

"In this world of normalcy, the people who should have been that innermost circle of my life -- my children, my family -- were almost strangers to me," Bellavia said in the prologue. "I'd been a continent or more away from the majority of my son's young life. I barely had time to experience fatherhood before I deployed overseas. I had a family of my own, but I didn't know them. Rectifying that became the defining feature of my life for many years.

"My real family was still overseas, scattered to different units and areas of operation."

On the side of preserving his marriage while in the military, he concedes that he reached a point where he couldn't accept another overseas deployment. The end result, he wrote, would be divorce. "I wanted to save my family and serve my country. I realized I couldn't do both. I had a decision to make. The hardest of my life."

In the book, Bellavia recounts the divorces of several of the men he served with in Iraq.

"For our generation of warriors, more than the World War II guys, the complexities of a broken marriage and a byzantine, contentious divorce became part of the consequence of our service long ago," he writes. "Most of the Ramrods have gone through it, emerging with deep battle scars that challenged their ability to ever trust again. To be clear, there is no clear right or wrong in these situations. It takes two to make a marriage fail. Right or wrong isn’t the point."

Bellavia and King's attorney, McMurray, have each sought to represent Genesee County in Congress, in separate races.  Both lost to now-disgraced former representative Chris Collins, who was convicted on insider trading charges and lying to the FBI in 2019. Bellavia lost to Collins in the 2012 primary, and Collins went on to beat incumbent Kathy Hochul, who is now New York's governor. McMurray lost to Collins in 2018. He lost to Chris Jacobs in 2020.

McMurray recently represented former state senator George Maziarz in a lawsuit against Batavia Downs that was eventually dropped.

For The Batavian's prior coverage of David Bellavia, click here.

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens of David Bellavia in the White House after receiving the Medal of Honor. 

November 21, 2022 - 7:45pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, wreaths across america, pembroke, veterans, notify.

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As Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Giving Tuesday are all looming ahead for hungry shoppers, there’s also an initiative to honor local veterans worthy of your investment, Matthew Moscato says.

Wreaths Across America is a project to ensure that those veterans who have served and died are commemorated with a red-ribbon accented pine wreath during a yearly ceremony every December. This year that event is set for noon Dec. 17 at the Western New York National Cemetery, 1254 Indian Falls Road, Corfu.

And while Wreaths Across America is, as it implies, a national effort, Moscato’s Veterans Outreach Club at Pembroke Junior-Senior High School is selling the wreaths locally to also benefit the WNY National Cemetery Memorial Council, a non-profit entity that runs many of the events at the National Cemetery.

“We have 40 to 50 students, it’s the largest club at the school,” Moscato said to The Batavian. “We do a ton of stuff; our kids really wanted to promote this. The Memorial Council is in charge, and our kids play a role in helping with that. They’ve gone to the community collecting donations for the wreaths.”

They have so far collected enough for 450 wreaths, with a total need of about 1,300 this year, he said. Students volunteer to participate during the annual ceremony by helping visitors get around the large cemetery grounds, passing out wreaths and being on hand to assist with other duties. They also participate in a detail one week out of each year to take down, inspect and raise flags for the revered Avenue of Flags, he said.

“They’ve been very enthusiastic about it” he said. “They’re very integrally involved.”

For every $15 wreath sold, $5 goes to the Council to offset expenses related to the cemetery, such as maintaining U.S. flags for the Avenue of Flags and providing uniforms for the Honor Guard.

Moscato, a teacher at the school and this year’s Wreaths Across America coordinator, began the club a few years ago, and it has been growing in size and scope ever since. The group recently created a Wall of Honor for all Pembroke graduates who went into the military. An entire hallway has been dedicated for that project, and more than 230 plaques — made at the school — hang on the walls with those students’ names on them, he said.

“We held an opening ceremony that hundreds attended and many flew in from around the country to be there,” he said. “The Pembroke Veterans Outreach Club is a community service club that works to ‘honor our local veterans.’

“Our club is a pure community service club, we make no money from it,” he said. “We want to make sure there are 100 percent enough wreaths for the veterans. The kids are really excited. Being in the school district that the cemetery is in, it plays an important role … and the kids are definitely doing their part.”

Pembroke Veterans Outreach Club is selling wreaths for this event, with the goal of having a wreath placed on every headstone in the cemetery for the holiday season, Moscato said. He is also on the WNY National Cemetery Council. The Outreach Club plays a major role in hosting this public event, which includes a short ceremony with a couple of speakers, followed by community members laying wreaths on the headstones of graves.

“This is the same ceremony that takes place in Arlington,” he said. “I’m sure you have seen the iconic pictures of the wreaths on the graves there. This is the same ceremony right here in Western New York.”

Go HERE to sponsor one or more wreaths, or send cash or checks to: Veterans Outreach Club, Pembroke Jr-Sr High School, P.O. Box 308, Corfu, NY, 14036. If more wreaths are purchased than are needed this year, the money will go toward next year's gravestones and ceremony, Moscato said. Deadline for ordering is Nov. 29.

Submitted photos of Pembroke students helping out at the WNY National Cemetery during last year's ceremony.

Video: Last year's ceremony.

Video Sponsor
November 21, 2022 - 3:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, batavia, notify, bergen elba.

Alexander C. Schwartz, 26, of Rochester, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation 1st. Schwartz was stopped at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 13 on East Main Street, Batavia. He allegedly has 34 active license suspensions. He was arraigned in City Court and released under supervision.

Martin F. Jones, 51, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Jones is accused of being involved in a disturbance at 1 p.m. on Nov. 3 at a location on South Main Street, Batavia. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Jason S. Wood, 44, of Batavia, is charged with DWI, speeding, avoiding intersections, and open alcoholic beverage container. Wood was stopped at 5:38 p.m. on Nov. 13 on Chestnut Street, Batavia. He was issued appearance tickets.

Cassandra L. Brunea, 49, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd and endangering the welfare of a child. Brunea allegedly threatened to hit another woman while that person was holding a child at 11:13 a.m. on Nov. 15 at a location on East Avenue, Batavia. She was arraigned in City Court and released.

Madalyn R. Muntz, 36, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Muntz was arrested by State Police in connection with an incident reported at 9:19 a.m., May 16, in the Town of Batavia. She was released on an appearance ticket. No further details released.

Trisha M Moyer, 44, of Kendall, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Moyer was stopped at 11:11 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the Town of Elba by State Police. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Jody Ann Minuto-Carey, 52, of Chili Riga Court, Churchville, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and moved from lane unsafely. Minuto-Carey was stopped at 4:33 p.m. on Nov. 8 on Clinton Street Road, Bergen, by Deputy Trevor Sherwood. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Loretta Lynn Baer, 51, of Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Baer is accused of possessing Fentanyl at 4:03 a.m., May 20, at a location on East Main Street, Batavia. She was arrested on Nov. 10 and issued an appearance ticket.

November 19, 2022 - 11:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire services, news, office of emergency management, notify.

Volunteer and career firefighters from Genesee County are being deployed to Erie County to assist with emergency management as a result of heavy snowfall in the area.

Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator for Genesee County, announced Saturday night that the following departments have been approved for deployment starting Sunday morning at 6 a.m. for a 12-hour shift.

  • City of Batavia Fire
  • Town of Batavia Fire
  • Oakfield Fire
  • East Pembroke Fire
  • Corfu Fire
  • Genesee County Emergency Management

Participating personnel are instructed to assemble by 5:15 a.m. at the Corfu Fire Department, 116 East Main St., Corfu, for deployment to the Erie County Training & Operation Center, 3359 Broadway, Cheektowaga.

November 19, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, genesee county, civil service, notify.

There are vacancies in the three major city departments of police, fire, and public works, plus several unfilled openings throughout the Genesee County municipality.

While county officials have waived Civil Service exam fees, expanded residential limits, and worked with certain occupations to establish more flexible workplace options, there are yet other issues at play in having employee gaps, city officials say.

rachael_in_chambers.jpgIt’s not just a lack of qualified candidates that keeps these jobs unfilled, but also about how Civil Service works, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

“When you hire, there’s a rule of three: you can only look at the top three in the bracket,” she said during an interview this week. “The New York Conference of Mayors supports expanding it.”

If that limit of three could be expanded to five, that would obviously widen the pool of eligible candidates, she said. Police Chief Shawn Heubusch agreed. He would also like to see additional revisions to how Civil Service testing works.

The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police is working with the state Sheriff’s Association to bring about a change in the Civil Service rules “that make hiring minority and underrepresented persons difficult,” Heubusch said.

“Our organizations, jointly, will be requesting that Civil Service be reformed to allow for a Pass/Fail test, for the State to deliver testing more frequently and to see faster turn-around times in terms of scoring for them,” Heubusch said. “Change to the police officer physical agility testing requirements to be job-based as opposed to the antiquated standards that exist. We would also like to see more uniformity across the state in terms of how the rules are applied.”

For example, in one part of the state, Civil Service commissions will deliver the test on an annual basis, while in other parts, it is given every two or even four years, he said.

chief_heubusch_3.jpeg“We feel that these changes will allow departments to hire a more diverse workforce that is reflective of our communities and speed up the time from which a person takes a test to the time they are hired — sometimes more than two years currently,” he said.

Another delay in filling positions in the police and fire departments, she said, is the training time required in academies after a good candidate is hired. 

“It can take six to 12 months,” she said.

And that’s after an extended period due to Civil Service protocols.

“The law really does hinder our ability to hire qualified candidates,” she said.

A Civil Service reform bill (below) has been approved by the Senate and Assembly, and has been forwarded on to the governor’s office for final approval, she said.

Reform the Civil Service Law

Municipalities are always looking for innovative ways to effectively manage their workforce. Unfortunately, in many instances, they are restricted by arcane Civil Service rules. The Civil Service Law should be amended to grant local officials an appropriate level of flexibility in hiring and workforce management decisions. Specifically, NYCOM supports the following reforms:

  • Expand the number of eligible employees for appointment to a Rule of 5;
  • Authorize procedures whereby a provisionally hired employee can transition to a permanent appointment if an exam is not offered within a certain period of time;
  • Classify all part-time positions as non-competitive by operation of law instead of by local rule;
  • Require continuous recruitment whenever possible; and
  • Allow out-of-title work in a declared state of emergency.

Reforms to the civil service appointment process would be especially helpful in the hiring of police and fire chiefs, water and wastewater operators and other highly technical positions of employment where there is a limited supply of qualified candidates.

 

November 18, 2022 - 5:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.
Deborah Gorton

Deborah C. Gorton, 25, of Overlook Drive, Batavia, is charged with assault 2nd, aggravated sex abuse 2nd, and endangering the welfare of a child. Gorton is accused of assaulting a child and of sexually abusing the child. The child is reportedly less than seven years old. There were allegedly multiple incidents. Gorton was arraigned in the Town of Batavia Court and released on her own recognizance in accordance with New York's bail law. She was scheduled to reappear in court at a later date.

Brian Stover, 52, of Edward Street, Newfane, is charged with grand larceny 4th. Stover allegedly stole merchandise valued at $1,042.48 from The Home Depot in Batavia. 

Amari Chantelle Glass, 22, of East Water Street, Elmira, is charged with criminal trespass 2nd. Glass is accused of trespassing at Genesee Community College on Nov. 17 at 5:33 p.m. after previously being banned from the campus. She was released on an appearance ticket.

November 18, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in Business, Grow-NY, bergen, notify.

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After two days of enjoying himself at a Grow-NY convention, Paul Guglielmo knew it was time to get serious. He was approaching his time to be on stage pitching for up to a million bucks to expand his Craft Cannery business.

Enter Alexander Hamilton. Or at least the soundtrack of the famed Broadway musical about America’s founding father. No wonder Guglielmo chose this piece of music to pump him up before his turn came: “I’m not throwing away my shot,” begins one of the tunes in a spunky rap-sung style.

And he certainly didn't. He just learned Wednesday that his pitch won a $500,000 prize. 

“It really worked. By the time I stepped on stage I was really psyched,” Guglielmo said Thursday about giving his pitch during the Grow-NY competition in Syracuse. “There was so much energy.”

The news was embargoed until Thursday, but Guglielmo figured there’s always the “mom rule,” so he confided in her before the news became public.

“She screamed at the top of her lungs,” he said. “We did a lot of practice, I’d say at least 50 times; it was well-rehearsed, but not memorized. There were six judges, sort of six disciplines all related to the food and agriculture business. The $500,000 is a really, really big deal, of course, but also having six people at the absolute tops of their field in food and agriculture give you that kind of validation, hearing your plan and say ‘we believe in that plan,’ that’s a big deal too. It really is a big deal.”

He received the award Wednesday night on behalf of the Bergen-based company. The top three priorities he pitched involved job creation, expansion of the building on Appletree Avenue, and the purchase of needed equipment. Most likely, it won’t happen in that order, though, as a building expansion needs to be done first in order to fit more equipment and then hire additional people to help operate everything.

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Guglielmo (inset photo left), has been supported throughout his entrepreneurial journey by his wife Ryann, who assists with the company’s marketing, and partner Tom Riggio (inset photo, right). For more, go to the company website.

First up on the task list is to hire an architect and move forward with an expansion, Guglielmo said. That should be happening during the next several months, he said.

“Monday, we’ll have our first set of meetings, and have a goal of that being done in a year,” he said. “We have the land to do 10,000 square feet."

With a personality that tends to be “all over the place,” one big lesson he has learned from this experience is to focus. The judges homed in on various elements of his pitch, and pointed out an area he hadn’t really thought about, he said: the diversity of his staff. While clients and the advisory board are diverse groups, his staff looks like Bergen, he said: nine white people. He has attempted to recruit temp workers from an Afghan-based employee pool, but workers didn’t have transportation. He appreciated the panel’s point.

tomriggio1.jpeg“The efforts have been made. And there's barriers that need to be broken down, specifically with the transportation, because I've heard a couple of times, well, where's the nearest bus stop, and we don't have one. And so that's a barrier,” he said. “So it's something that I would like to pay a lot more attention to and do a better job of.”

Once expansion and new equipment purchases happen, then Craft Cannery will be looking to hire “realistically between two and five people,” the Brighton resident said. Although the “B2B” company produces well-known products, it sells to businesses versus directly to the public. As a result, it hasn’t garnered a whole lot of attention — until now. Guglielmo knows how challenging it can be to pursue a business dream, and he wants entrepreneurs to know that Craft Cannery is there to help.

“The first thing I ever thought when I wanted to start my pasta sauce business was that it was almost for sure that the answer I would get would be that it was impossible. And I couldn't believe it when I finally started to have some people take me seriously, like the people at Cornell University and their food venture center,” he said. “When they took me seriously, I was like, ‘Oh my God, somebody's actually taking me seriously that I want to bottle this sauce. This is so cool.’”

State recognition
Governor Kathy Hochul announced the winners of the Grow-NY business competition Thursday, including the top prize recipient ProAgni of Lavington, Australia, for the $1 million grand prize.

Now in its fourth year, the program once again attracted exceptional startups and entrepreneurial talent from around the globe to compete in its business development accelerator and two-day pitch competition at the Grow-NY Summit, Hochul’s press release stated.

ProAgni and Craft Cannery were two of eight finalists to take home prize money. The winning teams must commit to operating in the Central New York, Finger Lakes, or Southern Tier regions for at least one year while providing Grow-NY with a small equity investment stake in their entity. Funding for the competition, which is administered by Cornell University's Center for Regional Economic Advancement, is provided through the state's Upstate Revitalization Initiative. 

"Congratulations to all of the forward-thinking entrepreneurs that took part in the fourth round of the Grow-NY competition," Hochul said. "This competition not only helps these companies continue to innovate, but it further supports New York State's regional economies by drawing even more worldwide attention to our globally renowned food and agriculture industry.”

In all, 390 startups applied from 52 countries, including Singapore, Australia, and Sri Lanka. In the U.S., 25 states were represented, including 92 entries from New York. The 20 finalists, including Craft Cannery, received dedicated mentorship from hand-selected regional business advisors leading up to the competition.

Those selected as winners will now immediately get to work executing their business plans in New York state, leveraging the connections made and regional knowledge gained from the competition, the release stated. 

More than 1,200 people registered for the fourth annual Grow-NY Summit. The 20 finalists gave highly-anticipated business pitches to a panel of six judges reflecting a depth and breadth of agriculture, food production, and venture development expertise, who listened to each pitch and asked probing questions, before deliberating to determine the top winners, it stated.

"Grow-NY has become one of New York's finest annual traditions, shining a spotlight on the many diverse, innovative, exciting agricultural and food businesses across the State,” Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball said. “I thank Governor Hochul for her continued support of the Grow-NY competition and send my congratulations to all of the winners and participants this year. I look forward to seeing you create the technologies and jobs of the future while continuing to provide a boost to our local farmers." 

Craft Cannery promotes itself as taking cherished recipes from your kitchen to the shelves of grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets and beyond, specializing in the contract manufacturing of sauces, dressings, marinades, and more. 

Grow-NY judges based award decisions on the following criteria: 

  • The viability of the startup's business model 
  • The diversity, quality, readiness, and completeness of the startup team  
  • The value that the startup offers customers 
  • The agrifood innovation that that the startup has invented

Prior coverage includes:

Top photo submitted of Paul Guglielmo, center, celebrating his win Wednesday in Syracuse. 

 

 

November 17, 2022 - 5:25pm
posted by Press Release in news, genesee county, State of Emergency, notify.

Press Release

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a State of Emergency was issued Thursday morning for 11 counties as a winter storm is forecast to impact portions of upstate New York with intense lake effect snow through Sunday. The most significant snowfall is expected Thursday and Friday with accumulations of up to four feet of snow possible in the Buffalo area and up to two feet or more of snow possible in the Watertown area, with snowfall rates of three or more inches per hour. Hazardous travel conditions and local power outages as a result of the storm are likely due to the combination of snow and wind in the forecast. Lightning and thunder may also occur in the heavier, more intense bands. Governor Hochul urged New Yorkers to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel Thursday evening through Friday, particularly in the Buffalo and Watertown areas.

The State of Emergency applies to the following counties, as well as contiguous counties: Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming.

"We all have to do our part to make sure that everyone stays safe during this winter storm — that's why I have declared a State of Emergency for impacted counties, which will free up resources and boost our readiness," Governor Hochul said. "My administration has been preparing around the clock for this potentially life-threatening weather event, bringing in additional safety personnel and equipment, closing down the New York State Thruway, and activating Emergency Operation Centers. I urge all New Yorkers to stay prepared and vigilant over the next few days, making sure to look after vulnerable loved ones and neighbors."

Lake Effect Snow Warning and Winter Storm Watches are in effect through Sunday evening for several counties in the Western New York, Finger Lakes, Central New York and North Country regions. As of Thursday, the National Weather Service forecast anticipates several feet of snow for multiple locations over the duration of this storm.

For a complete listing of weather watches and warnings in your area, visit your area's National Weather Service website.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, "I can't stress enough the need for anyone in the path of this dangerous snowstorm to take action to prepare for several days of heavy snow, wind, dangerous travel conditions and the potential for power outages. New Yorkers are familiar with this kind of weather, but it's our first major snowstorm of the season, so let's please be careful, do your shopping and other errands now before the heavy snow starts falling, if you can, and touch base with friends and neighbors to make sure they are ready for the storm, too."

Agency Preparations:

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services is closely monitoring weather and travel conditions, coordinating State agency response operations, and will be communicating with local governments throughout the event.

The State Office of Emergency Management's Emergency Operations Center is activating Thursday and the State's stockpiles are prepared to deploy assets to localities to support any storm-related needs.

The State Office of Fire Prevention and Control has assets such as emergency response vehicles, UTVs ready to deploy for mutual aid requests, as needed.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

The State Department of Transportation is responding with 3,287 supervisors and operators. Staff can be configured into any type of response crew that is required, including snow and ice operations, drainage, chipper, load and haul, and cut and toss. Additionally, 75 Incident Command System (ICS) personnel are available to support the upcoming event.

To support lake effect snow response in critical areas, a total of 112 staff from other regions, including 92 plow truck operators/supervisors, 11 equipment operator instructors, six mechanics, one operations manager, 1 ICS support staff, one safety representative, and one ICS support staff member were deployed to impacted regions. Additionally, 15 plow trucks, 6 medium duty trucks with plow, and 1 bulldozer were also deployed. They are distributed as follows:

Western NY/Buffalo - Personnel Deployments (87):

·         70 operators

·         7 supervisors

·         4 equipment operator instructors

·         4 mechanics

·         1 operations manager

·         1 ICS support staff

Equipment Deployments (22):

·         15 large plow trucks

·         6 medium duty plow trucks

·         1 bulldozer

All out of region resources will be in place by Wednesday afternoon or evening. The need for additional resources and equipment will continue to be re-evaluated as conditions warrant throughout the event.

All residency locations will remain staffed for 24/7 operations throughout the duration of the event and priority cleanup operations. All available snow and ice equipment is ready to deploy. Fleet mechanics in affected areas will be staffing all main residency locations 24/7 to perform repairs and keep trucks on the road. Statewide equipment numbers are as follows:

·         1522 large plow trucks

·         140 medium duty plows

·         50 tow plows

·         329 large loaders

·         38 snowblowers

DOT is implementing a full commercial vehicle ban at the following locations beginning Thursday at 4 P.M.:

·         Interstate 190 - Route 62 to I-90

·         Interstate 290 - full length

·         Interstate 990 - full length

·         Route 33 - full length

·         Route 219 - Route 39 to I-90

·         Route 400 - full length

·         Buffalo Skyway Route 5 - full length

·         I-81 - Exit 33 to Canadian border - trucks use right lane only

To find the latest traffic and travel conditions, call 511, visit www.511ny.org or download the free 511NY mobile app. The online system and mobile app include a state road map, indicating which roads are experiencing snow conditions and where conditions are normal.

Thruway Authority

Thruway Authority personnel are staffed around the clock and ready to respond to the lake effect storm with 657 operators and supervisors statewide. Thruway has shifted and deployed additional staff and equipment from its New York, Syracuse, and Albany Divisions to support snow and ice operations in the potentially hardest hit areas in Western New York. Deployed resources include operators and supervisors, mechanics, large plow trucks, and large snowblowers.

Additionally, Thruway Emergency Operations Centers will be staffed in Buffalo and headquarters for the duration of the storm to assist with managing snow and ice operations, traffic incident response, emergency management, and real-time traveler information.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, all commercial traffic will be banned on the New York State Thruway (I-90) from exit 46 (Rochester I-390) to the Pennsylvania border, and the Niagara Thruway from I-90 to exit 22 (Route 62). ALL commercial traffic heading eastbound on the Thruway must exit at exit 61 (Ripley - Shortman Rd).

Commercial traffic heading westbound on the Thruway towards Pennsylvania from points east, should use exit 46 (Rochester - I-390) for I-390 to I-86 West.

Thruway statewide equipment numbers and resources are listed below:

·         346 large and medium duty plow trucks

·         9 tow plows

·         66 loaders

·         More than 132,000 tons of salt on hand

Variable Message Signs and social media are utilized to alert motorists of winter weather conditions on the Thruway.

The Thruway Authority encourages motorists to download its mobile app which is available for free on iPhone and Android devices. The app provides motorists direct access to real-time traffic information, live traffic cameras, and navigation assistance while on the go. Motorists can also sign up for TRANSalert e-mails which provide the latest traffic conditions along the Thruway. You can follow the Thruway Authority on Twitter: @ThruwayTraffic and @NYSThruway and on Facebook at NYS Thruway Authority.

Division of Military and Naval Affairs (DMNA)

DMNA will have 60 personnel on duty as of 6 p.m. tonight to assist with the state's response: soliders from the 2nd Squadron 101st Cavalry, which is based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and the 105th Military Police Company at the Masten Avenue Armory, and Airmen from the 107th Attack Wing.

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)

DEC police officers, forest rangers, emergency management staff and regional staff are on alert and monitoring the developing situation and actively patrolling areas and infrastructure impacted by severe weather. DEC is coordinating resource deployment with agency partners and all available assets are positioned to assist with any emergency response.

DEC is advising backcountry users to be aware of and prepared for winter conditions. Winter hiking safety and preparedness are extremely important regardless of a hiker's physical ability or destination. Properly preparing for winter conditions is essential for a more enjoyable and safer experience. Additional information on winter hiking is available here.

DEC reminds those responsible for the large-scale removal and disposal of snow to follow best management practices to help reduce the potential for pollutants like salt, sand, oils, trash and other debris in snow from affecting water quality. More information is available here.

Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

New York State Park Police and park personnel are on alert and closely monitoring weather conditions and impacts. Park visitors should check parks.ny.gov or call their local park office for the latest updates regarding park hours, openings, and closings.

Department of Public Service

New York's utilities have approximately 5,730 workers available statewide to engage in damage assessment, response, repair, and restoration efforts. This includes an additional 230 external FTEs secured by National Grid. NYSEG has increased its contractor support in the Western New York area in preparation for the lake effect snow. DPS staff will track utilities' work throughout the event and ensure utilities shift appropriate staffing to regions that experience the greatest impact.

State Police

The State Police is adding extra patrols to the areas that will be most impacted by the lake effect snow, and will also be staging additional specialty vehicles, including utility task vehicles and snowmobiles, in those regions. All four-wheel drive vehicles will be deployed, and troop emergency power and communications equipment has been tested.

Winter Safety Tips

Winter Travel

Some of the most important tips for safe driving include:

·         When winter storms strike, do not drive unless necessary.

·         Use caution on bridges as ice can form quicker than on roads.

·         If you must travel, make sure your car is stocked with survival gear like blankets, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, extra warm clothing, set of tire chains, battery booster cables, quick energy foods, and brightly colored cloth to use as a distress flag.

·         If you have a cell phone or other communications device, such as a two-way radio, available for your use, keep the battery charged and keep it with you whenever traveling. If you should become stranded, you will be able to call for help, advising rescuers of your location.

·         The leading cause of death and injuries during winter storms is transportation accidents. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure that your vehicle is clear of ice and snow; good vision is key to good driving. Plan your stops and keep more distance between cars. Be extra alert and remember that snowdrifts can hide smaller children. Always match your speed to the road and weather conditions.

·         It is important for motorists on all roads to note that snowplows travel at speeds up to 35 mph, which in many cases is lower than the posted speed limit, to ensure that salt being dispersed stays in the driving lanes and does not scatter off the roadways. Oftentimes on interstate highways, snowplows will operate side by side, as this is the most efficient and safe way to clear several lanes at one time.

·         Motorists and pedestrians should also keep in mind that snowplow drivers have limited lines of sight, and the size and weight of snowplows can make it very difficult to maneuver and stop quickly. Snow blowing from behind the plow can severely reduce visibility or cause whiteout conditions. Motorists should not attempt to pass snowplows or follow too closely. The safest place for motorists to drive is well behind the snowplows where the roadway is clear and salted. Never attempt to pass a snowplow while its operating.

Heavy Exertion

Heavy exertion, such as shoveling snow, clearing debris or pushing a car, increase the risk of a heart attack.

 

To avoid problems:

·         Stay warm, dress warm and SLOW DOWN when working outdoors.

·         Take frequent rests to avoid over-exertion

·         If you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in your jaw radiating down your arm, STOP and seek help immediately.

Power Outages

·         Call your utility to determine area repair schedules

·         Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored; leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored

·         If heat goes out during a winter storm, keep warm by closing off rooms you do not need

Heating Safety

·         Use only safe sources of alternative heat such as a fireplace, small well-vented wood or coal stove or portable space heaters

·         Always follow manufacturer's instructions

·         When using alternative heat sources such as a fireplace, woodstove, etc. always make sure you have proper ventilation

·         Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces

·         Have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors and make sure they work

·         If you use kerosene heaters to supplement your regular heating fuel, or as an emergency source of heat, follow these safety tips:

-Follow the manufacturers' instructions

-Use only the correct fuel for your unit

-Refuel outdoors ONLY and only when the unit is cool

-Keep the heater at least three feet away from furniture and other flammable objects

-When using the heater, use fire safeguards and ventilate properly

For more safety tips, visit https://dhses.ny.gov/safety.

 
November 17, 2022 - 5:04pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, State of Emergency, batavia, genesee county, notify.

snowdaymlk2022-5.jpeg

Genesee County has gotten some attention from the Department of Homeland Security due to a severe weather watch for the next few days.

Department Commissioner Jackie Bray was heading this way to work alongside the county’s Emergency Management Services team, Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein said Wednesday evening.

The commissioner — whose most recent Twitter posts include news that Governor Kathy Hochul declared a State of Emergency -- planned to be embedded with county workers throughout the weather event, Stein said. Hochul's declaration Thursday morning was for 11 counties in New York predicted to be impacted by heavy lake effect snow.

The counties include Genesee, as well as  Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, all commercial traffic had been banned on multiple state roads and state Thruway I-90 from Exits 46 to 61.

Citizens are to brace for the most heavy accumulations of up to four feet of snow in the Buffalo area. Hazardous travel conditions and local power outages may occur as a result of the combination punch of snow and wind that's been prevalent in weather forecasts. Hochul has urged New Yorkers to stay alert and avoid unnecessary travel Thursday evening (tonight) and Friday.

Several people have been dispatched to combat the elements, including 70 operators, seven supervisors, four equipment operator instructors, four mechanics, one operations manager and one support staff in the Western New York region, the press release stated.

The City of Batavia is prepared, Manager Rachael Tabelski said, and she has been talking with police, fire and public works departments, and county, utility and state leaders all day to ensure storm protocols are in place. Tabelski was glad to see that state roads and the Thruway are being partially shut down early as a proactive measure.

"I think shutting down truck traffic early is very helpful ... and rerouting trucks -- We just want to keep as many arterial roads open as we can," she said Thursday afternoon. "We will be determining early in the morning if we will close City Hall. We're hoping to remain open to serve all of our residents."

During talks with municipal leaders, Tabelski was reminded that commercial trucks that use the Thruway and other major highways have gotten stuck idling during intense storms, and that makes it nearly impossible for snowplow operators to do their jobs and clear snow. Rerouting that traffic well before a storm hits was a good move to help alleviate that issue, she said. 

All major department personnel from the police, fire, public works, snow removal and water and sewer plants will remain open Friday, but the mall market slated for Saturday has been canceled, and the Yard Waste Station will be closed this weekend as a precautionary step, she said. 

"I'm not saying we're rusty, but it's our first snowstorm (this season); we've got a great team in the city and county," Tabelski said. "Stay safe, stay home, use your generator outside and not inside, don't use stoves to keep warm, make sure you've got batteries ... don't light candles inside. We feel as prepared as we can be for one of these events."

As for feeling confident that a storm of the predicted intensity -- with quantity and speed of potential snowfalls -- Tabelski couldn't commit to that. "We just don't know," she said. But, per the popular adage, it's better to be safe than sorry.

She also wanted to extend a "thank-you" to those city, county and state employees that are out there in the middle of the night plowing and clearing roadways "so that we can live our lives" and remain safe.

Batavia City School District and all after-school activities will be closed Friday, Superintendent Jason Smith said. The Batavian will be publishing an ongoing list of closures and cancellations as they are received.

So hunker down, snuggle up, and get ready for some wintry weather to safely endure from inside.

File photo of January's snow clean-up, by Howard Owens.

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