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September 12, 2020 - 8:39am

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The performers are patiently waiting in the wings as, slowly but surely, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative project known as Main Street 56 Theater moves forward.

Project Manager David Ciurzynski of Ciurzynski Consulting LLC, of Attica, on Friday said the preliminary design work has been delayed by the coronavirus but, if everything breaks right, the theater will be able to open its doors to the public next summer.

“We’re trying to finalize the design that got held up a bit because of the COVID-19 requirements – (as we’re) looking to design it in a way that is flexible for social distancing,” Ciurzynski said. “And we’re also still looking for people for financing – to solidify that.”

He said the demolition work is almost done.

“The area is pretty cleared out, and ready to build,” he said, noting that the 11,000-square-foot facility will feature a dance studio, theater that seats 150, offices and storage rooms.

It will be located at 35 City Centre -- in space formerly used by the Dent Neurological Clinic office, between Genesee Dental and The Insurance Center.

Ciurzynski said that Batavia Players, the not-for-profit organization operating the theater, has hired Thompson Builds of Churchville as the general contractor. Thompson Builds has done extensive work in Genesee County, including construction of a new Town of Batavia firehall off Clinton Street that is happening now.

“We’re going to start, hopefully, in a couple months on the dance studio and then the theater after that,” Ciurzynski said. “We are waiting on some of our first reimbursements from the DRI for the work that we’ve done so far – we have to wait for the Department of State on that. But, hopefully, in the next month or so, we’ll be able to get some money from the state so we can keep things moving.”

He said the timetable has “the meat” of construction taking place in late winter and early spring.

“We’re trying to get through all of the pandemic requirements and making sure we have space for social distancing, and it’s a kind of reimburse-as-you go-along with the Department of State,” he offered.

The project is one of several awarded to the City of Batavia as part of the state’s $10 million DRI.

Since the total project cost is estimated at $910,000 and the DRI award for the theater is $701,750, fundraising will come into play, Ciurzynski said.

“Batavia Players will have to raise the difference, and will have to rely on the community to help them with that,” Ciurzynski said, advising that various fundraising efforts are underway.

Patrick Burk, president of Batavia Players, said the troupe is in the process of closing down its current location at the Batavia Industrial Center on Harvester Avenue.

“We will be reopening a new office and bringing in a bunch of new volunteers to assist state and local government officials on the project,” he said.

Batavia Development Corporation Director Andrew Maguire said the theater project aligns with the city’s “All In” effort which, in part, focuses on fostering arts and entertainment and cultural appreciation Downtown.

Renderings provided by David Ciurzynski, Ciurzynski Consulting LLC.

September 11, 2020 - 5:36pm

The roster of an 18-member City of Batavia Police Collaboration Advisory Stakeholder Group is complete and the task of formulating a plan to coincide with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order No. 203 on police reform will begin in a couple weeks.

The Batavia Police Department today issued a press release indicating that the selection process has been finalized, and that the first meeting of the committee will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at the City Centre Council Chambers.

The meeting is open to the public, with all COVID-19 protocols in effect, Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

Per the governor’s Executive Order, “New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative,” municipal police departments must adopt a plan by April 1 to be eligible for future state funding.

Members of the advisory group are as follows:

  • Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski;
  • Police Chief Shawn Heubusch;
  • Assistant Police Chief Chris Camp;
  • City Attorney George Van Nest;
  • City Council Member Kathleen Briggs;
  • Just Kings representative Victor Thomas;
  • Citizen representatives Raelene Christian, Bill Hayes, Francis Marchese, Gregory Munroe II;
  • Batavia Housing Authority Director Nathan Varland;
  • YWCA Executive Director Millie Tomidy;
  • First District Attorney Kevin Finnell;
  • Public Defender Jerry Ader;
  • Batavia Police Benevolent Association President Matt Wojtaszczyk;
  • Batavia City School District Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr.;
  • Business leader Brandon Armstrong;
  • Rev. Martin Macdonald, City Church.

The press release notes that “other industry experts have been invited to attend the meetings and participate to assist the group in developing the plan.”

They are the Genesee County Department of Social Services, NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Genesee County Mental Health Services, Lake Plains Community Care, RESTORE Sexual Assault Services, City of Batavia Youth Center and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office 9-1-1 Center.

Jay Gsell and Erik Fix have been appointed as facilitators/moderators.

“We look forward to positive dialogue that will bring this community closer together and foster positive relationships between those we serve and the stakeholders in the community,” Heubusch said.

Cuomo’s Executive Order includes wording that stakeholders should include “but not (be) limited to membership and leadership of the local police force, members of the community with emphasis in areas with high numbers of police and community interactions, interested nonprofit and faith-based community groups, local office of the district attorney, local public defender and local elected officials.”

Tabelski said the stakeholder group will meet on a regular basis to help identify recommendations for more effective strategies, policies, and procedures to better serve all residents within the City of Batavia.

The Sept. 24 meeting agenda includes a review of the Executive Order, presentation by the Batavia Police Department focusing on the evolution of policing, current operations and its policy manual, and a discussion of the police agency’s Policy 300 -- Use of Force.

The three other Genesee County police agencies affected by the Executive Order are at various stages.

Genesee County Sheriff’s Department

Sheriff William Sheron and Manager Matt Landers said the county will be ready to move forward once the renewal of the department’s New York State accreditation is finalized. A review of the sheriff’s office accreditation status is set for the end of the week.

Sheron said that having accreditation status means that “some of the requirements in the governor’s order have already been met.”

“We have a sincere interest in getting public input and involvement,” Sheron said, pointing out the high level of cooperation among county agencies. “We all adhere to the same standards of excellence.”

Landers said that he will be meeting with Sheron and Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein in the near future to put together a plan, following the governor’s guidelines.

“We are ready to move forward,” he said. “We have been waiting until the sheriff’s office goes through the accreditation process.”

Le Roy Police Department

Village of Le Roy Police Chief Chris Hayward said the subject will be discussed at the next Village Board meeting on Sept. 16.

He said the small size of the community could present a challenge as far as filling all of the “slots” outlined in the Executive Order.

“What he is asking us to do is to draft a plan that makes the best sense for our community – it’s a little bit difficult to do that when you may have to bring people in from outside of the community to participate in the process, who may or may not have a lot of knowledge of what goes on in Le Roy,” he explained.

Still, Hayward said his goal is to have a plan in place before he retires on Jan. 8, ending 36 years of service – including the past 18 as police chief.

Corfu Police Department

Village of Corfu Mayor Thomas Sargent said he plans to discuss the Executive Order with the village board in the near future.

September 11, 2020 - 2:28pm

A zoning text amendment that would add “public garages” to the list of allowed uses with a special use permit in all Industrial Districts in the City of Batavia is back in City Council’s hands after a recommendation of approval Thursday night from the Genesee County Planning Board.

County planners had no issues with the zoning change that was initiated back in January when Batavia businessman Eric Biscaro sought the city’s permission to build an auto service station on his Ellicott Street property that currently houses Classic Home Improvements and Armor Building Supply.

Initially, county planners denied Biscaro’s request for a use variance because the city code allowed auto repair shops only in the Batavia Industrial Park, and in a C-2 (Commercial) zone with a special use permit.

In July, the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee decided to open the I-1 (Industrial) zone to include public garages, setting the stage for another review by the Genesee County Planning Board and, ultimately, a public hearing set by City Council.

Genesee County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari said that last night’s planning board action is “the middle step” in the process and could see things working out for Biscaro, and any others who wish to pursue similar ventures in the I-1 zones.

“This is the way it is supposed to work,” Oltramari said, comparing this situation to the referral pertaining to an event venue in the Town of Darien that also was on Thursday’s agenda.

The planning board also approved, with modifications, a special use permit for West Seneca business partners Glenn Laben and Kelsey Dellaneve to build The Barn at Flower Creek, a 3,120-square-foot gambrel roof gathering facility to accommodate up to 220 guests for weddings, parties, graduations, etc., located at 388 Broadway Road, Darien.

The estimated $500,000 project also will include an access driveway, parking lot for 85 vehicles, and an onsite wastewater treatment system meeting health department requirements.

Required modifications are obtaining a driveway permit from the state Department of Transportation prior to approval by the Darien Town Planning Board and completing a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan prior to final approval from the Town.

Two years ago, the couple was denied a use variance and, as was the case with Biscaro, needed to seek a zoning amendment from the Town of Darien – this one to allow gathering halls in Low Density Residential Districts with a special use permit.

A public hearing on their proposal is set for 7:45 p.m. Sept. 21 at Darien Town Hall, 10569 Alleghany Road.

In other action, planners approved the following site plans:

  • For HP Hood to construct a 7,200-square-foot commercial cooler addition to the existing structure at its plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, East Main Street Road, Batavia. Neil Zinsmeyer, of Napierala Consulting, representing the company, said the cooler will provide overflow storage and will have little impact upon traffic or staffing levels.
  • For a 2,800-square-foot addition (78 feet by 36 feet) to the rear of the Imagination Station child care center at 5079 Clinton Street Road, Batavia.
  • For Holland Resources of East Bethany to put up a 45- by 100-foot addition (six more bays) to the north side of an existing self-service Recreational Vehicle storage building at 5545 Route 5, Stafford.
  • For a new real estate office in a Commercial District (C-2) at 7133 W. Main Road, Le Roy. Documents submitted by applicant Nancy Crocker, of SB Gee’s LLC indicate that Empire Realty Group, will be moving into the location.

Previous story: Genesee County planners to address special use permit for The Barn at Flower Creek in Darien​

September 11, 2020 - 12:59pm

Upon the approval of City Council, the Batavia Police Department will take on the responsibility of managing the community’s Deer Management Plan.

A memo dated Sept. 8 from Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski to council members indicates that “operationally, the Batavia Police Department will manage the program, accept applications, qualify participants, and schedule hunting times, work with participants and landowners on behalf of the City. A special detail will be set up to appoint an officer to this position and we will incur some overtime costs associated with this plan.”

Tabelski writes that additional deer management options added to the plan could be considered by City Council, upon recommendation by the city manager, if the current plan is not successful in reducing the deer population.

Those options are as follows:

  • Batavia Police Department culling operation;
  • Utilizing a private firm to cull;
  • Utilizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service culling operation.

A resolution to approve the revised archery hunting plan, dated Sept. 14, is on the agenda of Monday night’s Business Meeting at City Centre Council Chambers. A Special Conference Meeting will open proceedings at 7 p.m.

Contacted today, Police Chief Shawn Heubusch did not offer any specifics, noting that the plan still has to be endorsed by City Council.

“We’re happy to help out in any way that we can and do our best to move things forward, but everything’s very preliminary right now. With everything else that is on the table, the Police Advisory Stakeholder Group, potential construction of a police facility – there’s just a lot going on.”

This updated plan differs from the one dated Aug. 3, which came out of eight months of meetings of the City’s Deer Management Plan Committee, a five-person group enlisted by City Council. The committee worked primarily with former City Manager Martin Moore and Council liaison John Canale with assistance from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials.

The Deer Management Plan Committee abruptly resigned, however, on Aug. 13, citing a breakdown in communication with city leaders and disagreement with modifications to the plan.

The current version of the plan replaces “City Clerk” with “Batavia Police Department” in the Participant Application and Selection Process section as follows: City of Batavia Deer Management Program Hunter Application -- Submission to Batavia Police Department.

It also removes a section that placed the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen (consisting of 12 clubs) as the top priority for program participants and replaces that with words indicating that proof of residency within the City of Batavia or Genesee County, and/or membership in a hunting club associated with the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen, and/or City Employee status are required.

The Sept. 14 draft also indicates that the police department would be responsible for all tasks and documentation necessary to qualify potential hunters, schedule hunting times, and assist participants and owners of property in the three of the five identified hunting zones. The other two zones are city property and would be open for hunting only to city employees.

Moreover, the section titled Program Review and Measures of Program Success has been changed from “The City of Batavia Deer Management Committee will meet as needed during the program to review activities and to gather data as to the program’s success” to the following:

The City of Batavia Police Department, City Manager, and qualified program participants will meet as needed during the program to review activities and to gather data as to the program’s success.

That variation is understandable as the Deer Management Committee is no longer intact.

Tabelski’s memo also addressed the Batavia City School District’s current “hybrid” schedule that has some students in school and others learning remotely (at home). The deer plan calls for hunting only between sunrise and 2 p.m., and only when school is in session.

“Due to the temporary pause on the full reopening of schools, and because the top priority of all culling activities is the safety of the community, I recommend that the Batavia Police Department continue to monitor the school situation as it progresses and make an operational decision, based on the changing dynamics of in-school vs. home learning, to determine if the plan can be executed safely this fall.”

In closing, she wrote that the “final plan provides a streamlined program experience, ensures programmatic compliance, program metric tracking, increased safety and oversite (sic), and in increased focus on communication.”

Batavia’s current proposal is similar to the Town of Irondequoit’s deer program, which is managed by its police department.

In a separate development:

Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said a discussion of the vacant city manager position is scheduled for Executive Session following Monday night’s meeting.

Jankowski provided a brief update, mentioning The Novak Consulting Group, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based firm that was used in the search that resulted in the hiring of Moore in 2018.

“At the last meeting, City Council was informed that Novak wouldn’t be able to start the city manager search process until late September,” Jankowski said. “At that time, Council requested additional information from the Human Resources department and that information has been provided.

“Due to the sensitive nature of personnel matters, Council will meet in executive session during the upcoming regular Business meeting to decide a path forward in the hiring process.”

September 11, 2020 - 12:05pm

The executive committee of the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council is setting its sights on hiring recently retired Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell as the organization’s interim executive director.

Although contractual details have yet to be finalized, all signs point toward Gsell, who retired last month after 27 years as the county’s chief administrative officer, stepping into the G/FLRPC position until a permanent replacement is found for current Executive Director David Zorn.

Zorn has announced that he will be retiring after about 29 years of service at the end of this month.

“We have yet to have him sign on the dotted line, but we are very excited for the opportunity for him to work with us and for us, and to shape our future,” said Rochelle Stein, G/FLRPC treasurer, this morning. “He brings a lot of energy and a lot of positivity … we’re just absolutely thrilled.”

Stein said the agency is looking for Gsell to work for three to six months with the focus on reviewing its policies, procedures and practices, and making recommendations to “put ourselves into that 21st, 22nd century (functionality).”

“This is an opportunity to take a look at the regional planning council, at our function, at our form – to make sure all of our counties and cities are getting what they want for their participation and membership,” she said.

Stein, the Genesee County Legislature chair, pointed to Gsell’s track record of success and mentioned that the G/FLRPC is fortunate to bring someone with his experience and contacts on board.

“With that in mind we elected to put in an interim director instead of immediately seeking a replacement,” she said. “It was fortuitous for us in that Jay’s retirement fell when it did. Jay has a great depth of knowledge as to the value of the planning council and the membership and the region.”

She said that they are giving him a “list of ideas and topics that we want him to work on to assure ourselves as we’re going forward that we are meeting the needs of our partners and constituents, and, of course, our planners and economic development people and our transportation people.”

“We’re just looking for him to really be the face for now of a change for us, and (the) updating and modernizing of how we work and what we work at. Not in a negative way, but in a positive, stepping forward way.”

Gsell said he appreciates being considered for the job, noting that he will be meeting with the executive committee in the near future to hopefully make it official.

“I guess you could look at it as sort of a ‘refresh’ of an organization,” he said. “Dave has been there a long time and kudos to him for his service. So, in the transition this is an opportunity for a regional organization to take a look at itself and that is what I will be helping to do.”

Other members of the executive committee are Chair Timothy Cutler, Yates County, chair; Vice Chair Tracy DiFlorio, Monroe County; and Secretary Zorn, who works out of the G/FLRPC office in Rochester.

Stein said that Genesee County contributes just under $10,000 annually to belong to the council, a fee that hasn’t changed in 10 years, which goes toward regional project administration and personnel expenses. She added that since Gsell is in the New York State retirement system, he is limited to $30,000 annually if he takes another public employment position.

“Quite frankly, we are getting a bargain with Jay’s experience and background,” she offered.

The G/FLRPC is represented by government and civic leaders from nine counties and the City of Rochester.

Its mission, according to its website, is to identify, define, and inform its member counties of issues and opportunities critical to the physical, economic, and social health of the region. It provides forums for discussion, debate, and consensus building, and develops and implements a focused action plan with clearly defined outcomes, which include programs, personnel, and funding.

Stein said regional projects center around planning, transportation, economic development and, when applicable, the census.

“On the planning side, if there are projects that need to be reviewed or planned for -- like the Walkable Communities Grant that Bergen and the City of Batavia received, where would you put a textured, drop-down apron for your pedestrian crossing so that you could accommodate people with disabilities? That was one of the grant-funded opportunities that came through the G/FLPC,” she said.

The council provides training for local planning and zoning board members and code officers in the county, she said.

September 10, 2020 - 10:12am

As would be expected, anxiety at both the instructional and administrative levels is evident as the Batavia City School District prepares to welcome back students.

“We’re feeling all of the feelings at once,” said Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association, on Wednesday. “Everybody is excited to be back and wants to see their kids, their students. They want to get back to working with students. For a lot of people, though, there’s some fear mixed in – in terms of being around groups of people.”

The first day for classes – some in-person and some remotely thanks to COVID-19 – is next Monday. Teachers returned on Tuesday for the first of four days of professional development.

Warren said most teachers are “overpreparers” who are feeling less than confident considering the changed landscape and prevailing stipulations.

“There are many people who really want to be overprepared, and that is very challenging in this brand-new environment,” he explained. “There are teachers who feel underprepared, not in a negative way, but these are people who are overplanners and overpreparers. This is a new experience for them and they can’t do what they normally do.”

When told about the current mood of district teachers, Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. said he is apprehensive as well.

“I’m anxious, too, and nervous, and worried and making sure everything is going to work out the way we planned it,” he said. “But I’m also optimistic that we’ve done our part. We won’t know until we try.”

Warren, choosing his words carefully, acknowledged the challenges involved with embarking upon a foreign system and, with 250 instructors in the district, the varied opinions on reopening.

“In the two days that we’ve been back, there has been a fair amount of professional development – teaching us how to be good remote or hybrid teachers,” Warren said. “There’s still some of that left to go. But one of the bigger challenges that we have right now is actually implementing a lot of those things.”

He said teachers “need some more time … it’s going to be a process,” but emphasized that the union has not asked administration to push back opening day.

“Every teacher here went to school to learn to teach in an in-person environment. All of these things that we’ve done over our entire careers are completely changed in the virtual or remote environment,” he offered. “Some of the things that may be super effective in the classroom just won’t work in a remote setting – especially since we’ll be seeing the students for about 40 percent (of the time) that we’ve seen them in previous years.”

Warren mentioned that lessons plans requiring sharing of materials or working in small groups “can’t happen in a remote environment, so we have to adapt all of lessons that we’ve done into ones that will work in a remote environment, and that’s going to take time.”

Soler said he understands the emotional strain involved in reopening under these conditions.

“No one has ever opened a school under these requirements or guidelines,” he said “There are some concerns that things could go wrong, but we’re trying to be cautiously optimistic and be strong about it. We’re trying to use common sense … to get the operational stuff going and making sure the kids and staff enter the building safely.”

Considering the daily protocol required just to enter the school building, it isn’t hard to realize that employees would be on edge.

“Every morning when they come in they have to fill out a daily attestation (an official confirmation) that says that they feel good and they don’t have a temperature – any of those things that they’re coming to work on – before we take their temperature at the door,” Soler said. “It’s a brand-new process and if you think about it, it is a bit scary.”

The attestation seeks the answers to several questions, he said.

“Did you check your temperature? You don’t have a fever over 100 degrees. You feel well. You don’t have any symptoms like shortness of breath or fatigue, body aches, fever, chills, sore throat or any loss of taste or smell,” he said. “You haven’t been exposed to anybody with COVID – typical Department of Health protocol questions.”

If the answer is yes to any of those questions, the teacher can come to work and have his or her temperature taken again, Soler said, adding that face coverings must be worn at all times.

Soler said those feeling ill during the day will have to contact their doctor and receive a negative COVID-19 test – “another layer of complications that we can’t control.”

The superintendent said he thinks attitudes will improve with time.

“We’re in day two with the staff and believe that every day that they’re here, the comfort level will get better and better,” he said.

He also stressed that district parents want their children back in school.

“We’re all fearful; we all want this to work. We want our kids back and we want the socialization, the normalcy of that, which will help our families. This community wants to be back in person as much as possible,” he said.

As far as staffing is concerned, Soler said that only a “handful” of teachers have asked for child care leave and one teacher with 38 years of experience decided to retire.

Warren is asking for his members to trust the process.

“There are teachers who are anxious about coming back for health and safety purposes, and there are teachers who are anxious about coming back because we’re doing something we’ve never done before – in terms of remote learning,” he said. “But, just seeing our colleagues this week has been great and seeing our students next week will be great.”

September 9, 2020 - 2:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, crime, notify, bergen, batavia.

Shane Christopher Bunce, 38, Chili Avenue, Rochester, is charged with fourth-degree grand larceny and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation. At 6:36 p.m. on Sept. 8, after an investigation into a motor-vehicle theft that occurred on Clinton Street Road in Bergen, Bunce was arrested. He was issued an appearance ticket and uniform traffic tickets and is due in Bergen Town Court on Oct. 14. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jonathan Dimmig, assisted by Deputy Kyle Krzemien. Also, during the grand larceny investigation, it was allegedly found that Bunce possessed a stolen dirt bike. He was arrested and charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree. He was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released with an appearance ticket for Oct. 20 in Batavia City Court. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Krzemien, assisted by Deputy Erik Andre.

September 9, 2020 - 10:22am

Genesee County officials have had direct input into a report issued by the New York State Association of Counties that consists of more than 80 recommendations to help the state and municipalities bounce back from the severe financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Manager Matt Landers on Tuesday said that he and former manager Jay Gsell submitted a few suggestions to NYSAC, which then created the report, "Reforming and Re-imagining Government Service Delivery Part I: Overcoming the Current State-Local Budget Crisis," and forwarded it on to the NYS Division of Budget.

“I participated with adding a few things to that,” said Landers, also noting that Gsell sent in some suggestions as well prior to retiring last month.

Landers said that he offered the idea of excluding payment in lieu of taxes agreements from the tax cap formula.

“It’s a numbers-driven one, shocking that came from me being a CPA, and Jay put in a couple other ones that I agreed with, such as a state takeover of Medicaid,” he said.

From the report, under the Property Tax Cap heading, Landers’ submission reads as follows:

Exclude PILOT agreements from the tax cap formula. To encourage economic growth in their communities, counties often include a PILOT agreement as a means for a new revenue stream – typically on a parcel of land which has not been generating tax revenue for the county. However, the benefits of a PILOT agreement quickly disappeared after the property tax cap was established because governments are required to reduce their property tax levy by the value of the new PILOT agreements. Excluding PILOTs from the tax cap formula would aid counties in raising revenue, while also incentivizing economic growth and prosperity.

Landers said the idea to have New York State take over the Medicaid program came from Gsell, who consistently pointed out the heavy burden of the state-mandated program upon counties.

From the report, under the Medicaid heading:

The State must complete the takeover of the administration of the Medicaid program from local districts as required under the law. Counties have downsized their Medicaid administrative operations as part of the process so far, but the state continues to layer more responsibility for administering the most complex parts of the Medicaid program on counties. The state’s objective was to reduce costs through improved efficiency by consolidating the administration at the state level, while also ensuring greater uniformity in the administration of Medicaid, which can only be fully accomplished if the takeover is completed.

Gsell also submitted action regarding county jails, which aligns with Genesee’s proposal to join forces with Orleans County on a new jail:

Allow and incentivize shared county jails. Change NYS statute, Commission on Corrections restraints and use shared services dollars to enhance net savings of counties sharing a jail.

The report contains recommendations across various sectors, including county sales tax actions, property tax cap, cannabis legalization, borrowing authority, thruway tolls, community colleges, environment, gaming, Medicaid, public health, personnel/labor, public safety, social services and transportation/infrastructure.

In a press release, NYSAC leaders said the report includes “recommended actions submitted by county leaders across the state as a means to preserve county services in the face of massive declines in local revenues and the withholding of state aid.”

“The recommendations include programmatic reforms to lower costs at both the state and local level, the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to Redesign State-Local Service Delivery (which was supported by Genesee County), short-term revenue options, temporary bonding authority, and property tax cap flexibility,” they said.

The state Division of Budget administrators are exploring mid-year cuts to localities, NYSAC said, and are starting to develop budget recommendations for the 2022 State Fiscal Year.

NYSAC indicated that the report could be a useful tool for state legislators when they return to Albany to consider “additional relief legislation to aid counties and other entities in COVID-19 response efforts.”

NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario emphasized that county governments across the state have worked diligently to cut costs over the past six months.

“When this pandemic first swept across the state, local governments stepped up with innovative solutions to manage a crisis that none of us were prepared for,” he said. “Now counties are providing the essential services that New Yorkers depend on during this recession, and we need the state to consider these recommendations to help us address the lack of revenue and their budget cuts.”

September 8, 2020 - 5:15pm

If at first you don’t succeed … work with county and town planning boards to find a way to succeed.

That’s what West Seneca residents and business partners Glenn Laben and Kelsey Dellaneve did and, on Thursday, they’ll be back in front of the Genesee County Planning Board to seek a special use permit to erect a country-themed event venue at 388 Broadway Road, Darien.

Denied in August 2018 on their request for a use variance (which is difficult to acquire), the duo took the advice of County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and asked Darien Town planners to make zoning amendments to allow gathering halls in Low Density Residential districts. The duo’s property on the south side of Broadway Road (Route 20) between County Line Road and Harlow Road is designated as LDR.

“Two years ago, the applicants were seeking a use variance, which almost always are denied,” Oltramari said today. “The state has a strict criteria for those, such as having to prove that there would be no reasonable return for the land.”

Now, since the Town of Darien’s action, the path seems to be clear for a special use permit.

“It’s the way the process is supposed to work,” Oltramari added.

According to submitted documents, the couple is proposing The Barn at Flower Creek, a 3,120-square-foot gambrel roof barn to accommodate up to 220 guests. The estimated $500,000 project also will include an access driveway, parking lot for 85 vehicles, and an on-site wastewater treatment system meeting health department requirements.

Preparation of food at the site is not planned.

The applicants hope to place the 60- by 52-foot gathering hall, driveway and parking lot on 2.2 acres of a 22-acre parcel consisting of rolling hills and tall grass.

“Finally,” said Dellaneve, anticipating a better outcome this time around. “The building, which can be used for weddings, graduations, retirements and corporate events, is based off a barn that previously was on the property.”

Laben, on the application, wrote that his company “respects the rural atmosphere of the neighborhood and plans to strictly enforce any noise ordinance and curfew as required” and that the set maximum capacity would not hamper the flow of vehicles to and from attractions such as Six Flags Darien Lake and Chestnut Hill Country Club.

The building will be approximately 700 feet from the right of way on Broadway.

County planners will make a recommendation on the request, and from there the special use permit will the subject of a public hearing at 7:45 p.m. Sept. 21 conducted by the Town of Darien Planning Board at Darien Town Hall, 10569 Alleghany Road.

Other referrals on the Genesee County Planning Board agenda include:

  • A site plan review for a 2,800-square-foot addition to the rear of the Imagination Station child care center at 5079 Clinton Street Road, Batavia.

Owners Kelly and Eric Kronbeck of Alden are proposing a $250,000 project to add classroom space to the facility, which is located on the north side of the road. The addition’s dimensions are 78 feet wide by 36 feet deep.

  • A site plan review for Holland Resources of East Bethany to put up a 45- by 100-foot addition to the north side of an existing self-service recreational vehicle storage building at 5545 Route 5, Stafford.

The applicant is looking to add six more bays for RV storage in a Commercial District.

  • A site plan review for a 7,200-square-foot commercial cooler addition to the existing structure at HP Hood, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, East Main Street Road, Batavia.

A telephone call to HP Hood officials for more information was not returned at the time of the posting of this story.

September 7, 2020 - 3:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, news, notify, batavia.

Justin T. Gladney, 31, of North Spruce Street, Batavia, is charged with: second-degree rape and possessing a sexual performance by a child. Gladney was arrested in connection with an incident at noon, June 4, on Lehigh Avenue, Batavia. He was arraigned in Batavia City Court Sept. 1 and put in jail on $20,000 cash bond, $40,000 secured bond, or $80,000 partially secured bond. Gladney is due in city court at 11 a.m. on Oct. 1 to answer the charges. The case was investigated by Batavia Police Officer Matthew Wojtaszczyk.

Rick Anthony Drury, 58, of Shady Lane, Batavia, is charged with first-degree criminal impersonation -- impersonation of a law enforcement officer. At about 7 p.m. on Sept. 3, Drury, in a separate incident on Shady Lane in Batavia, displayed a gold badge in his wallet to a deputy and allegedly stated that he was in law enforcement with the Department of Environmental Conservation. Further investigation found he is not a law enforcement officer with DEC now or ever. The badge he displayed was a gold New York Excelsior badge. He is due in Town of Batavia Court to answer the charge on Oct. 22. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Gauthier, assisted by Deputy David Moore.

Chad S. Williams, 49, of Infinity Lane, Rochester, is charged with a violation of the NYS Sex Offender Registry -- parole absconder. At 11:13 a.m. on Sept. 3, Williams was stopped at Exit 48 of the NYS Thruway interchange for an observed vehicle and traffic law violation. Following an investigation, Williams allegedly assumed the identity of another person in an attempt to conceal the suspension of the NYS driver's license. After his real identity was determined, he was allegedly found to be a parole absconder, wanted by the NYS Department of Correctional and Community Supervision (NYSDCCS). He was taken into custody and later transferred to NYSDCCS. More charges are pending. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan DeLong, assisted by Investigator Ronald Welker.

Lisa M. Fox, 49, of Ridge Road, Albion, is charged with second-degree harassment. She was arrested by Batavia Police Officer Peter Post following a domestic dispute at UMMC at 1:38 p.m. Aug. 28. It is alleged that she spit in a person's face. She was released with an appearance ticket and is due in Batatia City Court on Oct. 10. Sgt. Mitchell Cowen assisted Officer Post. 

Joshua Paul Fields, 23, of Pearl Street, Batavia, is charged with: Driving while intoxicated; aggravated unlicensed operation in the second degree; operating a motor vehicle with an open container of alcohol in the vehicle; refusal to take a breath test; and driving with an obstructed view. At 11:36 p.m. on Sept. 3, Fields was arrested on Wortendyke Road in the Town of Batavia after a hit-and-run accident that allegedly occurred in the City of Batavia. He was released on appearance tickets and is due in Town of Batavia Court on Sept. 24. The case was handled by Genesee County Sheriff's Officer David Moore.

Paula G. Pierce, 28, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. She was arrested on Sept. 1 after an investigation of a larceny reported at 9:40 p.m. Aug. 30 on Morse Place, Batavia. Pierce was released on an appearance ticket and is due in Batavia City Court on Dec. 8. The case was handled by Batavia Police Officer Sean Wilson.

September 5, 2020 - 12:02pm

reigle_1.jpgLifelong Batavian John Reigle knows firsthand the importance of teamwork and communication – qualities that he says will serve him well as he takes a seat on the Batavia City School District Board of Education.

Reigle (inset photo right) was a standout wide receiver and kick returner at Batavia High School who earned a football scholarship to South Dakota Tech upon graduating in 1997. He played for three years at the Rapid City, S.D., college, studying business, before returning home.

Twenty years later, his passion for the gridiron continues as commissioner of Batavia Bulldawgs Youth Football, a program that he has been involved with for the past decade.

Earlier this week, Reigle -- father of two Batavia school students and a third who graduated this year -- was appointed to the district’s board of education to replace Patrick Burk, who stepped down after 34-plus years on the board.

“I’ve been involved with the youth in the community through the Batavia Bulldogs and in youth sports with my kids growing up, but I wanted to get involved on the education side of it as well,” Reigle said. “I think it’s important for our district to have parents actively involved, everyone working together on behalf of the students and teachers.”

Reigle attempted to get on the board in June as a write-in candidate, falling short as Alice Ann Benedict (the current president), Barbara Bowman and Tanni Bromley were elected to the three open positions. Still, he garnered 489 votes – an impressive amount as a write-in.

“Superintendent (Anibal) Soler (Jr.) and Business Administrator (Scott) Rozanski reached out to me to see if I was still interested – to make sure that nothing had changed in my life – and when I told them I was, they said the board was interested in having me finish out Pat’s term (which ends in June 2021),” Reigle said.

He was sworn in at Monday’s night board meeting.

Reigle, 41, said the campaign process proved to be an eye-opening experience.

“Just talking to a lot of people – most didn’t know who was on the board or how many people sat on the board,” he recalled. “I hope I can be that connection with the community with the families that I know, to communicate to them that they can voice their opinions and bring them to the board.”

Calling it a “unique year” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes in how students are taught, Reigle praised administrators for “coming up with the best plan for our district.”

“It’s definitely a unique year with the hybrid approach. I really think our administrators did a great job of gathering the feedback from the parents,” he said. “A little over 75 percent of the parents wanted in-school and I think about 20 percent wanted the hybrid, remote learning. I think they did a great job of putting a plan together to fit what the families wanted.”

Reigle said he knows many families in the district and is familiar with a lot of the teachers.

“Knowing families with kids attending in the different (school) buildings will be good,” he said. “And I know a lot of the teachers, I think that will be helpful as well … to be a voice for the teachers as well. They’re a big part of the success at Batavia.”

He said teachers “went above and beyond” in the spring and summer to enable students at all levels to advance.

“Look at the challenges that they’ve had, having to go from no plan or expectation of having everything shut down in March, and still having to teach the kids. The way that they responded was amazing, from communicating with the kids, you saw all the events at graduation to make it special – not only for the seniors but for the eighth-graders who were graduating from middle school and the kids at Jackson School who were graduating into John Kennedy.”

Reigle said he looks forward to working with what he sees as “a great board of education that is eager to listen and do what’s best for the district” and to learn from Benedict, another lifelong Batavian who previously served on the board.

Benedict said Reigle will be a welcome addition.

“We are excited to have John Reigle on the board of education,” she said. “He is enthusiastic … and can give us a new perspective on issues that come to us. We are happy that he was willing to fill our open seat to complete a seven-member board.”

Reigle, manager of Timebuyer Auto Sales on West Main Street, and his wife, Ashlee, live in the City of Batavia. They have three children – Bryce, a 2020 BHS grad who is attending Genesee Community College; Mackenzie, a senior at BHS where she is a first-team all-league girls’ basketball player, and Jordan, a third-grader at John Kennedy Elementary School.

-----------

Burk: Time was Right to Retire

Burk, 63, said he had planned to retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year – when his term expired -- but said that he sped up the timetable as a result of his “confidence” in the leadership of Benedict and “the genuine interest” of Reigle, his replacement.

“So basically after 34-plus years it was time for me to pick me – to concentrate on my other work and opportunities,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but I feel really good about it.”

Burk said he still has many irons in the fire, so it’s not like he riding off into the sunset.

He said he will now have more time to help establish Main Street 56 Theater at the City Centre (he’s the president of Batavia Players) and continue his role as a consultant for Lee Publications.

He also is the executive director of the Genesee Valley School Boards Association, which represents 22 school boards in Western New York.

September 3, 2020 - 8:54pm

The Genesee County Legislature is proposing an $8 million revenue distribution to its towns and villages in 2021.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein on Wednesday said that is the revised offer for revenue sharing, noting that it represents about a 44-percent decrease in what the county originally had planned to distribute, before COVID-19 disrupted its financial outlook.

“At our last conference call with municipal leaders, I think it was on Aug. 22, we gave them a number – eight million dollars to be shared for the 2021 budget, so they have a number,” Stein said. “So, if that is something that would be easier for them to comprehend and to see, our county manager is ready to put that out in an email form to folks so they can have something they can budget to for 2021.”

County Manager Matt Landers said the legislature had envisioned allocating $14,294,065 but had to revise its thinking due to the negative effects of the coronavirus on the economy.

“We will be providing a specific figure – based on the $8 million proposal -- for each town and village to budget off of shortly,” he added.

Stein repeated the refrain she has used since the county, in May, decided to rescind the county treasurer’s authority to make voluntary quarterly revenue distributions to the towns and villages – effectively ending agreements with the municipalities passed in 2018 and 2019.

Despite that action, the county made distributions of $1.1 million and $2 million to the municipalities in the second quarter of 2020, following a (pre-COVID-19) $3 million distribution in the first quarter.

“We are all in this together,” she said. “We’re all working through this in the same way but it’s still ‘mud’ until we get out of it.”

She said payments are determined by the taxable assessed value of each community.

“(It’s) a process that has been used in the past – so that seems like a fair and equitable way to distribute it,” she said. “We all need something from which to budget to, and realize how difficult it is without any foundation to build a budget from – so absolutely.”

Stein said that the picture could brighten (or become dimmer) as revenue comes in this fall, but was quick to point out that the closure of Six Flags Darien Lake throughout the summer is a major blow.

Landers said he is hopeful the county could do more to help keep town and village property tax rates as low as possible.

“This is a conservative estimate of what the county will be able to provide in funding for 2021 to the towns and villages,” he said. “As the county’s budget season progresses, we will re-evaluate that amount.”

He provided a snapshot of distributions since 2018, explaining that the county budget is comprised of a variety of different revenues, from state and federal reimbursements, property taxes, sales tax, fees for service, interest income, etc.

“When the county determines what it can share in revenue, it is looking at the overall financial picture,” he said.

  • Distribution in 2018 -- Genesee County shared sales tax with towns and villages amounting to $14,335,643.41.
  • Distribution in 2019 -- Genesee County shared sales tax with towns and villages amounting to $14,368,445.17.
  • Distribution in 2020 -- Genesee County has not distributed any sales tax to towns and villages because it only shares sales tax with the City of Batavia for the next 40 years. Genesee County has distributed $6,179,543.09 in other revenue to towns and villages for the first two quarters – a 7.6-percent decrease from what was originally planned.

News that the county has provided a tentative distribution amount will make the jobs of town supervisors and village mayors a bit easier as they devise their budgets for 2021.

“We have been calling upon the county to put a number in writing, and if it is $8 million, then that’s a step in the right direction,” said Le Roy Town Supervisor Jim Farnholz. “Without something to go by, it’s not possible to put a budget together.”

Farnholz, who took office in January after two years on the town board, said the Town of Le Roy budgeted $1.2 million in revenue sharing from Genesee County in revenue in 2020.

A 44-percent decrease would put that figure at $672,000 for 2021.

“If I know that we would have to mitigate $300,000 or $400,000 or so, it puts us in a much better position, considering that we have $1.6 million in reserves, he said. “But it needs to be in writing -- what number is the county willing to share? -- so that we can budget.”

The retired Le Roy Central School teacher said most of his counterparts at the town and village levels agree that a working dollar amount is necessary.

“Our position is that we’re even willing to take a little bit more of a hit (due to the county being stuck with so many state-mandated costs),” he said. “Back in May when this started, we had a discussion – one of the plans put forward at a GAM (Genesee Association of Municipalities) meeting was whatever percentage in revenue the county is down, the towns should be down the same percentage.”

He said he had a conversation with Stein prior to learning that the $8 million was a solid number.

“I told Shelly, this is business. When we conduct business – when I go buy a car or Stein Farms goes and buys a tractor, we have an agreement that has dollar figures attached to it. I don’t think Bob Johnson (Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac in Le Roy) is going to give me a Chevy if I promise to pay him just on good faith,” he said.

September 3, 2020 - 11:34am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, casinos.

Update 11:59 a.m. with Wojtaszek comments:

In a call with reporters this morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that casinos in New York State will be allowed to reopen on Sept. 9.

"Fantastic news," said Batavia Downs Gaming President Henry Wojtaszek. "We're very, very happy about that. We have a meeting scheduled at noon to go over all the things that need to be done successfully -- in order to have a good reopening. That's certainly our plan."

The governor said attendance will be limited to 25 percent of capacity, and table games will not be permitted unless physical barriers are put up to separate patrons at the table. Social distancing of six feet will be required when it comes to playing slot machines.

Wojtaszek said Batavia Downs Gaming's capacity is 3,000, so that means that a maximum of 750 people could be in the facility at one time.

Additionally, casinos will only be allowed to open if enhanced air-filtration systems are in place, as well as face coverings and social distancing protocols.

"Whatever they're going to require, we're going to do and do a little more of," he said.

Enforcement will be the responsibility of the NYS Gaming Commission and the State Police, Cuomo said.

Last week, Wojtasek said maintenance staff at the Park Road facility has installed plexiglass as required, placed arrows on the floor (for social distancing) and installed new air conditioning unit that uses MERV-13* filters.

He also said staff will be taking patrons’ temperatures and is prepared to utilize contact tracing technology “once we get the OK and guidelines as to what we have to do officially.”

*Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value -- filters out very small particles in the air.

September 2, 2020 - 7:33pm

Every bit of funding helps when it comes to testing positive cases of COVID-19 and those who may have come in contact with those individuals, especially considering the cost of testing.

At today’s Genesee County Legislature Ways & Means Committee, lawmakers accepted a $6,785 grant from the New York State Association of County Health Officials for test kits and lab-testing expenses.

Genesee County Public Health Director Paul Pettit said his agency does limited testing “when we have positive cases and follow up testing with direct contacts of those cases.”

The health department conducts nasopharyngeal swab testing, a deep nasal process that uses the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing protocol.

With each test costing around $100, this funding can go a long way, Pettit said.

“The mini-grant we were just awarded will be used to provide kits and funding for our cases and contacts," he said. "Prices for testing vary considerably depending on the type of test and lab running the sample."

Pettit said that turnaround time can be an issue, too, as the common NP-PCR test currently averages four to 10 days for the result to come back, depending upon the location of the lab.

He said that lag could change as point-of-care tests are “just starting to come on line and will hopefully be available across the state soon. These tests provide results within 10 to 15 minutes and are significantly cheaper than PCR testing.”

The health department doesn’t offer general community testing, but acts as an advocate with other agencies to increase state-sponsored testing in Genesee and Orleans counties.

“This has been and remains a significant issue that needs to be addressed for all rural counties,” Pettit said.

In a related development, the health department contracted with ACM Global Laboratory of Rochester to analyze COVID samples and to bill insurance companies for lab testing performed on behalf of Genesee County. The pact runs through March 17.

In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions:

  • Adoption of a $170,218 budget for the 2021 Genesee County STOP-DWI plan – an increase of about $5,000 from the 2020 budget but $73,000 less than requested by law enforcement and other agencies that benefit from the program.

All STOP-DWI activities are funded completely from fine collections and have no impact upon the county’s general fund.

County Manager Matt Landers said there has been a significant decline in drunk/drugged driving arrests in 2020, primarily due to the coronavirus. He is projecting 145 such arrests for 2020, compared to more than 200 in a typical year.

“There are less people on the road … less festivals and carnivals where people would be (drinking) and driving,” he offered.

Departments that receive STOP-DWI funds include Genesee County Sheriff, City of Batavia Police and Le Roy Police (with half of the funding going to those three agencies), as well as District Attorney, Genesee Justice, Probation, City/County Youth Bureau and Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Money also is allocated for administration costs.

  • Creation of a mental health clinical therapist position to replace a mental health clinic social worker position, a move that would expand the candidate pool, according to Mental Health Director Lynda Battaglia.

The title change, effective Sept. 10, will allow the department to hire therapists who hold degrees in areas other than social work, Battaglia said, and will have no financial impact as both civil service jobs are at the same grade level.

  • Amendment of the Office for the Aging budget to accept $117,708 in funding from several sources to support the COVID-19 public health emergency by enabling the agency to purchase home-delivered meals, groceries and other supplies for homebound seniors.

Funding sources include the Federal Stimulus Packages Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Cares Act Nutritional Services, Supportive Services, Caregiver Support and New York Connects.

  • Acceptance of a $32,360 grant from the state Health Department’s Bureau of Community Environmental Health and Food Protection to support the county’s efforts to make sure businesses aren’t selling tobacco products to persons under the age of 21.

The renewal of funding for the county’s tobacco enforcement contract runs from April 1 of this year through March 31.

Pettit reported that tobacco use among youth has decreased, but vaping usage has increased.

September 2, 2020 - 6:07pm

The passing of a resolution authorizing the Town of Batavia to apply for a $750,000 New York State grant is welcome news to officials of Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., the dairy farmer-owned conglomerate that purchased the former Alpina Foods plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park on East Main Street Road.

“We’re targeting on opening as soon as reasonably possible pending the OCR (Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant) approval and equipment ordering, as we need additional equipment for the facility,” said Mike Patterson, chief financial officer for the company – formed in 2006 as a result of a merger between Upstate Farms Cooperative and Niagara Milk Cooperative.

The Batavia Town Board this afternoon passed the measure, along with another OCR grant application for the same amount for a $21.6 million project at HP Hood LLC, in the Agri-Business Park to install a new filler line. The HP Hood plan would created about 56 new jobs, including positions that would provide entry-level employee training.

The Alpina plant has been vacant for the last 18 months following Upstate’s $22.5 million purchase of what was a $60 million investment by Alpina, a Colombia-based company that attempted to break into the U.S. Greek yogurt market more than six years ago.

Patterson said company leaders have been “trying to figure out the best use for the plant,” adding that they spent another $1 million since the acquisition and are investing an additional $4,040,000 to get the processing plant up and running.

Currently, Upstate has employees working at its membership office in the R.E. Chapin building and at the O-At-Ka Milk Products facility, both on Ellicott Street Road.

All told, the cooperative employs 1,800 people in New York, Patterson said, with the opening of the Batavia plant expected to create 50 more jobs.

Patterson said the OCR grant will support the purchase of necessary equipment and the training of new employees.

“One of the toughest issues we face in this area is finding qualified help, so we’re trying to get employees that are ready to be trained, and they will be brought into our manufacturing sites – not only for us but for Hood and O-At-Ka and other places,” he said. “It was all part of this project.”

The Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation, an arm of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, is acting as a pass-through for the grant/loan to reach Upstate.

“We get involved with the Office of Community Renewal and have done a bunch of these projects throughout time when we get great companies investing in Genesee County,” said Chris Suozzi, GCEDC vice president of Business Development. “We want to be able to help them out.”

He said the OCR program has been “our friend” and is confident that Upstate will receive the grant.

“It’s one of the great grant or low-interest loan programs,” he said. “The grant program is kind of how we’ve devised it with the companies, and it helps them continue to grow.”

Patterson said the current project does not include any tax incentives from the GCEDC.

“The original IDA (Industrial Development Agency) tax abatements were given to Alpina when they built the facility. There is no new additional IDA money that way for that (but) there would be on any future expansion.”

September 2, 2020 - 12:37pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Darien, bergen, crime, notify.

Andrew Pierre Schneider, 42, of Millersport Highway, Amherst, is charged with: felony aggravated driving while intoxicated -- with a BAC of .18 percent or more; DWI common law -- with a previous conviction within 10 years; and failure to keep right. Schneider was arrested Aug. 29 following an investigation of an accident that occurred at 1:01 p.m. July 31 on Harlow Road in Darien. Schneider was issued appearance tickets and is due to return to Darien Town Court on Sept. 15. The case was investigated by Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Andrew Mullen, assisted by Deputy Howard Wilson.

Jennifer Lynn Bobzin, 50, of West Bergen Road, Bergen, is charged with: aggravated driving while intoxicated -- with a BAC of .18 percent or more; DWI -- first offense; and following too closely. At 6:58 p.m. on Aug. 30, Genesee County Sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a two-vehicle accident on West Bergen Road in Bergen. Bobzin was arrested at the scene and released with appearance tickets for Bergen Town Court. She is due there on Oct. 7. The case was handled by Deputy Kenneth Quackenbush, assisted by Deputy Erik Andre.

September 2, 2020 - 2:14am

Utilization of public libraries is about to take off, mirroring what happened following the Great Recession of 2007-2009 when the housing industry crashed, banks faltered and the stock market plummeted.

That’s how Bob Conrad, director of the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, sees it, and he expressed those views and more on Monday during a departmental review for the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

Conrad said the peak year for public libraries in the United States and this county was 2010 as Americans responded to the economic downturn.

“And we’re in the midst of another one,” he said, noting that library services are in greater demand due to the trying times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accompanied by directors from five other Genesee County libraries and Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library System, Conrad asked legislators to not reduce their annual financial support of these institutions.

“Please keep funding the library (at the 2019 level) and we will do what we can on our end to keep the facilities open … and maintain funding from our primary funders,” Conrad said, adding that Genesee County’s contribution amounts to about 10 percent of the what the libraries spend on materials.

Per the libraries’ written report, “County funds are earmarked for library materials only, so the money will go towards books and other resources to help children learn to read, to help people get through hard times, and to help people develop skills and find jobs.”

County Manager Matt Landers revealed that the libraries will receive $41,680 for 2020, but couldn’t guarantee that figure for 2021. The amount will depend upon budget proposals submitted by county department heads (and ultimately approved); outside agencies such as the libraries will be considered after that.

Richmond Memorial Library, by far the largest of the six Genesee County facilities, receives about half of the county funding, which is distributed according to a formula based on service population, circulation and the amount of spending on materials.

Bindeman reported that the Nioga Library System of 21 libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties is facing a 24-percent cut in funding from New York State this year and possibly more in 2021.

“We’re looking at laying off three people and I’m taking a 5-percent cut in my salary, and we’re looking at reducing services,” he said. “There are rumors it could go up to 40 percent and then we’d be looking at a merger or really going down to barebones.”

He said Nioga was able to receive $108,000 in Payroll Protection Program funds.

“If I didn’t get it, our deficit would have been over $300,000,” he said, which represents about a third of its annual budget. “So, that would have been tough.”

Libraries are open, but functioning under strict guidelines as mandated by the state. Those restrictions include no sitting, reading, gathering, playing, and no in-person library programs of more than 25 people.

Conrad said Richmond Memorial saw a big after-school crowd during a normal year, but he doesn’t expect that to continue.

“Our current safety plan allows people to come into the building and check materials out and to use an assigned computer for essential purposes only,” he said. “We’re expecting almost zero school and after-school presence. It’s going to affect our stats and our numbers, but not necessarily our circulation.”

The subject of internet access for students, especially in rural areas, also was discussed.

Kim Gibson, director of Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield, said she and her staff are committed to “doing whatever we can” to (social distance) students so they can do their homework.

She said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent John Fisgus suggested a partnership between the school district and the library, something that would be beneficial if O-A’s plan of 100-percent in-person learning had to be changed.

“We’re very fortunate to have a nice size library, building-wise,” Gibson said, noting that the library increased its bandwidth for Wi-Fi.

She also said that 30 percent of O-A families do not have access to the internet.

“We have access to Wi-Fi upstairs and downstairs …,” she said. “I want to be there for these kids. We have it (Wi-Fi) open 24/7 outside and I see these kids out there trying to do their homework.”

The other directors at the meeting were Diana Reding, Corfu Public Library; Josselyn Borowiec, Hollwedel Memorial Library, Pavilion; Nancy Bailey, Byron-Bergen Public Library, and Betsy Halvorsen, Woodward Memorial Library, Le Roy.

Three of the libraries – Richmond, Woodward and Corfu – are connected to (but not regulated by) school districts and receive the bulk of their funding from property taxes as voted on by the public.

The Byron-Bergen, Pavilion and Oakfield libraries are of the municipal type, with funding derived through sales and income taxes from the towns and/or villages they serve. Bailey reported that the B-B library is in the process of changing to the school district variety.

September 1, 2020 - 8:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in schools, education, news, batavia, City Schools, notify.

In March, school districts were forced to quickly throw together a remote learning plan with the pandemic forced students to stay home, but after a summer to prepare, the Batavia City School District has developed a more comprehensive plan to educate children in the age of coronavirus.

Molly Corey, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction, outlined the virtual learning guidelines for the 2020/21 school year for members of the city schools' board of trustees on Monday night.

At the heart of the plan, Corey said, is SEL -- social and emotional learning.

"There is a variety of feelings around everything we're doing," Corey said. "We want to make people comfortable with what we do."

SEL is, according to the virtual learning guidebook, "the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions."

Corey said SEL includes self-awareness, self-management, being responsible for decision-making, social awareness, and developing relationship skills.

The other key elements to the learning plan include communication, instructional time, and feedback.

About 75 percent of the district's students will split time between virtual learning and in-class instruction, while the parents for 20 percent of the students have chosen virtual-only learning. The remaining 5 percent are students with special needs who will be on campus every day.

The guidebook includes a chart that highlights the differences between the hastily compiled plan for distance learning last spring and the more thoughtful plan for the new school year.

For example, "teacher check-ins" is now "Teacher-led instruction with SEL as the cornerstone of what we do," and the flexibility of daily and weekly requirements has been replaced by a scheduled and planned school day.

"Monitored attendance" becomes "attendance taken daily."

Students, and their parents, will now be expected to focus grade level/course standards using pacing guidelines.

While there were no formal assessments given last spring and grades were credit/no credit, this year will include scheduled assessments and grades and "growth-producing feedback."

All students will have a Chromebook. Middle school and high school students will use Google Classroom, while younger students will be introduced to a new program for online learning called "Seesaw."

To make all this work, communication will be key, Corey said. Teachers have to produce written communication plans for the school year to ensure students and parents have a clear idea of the process, expectations, standards and progress.

"I want parents to know that this is really a true partnership," Corey said. "To make this work, we need them with us."

September 1, 2020 - 7:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports, batavia, Batavia HS, notify.

What fall high school sports will look like is still being determined by state and regional officials, Batavia High School Athletic Director Michael Bromley told district trustees at a meeting Monday evening.

Football, volleyball, and cheerleading are considered high-risk sports for the spread of COVID-19, and play and practice may be limited if athletes in those sports are allowed to participate at all.

Tennis, soccer, cross-country, golf, swimming, and gymnastics are being considered low-risk sports, and those athletes are likely to be able to compete this fall.

No practices will be allowed until Sept. 21.

Schedules for all sports have yet to be written.

If football players are allowed to practice, social distancing will need to be maintained with teams segregated by positions and contact -- such as blocking and tackling -- will not be permitted. And even if the teams can practice, there may be no games.

There's been some talk of moving the football season to the spring but then it conflicts with spring sports such as baseball.

For indoor events, such as volleyball, attendance will be limited. No player will be allowed more than two supporters in the stands.  

Bromley said there won't be any concessions and no attendance fee.

As for winter sports, the start of the season is being moved from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30.

Varsity and JV will be able to start practice Sept. 21 but players in modified leagues will be limited to practicing on the days they attend school in person.

Batavia is planning a "hybrid" model for school attendance, with classroom instruction two days a week, with students alternating attendance days, and three days of virtual learning.

Bromley said the state is still trying to determine how athletes might be able to use on-campus weight rooms. 

It is still possible, Bromley said, there won't be any fall sports at all.

September 1, 2020 - 10:36am

Genesee County legislators on Monday urged the Holland Land Office Museum executive director to explore ways to increase revenue – even suggesting Sunday hours – and trim expenses in light of possible funding cuts in 2021.

Speaking at a Human Services Committee meeting, Ryan Duffy (inset photo right) presented a review of HLOM operations over the past year, and was quick to state the obvious: 2020 has been “very difficult” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the West Main Street facility to close for three and a half months.

Still, he said there has been progress in some areas, notably by utilizing social media “quarantine” programs such as "Genesee County Jeopardy!" and history-themed activities related to food, movies and travel.

“Really, we’ve been trying to look at this pandemic as an opportunity,” he said, with an eye on maintaining and, in some cases, expanding its programming.

Upon reopening in early July, Duffy instituted an admissions fee, charging $5 for adults; $3 for seniors/students/veterans; $1 for children; and $10 for families of four. Museum members are admitted free of charge.

“We have seen a positive response in the two months," he said. "The fee structure is right in the ballpark."

Duffy mentioned other “positive” developments, including a video series about artifacts, installation of a new projector, screen and sound system in the East Wing for events and use by community groups, and restoration of the two cannons under the front canopy.

The cannons were restored by Seed Artillery of Altoona, Pa., and now are period accurate to the time of their forgings, pre-Civil War, Duffy reported.

“They came back and they look amazing … you won’t believe the difference,” he offered.

While efforts have been made to overcome a significant revenue loss (gift shop sales, major fundraiser and summer program cancellations, lack of group tours, etc.), things could get tougher next year if the county slashes its funding to outside agencies.

The county has committed to fully funding its 2020 commitment of $33,554, which represents about 40 percent of the HLOM’s budget, County Manager Matt Landers said.

“For 2021, outside agencies have been informed of potential cuts,” Landers said. “We will know more after our department heads submit their budgets by September 4th for me to review.”

Along these lines, Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein asked Duffy what he could do to cut costs and increase funding.

Duffy said that some expenses were naturally eliminated due to being closed and that he could find across the board cuts in programming, exhibits and equipment, if necessary. He said staff is always looking for grants – noting they received one recently for $2,500 – and in May, the museum joined the Amazon Smile fundraising platform.

Stein then brought up that the Historic Le Roy House attracts 10,000 visitors annually, with the bulk of its visitorship on Saturdays and Sundays.

“So, I would offer that as a peer comparison,” she said. “Would you imagine that Sunday might be a good day for visitors from out of town?”

Currently, the HLOM is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Duffy said more than 1,000 people have visited the museum since September 2019.

Duffy, the only paid employee at the museum, responded by saying that’s “always a possibility” but the present schedule “is following the trends of the industry; most are closed on Sunday.”

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg spoke up in support of the museum, advising her colleagues that the HLOM received a Personal Payroll Protection loan from the federal government and conducted a fundraiser separate from its budget to restore the cannons.

As far as county funding is concerned, she said, “It seems like a small line item in our budget … but to them it is a large amount” and to reduce it would be “devastating.”

File photo of Ryan Duffy from Feb. 11, 2017.

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