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October 16, 2021 - 6:37pm

Batavia’s two high school varsity football teams recorded victories on the road Friday night.

In a game played at Depew High, the Batavia High Blue Devils of Section V defeated Clymer-Sherman-Panama of Section VI, 25-21, rallying to win when senior quarterback Jesse Reinhart hit Javin McFollins with an 11-yard touchdown pass with 4:11 left in the game.

Meanwhile, at Cuba-Rushford/Hinsdale, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish broke a five-game losing streak, upending the host Rebels, 33-14, in a Section V Class D matchup.

At Depew, Batavia battled back from a 21-13 deficit as running back Aidan Anderson scored on a 60-yard run early in the fourth quarter, setting up Reinhart and McFollins’ late heroics.

The Blue Devils were able to schedule the game against Clymer-Sherman-Panama, a strong Class D team, after its contest at Newark/Marion was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues with the home team.

Reinhart threw for three TDs – two to McFollins (11 and 88 yards) and one to Carter McFollins (18 yards). Anderson racked up 171 yards on 27 carries.

Batavia, 6-1, takes on Wilson Magnet at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Van Detta Stadium.

ND 33, Cuba-Rushford/Hinsdale 14

Drew Edwards rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown in his debut as halfback and quarterback Jimmy Fanara completed 10 of 12 passes for 157 yards and two scores as Notre Dame raised its record to 2-5. Edwards had been the team's starting left tackle until moved to fullback the previous game.

Four of Fanara's completions went to Evan Cummings for 60 yards and Bryceton Berry caught two passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns.  Fanara also ran for a touchdown.

Hayden Groff rounded out the Irish attack with 57 yards on the ground and a TD.

The 33 points is one less than the team had scored over its first six games.

On defense, lineman Connor McWilliams came up with nine tackles, including five for a loss, while linebackers Vin DiRisio and Edwards were credited with eight and six tackles, respectively.

The Irish host Clyde-Savannah at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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October 16, 2021 - 12:12pm

Press release from Tonawanda Seneca Nation:

GENESEE COUNTY, New York — The Tonawanda Seneca Nation reached a settlement (with the Genesee County Economic Development Center) of a lawsuit seeking to stop Plug Power, Inc.’s construction of a facility that would anchor a manufacturing megasite, known as the STAMP (Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park) site. In June, the Nation petitioned the New York State Supreme Court to stop the development of the Plug Power project adjacent to the Nation’s land in Genesee County, but a judge dismissed the case on procedural grounds last week. The STAMP site is adjacent to the Nation and within the Nation’s ancestral territory.

“We’re disappointed that the court didn’t have the opportunity to hear our arguments in this case,” said Kenith Jonathan, Sachem Chief for the Wolf Clan of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation and keeper of the Western Door. “We never got our day in court to explain how the project would diminish the Big Woods and have a negative impact on our Nation and our way of life.”

In its petition to the court, the Nation warned that the development would diminish the Big Woods, a pristine parcel of land that citizens of the Nation forage and hunt on, as they have for centuries. The Big Woods is a source of various traditional medicines important to the Nation’s culture and health. For centuries, the Tonawanda Seneca people have relied on the medicines, passing down that knowledge from generation to generation. Tonawanda Seneca citizens also play traditional games not far from the proposed Plug Power site. Citizens of the Nation voiced concern that the games would be disturbed by the traffic, noise and light pollution from the project.

“Make no mistake; we are opposed to developing a manufacturing megasite adjacent to pristine woods on undeveloped land,” said Chief Jonathan. “While we are disappointed that the construction will go forward, this settlement includes important protections to reduce the impact on our Nation and to protect our way of life. We are hopeful that the agreement can be the framework for a more collaborative relationship with GCEDC and Plug Power moving forward.” 

The settlement negotiated by the Nation will permanently protect from development over 200 acres of land on the STAMP site that is adjacent to the Nation’s territory. Plug Power, Inc. also is prohibited from using pesticides on the protected lands, which will further protect the environment. The Nation also will have cultural resource monitors onsite during earthmoving activities — to help identify and protect any unanticipated cultural resource discoveries.

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October 16, 2021 - 11:39am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, O-AT-KA Milk Products, cybersecurity.

O-At-Ka Milk Products’ information technology team is working with law enforcement and cybersecurity experts in the wake of “a sophisticated cyber-attack” that began earlier this week.

Bill Schreiber, chief executive officer of the milk processing plant at Cedar Street and Ellicott Street Road, confirmed to The Batavian that the ransomware attack started on Thursday night and affected to varying degrees company computers, time clocks and other equipment.

“O-At-Ka did experience a sophisticated cyber-attack, and our team responded immediately and has been working around the clock to remedy the situation and resume normal operations,” he said. “We have been working with law enforcement and industry experts to investigate and recover from the attack.”

Schreiber said O-At-Ka routinely prepares for such attacks and “the contingencies we put in place have been effective in restoring and maintaining our business functions.”

“Our customers have been minimally impacted and we continue to work with them on a routine basis to ensure ongoing operations and business continuity,” he said. “I’m thankful for the team’s continued hard work and efforts in response to the attack.”

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October 16, 2021 - 11:08am

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“In today’s society, people want it now and if you don’t have it, they may go someplace else.”

With that statement, Guy Clark, owner of Cedar Street Sales & Rentals, articulated a retail principle that motivated him and his sons, Connor and Adam, to construct a 6,000-square foot warehouse across the street from the business that has been a fixture in Batavia for the past 28 years.

The Clarks hosted a Genesee County Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” event on Thursday evening, attracting about 50 people to the 60- by 100-foot building that can house a couple hundred Cub Cadet lawn mowers and snowblowers.

Clark provided a quick recap of the thought process behind the company’s expansion.

“This lot came with the property across the street but it was just an empty, vacant lot that was overgrown for years,” he said. “Every year, we’d get crates and crates of lawn mowers and we’d had nothing to do with them – no place to put them. We put them together as you sold them – keeping them out back (at 111 Cedar St.) and it became a crowded mess.”

He said he got together with Connor and Adam, both college graduates with business degrees, and they sketched out a design on paper and came up with a plan.

“And now we have this building with beautiful loading dock where we can unload tractor-trailers on a regular basis,” Clark said.

Recently, the national sales manager for Cub Cadet visited the warehouse and was impressed, Clark noted.

“He said this is the future … and he took a lot of pictures,” he said. “Around March 1st, we’ll have 150 mowers completely ready to go in this building.”

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Photo at top: Guy Clark, Chamber of Commerce President Erik Fix, Adam Clark and Connor Clark; photo at bottom: Inside view of the Cedar Street Sales & Rentals warehouse. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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October 16, 2021 - 8:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Billie Owens, thebatavian, news, batavia, notify.

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Billie Faye Owens, 63, editor of The Batavian from 2010 to 2021, died at Rochester General Hospital on Friday evening from complications from congestive heart failure.

She was taken to United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia with health issues on July 26 and remained hospitalized for 81 days. At no time did she test positive for COVID-19.

She was born in 1958 in Charlotte, N.C., to Barbara Jean Carter and Billie Eugene McSwain. Her mother moved her when she was 5 to San Diego where she would eventually attend San Diego State University, earning a B.A. in Journalism.

She went to work for the Daily Californian in El Cajon, Calif. in 1989, where she met her second husband, Howard Owens, then a wire and copy editor at the Daily Californian, and currently publisher of The Batavian. They were married on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene College in 1993.

Her journalism career began with an internship at the Los Angeles Times and included stints at the San Diego Business Journal, the Ventura County Star, and the Canandaigua Daily Messenger.

She won numerous regional and statewide journalism awards in San Diego for her writing and reporting.

She was passionate about her craft and one thing Howard and Billie bonded over quickly was the fact they both had substantial collections of books about journalism, which has grown to more than 400 titles over the years.  They also both enjoyed old movies with main characters who were reporters and editors.

She loved animals and was upset by anybody who abused animals.  She made it a mission to publish reports of people leaving dogs in hot cars and made local animal abuse cases her beat in Genesee County.  She was also well-known for her colorful reports of lost and missing pets and shelter animals in need of adoption.

In 2015, Howard and Billie adopted Rocky, a mix-breed pit bull who had been abused by a previous owner.  Rocky succumbed to cancer on July 31.

Billie is survived by her husband and three grandchildren, whom she loved.  Her mother, Barbara France, passed away in December in San Diego. 

In lieu of flowers or condolences, donations can be made to Volunteers for Animals in the name of Billie and Rocky.  There will be no local service. Her wishes were that her ashes be deposited in the Pacific Ocean off the Ventura County Pier, where her son's ashes, Charles Raymond Sutherland, were deposited in 2018.

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October 16, 2021 - 8:47am

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“Good for your garden, good for your community, good for your planet” – and, in the eyes of Genesee County Planning Board members, good enough for a location on Wright Road in the Town of Alabama.

Planners on Thursday night recommended approval of a site plan for EcoVerde Organics, LLC, of Buffalo, to own and operate a compost facility on a portion of a 27-acre parcel in an Industrial zone at 396 Wright Rd.

The company, which was formed in 2017 by entrepreneur Warren Emblidge Jr., uses the motto above as it promotes environmental and social ecosystem improvement through composting.

EcoVerde Assistant Chief Katy Duggan appeared at the planning board meeting at County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“We’re a small company that was started by a local businessman (Emblidge, EcoVerde’s chief) who had been successful (in other ventures) for many years,” Duggan said. “He got the idea of sustainability and the next step was to get some composting going.”

Duggan, in her third year with the company, said EcoVerde had a composting plant in East Aurora but now is focused on this site in the Town of Alabama.

“We work with people, businesses and others in our local community to source our inputs, then make and sell quality soil amendments like compost,” she explained. “Our products improve soil to support plant growth with less chemical fertilizer and less nutrient run-off into waterways to protect our natural environment.

“We look forward to operating in Genesee County where we can support its goal of agricultural preservation.”

She said that a new food scraps law in New York State requires businesses and institutions that generate a certain amount of food scraps to donate usable food and to recycle what’s left.

“So, some of this is in preparation for that,” she said.

A former recycling sustainability coordinator and educator, Duggan developed the Lewiston Art Festival recycling and food waste composting program, and developed food waste collection and waste audit services for commercial customers.

Plans for the Alabama facility are to process source-separated organics, manure and yard waste (specifically food scraps), solid manure/bedding, select food processing waste and crop residue, and leaf and yard waste from municipalities and landscape professionals. Biosolids will not be accepted.

Duggan said activity won’t begin until after final approval from the Town of Alabama Planning Board, which was scheduled to meet this Monday, but has cancelled that session.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has granted EcoVerde approval to operate the compost facility, she said, limiting production to 7,500 cubic yards per year. She said customers will include farmers (organic and market), landscapers, gardeners and homeowners.

“We will start by bringing material into the plant, initially manure and yard waste, and since compost takes three months to make, we plan to start selling it in the spring,” Duggan added.

The planning board’s recommendation of approval is contingent upon EcoVerde obtaining a stormwater permit from the DEC if it disturbs more than one acre of land, and registering with the GLOW Solid Waste Management Committee and reporting the amount of material recovered by the facility to the GLOW Recycling Coordinator.

Planning Board member Tom Schubmehl also requested that Duggan reach out to leaders of the neighboring Tonawanda Seneca Nation to mitigate any odor or other issues caused by prevailing winds. She said that she would be agreeable to that.

In other action, the board recommended approval of:

  • A special use permit to combine two parcels into one Commercial zone to accommodate New York Bus Sales’ new 20,000-plus-square foot school bus service/sales facility at the corner of West Saile Drive and Call Parkway in the Town of Batavia.

Lauren Rodriguez, civil engineer with LaBella Associates, said the facility will cover seven acres, with minimal security lighting and fencing.

One of the board’s concerns was that on-site lighting would not shine directly onto neighboring properties or cause a hazard for motorists.

The project application has been accepted by the Genesee County Economic Development Center,

  • The addition of four storage units to the current seven at West Batavia Storage at 8550 Wortendyke Rd. in the Town of Batavia, with the on-site lighting stipulation.
  • An area variance for Har-Go Farms in Pavilion to construct a 6,300-square foot barn addition in an Agricultural-Residential (AR-1) District.

Photo: Katy Duggan of EcoVerde Organics presents the company's site plan to Genesee County Planning Board members, clockwise from bottom, Laraine Catan, Planning Director Felipe Oltramari, Jill Gould, Richard Richmond II, Legislator John Deleo, Robert Bennett, Eric Biscaro, Tom Schubmehl, Deputy Director Erin Pence. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: GCEDC board of directors accepts application for New York Bus Sales facility in Town of Batavia

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October 15, 2021 - 3:06pm

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Update: 6:30 p.m. -- See bottom of the story

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The chief executive officer at O-At-Ka Milk Products today said engineers at the Upstate Niagara cooperative-owned milk processing plant are prepared to present alternatives that would satisfy the City of Batavia and bring an end to a situation that is forcing the company to spend $25,000 to $30,000 per day hauling wastewater away from the facility.

The problem, however, according to Bill Schreiber, is that city management will not sit down with officials from O-At-Ka and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to iron out what he calls “a three-party solution that would be a win-win for everyone involved.”

Schreiber and John Gould, owner of Har-Go Farms in Pavilion and chairman of the board for Upstate Niagara, a consortium of 300 dairy farmers, spoke to The Batavian this morning.

They expressed their dismay over not being able to deposit all of its wastewater into the city’s Waste Water Treatment Plant and “a lack of urgency” from the city.

Gould brought this issue to public light at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting when he informed lawmakers of the staggering costs to haul the wastewater away from O-At-Ka.

Several minutes later, he learned from City Attorney George Van Nest that the municipality had no choice but to enforce a cease-and-desist letter it sent to O-At-Ka after discovering that discharge levels from the Cedar Street plant were above permitted limits.

Van Nest said the DEC sent a notice of violation to the city, threatening enforcement action and large fines because of the oxygen levels in the ponds.

Gould: 'There's Something Wrong Here'

Gould’s anger with the city’s stance came through in his comments earlier today.

“Back to the Council meeting, Mr. Van Nest, puts the fear of God into them with the DEC. So, everybody’s fearful of each other and we’re getting nothing done,” he said. “There was more discussion about who was paying for Christmas in the City then there was about the largest employer in the city and the economic impact upon it. There’s something wrong here.”

Contacted today, City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said Council is leaving the matter in the hands of Van Nest, City Manager Rachael Tabelski and engineers working with the city.

“We’re following the advice of our attorney, which is basically telling Mr. Gould and the staff there that they are supposed to talk to the city manager and the city attorney. Those are the people that Council has delegated to address the issue.

“Mr. Gould is bypassing some things and that’s not really for me to say what he is supposed to do or not supposed to do, but we’re not going to comment on it. We’ll let the professionals handle it – the city manager, the engineers, the city staff take care of it.”

Schreiber: Pre-Treatment Plant Upgrade Underway

Schreiber, in his ninth year at O-At-Ka, said the company is about six to eight weeks away from completing a $6 million upgrade to its on-site pre-treatment facility – action that he said will bring an end to this impasse as the amount of Biochemical Oxygen Demand and Total Suspended Solids will return to acceptable levels.

Until that new pre-treatment facility is operational, O-At-Ka is taking a substantial financial hit.

When it was mentioned that the expense could be as much as $1 million over the next 40 days, Schreiber responded: “That puts our business at risk, it puts our customers at risk, it puts our employees at risk and it puts our farmer owners at risk. Absolutely.”

The CEO said he is aware that the city has to comply with its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, but is seeking for “a bridge” to get us to the start-up of the new treatment facility.

“And what we got in exchange was a cease-and-desist (letter from the city). We don’t understand the lack of cooperation coming out of the city,” he said. “And it’s our understanding that the DEC would be willing to work towards a three-part solution. We’ve sent several letters to the city and we’ve not received a response.”

Schreiber said there are four or five different alternatives that would serve to increase the dissolved oxygen levels in the city’s lagoons, which have yet to recover adequately following replacement of the air header system at the Waste Water Treatment Plant in late August.

“Some of them are routine maintenance; getting into the diffusers and lagoons and cleaning them. That would have an immediate impact,” Schreiber advised.

“There’s a device called a venturi, which essentially serves to incorporate oxygen into the lagoons. There are companies that work with hydrogen peroxide, which when added to the lagoons, breaks down into oxygen and water – and essentially elevates the oxygen levels in the lagoons.”

Furthermore, Schreiber said he “fundamentally disagrees that we’re putting the city and the city’s taxpayers at risk.”

Permit: O-At-Ka Would Be Responsible for Fines

He said the city is protected under Section III.4 of the Industrial Sewer Use Permit, as follows:

“If the User [i.e., O-At-Ka] discharges above its Permit thresholds to such a degree that it causes the Publicly Operated Treatment Works (POTW) to violate its SPDES Permit, the User shall be held responsible for the payment of any fines or penalties levied against the POTW. This is in addition to any extra costs associated with handling such discharges as provided for in the Sewer Use Ordinance.”

“O-At-Ka has told City officials both in writing and verbally that it accepts full responsibility for any fines and penalties issued by the DEC or any other regulatory body that are attributable to our discharges,” he added. “We welcome the inclusion of DEC in these discussions regarding regulatory liability.”

Schreiber said O-At-Ka is seeking “a comprehensive, long-term solution to this.”

“We’re not looking for a band-aid. We recognize that the city has to meet its use permit, and we want to be part of the solution. But there seems to be, in our view, a lack of urgency on the city’s part while we’re burning through cash. We would rather channel those dollars to a constructive solution than use them to haul wastewater away.”

He said there are implementable steps that can be taken at the Waste Water Treatment Plant that will allow for the easing of restrictions on O-At-Ka wastewater discharges without impeding the recovery of the ponds.

“O-At-Ka is not seeking permission to discharge indiscriminately to the city nor are we ignoring the impact high strength wastewater can have on the ponds.  However, we are very confident that there are engineering solutions that can wholly offset the impact and further accelerate the health and recovery of the ponds.”

City Manager: 'We Can't Allow Willful Violations'

The Batavian reached out by email to Tabelski and to the DEC’s press office for comment.

Tabelski, speaking to WBTA Radio earlier this week, said O-At-Ka is “an industry here that we value for their employment and for the use of the milk supply that comes from the farms. That’s not lost on me. But we cannot allow willful violations of permits at the city Waste Water Treatment Plant.”

She also said that O-At-Ka officials acknowledged what they need to get to “a place that allows their discharge to be at a permitted level.”

“Right now, they can be at their permitted level, but they have to truck many, many truckloads of waste away. That’s showing that their capacity isn’t in line with their production,” she said.

Schreiber is calling for a “technical conversation that going to lead us to a resolution of this problem.”

Gould agreed, stating, “Collaboration to us is getting the stakeholders in the same room and sit down and solve the problem."

Schreiber said the O-At-Ka board of directors have approved $35 million in capital spending for 2021 and 2022, but “we’ll have to look really hard at where the next capital investment goes.”

He said completion of the pre-treatment facility will result in a permanent fix.

“As I said, we’re just looking for a bridge, and we can’t seem to get cooperation from the city,” he said. “The city seems to be blaming DEC; everybody but themselves, quite frankly.”

Update:

Comment from City Manager Rachael Tabelski: "In response to your inquiry, there continues to be an ongoing and open dialogue between city officials and O-AT-KA regarding discharge issues at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. As we also have communicated, public health and safety as it pertains to these discharge issues is our number one priority so that the WWTP is operating within all its regulatory obligations."

Statement from NYS DEC: "The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remains committed to working with all involved parties to develop and implement necessary solutions to address these issues. DEC will continue to meet with the city and O-At-Ka Milk Products regarding technical and infrastructure needs, and will convene additional meetings with these parties as these efforts progress."

Photo at top: O-At-Ka CEO Bill Schreiber and Upstate Niagara Chairman of the Board John Gould in front of the new equalization tank that is part of the company's ongoing upgrade of its pre-treatment facility. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

Previously: City sends 'cease and desist' letter to O-At-Ka Milk as issues at waste water treatment plant continue

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October 15, 2021 - 11:53am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Ellicott Station, savarino companies.

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Pre-construction work and environmental testing is taking place today on the grounds of the former Soccio & Della Penna Construction Co. and Santy's Tire Sales locations on Ellicott Street in the city -- the future home of the Ellicott Station project that is part of Batavia's $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative program.

Two employees of Savarino Companies of Buffalo, the company that is behind the mixed-use development (apartments, office, retail and entertainment space), were on site. Indications are that demolition of the buildings will start in November. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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October 14, 2021 - 8:44pm

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With all of their weapons on offense, the Batavia High Blue Devils have scored 36 touchdowns en route to a 5-1 record in Section V varsity football competition this season.

On 31 occasions, the Batavia placekicker has trotted out onto the field, looking to put the finishing touches on those scoring drives or spectacular plays that resulted in six points.

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Batavia will be facing Clymer/Sherman/Panama, a Section 6 school, at 7 p.m. Friday at Depew High School to replace the previously scheduled game at Newark/Marion, which is unable to play due to COVID-19.

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petry_1.jpgAnd, SHE has been successful on 28 of those point-after-touchdown attempts, proving herself as a valuable contributor to Coach Brennan Briggs’ team.

She is Julia Petry, (kicking above and photo at right), an 11th-grade scholar-athlete who has put in much time and effort to earn the right to wear jersey No. 40 on the otherwise 31-man Blue Devils’ squad.

“Julia does a very good job kicking PATs for us. She works hard at it and the hard work has paid off,” Coach Briggs said.

After being placed in concussion protocol due to an injury sustained when the team’s bus had an accident returning home two weeks ago, Petry has been cleared to play in this Friday’s game.

She said it was very difficult for her to have to watch from the bench last weekend when Batavia suffered a 27-26 defeat to visiting Honeoye Falls-Lima. The Blue Devils missed on two extra point attempts in that contest.

“Obviously, the whole game I was upset that I couldn’t play,” she said. “I was there on the sidelines, but I wanted to be out there.”

Petry’s journey to becoming Batavia’s varsity kicker (she also shares time on kickoffs) began at a young age, hanging out with older brother, John IV, and other boys when her mom, Jennifer, operated a child care center.

“Growing up I used to take my brother’s toys all the time and play with them,” she recalled. “My mom used to run a daycare center, so I always was around a lot of boys – and had this connection with them; I’ve always thought that I’ve had several older brothers because of that.”

Playing sports became a large part of her life and that continues as she participates in summer soccer and high school football, basketball and (boys) lacrosse. Previously, she was on the girls’ soccer team.

Last season, the 5-foot, 9-inch Petry was the placekicker for the Batavia junior varsity team.

“I kicked during the COVID year on jayvees,” she said, adding that last year was the only time she experienced the fact that football is a contact sport.

“There was one time last season at Livonia when there was a bad snap and it hit my knee, and I actually picked it up and tried to run with it,” she said. “Two Livonia guys just came at me (and tackled her). I actually got up smiling from it, and said, ‘Did you see that?’ Everybody on the sidelines was like, ‘Yeah, Petry!’

This season, she’s hearing the cheers from her father, John; mom, brother and a multitude of Batavia fans who have elevated her to heroine status.

“It definitely feels good,” she said. “There’s a little distance (between her and her teammates) because I’m here to kick. I’m not on the line or whatever. But overall, I feel part of the team -- the family and the community that we have.”

She said she credits Sam Watts of East Aurora, owner of Special Teams Academy, for “making me the kicker that I am.”

“He took me from soccer player to football player. It seems from the outside that they’re very similar but when you get down to the details, there are big, important changes,” she said.

Petry attended Watts’ three-day camp earlier this year and also has received instruction through group sessions. She said she practices what has been preached to her about technique and drills to increase leg strength.

“I use what he taught me every day,” she said. “A bunch of the warm-ups he gave me, I use them every day and incorporate them every day in practice. There’s one – called one-step where there’s one step between you and the ball and that’s a really good warm-up.”

She then shared her pre-kick routine and the way in which she approaches the ball.

“First, I just make sure I’m spotting where I’m kicking,” she said. “So, normally I’ll pick a tree or a branch or something that’s really noticeable so I can always find it; to visualize where I’m placing the ball through the uprights.”

When she takes steps to the side, she starts thinking, “OK, I need to take my jab step, which is my very first step (straight on as she approaches the ball), thinking of the things I need to do to be technically sound. Then, set-up. It’s always one breath, look up through where my target was, and then one breath on looking down.

“Then, I give (holder) Jesse (Reinhart) the cue and I’m gone. I don’t know how many people can hear it, but I’ll look at him and I’ll say, ‘Yeah or I’m good.’ Abel Hammer is the center – he’s been very consistent.”

Asked if Reinhart turns the ball so the laces are on the non-kicking side, Petry said, “We’ve tried to turn it, but sometimes there’s not enough time.”

Point-after-touchdowns are kicked from the 10 and with the 10 yards of the end zone, each one travels 20 yards to the goal posts. Her three misses this season were wide to the left, Petry said.

Briggs said he’s pleased with Petry’s technique and leg strength, also attributing her improvement to time spent at Watts’ camp.

“We have not attempted any field goals this season, but I see her moving the ball back during practice and she does well,” Briggs added. “I am not entirely sure what her range is but I think we could connect on a 25-yard field goal or so.”

Petry is a bit more confident than that, stating that a 30-yard field goal is within her range. On kickoffs, her deepest boot carried to the opposition’s 15.

Looking ahead, Batavia has two more regular season games before sectional playoffs and, beyond that, Petry hopes to be the team’s starting kicker next year, but understands there could be competition for the job.

She said she has thought about kicking in college.

“I know that I will have to work really, really hard to get there, but I also know – myself personally – that if I set my mind to something and I’m driven enough, I could do it,” she said. “Right now, I’ve been college hunting, but focusing on what school academically would be best for me.”

Petry has a 4.097 grade point average (97 on a scale of 100) and is looking to pursue a degree in Physical Therapy. Along with her academics and athletics, she works 16 hours a week at McDonald’s.

All in all, she said she’s making the most of her football career, following in the footsteps of her dad and brother – both former Blue Devils.

“It has been quite an experience, and I’ve loved every moment of it,” she said.

Photo above by Steve Ognibene.

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October 14, 2021 - 5:33pm

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Genesee County legislators, substance use disorder and mental health professionals have a million reasons to celebrate today after meeting New York State Attorney General Letitia James at The Recovery Station on Clinton Street Road.

James is conducting a statewide tour to recognize communities for their efforts in fighting the opioid epidemic and to distribute funds awarded to New York through a settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. This afternoon, she presented oversized ceremonial checks in Waterloo, Rochester and Batavia.

For Genesee County, that amount is $1,060,280.71.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate and transcends all political boundaries and affiliations and artificial constructs,” James said. “This really is a demonstration of what government should do, and that is provide for the needs of New Yorkers and the constituents that we all serve. And to hold those individuals responsible for what they did; we hit them in the pocketbook.”

James said her office “closed down pharma … and five manufacturers and three distributors of this poison.”

Unfortunately, she said, overdosing continues to be a huge problem.

“We’re seeing more overdoses because we know that individuals who use opioids sort of walked into the use of heroin, which is now laced with poisonous fentanyl,” she advised. “So, whatever we can do in our capacity to provide you with additional services, with some medically assistance treatment to assist those who are dealing with not only with opioid use disorder but mental illness.”

Assemblyman Steven Hawley thanked James for her role in the settlement and her “attention to all folks who are having problems with addiction.”

“It doesn’t really identify geographic areas for folks who are having trouble with addiction – whether we live in an urban area or a rural area or a suburban area. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done for a living. It can get everybody …” he added.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, speaking for families “that have been torn apart,” touched upon the significance of James’ tour.

Stein pointed out that Genesee is one of the few counties that operates a mental health department with its own clinics.

“We are struggling, quite frankly, in getting the clinicians. That is a real need,” she said. “If we could get some help there in getting folks into our state or even support for those positions, so that we could have more people available to us to help provide those services.”

James brought up that she has been hearing that the state agencies of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports and the Office of Mental Health do not work together and operate under regulations that often conflict with one another.

Lynda Battaglia, the county’s director of Mental Health & Community Services, said the agencies on a local level have excellent working relationships.

“We collaborate … for the greater good. As we move forward, everybody has the same mission,” she said, later adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has rippled through the industry, causing waiting lists into the hundreds for services due to the adverse effects on delivery and the strain on mental health and substance use counselors.

John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (which operates The Recovery Station), explained that in Genesee County, several agencies meet on a regular basis, sharing information to increase efficiency across the various sectors.

“Criminal justice, judges, services, community-based organizations, medical care workers – we’re at the table and we talk to each other,” he said. “We try not to let anybody drop through the cracks. We don’t have a ton of services but what we have, they get utilized.”

James said it’s important to not engage in “victim blaming and to be compassionate.”

She said her office is looking at this as a health crisis, reiterating Genesee County’s belief that the funds can be used only for treatment, prevention, education, outreach, etc.

“Unlike the tobacco settlement of old (where) the funds were used for roads and bridges and lights,” she said. “I don’t have anything wrong with roads and bridges and lights – they serve their purpose and hopefully that infrastructure money (federal bill) will build more of them. But these funds have to be related to the litigation and also to assist you in expanding services, and maybe, giving people some raises because they do the work of the angels.”

Bennett mentioned that GCASA is hoping to open its new detoxification center by the first of the year and is advertising for 25 positions, mostly nurses.

“It’s challenging. Right now, we’re biting our nails, going through resumes,” he said.

In closing, James said her goal was to “shine a light on what all of you do here.”

“I come from New York City and half the time the attention is on the city, but we need to focus on rural communities, rural counties because there’s a demand here -- and they cannot be ignored; they cannot be invisible.”

County Manager Matt Landers said the county’s intent is to use the money as directed by the settlement.

“We’ll have interested stakeholders come together to build a consensus on how best to tackle this problem,” he advised.

James said the Finger Lakes Region (Monroe and surrounding counties) will be receiving $53,124,938 from the settlement.

Her plan is to travel to Buffalo, part of the Western New York Region, on Friday.

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Photo at top: State Attorney General Letitia James speaks with County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, left; GCASA Executive Director John Bennett, and Assemblyman Steven Hawley. Photo at bottom: Presentation of a check to the county to combat the opioid epidemic.

Comments
October 14, 2021 - 11:54am

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The Genesee County Planning Board is expected to review the site plan for a compost production facility at 396 Wright Rd. in the Town of Alabama at tonight’s monthly meeting at County Building No. 2 on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

EcoVerde Organics, LLC, of Buffalo, is looking to operate the plant on a 27-acre parcel of land owned by Shawn Wilkins and William Eberhard, who reside in Akron and Clarence, respectively.

The location has an Akron mailing address but actually is in an Industrial District in the Town of Alabama.

According to documents submitted by EcoVerde Organics, the company will utilize approximately five acres to process source-separated organics, manure and yard waste, specifically food scraps, solid manure/bedding, select food processing waste and crop residue, and leaf and yard waste from municipalities and landscape professionals.

Biosolids will not be accepted.

Daytime hours of operation will vary depending upon the type of work involved, but the plant will be closed on Saturday and Sundays. The company anticipates developing regular collection routes and will accept source food scraps and manure from other haulers.

Company literature indicates its vision “is to reduce waste, reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, improve soil health and enhance the water quality of the Great Lakes basin.”

“To realize that vision, EVO will work with community stakeholders to locally source food scraps (SSO), manure, yard trimmings and other organic materials to create eco-friendly, tailored and tested composts for use in gardens, landscapes and farms, including applications requiring compost that meets organic-use specifications.”

County planning staff is recommending approval with the following modifications:

  • If plans are made to disturb one acre or more of land as a result of the operation, the applicant completes a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) and obtains a Stormwater Permit for Construction Activity from NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) prior to that disturbance;
  • Per County Source Separation Local Law, the applicant register with the GLOW Region Solid Waste Management Committee and report at least annually the tonnage of materials recovered by the facility to the GLOW Recycling Coordinator.

Other referrals on the agenda include a special use permit request by New York Bus Sales, LLC, for its proposed 20,000-plus-square foot school bus service/sales facility at the corner of West Saile Drive and Call Parkway in the Town of Batavia, a site plan review for new storage units at West Batavia Storage, review of the Village of Bergen’s new zoning law and a new battery energy storage local law in the Town of Elba.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 o’clock.

Photo, courtesy of Genesee County Planning Department: Aerial view of the propsed site for a compost facility on Wright Road in the Town of Alabama. 

Comments
October 14, 2021 - 10:12am

Although Village of Oakfield and Town of Oakfield governmental leaders are keeping their constituents informed of the status of their dispute over fire protection payments, they have yet to navigate a path to the negotiating table.

And, if judging by the latest information flyer that was hand-delivered to village residents last week, the village board has drawn a line in the sand before any talks will take place:

  • The Town pays the entire amount due to the Village for Fire Protection Services provided last year.
  • The Town signs the contract for 2021-2022 fire services (current year) or a multi-year agreement.
  • All parties jointly explore options to ensure this disagreement and withholding of payment does not happen again.

The village board claims the town owes $78,644.71 for fire protection services during the 2020-21 fiscal year, and is asking for full payment by Nov. 30 or Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department personnel will not be dispatched to fires or emergencies in the town, including the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District.

Other than an exchange of bulletins and website postings, Village Mayor David Boyle and Town Supervisor Matt Martin said there has been no verbal communication between the two boards.

The village owns fire trucks and equipment, and runs the fire service through the Oakfield Volunteer Fire Department, which owns the building on Albert Street.

Contacted on Wednesday, Martin pointed to information on the town website that spells out the town’s stance.

According to its Statement on Fire Agreement, dated Oct. 11, the town would like to see:

  • A three-year contract.
  • A service contract only – not to include capital -- because the village owns all fire equipment.

The town’s statement also indicates that its clerk sent a check for $39,322.36 – half of the above amount – to the village, but it has not been cashed.

Both Boyle and Martin have said the matter is in the hands of their attorneys, but the town’s latest statement indicates it has yet to be served with any legal action.

On Wednesday, Boyle said he was waiting for a return call from the village attorney.

The municipalities’ latest communications are as follows:

THE VILLAGE’S STANCE (as of Oct. 4)

1.  The Town Supervisor and Board is refusing to pay for the Fire Protection Services provided for June 1st, 2020 through May 31st, 2021, this is despite the Town’s 2021 tax bill to Town residents included a charge for fire protection based on the 2020/2021 Fire Protection Contract.  This money was collected as Town taxes in January of 2021.  The Town is responsible for creating the situation we are involved with at this time.

2.  The Town Supervisor has repeatedly stated that there is not a signed contract and the Town does not need to pay for services---despite the fact that the Town accepted fire protection services throughout the contract term while never indicating that the services were not wanted or needed.

3.  The contract between the Village, Fire Department, and Town has been an annual agreement for many years. This included an understanding between the Village and Town for payment of the contract after the Town collected its taxes (6 months after the contract begins).  The Town has collected the money to pay the contract but refuses to abide by law which says it must provide fire protection and payout the money collected for this purpose.

4.  Village residents pay double the tax rate for fire protection compared to Town residents.  The current rate for Village taxpayers is $1.62 per thousand of assessed value.  Why should the Village residents be forced to pay more?  Also, why is the Town so insistent that the Village Taxpayers take over more of the Town’s obligation?  Any shifting of cost to Village Taxpayers is very burdensome to them.

5.  Representatives from the Village (one of which is a fireman), Fire Department, and Town met as a committee to set the fire budget.  It is disappointing and possibly illegal that the Town Supervisor and Board is withholding payment to the Village for the 2020-2021 contract in order to dictate what funds they will pay going forward.  Keep in mind fire protection services to the Town continued to be provided over this time period, and that all structure fires occurred in the Town- not the Village.  In fact, of 10 structure fires, all were in the town. 

6.  Legally, a municipality cannot provide a free service.  The Town has refused to sign a contract for the 2020-2021 term and for 2021-2022 fire protection.  The Village cannot continue to provide a service with no indication that it will be paid for the services already provided, nor for the services going forward.

7.  Because of the Town’s refusal to pay for Fire Protection for over 15 months, the Village has communicated that fire services provided to the Town will cease on November 30th, 2021 unless payment for the 2020-2021 contract is made and a signed agreement for 2021-2022 is agreed upon by all parties.

THE TOWN’S STANCE (as of Oct. 11)

At this time, the Town has not been served with any legal action.

For five years, the Town of Oakfield has been trying to work with the Village of Oakfield to come to a fair and equitable Fire Agreement.

The Town Board disagrees with the content of the letters being circulated (by the Village Board), including the $1.62 being allocated to Fire Protection to the Village residents. The total taxable value of the Village is $52,040,355 (for bills sent out in June 2021).

Based on the Mayor’s statement that $1.62 of the village rate is for fire, they raised $84,305.38 for Fire Service within the village alone.

The Village Budget for 2021-22 for Fire is $95,000. Of that $95K, $10,320 is earmarked to go into a truck reserve. If you take that out of the $95K, you are left with $84,680 for a total operating budget. So, 58 percent (Town) is $49,126.

So, if the Village collected $84,680 and the Town owes them $49,126, then the total budget would be $133,806. What are they doing with the other $39K (actually $38,806) they collected if they did in fact collect it?

This should make the Village fire tax rate 0.89 cents per $1,000 (assessed value).

We also disagree with there being 10 structure fires within the Town of Oakfield. When a fire happens within our boundaries, both the Assessor and Code Enforcement Officer is contacted. Neither have been contacted for structure fires with(in) the Town.

Finally, in an attempt to sit at the table with the Village and negotiate an agreement, the Town sent the Village a check for $39,322.36 (half of the $78,644.71 the Town collected). The Village still has the check, refuses to cash it and will not entertain a discussion.

Comments
October 13, 2021 - 6:18pm

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It might be said that news of Northgate Free Methodist Church leadership’s desire to underwrite a nine-hole disc golf course on its property at 8160 Bank St. Rd. could be a sign of redemption for Phillip Boyd, the City of Batavia resident who caused a firestorm in May when he proposed placing a course at Centennial Park.

“I was Public Enemy No. 1 for a while, but now I just laugh it off,” Boyd said this afternoon, adding that he and Northgate personnel have joined forces to build a course behind the church in the Town of Batavia.

Boyd also said that he and fellow disc golf enthusiast Matt Strobel are working with the Genesee Community College Board of Trustees about a course there -- and have left the door open to a course at Williams Park in the city.

“At one point, it didn’t look like anything was going to happen, and now we may be getting three in the area,” Boyd said, recognizing the irony in all of it.

The subject of disc golf came up at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, with City Manager Rachael Tabelski (responding to a public comment) saying that she hadn’t heard from Boyd recently.

Boyd said he left a message yesterday with Ray Tourt, the city’s maintenance supervisor, seeking to continue talks about a course at the Pearl Street recreation area.

“I am looking to get final approval on the course at Williams Park and then make a new proposal to City Council at a future Business Meeting,” Boyd said.

While the city may still be an option, Boyd said he currently is focusing on assisting Northgate Youth Pastor Dan Calkins with the logistics of setting up the course at Northgate.

“We’ve created a course design and the board unanimously voted yes,” Boyd said. “They said this is something they wanted to do for the community. I didn’t realize it but they’ve got about 50 acres behind the church.”

Boyd said they’ve cleared space for four of the nine holes thus far, and hope to make room for the remaining five before the end of this month. The goal is to open the course – which will be free to the public – next spring.

The course will feature tee pads, tee signage and baskets, he said, noting that the church’s financial commitment could approach $5,000.

Contacted today, Calkins said he read the articles detailing Boyd’s plight on The Batavian and approached Rev. Vern Saile, senior pastor, Mark Logan, operations director; and the board with the idea of locating a course on church grounds.

“Even if you don’t go to Northgate or never want to come to Northgate, we want to show that we love the community and we want to be a part of the community,” Calkins said. “We welcome the public to enjoy the course at no charge. Northgate is covering the sponsorship 100 percent.”

Calkins said disc golf fits in with the church’s outreach as it currently offers pickleball on Wednesdays at 2 and 8 p.m.

“We want to show the community that we’re more than just a Sunday church. We want to be part of their lives all week,” he said.

Boyd said he’s “pretty sure” the course at GCC will happen, considering that he and his partners have raised the money to fund it.

He also said that Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle in Batavia would be willing to sell disc golf equipment if the courses are built.

Photo above: Northgate Free Methodist Church.

Comments
October 13, 2021 - 4:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia High Blue Devils, Section V football.

It looks as though the Batavia High Blue Devils will have to wait a bit longer to try for their sixth Section V football victory of the season.

Mike Bromley, the Batavia City School District athletic director, told The Batavian this afternoon that this Saturday afternoon's game at Newark/Marion has been cancelled due to some of the home team's members getting COVID-19.

Unless Batavia can find another opponent on short notice, the Blue Devils, 5-1, will have this weekend off, Bromley noted.

Batavia's final regular season game is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at home against Wilson Magnet.

Comments
October 13, 2021 - 10:26am

Deer management, disc golf, Otis Street.

Those three subjects became brief topics of discussion at Tuesday night’s Batavia City Council Business Meeting at the City Centre Council Board Room.

Batavia resident John Roach, who regularly seeks to follow up on previous matters concerning the city, asked about the status of the deer management plan that is being coordinated by Assistant Police Chief Christopher Camp and of a fellow citizen’s proposal to have a disc golf course in the city – an idea that prompted fierce opposition when Centennial Park was mentioned as a possible location for the layout.

CITY PROPERTY THE PLACE TO START?

On the deer management plan, City Manager Rachel Tabelski said the city was able to obtain extra deer management permits but “weren’t able to enlist any landowners, especially in the First Ward, to be part of the process with us at this time.”

She said there are city-owned properties that are eligible for hunting as well as candidates who wish to take advantage of the culling program.

“Unfortunately, where most of the complaints that we have in the First, Second and Third Ward – especially about shrubbery and bushes – we don’t have anyone at this point willing to allow the hunting program on their land,” she added.

City Council President suggested starting the program on city property … “and show that it can be done and other landowners might join in.”

The city’s deer management program process began in 2019 with the formation of a citizen committee. The committee met numerous times with then City Manager Martin Moore, but abruptly disbanded at the outset of a meeting on Aug. 13, 2020 – objecting to changes to the plan’s original framework.

Previously: BREAKING: City's deer committee resigns in 33 second meeting this morning

williams_park_1.jpgDISC GOLF UP IN THE AIR?

As far as disc golf is concerned, Tabelski said that she hasn’t heard back from Phillip Boyd, the 27-year-old Hart Street resident who approached City Council in the summer about a disc golf course.

The latest news on that matter came in July when Boyd met with city Department of Public Works personnel (photo at right) to discuss placing a nine-hole course at Williams Park on Pearl Street.

The Batavian reached out to Boyd via phone call and text message this morning.

Previously: Disc golf promoter puts Centennial Park in rear view mirror, now has his sights set on Williams Park

OTIS STREET RESIDENT SAYS THANKS

On Sept. 13, Yantz informed Council members of unruly and disruptive behavior by people living in a house across the street from him on Otis Street.

He returned to City Hall last night to let them know that things have calmed down and thanked city officials for getting involved.

“The efforts of the Council and the police department seem to be making a difference on Otis Street,” he said. “It’s been quiet the last few weeks and months. I’d just like to say keep up the good work and I hope things will stay the way they are.”

Yantz said he believed that some of those neighbors were going to be at the meeting as well, but that turned out not to be the case.

Previously: City of Batavia leaders, police taking steps to help Otis Street couple deal with disruptive neighbors

Comments
October 13, 2021 - 9:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, news, notify.
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Herbert Gennis Cecilia Rodriquez

Two Batavia residents were arrested yesterday on weapons and drug charges following an investigation by the Local  Drug Task Force in drug sales in the City of Batavia.

The charges were filed following the execution of a search warrant on Aug. 16

Taken in custody yesterday were Cecilia Tina Rodriquez, 32, and Herbert Bernard Gennis, III, 28, both of Raymond Avenue.

Rodriquez is charged with:

  • Criminal nuisance 1st, a Class E felony
  • Conspiracy 4th, a Class E felony
  • Criminal possession of a weapon 4th
  • Criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th
  • Two counts of criminal using drug paraphernalia
  • Endangering the welfare of a child.

Gennis is  charged with:

  • Criminal possession of a weapon 3rd, a Class  D felony
  • Criminal nuisance 1st, a Class E  felony
  • Conspiracy 4th, a  Class E felony
  • Criminal  possession of a controlled substance 7th
  • Two counts of criminal using drug paraphernalia 2nd
  • Endangering the welfare of a child.

Both were arraigned in City Court. Rodriquez was released on an appearance ticket. Gennis was released on his own recognizance.

Comments
October 13, 2021 - 7:01am

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City of Batavia officials are doing everything they can to rectify a dispute with O-At-Ka Milk Products over the milk processing plant’s ability to discharge its waste water into the municipality’s waste water treatment plant, City Attorney George Van Nest said Tuesday night.

The problem, however, according to Van Nest, is that no viable option currently exists to prevent the city from enforcing the “cease and desist” letter it has issued to O-At-Ka after discovering exceedingly high levels of contaminants in the waste water sent into the ponds from the Cedar Street industry.

Van Nest said the city is facing the possibility of thousands of dollars in fines levied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation if it doesn’t ensure that the ponds’ dissolved oxygen levels are within the required range.

O-At-Ka, as a result of the city’s action, already has incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased costs by having to truck waste water away from its facility and, according to Chairman of the Board John Gould, the company will not be able to sustain that expense for much longer.

The situation was made public when Gould, a dairy farmer from Pavilion, spoke during the citizen comments portion of last night’s City Council Business Meeting.

Describing O-At-Ka as “experts in waste water handling with an excellent engineering team and excellent consultants,” Gould explained that the company handles a couple billion pounds of milk every year.

“We’re committed to sustainable waste water handling in this community,” he said. “We do that with more than words; we do it with action.”

Gould said that Upstate Niagara, a consortium of 300 farmers, owns eight plants in New York, including O-At-Ka, which employs 450 people.

Pre-Treatment Upgrades are in Sight

He advised that the company is investing $6 million to upgrade its waste water pre-treatment facility, with expectations that it will be online in December. He then talked about the hardship that the restriction has created, and called for a “collaborative solution (with) no stonewalling.”

“We need a win-win situation here. We’re committed to this city and we expect that you’re committed to us,” he said.

Gould said the company complied with the city management’s request in August to restrict its flow in order for crews to complete the air header project at the waste water treatment plant.

“The result of that was a 14-day shutdown of O-At-Ka’s discharge. We had to haul waste water away from the plant at a cost of a half million dollars for O-At-Ka,” he said. “We paid overtime for the employees so we could cut that time from 14 to 11 days. That was our commitment in August.

“In September, we were called in and, again, we’re on a restricted level of discharge to the city and it’s costing us between $20,000 to $50,000 a day, every day. We don’t take Sunday off. At the current rate, we’ll easily be spending $1 million hauling waste away from our plant that used to be accepted by the city – no problem.”

While Gould said he was “confident” that a solution could be found by sitting down with the city and the DEC, he added that O-At-Ka officials would have to “make drastic decisions” should the city “continues on this path.”

Pointed Questions to the City

“I certainly don’t want to have to furlough workers or reduce business,” he said. “I’ve got to ask, What is the city’s vision of the future here if this is the way you treat your best and largest business in the city? Where are we going? How are you going to support new business? What does the future look like to you folks?”

Gould concluded his 4 ½ minutes at the podium by saying, “I encourage you to get together with us. Let’s sit down and figure this out.”

Van Nest spent twice as long responding to Gould’s concerns, clearly articulating the city’s position that it has to do what is in the best interests of the functionality of the waste water treatment plant and – because of the financial ramifications – what is in the best interest of city taxpayers.

The soft-spoken attorney seized the opportunity to review developments stemming from the $1 million air header project that was completed in late August – well ahead of the schedule due to the deteriorating condition of the apparatus. The venture was moved up because the city had been getting numerous complaints from residents about the odors coming from the plant.

“Those complaints have been made to the city, made to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), made to the DEC,” he said. “The city has worked very closely with its engineers, with in-house staff … to address replacement of the air header system at the ponds, so the ponds and the waste water treatment plant function properly for the community.”

Dissolved Oxygen Levels are a Problem

Speaking in technical terms, Van Nest said that dissolved oxygen levels in the ponds were decreasing as the air headers were not working to the best of their ability and as they degraded.

“At the same time, as it appears from data that the city reviewed, there were high BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) loadings issued to the waste water treatment plant from O-At-Ka, which created a situation which depressed the dissolved oxygen levels that need to be in the ponds and allow them to function properly – ponds A1, A2 and A3,” he stated.

Van Nest acknowledged that O-At-Ka was asked “to cease discharging for up to a couple weeks while the one pond was taken out of service and the air header was replaced.”

“Ultimately, (the plan was) to roll back on slowly, so that the ponds and the DO recovery could take place when the air header system was ultimately turned back on to maximum ability,” he added.

Unfortunately for O-At-Ka, data collected by city staff showed that the company’s BOD and TSS (Total Suspended Solids) discharges were “well in excess” of the 300 milligram per liter level allowed through the Sewer Industrial Discharge Permit issued by the City of Batavia, Van Nest said.

As a result, the 30-acre ponds did not recover as fast as anticipated.

“They were well below the 2.0 threshold for dissolved oxygen that needs to be in place,” the city lawyer said.

DEC Issues 'Notice of Violation' to City

When the DEC realized this in late September, it sent a notice of violation to the city, looking at enforcement action through its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (or SPDES), Van Nest advised, “because the dissolved oxygen levels were so low and they were not going to allow the ponds to function properly pursuant to the SPDES permit.”

From that point on, many conversations have taken place – both internally and with the DEC, he said.

“There were communications with the DEC relative to that notice of violation, which is a precursor … to a potential order on consent from the DEC or EPA,” he said. “The order on consent would carry with it penalties and compliance schedules, and the penalties are significant. They could be $30,000 per day per violation for an owner of a plant that is in violation.”

Within a week, the city sent the cease and desist letter to O-At-Ka, Van Nest said, “indicating that O-At-Ka should cease discharges to the extent possible and, ultimately, completely to the plant so the dissolved oxygen levels could rebound.”

Van Nest noted that action forced O-At-Ka to truck as much as 150,000 gallons of waste water to another location, while an additional amount continues to flow to the waste water treatment plant.

“City staff and engineers are monitoring the levels – the DOD levels in the pond and the discharge levels from O-At-Ka daily, sometimes twice a day,” he advised. “Right now, the ponds have still not recovered. The DO levels are climbing somewhat, but they are not back to where they need to be from an engineering standpoint for the city’s engineers to be comfortable with the circumstance to say that the ponds have recovered.”

City Attorney: Communication Lines are Open

Van Nest disagreed with the suggestion that city leaders have not reached out to O-At-Ka officials.

“I’ve been in communication with the attorney for O-At-Ka in the last 24 hours on two occasions, The technical staff for the city has been in communication with O-At-Ka’s technical staff and engineers on several instances,” he said. “Part of the issue is that O-At-Ka and the engineers keep suggesting that there are alternative available for the city’s ponds, for the waste water treatment program at the city’s ponds to recover more quickly.”

He said one of the suggestions – bringing in portable air pumps to generate more oxygen – would possibly work except that type of equipment is not available.

“To this day, two and a half to three weeks after this issue arose, we have not heard of any of these pumps being available -- any of these pumps being located in the northeast. So that solution is not something that can be implemented at this time,” he said.

He said engineers representing the city are open to other ideas, but “at this point we don’t see anything that is currently available and implementable on the timeline that these ponds need to recover on that will, in fact, meet those requirements.”

Van Nest said he understood that the situation is affecting the bottom line for O-At-Ka, but said it is the company’s responsibility to comply with the SPDES permit’s hard-and-fast rules and regulations.

“So, with all due respect, it’s a major industrial user of the city’s waste water treatment plant. But there are obligations for pre-treatment as part of that process. And having a pre-treatment plant that can meet the capabilities of a production plant is one of those elements,” he explained.

City Taxpayers Could Pay the Price

“Ultimately, it’s the city’s plant, the city’s SPDES permit and the city’s taxpayers who are at risk if the DEC issues an order of consent with violations because the plant does not operate property (due to the DO levels). From that standpoint … the city is doing and continues to do everything it possibly can.”

Van Nest responded to questions from Council members about the projected time for the problem to be rectified but stating that he would not speculate – only deal with the situation at hand.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski said O-At-Ka’s current discharge levels are within “100 either way, up or down.”

She also noted that the bad smell coming from the plant has been alleviated.

“Since we issued the cease and desist order, we have not had very high strength waste coming through the system … that I’m aware of and the smells at the central pump station have not been strong,” she said.

Tabelski said it was her opinion that high strength waste from industrial users can cause strong odors at the plant.

She then thanked O-At-Ka for its cooperation as the city works to resolve the oxygen levels at the ponds.

“I will give O-At-Ka all the credit for all the effort you are taking in a very difficult time to haul your waste and get closer to your permitted level,” she said, looking at Gould as she spoke.

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Photo at top: Milk processing at O-At-Ka Milk Products (from company website). File photo at bottom by Howard Owens: The ponds at the City of Batavia Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Comments
October 11, 2021 - 1:30pm

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With attendance of more than 625,000 and wagers approaching $700 million this year alone, Batavia Downs Gaming has established itself as a regional pastime and -- as the driving force behind Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. -- a significant source of revenue for Genesee County and the 16 other municipalities that it serves.

Gaming in Batavia is at a fever pitch, said Jacquelyne Leach, chief financial officer for WROTB, the public benefit company that owns the Park Road gaming and harness horse racing track as well as The Hotel at Batavia Downs.

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

Genesee’s WROTB Director Addresses Recent Issues

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casino_logo.jpg“We’re anticipating record third-quarter earnings distributions of about $3 million, and we’re not done closing out September numbers,” Leach said. “When you add in the $1.2 million in earnings distributions from the first two quarters, this year is going to approach the $4.4 million generated in 1995 – and that was during the heyday of pari-mutuel wagering at OTB parlors.”

Although harness racing’s popularity has decreased over time – it once was the only “game” in town -- the sport serves a vital purpose in the overall scheme of things, Leach pointed out.

“As of right now, we have to have a valid racing license to secure our video gaming license,” she said. “If you don’t have a racing license (through the New York Gaming Commission), you can’t have a video gaming license.”

WROTB operates 27 off-track betting branches, 26 E-Z Bet locations and a telephone wagering service in 15 Western New York counties. As dictated by legislation, it contributes a portion of earnings plus surcharges to those counties and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester.

Leach said municipalities also earn monthly revenue from what is known as surcharge. Thus far in 2021, more than $450,000 have gone out in surcharges with another $130,000 or so expected for the third quarter, she advised.

$109,000 TO GENESEE COUNTY IN 2021

Genesee County will receive approximately $93,000 in earnings and $16,000 in surcharge for 2021, Leach predicted, adding to the nearly $13 million it has received from WROTB revenue since 1974. The other GLOW counties of Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming are among the member municipalities.

In her 33rd year at the Downs, Leach explained that 5 percent of winning wagers made at WROTB/E-Z Bet locations is distributed to the member municipalities based on the member’s “proportionate handle and population to WROTB as a whole.”

“For wagers placed at racetracks within New York State, 50 percent of the surcharge is distributed to the municipalities in which the racetrack is located (in this case, Genesee County) and 50 percent is distributed to the other participating member municipalities,” she said.

All of these distributions are separate from what Batavia Downs Gaming generates in sales taxes that go into Genesee County’s coffers.

“Things are really ramping up,” Leach said, reasoning that people are staying closer to home to whet their gambling appetites. “Since COVID, people aren’t traveling as much to Las Vegas. It’s more of a localized, 2-2 ½ hour drive. So, we’ve become a regional destination.”

The Bennington resident said the corporation keeps about 8 percent of the total played at the Video Lottery Terminals at Batavia Downs Gaming and through Inter Track Wagering, which, from 2001-2020, totaled a staggering $8.45 billion.

“Generally speaking, patrons have about a 92 percent chance of winning, with pari-mutuel (OTB branches, etc.) bettors having about a 75 percent chance of winning,” she said.

LEACH: ‘FOCUSED ON TASK AT HAND’

Calling it “an incredible turnaround from 2020,” Leach credited the Batavia Downs Gaming staff for creating a welcoming atmosphere.

“I can’t say enough good about the WROTB staff. Our employees work hard and are dedicated. They definitely are our best assets,” she said.

The corporation lists 385 full- and part-time employees, Leach said, with an annual payroll of about $12.5 million.

Leach (salary of $157,000) is one of four officers, the others being Scott Kiedrowski, vice president of operations ($119,000); William White, vice president of administration ($119,000), and Henry Wojtaszek, president and chief executive officer ($212,000).

“As part of the upper management team, our responsibilities have grown over the years and, despite a lot of negative stuff, we have stayed focused on the task at hand – to provide a good experience for all who enter Batavia Downs Gaming,” Leach said. “We want them to come back and have a great time here. And I think that we’re very customer service oriented, and I think, that based on the numbers, we’re certainly doing something right.”

The “negative stuff” that she was referring to includes recent audits by the state Comptroller’s Office that pointed to a lack of oversight by WROTB’s board of directors regarding distribution of sporting event tickets and use of a company vehicles from 2016-2019.

Audit findings have prompted Democratic Party leaders in Niagara County to call for criminal investigation into the way the public benefit company is operated.

LAWSUIT BY EX-EMPLOYEE CONTINUES

Additionally, Wojtaszek and Board Chair Richard Bianchi are defendants in a lawsuit by a former WROTB officer Michael Nolan, who claims he was terminated from his job without proper cause, and the board of directors has been maligned in the press for accepting health insurance policies that cost the corporation hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual premiums.

Wojtaszek said the lawsuit is “personally and politically driven” but it won’t deter him and his staff from focusing on “great customer service.”

“That’s why we’ve been successful,” he said.

Concerning the audits, he said WROTB directors asked the Comptroller to conduct it and to provide recommendations.

“We’re following those recommendations; we know that we can always improve,” he said.

On the health insurance issue, he said that the board received “differing opinions on whether or not it is allowed,” but decided to remove it going forward as a “show of good faith to address a situation that kept occurring.”

In June, directors voted unanimously to discontinue giving health insurance to board members appointed after July 1, 2021.

He praised the work of the board, stating that the “fruits of directors’ labor” are the record numbers being achieved.

Leach defended the board as well, noting that they receive just $4,000 per year in salary.

“Really, for such a multifaceted and dynamic corporation? That is dictated by the racing and pari-mutuel statute that was put in place many, many moons ago,” she offered. “Board members haven’t gotten a raise for as long as I have been here, and I’m in my 33rd year.”

CONSOLIDATING OTB BRANCHES

Directors have made forward-thinking decisions, Leach mentioned, notably the purchase of the hotel earlier this year from a private investment group, appropriating necessary funding to the Summer Concert Series and expanding programming and dining options to ensure a multifaceted entertainment venue.

She said directors approved the closing of several OTB branches in an effort to cut losses and streamline the operation.

When asked if the track and OTB parlors have been losing propositions, she acknowledged that in “years past, yes, although I will say that in 2021, our branches are doing much better.”

“We closed six OTB locations in 2020 and a lot of that handle from those six locations has transferred either to Batavia Bets, our online wagering, or to other brick-and-mortar OTB branches or EZ Bet facilities,” she said. “Actually, our branches and E-Z Bets are doing quite well right now.”

She wouldn’t speculate about the future of harness racing, other to say that a shortage of race horses is hurting the industry.

“As far as live racing goes, it’s a very expensive venture,” she said.

Leach said that the corporation is working within “a somewhat antiquated” OTB model developed back in the late 1960s.

“So, we’ve tried to cut costs there by consolidating our branch operations, closing and consolidating our handle, opening the E-Z Bets and opening Batavia Bets (online platform),” she said. “Batavia Bets has been successful ever since we opened it in 2012, but especially when COVID hit. That really took off because it was a way for patrons to wager as nothing was open.”

CONTRIBUTING TO LOCAL CAUSES

Beyond entertainment, wagering and earnings distributions, WROTB is an active contributor to charitable causes.

Marketing Director Ryan Hasenauer said the corporation gives back around $50,000 annually through donations, sponsorships and fundraisers.

“Since the hotel was constructed we have provided hundreds -- and I do mean hundreds -- of certificates for stay and plays for local fundraisers, charity auctions and similar type events,” Hasenauer said. “Those offers include a hotel night, free play and free food and are valued at over $250 each.  These are offered as prizes at an organization’s event which they use to raise money for their work.  So far this year we’ve given out over 200 of these.”

Hasenauer said organizations that have benefited from WROTB events include Make-A-Wish Gala, the Batavia Police Department K-9 Unit, the Genesee County K-9 Unit, GLOW YMCA, Food Bank of Western New York and the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester.

“We have also been a partner with many organizations, firstly as a place for them to hold large fundraising and outreach events,” he said, mentioning Red Cross, Connect Life, Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. “And we have partnered with organizations for them to benefit from being a part of our major events.”

He said the summer concerts generated funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, Make A Wish, Genesee County Animal Shelter and others.

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File photos: Batavia Downs Gaming entrance on Park Road, The Hotel at Batavia Downs, harness horse racing action, Three Dog Night in concert, contribution to Make A Wish. 

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October 11, 2021 - 1:20pm

While admitting that mistakes have been made, Genesee County’s representative on the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.’s board of directors said he has complete faith in the public benefit company’s leadership and sees even greater days ahead for what he calls “an asset to the community.”

“I have been on that board now for 28 years and I’d have to say, frankly, this is the best leadership I have seen in my whole 28 years that I’ve been on the board,” said Richard Siebert, commenting on a pair of recent New York State Comptroller’s audits that cast WROTB in a negative light.

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Chief financial officer: Batavia Downs Gaming in high gear, on track for record earnings distributions

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“I think (President and Chief Executive Officer) Henry (Wojtaszek) is doing a tremendous job, and our officers underneath him are doing a great job. I’ve been very impressed with the leadership and the results in this community.”

Siebert said Park Road facility’s surge in betting handle and event attendance tells him that the public supports the job that management and staff is doing.

“What we’re doing in this community and the response of this community are attributed to what our leadership group and our officers have provided to our county and OTB, in general,” he said.

The longtime Batavian also touched upon a lawsuit filed against Wojtaszek and Board Chairman Richard Bianchi by former officer Michael Nolan.

“I think a lot of this, quite frankly, is politically-motivated,” he offered. “There’s no question that there is a certain ex-Senator that’s always had a beef with Henry – more so with Henry than OTB.”

Siebert was speaking about former State Sen. George Maziarz, who represented Niagara County from 1995-2015 before deciding not to seek re-election due to legal problems. Wojtaszek served as the Niagara County Republican chairman during Maziarz’s tenure.

(See the link to a previous story below).

Regarding the audit, Siebert said he has seen the charges, which pointed to a lack of oversight by the board related to the distribution of sporting events and concert tickets, and the use of company vehicles.

“There were mistakes made before. We’re correcting them. And, again, we were the ones who asked the Comptroller to do the audit and tell us what we are doing wrong, and how we can better ourselves – which we have responded to,” he said.

“One of the problems is that we’re being accused, especially the officers, of using them as their own little boxes. Every time we have an event there, you have to have a host there to oversee the people who are in the box. The host has to make sure it’s clean, they have to pick up the bills, they have to make sure the food is served.”

Siebert said in all of his years on the board he attended only one Buffalo Sabres game.

“People like Henry and (Vice President of Operations) Scott (Kiedrowski) are going, but we have to have staff members at every single event to do the housekeeping,” he explained. “I think that part is all out of context. As far as the officers or directors, like me, using it as their own party, that just isn’t happening.”

Siebert did agree that some people might have problems with the “gold plated” health insurance plans provided to directors.

“You’re absolutely right,” he said. “I have had health insurance through the board every year since I got on it. It was one of the things provided to me if I wanted to be an OTB director. All of those directors with health insurance have been on the board for years.”

He said the Comptroller’s office reviewed the practice of paying health insurance for directors before “and no one raised an issue with it, until political people and investigative reports did. However, to eliminate any concern for the future, we did as a board vote that any new directors would not get that, period.”

The board, at its June 24, 2021 meeting in executive session, voted 12-0 to eliminate WROTB-sponsored health insurance benefits for board members appointed on or after July 1, 2021.

Siebert said the pay to be on the board is $4,000, calling it not a “real incentive” for some of the directors who have to travel from Oswego, Cattaraugus or Chautauqua counties, for example.

“That (health insurance) was a term of our employment. I took it; I’m not denying it. But, we’ve agreed that it won’t be offered to those joining the board in the future,” he said.

Looking back over the years, Siebert said he is glad WROTB purchased the harness track in 1998 (for $3.2 million).

“I fought to buy that race track because I’m here in Genesee County,” he said. “It wasn’t a done deal as there were four or five other directors who were dead against buying that track.

“It was empty. Seagulls were in it. And Marty Basinait, God bless him, convinced me to do everything I could to buy that track because he said to me, ‘If there’s ever going to be casino gambling, it will be where people are used to gaming’ and, of course, with horse racing here for so many years, it worked out.”

After buying the track, WROTB had to wait for legislative approval to obtain a racing license. That came in November 2001 when the corporation started its Inter Track Wagering operation (simulcasting). Eight months later, it held its first harness racing card.

Basinait served as WROTB chief executive officer for 29 years prior to his retirement in 2011. He was replaced by Michael Kane, who served for five years before retiring. Wojtaszek took over as president and CEO in July 2016.

Fast forward to today and Siebert said he’s amazed at what is taking place.

“Look at what these concerts are doing – for $25 – and the $10 free play. It’s so good for our community, and we’ve had minimal complaints,” he said. “We take care of our neighbors on Redfield Parkway. We don’t get complaints about noises, drugs, alcohol – anything that I’m aware of. It’s just an asset to our community.

Previously: WROTB board chair: Allegations unfounded, President/CEO Wojtaszek receives high marks.

Comments
October 11, 2021 - 11:14am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, notre dame high school, Ricky Mancuso Jr..

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The memory of a beloved Notre Dame High graduate lives on in the hearts and minds of his family and friends – and in a tree planted in his name in front of the Union Street school's main entrance. 

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ND Principal Wade Bianco and Deacon Walter Szczesny presided over a ceremony dedicating a tree in honor of Ricky Mancuso Jr. (Class of 2005) on the front steps of the school before Saturday’s Alexander at Notre Dame “Homecoming” football game.

Ricky, (photo at right), son of Rick and Julie Mancuso of Batavia, passed away on Dec. 27, 2020 at the age of 33.

“This was an unbelievable testimony to the Mancuso family who have meant so much to Batavia and especially Notre Dame High School,” Bianco said. “The turnout was fantastic; the front lawn was full of people.”

Bianco said the ND teachers and staff contributed to the purchase of the tree.

Submitted photo. Members of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team were among a large gathering Saturday that honored Ricky Mancuso Jr.

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