Local Matters

Recent comments

Community Sponsors

notify

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

still1montclairfire.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

The American Red Cross is assisting one resident.

 

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

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

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

Photos by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

still2montclairfire.jpg

still3montclairfire.jpg

still4montclairfire.jpg

still5montclairfire.jpg

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

bataviadownspressermay2022.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wojtaszek said he and Maziarz once worked closely together.

Maziarz says the FBI is investigating Western OTB and Wojtaszek.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Cohen: Yes.

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

Mr. Cohen: Yes.

Photos by Howard Owens

bataviadownspressermay2022-2.jpg

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

May 12, 2022 - 7:00pm

Batavia City Schools leaders have a “robust” summer school plan, they say.

Summer session will open July 12 and run for a month, to August 11. It’s a countermeasure for the ill effects of pandemic shutdowns. Instead of in the past, when students went to central designated sites, they will go to their own schools this year. Lessons will be taught from 9 a.m. to noon three days a week, and breakfast, lunch and transportation will be provided, said Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

“We’re being deliberate, the kids will stay at their own school. So Jackson is hosting their own summer school program, and John Kennedy and the middle school are as well. And we added extra staff for those locations, and we're combining transportation, that's a big variable as well.” she said during an interview Wednesday with The Batavian. “We want to ensure that we get kids there. And right now our numbers are looking really good. At Jackson, it’s 150, where normally we would have 50 students.”

Those grades — Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade — are the “critical grades” to reach in July, she said. They will be taught basic literacy skills so that, by third grade, students are expected to “be reading to learn” and to enjoy learning to read.

“So we hired more teachers and we have a longer day than we traditionally have had. Last summer it was a two-hour program; this summer it's a three-hour program just so we have adequate time,” Superintendent Jason Smith said.

Strategies also include pairing students with trusted adults and an element of compassion for what the students have already gone through, Corey said.  The district is targeting 500 students for the summer school program in all three schools while extended days have already been implemented at the high school.

There will also be more teachers, albeit with a more summertime feel, at the middle school. Unlike a stiff remediation vibe, the Ross Street school will offer math and literacy camps with “high engagement” for middle school students and veteran teachers serving as coaches, Corey said.   

“It’s really just hooking them into the learning,” she said. “Giving them more purposeful practice while they do so.”

Smith believes it’s essential to not only bolster students but teachers also.

“Teachers have had very, very busy days, they make thousands of decisions every single day. So we want to give them support, so they can best support our students,” he said. “And one way to do that, one effective way to do it, is to appoint math coaches. We have literacy coaches currently in place through COVID funds as well. At the high school, we’re using the extended day to help kids recover credit from where they didn't meet the expectations during credit from the previous year.”

The district applied for federal COVID funds made available to New York State in 2020. Batavia was awarded $9 million over a three-year period to afford measures such as additional personnel, programs, extended school days and transportation and meals during summer school. 

Smith feels the district must be doing something right, given its recent ranking in U.S. News as being in the top 40 percent of schools in the country.

“So we're doing well,” he said. “We're on track.”

Enrollment is still open for summer school. For more information, call the district at (585) 343-2480.

May 12, 2022 - 6:56pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, learning loss, City Schools, notify, education, schools.

jk_move-up_file_pic.jpeg

While teaching a third-grade class at John Kennedy Intermediate, Molly Corey noticed one particular little girl who said Batavia was not her first school district and most likely wasn’t going to be her last.

The third-grader was chronically absent — about one day each week — and didn’t seem terribly invested in her lessons.

“We were her fourth school, and she said she will be moving again. So her buy-in to wanting to do well really depended on the relationship. I had lunch with the girl, but teachers can’t do that every day. She thought it was special that I was working with her. Whenever she would see me she would light up,” Corey said during an interview with The Batavian. “You know what, it was that relationship that really just helped to keep hooking her; I know our classroom teachers are trying hard with that.”

dr._molly_corey.jpegCorey’s regular job is not as a teacher but as executive director of the district’s curriculum and instruction department. She taught for a while to get an idea about what teachers encounter due to family circumstances and, for the last two years, a change of learning methods due to the pandemic.

Finding meaning in 'Learning Loss' ...
Two phrases that have become the “buzz words” in many school districts are “learning loss” and “social, emotional learning.” But what do they really mean? How did hybrid and remote learning affect kids, and more importantly, what are the remedies being purchased with COVID funds?

Each issue has greatly impacted students across all grades, and perhaps most crucial for children just starting to learn foundational lessons, Corey said.

“So if we start with the littlest ones at Jackson Primary, the incoming kids are really the ones most ready to thrive. It really was merely if anything changed with loss, it was because of quarantines or them being out being sick with a positive (test). So, we really tried hard to keep them on track,” she said. “If you were the first-grader or the second-grader, kids who had gaps in learning from not being here full-time last year, and from the first year of closure, some of the foundation skills that you would expect them to receive, where they're learning to read, and they're learning about basic number zones, we didn't have the same amount of time.”

The focus for teachers has been to catch up those foundational skills that students need to get into their normal curriculum and grade level, she said. Foundational skills include knowing the letters in sounds and understanding how they blend together, she said, then putting them all together in sentences. Those skills are the basics of learning to read and write, she said.

There's a sequence of skills students have to have — the building blocks — needed in order to master those skills and “build upon one another,” Corey said. “And it's a purposeful practice that really helps them to become fluent readers.”

Superintendent Jason Smith said the evidence has been evident through observing students and having conversations with teachers and principals: there are gaps in all grades due to remote learning and losing the consistency of routine.

No matter at what age, even with a solid one-to-one teaching model, it’s a difficult task, Corey said. Just imagine youngsters, especially, sitting at home staring at the computer. Working with one person. All-day long. “You can’t,” she said.

High school students, meanwhile, are struggling with earning enough credits, passing exams and meeting specific criteria for graduating at the end. Although the state Education Department gave out “some free passes” in terms of easing up on requirements for Regents exams, students still needed to acquire certain levels of knowledge," she said.

“But the reality is, we need them to pass the class, and being in person is an important factor to really give them time to show us what they know, with regard to subject,” she said. “So we have benchmark assessments that have told us some of the assignments that they're missing when there's brokenness with their schooling. We were focusing in on our seniors, obviously, we want to help them, but we have a plan in place for what we can do with the other grade levels as well.

“So we're pairing teachers with students, by content, and we're using a credit recovery system called Apex; it guides kids through the course. Because the ultimate goal is to learn and be successful, but the practical outcome is to have X number of credits to get the diploma. It's that balance to give them the compassion that they need, and the motivation to keep them going,” she said.

For Jackson Primary, John Kennedy Intermediate and the middle school, there will be an offering of summer school, taught three days a week. (See related article, “Batavia City Schools on track for robust summer.”)

“But we have these funds available, due in large part, whose goal in large part, is to help us address those gaps or the loss,” Smith said.

The social-emotional learning piece is tied to the kids’ ability to recognize and better regulate their emotions and have ability to interact well with others. Smith learned first-hand just how out of balance some students’ emotions are. He found himself getting involved with a student whose difficulties were escalating, and a report was sent to the superintendent. He helped to connect the student with a social worker and wondered what might have happened if the distraught kid missed out on that needed counseling.

Then there was the fourth-grader who began to cry, and then sobbed uncontrollably. These instances are happening, he and Corey said, and there need to be remedies to help students adjust to more than educational losses; many have mental health needs as well. Some 100 of those students not only had a pandemic to deal with, but they were also part of an ongoing trend of transplants. Throughout the school year, a portion of those 100 kids moves into the district while another portion moves out. Those fluctuations add another layer of need to help acclimate them to a new school, Corey said.

That’s where social-emotional learning comes in. The pandemic didn’t necessarily cause mental health issues as much as it put a spotlight on that piece, Smith and Corey said. In addition to hiring four new teachers to help with the academic shortfalls, another social worker will assist with the mental and emotional issues.

Federal COVID-19 funds were distributed for school districts to play catch-up with gaps due to pandemic shutdowns. Districts in New York State had to apply for the funds, explain the loss, the solutions being put in place and how they would assess outcomes. Smith said that Batavia City Schools was allocated about $9 million for three years.

After nine years at the city school district, Corey is experiencing new territory.

“It's some of the extremes ... Things we've never ever seen before,” she said.

Top Photo: 2019 File Photo of a Moving Up ceremony at John Kennedy Intermediate. Batavia City Schools officials are stepping up lessons, personnel and amount of time available to students to ensure continued progress toward graduation. Photo by Howard Owens.

Inset photo: Molly Corey, executive director of curriculum and instruction at Batavia City Schools. Photo submitted by BCSD

May 11, 2022 - 11:07pm

 If you have always wanted to operate an ice rink, you have until May 20 to submit your intent to file a request for proposal to City Manager Rachael Tabelski, she says.

Tabelski announced the move Wednesday night to secure a new agreement for leasing the David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena. Former management company Firland Management, which took over the ice arena in 2006, has opted to cease operations of the Evans Street site as of May 31.

“Over the last year, the City has hosted Ice Rink Meetings with a group of community leaders representing the aforementioned hockey programs, Friends of the Rink, and the current operators.  These meetings have been helpful in creating the vision and strategy that the City seeks for the rink moving forward,” Tabelski said in a press release. “City Council has committed funds sponsoring a capital project to address the locker rooms and City staff is pursuing grants (to) make needed infrastructure investments.  The City looks forward to partnering with a professional operator to bring recreation opportunities to the City, and thanks (to) Firland and all of their employees for their work over the years.”

The city would like RFPs to be for no less than five years, and further details for proposals are below.

Opened in 1978, the Batavia Ice Rink consists of a single sheet of ice (200’ x 85’) with a capacity for 480 fans to attend games.  The ice rink has a warming room, locker rooms, and a refreshment stand.

The rink is located just outside of the downtown district and in the Creek Park redevelopment area.  The Ice Arena is a prime spot for fall and winter recreation in the City of Batavia, Tabelski said. “The arena is home to the Genesee Amateur Hockey Association (GAHA), Batavia Men's Hockey League (BMHL), and Batavia/Notre Dame High School hockey program.

The City of Batavia anticipates that the prospective operator will be able to be profitable while running the rink and will enter into an operation and lease agreement, she said.

RFP Responses shall be no more than 20 pages in length and contain the following:

1.      Corporate Structure/Respondent Information- Organization name, description, address, and form of entity (C Corp, S Corp, Partnership, LLC., LLP., Sole Proprietorship, Not for Profit). 

2.      Respondent Resumes- Organization employees and biographies describing the structure you envision to carry out operations at the rink (manager, scheduling, maintenance, promotions, concessions, etc.).  Include an organizational chart.

3.      Primary Contact- provide contact information (address, phone and email) for the primary contact for this proposal.

4.      Executive Summary- provide an executive summary to explain how you will operate the David McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena, what your organization will do to enhance the level of participation, and focus on revenue streams.

5.      Value Statement- describe how your organization will enhance the rink and bring value to the City of Batavia and City residents.

6.      Experience- provide details regarding experience/resume of staff/potential staff with ice rink operations and/or a general statement of experience running recreational, retail, or commercial operations.

7.      Proof of Insurance- respondents shall provide proof of insurance at the time of agreement execution.

8.      Proof of Financing- respondents shall provide a written description of how they will finance the operations of the rink examples include private capital, secured loan, bridge loan, and line of credit.  A proforma financial statement shall be provided with the response. 

9.      Budget- create a five-year budget plan and incorporate your projected operating expenses, projected revenue, projected net income, and lease rate (suggested lease rate to the City of Batavia and planned capital investment fund expenses are listed). 

Capital Investment Fund expenses are $5,000 suggested lease for Year 2022-23 with $0 suggested capital contribution; $10,000 for Year 2023-24 with a $10,000 suggested contribution; $20,000 for 2024-25 and $15,000 contribution; $25,000 for 2025-26 snf $18,000 contribution; and $25,000 lease for 2026-27 with $20,000 capital contribution.

Prospective operators should heed the important dates below, Tabelski said:

  1.  May 20 – Interested respondents are encouraged to indicate your intent to respond to this RFP to Rachael J. Tabelski, City Manager, and City of Batavia by May 20. 
  2. May 23 to May 27 – Interested respondents will be scheduled for Zoom or in-person meetings to review the prior financials, prior usage by major tenants, as well as tours of the rink as requested. 
  3. May 31- Addendum, if any, will be issued to all respondents who have signed up with the City Manager.
  4. June 10 - RFP’s are due on Tuesday, June 10 at 4:30 p.m. Four written copies of the proposal must be received at the City Manager’s Office by the deadline, and one emailed copy must be provided. 
  5. July 11 - Final Selection will be made on or around  July 11. 
May 11, 2022 - 5:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Arc GLOW, batavia, news, business, Casella Waste Systems, notify.

lastdayarc.jpg

Arc GLOW is apparently set to sell its garbage collection and recycling business to Casella Waste Systems.

The Arc board has not yet approved the transaction, and the terms of the sale are not available.

The Batavian made multiple attempts to reach Martin Miskell, the CEO of Arc GLOW, for comment. 

Joseph Fusco, a vice president with Casella, said, "We don't comment on rumors or reports of rumors." 

Casella is a publicly-traded company, and Security and Exchange Commission regulations can prevent people with direct knowledge of acquisitions and mergers from discussing such transactions. There may also be non-disclosure agreements in place.

The Batavian spoke with multiple Arc-connected sources about the sale of the trash business to confirm that a deal is in the works.

According to a source, Arc GLOW listed the business for sale some time ago and fielded multiple offers before settling on Casella.

Arc of Genesee (which merged this year into Arc of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties) was the exclusive garbage collection service for the City of Batavia for nearly 30 years until in 2013, when the City Council agreed to allow, or require, city residents to contract individually for waste and recycling collection.

According to sources, Arc has lost money on its trash and recycling business for several years.

Arc provides services, including multiple employment opportunities, for people with disabilities.

One source said Arc employees are worried that Arc clients employed by the trash business will lose their jobs once the transaction is final.

"There are multiple people in the trash/recycling (business) worried about losing their jobs," the source said. "Arc is supposed to be an inclusive employer with the goal of servicing the community."

Fusco was given an opportunity to address that concern during a phone interview and declined.

The source also said employees have other worries:

  • Loss of the drive-in recycling service for recycling and redemption; and
  • Employees who receive trash and recycling services from Arc will lose their discount.

There's no information available on when the Arc board might be asked to approve the deal or when the sale might be final.

Casella acquired two local trash haulers in 2019, Trash Away and PSI Disposal.

Waste Management is the other trash hauler with a significant presence in Genesee County.

Top photo: File photo of Arc garbage collection from 2013.

Photos by Howard Owens

img_1258arctrash.jpg

The Arc Recycling Center, 3785 West Main Street Road, Batavia.

100_3279.jpg

File photo.  Interior of the recycling center.

trashpublichearing.jpg

File photo: Protest at City Hall in 2013 over the proposal to end the trash contract with Genesee Arc.

trashpublichearing-3.jpg

File photo: A packed City Council chamber for a discussion in 2013 of the Arc contract.

May 11, 2022 - 11:43am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify.

Kimberly A. Brodsky, 30, of Rochester, is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Brodsky was arrested on a warrant issued in connection with an incident reported on April 13. Brodsky is accused of using another person's car without consent. Rochester Probation located and turned over Brodsky to the Batavia Police Department for processing. She was arraigned in Batavia City Court and released under supervision to reappear on May 25. The incident was investigated by Officer CJ Lindsay and Officer Nicole McGinnis with the assistance of Monroe County Probation.

Ronald E. Brown, 63, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with two counts of harassment 2nd. It is alleged that Brown spit at an individual and threatened to kill another individual. He was arraigned in City Court and released to appear on May 19 for further proceedings. Officer Peter Flanagan investigated the incident.

Rufus G. Johnson, 28, of North Chili, is charged with failure to appear on a larceny charge in March of 2022. A warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arraigned in City Court and released pending a new court appearance date. Officer John Gombos investigated the incident.

John W. Murphy, 49, of Hutchins Street, Batavia, is charged with DWAI/Drugs following a traffic stop on May 7. Murphy is accused of refusing to submit to a chemical test. He was arraigned in City Court and scheduled to reappear at a later date. The incident was investigated by Officer John Gombos and Officer Kevin DeFelice.

Loretta L. Baer, 50, of Wood Street, Batavia, is charged with failure to appear on a pending harassment charge. She was arraigned in City Court and released. The incident was investigated by Officer Wesley Rissinger and Officer Stephen Quider.

Brian M. Raphael, 34, of Fisher Park, Batavia, was arrested on April 3 on a bench warrant for the charge of petit larceny related to an incident reported in March 2022. Raphael is accused of failure to appear. He was arraigned in City Court on the warrant and released. The incident was investigated by Officer Peter Post.

Jessica L. Holtz, 38, of Williams Street, Batavia, was arrested on May 1 on two bench warrants issued by Batavia City Court for alleged failure to appear on two charges of petit larceny. She was arraigned and released. The incidents were investigated by Officer CJ Lindsay, Officer Wesley Rissinger and Officer Stephen Smith.

May 11, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, downtown, BID, music, notify.

shannon_maute.jpeg

geib_and_roche.jpeg

There’s so much happening in downtown Batavia, Shannon Maute says, that she needs to start her own podcast to discuss it all.

Maute, the Business Improvement District’s executive director, is eager to share ideas she and the BID Promotions Committee have been kicking around lately. She wants to provide a venue for them to mull suggestions and figure some things out for downtown’s ongoing success.

“We hope to have it ready to go by mid-June. We are open to anyone coming on. We want to hear from everyone who has an idea, or a thought, and I’ll even take suggestions,” she said to The Batavian. “We will discuss our events, our plans for downtown and promote businesses as well as individuals. We want to have fun with it and get Batavia involved. If we can solve some issues along the way that would be fantastic.”

She teased that the group has some ideas “ready to go,” but you will have to “listen to find out what they are.” Maute plans to promote the podcast in the near future.

Extra nights of music ...
One idea will be implemented beginning in July. Since concerts on Friday nights have had such a positive result, BID members have decided to bring on some Thursday nights as well.  Concerts on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. are scheduled for June 30, July 28 and August 25 at Jackson Square. Musical groups are yet to be announced for those.

The Downtown Batavia Friday Night Concert Series is to kick off with Old Hippies on July 1, Skycats on July 8, Don Newcomb Band on July 15, Ohmes Band July 22, Creek Bend July 29, Ghost Riders on Aug. 5, The Bluesway Band on August 12 and capped off with Mitty and The Followers on Aug. 26. These concerts are all free and are set for 7 to 9 p.m.

An inaugural Italian Fest has been scheduled for August 6, complete with a strolling accordion player, pasta, cannoli and other Italian treats, decorations and a Mediterranean vibe, Maute said.

New faces on BID board ...
She is excited about a resurgence in community gatherings and about some new faces on the BID Board. Derek Geib has been elected president of the board, with fellow businessman John Roche as vice president; and Carrie Lawrence and Shelly Wolanske are new board members.

Maute recently shared how the intrusion of COVID-19 changed her priorities.

“Two years to reflect is a long time, but I learned what is important, and what is important to me is my family, friends and my community,” she said during the annual BID breakfast. “I am so proud to live in this cute little city with a very big heart.”

Awards were given to “the amazing” Gavin Townsend for Volunteer of the Year, and Business of the Year went to “the outstanding Islands Hawaiian Grill.”

“They earned those awards with all their hard work, commitment, and positive attitude, as well as their great love for our community,” Maute said.

Special awards were given to Beth Kemp and Leanna DiRisio for Volunteer of the Decade.

With incoming president Derek Geib, former president Don Brown was acknowledged for his sage and consistent advice and for being a great help to Maute, she said.

“I am pretty lucky to work with such a great board. Each and every one of them brings something great to the table,” she said.

Top photos: Shannon Maute, executive director of Batavia Business Improvement District; and new BID President Derek Geib, left, and Vice President John Roche.

Photos by Howard Owens. 

gavin_pic.jpeg

Award recipients Gavin Townsend for Volunteer of the Year

islands_pic.jpeg

Kourtney Kunichika, owner of Islands Hawaiian Grill for Business of the Year.

 

May 10, 2022 - 10:20pm

7d55825d-552d-4ba4-9678-9c2a9fd610db.jpeg
Stephen Pribek likes to go grocery shopping. In fact, not only will he go out shopping for his family, but also for a friend.

Pribek, a retired Batavia City Schools teacher, is a volunteer at Genesee County’s Office For the Aging. For the past 10 months or so he’s been picking up groceries for a senior citizen who can’t quite get out as easily anymore.

“I really look forward to it,” Pribek said during an interview with The Batavian. “It fills a need for both of us. I need to feel productive and he has trouble getting around.”

The “Got Groceries?” program evolved out of a pilot to try out the concept during the pandemic, OFA Director Diana Fox said. While some people had physical issues that limited their ability to shop, many others didn’t feel safe to go out during a virus running rampant or didn’t even have a computer to do online shopping, she said.

“It created a barrier for some people. And so if there was somebody that, maybe they didn't have a caregiver in the area, and they needed some help with getting their things,” Fox said. “We started this with just a couple of people that needed it, then added in one of our staff … And so they connected up.”

The service is not a free grocery program, she said, and clients need to be able to pay for the goods themselves. Volunteers take a gift card issued from the agency, purchase the groceries, provide a receipt to the agency and client, and OFA then bills the client for the items.

Got Groceries? has worked so well that OFA was invited to apply for additional funding to continue and expand it, Fox said. She has applied for three grants, including $88,000 for centralized intake, $16,225 for marketing coordination and $14,464 for the Got Groceries? program.

They are through the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund for the Aging and are up for approval at Wednesday’s Genesee County Legislature meeting. The request has already been given the nod by both the Human Services and Ways and Means committees.

“There’s no cost to the county,” Fox said. “I don’t anticipate any issue with that.”

There are eight clients currently, each with a different volunteer, for the pilot program. Fox would like to increase that to 20 participants. Volunteers aren’t on the hook for any money, as gift cards are used for the purchases, and the helpers often tack the errand onto when they do their own personal shopping, she said. If anyone is interested in volunteering for this program, contact the OFA at (585) 343-1611.

Pribek’s time so far has been rewarding, he said.

“I ended up being friends with the client; we chat,” Pribek said. “I use a gift card, and I like the way it works out; it seems to run very smooth. And the people at the Office For the Aging are very nice to work with; it seems very well organized.”

Top photo: Got Groceries? connects people having issues with their shopping and volunteers to do it for them. Photo by Howard Owens 

May 10, 2022 - 4:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy, news, notify.
Video Sponsor

Le Roy PD is looking for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in multiple car break-ins that occurred in the early morning hours today,

Surveillance video obtained by Le Roy PD from local residents and shared with The Batavian shows a male subject in a white hoodie and wearing a black backpack attempting to open the doors of vehicles parked in residential driveways.

Chief Greg Kellogg said investigators are asking area residents to check their own camera video to see if they captured any suspicious activity and share the footage with Le Roy PD.

There may be more than one person involved.

The suspected criminal activity took place between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity, has video or can identify the suspect in the home surveillance camera footage is asked to contact the LeRoy Police Department at (585) 345-6350 or [email protected]

May 10, 2022 - 4:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alexander, news, notify.

img_1253sanfrantekki.jpg

After a closed-meeting interview Monday evening, Thomas A. Sanfratello was selected by the Alexander Town Board to fill a current vacancy.

Sanfratello replaces Carol Wolfley, who resigned on April 13. Her resignation letter was ambiguous as to whether she is merely dissatisfied with her own job performance or with something related to the town board.

"This decision hasn't come lightly," she wrote. "Over the last few months, I have been thinking if I have been serving the Town of Alexander taxpayers with their best interest. After Monday's meeting and giving another 36+ hours thought to this, I am not!"

Wolfley refused to answer questions about her resignation.

Sanfratello said no particular issues prompted him to seek the open seat.

"I just wanted to get involved in the community and see how it works and do the best I can," Sanfratello said.

This is not a retirement job, said Sanfratello, who works for the Genesee County Sheriff's Office as the civil sergeant.  He said retirement is still a few years away.

The other candidate for the post was Jerry Krupka.

Photo: Thomas Sanfratello signs the town's ledger book after taking the oath of office, administered by Supervisor David Miller. Photo by Howard Owens.

May 10, 2022 - 10:39am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city council, notify.

potholesharvred2022.jpg

Motorists are expected to have a smoother drive on Richmond and Harvester avenues now that City Council has agreed to move a $3.6 million project for final approval later this month.

The project is considered “preventive maintenance” and T.Y. Lin International had already been selected as project engineer during a request for proposals process. The company will assist the city in bidding the project and oversee construction. On Richmond, it will run from Oak to State streets and from routes 5 and 33 to Route 63 on Harvester.

Council is expected to award a contract during its next meeting, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

If all goes as expected, completion of both avenues should be done by Nov. 30, she said.

From asphalt to topsoil, council also approved a transfer of Batavia Community Garden from the city to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County.

Cornell Cooperative will take care of the property and administer related funds for a yearly fee of $2,500, plus an initial $1,000 for the current 2022-23 fiscal year.

Cornell staff is to also assist the Community Garden Committee with operations, technical and administrative support and educational programming to all garden participants.

City Council President Eugene Jankowski said that Cornell Cooperative Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski was happy about the arrangement and that “I think we’re in good hands,” he said.

Sikorski said that agency staff has been involved in the garden since its inception in 2011, and there is a core of volunteers to help out.

“It fits in our wheelhouse,” she said. “The city asked if this is something our association was interested in, and it’s a perfect fit.”

Since it began, the Community Garden has grown from four raised beds to 42 raised beds in 2020 over the course of nine years.

A memorandum of agreement is for a five-year term.

Assistant City Manager Jill Wiedrick, who recently announced she would be leaving her position, had previously presented the garden idea to council. Tabelski thanked Wiedrick for her work this past year and wished her the best as she moves on to another job in Fairport. Friday will be Wiedrick’s last day.

Photos by Howard Owens

potholesharvred2022-2.jpg

potholesharvred2022-3.jpg

May 9, 2022 - 10:09pm

eli_logo.png

It began as an ax-throwing event at Eli Fish Brewery on Main Street and morphed into an indoor and outdoor carnival with live music, magical entertainment and assorted carnival-type food, Sydney Carli says.

And the first-ever Eli Fish Brewery Carnival was born.

The City Council approved the event Monday. It is set for 4 to 10 p.m. on June 11 at the brewery and in Jackson Square.

“I’m really excited; it should be a really fun day,” Carli, the event manager, said Sunday to The Batavian. “We’re trying to get pop-up tents for people to sell their crafts and art. It would be awesome to get as many as we can; it’s for anyone who wants to sell their stuff.”

Ax-throwing made the cut, so to speak, in the line-up of activities, and that will be available at the brewery, 109 Main St., Batavia. Craft vendors, a dunk tank and fortune-teller, corn dogs, Italian sausage, Sage Farms maple cotton candy and “delicious frozen maple drinks,” a return of Matty’s Pizza, plus a fun magician book-ended by live bands, including Jim E. Leggs Trio Noah Gokey. The trio, named after a popular phrase coined by Kramer in the TV comedy Seinfeld -- "Jimmy legs" --  is described as "somewhat of a hybrid band ranging from a Latin-infused take on Nat King Cole's Nature Boy to updated arrangements of The Beatles, Steely Dan and Sting. The musicians offer an upbeat, fun and varied mix of Jazz, R&B and Pop that will lift your spirits, their website states. Noah Gokey is an eclectic indie rock band billed as a diverse blend of sounds from folk, blues, country, and jazz to reggae and heavy metal. 

“It’s a really cool opportunity to have a carnival, go and have some drinks, listen to music and see magic acts,” Carli said. “It’s an awesome day where people can come and eat, drink and have fun.”

Craft beers and Eli Fish food, plus the maple treats, will be available for purchase. GLOW Out is also having an event that day, and she is hoping that people will head over to the square to finish their Saturday at the carnival.

(GLOW OUT! plans to host a parade and festival from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11, beginning on Alva Place and ending in the Batavia City Centre parking lot. For more information, call GO Art! at (585) 343-9313.) 

Tickets for the carnival will go on sale soon at EventBrite.com, Carli said. For vendors interested in reserving a spot, email [email protected]

May 9, 2022 - 6:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, crime, batavia, notify, Le Roy, elba, Oakfield.

Bria Chaquan Carson, 30, no street address provided, Rochester, Chas Westley Burgess, 36, street address redacted, Rochester, and Robert Earl Wyche, 49, street address redacted, Rochester, are each charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 3rd. Each was allegedly found in possession of fentanyl and cocaine at a location on Oak Street in Batavia at 3 a.m. on May 7. The case was investigated by Deputy Jeremiah Gechell and Deputy Morgan Ewert. All three were arraigned in City Court. Carson was released on his own recognizance. Burgess and Wyche were ordered held on no bail.

Mikhail Eric Lundberg, 32, of State Street, Blasdell, is charged with DWAI/combined drugs and alcohol. Lundberg was arrested on a warrant stemming from an incident at 9 a.m., Dec. 29, on Main Street in Corfu. He was arraigned in Town of Pembroke Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Kevin Brown Goodenough, 65, of Stone Road, Rochester, is charged with sexual abuse 1st. Goodenough was arrested in connection with an incident reported at noon on Oct. 8, 2017, on Lincoln Avenue in Le Roy. He was arraigned in Town of Le Roy Court and ordered held on $10,000 bail, $15,000 bond, or $40,000 partially secured bond.

Kayla Jean Nicolucci, 30, of Ridge Road, Elba, is charged with petit larceny. Nicolucci is accused of shoplifting from Walmart at 4:59 p.m. on May 7.  She was released on an appearance ticket.

Jerome Wayne Amesbury, 56, of Gilbert Road, Bergen, is charged with harassment 1st and stalking 4th. Amesbury is accused of stalking and harassing a victim on Gilbert Road in Bergen at 9:52 p.m. on May 7. He was arraigned in Bergen Town Court and released on his own recognizance. 

Jimmy L Moore, 45, of Oakfield, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. He was stopped by state police at 4:34 p.m. on May 7 in the city of Batavia. He was released on an appearance ticket.

May 9, 2022 - 6:12pm

terryabram_eliparker2022.jpg

Hailed as a hero and confidante of General Ulysses Grant, Ely Parker is mostly known by local historians and history buffs, even though the Native American celebrity of sorts was a Genesee County native and now graces the tail of a $1 Native American coin minted this year.

Don’t know about Ely Samuel Parker? The 2022 Native American $1 Coin honors him as a U.S. Army officer, engineer, and tribal diplomat who served as military secretary to Ulysses S. Grant during the U.S. Civil War. When Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, on the morning of April 9, 1865, Parker rendered the formal surrender documents in his own hand. On the coin Parker is depicted in his Army uniform while a quill pen, book and what’s been called “his graceful signature” are included as symbols of his experience as a successful communicator. His tribe of Tonawanda Seneca and HA-SA-NO-AN-DA are inscribed to recognize his tribe and given birth name. The coin’s head design is of Sacagawea carrying her infant son, Jean Baptiste.

Terry Abrams, administrative coordinator of Tonawanda Reservation Historical Society, believes this coin is another piece of recognition for Parker.

“I think it's just one one more step in sort of recognizing, you know, the contributions that somebody like Ely Parker specifically had, not just locally but nationally,” Abrams said during an interview with The Batavian. “He was somebody who was a national figure during the Civil War and the Grant administration. So, that's something to note and something to acknowledge.”

He also noted that Parker was “really a sort of complicated figure,” as captured in one of Parker's biographies, Warrior in Two Camps. As intelligent, savvy, effective and versatile as Parker was, he was not always so highly regarded. As a Native American, Parker was not considered to be a United States citizen, he could not take the Bar exam to officially become a lawyer, and his application to join the Union Army as an engineer was denied, all due to his Native American status.

Who he was ...
There’s an exhibit about Parker at Holland Land Office Museum, and Genesee County Michael Eula has given talks about him during the Museum’s History Heroes youth program. Eula recapped Parker’s life, from being born into a large family in 1828 in Indian Falls as a Seneca Native American (part of the Tonawanda Reservation at the time) to studying law for three years and gravitating toward civil engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It was when a shortage of engineers opened the door for him to join the Army, eventually serving as an assistant to General Ulysses S. Grant. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was present when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865, Eula said.

Parker became an esteemed brigadier general and, shortly after the Civil War, named Commissioner of Indian Affairs, serving from 1869 to 1871, Eula said. “He worked hard o improve the lives of Native Americans,” he said.

“He was raised … in a somewhat traditional environment. He learned to speak English, he studied law, he studied engineering. But at the same time, he grew up during the period where, you know, they were trying to move Native people out of New York State, out west. It was only a couple of years after he was born, that the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830. There was a constant struggle to remain here,” Abrams said. He was one of the people involved in that, trying for the Tonawanda Seneca to stay in their homes and stay where they were.”

The word hero is derived from the Greek word heros, Eula said, to mean a protector or a defender. Not only did Parker do that as a soldier in war, but also during a tumultuous time in civilian life, when Native Americans were not wanted to remain on their own home turf.

During his time in the Army, he exhibited a willingness to risk injury and even death. His readiness to put himself in harm’s way sets him apart from other Americans, which is why we still remember him today,” Eula said. He was a clear role model – especially for young people, Native American and otherwise. He never allowed unjust setbacks to long discourage him. He picked himself back up after disappointment and found new ways to move his life ahead.”

Misnomers and stereotypes ...
Unfortunately, when it comes to notions about Native Americans, society still often thinks in terms of stereotypes, Abrams said. There are either the poor, downtrodden alcoholics or everyone is rich from casino money and tax-free gas and cigarettes, he said. Neither of those extremes are true, he said.

For example, where he lives, on the Tonawanda Reservation, residents don’t participate in any of the casino revenues because those are separate operations of Seneca Nation of Indians. “They’re a completely separate nation,” he said.

“Tonawanda has always been very strongly traditional from the beginning. And they’re still there, they're quite proud of that,” he said. But at the same time, they're certainly very forward-thinking. That Tonawanda community still maintains its traditional tribal government of chiefs and clan mothers. But at the same time, they were the first reservation community, and the second reservation community in the country to integrate in the public school system back in the 30s. So, you have that sort of dichotomy, I guess.”

Full disclosure: although Abrams grew up and remains a resident of Tonawanda Reservation, he is not an enrolled tribal member of the Tonawanda Seneca, he said. However, with that being said, he is a well-versed source for Native American history with deeply steeped ties to personal and professional Native American backgrounds.

Native American Coin Program ...
In 2009 the U.S. Mint began minting and issuing $1 coins as part of the Native American $1 Coin Program. The coins feature designs celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the history and development of the United States. The program builds on the Sacagawea Golden Dollar, released from 2000 to 2008. It featured a portrait of Sacagawea carrying her infant son, Jean-Baptiste on the obverse (heads side) and an eagle on the reverse (tails side). It was authorized under Public Law 105-124, also known as the United States $1 Coin Act of 1997 (Section 4 of the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act). Native American $1 coins are circulating quality produced as collectibles, not for everyday transactions. However, they may be still used as legal tender.

Ely Parker was one of 17 finalists for the latest edition of the U.S. Mint's Native American series. The inscriptions “TONAWANDA SENECA” and “HA-SA-NO-AN-DA” recognize his tribe and the name given to him at birth.

The newly minted dollar coin has gotten some publicity, but not as much as it could have, Abrams said. He has spotted “a little bit here and there,” but not a whole lot. As curator and collections manager for Niagara County Historical Society, Abrams has access to the coin as the Society acquired a roll for its collections. Abrams said that Parker’s reputation has wavered over time.

“His reputation has sort of gone back and forth. He was seen as sort of, an exemplar of native people. Because he managed to succeed in the larger world. And then that was seen as not necessarily a good thing that he sort of left behind that … there was some feeling that he had left behind his traditional culture, his own people because he moved away from the reservation, and, he never returned.”

Parker has bounced back into favor, Abrams said, for being “instrumental in maintaining” the Tonawanda to nation territory. Despite that “back and forth” of Parker’s contributions, Abrams feels that he deserves acknowledgment for his good deeds. Are there some people that see a coin as a literal token commemorative for Native Americans? Perhaps, Abrams said.

“I think any sort of acknowledgment should be recognized. You know, I think for Native people to see themselves, to see one of their own somewhere in something that potentially can travel all over the place, and is, you know, accessible to anyone almost, because too often native people are sort of hidden or forgotten about or ignored or overlooked. So, you know, having a reminder that we're still here, you know, that's not a bad thing.”

Top photo: The newly minted 2022 $1 coin honoring Ely Parker. Bottom photo: Terry Abrams of Tonawanda Indian Reservation checks out the Ely Parker exhibit at Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia; and above,  Photos by Howard Owens.

Video Sponsor

terryabram_eliparker2022-2.jpg

May 7, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, County Legislature, batavia, notify.

Money — or the talk of it — flowed during Wednesday’s Ways and Means Committee meeting as members reviewed everything from a grant for $14,464 to a $2.9 million bridge construction contract and $414,000 related consultant fee.

These items and several others will now move onto Genesee County Legislature for final approval. The group is to meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Legislature Chamber in the Old Court House, 7 Main St., Batavia.

Legislature members are expected to vote on the elimination of a financial clerk-typist position and creation of a program manager for the Sheriff’s Office; bids and consultant agreement for South Lyon Street bridge construction; additional insurance cost to cover elements of the Genesee County Jail construction; a contract award for the jail and capital project construction; apply and accept grant funds as a budget amendment for the county’s Office for the Aging, and a related contract with Arc GLOW’s meal preparation services.

During the committee’s meeting Wednesday at Genesee Community College, Sheriff William Sheron explained that a review of the staff positions indicated that the clerk-typist role “wasn’t aligning with that title,” and he felt that a program manager better suited the duties involved.

A reclassification review conducted by the county’s Human Resources department resulted in a reclassification of the clerk-typist position to that of a program coordinator-sheriff position.

“We do have the money in our budget,” he said.

The monetary difference would be $5,616, which is covered by multiple vacancies that list in the department and have already been accounted for, the resolution states.

Jail construction costs won’t just mean the actual labor and materials, as the county’s insurance broker, Lawley Insurance, sought quotes to add a builder’s risk insurance for the construction project, a Lawley representative said during Wednesday’s meeting. The estimated tab will be up to $73,031.

“Don’t contractors have a policy to cover this type of thing?” Legislator Gary Maha said.

It’s always better for the county to have its own policy to “protect your assets,” the rep said. The extra policy would cover gaps for certain damages due to theft, for example, she said.

Add another $195,000 for special inspections and testing services during the jail building project. These services test things like the soil and asphalt, County Manager Matt Landers said. County officials will receive an inspection report within 24 to 48 hours, he said, and these services are performed for all construction projects.

Additional agenda items up for vote from the Human Services Committee include acceptance of a grant for a public health drinking water enhancement program; a Tobacco Enforcement Program; a contract with Mercy Flight/Air Medical Transfer Service; and a contract with Genesee County Agricultural Society for funding toward this year’s Genesee County Fair.

A Committee of the Whole (Genesee County Legislature) meeting is to follow at 6 p.m. to discuss Conservation Easements Opportunities in Genesee County and approve March 30 minutes.

 

 

 

May 7, 2022 - 7:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, Batavia Board of Education, notify.

It’s a small nuance, but a public meeting is different than a meeting in public.

And as such, each has a different protocol for those wishing to speak during the session.

Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith explained the difference during this week’s board meeting.

Board member Barbara Bowman had previously requested a discussion about the district’s policy to require people to sign up a week ahead of a meeting at which they would like to speak. A few people had hoped to speak during a recent meeting and were told it wasn’t allowable per district policy.

There’s a reason for that, Smith said. District officials may need some extra time to research the requested topic before the person addresses the board. That policy is for a meeting in public. A public hearing at the beginning of a meeting is conducted on a particular topic, and it allows for people to comment and/or ask questions during the hearing portion. Those speakers do not need to sign up a week ahead of time.

For a board meeting that is held in public, “there is no obligation to answer speakers,” Smith said, and he advised board members to not feel they should provide an answer on the spot, as the answer may not be fully known at that time, he said.

Bowman was more concerned about people who took the time to attend a meeting in order to speak.

“I think we should consistently acknowledge everyone who comes to speak,” she said.

Board member Jennifer Lendvay asked about speakers who do ask questions of the board. What happens if there is no immediate answer, she said.

“I think my track record is pretty good with (following up and) giving them an answer,” Smith said.

District Clerk Brittany Witkop confirmed that “our office gets a lot of calls” and also returns those calls with answers to residents' queries.

“I think acknowledgement is the most important piece,” Bowman said.

As for revising the current policy to sign up the week ahead of a regular Thursday meeting, Board President Alice Benedict didn’t think it should be done.

“I do know the attorney would advise us not to change our policy,” Benedict said.

May 6, 2022 - 6:51pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, blue devils, notify.

armor-security-logo.png

Oftentimes you’ve got to pay to play, or in Batavia City Schools’ case, pay a little more.

Batavia’s Board of Education approved a contract Thursday for four guards to provide some extra security for home football games. The fee is $29 an hour per guard at about five hours each, Superintendent Jason Smith said. That’s about $580 per game, or $2,900 for five games.

You can blame it on Batavia Blue Devils’ track record, he said. 

“That’s for special events, home football games. We’re drawing 1,000 people or more at those games,” he said to The Batavian Friday. “With a successful team you draw more people.”

The extra personnel will be retained for four or five home games, he said. Those guards won’t be overlapping the district’s school resource officer and retired law enforcement personnel currently distributed throughout the four different school sites, he said.

The agreement is for services from April 1 to December 31 of this year, and is with Armor Security and Protection Inc. of Rochester. The company is to provide state certified security guards “to provide security and safety services for property located at 120 Richmond Ave., Batavia,” the contract states. Work includes monitoring venues for inappropriate, illegal behavior or actions, reporting of safety concerns within the venue and assisting with safe entry and exits. The guards are to notify law enforcement or other emergency service providers as deemed necessary. Documentation is to be provided to the school district about any incidents deemed a reportable event or at the request of the district, according to the contract.

Guards will be wearing an Armor Security uniform of black pants and shoes, and an Armor uniform shirt, layered with an Armor jacket during colder months.   

May 6, 2022 - 6:40pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, City Schools, 2022-23 budget, notify.

Batavia City School officials want to make something clear about this year’s proposed $54.8 million budget.

Although the levy is to increase by 1 percent to just under $20 million, the actual tax rate may go down due to the volume of raised assessments, Superintendent Jason Smith and Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said. In fact, if assessments remain the same as they were on April 14, the projected tax rate could be $1.77 less than it is now, Rozanski said during an interview Friday with The Batavian.

School officials — including board members — haven’t been touting that lower tax rate because nothing is definite yet, Rozanski said. There’s about a month left for property owners to file grievances and argue their assessment increases, he said. Instead, Smith mentioned the “concept” of a potentially lower tax rate without talking about actual numbers during Thursday's budget presentation, he said.

"It's hard to get the tax rate right now. The assessments are still being challenged, right?" Rozanski said.  "If everything stays the same as of April 14, indirectly, we didn't say 17.46, we said it is $1.77 less, as of April 14, than the current rate."

The Batavian confirmed the process — complicated as it may be — about calculating tax levies, assessments and correlating tax rates with Kevin Andrews, deputy treasurer for Genesee County. A prior city schools board meeting included the rough figures of a 19-cent property tax increase based on the proposed 1 percent tax levy increase.

That did not, however, include the 11 percent hike in property assessments throughout the city school district entities of schools, the city, Richmond Memorial Library and Genesee County. If assessments are raised more than the proposed tax levy increase, then the tax rate itself is likely to go down, Andrews said. In perhaps oversimplified terms, if you are dealing with 10 properties, and their values go up, the distribution of tax levy would be divided by that larger total assessment for a lower tax rate. If you divided the same levy amount by lower assessed properties for those same 10 properties, the tax rate would reflect that by going up to pay the levy.

“So it could very well be that their levy is going to go up by one percent, but the tax rate is actually going to go down, because of the amount that the assessments have gone up,” Andrews said Friday. The basic calculation or way it works is that whatever the tax levy is, that is adopted by the school in this case … that levy is then distributed and spread out amongst all of the property owners within the municipality based on their assessment. So if you think about it, you know, if you look at each piece by itself, if just the levy goes up, and assessments do the same, then the tax rates are gonna go up, right? Because you're levying more tax. And on the reverse side, if the levy stays the same, and the assessments go up, then in that case, the tax rate would go down, because we're distributing that same levy amongst (the same number of property owners).”

The actual formula, Andrews said, is to take the proposed levy ($19.6 million) and multiply that by the total assessments ($1.1 billion) and multiply that number by 1,000 (assessed value).

Again, since the total assessment, before considering any readjusted assessments, is at an 11 percent increase versus a 1 percent tax levy increase, so a projected tax rate right now is $17.46, Rozanski said. That number will not be certain until after grievances are handled and assessments are potentially adjusted, he said. School tax bills are to go out in October with a final tax rate. If it is $17.46 per $1,000 assessed value, then the difference in a $100,000 property now assessed at $125,000 would be: 100 X $19.23, the current rate, = $1,923 and 125 X the estimated rate of $17.46 = $2,182.50, for an increased property tax payment of $259.50.

To view Thursday’s budget presentation, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8JI99xyBJt1sGdRzmCW2Kg

May 6, 2022 - 8:15am

jason.jpg

School budgets are like teeter-totters, Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith says.

The old kids’ playground toy — that seated a person on each end and they’d push off when their feet hit the ground — is a balancing act. Likewise, school officials try to have a budget with no one end greatly outweighing the other, he said.

“We’re not just pulling pieces out of thin air,” he said during Thursday’s budget hearing at Batavia High School. “(It’s about) having school programs … and what our taxpayers can afford.”

Teeter totter process …
After board budget sessions and a meeting on April 21, the board adopted a proposed 2022-23 budget of $54.8, which is an increase of $2.7 million from the current year’s budget.

A tax levy of just under $20 million will mean a 1 percent tax increase, which Smith believes is a good deal considering all of the program offerings at BCSD, he said.

During his first few months as superintendent, Smith has heard “over and over” how many opportunities there are, from fishing and skating clubs to academic, athletic and other extracurricular activities, he said.

The district’s focus is mainly on getting kids caught up from prior “learning losses” due to the pandemic’s shutdowns and remote and hybrid education methods, he said. As for the offerings, many of them are not mandated by the State Education Department, including art, laptops, musicals, athletics, smaller class sizes, Community Schools, and even school counselors, he said.

Can anyone imagine school without these amenities, he said.

“These are the pieces we don’t have to have,” he said. “Pieces that really make our school our own school.”

Potential tax rate …
A 1 percent property tax increase would add 19 cents to the current tax rate of $19.23 per $1,000 assessed property value. Comparing apples to apples, the property tax for a home assessed at $100,000 would mean an increase of $19 a year. However, if that same property has been reassessed to $125,000, the yearly property tax would increase by $504.50 ($100,000 X $19.23 versus $125,000 X $19.42).

CLARIFICATION: Because of how tax levies actually determine the tax rate, the tax rate, with increased assessments, could actually go down.  For an explanation, see this story.

The district assessing changing enrollment numbers and the teacher-to-student ratio, he said, to be “conscientious” about the needs and expenses of the district. He emphasized that the district isn’t responsible for setting certain items that can upset taxpayers.

‘We don’t control assessments, we don’t control the tax rate,” he said. “We control the tax levy.”

Taxing entities within the district include the schools, city, library and Genesee County. There is a proposed $100,000 Capital Outlay project included in the budget, which would be reimbursed with about 90 cents for every dollar spent, he said.

What about a ‘no’ …
Smith did not mention, or answer the question from The Batavian previously, about what would happen if district residents should vote this budget down. As Benedict said in response to The Batavian’s question, “I am optimistic that our BCSD proposed budget will pass.”

“However, State Education law provides every school district with options if their budget is rejected,” she said after the meeting. “I am hopeful that this budget passes because it best supports the students of the district.”

The New York State School Boards Association lays out the protocol in case the voters reject a school budget. The school board can prepare and adopt a contingency budget or go to the voters again on June 21, the statewide uniform budget revote day.

If the voters have twice rejected a board-proposed budget for a given fiscal year – either the same budget or a second version – the law prohibits submitting a budget or other expenditure propositions to the voters a third time. The school board must then adopt a contingency budget for the upcoming fiscal year by July 1, NYSSBA states.

Boards may pass multiple resolutions to approve contingency budget appropriations, it states, for specific purposes until the board adopts the overall contingency budget. A contingency budget funds only teachers’ salaries and those items the board determines are “ordinary contingent expenses,” the association states.

Ordinary contingent expenses have been defined under law to include legal obligations; expenditures authorized explicitly by statute; and other items necessary to maintain the educational program, preserve property and ensure the health and safety of the students and staff.

Expenditures that do not constitute "ordinary contingent expenses" include new equipment, public use of school buildings and grounds, except where there is no cost to the district, nonessential maintenance, capital expenditures (except in an emergency) and consultant services to review district operations and make recommendations necessary for the creation of the budget.

The school vote is from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 17 at one of two sites, depending on what side of the city voters reside. For more information, go to: bataviacsd.org

Top photo: 2022 File photo of Batavia City Schools Superintendent Jason Smith. Photo by Howard Owens.

Subscribe to The Batavian - Local Matters

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

blue button

News Break